Wednesday, April 9, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call this 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.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I have for tabling the annual report dated April 1, 2001 to March 31, 2002, of the Yukon Advisory Council on Womenís issues.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Child Care Board annual report for the period ending March 31, 2002.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, chair appointment
Mr. Cardiff:My question today is for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. The minister told this House on April 2 that his appointment for a new chair for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board was guided by selection criteria that included appointing the person who was the most experienced, the most able and the most qualified.
When it comes to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board Appeal Tribunal, however, he seems to have set those criteria aside. The minister received letters supporting the reappointment of the existing chairperson, a person we are very fortunate to have, and someone who is the most experienced and certainly able and qualified. Why did the minister not follow his own guidelines when it came to appoint a chair for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board Appeal Tribunal?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The same guidelines were adhered to and followed.
Mr. Cardiff: In the ministerís mind, I suppose.
Injured workers are waiting to have their appeals heard. Yesterday there was a Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board meeting, but apparently the ministerís newly picked chair of the appeal tribunal was not in attendance. Will the minister confirm that the person he selected has decided not to continue as chair?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I cannot confirm that information.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, potentially the minister is now facing a dilemma. From what Iíve heard, his first choice to chair the appeal tribunal has turned down the offer. We understand there were two other names put forward by stakeholders, including that of the former chair. Will the minister give his assurance that his next pick for chair will be the most experienced, the most able, the most qualified and someone who has the clear support from both the employer and the employee stakeholders?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What the member opposite is asking me to do is answer a question thatís hypothetical and speculate on the answer. I can do neither, Mr. Speaker. We have to adopt a procedure thatís consistent with the legislation that governs us. The legislation that governs me in this respect is the Workersí Compensation Act. That has been amended, and that amendment clearly spells out the direction the minister is to take. I have to follow those procedures to the letter of the law. Thatís what I have done; thatís what I will continue to do.
Question re: Education budget cuts
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Education. We have seen many cuts in the Department of Education. Education support services were cut by five percent; advanced education was cut by three percent; corporate services were cut by 13 percent; school support services were cut by another three percent; administration was cut by 20 percent; the arts contribution was cut by 39 percent, and on and on it goes.
The Yukon Party promised excellence in education. Just this week, over 200 contestants took part in a really exciting annual event ó the bridge building contest, run by innovators in the schools program. How does cutting this highly successful program by 65 percent promote excellence in education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it perfectly clear that this government supports science and innovation in the schools, but we had to make some tough decisions in order to control the trajectory of spending by the Yukon government. In our current physical state, we need to focus our spending on our core mission in education.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít answer the question. How does it promote excellence in education? This party is so concentrated on the big, bad trajectory of government spending that departments are suffering from that. This minister has instructed his senior officials of the department to reduce the budget in the department. One official suggested that communities should keep the program going by finding their own funding for it.
Is it now the policy of this minister to make communities find their own funding for school programs? Is that how this minister plans to promote excellence in education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The bottom line is that our number one priority as a department is to ensure that our children are getting the best possible learning opportunities within the schools. When reductions have to made, they must be made outside of our core operations. The Department of Education is continuing to support science and innovation within our daily curriculum. Almost all schools in the Yukon have some kind of experiential science program. In addition, we have several unique and innovative full-time experiential science programs offered through the Wood Street centre.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the communities certainly wouldnít be satisfied with that answer, Mr. Speaker.
The minister told us, not too long ago, that 12 teaching positions will not be filled next year, and weíve just learned that an additional 17 teachers will not have their contracts renewed next year. That totals 29 and counting, and Iím sure the minister is aware of the expression, "Death by a thousand cuts" ó thatís whatís happening to this department. With the additional cuts of 17 positions, has the minister finally reached his goal of reducing the number of teachers in the department, or can we expect more teaching jobs to join the list of cuts?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe this whole process was explained a couple of times in this Legislature and, again, I think itís very important that the members opposite and the public at large come to realize that this has to be a process where the teachers coincide with the number of students. Again I will stress, as I did before, that there have been no layoffs.
Question re: Workersí compensation insurance program
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. This is the minister who is responsible for deciding where the government gets its insurance for workers.
The Liberal government examined the option of becoming self-insured rather than paying workers' compensation premiums. After that examination, we determined that this action would cause two things to happen: one, it would cause WCB rates for all other employers in the territory to rise dramatically, and, two, it would cause a large loss of jobs at the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. We did not move ahead with the idea.
Can the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission confirm that the Yukon Party campaign manager who headed the transition team for the Yukon Party government contracted with a company to pursue this option of the government pulling out of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board? This is the same person who has now been appointed to chair the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can say to the member opposite today that I did review some of the work that was started by the Liberal government and was inherited by the Yukon Party and that to date there have been no decisions made on anything.
Ms. Duncan: The date on the contract to examine this issue is November 25. Thatís the period of time the Yukon Party transition team was in charge. One of the ministerís briefing notes, dated February 24, 2003, says, "The PSC recently contracted the services of AON Consulting to prepare a report analyzing the benefits of and drawbacks of the Yukon government opting out of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board insurance program."
This report is a central part of the governmentís plan to opt out of the WCB insurance program. The report was commissioned November 25, 2002. The new Yukon Party transition team, headed by the campaign manager, was in charge, he who is now the chair of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Will the minister make the report available to the public so that Yukoners can see for themselves what it says?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The report the member opposite has mentioned has not even been totally reviewed by Management Board at this time, and it will not be handed out at such time.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, so much for consensus collaboration and compromise that was promised during the election. The new Team Yukon doesnít include members of the opposition or members of the public. This report was commissioned on November 25 by the Yukon Party transition team, the head of which was the campaign manager, who has now been appointed as the new chair of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. This report will form the basis of the Cabinet decision.
Will the minister ó Iíll ask him again and give him another opportunity ó allow the public to see that report upon which his decisions will be based?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I will say that the report hasnít been totally dealt with yet, and the Public Service Commission will be reviewing that report. At the end of the day, I think whatís important here is that, one, the injured workers are looked after and, two, we need to have a very positive approach to this. I will not make any sporadic decisions as to whether weíre going to opt in or out, and no final decision has been made with respect to that.
Question re: Kluane National Park tourism partnership
Mr. McRobb:On February 27, I attended a press conference where representatives from the Tourism department spoke about the significance of the newly launched tourism partnership in Kluane National Park and Reserve. This joint venture between Holland America Inc. and Parks Canada was expected to bring some good news, with the 5,000 visitors into the park each summer, of this three-year deal.
At a time when the Yukon, and especially the Kluane region, are in need of an economic boost, Iím sure we all had hoped this deal was truly a "good news" story. Is the Minister of Tourism and Culture satisfied this project was developed properly and respectfully?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe this is a good example of a partnership between Kluane National Park, of course, and Holland America. Of course we believe in partnerships. We believe they are the key to developing and growing our tourism industry. Certainly, I think this is one of many good initiatives taking place right now.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, Iíve heard from several constituents in the six weeks since and can inform the minister that the majority of them are displeased with this deal because the benefits to the community are minimal. Furthermore, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations are offended they were not consulted by the Yukon governmentís Tourism department nor the two partners. In fact, its chief has informed me that his First Nation is vigorously pursuing its rights as provided for in his First Nationís final agreement.
Can the minister explain to us why her department, in facilitating this deal, did not first consult with the First Nation? How could she possibly have allowed that to happen?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Of course, our government is very much committed to involving Yukon First Nations. If that is in fact the case, then apologies will be made on our behalf. I was not led to understand that. I believe this initiative has been in the works for quite some time ó even some time prior to our government taking office, so I will certainly undertake that, and I appreciate the comments from the member opposite, and we will certainly get to the bottom of it.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, this government is the government. Itís the one responsible.
Now, Yukon Tourism department officials admitted they helped facilitate the deal. Iíve filed with this House the radio transcript and have sent over a copy to the minister. Letís not dispute the facts. The First Nationís final agreement provides for economic opportunities in the development, operation and management of the park. The Yukon government is obligated to consult with First Nations about developments within their traditional territories. How is this working hand in hand with Yukon First Nations in developing our territory, Mr. Speaker? What is this minister going to do to resolve these concerns.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The Member for Kluane is absolutely correct. Our government is very sincere in its commitment to involve Yukon First Nations in all fronts ó in tourism, the visitor industry and our economy. I will certainly undertake to discuss this with Holland America, as well as Kluane National Park, as well as our own department, just to see what in fact did not transpire.
If, in fact, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations were not involved in the consultations, as they appear not to have been, I will certainly undertake to find out what transpired and to present apologies on our behalf.
Question re: First Nation child welfare responsibilities
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The minister says that there is a serious problem with child welfare in his department. Social workers are in crisis. I quote: "Where the crisis exists is in First Nation communities that are on the receiving end of the officials and how they deal with child apprehension."
He also said that "the white man law is not working for our First Nation members here in the Yukon, and we are going to have to dovetail our laws and rules" into First Nation communities. Those are the ministerís words, Mr. Speaker, not mine.
How can the minister make such a statement without having full and detailed consultation with the Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, the memberís ability to quote verbatim from Hansard is extremely accurate. I stand by the position advanced previously, and there is ongoing consultation with First Nations across the Yukon by officials in the department and by the political staff.
In fact, the last meeting was just last night, where I met personally with representatives and others from KDFN right here in Whitehorse.
Mr. Fairclough: It appears the minister already has a plan ó now heís consulting. The Department of Health and Social Services does not have the proper resources in place to address child welfare needs. The minister has admitted that on the floor of this Legislature. His short-term solution is to move social workers around in the department. He says they are underutilized. Now the minister is looking at the B.C. model and their ministry of children and family development. It is a model that offloads responsibility and liabilities to First Nations.
Since the federal government will be footing the bill for First Nation child welfare responsibilities, is this part of the ministerís cost-cutting approach of government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The statistics within the department certainly do not support the position. If we look at the last full fiscal cycle, Mr. Speaker, family and childrenís services branch had 280 children in care. We have 116.1 FTEs, or full-time equivalent employees. Currently, Mr. Speaker, we have 222 children in care and we have 162.45 full-time employees. So a concerted effort is being made by the department to address this area, and it is being addressed, but we are going to be doing so after extensive and thorough consultation with First Nations, who are primarily being affected by this issue.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister got sidetracked from the question, Mr. Speaker. The minister must be aware of the true costs involved in his agenda for First Nation child welfare. In B.C. they have spent a huge amount of money in training First Nations to take on these new responsibilities and to hire new personnel. The minister says they are going to have to dovetail YTG laws and YTG rules into First Nation communities. Those were his words in the media, Mr. Speaker. How does the minister propose to do this and, specifically, how long does he expect it to take and how much will it cost?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, itís interesting to note that this problem is not a problem that has happened since we took office. Under the previous NDP watch, virtually nothing was done; a report was commissioned. Under the Liberal Party watch, Mr. Speaker, for just over two years, all that was commissioned was a report. The issue of children in care and apprehension of children was not addressed. Our government has taken the initiative because we know where the problems are. They are with apprehension of children in First Nation homes. We have met with First Nations. We will continue to meet with First Nations, and we are working on a program and plans to address this very serious issue.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Act review
Mr. Cardiff:Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board has assured this House on several occasions that he has appointed a three-person Workers' Compensation Act review committee in 2002. On this side of the House, weíre wondering what instrument the minister used to make those appointments? Was it a letter, an interview, a phone call, a chance encounter on the stairs? Possibly there was an order-in-council, or maybe it was just a nod and a wink. Will the minister tell us exactly what method he used to make these appointments?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The question has been asked and answered on two previous occasions in this Legislature. The answer is clearly recorded in Hansard.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister is wrong, Mr. Speaker. He hasnít answered the question. The minister has told us that everything is on target with the act review committee ó that the three individuals appointed to this committee are meeting and a report has been provided to him. Thatís very interesting because the information we have paints a different picture. Will the minister confirm that the employer consultant has not yet received clearance to participate on the review committee from people who pay his fee?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am not aware of any difficulty at this time in this area.
Mr. Cardiff: I donít know if the minister is aware of anything thatís going on with the act review committee.
Recently the Premier criticized the leader of the third party for using the access to information process to get information, a process the Premier claimed was a waste of taxpayersí money. Yesterday I tabled a motion asking the minister responsible for workersí compensation to provide me with information on the Workers' Compensation Act review committee.
I repeatedly requested this information from the minister, and he keeps brushing off these requests. In the spirit of cooperation and consensus, and to save the taxpayersí money, will the minister kindly provide that information now, so we may put this matter to rest? Or can we conclude that the information doesnít exist?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Once again, for the members opposite, I can confirm that the act review started prior to the beginning of this calendar year, as required by statute. The task that the three-member panel has to address are those provisions of the act that are clearly spelled out as requiring review, along with any other section of the act that they consider for review.
They have been tasked with this responsibility; an interim report has been prepared and delivered to me. I know there have been a series of ongoing meetings among the three parties that are involved in this review. I will expect to see some progress in due course, but the case that the member opposite is attempting to paint is not an accurate reflection of what is going on.
Question re: Homeless shelter
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Almost immediately after the minister took office, he unilaterally folded the alcohol and drug secretariat and fired the director. One of the services the secretariat provided was an emergency shelter. Can the minister tell us what happened to the $250,000 that was used to maintain the shelter in the Sarah Steele Building?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Sarah Steele Building is still being utilized for the purpose that it was used for prior to the removal of the alcohol and drug secretariat. Itís still being utilized for the same function, Mr. Speaker. All that has changed is that we do not have another stovepipe of administration overseen by an individual at a DM level. We have an alcohol and drug agency, or department, that is still delivering the same programs very well in a continuing manner.
Mr. Hardy: The Salvation Army is struggling to keep its shelter for homeless people open. Weíve heard the ministerís refrain about the federal government abandoning so-called "boutique programs". Surprisingly enough, we happen to agree with him on this, but thatís not the issue at this point.
The issue is what this government is or is not doing to meet a serious need in our community. The $40,000 the minister has offered up front to the Salvation Army will simply not do the job over the next six or eight months. It wonít keep the shelter open until federal money might come through, as hoped for, in the fall. Why wonít the minister take the $250,000 that previously went toward the shelter in the Sarah Steele Building and direct it toward the Salvation Army as bridge funding until federal dollars become available?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me share with the House a letter from Robert Sessford, the Captain of the Salvation Army, addressed to the Minister of Justice and me. It thanks us very much for our letter and that the Salvation Army is very appreciative of the confidence the government has expressed in their ability and intentions to provide a valuable service to the Yukon through both the ARC and halfway house and the downtown drop-in shelter.
Our government commitment ó initially under the previous watch, it was for some $15,000 ó has been increased to $40,000, and the Salvation Army has chosen to use that when itís most needed.
Mr. Hardy: Well, we have also heard the Captain on the radio and read in the newspapers what he has said about the need over the next few months and how the $40,000 will not be sufficient.
I believe that the Captain has been very diplomatic in the letter that was written to the minister and hoped that the minister would recognize the needs that are facing the people of this territory ó the most in need, the homeless.
What we are seeing is another classic case of this government being penny-wise and pound-foolish. The Salvation Army has been providing a tremendous service, and I think we can all agree to that. Itís not just a bed for the night; itís also acceptance and support and love. It does give that, for people whose lives are often in turmoil.
One solution the Yukon government has resorted to in the past was to put people up in the hotels for a night, but that is simply no substitute for the kind of service the Salvation Army provides.
If the minister fails to provide adequate money to ensure the Salvation Army shelter stays open this spring, summer and probably into the fall, how big of a hotel bill is he prepared to absorb and what other resources will the department provide to people in need of shelter?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what we have here is another prime example of the federal Liberal government cutting funding to the Yukon for health care. I couldnít agree with the member opposite more with respect to the excellent services provided by the Salvation Army and the job that they do in our community, but what we have seen is a $150-million reduction in transfer payments to the Yukon by the federal Liberal government. Theyíre just beginning to throw in a few dollars ó $20 million that our Premier negotiated with Ottawa. From there, we have a boutique program funded by the Liberals to the Salvation Army, then a sunset clause, and the expectations are that the Yukon government will pick up the slack. What we have to have is the federal Liberal government here in the Yukon, when they fund an initiative, to continue that funding, to make sure these programs that are begun by the federal Liberal government continue to be funded by the federal Liberal government, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker:Opposition private membersí business, motions other than government motions.
