Wednesday, April 16, 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?
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: Childcare workersí wages
Mr. Hardy:On October 30 last year, I sat beside the Premier at the CBC election forum. I very clearly heard the question one childcare professional asked the three party leaders. The question was, "I would like to know if you will increase wages for early childhood professionals. Yes or no." I also heard the Premierís answer very clearly, Mr. Speaker. The answer was, "A yes-or-no question deserves a yes-or-no answer. Yes."
Why has the Premier turned the word "yes" on October 30 into the word "no" today?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The opposite of what the member is referring to is what is actually transpiring as I speak today. Recently, Management Board approved a sum of money for childcare. That is being dealt with, with the two organizations here. We have ongoing meetings to determine how best to flow the money to the childcare initiatives and how best to address the issue of additional wages and training for the childcare workers.
Mr. Hardy: I asked the question of the Premier, who was at that meeting and that forum, and he spoke publicly throughout the territory on wages. I did not ask the minister, who came along later and is trying to cut some kind of deal to cover their actions, or to cover the Premierís words.
The Yukon Childcare Association and the Society of Family Day Homes have met with the Minister of Health and Social Services, as he indicated. They gave him a modest list of recommendations to alleviate what they see as the immediate crisis in childcare in the Yukon. The response from this government has been completely inadequate.
What the minister offered was a betrayal of the promise the Premier made last October. It is a betrayal of the childcare workers, Mr. Speaker, and it is a betrayal of the Yukon kids and their parents.
Iíll try again: why did the Premier, who is also the Minister of Finance, fail to give the minister a clear mandate and the necessary resources to honour the commitment he personally made during the election campaign?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member oppositeís line of questioning is completely in error. What we have done, as a government, is to address this very high priority of children in care. There is an initial sum of money that has been approved by Management Board. We are presently structuring a committee with the Childcare Association and the daycare home operators to determine how best to flow this money to these respective organizations.
In addition to that, this committee, which will be put in place, will examine ó we have a six-month window to determine how weíre going to address all of these areas.
The issue of childcare is a very high priority issue in our government, we are determined to address it, and it will be addressed. And itís not just what the Premier has stated. It is what all of our caucus has determined. It is a high priority, and it is being addressed.
Mr. Hardy: I guess we are going to play hide and seek once again. The Premier hides behind the minister in this situation because he knows that he cannot stand up in this House today and say that he is honouring his word in that area.
Well, Iíll tell you something. There is some consistency with this government. The Premier did tell the Chamber of Commerce, after the election, that he wouldnít be keeping all of his promises. Weíve seen government members try to convince the House that what they said in opposition doesnít count now that they are in office.
What do childcare workers have to do now? Thatís what my question is. Would the Premier take it more seriously if they staked mining claims instead of dedicating their lives to the needs of the next generation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are approximately just over 1,200 spaces in daycare homes and facilities across the Yukon. The level of funding under our regime will amount to about $4,200 per year per space of subsidy. Thatís a given, Mr. Speaker.
Our government has this issue as an extremely high priority. The member opposite is completely in error to suggest that it is not being addressed. We are addressing it in the short term by structuring a committee and putting another $230,000, which has been approved by Management Board and Cabinet, into this area and, in addition to that, we have a six-month window in which this whole gamut of childcare issues will be addressed by our government.
Once more, I make the position clear for the member opposite: the issue of childcare is a top priority of our government, it has the full support of our Cabinet and caucus and it will be going ahead.
Question re: Childcare workersí wages
Mr. Fairclough:I have a follow-up question to the same minister, Mr. Speaker.
In the election campaign, the Yukon Partyís platform said that they would ensure that Yukoners have access to quality, affordable childcare services. Now, this government promised to increase wages to childcare workers, and there are no ifs, ands or buts about this. The ball is in the ministerís court. It has gone partway.
Why has this minister not kept the promises made by the Premier in the election to address the wages ó to adequately address the wages for childcare workers?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government is committed to keeping this promise. I donít know how the member wants me to spell this out, but that is a commitment that our government has made, and it was made by virtually every MLA when we were seeking office. After we have come to office, we have addressed it, Mr. Speaker, and we addressed it initially with $230,000. We are presently meeting and structuring a committee with day home operators and daycare operators to address how to flow this money to these organizations.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, this minister will be receiving more than $36 million over the next three years. In addition, there is money from the federal government that is earmarked for childcare. The minister cannot cry poverty on this one, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon Party didnít have a problem finding $200,000 for a political troubleshooter and money for a defeated candidate to look into childcare. They also found money for increasing salaries for their senior political staff, yet the ministerís offer to children is simply not enough. Will the minister do the right thing and now commit to the three recommendations made by the Childcare Association and ensure that the proper amount of money is there to meet their needs?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, what weíre witnessing here is a wonderful Liberal trick, Mr. Speaker. The federal Liberals have announced three-quarters of a billion dollars for childcare ó three-quarters of a billion dollars, but by the time that flows to the Yukon on a per capital basis, it amounts to $25,000 for this year. Thatís a great sum of money. So what the member opposite is doing is mentioning these vast sums of money without recognition of how much actually flows to the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. That is not the correct way to spell out the flow of money.
Our government is firmly committed to addressing these issues of childcare and the day home operators and the daycare operators. There are two organizations that we are meeting with. We have met with them over the past month. We are structuring a committee in conjunction with these two organizations and membership from these two organizations as to how to best flow the $230,000 that has been approved by Management Board and Cabinet. This is a $230,000 increase above and beyond what is currently budgeted, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís not enough. This minister has millions of dollars spilling out of his pocket, yet theyíre still crying poverty ó $36 million extra and maybe even more.
Mr. Speaker, this is the same minister who is famous for backtracking on bad decisions. Macaulay Lodge is one of them, the Salvation Army shelter is another, and the Dawson City womenís shelter is yet another. It took a lot of volunteer time and energy for community organizations to make this minister finally realize the importance of these issues. What will it take for the minister to recognize the importance of childcare in the Yukon? How long does the kicking and screaming have to go on for? Children are our future, and they deserve quality care from childcare workers who arenít overworked and underpaid.
Will the minister commit to sit down with the Childcare Association and stakeholders to hammer out a deal that meets their needs ó not one that only goes partway?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I finally found an area that I agree with the member opposite on ó children are our future. Thatís great, but letís get back to the issue that the member has before the House here in Question Period, and that is funding for daycare.
This was the top priority of our government after coming into power. From day one, an individual was tasked with addressing it. That is the number one priority on the social agenda.
That is an issue that has been recognized, and Management Board and Cabinet have approved $230,000. We are meeting on a continuing basis with the day home operators and the members of their two associations. We are finding the best way ó jointly ó to flow the money to these organizations.
In addition to that, weíve committed to a six-month window as to how weíre going to address the total needs of childcare here in the Yukon, and our government will be doing it. Right now, we have earmarked $230,000 of additional money. That will bring us to the highest per capita level of funding for children in day care in Canada. Thatís the reality of the situation. Weíre firmly committed to this initiative.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the Minister of the Environment on parks and protected areas.
Yesterday in this Legislature, the minister said that the Yukon Party government was willing to look at a proposal to create a new national park in the Wolf Lake area near Teslin. The minister said that if the people in Teslin were interested in the proposal, so was he. Well, the people of Teslin are interested in looking at it, according to some recent newspaper stories. A study area for the new park would be approximately 10,000 square kilometres.
Will the minister confirm what he said in debate yesterday, that the Yukon Party government is open to establishing a new national park near Teslin?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly any responsible government is always willing to listen to all stakeholders and to have a chance to look at all opportunities and all possibilities. The interesting part of this, of course, is the member opposite ó the former Premier ó perhaps used newspapers as her method of consultation. Weíd rather consult with the people and not go by newspaper articles.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, itís interesting ó resorting to cheap personal shots as opposed to answering the question. Itís very straightforward. As the Minister of Environment, you either support a new national park or you donít. You canít have it both ways.
The minister went on record yesterday saying he was open to discussing this idea. Isnít it interesting, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier made no mention of this to the mining industry earlier this year when he spoke at the Cordilleran Roundup in Vancouver.
Mr. Speaker, this government said itís going to bring forward a new protected areas strategy. The Yukon Party has long supported the idea of a cap on the amount of land that will be set aside. The Member for Klondike brought forward a motion on it, and the chief of staff is on public record as saying itís a good idea. Whatís the cap of the amount of land that will be set aside under the new protected areas strategy?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: My recollection of the Cordilleran Roundup is that I was there, too, and I spoke, too.
