Wednesday, November 5, 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.
In remembrance of Al Kapty
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Party government to pay tribute to a true Yukoner. Al Kapty recently passed from this world, but not before making significant contributions to Yukon society and industry.
Al was born in 1937, in Warspite, Alberta, the youngest of 10 children. In 1960, he moved to the Yukon to work for Klondike Helicopters in Dawson City and served in various positions, including accountant, partsman, base manager and, finally, vice-president.
In 1967, after a brief stint in Calgary, Al moved back to the Yukon to start his own helicopter operation. With partners Ron Connelly, Gordon Davis and Chuck Hankins, Trans North Turbo Air was born. For more than 37 years, Trans North Turbo Air has served western and northern Canada. Right up to his passing, Al still requested regular updates and reports on the business.
As keenly interested as he was in the operation of Trans North Turbo Air, Al always found time for his many other interests and was an important and passionate voice for northern aviation.
He was actively involved with the Air Transport Association of Canada and was the founding director of the Northern Air Transport Association and was an honourary life member.
Al was the founding president of the Yukon Transportation Association. He was active in the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and served as president in 1972. He was a member of the Whitehorse Lionís Club and an active member of the Knights of Columbus.
While Alís passion was the aviation industry, as chair of the Yukon Placer Committee and its predecessor, he made an incredible contribution to the mining industry in the Yukon.
Al was also known and respected as a very passionate and dedicated family man. He dearly loved not only Eunice, his first wife and mother of their children, who predeceased him in 1992, but also his second wife, Elissa, and finally Judy, his loving partner and pal and caregiver to the end.
Al also dearly loved his children, Ken and Kimberly, and their spouses, Debra and Lewis, his three grandchildren and dearest family friend, Auntie Irma Gordon.
Mr. Speaker, with the Houseís indulgence, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce in the gallery with us today Alís son, Ken Kapty, and his daughter-in-law, Debra, and of course, in his own words, his partner and pal, Judy.
Weíd like to express our governmentís condolences to them for their loss, and itís fair to say the Yukon has certainly lost a great and respected man in Al. He will truly be missed.
Mr. McRobb: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to the late Al Kapty. Al was a man of greatness. This greatness was supported by several pillars: pioneering the aviation industry in the north, his remarkable contributions to community initiatives and organizations, his many achievements at the political level, his straightforward and honest character and his love for his family.
Alís greatness was solidified by his perseverance. That was demonstrated through his repeated efforts to rebuild his company after it was struck by a major fire on two occasions in the 1990s.
His greatness was known through the honourable treatment of his employees. Soon after the second fire he pronounced that all 25 of his employees would not miss a momentís pay. Al not only knew the true value of good employees, he also valued each person as a friend. Al Kapty was well known and respected in virtually every community in the territory. In Old Crow, for instance, he always made a point of visiting the late Sarah Abel-Chitze, who fondly acknowledged Al as "my grandchild."
Mr. Speaker, much more can be said about this remarkable man and much more will be said. If itís true that a person can be measured by his impact on others, then undeniably Al was a pillar of the community we know as the Yukon.
Our sincere condolences to his family and many friends, some of whom are with us today.
Thank you. Mahsi' cho.
Ms. Duncan: I rise with my colleagues in the Legislature to join in tribute to Al Kapty.
Mr. Kapty, as I knew him, came to the Yukon in the early 1960s. It was only much later in life that I felt I could call him Al. A partner in founding Trans North Turbo Air and an aviation leader, Al and his wife, Eunice, raised their children, Ken and Kimberly, as Yukoners. These simple facts do not begin to translate the tremendous contribution Al Kapty made to aviation, to the survival of the placer mining industry in the Yukon and to our community. Al Kapty has been thanked publicly in the past in this Legislature for this contribution.
The profound sense of loss with Alís passing was highlighted for many Yukoners at the close of Alís prayerful remembrance last Thursday.
I have been told that during war when aircraft returned from battle, they returned in formation. An anxious family watching on the ground would count the returning aircraft. It is unknown which pilot is missing until they are on the ground because the pilots move up in the formation. There has evolved what has become known as "the missing man fly past". The flight of the Trans North helicopters at the close of Alís service, followed by an on-the-ground funeral procession of GMC Yukons on an especially scenic day said it all ó someoneís missing.
We have lost someone very special to the Yukon. He piloted a higher standard for community service and he will be sorely missed.
Ken, Kimberly, Judy, and the past and present staff at Trans North who supported Al in his community work as a Yukoner, may I offer my heartfelt thank you for sharing your father and your partner with us.
Our Yukon community is a better place because of Al Kapty. We share your sorrow, and please accept our sympathies.
In recognition of Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I rise today to pay tribute to the men and women throughout the Yukon who help care for Yukon children. I refer to the people who work in childcare centres and family day homes.