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 65 ó continued
Clerk:Motion No. 65, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan. Amendment moved by Mr. Rouble. Adjourned debate, Mr. Rouble.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party THAT this House recognizes 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 of 2002 which resulted in 15 recommendations,
(2) the Child Welfare League of Canada recommended as 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, and
(4) that the Yukon Liberal government public 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 and to provide timelines for the implementation of recommendations for addressing social worker, supervisory and policy staffing shortfalls.
It has been moved by the Member for Southern Lakes
THAT Motion No. 65 be amended by:
(a) adding the following clause to the first paragraph:
"(5) the recommendations of the Child Welfare
League of Canada respecting staffing do not take into account the services required for children in government care who are afflicted with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; and", and
(b) deleting the final paragraph and substituting for it the following:
"THAT this House urges the Yukon government, when determining its response to the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada respecting staffing, to give full consideration to:
(1) the advantages of
(a) the family-centred approach to children
in government care, and
(b) the establishment of a system of special
foster homes as recommended in both the review of the Child Welfare League of Canada and the Anglin report, and
(1) the needs of all children in government care, including those afflicted with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder."
Speaker:Before resuming debate on Motion No. 65, the Chair would like to advise the House on a procedural point.
The Member for Southern Lakes, as the member speaking first in reply to the motion, has unlimited time to speak. However, as he has now moved an amendment to the motion, he no longer has unlimited time. The member has 20 minutes to speak to the amendment.
Mr. Rouble: As weíve already discussed in the member oppositeís introduction of this motion and in my response, this is a tremendous issue and one of extreme importance to all Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, our children are our future. They are our legacy, and we have a tremendous responsibility, not only to our own children but to all children, and especially to children in government care.
Mr. Speaker, it doesnít only take a family to raise a child; it also takes a community to raise that child. We all have a responsibility ó all members of society ó and, as we discussed last time, all ministers here have a responsibility for the welfare of children and the welfare of our society, from the Minister of Education looking at childrenís issues and their growth and development, to the Minister of Environment ensuing that there is a beautiful, sustainable, liveable environment for future generations to grow into, through to all the ministers. We all have a responsibility, and especially when itís a child in care.
Mr. Speaker, I applaud the initiatives and the actions taken to improve the welfare of all children. And I know that the Minister of Health and Social Services has identified this as a significant priority issue. He has raised issues, concerns and solutions in caucus and here on the floor. It is a critical issue for this government. Not only does it include short-term solutions, but it includes long-term solutions as well.
In the very short time Iíve been in government, Iíve come to recognize and appreciate that we must nurture the leaves while simultaneously managing the forest. We canít lose sight of the trees for the forest, and we will certainly lose the forest if we only focus our attention on the very specifics ó on the leaves. It is certainly a daunting task.
But we must also remember that we were sent here by our constituents to govern and set broad policy direction. It is our role to set policy direction for our government. We have very capable people in our public service: our staff, our managers, our directors, our employees and our officers that carry out the policies, direction and wishes of government.
Mr. Speaker, this important motion addresses a very important issue in our society, that of child welfare. But Iím uncomfortable with parts of the motion, as it focuses on very specific recommendations from a single research study, which had a very specific focus.
Mr. Speaker, the objectives of the Child Welfare League of Canada study had, as its objectives, to review the adequacy of the case management process for children in care, address the quality of care for all children in care in the Yukon and establish an independent quality assurance process that will audit services for children in care in the future.
The solution, which is the root of this debate, is to provide more people. I am not sure, and Iím not convinced that thatís the solution to our root problem. When we ask the question, does the implementation of our current solution work, and we hear, "No, there are problems with it," I think we need to ask, "Well, then, are we implementing the right solution?" Further to that then, Mr. Speaker, what is the problem that we are really trying to solve?
Itís an obligation for us in this Legislative Assembly to get to the cause of the problems, to dig deep, to find out what are the big issues and then to look for solutions and to work with our public service to find those solutions and implement them.
We need to look at the broader root of this problem and come up with broader solutions and policies. I agree that we need social workers in our system. They serve an incredibly vital and important role. They have a tremendous amount of responsibility and they deserve our support, but we have a responsibility to look at the larger picture and at larger solutions.
To that end, I added this friendly amendment. It includes looking at a different approach, a family-centred approach, a different solution, not focusing in on our current solution, which weíve identified that there are problems with. Yes, we know that. Now is the time to start looking at alternative solutions as well.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment also includes looking at broadening the recommendations to be implemented. It includes looking at the recommendations made in the Anglin report. And, Mr. Speaker, there are other reports that need to be reviewed and considered. We have a tremendous wealth of research in this area. Itís something that numerous studies and reports and our staff look at constantly. I donít believe itís prudent to just look at one specific recommendation from one specific report. We have so much more information at our fingertips. I believe itís incumbent upon us to look at the whole picture, to look at all the information that we have at our disposal.
Mr. Speaker, this amendment urges the government to give full consideration to the needs of all children in government care, including those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. I think this is a specific point that I believe was missed or wasnít looked at in enough depth and detail in some of the previous reports. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is certainly an affliction that affects many of our children in care, and itís an affliction that demands specific remedies and different remedies than we would expect to look at. It includes additional training for staff and support workers. It includes a different approach to dealing with people. It looks again at different solutions. By excluding or not looking into this disorder in enough detail, I believe we miss out on our solutions. Itís an important facet that needs to be recognized and looked at and dealt with. "Dealt with" are really the wrong words. Iíve been struggling to find the right words that work with this, because weíre not looking for solutions to "deal" with these children. These arenít inanimate objects that we simply have to reorganize and redistribute and recalculate. It isnít something that we need to deal with. Mr. Speaker, this is a solution that we have a responsibility to help nurture, grow and develop.
We have a tremendous responsibility to these children in care. It is incumbent upon us to do more than to deal with the problem. Instead, we have to come up with ways, practices, policies and procedures for helping them grow, develop and participate in our society.
Mr. Speaker, I think this friendly amendment addresses these issues. It broadens the scope and gives a broader mandate to our public service. It encourages them to look at the additional research that is available out there, and it encourages them to take a broader approach and to look at more than one solution.
Mr. Speaker, I would urge all members to support this amendment and to support this motion, so that we can all send a clear message to the Yukon public that yes, this is a tremendous issue, that yes, we have a huge responsibility, and yes, we have a problem. But yes, there are solutions out there, and there are ways we can work with our system to help nurture and develop these children in care. And there are ways we can do it that will work.
I think this amendment goes toward sending that message. It goes toward ó well, a broader solution. I think that it is incumbent upon us, in the Legislative Assembly, to look at the broad solution and to help work with our public service, to give them the tools to implement specific solutions.
To that end, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask all Members of the Legislative Assembly to support this amendment and pass this motion.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a few words to say about the amendment to the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I really feel that the mover to amend the motion did not fully do his homework. I think that, if the members opposite looked at the recommendations put forward by the Child Welfare League of Canada, this amendment would not have come to the floor of this Legislature.
We know that thereís a commitment by the Yukon Party government to focus on FASD. Good, we like that. It needs to be done. They propose a five-point plan, Mr. Speaker. Weíd like to see the details on how that plan will be implemented.
Weíve asked many questions in regard to child welfare on the floor of this Legislature and received very few answers on what this government really wants to do in that direction. We know thereís a crisis. It has been laid out by the unions, laid out in the recommendations in the report, and this report gives good direction for any government to follow. Thatís why it was done. Letís make improvements; letís use the recommendations and move forward.
If the member opposite would like to bring a motion to the floor dealing with FASD, then do that. Letís do it and concentrate on how we can give direction to government if the members on the government side still need to give direction to government to act on this, not make amendments to the motion that totally gut the motion and what its intent was, in my view.
The motion was quite clear in that it urges the Yukon Party government to detail its response to the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada. Now, if the members opposite read some of the recommendations, we wouldnít have had to do the amendments ó for example, the amendments to take into account children in care with FASD. That is in recommendation 7 in the Child Welfare League report ó itís there. We are asking the Yukon Party government to do that. Itís already in there; there is no need for an amendment to this motion in that regard.
There are also other things that take away from the initial motion. One is the family-centered approach. We havenít really heard what that means, what it is, and who really came up with that.
I think if the members opposite carefully read through these recommendations, they will find that all of these things are addressed throughout.
What are special foster homes? Are they something different from what we have already?
There are many questions about the amendments proposed by the members opposite. We asked questions today, and many times in this House, about the overworked, stressed-out social workers in the territory ó the fact that they are working a lot of overtime, the fact that those who take time off have to have others take on their workloads, adding to the stress. The reality is that we need to focus right now on those issues.
This government wants to do some long-term planning, and they feel the way theyíre going to do it is by moving people around in the department. Well, why not come forward with a detailed plan, as asked for in the main motion, to the House and to the public on how they can implement these recommendations or fine tune them and bring them back to the people?
I would like the mover of the amendment to look carefully at the recommendations while the debate is taking place here, and he may feel compelled to withdraw the amendment to the motion and get back to the main body of the motion and have it pass through this House by consensus, by the support of all people.
I think that this report took into account First Nations people, non-First Nations people, children in care ó itís all included in that, and I believe itís on page 17 that it is mentioned in this report. Itís quite detailed. It had a lot of consultation. The work is done; the recommendation has been given to all governments around the territory. Now all the leader of the third party is asking is that the Yukon government come forward with a detailed plan on how they can implement these recommendations.
To take away from that and start focusing strictly on FASD, which we all agree needs attention and needs to be dealt with by government ó not just by the Yukon government ó takes away from the motion. If the members opposite would like to debate a motion on FASD and make improvements, we can. I believe they do have a motion in the works that has already been tabled and read into the record here, Mr. Speaker.
So with that, and being, I guess, short in response to the amendment to the motion, that is my recommendation and I hope members opposite look at it seriously. Quickly flip through the recommendations ó there are 15 of them. They are good, they hit home and they are to the point.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to address the amendment put forward by the Member for Southern Lakes.
It is unfortunate that the amendment brought forward by the Member for Southern Lakes does change the intent of the motion. The original motion was very, very focused. It spoke to two recommendations ó two specific recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada report.
In introducing other reports, as the amendment does ó the amendment introduces the Anglin report, for example, and introduces the subject of foster care and special foster homes and spends energy and time mentioning several times FASD. Now, I donít disagree that those are also issues. We could spend days, years, discussing and working toward all the issues related to children in care and Yukon families in crisis. But in hopes of getting the motion passed, I moved a motion specifically on two recommendations, and I was very specific in my intent. The amendment broadens the motion and it loses the thrust and the desire.
Now, in discussing this amendment and in discussing the issue of staffing levels ó in the House, both in Question Period and in this motion, as well as in the amendment ó there have been a number of other subjects raised ó for example, the Childrenís Act and a review of the Childrenís Act.
I am reminded of the quote, which I stand to be corrected on, but I believe itís something to the effect of: "Those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it." We have, as Yukoners, an extensive history with this act, and this House has an extensive history with the Childrenís Act. It is a very, very, very difficult piece of legislation. Discussing our children is the very heart of all of our lives, and the Childrenís Act is a very difficult piece of legislation.
I would say that I respect that there are individuals who have stated they are going to tackle this. I respect that fact. I respect individuals who put their names forward to seek public office. Itís going to take considerable time, because itís a heartfelt, emotional and a difficult issue.
Because every child is unique and every one of these cases is unique, itís difficult to write a childrenís act and legislation that cover all situations. Itís going to take a very, very long time. It also requires significant government-to-government relationships, and those take time to build. They take respect, and they take trust. Itís going to take time to build those.
What happens in the meantime? What happens to the children today? What happens to the social workers today? The key recommendation of the Child Welfare League of Canada ó number one ó released to the media on July 30, 2002, was to address the social worker and supervisor staffing shortfalls and to hire child welfare policy staff.
I asked the new government, in my motion, to address these two recommendations ó specifically these two ó and to outline their response to the rest. I could live without their responses to the rest, but there is a crisis and we have to deal with recommendations 1 and 2. Yukon families are in crisis.
Iím not a social worker, but let me explain how I understand the situation to be in the field, to be on the front lines. There are Yukon families in crisis. They come to the government for help. Thatís what our taxpayersí dollars do, Mr. Speaker. We provide support and assistance to people. They come to the government for help. Now, the norm is for these social workers to be dealing with a certain number of families per month and on a daily basis. Thatís the norm.
What happens now in the Yukon is that these caseloads are double and triple what they should be. There are children and families that are going without help because the social workers simply do not have the time. They canít handle any more. These families in crisis are coming to the government, to the social workers, and saying, "Help, weíre in crisis." And the social workers only have so many hours in a day. They canít do any more than what theyíre doing. So what happens?
And, yes, I agree with the amendment that there will be some situations that are FASD, that there will be some situations involving First Nations. There are other types of situations. The point is that Yukoners are going without help from the taxpayersí dollars that Yukoners pay, and the government they go to for assistance is saying, "Sorry, we canít do any more."
The problem is compounded, because these families going without help are in crisis, and each situation is unique, but it gets worse. Theyíve gone without help, and what happens? The absolute worst that none of us want to think about, and then whoís liable? That social worker has done absolutely everything within their professional ability ó they arenít negligent, but the government has a responsibility. People have gone to the government for help, and social workers canít cope with any more. They have double and triple the caseloads. They canít do any more.
Iím not disagreeing that there are other issues, and there are other items that have to be dealt with, but we have to start somewhere and we have to start now. This is where it has been recommended we start, and itís something the government can do. The government is awash in additional resources. Theyíre awash in cash. There are all kinds of more health care money coming to this territory.
All Iím asking is that it be directed to this spot ó just part of it. By all means, start the government-to-government consultations; start the work on the Childrenís Act; put resources into FASD. I was the Premier who got it on the agenda at the annual premiersí communiqué in Victoria, and the federal government responded with money for FASD programming.
The Yukon Liberal Party put it on the national Liberal Party agenda ó FASD ó through all sorts of conventions dating back to the 1990s.
Yukon has championed the cause of FASD and dealing with FASD, and I applaud the government for furthering efforts in that regard; however, Iím also saying that this is urgent, and it has to be dealt with. It canít be ó well, it was just one report and they just focused on that. Letís take a good, hard look at what the report said. The motion focused on the Child Welfare League report, and the amendment adds in the Anglin report. The Anglin report ó the whole issue of children in care was two key reports. The government of the day said, "We have to deal with this. We want two reports." One was the Anglin report. That deals with the group home situation ó and absolutely it has to be dealt with. Those are children who have been, for one reason or another, put into care and put into a group home. The group homes have to be dealt with. Yes, there are issues, and Professor Anglin outlined them very well. The second part of reviewing the situation of children in care was to contact the Child Welfare League of Canada, of which the Yukon is a member. Their number one recommendation, and the recommendation throughout the report, is to start by dealing with the caseloads of the social workers. Start by dealing with that. Thatís all Iím asking the government to do ó immediately act upon this.
The government responds with discussions around, as I said, FASD and the Childrenís Act. Yes, these are other issues. The government also responds with the discussions about First Nation governments, and government-to-government relationships are vital to the future of the Yukon.
Page 13 of the report talks about the First Nation context and it says that there is a state of willingness to work together as partners on behalf of both First Nations and the department. It is now a matter of finding ways to ensure meaningful and full participation of First Nations that are consistent with the legislation.
Yes, letís do that; letís proceed with that recommendation ó absolutely. The first step is working with the social workers, giving them the resources they need to do their job. Itís a cry for help and government must respond.
We are talking about children. We can talk about the issues that have been raised in response to these questions. I really encourage the government and the members opposite to focus their time and their energies. Letís not bring in all the other issues and try to resolve them all at once. The Member for Southern Lakes said that you have to look after the leaves in the forest. The fact is that there is a very clear recommendation, a place to start.
We have been given a road map of how to start to deal with these issues. That recommendation, supported by many, was to deal with the workloads, staffing and resources of the family and children's services branch in the Department of Health and Social Services. That was the recommendation. The recommendation is clear. The report is clear. The government funding is clear. They have received additional resources and are about to receive additional resources. All that is being asked is: will you commit to this recommendation? Will you commit to more staffing? That is where the best advice we could get told us to start.