Interestingly there is no cap set, as the member opposite tries to claim. This is never discussed. The only figures that I have ever seen have ranged all over the map. They have appeared in newspapers. And I donít wish to speak against newspapers. Some of the reporters are very fair and very accurate, and others, as Iíve said before, are some of my favourite fiction authors.
We would rather consult with the First Nations. We would rather consult with the Village of Teslin. We would rather consult with the people who are there.
The member opposite made a comment yesterday that the Wolf Lake national park was on the table before and was rejected. It may well be rejected again.
But I remind the member opposite that itís the federal Liberal government who has returned and has again tried to push it down our throats. It is the people of Teslin who will make that choice, and we are not going to take the consultation to be a newspaper article.
Ms. Duncan: The mining industry is going to be very happy with the ministerís answers today. The minister wants to look at 10,000 square kilometre park in Teslin and he has no idea how much land will be set aside for protected areas ó no limit at all.
This government is also going to create several new parks as part of the land claims process. The minister has been clear on that before.
Again, might I remind him of the Yukon Party record? They have stated repeatedly that when new parks are created, mining claims should be protected. That is a promise that the Yukon Party made to the mining industry. It should be an easy promise to keep.
Will the minister guarantee and will he commit publicly today that when this government creates new parks through the land claims process, there will be no mining claims in those parks?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: YPAS is certainly a controversial one. I remind the member opposite that one of the proposals that has been spoken of, often in glowing terms, is one that appears or is utilized in one of the provinces. It allows mining interests to come into the park after the park is established. Again, this has to be part of the establishment of the park, be it Asi Keyi or be it any of the things that are locally driven, locally identified and the parameters are locally set.
Mr. Speaker, again I have to express concern and confusion. I look at best and worst case scenarios, but again I would remind the leader of the third party, who obviously doesnít seem to get it after two years in government, that this has to be locally driven.
The Yukon Territory is now in excess of 20 percent protected. We are by far and away the best in Canada, and if the best in Canada isnít enough ó and I agree that we can do better. But if the best in Canada isnít making a pretty good start on the whole thing, I just donít know what more we can do except listen to the federal government come in and drop parks on us.
Question re: Roads to resources
Mr. McRobb:Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on the Yukon Party governmentís roads to resources study that identifies 32 potential, new resource access corridors.
Although the previous government commissioned the study, it was drafted and developed on this governmentís watch for this ministerís department; therefore, this minister must account for it to the public.
There are many questions to ask about this report. For instance, was the draft of this report completed for his department? Who in the Cabinet approved the release of it for distribution? At what point did this government receive a copy of this report?
Can the minister answer those questions?
It was also very interesting to hear the minister claim not to have read the report. In fact, on CBC radio yesterday, this minister Ö
Speaker: Order please. Order. Would the member ask the question, please.
Mr. McRobb: Ö said he hadnít seen a copy of it. Mr. Speaker, in addition to telling us when it was drafted, who signed off on it, can he explain how he could possibly endorse something he didnít see?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To the member opposite, a correction. This is an access corridor study, and thatís all it is. When he uses the words "roads to resources", heís dead wrong. This is a technical product. This thing was commissioned by the last government and will come to a finale here in the next couple of weeks. This can be used for land use planning. This can be used for many aspects of industry. It can be used for oil and gas; it can be used for forestry. It is just that ó an access corridor study. Itís a planning exercise. We would be amiss ó and certainly I would like to compliment the last government for putting this together so that we have access to this kind of information.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister failed to respond to my question. Furthermore, this minister continues to point the finger elsewhere. He is the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the department that released this study. He is the one accountable. Now, the minister said that stakeholders were contacted in mid-March. He also said that the final report is going to be vetted through First Nations ó the key words are "going to be", Mr. Speaker.
Now, thatís very, very interesting. This roads to resources report was discussed with some stakeholders, yet Yukon First Nations were pushed to the back of the line. So much for this governmentís grand statements that itís working in full partnership with Yukon First Nations in governing the territory. Can the minister tell us why he put First Nations on the B list for consultation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To remind the member opposite, this is an access corridor study. Certainly we are working with First Nations on every level of government. We are working with them now on this plan. This will be brought forward to the general public and, hopefully, to the members opposite within the next week to 10 days.
Again, Iíd like to remind the member opposite that this is a technical product and thatís what it is. Itís part of our data base. It can be used for land use planning. It can be used for industry. It can be used for many aspects of the Yukon on land use. Itís a very important part of a bigger picture.
As far as the First Nations are concerned, the First Nations will be and are involved in these decisions.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, so much for an open and accountable government. This minister failed again to answer any questions.
When was the draft report received by this government? Who signed off on the draft report? Why were First Nations put on the B list for consultation and not included up front with some other groups?
Mr. Speaker, letís get some answers. We on this side of the House advocate a more practical approach to economic development. We also advocate a much more respectful approach to First Nations relations and public consultation. This government told the voters it would be open and accountable, but now the minister says he wonít consult with Yukoners. Instead, he wants to inform and brief.
The minister shouldnít be rushing through implementing this report. He needs to open up his one-way consultation. Will the minister agree to slow down and consider the views of First Nations and others, and reshape the report, if necessary, before he implements it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Well, Mr. Speaker, again Iíll remind you that this access corridor study was brought forward and put into play by the last Liberal government. Certainly in that process they were consulting First Nations. Now, when the member opposite talks about a different look at economic development, I would say to him that I went door to door, and that was a major issue ó how we were going to get the wheels of commerce turning in the Yukon so our children could stay and have jobs and a future in the Yukon.
Certainly I listened to that. This is part of the access corridor study. So, we can utilize this piece of work for the future of the economic viability of this community, of the Yukon. Certainly we understand where the member opposite and his party are coming from, because when he talks about a new look at economic development, we understand itís no development. And thatís what the party opposite is telling us.
I would say to the member opposite that we have to have some development, and part of that development is this access corridor study, which was started by the last government and is in our hands now. As far as slowing down the study, the study is almost finished. When it is, we will make it public so that the member opposite can look at it.
Question re: Yukon Film Commission
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. As recently as March 27, the minister was telling the House about her plans for a comprehensive and overall inclusive review of the Yukon Film Commission. Guess what? Presto ó only three working days later, the Film Commission was taken out of the ministerís hands.
Can the minister tell us if this was because someone didnít like the answers she gave that day? Was it because the review process was flawed, or was she merely left out of the loop on the Premierís mini-renewal plan?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The Film Commission review, as the member opposite is very well aware, is certainly underway. We have developed a steering committee made up of all stakeholders, as the member opposite is also aware. We have a marketing plan in place for over the next four to six months in the interim. We have hired a contractor to develop the marketing implementation plan. In this Film Commission review, we are looking at involving sound recording and multimedia. I happen to think that thatís a good thing, to realize the economies of scale in the territory, given our small jurisdiction.
I think that weíre doing an incredible job with respect to getting a Film Commission review underway. I think that weíve done a very good job in developing a stand-alone Department of Tourism and Culture as well.
Mr. Hardy: Well, she stood up and never answered the question. This is getting to be so typical.
Yesterday the Premier said that it was obvious that the Film Commission should be part of the Department of Economic Development because the film industry is an economic engine.
Can the minister of this dollar-a-year department tell us what expertise in film production, film financing or film marketing resides within the Department of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member knows that there is nothing in Economic Development. There is $1 in it to give it validity in this fiscal year. The member also knows that we are conducting a process to structure the department. The member also knows that the process begins with choosing a deputy minister, which has stakeholder input. We are not going to deviate from that process.
As far as what is going on in terms of what the member is bringing to the floor of this Legislature, I want to applaud all those committed and keen public servants who believe that economic development is vital to this territory and have already seized the initiative and begun work on ideas and options. I applaud them for that. But as far as structure, there is no structure here today. We have established some reporting linkages, and beyond that we will stick to our process, our plan of structuring this department, which will include where the Film Commission will be housed.
Mr. Hardy: The written word and the spoken word can often differ, and in this case we have that. The film industry is a highly competitive business that requires considerable expertise in putting together very complex financing deals. The fact is the Yukon is rapidly losing any competitive advantage it once had because of the bumbling and fumbling of this government and the previous government. The Premier insists heís still waiting to build the Economic Development department, yet he unilaterally took over the Film Commission at a time when the minister who was responsible had made a commitment to an inclusive and speedy review of the commissionís role. What resources has the Premier assigned to this review? Where are those resources coming from, and how much more money is our economy going to lose before the Film Commission is back in business with the expertise it needs?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, under the renewal process, unfortunately the Department of Economic Development was completely dismantled and spread throughout government. Thatís why we are doing what weíre doing. We want to refocus and restructure the department as it should be, given the situation weíre in economically.