Today is Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day, a fitting time, I believe, to acknowledge the valuable contribution that early childhood educators make by providing quality care for our children. Early childhood educators in the Yukon look after our children when we, as parents, are not available. But more than that, they teach them. We know, and research confirms, that the people who care for our children play a very significant role in shaping their social, physical, emotional and cognitive development.
Actions taken by our government in the past six months clearly acknowledge our commitment to quality, affordable childcare. New funding provided by our government ensures workers are paid fairly and that centres can continue to provide quality services. As well, we are working with childcare providers to craft a four-year plan to improve childcare in the Yukon for providers and for our most valuable resource, our children.
Mr. Speaker, we salute our early childhood educators.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:With the Houseís indulgence, I would like to introduce a very well-known advocate of the childcare movement and representative of the childcare centres, who is with us today in the visitors gallery, Jasbir Randhawa.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, I rise today, as well, to pay tribute to our many childcare educators working in the Yukon on this Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day.
Mr. Speaker, women do two-thirds of the unpaid work in this country. Most of that is caregiving. But 63 percent of Canadian mothers are also in the paid workforce ó most of them out of necessity in our stretched economy. Many parents are forced to use unregulated care for their children, paying babysitters in their own homes. For parents, this means a worry about the level and the consistency of care. For a babysitter, it means low wages, ad hoc employment, no job security and a low status. Nannies are often immigrants from Third World countries whose contracts leave them open to abuse.
The result is that there is a great need for regulated daycare centres and for trained childcare educators. Weíre not meeting that need in Canada or in the Yukon. The vast majority of childcare educators are women. They suffer low wages, unacceptable work conditions, and insufficient access to training opportunities. As consumers of childcare, Canadian parents pay on average 50 percent of the costs, unlike any other education service. They acknowledge this with the fact that childcare educators are an extremely important part of family life.
Today we pay tribute to the stamina, the commitment, and the long-term goals of the Yukon childcare educators.
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I would like to express my appreciation for the trained and knowledgeable childcare staff who work in the Yukon. May I express my thanks on this, the Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day.
In recognition of Downís Syndrome Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to recognize National Downís Syndrome Awareness Week. Downís syndrome is one of the leading causes of delayed development in infants in the world. It is not linked to race, nationality, religion or socioeconomic status. There is nothing that a mother or father does or does not do during pregnancy that will cause Downís syndrome. The exact cause is still unknown.
We have Downís syndrome individuals here in the Yukon. They are adults, youth, children and infants, and all make a contribution to the territory with their own unique abilities and strengths. With early intervention and medical care, people with Downís syndrome are living full and rewarding lives. Society today is much more welcoming than in the past, and I am pleased to note that, within the Yukon, we supply and support services to these individuals.
The one thing that we as a government cannot guarantee is the acceptance within the community, but many organizations and individuals work extremely hard to ensure that there is meaningful inclusion within community life for those with Downís syndrome. Our government acknowledges and recognizes the individuals, their families and friends, and organizations here and nationally who work very hard to enhance the quality of life for individuals who have Downís syndrome, and to ensure their place within our community.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise as well today, on behalf of the official opposition, in tribute to Downís Syndrome Awareness Week. This was once a misunderstood condition and sufferers were badly treated.
In 1929 the life expectancy for Downís syndrome was about nine years. Today, Downís syndrome people can expect to live to 50 years and beyond. They are given opportunities to be included in regular classrooms and are living fuller, richer lives and contributing to society. Many are living semi-independently and are employed full-time.
These position changes have come about by the hard work of parents and volunteers who have contributed greatly to our understanding of these conditions through organizations such as Community Living, which is present in the Yukon.
The Canadian Downís Syndrome Society advocates for Downís syndrome people nationally with education and networking. In the Yukon, Special Olympics volunteers have offered year-round sports and competition opportunities locally, nationally and internationally. Special Olympics is present in 150 countries and serves a million Downís syndrome people.
Another organization we would like to pay tribute to in the Yukon is Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives. Challenge has completed a woodworking program, which enabled four clients to move into the paid workforce.
We bring these special efforts to the attention of the House and trust that the Yukon will continue to work toward inclusion of people with development disabilities.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have for tabling the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board Annual Report for 2002-03.
I have for tabling the annual report of the Yukon Education Staff Relations Board First Annual Report.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any introductions of bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 36: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 36, entitled Act to Amend the Taxpayer Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 36, entitled Act to Amend the Taxpayer Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 36 agreed to
Bill No. 41: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Hart:I move that Bill No. 41, entitled Health Professions Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 41, entitled Health Professions Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 41 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to make electricity rates more affordable by establishing a rate-relief program eliminating the surcharge for those consumers who utilize more that 1,500 kilowatt hours per month.
Mr. Arntzen: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to provide Yukon athletes with sufficient ongoing funding to allow them to fully prepare for participation in the 2007 Canada Winter Games to be held in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Church report on Yukon game farming
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I rise today to table what has become known in some circles as the Church report on game farming in the Yukon.
We are releasing this today because it has become a matter of public interest, and it is our view that we must now move to clear up the misunderstandings that may have been read into what this document does or does not recommend.