Amending this motion, and this amendment ó I canít support the amendment. I canít support it because it broadens the focus so it loses the intent of the motion. It broadens the focus so wide that it loses what the motion set out to do. The motion was very, very specific. The amendment broadens it so wide that it loses that very clear focus.
Iím not saying that the additional issues raised by the member arenít worthy of discussion. Absolutely ó I would love to discuss them. Iíd like to focus on asking the government the one specific action ó not the broad amendment, but the specific action. The amendment is so broad that it loses the focus of the motion. Itís unfortunate because I really believe strongly that government could and should and, whatís more, has a legal and moral responsibility to act upon this specific recommendation that I asked for in the motion.
The other point I wanted to make with respect to the amendment ó the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has made it as well ó is the use of the language. Itís an additional reason for why I canít support the amendment. Changing the amendment to the advantages of a family-centered approach ó what is that?
The child-centred approach focuses the energies ó and Iím not a social worker. My understanding of a child-centred approach means the focus is on the child. Is the child in danger? Is the childís life, health or safety in danger? Thatís a child-centred approach. We are talking about children.
I donít know what the member means by a family-centred approach. The amendment bringing in the foster homes and the Anglin report broadens the motion so that the government loses the focus of responding to recommendations 1 and 2 of the Child Welfare League of Canada report. There was a public commitment by the previous Government of Yukon that it would be dealt with, that these reports would not languish on the shelf, and that we would deal with this. I believe government could and should deal with recommendations 1 and 2. I think the House should be focusing its debate on recommendations 1 and 2, and itís unfortunate, but I donít believe the amendment is friendly. I believe it changes the intent of the motion and I canít support it.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe, when I made an address to the original motion, I talked quite a bit about traditional knowledge with regard to the child welfare issues. Today I think what has to be brought to light here is that this is an issue which more than just adding social workers will fix.
I think that you can hire another 50 social workers and you will still be in the same predicament. I have a difference of opinion with the report when they say that the number one priority would be to hire more social workers.
My opinion as a First Nation individual who has worked extensively in this area for the last 18 to 20 years ó I would say that the number one priority would have been to identify some good, safe, secure foster homes. That is what we are short of. We are short of individuals who will come forward and put their homes up as foster homes. We are short of individuals who will come forward and really care and show the compassion needed to deal with a lot of the child welfare issues.
I believe that when we talk about this particular issue, our government is right by saying that it includes an awful lot of First Nation people. We seem to have been left out of the process of this report. I say that because I have been a foster parent. I have been a therapeutic foster parent and I have also been involved as an open-custody caregiver, and I have never been interviewed by anyone who developed this report, which I think would have been quite beneficial to the people who wrote it.
I believe that more workers could possibly be included in a bigger picture ó the big picture that really reflects a true picture of the needs in this territory with regard to this issue.
At the present time, I donít think that this amendment really does any damage to the original motion. In fact, I believe it really adds support to it. I think that this is a good amendment, and I would recommend that the members opposite support it.
Mr. Hardy: The members opposite were calling for questions, and Iím quite willing to ask some questions too. Itís unfortunate that, once again, we see the government amending a motion that I think has merit. My question, when I looked at this motion, was: what was wrong with it? What was the problem with it?
I went through the motion. I read it a few times, like Iím sure everybody else did, and I did not see any problem with this motion whatsoever. Itís direct. It points to a specific area, which is fine. We are allowed to write motions in here that do that. They donít all have to be motherhood statements. Itís asking the government to detail its response to recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada and to provide timelines for implementation of recommendations for addressing the social worker, supervisory and policy staffing shortfalls that were identified in this report.
Iíd like to add, Mr. Speaker, that itís a very good report. People may find fault with it, but thereís a lot of good in it, as well. Itís a shame that people always look for the bad in things; maybe they should look for some of the good in the report.
So to me, the motion that was brought forward by the third party looks like a motion I could accept and support. However, once again we see the Yukon Party government bringing forward an amendment because they cannot seem to accept a motion from this side of the House without interfering with it, and that is exactly what has happened. They have taken what I believe are some very good recommendations talking about a very specific area and used them to alter a motion that is also good, which does not lend itself to good debate.
Itís really interesting when you look at this amendment and you look at the motion that has been brought forward by the same person who is amending it ó the Member for Southern Lakes ó and you look at a motion he brought forward ó Motion No. 43 ó and a lot of it is the same. So whatís wrong with bringing that motion forward as well and debating it? Why would the government opposite want to bootleg another motion into this motion? Why canít they stand on their own? Whatís wrong with that?
Instead, we have a government thatís refusing to accept the motion from this side, which was brought forward with good intentions. Itís also interesting that the Member for Southern Lakes is again amending ó this is the same member who attempted to amend the war motion, and we all remember the debate around that, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The anti-war motion, to correct the members across the way, if they canít seem to remember the first motion that was brought into this House, which they managed to try to amend, try to talk out and tell stories around.
Here we go again. The same Member for Southern Lakes does not seem to be able to accept a motion from this side, and here comes another amendment.
Like I said, he has Motion No. 43, and I would love to see that motion brought forward and would love to debate it, just as Iíd like to see this one brought forward and debated without substantial amendment. I find this to be a substantial amendment that changes the course of what was actually asked for in this motion.
From my perspective, I see it as the Yukon Party government trying to avoid responsibility regarding this motion, by altering the motion with an amendment that, as I said earlier, has its own merit but is really being used to weaken the very substance of this motion, as well as the Child Welfare League report itself. For that reason, I find it quite upsetting that this seems to be a pattern that keeps coming from the other side of the House. It seems to come from one member over there more substantially than anyone else. That is also a concern, because I donít know if this is the way we are going to have to deal with every motion that comes forward from the opposition benches.
What are the first two recommendations in this report? Recommendation 1 says, "Given the serious consequences of understaffing at the front line" ó Iíve heard a multitude of members here speak who recognize that there is a serious situation regarding the amount of people on the front line and the tremendous, tremendous work load theyíre carrying ó even if some people want to deny that isnít a serious issue.
The recommendation goes on to say, "it is recommended the department review the current level of supervisor and social work positions compared to the CWLC-CWLA benchmarks and address staffing shortfalls."
And recommendation 2 says, "It is recommended that additional staff be hired to assume responsibility for child welfare policy development support for implementation and review."
Obviously, if there wasnít a problem there, the report wouldnít have included those recommendations 1 and 2.
There is no question about it ó if you donít have the people to do the work in the area, the work is not going to get done. If you donít have people to address the concerns and identify the concerns, things will happen that none of us in this House would want to see. I canít support this amendment, unfortunately; however, I do support the motion. I would ask that the member opposite withdraw the amendment so that we can support the motion and move forward on this.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Amendment to Motion No. 65 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion as amended?
If the member now speaks, she will close debate.
Ms. Duncan: My colleague in the Legislature, the leader of the official opposition, has stated that the amendment put forward by the members opposite changed the motion. As a result, they have amended the motion in such a way that, as the original mover of the motion, I canít support it, so this is the worst of how it goes in the Legislature.
I brought this motion forward, as I said at the time, because of a very passionate conversation I had with a constituent ó a Yukoner ó who said, "Let it be on your head if governments donít live up to their commitments to children."
I have pressed the case with the government in every way I know how, using every avenue open to me as a legislator, and I will continue to press the case for children. On this specific motion, it was specifically about the people whom we ask to help these families in crisis.
The front door for families in crisis is the intake assessment team, the professionals. They are the front door. That front door is so overloaded right now that they canít get help from the government. They are under-resourced, and what happens when we donít feel that need? Well, those front-line staff canít undertake investigative assessment of risk. They canít support the families who come to them. They defer decisions. They canít get back to families. They canít fulfill court order requirements. They canít do the professional, difficult task weíve asked them to do because they donít have the resources. They only have 24 hours in their day too.
Weíll see when the government finally provides the information ó the overtime hours, the stress leave, the burnout. Itís a difficult job at the very, very best of times. Itís an extremely difficult job, and the governmentís inaction and inability to accept the motion for what it was has made it double ó triple ó worse.
Itís unfortunate and itís very sad that the recommendations are falling on deaf ears and that the motions and the pleas Iíve made are falling on deaf ears. The governmentís response has been, "No, we have our own agenda, thanks. We donít care what the Child Welfare League of Canada report says. Weíre not going to pay attention to the Anglin report, weíre going to do it our way." These are the people who are on the front lines; these are the people who deal with these issues.
The recommendations are very clear; the research is clear. The Welfare Leagueís standards and who they are as an organization ó weíre a member ourselves. Why a government would not heed those recommendations ó as the constituent said to me, let it be on their heads. Iím truly saddened that the government has amended this motion in such a way as to render it useless. I despair not only for the people on the front lines but for the members opposite and for Yukon children.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I think the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 65 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 8
Chair:Motion No. 8, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party
THAT this House recognizes that the Village of Mayo will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer; and
THAT this House urges the government and the Yukon Legislative Assembly to celebrate this anniversary by holding a special sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly in Mayo during the 2003 centennial year.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Legislative Assembly has held a special sitting before. On the 100th anniversary of the Yukon Act, we had a special sitting in our former capital city, the City of Dawson, in the administration building. It was an honour to participate in that particular sitting.
The Village of Mayo is celebrating its 100th birthday. On the calendar of events, so far, there is a mayorís picnic at the Binet House grounds on June 3. That is the actual day of the establishment of the town. On other dates in June, they are having the re-commissioning of the town by Commissioner Jack Cable, and thatís also the day of the graduation ceremonies of the new J.V. Clark graduating class.
Later in June, there is a Keno Signpost party, and other events are underway. Final details are still being worked out for such events as the National Aboriginal Day. Of course, the Mayo Midnight Marathon is a tradition for many, Mr. Speaker. Many members of the Legislature have participated in that in the past and look forward to doing so again.
There are also special events on June 22, homecoming events, as well as ball tournaments, field trips and, of course, Canada Day celebrations, and other events throughout the year.
I could speak at great length about Mayo as a particularly special community in the Yukon, the heart of the Yukon ó the hottest and coldest spot. And I do hope we get the sign fixed on the way to Mayo before too much longer. Since last summer, it has said "the ottest", as opposed to "the hottest", so I hope we can get the sign fixed soon for the community. Perhaps in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, we could ensure that that happens.
Although, as I said, I could speak at great length ó and many of us have our hearts and roots in Mayo ó Iím not going to take up the House time to do that this afternoon. Perhaps I could recommend as a debate for a special legislative sitting that we could then have an opportunity for each of us to speak at length on Mayo and its contribution to the Yukon.
I would recommend as a source, if I might, Gold and Galena: History of the Mayo District, which was published in 1990 by the Mayo Historical Society and, of course, the key individuals noted in the production of that book are Linda MacDonald and Lynn Bleiler. Iíd like to recognize them, and there would be an opportunity to do so if we were to hold a special sitting.
My point in bringing forward the motion is that, as we are all aware ó and Iíve outlined some of the events ó Mayo is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Weíve done this before ó the Legislature has gone and had a special sitting ó and Iím suggesting to my colleagues here in the Legislature that we do the same.
Of course, there would be a discussion of what we would do in the special sitting and what we would debate. Of course, putting our best foot forward, weíd like to debate something that we could all agree on and move forward on. I hear that one of the ministers is suggesting we all bring a shovel and build them a new recreation centre. Much as Iíd like to do that and had it in our capital budget, my understanding is the Yukon Party did not wish to proceed with it.
That being said, we need something to discuss while we are there. I would like to recommend, first and foremost, that every member be provided an opportunity to speak at that time to the importance of Mayo in the heart of the Yukon.
So I commend the motion. Perhaps the discussion of what to debate could be agreed upon among the leaders in the Legislature, and I would look forward to the unanimous support of this motion without amendment. I commend it to the House for deliberation and vote.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Certainly, on behalf of my government colleagues, I am especially pleased to rise to say a few words on this particular motion. First, I would like to offer my congratulations to the member opposite for bringing this motion forward as I believe that it is an important, not to mention a very timely, initiative.
2003 marks the 100th birthday, anniversary, of the Village of Mayo ó an exciting time indeed. The people of Mayo, along with communities situated along the Silver Trail, have been very busy preparing and organizing a local host of events to occur in Mayo throughout the next few months in celebration of its centenary. Events include the re-commissioning of the town by our Commissioner, as the member opposite alluded to, Canada Day celebrations, a Keno Signpost party, a National Aboriginal Day, a Mayo Midnight Marathon, hikes up Mt. Haldane and Keno Hill, ball tournaments, and it goes on and on and on.
I would certainly like to thank the Village of Mayo, the Silver Trail Association and the people of the community for all their work and efforts over the last year to undertake this very important and momentous initiative.
The initiative to hold a special sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly in Mayo, in recognition of its 100th anniversary, is a great one and one which our government fully supports.
As members will recall, a special sitting of the Legislature was held in Dawson City a few short years ago, which turned out to be an absolute success. I think there is an opportunity to repeat that course of action, and we look forward to that.
In following through on such initiatives we, as a Legislature, not only lend support to the community, but show support toward its development, accomplishments and achievements over the last 100 years. I view this occasion as an opportunity for members to see for themselves just what Mayo, and all the communities along the Silver Trail, have to offer.
Certainly, looking back, my first opportunity to visit the community of Mayo, as well as the neighbouring communities of Keno and Elsa, was about eight years ago. Itís kind of surprising that, as a lifelong Yukoner, I didnít make it to the Silver Trail prior to that time. However, I think this is a real occasion for all Yukoners to take the opportunity to see just what the Silver Trail has to offer. Indeed, there is a lot to see and do while there.
As Minister of Tourism and Culture, Iíll just take an opportunity to blow the horn about some of the attractions we have to offer. To the chagrin of many who have not had the opportunity to see for themselves, the Silver Trail boasts an impressive concentration of artists and crafts people, who sell beading, moosehair tufting, moccasins, quilts, paintings, carvings and jewellery.
Examples of such artisans are Lillian Loponen, a local watercolour artist, jewellers Keith Hepner and Sonja Stange, to name but a few.
Attractions to see while in Mayo include a number of renowned museums. I should also mention the Keno City Mining Museum and, of course, Binet House.
It captures the aura of mining ghost towns along the Silver Trail. While weíre on the topic of the Keno Mining Museum, adjacent to that facility, youíll also find the Keno City Alpine Interpretive Centre, which showcases some of the regionís natural history.
Of course, while the world is all too familiar with the Klondike Gold Rush, not many are as familiar with the rush to the Silver Trail. It was the Duncan Creek stampede in 1901, followed by the 1903 discovery of silver in the same area that ensured development would take place. As are the members opposite, I am very familiar with this region as this is where my husband and his father and his grandfather have successfully staked claims in that particular area ó the Dublin Gulch and the Duncan Creek area. It was actually during the 1930s that my husbandís grandfather, Fred Taylor, had first staked claims on Duncan Creek, and to this day those claims are still actively mined. So I certainly hold a special part of my heart for that particular region.
So without going on any further, like the member opposite, we will have a lot of opportunity to say all the great things that the people of the Village of Mayo and its surrounding communities along the Silver Trail are currently doing.
So again, congratulations to the member opposite for bringing this motion forward. I think itís a good one, and we on this side of the House look forward to taking part in this momentous occasion, and we also look forward to taking part in these events, as are being planned.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I also have a few words to say on this motion. I wonít repeat what the mover of the motion and the Minister of Tourism said about Mayo. Those are all wonderful things, and I think what Yukoners need to do is really get to know people in small communities more. For us in the Legislature here, this is an opportunity to meet the people of Mayo, listen to what they have to say, their concerns, and learn from it and hopefully act according to the direction that they have given us.
We have already had a legislative sitting in Dawson City, which the member opposite said was successful. I certainly feel that way, as I was part of that, Mr. Speaker. This is another way of showing recognition to the community of Mayo by having a sitting in that community.
Although the community is celebrating its 100th anniversary, Iím sure that when weíre there and members opposite are speaking with First Nation people, they can tell you all kinds of history of how they used that particular piece of land in Mayo for many years before others settled there.
Iíve spoken with a few people in Mayo and theyíre certainly looking forward to this. Itís obvious the community has been working at many events for celebrating the 100th anniversary. The members opposite laid them out. Hopefully weíll be seeing familiar faces in this Legislature there in that community this summer.