As far as where the resources are coming from, under renewal this particular area was put into Business, Tourism and Culture. The tourism industry did not want that. The department itself was functioning well as a stand-alone department. So weíve made the commitments to deal with that. Tourism today in this fiscal year is a stand-alone department, but while we restructure and put in place the Department of Economic Development, there will be needs to deal with ongoing issues. Thatís what weíre doing, which includes who these particular areas and agencies report to. This is just part of daily operations.
Again, I say, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is trying to create some sort of issue here that we are deviating from our plan and process, which is not the case. In the coming days, a deputy minister will be chosen with the input of stakeholders. Then we will proceed into the next phase of creating the Department of Economic Development. In the meantime, the Film Commission, the film industry and all that goes with it is very important to this government. Thatís why weíre taking the time to do it right, and I applaud those public servants who are seizing the initiative and beginning to work on this issue.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERSí BILLS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk:Motion No. 86, standing in the name of Mr. Hassard.
Motion No. 86
Speaker:It has been moved by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin
THAT this House recognizes that the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States have traditionally had a strong and cooperative working relationship in developing important infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Alaska Highway, the development of a system of airports, and, more recently, the Shakwak project, which has been of great benefit to the Yukon and Alaska; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Bill Graham, to recommend to the Government of Canada that it continue to build on this relationship by working cooperatively with the Government of the United States to promote the construction of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and to participate in the establishment of a bilateral commission on the Alaska-Canada railway proposal.
Mr. Hassard: I rise today to seek unanimous support for this motion, the motion I have brought forward.
It seems timely to debate this motion today, recognizing that this week we have in the territory the federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Bill Graham, members of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Preston Manning of Canada West Foundation.
I am confident that many Yukoners would agree with me when I say that Canada and the United States have traditionally had a strong and cooperative working relationship. That said, however, I fear that recent events in the world have somewhat strained this relationship. This is most evident by the recent delay in the visit from President George Bush.
In my view, it would seem important for Canada to perhaps offer some support for issues that the United States has expressed some interest in, and they should include, at a minimum, the ones mentioned in the motion.
These initiatives are of great importance to a strong economic future for Yukon. The construction of the Alaska Highway pipeline would provide much-needed employment and business opportunities for all Yukoners.
I have stood in this House previously and stated the anticipated number of truckloads of pipe and materials needed to build this pipeline. We need to get this message to Ottawa ó that we in the Yukon want these opportunities. This motion is an opportunity for this House to send a clear message to Ottawa ó that we want to see a commitment to work on these issues.
We heard loud and clear, Mr. Speaker, several weeks ago during a visit from members of the Alaska State Legislature, that the United States, and especially the State of Alaska, is very interested in a bilateral commission on the Alaska-Canada railway. I believe thereís an estimated $6 million committed to doing a feasibility study by the U.S. government.
The Yukon needs to do its part in pushing our federal government to get it onside. We need to match that commitment. This motion is one part of that. Letís tell Ottawa we want to see some action.
Perhaps someone will stand up and question whether or not weíve had a good relationship with the U.S. I hope no one does, but if they do, we should look at the Shakwak highway project. The United States has provided money to repair Canadian roads ó jobs for Yukoners. I have a figure in my head of $120 million U.S. over 20 years.
I personally worked on several Shakwak projects 17 years ago. I appreciated that job, and so did many of my friends, all Yukoners. Thatís the kind of commitment we need in this territory. The Alaska Highway itself was a joint project. The Yukon would certainly look different if this highway had not been built. Many MLAs here today represent communities along this highway. Infrastructure, such as airports in the Yukon, was built at the same time under the same conditions.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that Canada and the United States have had a good relationship, and I hope this relationship can be improved.
I look forward to hearing the views of all other members on this important issue.
Mr. McRobb: Iím pleased to rise today and speak to this motion. I think, basically, itís a good motion. My input will be very constructive. I hope the government will be listening. Itís not the typical type of consultation we heard about earlier today in Question Period, where they inform and brief the public, but one where they actually listen and consider the publicís views.
Our relationship with the United States and Alaska is traditionally a long one in the Yukon. Many projects have been built over the years that have enhanced the territory and the entire northwest region of this continent. Obviously, both Alaska and the Yukon can benefit in working together. Most certainly, we in the official opposition encourage that type of cooperation to continue in the future.
Personally, I have taken the opportunity in the past two summers to visit Alaska and become more familiar with the state ó meet more of its people and learn more about some of the issues in Alaska. I can confidently say that, next to the Yukon, Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and its people are very warm and interesting as well. I hope to have further opportunity to explore the state and get to know more people.
I know the annual exchange with the Alaska State legislators is a good opportunity for us to work at the political level with representatives of the state, and such an opportunity presented itself only a couple of weeks ago.
Now, there is a lot of potential in working with Alaska and the United States to further the interests of the Yukon Territory, to help the State of Alaska proceed with its development as well as attending to the more national needs of the United States as a whole.
What we should be doing is opening up the discussion to Yukoners to see what ideas present themselves. I know that when I met with former Senator Jeannette James and the representatives and senators who came to the Yukon to visit only a couple of weeks ago, that was my first question to them: what potential projects or initiatives can we work together on? It was very interesting to hear their responses.
I think that is exactly the first step, to find out what is possible out there from them and from Yukoners.
Now, we debated a railroad motion only a few weeks ago. At that time I indicated that we on this side are completely in support of a railroad, if it ever does come through the territory. I am sure that sooner or later it will.
There are plenty of questions around the economics of a railroad. However, we also acknowledge that such a huge project could receive quick approval with the stroke of a pen in Washington. Because economics might be the second factor in politics, the primary factor ó the reality of a railroad project ó could be advanced by decades with the simple stroke of a pen.
In that likelihood, Mr. Speaker, we need to be prepared as a territory and as Yukon people to deal with that eventuality. In the motion a few weeks back, I suggested the Yukon government should take the bull by the horns on this and lead some public discussion on matters important to Yukoners, including the proposed routing through the territory. This is a huge matter on its own. The present route that is being promoted was identified in 1942. Mr. Speaker, that was more than 60 years ago. Thatís before land claims were even envisioned. Itís before a lot of mineral assessment work was done, before a lot of the values that we understand and appreciate today as Yukoners were identified or even thought about in some cases. I know plenty of Yukoners who would like to have a say in the routing of a potential railroad and are a little worried that a decision could be made without their involvement.
Aside from all of that, Mr. Speaker, I want to address the language used in the motion. It identifies some important infrastructure projects, and Iíll quote from the motion, "Ösuch as the construction of the Alaska Highway, the development of a system of airportsÖ" that would be the Aishihik-Snag-Northway connection developed in about 1942, and more recently the Shakwak project, formerly known as the Shakwak highway reconstruction project, which has been of great benefit to Yukon and Alaska.
Mr. Speaker, I thought about the motion last night, and it occurred to me that there are several very important projects that we have worked together on with Alaska and the United States that have been forgotten in this motion.
For whatever reason, these important projects were overlooked. These include the Haines to Fairbanks pipeline; the Canol pipeline, built by American army personnel, and the telegraph line that followed the Alaska Highway corridor, of which remnants still remain. The telegraph line brought communications to Alaska ó a very important project.
What about the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad? Itís another coincidence. We debated that motion only a couple of weeks ago as well, yet it was excluded from the motion today. Mr. Speaker, I would constructively suggest the scribe of this motion needed to consider a bit more before finalizing it. What I suggest is that the government take this motion back to the drafting board, complete it and bring it back because, essentially, we feel this is a good motion, but itís only half-baked the way it is now.
Further, Mr. Speaker, the motion points the finger about 4,000 miles to the east at the federal government without the Yukon government taking any responsibility for helping to achieve the action item of this motion, which is to continue to build on the relationship with the United States and Alaska and to promote the construction of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and to participate in the establishment of a bilateral commission on the Alaska-Canada railroad proposal.
Mr. Speaker, is the Yukon government saying itís not a player? Is it not stepping up to the plate in this important game, dealing with a railroad and a pipeline, other international projects? Or is this another indication of how this government is not taking responsibility and is finger-pointing toward others who they feel should take that responsibility?
Mr. Speaker, again recent history contradicts what the Yukon Party government is trying to do today. On April 1, the Yukon Territory assumed control of devolved resources from the federal government, another huge step on the road to provincehood and control over our own finances. Yet this motion, by pointing the finger toward the federal government and absolving itself of responsibility, is a step backward from the responsibilities assumed on April 1. Because in some respects we, on this side of the House, are assumed to be part of the Yukon government, being MLAs in this Legislature, I feel somewhat embarrassed by this evasion of responsibility.