The report was commissioned essentially to see if there was an answer to the question raised by the Yukon game farmers that the administration of game farming regulations be transferred from the Department of Environment to the agriculture branch of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, in order to make the issue of ownership clearer. Ownership of their animals is absolutely essential to their business, a business that the Yukon government has signed agreements to recognize since 1995 and before. And our government intends to honour these agreements.
There was the belief among the farmers that there was precedent for this in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, and a similar model might be used here. We asked Dr. Church to look at this question because he has a wide range of government and private practice experience that put him in a unique position to look at the issues from all sides.
Various Yukon government administrations engage consultants from time to time, as well as strike consultative committees and boards. Their reports are seen as recommendations. A government can choose to adopt all of the recommendations, some of the recommendations or none of the recommendations.
Our government has already served notice that we are reviewing the definition of wildlife in the Wildlife Act and looking at regulations where change is appropriate.
Our government has received representation from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Game Growers Association, and I anticipate that the Yukon Fish and Game Association will also comment, after our very fruitful discussions last evening. These will all take time to consider and to consult with other affected interests.
However, I want to take this moment to reiterate and to clarify that there is one recommendation in the Church report that my government is not prepared to follow or adopt. It is on the question of hunt farms. Dr. Church recommended that we allow hunting on game farms. Mr. Speaker, that practice is presently illegal under the Wildlife Act and will remain illegal. It is not this governmentís intention to amend the Wildlife Act to permit hunt farms in the Yukon.
This government never asked for a recommendation on hunt farms. That recommendation was outside the terms of reference for the drafting of the report and was never identified as an interest of the Game Growers Association. I also table the terms of reference for the contract that was let out to Dr. Church, and I also table the actual contract that was let out.
For the record, Dr. Church has been advised that the hunt farm recommendation was far outside the terms of reference, and was not requested by the government. Mr. Speaker, I also table a letter from our Deputy Minister of the Department of Environment to Dr. Church to express our governmentís disappointment that he chose to make recommendations outside of his terms of reference and which are clearly illegal in the Yukon. Our government recognizes that hunt farms are not favoured by Yukoners, and we will continue to not consider them in any future legislation.
To be sure, there will be much discussion in the months to come on the future of game farming in the territory and where to go with wildlife preserves but, on behalf of this government, I also want to again assure everyone that hunt farms will not be part of those discussions, as my government does not and will not favour their establishment in this territory.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to thank the minister for finally making a statement on this issue of interest to all Yukoners. Hereís what we know to be true: several months after receiving notice, the minister finally agreed with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommendation 1.17 that the commercial hunting of any wildlife in captivity, including game animals, continue to be prohibited. He wrote to the board, "The Wildlife Act prohibits this activity and there is no intention to revisit this prohibition." Letís face the facts here, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Environment tried every trick in the book and then some to block some efforts made by the board, by the news media, and by others to get the Church report, a report that was paid for by Yukon taxpayers. What we heard here today was not a ministerial statement but a simple exercise in damage control.
Only after the success of groups using the ATIPP process to get the Church report, only after the minister had failed in his efforts to block the reportís release, did he plan and deliver the damage control we are seeing here today. This is a damage control measure the minister disguises by calling it a ministerial statement. The reasons the minister provides in his statement may be true in the ministerís mind, but the facts speak otherwise. The minister was forced to release the report only as the result of the access to information process. He should have released this Church report when it was completed and requested by interested groups months ago.
On this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, we are not sure what goodwill the Minister of Environment enjoys. Is it with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board whose recommendations he rushed to reject and is now trying to cover his tracks? Does he enjoy goodwill with the renewable resource councils? They wrote the minister last month expressing their concerns over the ministerís commitment to the land claims agreements and his credibility, and indeed the entire Yukon Party governmentís credibility, on the appointment process for the renewable resource councils.
The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board did recommend to the minister that he investigate options for people managing wildlife in captivity. These options include harvesting and their velvet, meat production, wildlife viewing and scientific study. However, the minister went off on his own tangent with a study that looked into the hunting on game farms, an activity that most Yukoners oppose.
The closing decades of the 20th century, Mr. Speaker, saw the rise of a new kind of sport in North America. Although canned hunts advertise under a variety ó
Speaker: Order please. The memberís time is up.
Ms. Duncan: The statement made by the minister today raises more questions than answers. Perhaps the minister could begin by explaining why this report is being released. Over the summer months he said he wasnít going to release it. The Church report is confidential to two ministers and deputy ministers, the minister said in a June 3 e-mail. Itís not to be released.
It was a report prepared for Cabinet and is considered to be confidential, said the Cabinet spokesperson in a newspaper story.
That position didnít go over very well with Yukoners. The chair of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board referred to it as "underhanded". He said on June 6, "This government was elected on a platform of being upfront and forthright with Yukoners, yet behind the scenes stuff like this is happening." Why has the minister changed his mind? What has changed in four months, other than that the minister has been continually embarrassed by the opposition parties, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the media into releasing the report?