The community has always been a very good host when it comes to major events. Weíve seen the royal visit to Mayo, and there were many people from across the territory who came just to see that. The community went all out in putting on a very good welcome to the rest of the Yukon and to the royal family in that community. Weíve seen Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor General, come to the community, and again, the community went all out, displaying what they were doing in the community. The lands office, First Nations, for example ó they all went out and participated in this event.
As a matter of fact, to the people in Mayo and their quilting club, Mr. Speaker, that was very much of interest to the Governor General. As you know, they have guards and they have people watching over her, they have photographers coming forward, and they took many, many pictures of these quilts that hung on the wall in their community hall at the time. It gave the general public there an opportunity to meet the Governor General that they would otherwise probably never have, and that is the same when Prince Charles came to visit. That was, of course, another huge event for the community of Mayo.
Thereís lots of history in Mayo. Weíve heard the Minister of Tourism talk about how that area was recognized even before the gold rush in Dawson City.
So I thank the member of the third party for bringing this motion forward. I certainly support it, and we on this side of the House certainly support that.
The other thing, Mr. Speaker, is that, because of this motion coming forward, it did spark a lot of interest in the general public and communities to maybe have this Legislature come and have a day of sitting when there is a major celebration. Maybe thatís something we can look at down the road. But this particular motion certainly speaks to Mayo, and I think that all of us here should support this motion and have a day of sitting in Mayo.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to speak to this motion and the importance of having to celebrate the 100th birthday of Mayo and the area.
I think itís important that we as legislators get out of Whitehorse and go and participate in communities. These kinds of functions are not only important for us but they are important for the communities.
Mayo is a community that I was raised in, partially. When you talk about royalty, I remember meeting Prince Philip in Mayo, so that goes back almost 50 years ago. So that was a big part of my life. Then, later in life, I participated in having a store there. I actually went from youth to being in business in the community. When I was a small boy, the community was fairly vibrant. They had a Royal Bank there, they had a couple hotels, they had two stores ó T&D and NC Corporation. They had a Porkyís Menswear. There was a pioneer hall ó we had shows every second Thursday. So it was a vibrant community, of course, with Keno Hill and all the mining and the placer mining that went on in the summer. So it was a vibrant community.
But after, when I went back to Mayo ó and of course, Mayo has shrunk in size and, of course, importance because of the lack of Keno Hill and only depending on some exploration money and, of course, the placer industry in the summer ó it was interesting to see a community that was so vibrant, and it didnít matter that you were working with First Nations or the community itself ó the town council ó they all worked together, they were solid behind things. I think this motion addresses the fact that Mayo is here to stay. Mayo is vibrant. Mayo is an example of how communities in the Yukon should run, and I think that it would be very important for us as a House to sit in Mayo and show the flag.
Hopefully, we can set the date and book some rooms and go up there and enjoy the weekend.
Thanks a lot.
Mr. McRobb: I, too, support this motion. I believe Mayo ó aside from the communities in the Kluane region ó is one of the most beautiful communities in the Yukon. A lot of good people are there. It has a lot of history. I recall visiting the museum a few years back, and they have an extensive collection of artifacts and detail about the very interesting past in Mayo.
Mr. Speaker, I requested some information from the Community Services minister yesterday about the birth dates of all Yukon communities. I want to thank him for bringing some information back to me. Itís quite obvious thereís a lack of information in the Yukon governmentís archives with respect to the birth dates of our communities, according to the information I received from the minister, anyway.
It raises the question, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon government should have such information at its disposal so we may endeavour to visit other communities as their centenaries arise as well. Iím sure all members ó and future members ó would enjoy travelling to other communities to help celebrate with those communities in the future.
The information I received back indicated the establishment of a few communities in past years. It indicates that Watson Lake was established in 1941. It indicates that Haines Junction was established in 1942, and Teslin in the same year. It indicates that Carmacks was a traditional First Nation trading stop on river trade routes and established originally as Carmacks post in 1893 by George Carmack.
Now, Iím not sure if there were not communities prior to those dates, Mr. Speaker. I know First Nations inhabited each of those locations prior to the date of establishment, so I would not rule that out. But in any event, I think it would be important for the government to catalogue our communitiesí history and for all members and future members to consider additional options, visiting other communities. Thatís what makes the Yukon such a great place, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise very much in support of this motion. It is a motion we can agree to. All we have to do is ascertain the date that best suits the occasion, and the dates that are currently available are pretty well involved with a full calendar, whether we look at the third of the sixth. So weíre going to have to do some work around that initiative.
This initiative of holding a special session outside the capital here has occurred before. Itís very fortunate that the Yukon has a current capital and a previous capital ó the previous capital, of course, being Dawson City, Mr. Speaker. This is probably the only jurisdiction in Canada that has two legislative assemblies ó one in Dawson City and one here in Whitehorse.
There has to be a great deal of tradition associated with this very interesting abnormality. So we have another area that we can fly a flag on and bring to the attention of the rest of the Commonwealth and focus in on Dawson. We are the only political jurisdiction in Canada that has two legislative assemblies, a former capital and a current capital.
There will probably be an initiative in due course to relocate the capital back to Dawson City, but Iím not going to go there today, Mr. Speaker. I know that a great deal of debate would ensue in this House, and I know it would probably end up having the unanimous support of this Legislature.
That said, the motion before us is a very straightforward motion. Itís a motion that we, on this side, certainly agree with and support.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today in support of this motion today also. Listening to the member opposite, I think that next to Fish Lake, it probably is the nicest community in the Yukon. I look forward to hearing from the people in Mayo. I can tell you quite honestly that I donít know very much about the community, as Iíve only been there maybe three times, and only for a short visit. It would be very interesting to me to hear about how the First Nations came to settle in that area and what attracted them to that area. I probably know, but Iíd like to hear it from them.
I am looking forward to spending a weekend up there.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Ms. Duncan: I wonít be long in my remarks. I just wanted to thank members for their support for this motion, and I would like to also express my thanks to Shannon Cooper and others in Mayo whom Iíve worked with in the past and on this particular motion, and I appreciate the Minister of Tourism sharing her perspective on Mayo and the family roots, as perhaps thatís a point we have in common as my family roots are by marriage with respect to Mayo, and my husbandís birth certificate reads "Mayo, Yukon" as his place of birth.
There are a couple of points I would like to put on the public record ó just a few if I might, Mr. Speaker ó to elaborate on why itís important. For those Yukoners ó unfortunately there are far too many of them ó who havenít been to Mayo, there are a couple of points about Mayoís beginnings that havenít been made before today, and I will be brief.
Mayoís beginnings are linked to the rush for gold, and the Mayo area had a mini stampede to the Duncan Creek area, which is no relation. I donít know the particular Duncan after whom the creek is named, but that occurred in 1898, and it led to the establishment of Mayo.
The other interesting point that hasnít been mentioned is that Mayoís founding father, Eugene Binet, came from Quebec over the Chilkoot Pass, eventually to a place to be known as Mayo Landing. Noting that Quebec will have an election in a few days, perhaps theyíd like to send a member to be recognized in the gallery, or something. We could issue an invitation to them.
I think itís important that we recognize the Canadian nature of this and include that point.
Eugene Binetís 40 years in Mayo saw him develop as an entrepreneur, and he wore many hats, just like many of us. The Member for Porter Creek Centre noted that we Yukoners tend to wear many hats over our lifetimes, and Eugene Binet was no different. He invested in a sawmill, grew potatoes commercially, built a home for his bride, Jewel, with a hotel with an adjoining store. That later became known as the Chateau Mayo, familiar to many of us. He financed or grub-staked local prospectors during the Depression. Their home is the interpretive centre in Mayo, and I look forward to joining members there. Itís the Binet House, and itís a reminder of our founding fathers and mothers.
Of course thereís United Keno Hill, which was the richest and longest continuously operating silver mine in North America from 1945 to 1989, producing millions of ounces of lead, zinc and silver. The picture is on many Yukon documents, including the walking tour of Mayo brochure ó the riverboat with the sacks of lead, zinc and silver. I think itís also important that we mention today and recognize the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun, the traditional aboriginal people of the area. Theyíve had a settled land claim since 1995, and itís very important also to recognize that both governments ó both the First Nation government and the municipality in Mayo ó operate independently, but they have also been operating co-operatively for over 25 years, Mr. Speaker, having joint council meetings, and itís a strong voice. Itís one voice.
Thereís a celebration in Mayo this year, as it turns 100, and Iím very pleased today and honoured that our members have joined with me as one voice to recommend that we do the hard work, establish a date, establish a bill or a discussion we can agree on for a special afternoon sitting in Mayo, and I look forward to that sitting and to celebrating with the community of Mayo.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I think the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 8 agreed to
Motion No. 46
Clerk:Motion No. 46, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House
(1) the unilateral decision by the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to phase out the Yukon placer authorization has created a great deal of economic uncertainty and social anxiety in the Yukon;
(2) this House unanimously passed a motion calling on the minister to conduct a proper consultation on this issue;
(3) one of the most important advisory bodies available to the minister is the House of Commons all-party Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which has the power to hold hearings and invite information, opinions and advice related to fisheries matters; and
THAT this House urges the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to visit the Yukon and conduct public hearings into the future of fish habitat protection in the territory, in order to provide the minister with relevant advice that reflects Yukon values and concerns.
Mr. Hardy: I brought forward this motion because of the dire situation that many of the placer miners in Yukon feel that theyíre in, in relationship to the federal government and the Fisheries and Oceans department, as well as the difficulty, not only to the placer miners but to the whole territory, in resolving an issue like this, or trying to find a resolution to the issue when you actually have no real control over the decisions that are being made.
This decision in regard to the protection of the fish habitat was made by a minister of the federal government in Ottawa. The debate that has been raging in this territory over the last few months has been, I feel, very destructive to the fabric of the Yukon. Itís not something that I, as an elected person, feel has contributed to the growth of the Yukon ó never mind on the economic side of it, which is pretty obvious, but more on the social community side.
I feel it has separated friends, caused hardship and anger that shouldnít exist among organizations and has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of people who feel very strongly about the protection of the fish habitat ó and rightly so ó as well as the people who have worked for a multitude of years on the creeks and feel threatened by this decision made by the federal Liberal minister.
Looking at that and listening to the debate that has been ongoing, one of the things that would go a long way toward allowing people a chance to express their opinions and discuss that is to have the advisory committee, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, come to the Yukon and hear from the people who actually live here, make a living here, people who have concerns on both sides of the matter, as well as the people who donít want to see the division within our territory, and also hear their viewpoints about how these decisions should be made and the impact that this decision is actually having, as I said earlier, not just on the economic front but also on the social fabric of this territory.
I had expected that people would have gone before the advisory committee whose role was to have representation from individuals, groups and organizations in Ottawa. I would have expected that that would have happened from the representatives we have working down there and also working in the Yukon, and are there to represent the Yukon. Iím not sure if that has happened. I know when I talked to one of the advisory committee people, they actually mentioned to me that they were quite surprised that no one had actually made application to present the viewpoints they were representing from the Yukon as of yet. That was quite surprising, because they have had many representations brought before them on all kinds of issues, especially from the east coast, but from all across Canada. Often the Members of Parliament can and should consider doing that; the Senator can and should consider doing that. I donít know if the Yukon office down there had considered this but, if they hadnít, I would advise that that would be one of the options they could use.
This has been going on for a few months now, and time is of the essence in some of these decisions. That was one of my concerns.
Back when this motion was brought in, my understanding was that there had been no representation, and one of the roles of the standing committee ó or one of the duties ó is to go out to communities, go out to regions in Canada, and there is no reason at all that a request could not have gone forward asking this standing committee to come to the Yukon and hear from the people of the Yukon in regard to this matter.
They have done it before. Itís my understanding that they do go into other regions of Canada. They do have public hearings and there is nothing stopping them from making a visit to the Yukon. I stand to be corrected, but I think this would be a first for them.
Because of the significance of the announcement of the minister on the Yukon, I believe the standing committee should come up here. Theyíre an advisory committee to the minister, and they do carry a fair amount of weight. They are representative of the elected parties in the Parliament, and if they were able to hear what the concerns are from all sides in the Yukon, maybe their advice would not only be different but may carry even more weight because it would be from direct input and it wouldnít be based upon second-hand or third-hand studies or input from the various officials and people who have given input to the minister.
Now, the Minister of Health and Social Services in the Yukon, I feel, would support a motion like this because he often has mentioned the boutique programs that the government puts on up here, and justifiably so. Every government that has been elected in the territory has had to deal with the federal government starting programs, often some very good ones, but then walking away from them after a few years and allowing them to either collapse or be absorbed or picked up by the territorial government at a substantial cost to their revenues, even though they werenít the ones who initiated or started the programs.
So the commitment has often been short in that area. So I think that having a standing committee on fisheries and oceans come to the Yukon would be something where not only ó let me see; how can I phrase this right? It may start a trend toward having more of these standing committees at the federal level come to this region to hear first-hand what the issues are in regard to northern issues ó such as health care, the economics, transportation, child care, and here we are dealing with Fisheries and Oceans ó and having that more direct and greater contact with the people whom these decisions most adversely affect.
It would be my hope that, if we could convince the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to come to the Yukon and, if the public hearings up here were conducted and if they were successful and the committee itself felt that they were very valuable, this would encourage other committees to come to the Yukon before they make decisions or take positions that may not necessarily reflect the voice of the region that is mostly being affected, such as the Yukon ó or even broadening it, if they feel that they want to talk about regions like northern Canada, which would be Nunavut, N.W.T. and the Yukon.
There are very serious differences between the people and the circumstances that we live in, in the north, compared to the people and the circumstances they live in to the south.
I strongly believe that, when decisions are being made, they have to be inclusive of not just the southern provinces but also the northern territories. One of the best ways to ensure that is more of a communication and more of a linking with the various levels of government, from the First Nations, to the municipal, to the territorial, to the federal.
The more we can have that, I believe, the better representation and decisions we will have that affect people of the north.
Iím not going to talk long on this. I think itís a pretty clear motion. I donít think itís a difficult one. From my perspective ó and I could be wrong; maybe weíll see an amendment, I donít know ó but from my perspective, I feel itís one that would be a benefit, not only to the placer miners and the people who feel very strongly about the fish habitat and the future of the territory, but also to all levels of government here, if we can start to get standing committees coming to the Yukon at least every once in awhile to hear the voices of the people of the Yukon.
This is a start, because itís a burning issue weíre facing in the Yukon right now. Everything we can do to try to address it should be tried. So Iím looking for support on this motion, and I hope it goes forward unanimously.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to respond to Motion No. 46, and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans coming to the Yukon.
Iím pleased to address the oppositionís motion. I would first like to comment that I agree with many of the points raised by the member opposite. As the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I have seen first-hand how unilateral decisions by the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to phase out the Yukon placer authorization has impacted Yukon.
In this House we unanimously passed a motion calling on the federal minister to conduct proper consultation on this issue. Mr. Speaker, this issue extends beyond my department. As we are all aware, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans impacts almost everything that happens here in Yukon, whether it be placer mining, hard rock mining, forestry, road building, breakwater construction, and sewage lagoons, like, for example, the problems they are having in Dawson City today ó these all deal with the Department of Fisheries.
Mr. Speaker, the list just goes on and on. It is very difficult these days to find something that Department of Fisheries and Oceans doesnít have an impact on. We also recognize that, as a government that has recently inherited the responsibility for resource management in Yukon, we as a government, and the First Nation governments, need to build a working relationship with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
I believe in the motionís recommendation that the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans comes to the Yukon and hears directly from Yukoners about their concerns with respect to fish habitat, and hears what they value. We all know how easy it is for decisions to be made in Ottawa by people who have no concept of Yukon. If the standing committee could come here and hear first-hand, and hopefully see firsthand what Yukon is all about, they may gain an understanding of what is important to all of us living here in Yukon.
I am pleased to say that I support this motion 100 percent.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I want to put a few comments on the record in support of this motion and congratulate my colleague or leader for this innovative idea that helps to address this very important issue to Yukoners, and that is the whole issue surrounding the Yukon placer authorization.