I think this motion not only needs some more research but it needs to take more responsibility as a government in what we have control over and what we should be participating in.
As if thatís not enough, Mr. Speaker, this motion fails to mention the Alaskan government. Iím sure I donít have to spell it out too much. We all understand how important it would be to involve the State of Alaska when dealing with such matters, and to exclude Alaska is only half-baking this whole idea.
What about Yukon First Nation governments? There is no mention of them in this motion. Yet, was it two weeks ago that we debated in this House and unanimously agreed to a motion that set out that the Yukon government should work in full consultation with First Nation governments? Why was there no mention of First Nation governments in this motion?
It reminds me of Question Period earlier today when this government put First Nations on the B list for consultation.
If we roll all of this together, we see that there have been plenty of omissions here in this motion, despite the recent discussion of several of these matters in this Legislature ó First Nations, the railroad, the White Pass & Yukon Route, working together with the State of Alaska has been discussed, devolution has been discussed. All of this can be found in recent editions of Hansard, which is the transcription of every word spoken in here. Yet this motion today ó which presumably is a high priority for this government and is being brought forward at a time when the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce is visiting the territory ó really falls short of what it can be.
I do want to stress ó building on our constructive criticism ó that we all have a positive attitude and firmly believe this motion can be improved. It can be improved fairly readily after some research by whoever wrote it ó or by somebody else, I presume ó to make it better, and it could come back to this Legislature.
I am sure that I speak for my colleagues that we would have no problem whatsoever in supporting the motion at that time.
We would have no problem at all, because as mentioned at the outset, Mr. Speaker, we believe basically this is a good motion. This is motherhood and apple pie. We all understand how important it is, with Alaska as a neighbour, especially, to work closely with the United States government on joint infrastructure projects. So, Mr. Speaker, that is our position. We wonít be putting up any more speakers today on this motion. Iíve delivered the message on behalf of the official opposition and now itís in the court of the Yukon Party government as to whether itís willing to listen to some constructive feedback and suggestions on how to improve what it has floated before this Chamber rather than just marching ahead with its own view, which, as demonstrated in this case, is somewhat incomplete. So weíll hope, Mr. Speaker, that weíre treated a little better than some stakeholders who were only informed and briefed on matters, that we would appreciate some respectful treatment by the government. We like to consider that our input is listened to, is considered and, if deemed appropriate, included in what the government is doing. So weíll look forward to the governmentís reply to our input.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to take a moment of the Houseís time and introduce a long-time Yukoner, former Commissioner, and the Chancellor of Yukon College, Ken McKinnon in our visitors gallery today.
Mr. Rouble: Iím pleased to stand in support of this motion today. During last fallís election campaign, the number one issue raised with me was the economy. We all know that our current economy is in a very poor state. Our GDP is dropping; the number of people employed is shrinking; and the average wage from the private sector is falling. This is the number one issue. Mr. Speaker, we need an economy, and not a false one based on transfer payments. We need to get our economy back on track, and I think we can all agree that we need to do more business in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, the government is creating programs to expand and diversify our economic base. Weíre working to increase the amount of business done by the tourism industry, by the agriculture industry, by the information technology industry, by manufacturing, by cultural industries and other industries, but government isnít an industry. It canít hire everyone, and the Yukon territorial government certainly canít do it all alone. We need to work with others, and those include: the First Nations governments; our neighbours to the east, the other territories; our neighbours to the south, the provinces; the federal government; other countries; the State of Alaska. We need to work with partners and we need to build strong relationships with these partners.
All the way along, weíve been thinking and saying, prior to the election campaign, while weíre in power ó okay, we need to get the economy back on track, but what can we do? What can government do to get the economy back on track?
Mr. Speaker, government isnít responsible for building wealth. Thatís the responsibility of business, so itís our role to help businesses do business. How can we do that? Well, we can work on education and ensure that we have an educated and well-trained workforce. Weíre certainly doing that. Weíve just put another $1 million into community training trust funds. We believe in education and in having a trained workforce.
Mr. Speaker, we need to have healthy people and healthy communities, and weíre certainly working at that. The Premier has been to Ottawa and has come back with more funds for health care to ensure that we have healthy, safe, strong communities and healthy, safe, strong people.
What else can government do to build an economy? Well, land certainty ó an incredibly huge issue, and one that this government is diligently working toward. And while we canít stake our claim to having resolved land claims ó theyíve been going on for 30 years and other governments have worked tremendously hard on that ó they are coming to fruition. The claims are being resolved. We pledge to work with the First Nation governments to ensure that they are full participants in the economic future of the territory.
For those First Nations that havenít resolved their land claims yet, weíre working to build other economic structures and round tables. The number one criticism weíre faced with daily is that we hired a consultant to work with the government to work with First Nations to get them to be full economic partners.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Fentie:With the Houseís indulgence, I would like to turn our attention to the gallery and introduce a very special and honoured guest, a gentleman and very dedicated Canadian citizen, who is the architect of political reform in this country, the former leader of the Reform Party and a member of the Canadian Alliance, a gentleman who needs virtually no introduction. Please give a warm Yukon welcome to Mr. Preston Manning.
Mr. Rouble: Welcome, Mr. Manning.
So, what can the government do to get the economy back on track? Educate people, healthy communities, healthy people, access to land ó where there isnít that certainty, work with others to create that partnership; tax structure. Mr. Speaker, despite the financial situation that we have found ourselves in, there are no new taxes. Devolution ó again, another situation we canít take claim to, but now itís our responsibility to implement devolution. We now have control over our land and our resources. That control doesnít mean that everything will change overnight. We still have a lot of work to do to go through and ensure that we have the appropriate structures in place to manage our resources effectively, responsibly and sustainably.
And, Mr. Speaker, reinstating the Department of Economic Development is certainly a major initiative that we can take to help rebuild the economy. A lot has been said about there only being $1 in the department, but we created that department in our first budget immediately upon taking office and are now working with all Yukoners to build the department in their vision to satisfy the economic needs of Yukoners. Weíre being criticized that weíve only put $1 in it. Well, we have created the department and now itís the time to take it and turn it into something that will be useful, that will help build the economy.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, infrastructure ó a huge responsibility and a huge opportunity for the government to create a landscape, an area where economic development can happen ó with power and access to electricity, communications infrastructure, and transportation ó and we all know the difficulties with transportation, living in the north. Itís arguably our number one obstacle.
Transportation is the crux of this motion, and I firmly believe that if we have more transportation, we will have more business. As a result, all Yukoners will benefit. When we have a stronger economy, we will be stronger individuals.
What can we do to stimulate the economy? Well, we canít go out and build a railroad. That is not the territoryís responsibility. With a budget of $560 million, we would be hard pressed to build a rail, let alone a railroad.
What can we do? Well, we can work to create the framework where a railroad can happen. We can work with our partners. We can work with the First Nations ó which, in the study, it is fully intended to do. The motion goes toward encouraging the participation in the establishment of a bilateral commission to study the situation.
Well, it was suggested just earlier that we study the study before we begin the study. When the study happens, thatís when the people will go out on the ground, will talk to people, will look at the terrain, will look at the socio-economic impacts. Thatís what the study has done. We donít need to create a study before we start the study.
What we can do to get this rolling ó one more thing; I am certainly not suggesting itís the only thing that we do, because this government has done much more in working toward these initiatives. One more piece in the puzzle is to encourage the federal government to get involved in this. It is by no means a small thing. Itís a very significant point to get Canada to the table with the United States of America to work on this.
The Americans are sitting there at the table, napkin tucked in, cutlery in hand, ready to go, but we need to get the federal government to walk through the door, to come in and sit down and get talking. We need to send this message to Ottawa to get them through that door.
Mr. Speaker, it goes to more things than just the railroad too. We have such a strong relationship with the Americans and such a proud history of working with them. We share, in a lot of circumstances, a common culture, common language and common family. We have the largest exchange of goods on the planet.
Itís a common practice to work with your neighbours, whether thatís the neighbour next door or the territory next door or the state next door. We might not always get along with them ó heck, personally, my neighbour sometimes plays his stereo too loud or has a party too loud, leaves garbage in his driveway. I donít like everything he does, but heís still my neighbour and, when he comes over and wants to borrow an egg, Iíll loan him an egg. Together, we can work better and make a better community. Thatís what we need to do with our ó Canadaís ó neighbour, the Americans.
It was pointed out earlier that we have a strong history of working with the Alaskans and working with Americans. That has certainly been done on numerous occasions. Yes, this motion mentioned a few, but it was not a history of every bilateral agreement that weíve ever had. Mr. Speaker, you could write a mighty tome just on the relationships that Yukon has had with Alaska.