It may also have something to do with the minister bungling the captive wildlife regulations so badly. Perhaps the minister can explain his change of heart.
Yukon taxpayers spent $12,000 on an outside consultant asking whether or not the Yukon should bring in hunt farms. On January 31, 2003, the minister received a letter from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. It said, "The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommends that the commercial hunting of any wildlife in captivity, including game farm animals, continue to be prohibited." What was the ministerís response?
In a May 1 letter back to the board, he set this recommendation aside. He said a simple ban on hunting may be overly restrictive. In other words, the government was considering allowing hunt farms. Now, six months later, the minister is finally agreeing with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and a majority of Yukoners. Too bad Yukon taxpayers are out $12,000 for the report.
On a related issue, the government continues to permit animals that are exported from the Yukon to go to hunt farms in other parts of Canada. Will the minister commit to banning that practice?
Finally, this is a government that brags about how it works government to government with First Nations. The Fish and Wildlife Management Board is out consulting on new regulations. Meanwhile the minister is commissioning ó up until today ó a secret report on the same topic, and refuses to make it public. So much for working in cooperation. The chair of the board certainly didnít appreciate being undermined. He said that their consultations cost the board over $10,000 and included meetings with Yukoners in Old Crow, Mayo, Haines Junction, Dawson City, Pelly Crossing and Whitehorse.
To undermine that process was an insult to the board and to the public, said the chair. Why are we going through this exercise if the governmentís already moving in a completely different direction, he asked. Is the Yukon public being shown its due respect? Right now, theyíre under the impression theyíre going to have some captive wildlife regulations under the Wildlife Act.
Meanwhile, the government has been contemplating some really drastic changes to the way Yukon wildlife and the Yukon public connect. Maybe the minister didnít get the memo from his boss that said heís supposed to be working with First Nation governments, not starting arguments with them.
The Member for Lake Laberge made an election commitment to some of his constituents that they would get private ownership of their wildlife if they voted for him. That promise appears more important to this government ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Point of order, Mr. Speaker. The member is making claims that she has no knowledge about, and the accusation she has made is false.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, this is nothing more than a rude interruption by the government side. There is no point of order. No rule was cited, and there is no such rule.
Speaker: On the point of order, leader of the third party.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the reference was to campaign commitments by the Member for Lake Laberge, and the campaign commitments are well-documented by constituents in the riding. It would appear to be a dispute between members.
Speaker:The Chair feels that this is a dispute between members, and Iíd ask the leader of the third party to carry on. You have five seconds to finish.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In short, we see, once again, what commitments the government keeps and which ones itís going to break.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím certainly glad to see that my critic in the official opposition quotes the proper section of 1.17 in that report which, again, does say that hunt farms are illegal. Thatís one of the reasons why I felt it necessary to make the statement ó because members on the other side simply donít seem to get it. We keep clearly stating that, and yet they claim "damage control" when they donít understand it.
Certainly one of the things that concerned me, again, is the twisting of truth. The member opposite refers to a rushed ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker:Minister, Iím sorry, I cannot allow you to say "the twisting of truth". Thatís out of order. Iíd ask you to retract that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Kenyon:I certainly retract that, Mr. Speaker.
The varieties of answers are certainly astounding. It is claimed that we rushed a reply when, in fact, it was the last day legally permitted under the Umbrella Final Agreement. Also, the member opposite refers to a study on hunt farming and hunting, and I would challenge the member opposite to present that study to the House, because Iím not aware of any studies that were done on hunt farming.
Weíve always intended to eventually release this document, because it is a confidential bit of advice. But we, on this side, like to study and look at reports. The leader of the last party refers to the word "embarrassed". Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am embarrassed at the utter lack of her ability to understand the Umbrella Final Agreement, as witnessed by the motion yesterday calling for an all-party committee to look at the chair of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. The Umbrella Final Agreement clearly states that that chair is chosen by the board. I am embarrassed when the opposition suggests that there be political interference in that decision.
For the leader of the official opposition, that did come from the last party, not from the official opposition. In terms of the animals going to hunt farms, nothing changes and nothing will change in the regime. We will still consider that.
I would point out that the complaints in the past about animals that might possibly have gone to hunt farms were made under the Liberal government as well as the previous NDP government. Nothing has changed. We intend to change that, and thatís the whole idea of the exercise.
Yes, I am embarrassed at some of those attitudes.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Financial position of government
Mr. Hardy: When the Premier tabled his main budget last February he told Yukon people that the governmentís bank account at the start of the fiscal year would be about $17.6 million. In the supplementary budget that he finally got around to tabling yesterday, he acknowledges what the Auditor General of Canada has already told us, that he actually had $70 million in his bank. Thatís seven zero, Mr. Speaker, not one seven.