I believe calling for the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to come and visit the Yukon is an excellent alternative to the suggestion from the Member for Klondike that we travel down to Ottawa. It saves Yukon taxpayers money, allows us here to better deal with other issues at hand and also gives people on the standing committee an opportunity to come to the Yukon and see, hear and talk to Yukoners about this very important matter.
So once again, Mr. Speaker, weíre hoping for unanimous consent on this motion. Weíll extend the record streak once again, potentially, if we all agree to this. Hopefully this motion will pass.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hardy: There are a couple of points that I want to make just to wrap it up, very quickly. There was a member of the standing committee who was up here approximately a month ago, and I believe he met with some members of the Yukon government. He did come and meet with us, and he met with a variety of other people. Thatís Peter Stoffer, who many people do know. He used to live in Watson Lake, and heís now a Member of Parliament for the NDP. He travelled up here and this was one part of his discussions. I did talk to him in regard to having something like this and whether the standing committee would be willing to come up, and he informed me that he would support it, he would lobby very hard to ensure to try to get them to come to the north, and itís not something that should be considered as uncommon because they have travelled out to other areas of Canada and they do hear representation from a large group of people.
So hopefully with that kind of support within the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, as well, and if this passes, maybe something out of this will happen. Maybe the standing committee will at least come up and hear the voice of the Yukon and take it back to that minister, and maybe out of that we can have some movement forward on this outstanding issue.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I think the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 46 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will stand in recess until 3:30 p.m.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Bill No. 4 ó First Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Department of Finance ó continued
Chair:We will continue on with general debate on the Department of Finance.
Mr. Hardy: I will be quite short. I only have a few more questions for the Minister of Finance, and hopefully, we can move on. The third party, of course, has some discussions, and then weíll be moving forward here.
Picking up from where we left off, I guess the question I have is this: does the minister have any plans to look at giving some kind of tax relief for many of the other businesses in the Yukon that are suffering through this recession?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, I want to express to the member my apologies. Yesterday, when the member asked about the banking contract, I misspoke and said that it would come due in the fall. In fact, it comes due in the spring, just to correct the record. My apologies to the official opposition leader.
We obviously have a number of areas where there are some tax incentives that have been developed over the years by Yukoners. The tax round table was an initiative that was struck by the former NDP government. From that tax round table, a number of issues around taxes in the Yukon evolved and are being implemented. We feel that that did a lot of good work, as far as the round table. It was a great mechanism for Yukoners to provide input. At this point, we have not reconvened a tax round table, but we have continued with some of those tax initiatives that have been evolving since the time that the tax round table did its good work and, for the most part, thatís the position that the Yukon governmentís in right now.
Mr. Hardy: Well, building on that question, I guess, is the configuration of the tax round table at it was under the NDP going to be reinstated? Or is the Yukon Party looking at a different kind of input, so they would be looking at different groups or whatever?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There is no direct plan to reconvene a tax round table, although a great deal was developed by that group. There is direction to assess tax incentives here in the Yukon and look for ways we can maybe help the situation weíre in, but at this stage itís merely a process that will begin with assessing those initiatives.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister tell me how our investments are going? Are they up or down? What are they forecasting for that, for the investment income that we would be receiving?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Based on the 2003-04 budget, it will clearly show a value on investment income and other interest at $250,000. That is down because the government found itself this fall in a cash-poor position, which directly affects that amount that we can earn on interest. That cash-poor position was something that had to be dealt with and itís not a usual situation that the Yukon finds itself in, but we certainly did this fall.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister just tell me what the forecast is for the investments in the upcoming year?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Is the member asking about the income? Thatís $250,000 for the fiscal year 2003Ė04.
Mr. Hardy: Is that all the investments?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes. Mr. Chair, that would include all the investments that we have interest income on that would go into general revenues.
Mr. Hardy: Just a couple more questions. Could the minister tell me what kind of dollar figure the government wonít be collecting the tax on, excluding the sawmills and the golf courses?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It will be a very limited amount, and weíll just dig out the actual detail here. I can provide those numbers to the member opposite. We donít have a lot of sawmills operating in the Yukon, number one. The difference here ó and I think maybe itís worthwhile providing this information. In the past, this particular tax exemption was not provided to sawmills. It was attached to a timber permit holder. Obviously thereís a little bit of a problem there, considering sawmills use an amount of fuel thatís significant that is off-road, and also there may be sawmills in the future that have access to timber without that permit, so itís important that theyíre an exempt entity here in the Yukon. And when it comes to golf courses, we donít have a lot of golf courses. This would be used for lawnmower gas and that type of stuff. Itís very limited, and we can get the member opposite the exact dollar value that we project this would cost the government.
Mr. Hardy: I just want to clean up a couple things, some of the questions we have asked over the last couple days in general debate.
Going back, just very quickly, I just need this for my own information ó what we call tax relief, what the members across call assessment. My understanding is that if the work under the Quartz Mining Act isnít done this year ó or if the relief is not used this year, it can be used for the year after. That is my understanding. Is there a time limit to this? If they do the assessment work this year for $100 per claim and they do it next year, could they apply three years down the road if they decide not to go in and do their work, as required by the Quartz Mining Act? Is there a time limit?
What I understood originally was that if they didnít use it this year, they could use it next year. I am just wondering if it goes further than that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is just a one-year extension for this year. The assessment work, if not completed, then requires a payment to be made in lieu. This is not a tax. In our estimation ó at the risk of being argumentative, which I donít want to be ó itís something that has been with the mining industry for a long time. I think that in most cases most miners seek to do assessment work. That assessment work provides them clear indications on where they want to go in the future. But the other side of it is that there is that ability for them to pay a fine if they donít do the assessment work, for circumstances that may be beyond their control. So this is a one-year extension, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: I think the minister and I can agree to disagree on the language and we wonít go around and around on this one. However, I was of the understanding that if it wasnít used this year, it could apply next year. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Could the member repeat that?
Mr. Hardy: If it wasnít used this year, it could apply next year. That is what I heard the other minister say, so I just want to understand that if it isnít used this year, it could be used next year and then that would be the end of it. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, this is probably best brought up in the department that is in the lead on this issue. The Department of Finance deals with this from a financial perspective. Those types of conditions are housed in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Itís my understanding itís a one-year extension.
I also have some information. The sawmill projection is $15,000 ó the cost ó and the golf course is $5,100, so itís $20,100 in total projected savings to Yukon sawmills and golf courses.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís it for general debate on questions for me at this time.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the Finance minister for the opportunity to ask some questions in general debate. I appreciate receiving the information the minister has just tabled. As I understand it, then, the fuel oil tax amendments that are being brought in will reduce the revenues by $20,100. Thatís what I understood him to have just read into the record. He is nodding to that.
I would also like to ask with respect to the mineral exploration tax credit. The mineral exploration tax credit is one of those tax credits where itís not known for some time afterwards. Our party is very supportive of the mineral exploration tax credit. We increased it under our watch. It depends on the exploration season, and itís some time before the numbers come in. It can give the Finance minister very, very, very grey hair, not knowing what the figures are going to be.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: I didnít ask the question yet.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: I know, but let me ask the question. Now that you have your answer prepared, maybe the Finance minister could listen to the question, which is: what are the projections of what itís going to cost, basically, for the mineral exploration tax credit? And what year is that projection applying to?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thereís a saying out there that "great minds think alike," and thatís exactly what we had pulled out. I must hand it to my official for his ability to anticipate where the member opposite was going with her question.
Anyway, seriously, the projection for the 2003 year is $2 million. I think the member was asking on the sawmills and golf courses if the reduction in revenue was reflected already in the budget. It is, and this is also in terms of the tax revenues reflected. So, the projection for 2003 is $2 million under the mineral exploration tax credit.
Ms. Duncan: What I just want to get clear on the record is that that $2 million actually reflects the 2002 exploration season, or is it 2001? Which exploration season? Itís not the 2003 season, because it hasnít happened yet and taxes are filed afterward. Which season is that relating to ó which year?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The 2002 year projection is $2,105,000. In 2003, we are projecting $2 million. Actuals go back to 2001, of $1,941,000. So there is still the final accounting to be done in 2002 and in 2003.
Ms. Duncan: What I am trying to get at with the minister and the point I am trying to make and what I want to lead into a discussion of is ó the 2001 accounting is now done. Our 2001 projections, we would have said probably about $2-million worth under the tax credit and it came in at $1.94 million.
In 2001 we had ó think back ó what kind of an exploration season? Not that great. Probably between $7 million and $9 million ó maybe $10 million. So we are projecting, in 2002, a $2-million loss ó I donít want to use the term "loss of revenue" ó $2 million for this tax credit. In 2002, we had roughly a similar season.
Now in 2003, we are projecting $2 million; however, the projections for the exploration season are mixed right now. This is where it causes concern for the Finance minister.
A staking rush could cause a huge uptake on this tax credit, and weíve only budgeted $2 million. So having discussed that ó and the Finance minister is, of course, aware of that. And weíd all love to see a staking rush ó make no mistake of that, but there is a cost and we havenít budgeted for that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister tells me he can multi-task.
Iíd ask the Finance minister: has he as Finance minister given any thought, had any discussions, undertaken any research with respect to how we can continue to have the mineral exploration tax credit, but how we also can deal with this fact that we donít really know what the numbers are going to be until it comes in? Has he thought about working with it, capping it, working with it somehow with industry to deal with this in a way so it doesnít give him grey hair as Finance minister?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, first, we would love to see a staking rush. There would probably be dancing in the streets.
However, in this particular instance, as Iím sure the former member went through on how to grapple with this issue, weíre using the best estimates that we have available, and we project it for 2003 to be at $2 million. At this stage of the game, thatís what we have to work with.
Ms. Duncan: In the spirit of collegiality that we saw evidenced in the House earlier, I was just asking the Finance minister ó I mean, Iím pointing out the issue that successive Finance ministers have wrestled with and what happens is the mineral exploration tax credit comes back to the House every year and it gets renewed. Maybe the Finance minister is thinking of some other ways to deal with it so that itís a little easier for him as the Finance minister. We would all love to see a staking rush. The minister is right; there would be dancing in the streets. There would also be a heck of a debate at Management Board when the revenues are significantly reduced, and a heck of a debate in the House about the tax credit when we canít afford health care.
I donít want to get into that long discussion right now. My straightforward question is, has the Finance minister given some thought to this issue, or had any discussions or is thinking about it, talking to his colleagues? Is there anything other than extending it, which Iím fully supportive of and agree with? It has its drawbacks, and one of the drawbacks is the difficulty for the Finance minister.
Has he given that any thought?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I did allude to this particular area with the leader of the official opposition, and this is one of the items in that area the department will be looking into when it comes to the tax incentive issues. This is one of them for sure, but itís a nice problem to have in todayís Yukon.
We will work very closely with the department officials as they assess these areas and monitor the situation.
Ms. Duncan: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate the minister recognizing my concern for his welfare.
Itís interesting. We had a debate yesterday about balanced budgets. The Finance minister said heís going to balance the budget in 2005-06. I had the opportunity to review a debate I had with the former Finance minister.
I just would like to ask a question of the Finance minister: does he believe it is acceptable for government to run an annual deficit if it still means that a surplus is maintained?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think what we are saying is that the preferred route here is balanced budgeting. However, recognizing the circumstances here in Yukon and the limitations that Yukon governments have to deal with, it has been obvious that there are times when an annual deficit is just something that has been required to some degree, although I guess we could debate at great length the amount of those annual deficits, whether they were required or needed.
But what we are trying to show in the long-term projections is that we are moving toward a balanced budget so that we have annual surpluses versus annual deficits, and thereby building back up our accumulated surplus, which is the ultimate goal for the Yukon governmentís finances.
Ms. Duncan: So the minister is saying that the ultimate goal, then, is surplus budgets, not balanced budgets?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Not necessarily, Mr. Chair. Again, these are figures that are projections based on the best information that we have available. We have to be somewhat flexible. The ultimate goal is to build back up the accumulated surplus here in the Yukon, and it may require not only at times balanced budgets but indeed an annual surplus to help accomplish that. But the underpinning here is to build back up the accumulated surplus position for Yukon so that we can increase the options available to us by government spending its money to assist in delivering programs and services to Yukoners, first and foremost, but also in areas that will create an environment for the private sector to flourish and contribute a much bigger share of the spending power in this territory.
Ms. Duncan: As the puck is dropping and the Stanley Cup playoff is beginning, Iíd encourage the member opposite not to rag the puck, but to focus on the discussion at hand. How large is an acceptable level of surplus for the minister?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Obviously, given the fact ó and this is testimony to our position that weíve tabled projections based on the best available information. In 2006-07, weíre looking at an accumulated surplus of $60,100,000. As we go through the projections, we will see that that is an acceptable route, given how we wanted to gently lower the spending and not make massive cuts.
Weíre trying to amortize this over time, if you will, to get us back to a better surplus position to open up or increase the options government has in its spending.
Ms. Duncan: We started off with the minister saying he was committed to balanced budgets in 2005-06. Today, he has said, "No, what we really need are surpluses." I said, "All right. If youíre going to build a surplus, what is the acceptable amount of surplus?" What the minister has just said is $16 million. Thatís the acceptable level of surplus. So a $16-million annual surplus in a budget is an acceptable amount? Is that what the Finance minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, first, I think weíre getting confused here. Weíre not dealing with annual surpluses. Our statement has been very clear. This is leading toward what weíre doing in budgeting ó accumulated surplus.
Iím sure there are different comfort levels for government, but we have tabled a set of numbers here that show we deem where this is going as acceptable. However, the department, which is certainly well aware of the trends, historical data and the ability to use that information to project far into the future, finds a comfort level somewhere between $10 million to $20 million.
I think if you look at the projections weíve tabled in the long-term plan, weíre well within those goalposts.
Ms. Duncan: So what the Finance minister said, then, is that there will be a balance ó and I just want to be clear for the record. He has said there will be a balanced budget in 2005-06. Thereafter, the budgets will work toward building up the accumulated surplus. In other words, if theyíre going to build up the accumulated surplus, theyíre going to be surplus budgets, and heís going to table surplus budgets until the accumulated surplus reaches somewhere between $10 and $20 million. Thatís his commitment: balanced budgets in 2005-06 and thereafter surplus budgets until the accumulated surplus is at $20 million. Thatís what the Finance minister is saying, correct?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, what weíre saying is weíve tabled projections based on the best available information. Hereís an example. Our loss in population and all the work being done on the undercount and everything that goes with that may see us take a significant hit in transfer. That would obviously change these projections considerably. What weíve done is lay out a long-term plan, which moves toward balanced budgeting and a process that will rebuild the accumulated surplus in the Yukon. These are not hard and fast numbers; theyíre projections. I think that balanced budgeting is an option for governments to look to, but weíre in a fiscal situation that has to be addressed, and weíre taking the first step with this budget by lowering government spending. That first step is setting out a direction here based on the projections we provided over the next number of years that get us to an accumulated surplus position that only takes back to where we are projecting that we close out the 2002-03 year. So again, weíre not making massive cuts. Weíre taking a very gentle approach here to ensure that we do everything possible to continue to sustain the levels of spending required to deliver programs and services to Yukoners.
But again, we canít predict for certain what might happen with the census adjustment. We have a reserve in place to hopefully cover it, which is booked but, at this stage of the game, we have no final numbers and we wonít know that until sometime in the fall. So just that one item alone could dramatically change these projections.
Provinces could suddenly find themselves in a position where they must raise taxes across the board. That would have an impact on our formula, again lowering our revenues or transfer. The provinces could decide to lower their spending. That again would have an impact on our transfer. So there are a number of intangibles here, and the member opposite knows full well that these are projections just to give an overview of where we could be in the next number of years, considering all the unknowns we may have to deal with during the course of that time.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I recognize that the member is introducing the whole notion of projections and options and so on. What heís doing, in addition to ragging the puck, is heís introducing all sorts of extraneous issues.
Let me be clear. The minister has been very clear. He has talked about wrestling with the trajectory, getting control. He has given Yukoners that commitment. He says, "Weíre wrestling with this, weíre dealing with it, weíre going to deal with it." He also made a commitment earlier in the House that we would have balanced budgets ó he would balance the books in 2005-06. But now he says, "Well, a balanced budget is an option." No. Itís just like the commitment about the trajectory. There was a commitment about balancing the books in 2005-06 and the minister has said that, thereafter, they want surplus budgets until the surplus is up to $10 million or $20 million.