The motion pointed out some of the highlights. Mr. Speaker, Iíve had some incredible relations with Alaska in working on initiatives. Ideas like a tent for the International Storytelling Festival ó when we needed a tent here in the territory, we started looking to Edmonton. I shook my head and thought, why are we going that far away when I know thereís a perfectly good one over in Haines, where they have it for the Southeast Alaska State Fair? Letís use theirs.
Well, it was a great exchange. They borrowed our tent; we used their tent.
Mr. Speaker, what about the Yukon Quest? If that isnít the prime example of our two countries working together on an international event celebrating transportation, I donít know what is. The Yukon Quest, the toughest race in the world, and itís the toughest race to organize in the world. I can attest to that personally. We work on projects like that all the time with our partners to the west. Now we need to tell Ottawa to work with their partner to the south.
Mr. Speaker, I donít even know why we needed to put this motion forward. It just seems like common sense to work with your neighbour. But we need to send a message, because of the situation that we found ourselves in, to send to Ottawa and ask them to work with the Government of the United States to promote the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, a project that has been in the works for decades, and to participate in a commission to examine the feasibility of an Alaska-Canada railway. We need to send that strong message, and we need the strong, unanimous support of this House to do that.
Mr. Speaker, it was mentioned earlier that the wording of this motion reduces the level of responsibility that Yukon has in it. And, Mr. Speaker, I canít accept that, because it doesnít address it in here. The Yukon has a tremendous amount of responsibility, and weíre already working toward that, and weíve already put motions forward in the House to address that concern.
Now, Mr. Speaker, one more piece in the puzzle is to ask Ottawa to do this, to remind them of their responsibility to get involved. Do we have additional responsibilities? Certainly. Do we have a responsibility to do this in the most environmentally friendly way possible? Certainly. Do we have a responsibility to consult with First Nations on the access routes? Certainly, we do.
It doesnít diminish our responsibility, though, to remind other people to live up to their responsibility.
Mr. Speaker, you can obviously see Iím passionate about this one, and I would strongly ask for the support of all members to support this motion ó to send that message to Ottawa, to urge the Hon. Bill Graham to work with his counterparts, to work to get Canada to that table and continue discussions with our neighbours.
Thank you for your time.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to address this motion. I would like to read this motion to make sure that everybody in the House understands the obligations of the federal government and the American government. I think this is a good news story for the political situation we find ourselves in today as Canadians. This is an example of how we can work together with a common cause, and the Canadian government can work in a positive fashion with the American government.
So, Mr. Speaker, this House recognizes that the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States have traditionally had a strong and cooperative working relationship in developing important infrastructure projects, such as the construction of the Alaska Highway, the development of systems of airports and, more recently, the Shakwak project, which have been of great benefit to the Yukon and Alaska. Thatís a very important statement for the Yukon.
Weíve had a long history of cooperation with our American neighbours. The State of Alaska is partially being land locked, like we have been in the past. The situation was that whether it was our First Nations or our traders, they utilized Alaskan waterways to reach the interior. Youíve got your original explorers, your original surveyors; youíve got very famous Yukoners; youíve got Robert Campbell, who worked his way through the system, and that incorporated Alaskan waterways.
We certainly, in time and, you know, through the last couple hundred years, we have worked with the Russians and then, of course, the Americans after the purchase of Alaska. Then we had a long, long history of gold rushes, whether at Circle, Nome, Klondike, the Cassiar ó all these gold rushes that came along. We participated as a group. In essence, when you look at the statistics on the Klondike, the biggest percentage of the Klondikers ó there was a large American contingent. That group of people was the reason ó there were a lot of questions on the borders at that time. The British had one set of rules, the Americans had another. They had quite a political tiff over a period of time that had to be settled. It had to be settled, as some say, in the Americansí favour. We had the Russians who started the capital in Sitka. Then we had Haines and we had Wrangell, Alaska, which was originally a Russian trading post. Fort Yukon was a Russian trading post. Then, when the Americans bought it in 1867, there was a period of lull when the British moved in Hudson Bay, and the Hudson Bay Company set up post in Fort Yukon, flexed their muscles, moved a little bit west. Of course, when the Americans came back with an interest because of a resource-based wealth in the area and also questions about the border, the British moved back from Fort Yukon to Rampart House and then eventually, because of other reasons, they ended up in Old Crow.
But as you see, we have a huge, huge background of cooperation with the Alaska government for sure, but in turn with the American government.
Now, when the British decided to come in and invest in the gold rush, they had to look at how to get into the interior. The interior was where the Klondike Gold Rush was.
They looked at many passes and they settled on White Pass, and why they settled on White Pass was because it was the lowest pass in the coastal mountains, and they could build a railroad. Today, that railroad is still owned by Canadian shareholders. That railroad has been in place for over 100 years, and it has been owned by Canadians. Itís a Canadian firm doing business in Alaska. That is another success story.
We cooperated many other times, like my fellow member said about the economics of the Yukon. How do the economics of the Yukon work?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Speaker:The government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 3, I would like to bring to the Deputy Speakerís attention that there is not a quorum present.
Deputy Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if, at any time during the sitting of the Assembly, the Speakerís attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.
Speaker: Iíve shut the bells off and I will do a count.
There are 12 members. A quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the members opposite. This motion is very important and is at a junction of our relationship ó as a Canadian ó with the Americans that it could be a good news story for both sides. Canadian and American relationships have gone back a long, long time. Weíve had our ups and downs. Recently, we had a few more downs than ups but, I think, on debating our relationship with the Americans and, most importantly, the Alaskan government and people, we have a lot in common. To show our solidarity with the Alaskan people and the issues they address on a daily basis, which arenít much different from those we address on a daily basis, is very important.
There are issues of history and economics that bind us together. The flow of trade between the two of us has been extensive; the flow of people is extensive. Of course, the Yukon is landlocked in a situation where we depend upon the ports of Skagway and access to tidewater in Haines. Weíve depended upon the American government to fund the expansion of our Alaska Highway. Weíve looked at Skagway to help us put in place a dock so we have access to a dock for any development we do in the Yukon. Those are important issues that have to be addressed, and most of these issues are day-to-day issues.
So, as far as our relationship with the Americans is concerned, we think that, with things like the Alaska Highway pipeline, decisions are going to be made and those will be made by the producers and the governments that are involved, including ourselves. The Yukon government is very important in all these decisions, and weíre not going to be left out of the chain of decision. We are working actively with the Alaskans and with the producers on the Alaska Highway pipeline.
When the Alaska Highway pipeline comes, weíre hopefully going to be prepared for that pipeline. But again, thatís a relationship between the American government and our government ó Canada, Yukon and Alaska. So we are very dependent on that relationship.
So the issue about Mr. Graham arriving, Mr. Grahamís arrival is very timely for our history. Heís coming at a time when these issues are on the front burner. These issues can be brought back to Ottawa by him in his position in the Cabinet, and this could be good news for the Cabinet in Ottawa, understanding that they have to mend some fences. That is up to the Canadian government on that level.
We have certainly been working actively with the Alaska government, the Chamber of Commerce and every other avenue to make sure that we continue that good relationship and make sure that we arenít forgotten in any of the decision making that has repercussions on us as Yukon people.
So, as we look at the many, many years of work that has been done by us as citizens, in conjunction with the Alaska Highway, the pipeline, and the North Canol pipeline, all of those decisions were done by the Canadian government during a very stressful time in our history. Most of that was based on a wartime economic situation and, of course, it benefited us and opened up our territory to what we have today. Remember, in the past, all we had was water. Water took us from Whitehorse to St. Michaelís, Alaska; and that was our route for getting in and out of the country; whether you were an explorer, a trader, or a prospector, that was the way you accessed this country.
This country is blessed with a lot of waterways, so the explorers had access to western Yukon and eastern Yukon through the Mackenzie and also through the Yukon watershed system. We were blessed with that, which made exploring this country easier ó it never was easy. Then we got the railroad. Weíre sitting in the capital of Yukon, which is Whitehorse, and guess what? Why is Whitehorse here? Whitehorse is here because it was the headwaters of water transportation and the end of rail, and that was all built around economics. We took the product that the Klondike needed; we brought it over the pass, dropped it off in Whitehorse, put it on a boat and took it down to Dawson, and further if necessary.
At one point in the Alaska-Yukon system, there were over 200 steamships, so that massive water transportation system was out there and, of course, the railroad was a big part of it. Again, a very successful British-Canadian company working within the American system and today itís still owned by Canadians and Canadian shareholders and is a big part of southeast Alaskaís success story in tourism. That railroad is the most successful narrow gauge railroad in the world.