Can the Premier explain why he gave Yukoners such a wildly inaccurate estimate of the accumulated surplus last spring?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, if that were the case, the government side could explain it, but itís not the case. The member should well know, given the station of his position, that the Auditor Generalís final accountings did not come out until this fall. This spring when we tabled the budget, we were dealing with projected figures based on all the available knowledge to the government, taking the prudent course and committing firmly to Yukoners that we would get a clear understanding of the finances of this territory and get them firmly in hand.
We were not going to make any rash decisions. We respect the fact that government must expend the monies on behalf of its taxpayers in a very prudent and responsible manner, and thatís exactly what we did in tabling the budget.
Once our work was concluded, along with the Auditor Generalís final accounting, as any reasonable business person would do, we then booked the exact and final numbers as we presented here to the Legislature and to the public. That is a very prudent course of fiscal management.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I think we on this side disagree that itís considered a prudent course of fiscal management. I think itís scare tactics. The Premier and his colleagues made a big deal about how tough times were for this government. No money for this; no money for that, Mr. Speaker. The governmentís going broke, the trajectory is out of control. We have to tighten our belts. People didnít like it, Mr. Speaker, but they took the Premierís word for it. They watched unemployment lines get longer. They watched even more Yukon families pull up stakes and leave the territory because of the doom-and-gloom predictions of this Premier. They believed this Premier when he said it was necessary to chop the capital budget by 24 percent. Why did the Premier adopt the old John Ostashek playbook of claiming the governmentís finances were in big trouble, when he knew that this was not the case at all?
Speaker:Order please. Before the Premier proceeds, itís not appropriate to mention individuals by name in the House. Iíd ask the leader of the official opposition not to do that, please.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The leader of the official opposition is quick to react for political purposes in his questioning today, but if the member was truly keen on representing the Yukon taxpayer in this matter, he would also preface his comments and his questions with this fact: that under this governmentís watch, thanks to the hardworking officials in the statistics branch, the Department of Finance and officials in Ottawa, we took a $17-million projected surplus and added to it $50 million. The reason today that the Yukon Territory has a surplus of some $69 million is, to a great degree, thanks to the efforts of many hardworking officials in government and our prudent fiscal management. Thatís why we have the surplus; and when we had that surplus truly calculated so we understood exactly where the finances of this territory were, we then made expenditures in areas that would help Yukoners in this time of need, creating jobs and dealing with those on the social side of the agenda who require our assistance. Thatís reflected throughout the supplementary budget. That is good news, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: How many more times are the people of the Yukon going to have to listen to that kind of statement, the Yukon Party spin? Weíre in a gloom-and-doom situation, but all of a sudden we have riches and guess what we did in a few months? We created it.
Last spring the Premier said there was only $1 million left in the bank at the end of this fiscal year. Now he says there will be at least $61 million, and it could be much, much more than that, Mr. Speaker.
This supplementary budget only restores some of the $31 million he chopped from the capital budget last spring. Itís too late to help the people who couldnít get work this year because of that draconian action. But this supplementary budget doesnít suggest the Premier has any sense of urgency about creating jobs immediately, and it certainly doesnít show any long-term vision or economic leadership.
The Premier still has time to correct this, though. Will he now go back and prepare a second supplementary budget to introduce this sitting that has definite targets for creating jobs for Yukon people this winter, with no delays?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The only correction required here is the correction of the member oppositeís erroneous assessment of how this surplus came about. Let me put some facts on the floor of the Legislature.
This government, under its watch, thanks to its hard-working, dedicated officials, received 23 million new dollars from Ottawa because we did the due diligence on the undercount and the census adjustment ó $23 million, Mr. Speaker.
Secondly, there was $15 million booked to deal with the contingency fund on the census, and itís an important fact because once we established that we were correct on the undercount, that money no longer had to be spent, creating $38 million of surplus under this governmentís watch, post-2002 fiscal year-end.
Then, Mr. Speaker, we dissolved a number of funds that the former Liberal government put in place that were doing absolutely nothing for Yukoners: $10 million in the permanent fund, back in the general revenue; $1.5 million in trust funds, back in the general revenue. Add it all up: Mr. Speaker, under this governmentís watch, some $50 million put back into the surplus, and now we are spending it to help Yukoners. That is good news.
Question re: Motor vehicle impoundment
Mrs. Peter: The Minister of Justice has made many attempts this week to avoid answering some basic questions about the Capital Towing fiasco. Iíd like to give her another opportunity to tell the Yukon people what they have a right to know, and Iíll keep the questions simple.
Why was it wrong for the RCMP to impound a tow truck that was being driven by someone who was so drunk that he was a menace to himself and everyone else on the road?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the member opposite points out, the person who was picked up, who was drinking and driving, who was impaired, who did break the law, is behind bars and is serving his sentence. Again, I will be very clear with respect to the Capital Towing matter. I acted in strict accordance with the law, which provides that the Minister of Justice shall act if, in fact, the vehicle was impounded wrongfully.