I donít want the discussion on these being the best projections. We all know that these are the best projections that Finance has, and who knows what could happen.
The minister made a commitment. The minister said, "Weíre wrestling with the trajectory", "Weíll balance the books by 2005-06." The minister said "surplus budgets until we rebuild the accumulated surplus to between $10 million and $20 million."
I just want the minister to say, "Yes, that is the commitment I made.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, we committed to wrestle with the spending of the Yukon government ó the past governments ó that was not sustainable, and weíve done that with our first budget.
Yes, we have tabled a set of projections that show that we are moving toward a balanced budget to contribute to building back up the surplus to where all the best advice is being provided to this government from the officials who know and have a great deal of experience and expertise in this area ó that there is a certain comfort level that the government should have available to it, considering all the possibilities that they are aware of. Thatís what we are doing.
The member is implying that forevermore the Yukon government will have balanced budgets. Thatís not what weíre saying. We are saying that to address the issue of where we are at fiscally, today in the Yukon, these are the things we are doing. Outside of this budget ó which is, again, projections until the final accounting gets done after fiscal year-end of March 31, 2003, projections until the Auditor General concludes the final accounting ó we have presented to this House projections to provide a picture of where the finances are going. Notwithstanding, there may be many other pressures that can change these projections. Thatís what projections are all about, and frankly, thatís what budgeting is all about. Budgeting is setting goalposts. We work within those goalposts and then we have to see how things evolve. At the end of the day, the Auditor General will provide the final accounting.
Ms. Duncan: So the old 2005-06 budget goalposts will be balanced. Thatís what the minister said. Let me ask a direct question: what was the surplus on November 4?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We have an agreement to disagree. Itís a failure to communicate. We are saying that, based on projections, by 2005-06, if these projections hold true, we could have an annual surplus in the Government of Yukonís fiscal position. Carrying forward into the next year with an annual surplus, based on the projections, if the numbers hold true, that would see us increase our accumulated surplus position to a position thatís within the goalposts of comfort. Finance officials are concerned about this and are providing us with advice, and we heed that advice.
As far as the accumulated deficit position, the member opposite could probably provide that to us from November, if she has that material. I donít have it in front of me. But at the end of the day, what does it matter? We are now in a new fiscal year, 2003-04, and the projections show that the surplus, ending fiscal year 2002-03, is $17,800,000.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it matters a great deal, because it tells us where we are and where weíve been. The surplus figures, as of November 4, are not available to me. They are available to the member opposite. But letís pick a different date. Can he tell me the surplus on December 12, 2002? Will he provide that information to me?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I think whatís at issue here is where we are at and, at the end of the fiscal year 2002-03, we are in a surplus position, accumulated, of $17,800,000. Thatís what the projections show. The Auditor General will do the final accounting on that and give us the numbers, once he has done his work.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Sorry ó it is now "she" and I apologize to the Auditor General. We know where weíve come from, a whirlwind of spending in two years of Liberal government, and that is why, upon taking office, we had to take the measures that we did to get a firm grip on the fiscal situation of this territory.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, if the Finance ministerís going to make statements like "whirlwind of spending" he needs to prove it. He needs to demonstrate that, and Iím just asking for a simple piece of information. I would just like to know what the surplus was when they took office. What was the surplus on November 4? And Iím not going to go on endlessly about this. Itís a straightforward, direct question. I answered it when I was asked as Finance minister, and the Finance minister in Ottawa is asked and he answers.
They provide regular reports to the House; whatís the surplus? Whatís the surplus today? And now, I donít want the March 31 quote from the budget books. I would like the Finance minister to tell me what the surplus was. If he doesnít want November 4, take December 4, take a month later. Could he just tell me what the surplus was on that day? Itís a very straightforward question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, whatís the point, Mr. Chair? The real key issue here is what our surplus is at fiscal year-end. Thatís what will dictate where weíre going in the next fiscal year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member says to prove it. Well, Iím looking at the numbers that show that, in the fiscal year 2001-02, we had a dramatic increase of some $33 million in government spending here in the territory. In the fiscal year 2002-03, again there was a dramatic increase of $40 million of spending. In two years, thatís an increase of $77 million of spending and a declining population. I rest my case, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Well, a very wise teacher told me that the only dumb question is the one thatís never asked. Iíve asked this question repeatedly. Maybe the Finance minister doesnít consider it relevant, but I do. The Finance minister has tabled documents. Under my signature, the documents came to this House and said the surplus would be $25,879,000. Under that Finance minister, the documents came to this House and said, no, the surplus is $17,631,000. Iíd like to know ó and so would Yukoners ó what the surplus was on November 4. Itís a very simple question that the Minister of Finance is very capable of answering.
Iíll ask him one more time: will he give me that information?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, again, weíre debating something that has already transpired. Itís history. Thereís actually no relevance in lending that issue to this debate of a new budget. Frankly, weíre no longer debating the fiscal year 2002-03. The supplementary budget has passed this House; itís done. The projections show where weíre at. The information was there in the supplementary budget. The Auditor General will provide the final accounting. The member will be made aware of that because that report will be tabled.
Now we are here to deal with and debate the budget for the fiscal year 2003-04. We as a government, have taken a whopping annual deficit of $56 million, and reduced it to an annual deficit of $13 million. That is a huge step in the right direction, Mr. Chair, when it comes to getting control of the fiscal situation in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: The whopping $56-million deficit belongs to the member opposite.
There is a significant amount of money coming into the territory with devolution and with health. The health money logically would be shown in the line item "Revenue Canada health and social transfer." The devolution money is really a significant amount of money ó $56 million.
Will the minister show this in the revenues as devolution transfer in next yearís budget, or will it be buried in "transfer from Canada"? Will he commit to showing it, as I know he is so open and accountable and ó he pledged to Yukoners that he would be ó will he show it as a separate line?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As all other transfers, the devolution monies will come through the formula financing, so that is how it will be shown.
Ms. Duncan: In other words, we will have the territorial revenue, the Canada health and social transfer ó that will just show the significant increase. The devolution money will be buried in the transfer from Canada, so really we wonít be able to track it until we get into the line-by-line debate; it wonít be broken out anywhere else.
Some other questions I have with respect to the tax initiatives and tax promises ó there was a list of platform promises with respect to tax initiatives. One is a child tax credit for low income families. Would the Minister of Finance tell us where this is?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There are many good things in the platform. I think thatís testimony to the outcome of the November 4 election. Itís up to us now to go to work on delivering those things. We have commenced that work with our first budget. We have taken a whopping annual deficit of $56 million of the former Liberal government and toned it down to an annual deficit of $13 million, so now weíre going in the right direction.
When it comes to the tax issues ó this will now be the third time Iíve relayed it to the House ó officials in the Finance department are assessing these types of initiatives to provide us with recommendation options, direction, and all thatís necessary in dealing with them.
Ms. Duncan: So, what the Finance minister is saying with respect to the child tax credit for low income families promised by the Yukon Party is that the tax credit for those who choose to stay home to raise their children ó another platform promise that, since being elected, the Yukon Party has handed over to the Department of Finance officials and said, "Tell us how weíre going to do this."
So, really, one has to question how serious their commitment was. They didnít cost it out, they didnít examine it, they didnít know how they were going to do it, they didnít really know what they were going to do. Instead, it has all been turned over to Department of Finance officials.
What date do we have for the delivery on these promises? Or will they just be added to the list of broken promises?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, we took a different approach upon coming into government. Instead of running through the halls of government and turning everything upside-down, we took the voice-of-reason approach, the calm, collected approach, and realized that our officials were the ones who could provide us with the direction and information required so that we could move on in delivering on these commitments.
We have four years in which to do that. Upon taking office, our commitments were clearly laid out ó these are the things weíre going to work on. Thatís why we immediately engaged the department to look into these issues. They are a priority, as are many other issues, and Iím sure the department is working on those things diligently and coming up with options on how we can deal with them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím so glad the Finance minister used the term "immediately." Could he give us a delivery date on these promises?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That question is in the same context as, "Is the member opposite going to give us a time on how long weíre going to dance around these issues versus getting down to the constructive debate?" Weíre working on them. We provide our officials all the time necessary to do a good job.
Ms. Duncan: There is a point not only to keeping promises but to keeping them on time. There have been a number of requests by both the Liberal caucus and the official opposition caucus, a number of requests for information, job creation, community breakdown with the budget, as well as a list of what was approved by Liberal and what was approved by Yukon Party governments. That has been asked for in the briefing at the end of February. These documents come out of the Department of Finance. Can the Finance minister tell us when we might be provided with that information?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, the department is working on these issues. We should have the breakdown on the budget quickly. I believe the member is looking for the breakdown of capital expenditure, On the other items, again, there are many things the department officials must work on, and this is only one of them. So we continue to work on them, and will, as they come forward, the ones that are relevant to the debate, the ones that are issues that can be delivered on ó there are some questions coming from the member opposite that are even causing some confusion among hard and tested officials in government. Weíre doing our best, and weíll continue to do our best in providing information to the members opposite.
But I want to point out that this is the place for that debate and that exchange, and if we are going to relegate ourselves to having departments provide information, the question is ó in the context of expediting debate and addressing matters in the public interest ó why, then, did the member not ask these questions in briefing?
Ms. Duncan: As the Finance minister is being advised now, I did ask the questions in the briefing. I did ask the questions. I asked for the breakdown in the briefing and, despite his attempt to shift the responsibility and suggest that hard-working officials were unclear on my questions, I would suggest that those officials know me well and would have asked if there was any clarification required. There is a desire on the part of the member opposite, who does not consider the questions I have asked to be relevant ó therefore, the information is not coming forward. That is what the minister has said, and that is truly unfortunate.
My request again, for the record ó I have asked, as has the official opposition, for three pieces of information: the community breakdown of the budget and how much the government is spending in each community, the job-creation numbers out of the budget, and I have also asked, with respect to the supplementary ó even though the supplementary has passed this House, it is still relevant information ó what was approved by the Liberal government, the government in place up until October 4, and the government that took over on November 4.
I have asked for that information for some time. I asked for it on February 27. I have yet to receive it and the minister will not give me a date when I will get it.
The minister will not give a date for when the promised tax cuts will come in.
There are two other platform commitments in this department: the red tape review and the regulation task force. Both are platform commitments. Can the minister tell us when will they be delivered upon, what is the mandate that has been given to these committees and what is the cost of these committees?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, at no time did we say that everything the member asks is irrelevant but, frankly, to continue to want to debate the 2002-03 fiscal year, based on the fact the member opposite passed the mains and the member opposite had a great deal to do with supplementaries, and the member opposite had a great deal to do with warrants. The money is spent. Weíll wait for the final accounting; thatís the important number to Yukoners ó what the final accounting is ó and in these other areas the member has asked about, the officials are working on that. Theyíre working on many other things, and thatís part of their job. I think the member should exercise a little patience in that regard, because much of what theyíre doing is in the context of the public interest, and we will endeavour to make every bit of information available to the leader of the third party, the former Premier.
On the last set of questions she asked, we are working on those too but, at this stage of the game, we canít provide a hard-and-fast timeline. Again, we donít do things willy-nilly and turn government upside-down. We take the thoughtful approach, the voice of reason; letís put things together so that we can actually make them work.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, as long as the member tries to portray himself as the voice of reason, Iíll continue to ask the very reasonable questions and seek the reasonable information that any reasonable legislator would want to have in giving thorough discussion and debate to such major initiatives as a budget.
The minister says theyíre working on it with regard to tax credits and various other platform commitments, but we have no sense from the minister of when. Can he be just a little bit more definitive? Are we looking at a year from now? Right now, weíre focused on tax credits; a year from now itíll be the regulation task force. Does he have any time frame for any of these platform commitments? Any time frame at all?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The time frame is to be determined based on the good works our officials provide us.
Ms. Duncan: Whatís the plan for the forthcoming budget consultations?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The plan is to consult with Yukoners. Thatís imperative. Itís truly unfortunate that the election timing dictated where weíre at today. However, we have every intention to build a budget, not only with the input of Yukoners, but we have made offers to the opposition benches to participate in the budget process. So far, the response has not been one of acceptance, but the offer is open.
Ms. Duncan: For the record, I accepted the offer and presented three suggestions to the minister, none of which were taken.
There is an option to present two budgets: a fall capital and a spring O&M. Is it the Finance ministerís intention to go back to the O&M and capital combination, or will he return to a fall capital budget? Has he reached a decision on that yet?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís exactly whatís going on. We are revisiting that situation. It obviously couldnít have been done this fall because of the election timing. Therefore, thatís the debate we want to engage Yukoners in.
Weíve had two approaches to budgeting. Weíve had a process where thereís a fall capital budget and a spring O&M budget. Then weíve had a process where there are the mains, as we have tabled here today, both capital and O&M in the spring. Thatís something we will determine as we continue our good works in consulting Yukoners.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, there was a capital budget ready to go but they chose not to use it.
One of the groups that would be very interested in providing input is the contracting industry. There was a platform commitment to reinstate a public/private sector working group to identify capital projects to promote employment. Could the minister be more definitive about exactly what that platform commitment means, and is that the group that would be making recommendations on the budget? Is it the O&M or the capital or both? And would that groupís recommendations be binding on the government? Could he just elaborate on that group? Itís part of the platform commitment, so Iím sure the Finance minister knows it well.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I was actually hearing and listening at the same time somewhere else, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: The English language takes an amazing journey in this Legislature.
The platform commitment was to reinstate a public/private sector working group to identify capital projects to promote employment. That was the platform commitment. Iím just asking the minister to explain that to Yukoners. What does he mean by that? What did the Yukon Party mean by it? Whatís the groupís mandate? Will their advice be binding on government? Are they the only group that is going to be consulted? Who is this public/private sector working group?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, obviously, consulting with Yukoners is number one, but when it comes to government spending and maximizing job creation, there are groups out there that have a great deal to offer in that area, and we are going to seek their advice. We are going to solicit advice from them because they are, to a great degree, the job creators here in the territory.
We will come forward with a plan on how to do that. It is housed in many areas. Obviously the creation of the Department of Economic Development is a step in the right direction ó something that was annihilated under the former government, because economic development wasnít a priority and there wasnít a capital budget. There were a lot of commitments of capital expenditure by the former Liberal government, but certainly it is a stretch to say that there was a budget created.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I suggest that the Finance minister go read Hansard, because even his Health minister recognized that there was a capital budget prepared by the previous government. There was a great deal of consultation and a great deal of work done. Government made a choice. Government is elected to make choices and they made a choice.
I am just asking the Finance minister to explain this platform commitment, and he seems unable to do so, and I am curious about that.
The Yukon Party said that they would reinstate a public/private sector working group. "Reinstate" would imply that they have been there before. Who are they talking about and what is going to be the mandate of this committee? Are their recommendations going to be binding on government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It was a vehicle or a mechanism that worked well in the past under a former Yukon Party government, and we are going to address that ó thatís why it is in the platform. It proved to be a positive element in job creation when it came to government spending.
Again, would the member exercise a little patience? There is absolutely no reason to get too exercised about this here today. This is our first budget. We now want to go and conduct the processes necessary to deal with a number of these issues as we go forward from this first fiscal budget presented by the newly elected Yukon government.
Again, the member and I are going to disagree on whether or not there was a capital budget. Frankly, the consultation process that was experienced by Yukoners last summer was more about election campaigning and candidate recruitment than it was about true budget consultation.
Ms. Duncan: It would be ó and I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that youíve said before itís incumbent upon all members to focus their energies on their debate and leave the personalities out of it, so letís do the same with the political shots, shall we?
The last budget consultation went on throughout the entire territory and was attended by Finance officials and the information is available. It could be made available to the member opposite, should he choose to listen to Yukoners.
The group I believe the member is referring to in that platform commitment likely includes members of the Yukon Roadbuilders Alliance ó key members of the construction industry who were very interested in examining the public/private partnerships. Those individuals made a very strong representation and a recommendation that the capital budget be moved to the fall. We followed that, and I would strongly recommend to them ó because the minister doesnít want to listen to me ó that they make the same recommendation to that minister and hope he listens to them.