If we, as a government, encourage as we do the White Pass extension into Whitehorse again from a tourist point of view, that will be a definite plus for the territory and for the tourism industry, which is one of our better industries at the moment.
Again, when you look at the American and the Canadian relationship, the American and Canadian relationship from our perspective is mostly directed toward the Alaskan situation, not ignoring Northwest Territories or British Columbia to the south of us ó again, how important the decision making in Washington, D.C. can be to the economics of our little community.
Our little community is dependent on a lot of issues. It depends on tourism in the summer, predominantly American and predominantly the rubber-tire traffic. What happens in Washington, D.C. dictates how much of a hit weíre going to take, or how much of an improvement thereís going to be.
Then when you look at all the other issues ó the Alaska Highway pipeline is an issue that is going to be front and centre in the American Senate. And now we have the issue of Alaska looking for some support from us, which weíre certainly giving them. Then, of course, there is the commission, which is a commitment that the federal government has to make to fund the commission to do the study on whether a railroad is feasible ó and all of the other questions that have to be answered if we are going to go ahead with the railroad. Those are federal decisions.
Again, as the member to my right says, "We canít build a railroad." We donít have the resources to build a railroad, but we can facilitate a railroad. We can make it easier for the investors to work with the First Nations in the Yukon and with the Yukon in general to make it easier for them to come through our territory. Weíre going to keep abreast of that.
So the Canadian-American relationship is very, very important. Itís very important to the Yukon, and itís very important to Canada. I feel that weíve done a very bad job as a nation when I hear ministers of the Crown making comments about individuals or about the Americans as a race ó public statements that reflect badly on us as a nation. Those, I think, are probably slips, but it seemed there were too many to be slips. It seemed that maybe in the Cabinet they talk about it on that level, and it just becomes natural for them to say things like that.
I think they have been amiss, and I think they are trying to address the problem. I think that could either take a short period of time to address and fix, because eventually it has to be fixed, or it could take a long time.
We, as Canadians and Yukoners, have to be very conscious of our American neighbours. Our American neighbours feel that they are targeted because of their position in the world. Not debating wars or anything else that are being held at the moment, but we, as Yukoners, can do our bit by working with the Alaskans, who have a lot of the common problems that we do. They are a long way from Washington, D.C. They are a long way from the decision-making apparatus. They feel left out of the system. They feel that their voices arenít heard. We have the same problem.
We have issues on a daily basis that we feel as a government ó what are they doing in Ottawa? Well, weíve got to phone that guy in Ottawa. Well, guess what? The guy in Ottawa is just that ó heís a guy in Ottawa.
Now, if a guy from Whitehorse phones, some of them have a hard time figuring out where Whitehorse is. So we are not a large target on their screen. We had a meeting with a very important guy one day on this railroad ó a federal-level guy ó who had never been to western Canada. There we go; we are being left out.
But in truth, we have to work with the system that we have. I think we have to fight the battles we can win, and we can win quite a few.
Devolution was one battle that was won. We are at a point where we are captain of our own ship in a lot of ways, so we can direct the ship in a fashion that would be beneficial to Yukon, as a territory. Part of that depends on our neighbours. Our Alaskan neighbours are very important. They have, again, common problems, common goals. We have the Northwest Territories and we are working with them. But itís very important that this Canadian issue about the commission for the railroad is struck. That commission should be headquartered in Whitehorse.
This is where the issues are. That commission should work out of Whitehorse, and the American one should work out of Juneau. We have common problems; we have common terrain, and we think a lot alike. If we can get the Canadian government to take on their responsibility ó and of course the American government has already done that ó and get them together to decide on where these commissions are going to be headquartered and what these commissions will come up with, that would be a very big plus for us as Yukoners and for Canadian-American relationships. That would be good news for both countries.
I think we have to start looking at these small issues. To Ottawa and Washington, D.C., these are fairly small issues, but thatís where weíll start repairing our relationship, with small issues. As we get winning situations going, and as we start working together, as we have done in the past for many years, I think that confidence and friendship will rebuild with the Americans, and itíll be the start of a success story.
Again, to be selfish and to represent the Yukon, it is very important that Mr. Graham hears loud and clear from this House that we want to direct the Canadian government to work with the American government, to get our relationship back on track and, by doing that, we could start this commission on the railroad and start working at it from the Whitehorse and Juneau level. We can start working positively with the stakeholders on the Alaska Highway pipeline. Those are all success stories.
Again, does the Yukon need America? Certainly the Yukon needs America.
Does Canada need America? Certainly Canada needs America. But also, on the other side of the coin, America needs Canada. So we are a sharing partnership, and that partnership has grown over the years. The animosity comes out; thereís a bit of flexing your muscle. The Americans are like big brothers. They give us direction and whatever, but I think that relationship is there, Mr. Speaker. I think itís very important. The two things that Iíd like to cover are the commission and where the commission is headquartered. Letís get on with looking at this railroad and seeing the feasibility of it. The second thing is the Alaska Highway pipeline ó a positive thing. Letís be positive about it. Letís move ahead with that. Letís work with our Alaska partners.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker:Government House leader on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, Iíd like to bring to the attention of the Speaker, pursuant to Section 3 of the Standing Orders, that there is not a quorum present in the House.
Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if, at any time during a sitting of the Assembly, the Speakerís attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker shall cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.
Speaker: I have shut off the bells and I will do a count. There are 13 members present. A quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In closing, Iíd like to thank the members opposite for their attention over this motion. I would like to say again, Mr. Speaker, that weíre looking at two things here with the American-Canadian relationship. Weíre looking at the commission for the railroad and weíre looking at the Alaska Highway pipeline. All of that is a winning proposal for the American government and the Canadian government as well as the Yukon and Alaska governments.
So, in closing, I would like to say thank you. I hope everybody is unanimous on this motion and will vote in favour of it.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I have an unusual position here in the House, I suppose, in that Iím both a Canadian and an American citizen. I always joke that I can insult both sides with equal gusto. But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that weíre both very, very close. There are some differences but, for the most part, there are very few.
I can remember reading an article in a newspaper some time ago that I got quite a chuckle out of, talking about the separatist movement in Canada and talking about Quebec separatism. The author, in one of the many times that I enjoy reading newspapers, speculated that probably the best separatist movement was to actually look at a north-south separation and to break off what was then all of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Alaska, because we have a lot more in common across the north.
As the Minister for Energy, Mines and Resources has already mentioned, we have so much in common and yet, to a large degree, we both share the problem of being somewhat forgotten within the countries.
When I had the somewhat misfortune of living in southern Canada before I escaped, I remember a fellow who was travelling down in the States ó and we think of people having trouble remembering and understanding where the Yukon is ó and he was getting very frustrated in the State of Texas, which culminated in him getting gas at a gas station.
The gas station attendant kept talking to him in Spanish and this poor guy kept trying to explain clearly that he didnít speak Spanish. But the gas station attendant kept going on and on and finally he had to just stop and say, "Why do you think I speak Spanish?" He looked down at the licence plate and said, "Well, the licence said Onta-rio." He was totally oblivious to the fact that this was in Canada.
I had a similar experience myself. I was taking a course at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda, Maryland. In my commute to that course, I remember having a carload of teenagers pull up next to me at a stoplight early in the morning. They kept pointing to the licence plate and saying, "Where is the tag?" Trying to get back to sort of my roots, I remembered that a tag was a licence plate and I said, "Ontario." They all thought about it for a minute very carefully and finally looked up and said "Whereís that?" I wasnít quite sure how to explain this so I said, "Well, itís in Canada." They all sort of looked at each other and conferred. Finally one of them looked up and said, "Whereís that?" The best I could think of off the top of my head was, "Itís north of Buffalo." They all nodded and said, "Oh, great, thanks" and drove off. That was their concept of Canada ó it was north of Buffalo.
We have a lot to do, in many respects, to get our own country to recognize where we are, to recognize that placer mining is an incredibly important thing to us. We have a harder time, perhaps, to get Washington to recognize us. The Alaskans, when people arenít looking at their oil and gas, probably have similar problems ó surely, many similar problems.
Iíve always been intrigued by the railroad, and thatís certainly part of what weíre talking about here. Iíve always enjoyed the railroad, and while a lot of people thought I was a bit strange for this, I do enjoy the railroad a great deal.
My first experience with the railroad was at the age of 14, going to a national jamboree with the Boy Scouts. We were loaded on what are best described as cattle cars with picnic tables, literally attached to the deck, and probably the army wouldnít consider some of those conditions. But it was a lot of fun. And for all of my jokes, it was great, and it really did spark a love of the railroad.