Mrs. Peter: Itís awfully hard to understand this ministerís logic. She has decided it was wrong to impound this vehicle because the drunk driver wasnít the owner. She wonít explain how she came to that decision, and she wonít provide the information she used to reach that decision.
Does the minister believe it is wrong to impound any vehicle being driven by someone other than the owner, or just if itís a commercial vehicle?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: First of all, Iíd like to be crystal clear. I acted, again, in strict accordance with the law. I acted based on the legal application that was made to our office which, I add, was submitted to our assistant deputy minister of Justice, to our senior legal counsel. The legal case was made to our senior legal counsel. I made a decision. That was based on that slim, single provision within the Motor Vehicles Act for wrongful impoundment. That is what I acted on. It has absolutely nothing to do with the blood level count of the individual who was driving. That is an absolutely separate matter. I donít know how much clear I can be.
Mrs. Peter: The minister says sheís totally against drunk driving, but her actions in this case donít match her words. If a taxi company needs a driver, is it okay for them to cruise past the liquor store and offer keys to anyone they see? Would it be okay for Whitehorse Transit to just let anyone behind the wheel of a bus, regardless of what condition theyíre in? Of course not. That would be outrageous.
Will the minister give her assurance that any amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act will not let the owner of a commercial vehicle avoid any responsibility for allowing someone who is drunk or otherwise impaired to drive that vehicle on their behalf?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: What is outrageous is the member oppositeís accusations about my actions. Again, my action specifically had to do with the wrongful impoundment provisions under the Motor Vehicles Act. It had absolutely nothing to do with blood-alcohol level of the individual who was behind the wheel and who is actually serving time behind bars right now.
Question re: Motor vehicle impoundment
Ms. Duncan:The governmentís integrity has been called into question because of several bad decisions it has made over the last few months. There is the MLA for Klondike refusing to pay back loans, and we have the Minister of Justice, who continues to embarrass herself by siding with a drunk driver instead of with public safety.
Yesterday, on the floor of the House, the minister admitted that she ignored the advice of her own officials. She also stated, while providing no proof whatsoever, that the RCMP is behind her 100 percent. Yesterday in this House, the minister insisted that she made her decision to interfere with the judiciary based on a legal case ó she said that again today ó that was presented to the departmentís senior legal counsel.
Now, in the interest of being open and accountable, I would like the minister to release that legal case. Itís a case she stated she has. Will the minister release it?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I canít be clearer about this matter. I have been open and accountable about this entire matter throughout the entire summer. I held a press conference. I have taken all media calls on this particular case. I draw your reference to a number of interviews that I held over the course of the summer, so I canít be more open and accountable than what I have been already.
Ms. Duncan: The minister can be more open and accountable. She has made several references to a legal case. I have asked that she provide it.
The minister interfered in the justice system for some reason, and she wonít tell the public why.
There have been 1,066 impoundments since the amendment giving the minister discretion to release vehicles was added to the Motor Vehicles Act. Not one of those vehicles was released until this Justice minister came along. Perhaps she was taking advice from her Lake Laberge colleague. He said in this House ó and perhaps he encouraged the Minister of Justice to boldly go where no other Minister of Justice had ever gone before.
The open and accountable Yukon Party government is once again refusing to release information to the public. The Minister of Environment was asked to release letters he wrote to the Conflicts Commissioner. He refused. The Minister of Highways and Public Works was asked to release the new letter of instruction that he wrote to Dawson City.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask the question, please.
Ms. Duncan: Absolutely. The government is refusing to provide information to the public. Will the minister release the legal case she says she based her decision on?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Here we go again here. The application was made.
The reason why this is the very first decision that was ever made by a Minister of Justice was because it was the very first application that was ever made to the Minister of Justice, I should add. It is truly unfortunate that the member is not familiar, or I should say, does not have a better understanding of how the law actually reads. If she did, she would know that, under the Motor Vehicles Act, peace officers, review officers and the Minister of Justice all have specific, separate but very distinct roles. Whereas a review officer has the sole authority to rule on early release provisions as outlined under the Motor Vehicles Act, the Minister of Justice has the sole authority over the wrongful impoundment provisions, as also outlined under the Motor Vehicles Act.