There are a number of responsibilities that were transferred from the Department of Economic Development to the Department of Finance. One of those is interprovincial issues, interprovincial trade barriers. One of the biggest issues for the Yukon is the unresolved issue with the Northwest Territories with respect to their northern bid preference policy.
Now, the minister has made much of his hands across the north initiatives and our new-found collegial buddies and new-found friends. Would the minister care to tell the House how he has resolved this issue, which has cost millions for at least three contractors in less than a year, in terms of work and job opportunities ó this northern bid preference?
Iíve raised it in writing with Premier Kakfwi. My former colleagues have raised it, and the previous Finance minister raised it. Itís a major issue. It shuts Yukoners out of work in the Northwest Territories and, if they do get the job, additional costs and penalties are imposed upon them. Their northern bid preference policy is an interprovincial trade barrier that is very, very difficult. Has the minister done anything on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, maybe weíve just found out what some of the problem was with the past government. The statement that "these are our new-found friends" is testimony to why we might have been having problems with our neighbours to the east. Theyíre not new-found friends; theyíve always been friends and neighbours.
There is no question that the people north of 60 share a great deal in common. These issues are obviously issues that must be addressed, and that is why this government immediately moved toward establishing a formalized relationship with our neighbours to the east, the Northwest Territories, which commits us to work on all these types of things for the benefit of citizens on both sides of the border. That is more than just new-found friends. It is the prudent course to take because a pan-northern arrangement is the way to the future for our citizens. Instead of a southerly outflow, we can start to maximize benefits in an east-west manner, which should have been happening a long time ago.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Chair, the minister has made much of a new relationship. Thatís why I made the reference I did. I asked the minister: has he done anything specific to deal with the interprovincial trade barriers between Yukon and the Northwest Territories, specifically the northern bid preference exercised by the Northwest Territories that shuts out Yukon contractors? Has he done anything on that issue, other than pay for lunch for the Premier of the Northwest Territories?
Did he write a letter, did he raise it between trade ministers? Has he raised it with Minister Hanley? Has he raised it with anyone else? What, specifically, has he done?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think what the member opposite misses is that establishing a constructive relationship is something that must be worked on, considering the damage done to our relationship under the former Liberal government. That is truly unfortunate, because we might have advanced these issues.
When it comes to what weíve done specifically, weíve taken the first step in our accord that commits both jurisdictions to work on matters of mutual interest and benefit. Discussions will continue as we move forward with the accord and in building our relationship for the benefit of Yukon citizens and Yukon contractors, and vice versa with those in the Northwest Territories.
Ms. Duncan: I will stack my record with respect to speaking up for Yukon contractors and the correspondence and work on this issue against the ministerís lack of action.
The other area that was transferred from the Department of Economic Development is the loan and loan collection policies.
Could we have a list of outstanding loans tabled in the House, please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the member opposite should stack her record up to the contractors in standing up for them. Itís a good thing for the member to do. But the member should have attended the ceremonies that we had with Premier Kakfwi, while here, and she could have really gone a long way to stacking that record up with the contractors who were all present there at the ceremony. The member could have stood on her feet and explained to the contractors that this was not the route to go because that is not the chosen route her government had taken.
As far as the list of outstanding loans, yes, we will provide that to the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I assure the Finance minister, had I been invited I would have attended, but unfortunately that common courtesy was not extended to me or the leader of the official opposition.
The list of loans the minister has committed to tabling ó when might we receive that information? And that is all the outstanding loans. Can he advise if there have been any significant payments on any of the long-outstanding loans? Have any of them been resolved?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, unfortunately, Iím going to have to respond to the memberís comment about not being invited. They were. The member said something like, "Iím not going unless my officials can attend," and we werenít sure what officials those were but, anyway, there was an invitation to attend.
Mr. Chair, going on, these issues about outstanding loans are ever-evolving. Of course, there are payments that come in from time to time and so on. We will provide the member with the accounting and the list.
Ms. Duncan: For the record, there was no invitation extended to me to which I would have responded, "unless my officials are going" ó I was not invited to attend to meet with Mr. Kakfwi.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Thatís fine. The memberís courtesies or lack of them speak for themselves.
The minister has said he would provide us with the list of outstanding loans. I asked if there were any significant changes since the last time they had been put forward in the House. He says there had been some, but he didnít tell us, although I asked the direct question, when will this information be provided? Can we look forward to it prior to the conclusion in debate or debate in Finance, or when might we receive this? A day? A week? Could he give us a little more definitive time frame, please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Because this side of the House is so focused on openness, accountability and all those things, in providing the member opposite with the necessary information, I will table them now.
Ms. Duncan: So we can then expect that the pages will be able to photocopy that information and we can receive it forthwith.
The loan collection policy is noted in the previous budget ó the budget that was tabled to pass the House. There is reference to the accountability in the loan collection policy. The minister has indicated that they will be embarking upon a new loan policy. Where is it and when will it be ready?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I answered this very same question yesterday, the answer will be the same. We have a discussion paper developed by the department. This is a very difficult task because of the variances and all the issues that go with it. There are some issues of a delicate nature. As we pointed out, we donít want NGOs to have to close and discontinue the good works that they provide Yukoners. We did not want to see businesses become bankrupt or insolvent because of this issue. They were so poorly managed by a former NDP government when they first commenced with these loans. We are going to proceed now with a Management Board submission so that we can come to a conclusion on how to proceed with dealing with this issue.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has said a couple of times in the House that itís a difficult issue, and he said now that they were proceeding with a Management Board submission. Could we just be a little bit more definitive? Are we looking at a year for this policy? Perhaps the next time the Legislature is reconvened.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the member opposite who just asked this question was in power for two years. We didnít see even a discussion paper ó nothing of the sort. I would suggest to the member that we are going to ensure that we look at all the options available to come up with the best choice on behalf of the taxpayer. The bar has been set by all those hard-working people, hard-working Yukoners who have paid their debt. The bar has been set.
We make no mistake about that. We want to bring closure to this issue without further damaging the already heavily damaged situation weíre in economically and so on. I think we can learn lessons from what has transpired over the last many years when it comes to economic development arrangements. These are something that governments must become much more efficient in administrating and dealing with. At the end of the day, itís taxpayersí money that weíre dealing with, and thatís the important fact. So we are going to take the time to do the work properly, and we, as stated earlier in this House, will provide that information to the House once we have the situation managed to the point where we feel that the best possible option is available to the government.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that the minister said something in there. There were a couple of points. First of all, to suggest that nobody had ever done any work on this issue is incorrect, and the member is aware of that. Just examine the last budget documents that were tabled in this House and debated at length. Work has been done. The leader of the official opposition stated that work on this was done by a previous NDP government.
Now the minister is saying that information will be provided to the House, so Iím going to take the minister at his word, that heís going to provide a copy of the policy once itís developed and that, in turn, the minister is looking forward to doing this sooner rather than later.
The only other item I had outstanding with respect to Finance ó I havenít had a number of answers; however, there is one other question I would like to put on the record. There has been a great deal of discussion around the abeyance agreement and the negotiations around it. I understand that weíre funding the negotiator to seek an abeyance out of Executive Council Office, and weíre also funding the abeyance negotiations out of the Kaska round table. And that is in Energy, Mines and Resources. Is that correct? So itís the two ó Executive Council Office and Energy, Mines and Resources?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I donít want to belabour this point, but weíre actually debating the Department of Finance. In the context of having the member focus on debate, I would suggest that the member bring up those questions during the Department of Executive Council Office debate and, when it comes to the economic table, when the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is up for debate.
Getting back to what the member opposite was stating about work being done, we all know what work was done under the Liberal watch when it comes to these loans and we know what that triggered. I donít have to go into that. It was loud and clear and it got us to the point where a certain individual had to get involved and that provided more costs the taxpayers of the Yukon had to bear.
So, Mr. Chair, we are more than ready to answer the questions around those last issues that the member has asked when the appropriate departments are up for debate.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will then continue line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Administration in the amount of $489,000 agreed to
On Financial Operations and Revenue Services
Financial Operations and Revenue Services in the amount of $2,141,000 agreed to
On Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat
Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat in the amount of $1,654,000 agreed to
On Banking Services
Mr. Hardy: Could I have some detail on this, please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is basically service charges, Mr. Chair. If the government goes below a certain level of cash in the bank, then this charge comes into effect.
Mr. Hardy: My reading is that we didnít go below, so the charge has been reduced substantially?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís correct. After the massive spending by the former Liberal government, putting us in a cash-poor position, we have taken it back to where weíre projecting a mere $50,000 cost for that compensating charge versus $240,000 for the fiscal year 2002-03 under the Liberal watch, which is a dramatic reduction of 79 percent.
Banking Services in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer
Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer in the amount of $213,000 agreed to
Total Treasury in the amount of $4,547,000 agreed to
On Workersí Compensation Supplementary Benefits
On Supplementary Pensions
Supplementary Pensions in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
Total Workersí Compensation Supplementary Benefits in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense
On Allowance for Bad Debts
Allowance for Bad Debts in the amount of $74,000 agreed to
Total Bad Debts Expense in the amount of $74,000 agreed to
On Prior Period Adjustments
On Prior Period Adjustments
Prior Period Adjustments in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Total Prior Period Adjustments in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Recoveries and Revenue
Recoveries and Revenue cleared
On Transfer Payments
Transfer Payments cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $5,003,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Loan Guarantee Contingency
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could we have a line explanation as to why that amount has gone up by 150 percent? Is that in anticipation of an inability to collect on bad debts?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is to do with the loan venture guarantee program. We have a note on it explaining this, but there is also a recovery involved here.
Ms. Duncan: So this is just the small venture loan capital ó the Dana Naye Ventures issue ó itís not the bad debts and monies that are outstanding for the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is on the loan venture guarantee program and any bank, including Dana Naye Ventures, and the issue here that the member is asking is ó it was downgraded in last yearís budget in the supplementary and all weíve done is ó because under Economic Development, where this program came from, it was always at $250,000, so weíve put it back to the amount that Economic Development had booked, year by year.
This is just a projection on the uptake.
Chair: Is there any further debate on loan guarantee contingency?
Loan Guarantee Contingency in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Bad Debt Expense (Capital Loans)
Bad Debt Expense (Capital Loans) in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Total Treasury in the amount of $266,000 agreed to
On Transfer Payments
Transfer Payments cleared
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $266,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
Chair: We will proceed with Vote 20, Loan Capital and Loan Amortization.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Loan capital expenditures are loans made to third parties, including municipalities. Loan amortization expenditure is repayment of loans by the government that were originally acquired in order to provide financing to third parties. Loan amortization recovery is the repayment of loans by third parties to the government.
Ms. Duncan: The loan capital and loan amortization are, as the minister said, loans issued to municipalities. I would take it that all these loans are in good standing?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, at this point in time and as far as we know, they are in good standing.
Ms. Duncan: Are there any outstanding requests for funds from any municipalities or communities that are currently being reviewed by the Department of Finance?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: At this point in time, none.
Chair: Are there any further questions, or shall we proceed line by line?
On Loan Capital
On Loans to Third Parties
Loans to Third Parties in the amount of $5,000,000 agreed to
Loan Capital in the amount of $5,000,000 agreed to
On Loan Amortization
Expenditure in the amount of $415,000 agreed to
Loan Amortization in the amount of $415,000 agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: We will now proceed to Vote 01, Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The Membersí Services Board is responsible for the budgets of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and its House officers. This includes the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Ombudsman/Information and Privacy Commissioner. Funding for the Conflicts Commissioner is included as a program in the budget of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. It is therefore appropriate that the chair of the Membersí Services Board should provide information to the House on these appropriations.
As the members know, it was not possible to formally appoint the membership of the Membersí Services Board until the sitting of the Assembly. It was known, however, that the boardís membership, based on practice followed since the beginning of party politics in this Assembly, would include the Speaker, the Premier, the leader of the official opposition, the leader of the third party, and the government House leader. It was also known that Standing Order 45(2) directs that the Speaker be the chair of the board.
In order to provide an opportunity for an all-party review of the proposed estimates of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the Elections Office, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Conflicts Commissioner, the members who would make up the Membersí Services Board met on January 7, 2003.
That group of members reviewed Vote 01 estimates for the Yukon Legislative Assembly now before the House. Those members agreed to these estimates and further agreed that they be forwarded to the Minister of Finance for inclusion in the main estimates. The estimates found in Vote 01 are identical to those that received approval at the meeting of January 7, 2003.
The operations and maintenance budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 2003-04 totals $3,832,000, which is a decrease of $2,311,000 ó 38 percent ó over the 2002-03 forecast. The capital budget totals $40,000, of which $20,000 is an increase over the forecast for the previous year.
The central reason for this significant change in the 2003-04 estimates from the 2002-03 forecast is found in the retirement allowances and death benefits program. The current year estimate for this program is $714,000, which compares to the forecast expenditure for the past year of $3,163,000. An explanation of the need for additional funding in 2002-03 was provided to the House during debate on the supplementary estimates. The central reason set out at that time for this expenditure was that an actuarial valuation had been received indicating a deficiency in the funding of the liabilities in the MLA pension plan.
Iíll also provide a brief explanation of the changes in the remaining four programs. In the Legislative Assembly program, thereís an increase of $32,000, which is largely due to the addition of an eighteenth MLA.
In the Legislative Assembly Office program, thereís an increase of $102,000, largely due to an increase in personnel, travel, printing and honoraria.
In the Hansard program, thereís an increase of $5,000 to cover an expected increase in the costs of televising the proceedings of the Assembly.
In the Conflicts Commission program, thereís a decrease of $1,000 from the forecast. The budget of the Conflicts Commission program is based on advice received from the Conflicts Commissioner.
The increase in the capital budget is due to the need to replace the photocopier provided to the official opposition office and to replace a number of outdated computer workstations in caucus offices.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will then proceed line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Legislative Services
On Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly in the amount of $1,447,000 agreed to
On Caucus Support Services
Caucus Support Services in the amount of $543,000 agreed to
On Legislative Committees
Legislative Committees in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
On Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the amount of $43,000 agreed to
Total Legislative Services in the amount of $2,050,000 agreed to
On Legislative Assembly Office
On Clerkís Office
Mr. Hardy: Could I have some detail on this please?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The increase of $102,000 in the Clerkís office is due to the increase of $86,000 in personnel costs, $11,000 in travel costs, $4,000 in printing, and $1,000 in honoraria for the pages.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Clerkís Office in the amount of $629,000 agreed to
Total Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $629,000 agreed to
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, Iím just looking for some direction. If I have questions about the allotments, do you prefer to have them asked in general debate, or where would you prefer to have them asked?
On Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits
On Retirement Allowances
Retirement Allowances in the amount of $714,000 agreed to
On Death Benefits
Death Benefits in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Total Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits in the amount of $714,000 agreed to
On Transcription Services
Transcription Services in the amount of $344,000 agreed to
On Electronic Services
Electronic Services in the amount of $2,000 agreed
Broadcasting in the amount of $53,000 agreed to
Total Hansard in the amount of $399,000 agreed to
On Conflicts Commission
On Conflicts Commission
Conflicts Commission in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Total Conflicts Commission in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $3,832,000 agreed to
Chair: We will proceed to page 1-3, Yukon Legislative Assembly, capital expenditures.
On Capital Expenditures
On Legislative Assembly Office
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures for the Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
Chair: We will continue on with Vote 24, Elections Office, page 2-6.
Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: As I mentioned earlier, the proposed estimates for the Elections Office were reviewed by what might be described as the Members' Services Board-elect. That group of members reviewed and agreed to Vote 24 estimates recommended to them by the Chief Electoral Officer. Further, they agreed that those amendments be forwarded to the Minister of Finance for inclusion in the main estimates. The Elections Office estimates found in this appropriation bill are identical to those that were forwarded to the Minister of Finance.
The operation and maintenance estimates for the Elections Office show a decrease from $661,000 in the 2002-03 forecast to $137,000 in the 2003-04 estimates. The capital estimates for this vote are $3,000, which is a $10,000 decrease from the previous year.
The most significant change appears in the Elections administration activity, which has been reduced from $461,000 to a $1 item. This reflects the amount appropriated in the 2002-03 fiscal year to cover the costs of administrating the 2002 general election. If funding should be required for a by-election, it will be authorized either through a special warrant or a supplementary appropriation.