I went back and forth to university a number of times on the railroad from Indiana to Massachusetts, and that was by far my favourite trip. When I worked in Toronto, with any meetings ó and there were often meetings, in Montreal ó I learned very quickly that I could have a marvellous time in town and take what we always jokingly referred to as the "red-eye express". You would get on, not have to worry about drinking and driving or anything else, and would arrive about 11:00 p.m. For an extra $16, you got an upper berth. About 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., the porter would wake you up, hand you a glass of orange juice, wish you well, and I could go a few blocks, up to my favourite delicatessen in Montreal, have a great breakfast and be at McGill, usually for an 8:00 a.m. meeting.
The railroad is very convenient that way. Itís also a very economical way to move goods and services. When you look at the way resources are becoming more available here, our problem is: how do we get them out? How do we move these resources? How do we serve the businesses that weíre trying to create? A railroad is certainly a very good way to do that.
If you look at the history of the Yukon ó the Yukon certainly has a very long and involved history over thousands of years, but in the more recent years, there were trails that came up from coastal areas. First Nations would know these trails, and part of their economic development at that time was to transport the materials over the trails for trappers, for hunters, for explorers, for whatever.
The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations used access routes through the Tatshenshini, Alsek and Kluane provincial and national parks, as we know them today, and the Glacier Bay, Wrangell and St. Elias national parks in Alaska. They used these for trading routes between the Pacific coast and the interior of the Yukon. Parts of these routes form the Haines Road today. One of these routes was used by Jack Dalton to bring cattle to Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush ó our first attempt at agriculture, Mr. Speaker. That particular attempt did have some problems. Given our climate, it certainly never established a cow as part of our wildlife structure, but these are some of the things that we used.
Still, when we take the train from Skagway, itís a scenic route. But we go across an area known as Dead Horse Gulch. Huge numbers of horses were used in trying to bring goods and people over the trails. For the most part, it wasnít very successful, in many respects. And with the advent of the original tram from Dyea and then not too long after, the establishment of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, which basically spelled the end of the Village of Dyea. It was all about economics, getting people up here, getting people in and the goods out, because the only alternative, as the previous speaker mentioned, was to take it out the water route, to go out through St. Michaelís and down through Alaska. And of course, during the gold rush, Mr. Speaker, there was a bit of an economic divide. Those who could afford the passage could come up on a steam ship and have a very nice ó well, maybe sometimes not that nice, but certainly a much better trip on a paddlewheeler and land in Dawson.
It was a great arrangement.
Those who didnít have the financial capability had to come up by other routes. There was one route that was proposed that came over glaciers. Needless to say, it wasnít very well used, but it was an attempt. It was a great attempt to establish a Canadian route to come up through the area of the Stikine River. At that time, that, too, was considered not very successful. A few people made it; most didnít. It probably forms the basis for Edmonton trying to claim the Klondike Days, which, I think, most Yukoners find somewhat humorous at best.
When you look around the whole time through there, on March 30, 1867, which, interestingly, was the same time as the Canadian federation, the American Secretary of State, William H. Seward, purchased Alaska from the Russians for $7 million ó $7 million, Mr. Speaker, and even in dollars in those days ó of course it would be more now in an equivalent. But what an incredible bargain. But it was dubbed immediately, in many parts of the United States, as "Sewardís folly". Even then, well over 100 years ago ó almost 150 years ago ó the opposition had fun in taking shots at things. Boy, did that not pan out for the opposition, because, of course, the State of Alaska and its incredible wealth, resources and people became part of the United States.
But while Alaska was under Russian control, they made great efforts to convert the Alaskan aboriginals to the Russian Orthodox religion and established trading posts, primarily on the coastal villages but a few were located up the Yukon River. There were a number of trading posts, possibly as far afield as Old Crow, Fort Yukon, Circle City, and many of these areas that eventually became villages.
There was a constantly shifting border at that point in time, and some of the villages and trading posts that were established actually shifted from one country to another. Iím sure the map-makers were upset about this and there were probably politicians who were, but Iím suspicious that, in reality, Mr. Speaker, many of the people involved didnít really care. They were northerners. It didnít really matter which way you faced when you saluted, or which flag, frankly. Even there, itís a moot point because weíre northerners.
The Russian trading posts were quickly superseded by those established by the Hudson Bay traders, such as Robert Campbell, who came into the Yukon from Dease Lake in 1838 ó and, of course, the Campbell Highway is named after him right now ó and Arthur Harper, who established a trading post at Fort Selkirk in 1889. Fort Selkirk, of course, was chosen because of its location on the river system. As we became less dependent on the rivers and their importance for their trading potential, eventually that post was abandoned for most people, although there are still parks and people there in the summer and that sort of thing.
Itís interesting, looking back at the history and how our two nations grew through here. There wasnít a really set, established border until quite late, between Alaska along the Haines-Skagway corridor. And it wasnít really until the time of the gold rush when there was a near famine in Dawson City, and because of that near famine and the problems that were created, this was immediately, of course, brought to the attention of the North West Mounted Police and the Yukon Force. These were police forces that were established here to try to prevent what had happened in the American west and to treat First Nations with respect, to treat the miners, explorers and trappers with respect.
One of the things that the Canadians had decided was that people had to bring in enough material ó food and provisions ó to survive and to make it to Dawson City ó one ton. This forced people to come up and over the border many, many times and get up to the top of the golden stairs.
It was there, of course, that the North West Mounted Police established a post at the highest peak and set up a Maxim machine gun. In typical Canadian fashion, I donít think anyone intended to use it. Thereís not even a real record of whether or not it was functional. But it made the point, and to this day, the border is established at that point.
Alaska became a territory in 1912, and itís always great fun when I go to the United States to explain exactly what the Yukon is. Alaska is now a state. It was approved for statehood in 1946, adopted a state constitution in 1955, and President Eisenhower made Alaska the 49th state on January 3, 1959. So now we have to use the example of places like Puerto Rico. Itís a territory, and that seems to make sense to an awful lot of people.
Before the Klondike Gold Rush, other American and Canadian explorers were through the Yukon. The U.S. Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka, who was an explorer in geography and many, many other things, started to explore the Yukon in 1883. Dr. George M. Dawson, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Canada, after whom Dawson City is named, was working in the Yukon in 1887.
George Dawson, of course, is famous for his surveys, and most famous as a surveyor along the gold creeks of Dawson. A situation there, of course, occurred where cruder surveys could be out anywhere from inches to feet. At that point in time, certain creeks, being out a few inches or, worse yet, a couple feet in the survey could leave you with a small strip of land that had incredible wealth. George Dawson at that time made the firm statement that he was a surveyor, not a prospector. He surveyed accurately, made accurate decisions, and took none of these resources for himself ó a somewhat typically Canadian solution.
Lieutenant Schwatka left us a legacy, because as he went around ó he was a graduate of West Point Military Academy in New York. There are probably other names that you could attach to Lieutenant Schwatka, but he liked to name things for his instructors and for his commanding officer and his superior officers, so weíre left with a lot of Yukon names today. Thereís a book, which I think is out of print, but you still see it occasionally, called something like Yukon Places & Names. Itís worth looking up at a bookstore. Interesting stories. I always thought Marsh Lake was named because it was marshy in some area. It was originally known as Mud Lake. It was named after an officer named Marsh, who was one of Lieutenant Schwatkaís instructors at West Point.
Iíve had a lot of fun with some of these things, Mr. Speaker. I enjoy working on eBay, and I was very fortunate a couple of weeks ago to find Lieutenant Schwatkaís original book on surveying the Yukon River and his early travels. It is the original first edition and I bought it from somebody, I think, from Arizona, who didnít have the slightest idea what he actually had. It was an old book he had found in a garage. It had great value to anyone in the Yukon and with an idea of Yukon history.
During the Klondike Gold Rush, cooperation between Alaska and the Yukon became more extensive. The two countries started to merge, because if you look at the history, most of the miners, most of the people coming into the territory with the gold rush, were, in fact, American.
So, when you look at the cooperation and investment required, for instance, to build the White Pass & Yukon Route railway and a large fleet of steamships owned by the Northern Commercial Company, which sailed on the coastline of Alaska and on the Yukon River ó these were all joint ventures, and often with England being part of this.
The Northern Commercial Company was formed from the Alaska Commercial Company, which was formed in 1868, I believe, after the assets of the Russian American Company were purchased in 1867. We can go on and on and on with some of the stories through there, but it always comes back to the fact that we have worked together as northerners. We have not made any divisions on that.
I wondered, Mr. Speaker, when I first came 15 years ago to the Yukon, why everything was expressed in miles. As a veterinary surgeon, you can imagine the panic when you are going out to mile 8.6 on the Mayo Road, and you get out there and find that everything is in kilometres.