And again, just to correct the record, I do not have the authority to appeal the decision of the review officer, just as the review officer does not have the authority to overrule my decision. So to claim that Iíve overruled the justice of the peace review officer is simply incorrect. What I find ironic, however, is the very fact that had the leader of the Liberal Party and her previous government not changed the law that took away the discretionary powers of the review officer in the first place, that application would never have come to my office.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, whatís painfully obvious to the public is the sensitivity on the opposite benches to admitting when theyíve made a mistake. Theyíre very sensitive to this, Mr. Speaker. And what the minister has not answered in all her various high dudgeons that she expressed is will she or will she not release the case she based her decision on? She has yet to prove to the public she had a reason for making this decision. She wonít provide the legal case. She will not provide any substantiation that the vehicle was wrongfully impounded in the first place. She states on the floor of this House that the RCMP are behind her 100 percent. She wonít and canít prove it. She will not provide the legal case she says she has. Itís a straightforward, simple question. Please, will the minister provide the members of this House with the legal case she says she has?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, again, I acted in strict accordance with the law. Unfortunately, there is a particular provision that refers to wrongful impoundment and if, in fact, a vehicle is found to be wrongfully impounded ó in this case it was ó as Minister of Justice, I made my decision. People will judge me at the end of the day. And Iím sorry, but I made my decision, and it is time to move on.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Cardiff:I have a question for the Minister of Community Services today. Will the minister confirm that the gentleman from Rossland, B.C., who is supervising Dawson Cityís affairs, is being paid $800 a day on a three-month contract worth up to $30,000?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have entered into an arrangement with the supervisor we have in place for the amount indicated.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím glad the minister has the answer to that question, but we can forget BIP at this point. He made the right move on the business incentive policy with the city multiplex, but you can forget local hire on this job. What we have with this minister is local fire and outside hire. Itís the same policy his colleague used to find the chair for the Yukon Development Corporation.
Under clause 35(6) of the Municipal Act, when a supervisor is appointed, Cabinet may direct that the supervisorís fees and expenses will be paid by the municipality. Does the minister plan to stick Dawson City with the bill for this high-priced outside talent, when the municipality had nothing to do with the ministerís questionable decision to get rid of the previous supervisor?
Hon. Mr. Hart: In responding to the member oppositeís question, I believe that, in this particular case, we would not be burdening the village of Dawson with this particular cost. We need this information for us to do our appropriate due diligence with regard to the City of Dawsonís financial information.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, once again we have fat and sassy contracts being sole sourced by this government to meet political objectives that they refuse to admit or explain. The minister keeps saying the government wants to take a new direction regarding the supervision of Dawson Cityís affairs. That direction seems to be direct management ó direct, politically motivated management.
Iím asking the minister to come clean. Why did he, or his department, or his Cabinet colleagues feel it was necessary to get a high-priced new supervisor for Dawson and to give him such a sweeping mandate to run Dawsonís affairs? Is there a crisis in Dawson, or is this about something else?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I think, for the member opposite, weíre looking at giving a fresh view of whatís happening in Dawson. We feel that this individual has the expertise to provide it to us and weíll carry on. Weíre awaiting his report to us and to get back to the member opposite.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Hardy:Itís time for this government to stop dancing around the serious matters that are raised in this House. A few days ago the Minister of Community Services was given the opportunity to move a cloud of suspicion surrounding the firing of the former senior manager of municipal affairs. He refused and so did the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, Mr. Speaker.
Iím asking the Premier to do the honourable thing in this regard. Will the Premier state for the record that this person was not fired for sending or receiving inappropriate e-mails?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I will state for the record that any personnel issues are confidential.
Mr. Hardy: Itís music to my ears to hear the Premierís voice spoken in the House.
Once again, there is a lot more here than meets the eye, and I can assure the Premier that we will not be backing off just because the governmentís game plan is to stonewall on this matter.
This is a small community, full of rumours and speculation. The fiasco this government made of its computer use investigation is hurting many, many individuals and families. This is a personnel issue, but there are critical public policy issues involved as well. We have a responsibility to pursue those policy issues.
Once again, will the Premier, or the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, or the Minister of Community Services do the honourable thing and confirm that this person was not fired for sending or receiving inappropriate e-mails?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to remind the member opposite that this government does not operate on rumours. We tend to stick to factual issues.
Again, Mr. Speaker, this is a personnel issue, and it is one that will be, and has been, dealt with by the Public Service Commission in a very professional and respectable manner. I canít elaborate enough on how well the confidentiality was maintained, and how the whole process was handled professionally.
Mr. Hardy: We have a reason to believe that this firing did have a connection to the computer use investigation and that the Premier played a role in it advertently or inadvertently. I am putting the Premier on notice in this regard that I intend to spell out that role clearly in the very near future. But for today I would like to ask the Premier one more related question. How much of the $3.9 million contingency in his supplementary budget is set aside to pay for arbitration and wrongful dismissal cases related to the computer use investigation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will close this debate by just simply saying to the member opposite that it is the memberís prerogative to make any decisions they feel on speculation.
Question re: Mayo-to-Dawson transmission line, cost overrun
Mr. McRobb: My question today is for the Energy minister. It is about the Mayo-to-Dawson line and the $9 million cost overrun of that project. It is interesting to see how the cost of this project has spiralled out of control under this minister ó under this governmentís watch, Mr. Speaker.
When this government took office a year ago, the estimated cost of this project was $27 million. Earlier this year, under this governmentís watch, it rose to $30 million. Suddenly, under this governmentís watch, it is $36 million. That begs the question: when did this minister first become aware that he had lost control of this projectís costs?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. I would like to correct one of the members opposite. When this government hired the chair, Mr. Morrison, and the insinuation that he is not a Yukoner ó
Speaker:Order please. Please do not refer to an individual by his name.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The new chair we put in place when we understood the problems that the Energy Corporation was having with the Mayo-to-Dawson line, Mr. Morrison ó
Excuse me, I am sorry.