There is a decrease of $17,000 in the Chief Electoral Officeís activities. This is due to a decrease in honoraria, contract services and supplies, as no territorial or school elections are scheduled in the 2003-04 fiscal year.
The Elections: Education Act activity is decreased by $43,000. This reflects the cost of administering the general election of school councils in October 2002.
The Electoral District Boundaries Commission activity has been reduced to nil as no further costs associated with the 2001-02 commission remain to be covered in the 2003-04 fiscal year.
Chair: Is there any further debate on Elections Office?
Weíll then proceed line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Chief Electoral Office
Chief Electoral Office in the amount of $123,000 agreed to
On Elections: Education Act
Elections: Education Act in the amount of $14,000 agreed to
On Elections Administration
Elections Administration in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Electoral District Boundaries Commissions
Electoral District Boundaries Commission cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Elections in the amount of $137,000 agreed to
Chair: We will continue on to page 2-3, capital expenditures.
On Capital Expenditures
On Elections Office
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Total Elections in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures for Election Office in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Elections Office agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: Again, as I mentioned earlier, the proposed estimates for the Office of the Ombudsman were reviewed by the Membersí Services Board-elect at its meeting on January 7, 2003. This vote is comprised of two activities: "Ombudsman" and "Information and Privacy Commissioner". The proposed estimates for this vote were recommended by the Ombudsman, who appeared at the meeting of January 7, 2003 to discuss them with the Members' Services Board-elect.
The Members' Services Board-elect, upon completion of its review, agreed to the Vote 23 estimates as recommended to them by the Ombudsman. Further, they agreed that those estimates be forwarded to the Minister of Finance for inclusion in the main estimates. The Office of the Ombudsmanís estimates found in this appropriation bill are identical to those forwarded to the Minister of Finance.
The operation and maintenance estimates for the Office of the Ombudsman show as an increase from $374,000 in the 2002-03 forecast to $390,000 in the 2003-04 estimates. The capital estimates for this vote are $5,000, which is unchanged from 2002-03.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Weíll then proceed line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Ombudsman in the amount of $195,000 agreed to
On Information and Privacy Commissioner
Information and Privacy Commissioner in the amount of $195,000 agreed to
Total Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $390,000 agreed to
Total Recoveries cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $390,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Ombudsman
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Total Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Chair: The Chair seeks some direction as to where we will next proceed.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, weíre going into Health and Social Services next.
Chair: Weíll continue on with Vote 15.
Department of Health and Social Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am very pleased to introduce the Department of Health and Social Services O&M and capital budgets for 2003-04.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, there has to be more to that than what the minister is offering. Maybe he can flip through his pages, find the rest of his notes and read them out to us.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I have introduced the total allocation, the estimates for 2003-04, at $141,990,000.
Mr. Fairclough: The member usually has all kinds of things to say in this department. I am surprised that he spent such little time putting his notes together for that introduction to this huge department.
There is a lot of money in this department in comparison to other departments in government, and there are certainly a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered in this department.
I am hoping that maybe the member can come back with better prepared notes for us tomorrow. We will try to ask some questions today and hopefully the minister can answer some of them.
We have seen many cuts in this department, and this government has basically been focusing on the governmentís spending trajectory over the next couple of years. The direction that is given from the minister to the officials, I would assume, is the same as other ministers, where we are looking at a reduction in this departmentís budget, and so far thatís what we have seen. What we havenít seen is a clear picture as to what additional amount of money there is in this department.
Iíd like to ask the minister, for the first question, breaking the ice and getting him speaking, how much money will be ó in addition to what we already have in this department ó coming from the federal government? We know about the $20 million. Can he be clear on the rest of the increases in regard to per capita increases and what was agreed to by the Prime Minister?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite well knows, thereís a $20-million accord that the Yukon will become the beneficiary of from Canada. This came about as a consequence of the Premier of the Yukon joining forces with the premiers of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and, basically, walking out on the Liberal Prime Minister we have here in Canada, and saying, "We are not prepared to agree to this per capita arrangement."
From then, the northern premiers were called back to meet with the Prime Minister of Canada and negotiated a $60-million core ó or base ó funding.
We subsequently received word from the PMOís office that that $20 million will be flowing to the Yukon over three years. So, for the member oppositeís benefit, $20 million divided by three is $6.666 million. Itís a repeating decimal at the end, Mr. Chair. You can round it up any way you want. Thatís where weíre at.
Now, that money has been committed. It has been committed to meet the spending trajectory that the department has in Health and Social Services.
The reality of the situation is that everybody expects this new money to be going toward a whole series of new programs but, before this money flows from Canada to Yukon, Yukon has to sign on to the health care accord with Canada. That has yet to be done. That is forthcoming.
Also, the Prime Ministerís letter was very specific. These funds are subject to Treasury Board approval. That means that, every year, Treasury Board has to say yea or nay.
So, before we run off and spend this $6.666 million, Mr. Chair, letís be cognizant of what has transpired in the past and where weíre headed in the future.
Now, the services provided by Health and Social Services are under constant pressure to increase. If you look at the previous budgets of Health and Social Services, 10 years ago, the total budget at that time ó thatís audited financial statements ó was $87 million. Today, itís $142 million.
Thatís a significant increase, especially when you consider our declining population over that same period ó over a 60-percent increase in the past decade. And if we look at why weíre at where weíre at, Mr. Chair, and why the department has had difficulties ó in fact, why the whole government has had difficulties ó is the federal Liberal government has basically cut about $150 million out of transfer payments some years ago, and weíre still attempting to recover from that reduction.
When we look at where weíre at today, the commitment for that $20 million over three years has been pretty well earmarked. We know that the Whitehorse Hospital Corporation has a $1.8-million additional increase, and in subsequent years that is going to go up to $3,037,000, and then in the following funding year, 2005-06, itís anticipated to rise to $4.3 million additional, on top of the base amount now.
The area that is rising at a very alarming rate is for the cost of drugs, and the various drug programs have been rising at an average cost of 16.2 percent over the last five years. Now, thatís going to translate into this year alone of another $1,311,000 of additional costs for the department, and that is projected to rise in the following funding year of 2004-05 to $1,971,000 and in 2005-06 to $2,702,000.
If we look at the FASD initiatives and autism, we are looking at significant dollars. The Child Development Centre and FASSY ó these are significant dollar increases across the board.
So, before the member opposite runs down to the local radio station and sits in on a phone-in program as to how we can spend this additional funding, let me assure this House that this funding has been earmarked for the purposes intended and it will be meeting the needs, to a large degree, in the provision of health care to Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I know the member opposite might be nervous about numbers coming out of his department but as I listened to the radio the other day, the minister laid out what this $20 million was going toward. But he also said something interesting, and that was that here is the amount of additional dollars we are getting from Canada, the $6.666 million that will go toward certain programs ó and he listed FASSY and FASD and so on. Then he said that the rest of the money will go to new programs. What new programs is the minister talking about?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are some new initiatives that our government has begun, Mr. Chair. They are in conjunction with the Child Development Centre. Theyíre in conjunction with FASSY, and theyíre in conjunction with the Yukon Medical Association.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister did list those in the radio interview he did, and then he said there were some new programs other than what he just listed here. Weíre interested in what other new programs the minister is talking about, where this money is going. Is it all to alcohol and drugs? Is the rest going to alcohol and drugs? We want to know which new direction his government is able to move in with these new dollars.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíve laid out for the member opposite the three organizations with which we have arrangements for initiatives and new initiatives, and theyíre related to FASD. That includes an arrangement with the Yukon Medical Association for funding to that organization for early screening of newborns for FASD, and with the Child Development Centre and with FASSY. All these are new initiatives taken on by these three organizations relating to FASD and our governmentís commitment in this area, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister can give us a breakdown as to how much of this $6,666,666.66 will go to each one of the three programs. Thatís a lot of money for all of them. There must be some money left over to do other initiatives in the department. Is every cent of this new money going toward these three programs? Are these the new programs the minister talked of, or is government able to use some of these dollars for other initiatives in the department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member is absolutely right. These are three new programs that are going to be operated by these three entitities: the Yukon Medical Association, FASSY and the Child Development Centre. But it doesnít take up the whole $6.6 million.
The spending trajectory across the department is going to require between $7 million and $10 million a year, just to meet the current spending trajectory. Now, some of these dollars are earmarked for out-of-territory medical costs for physicians and hospital costs in the Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton areas, where Yukoners are sent for medical procedures when we do not have the expertise or facilities available here in the Yukon. Those costs have gone up at an alarming rate, and they continue to rise.
So, that said, we have an obligation to ensure that these health care costs are met, and we will be doing so. Those are just some of the large areas in which we are going to experience major increases. Across the whole department, other areas are going to be requiring new funds, but these are not contained in this budget. This new money will be dealt with by way of a supplementary this fall or next spring.
Weíre concentrating on the budget, and I know, in general debate, members in opposition are given a large latitude and flexibility as to where they want to go, but I would encourage the member opposite to concentrate and focus on the budget we have before us.
Mr. Fairclough: Then maybe the minister can tell us when the Yukon government will be receiving this money?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I said earlier, there are procedures that Yukon has to go through and Canada has to go through. On Yukonís part, we have to sign on to the health accord with Canada. We have to agree to the terms and conditions contained in that agreement. On the federal governmentís part, itís subject to their approval process. Their approval process is for Treasury Board approval, Mr. Chair. Now, how long that takes, Iím given to understand it could be as short as six months. Thatís how long Iím advised it will take to get this approval through Treasury Board. So after it goes through Treasury Board, I donít know how fast the money gets transferred to Yukon after that, but itís not going to be tomorrow, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: So the minister is saying it will take six months or longer to get this money; is that correct? The minister says yes. Are there any monies that are going to go from the Yukon government to FASSY?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: And the same applies to the other two new programs ó to the Yukon Medical Association and Child Development Centre? The monies will flow from Yukon government to them, even though we donít have the $20 million?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Chair. They will flow before the six months for obvious reasons, but weíve identified that that money is going to flow from Canada. Itís a matter of cash flowing to various organizations, and the Yukon Medical Association, FASSY and the Child Development Centre. Theyíre undertaking three new initiatives that will be funded separately from the funds that currently flow to these three organizations.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister can lay out how restricted this $20 million is? How flexible is this department in spending this money? The minister said that itís earmarked for certain things, but is there enough money to flow into the rest of the department to offset this trajectory that he talks about?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The health care accord that Yukon signs with Canada specifically lays out that this money has to be for health and health-related initiatives. That encompasses autism and FASD.
Mr. Fairclough: All right, so this money is fairly flexible in health. The minister just laid out three new programs that he is bringing forward and he is very much willing to flow dollars to them right now, in anticipation of this money.
The minister is saying that we are spending over and above what we are being asked to spend in this budget. I find it interesting that we could be engaged so soon in that without putting together a full plan.
One thing the minister didnít say, when I first asked him about the additional $20 million, was in regard to the additional monies that are coming from the CHST in regard to per capita increases.
How much money are we expecting to see there and when will it flow to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me just set the record straight. The $20 million is specifically allocated to health care. We have very little flexibility as to how we can spend that money ó very little flexibility indeed. It has to meet the criteria set out in the accord with Canada, and itís very, very specific. Itís also tied to health reform, so we also have to undertake a health care review, which we hope to get underway as soon as we can get it through the appropriate procedures we have in government.
Some planning is already happening through the primary health care transition fund. So, there are various pots of money coming from the feds. Non-targeted funding is available, but when we start looking at that, we are again locked in as to where we can spend that money. It looks like, at the end of the budget cycle, it will all have been spent in existing areas. We have very little flexibility to develop new initiatives and new programs in this budget envelope. For example, we couldnít just go out and create a new program in other areas for dental, or something of that nature. We are specifically tied to the health accord with Canada.
Mr. Fairclough: We would certainly like to see the plans coming from the minister. The minister also said that there were various pots of money coming from the federal government ó various pots of money. What are they, in addition to what we have, and how much do they add up to?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, thereís the Canadian health and social services transfer. That will add $1 million additionally. As to when it flows, I donít have that information here, Mr. Chair. In addition to that, we have the per capita on top of the $20 million. Again, thatís based on our population, and that is purported to amount to $4.5 million. Iím sorry, thereís the primary health care transition fund, $4.5 million, and the per capita, which is the CHST, Mr. Chair. Thatís $1 million, the CHST.
Mr. Fairclough: So this is all in addition to what we have from block transfer from Canada for health? The minister says yes.
So what we have is $1 million from the Canadian government for health and social services and $4.5 million for primary health, and the minister only said $1 million for the per capita amount. Is it not higher than that? Is it not around $3 million that we could be getting here? Are we in the window between $1 million and $3 million, if not higher?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Again, the way the feds do it, it is $3 million but itís over three years. So it is $1 million for this year.
Mr. Fairclough: So, according to the numbers from the minister, we will be getting over $12.5 million over and above, per year. That includes the $6.6 million, the $1 million for per capita and the Canadian million dollars for health and social services and the primary health care. That is over $12 million extra.
Itís a bit different from the numbers that the Premier gave in the budget speech. He said that we will be getting additional dollars for CHST ó the member just said there was $1 million in it ó and he also said that there was $60 million coming ó that is between the three territories ó and an additional $10 million to $12 million. Are those not numbers added up, or where is the Premier getting this number? Itís different from what the minister is offering here.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, the total pot of federal money sounds great ó itís $32 million that could potentially flow to the Yukon. Itís over three years. Included in that $32 million is the $20 million, of course. So that leaves $12 million. All that money is conditional and it is predicated on health reform and some of it is for equipment.
The terms and conditions associated with it have not yet been determined by Canada. So letís be well-advised that we canít run off and spend this. Iím sure the feds are going to make much of it, including a whole series of announcements from this point on, about this additional $12 million, and everyone is going to be under the impression that this is another $12 million.
The total package adds up to $32 million over three years. Included in that is the $20-million base amount. So when you look at the $4-million per year out of that $12 million ó and we have yet to find out from Canada what the terms and conditions of this money flowing to Yukon will be ó again, itís subject to Treasury Board approval ó it might be the next fiscal cycle before we see any of these funds, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is already spending the money. Heís spending the $20 million thatís coming, before we have it. The numbers just donít add up. Can the minister tell me, in primary health, the $4.5 million, are we receiving this annually? Thatís the question I asked earlier, and that was the number that was given.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Again, the $4.5 million is primary health care money. That is another federal program that has been announced. The funds have yet to flow to Yukon, but that is another initiative that the feds previously announced.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, I would like to be clear on the amount of dollars that are coming to the Yukon. The minister said that there was $32 million over three years. Does this not include the primary health then? He said it was new monies.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That is separate and distinct, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Is this an annual increase that we will be seeing ó $4.5 million?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The primary health care transfer of $4.5 million per year is a three-year program. It addresses the needs ó IT systems and other systems, planning and FASD planning. But at the end of the three-year period, that is gone.
Mr. Fairclough: So there is actually more money than the $12 million over and above the $20 million that weíre getting. Thereís $12 million that the member opposite identified, and then, over three years, if itís $4.5 million, thatís $13.5 million. Thatís correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Just some quick math: $20 million over three years is $6.6 million a year. Then the $12 million over three years, the conditional money based on health care reform and equipment, could amount to $4 million a year ó could amount, but not necessarily will. So thatís $10 million. Then the primary health care transfer is $4.5 million over three, which again is $1.7 million. So when we add it all up, we come to $11.7 million of potential flow of additional money from Canada to Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís a little bit different from what the minister said earlier when we talked about the $4.5 million, and that will be coming for three years.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: $4.5 million is now changed to over three years. I would like to continue on these dollar amounts to get a real clear picture, because we are talking about the government spending and the trajectory and the fact that this department may not need to cut back at all; with the amount of dollars it is getting, we can hold the present line in spending in this department.
I would like to come back and ask the questions on numbers, so maybe the minister could review those and ensure that they are accurate. I will ask that question again and if nothing has changed then we will go with the numbers that the minister has said.
It being close to 6:00, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fairclough that the Committee report progress on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: Order please.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve 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 past 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 Papers were tabled April 9, 2003:
Yukon Advisory Council on Womenís Issues 2001-02 Annual Report (Fentie)
Yukon Child Care Board 2001-02 Annual Report (Jenkins)