I actually made a conscious decision to buy an old truck that was originally from the States, that had a speedometer in miles on it, so I could actually measure eight-point-so-many miles going out. Of course, now it is a lot easier.
We have seen the 18-month long construction period of the Alaska Highway, starting in 1942, as a result of Japanese attacks on the Aleutian Islands, and fear of other attacks. The was the construction of airfields along the Alaska Highway to ferry aircraft into Russia as part of the lend-lease program.
The pipelines ó we talk about the pipelines. We have already had two ó small, limited, very short-lived, but there is history there.
Most recently, of course, there is the upgrading of the Haines Road, the north Alaska Highway and the Shakwak project.
We urged the Minister of Foreign Affairs to recommend to the Government of Canada that it build on this extensive history of cooperation and consultation. The Government of Canada should work with the Government of the United States to advance these significant infrastructure projects, which will benefit Alaskans and Yukoners, as well as all Canadians and all Americans.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I rise today to speak to this motion that my colleague has offered to put forward. Itís a great motion and Iím very proud to rise and say a few words about it.
As one of my dear friends and colleagues over the years has mentioned, Alaska and the Yukon certainly have shared a very strong relationship over the years and, as he would say, "Geography has made us neighbours, history has made us friends."
It certainly does speak true to that very fact. Both Yukon and Alaska do, indeed, share a very geographic advantage. I think weíre one of the very few places in the world that actually is able to offer visitors and residents alike a very true wilderness experience. We believe that we have captured this experience with our visitor guides, products, tours ó you name it. I think weíve done a very good job in capturing this image of the north through Yukon-Alaska and our strong working partnership.
Certainly, if you take a look over the years, we have shared a number of ventures. As the Member for Southern Lakes has made mention, the Yukon Quest, the toughest dogsled race in the world, is an international race. Itís shared between Yukon and Alaska and has been an overwhelming success over the years. I actually had an opportunity to see a presentation that was made by a couple of members of the board of directors here in Whitehorse, in the Yukon, as well as an individual who came from Alaska and who sits on the international board of directors. I had an opportunity to take a look at their overview of the Quest and its successes over the period of the last few months.
Indeed, itís just one example of many partnerships that have taken place between this particular jurisdiction, that being the Yukon and Alaska.
The Yukon Quest, I go on to say, has been an overwhelming success. Despite the challenges, whether it be weather challenges, such as a lack of snow, or financial difficulties, or challenges having to do with the race itself, Yukoners and Alaskans have been able to rise to the challenge. They have been able to succeed and prevail. My hat is off to those hard-working individuals ó the volunteers, the staff and employees on both sides of the border ó for making it such an overwhelming success.
The Trek over the Top is just another example. Itís a snowmobiling adventure between the State of Alaska and our territory, bringing visitors to both the territory and to the state as well.
The International Road Relay is yet another example. I know you, Mr. Speaker, have taken part, as you and I have shared the wonderful experience of having run the race 10 years in a row. Hopefully, it will be the 11th this coming year. Again, it just shows the common vision that these two jurisdictions share and their desire to spread the wealth in the world, bringing visitors to the Yukon and the State of Alaska, and doing what we do best ó that being to provide warm, friendly, northern hospitality.
One of our first working relationships with the State of Alaska, of course, is the Klondike Gold Rush. It put the north on the stage, brought prosperity to the north and brought a huge flurry of activity, of individuals coming to the territory to stake their name, to claim their fame.
The Alaska Highway construction of 1942 was a remarkable feat in itself. If you were to undertake a similar venture today, it would be sure to take about 50 years to do the same type of activity as what transpired in the 1940s. Again, thanks to the development of the Alaska Highway ó it did open up the territory and Alaska, and it serves as a major corridor for providing access to our resource potential, as well as providing access to the many visitors ó hundreds of thousands of visitors ó who come to the territory each year to take part in our wilderness experience, our gold rush history and our warm hospitality.
This particular motion before us speaks to a number of initiatives ó again, the construction of the Alaska Highway, the Shakwak project. It speaks to the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and, more particularly as well, the establishment of a bilateral commission on the Alaska-Canada railway proposal.
Just with respect to the proposal for a railway link from Alaska through Canada to the Lower 48, itís not something that is new. This is something that has been in the works for many years.
I refer to the efforts of Don Taylor from Stewart Lake. I refer to the efforts of Charles Jurasz, Faro Sustainable Development Corporation. There are many, many Yukoners who have been working very diligently over the years and continue to do so.
They have done a very remarkable job of, again, putting Yukon and Alaska on the map. What this motion in particular urges the Government of Canada to do is to work with the Government of the United States ó work cooperatively to promote this particular initiative by establishing a bilateral commission. The benefits of doing so are a thousandfold. The short-term benefits alone include the ability for Canada to ensure local expertise, skills and knowledge; ensure that these skills are utilized, creating employment opportunities for Yukoners; and through Canadaís active participation on this commission, Canadaís interests ó meaning Yukonís interests as well as regional interests ó economic, environmental and social values will indeed be represented. The long-term benefits that would be gained, of course, through Canadaís participation, would relate to the issue of certainty. As we look to diversify our economy through the development of our resources, the development of our visitor industry, technologies and develop and enhance our relevant training programs.
When we talk about monetary costs, one of the reasons I have heard that there has been a reluctance to get involved is the monetary costs associated with Canadaís participation on this commission. They estimate about $10 million Canadian over three years, and thatís if Canada matches the amount already approved, as thatís the U.S. contribution. You bet ó $10 million is nothing to be shy about. Itís a lot of money but, from my perspective, and I believe from our governmentís perspective, I look at what the costs or the drawbacks are if Canada does not participate, and thatís the real question here at hand. What are the losses to the territory for failing to participate on this commission?
I believe we have everything to gain.
Certainly, we see Canadaís participation in this joint commission as vital to the future of our economy, to the future livelihood of our territory, and we see our participation at every level. It would be very difficult to have any influence or input into a study if, in fact, we were not at the table or if, in fact, worse yet, we were not seen to be supporting it.
Again, I canít help but reinforce the very need for this country, our country, Canada, to become involved in this venture.
Some of the things that would need to be addressed if, in fact, we did have Canada on board ó the priority areas could perhaps include more clearly defined governance structure associated with operating the commission.
Timelines are very important. We need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, some measurable outcomes. As well, we need to take a look at the overall costs of the joint commission and to provide some accountability, of course.
Along with the commission, some of the priorities involve perhaps the concept of viewing the rail link as one component of a transportation corridor. That could include the railbed, natural gas pipeline, and fibre optic cables. We believe that these other issues could be, and should be, considered in conjunction with the railway option.
I know that these very sentiments that I have just stated before this Legislature are the very sentiments that have been echoed by other bodies here in the territory ó the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Development Corporation. Many Yukoners have worked very diligently to see this venture proceed. I, for one, would like to see a more proactive stance on the part of our government on a national level.
The Shakwak project ó just to say a few words about that ó is another incredible project that has resulted in millions of dollars being generated economically in the territory. Itís unfortunate that the Member for Kluane isnít here because I would think that he would take a little bit more interest in this ó
Speaker: Itís not appropriate to mention whether a member is or is not in the House. Please carry on.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
But it could be, perhaps, more advantageous if we had the participation of all the members of the Legislature to say a few words on this particular issue, as it is near and dear to all of our hearts ó I know that it is.
Shakwak has generated millions of dollars in economic activity to Yukoners. It provides a source of employment year after year. It provides wonderful transportation for our visitors and for our industry, again, to access our many mineral-rich resources. It helps encourage visitors to come to the Yukon knowing there is a very stable network of roads and highways for them to access. We do ó I believe that, for the small jurisdiction that we have in the territory, in the country, today, we in the Yukon are blessed with a very strong network of roads.
I have to say that that is one of the keys to our economic success, to growing Yukonís economy and somewhat ending a history of boom-and-bust cycles. It depends on the improvement of our infrastructure ó that being transportation.
So, again, it all folds ó whether it be Shakwak, our roads, our rail link, whether it be the gas pipeline ó these all play a very important role in the economic future of our territory.
I am very pleased to support this motion and I would encourage other members to support this motion.
We always entertain the thoughts and suggestions from the members opposite and we will continue to do so.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, given that the opposition is void of any contribution to debate in this Legislature here this afternoon, and given that they havenít added anything nor do they appear to want to, we on this side of the House would suspect that they are just not prepared, and we would like to provide an opportunity for the opposition to prepare themselves for debate from here forward.
With that in mind, Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 3:11 p.m.
[Note: The House adjourned while Motion No. 86 was under debate; therefore, debate on Motion No. 86 is accordingly adjourned.]