The chair went to school here, worked with NCPC, and went on to further his knowledge in the energy industry. We brought a Yukoner home. We have a Yukon family in the Yukon today ó both of them, his wife being raised in the Yukon as well. So as far as the Mayo-Dawson line is concerned, Mr. Speaker, in answering that question, I say to you: you only have to look at the opposite side to find out where the problems are. It was consummated by the Liberal Party and put together by the NDP. When we took office a year ago today, did we understand there was a problem? Contractors hadnít been paid under the Liberal government. The thing certainly had problems. We were in charge of fixing the problems. The Yukon public elected us to face that challenge, and weíve done that today. The board of directors and the chair have required the Auditor General to come in and do a specific audit on the line between Mayo and Dawson. Are we concerned on this side of the House? Certainly we are concerned. Yukon Energy is owned by all Yukoners. All Yukoners are shareholders in that corporation. The success of it is very important. So thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, what we just heard was a gross evasion of responsibility. The Premier often says, "Weíll lead, follow or get out of the way." Well, Mr. Speaker, I suggest they get out of the way. The Auditor General has accepted the request to investigate this matter. That begs the question, Mr. Speaker: when was the Auditor General asked to do this review? The minister didnít indicate when he first knew costs were beginning to spiral out of his control.
The Auditor General option is the easy way out for this minister and this government. Yesterday I asked the Premier if he would use the public watchdog, the Yukon Utilities Board, to explore this matter with local energy experts, using local knowledge, and he refused, Mr. Speaker. This is the easy way out, using the Auditor General. Can the minister table all documentation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The Auditor General of Canada is the public audit corporation and it is fitting that the chair and the board of directors requested the audit. As far as when the Auditor General was approached, it was approached when the chair and the board of directors made that decision. Then they consulted with me and I agreed with them at that point. The Energy Corporation is being run by a chair and a board of directors, theyíve done the right things, they are concerned about the overruns, and the Auditor General will come out with its report.
Mr. McRobb: Still no answers, Mr. Speaker. We have strike two on this minister. He refused to agree to table all correspondence on this matter. That was question two. He refused to answer question one ó indicate when he was first aware of this latest cost overrun of this project. So heíll now have three questions to answer.
Iím concerned about the impact on consumers. This cost overrun comes from the same budget as the rate subsidy, the bill subsidy that Yukon electrical consumers get, known as the rate stabilization fund. Last spring I asked the minister when he would be living up to his campaign promise to enhance the rate stabilization fund. He refused, Mr. Speaker, and itís costing each ratepayer some $40 a month.
This minister needs to acknowledge the connection yet he denies it. Will the minister table the documentation I asked for, indicate when he first became aware of this huge cost overrun, and will he also acknowledge that there is potential here for impacts to electrical bills?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Letís let the Auditor General of Canadaís office do its job. It is the watchdog. It will come back with a report and, at that point, I can answer many questions.
Speaker: Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk:Motion No. 54, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy; adjourned debate, Mr. Hardy.
Motion No. 54 Ė adjourned debate
Speaker:Members will be aware debate began on Motion No. 54 on April 23, 2003. To assist the viewing and listening audience, the Chair will read the text of Motion No. 54 into the record. It reads as follows:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the decision by the Yukon Party government to reduce public spending by more than $40 million in the 2003-04 fiscal year will have a serious negative impact on the territoryís economy, which will affect all Yukon communities;
(2) direct spending by public employees is a major contributor to the economic health and stability of every Yukon community; and
(3) cutbacks in government spending are already resulting in a loss of income for people who provide services to the Yukon government departments, agencies or Crown corporations, particularly in the areas of auxiliary, casual and seasonal employment; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to honour both the letter and the spirit of its commitment not to diminish any kind of workforce within the government, in order to avoid any further erosion of the territoryís economy.
Mr. Hardy: This motion is a carry-over from last spring. It was brought before the House over our concerns about the direction that the Yukon Party government was taking this territory in. In many cases, we have been hearing about jobs not being filled when people have left those positions. We have heard about extreme shortages within departments that were causing a strain on the work environments and making it very difficult for those working in those environments to fulfill their jobs and creating stress which, of course, led to a greater degree of stress relief and, ultimately, the desire to possibly look elsewhere for work.
We have felt that the Yukon Party government had brought in a different type of treatment toward the public servants. It was one of negativity and disrespect, and one that would ultimately lead to a reduction in the workforce of the territory. Of course a great concern of ours was not only that we were losing valuable people who contribute tremendously to the well-being of the territory, but also that we were losing people who lived here, spent their wages here, and contributed to the other economy, the private sector economy, which relies heavily on the public servantsí income and the numbers that are employed by the territorial government throughout the territory.
When the Yukon Party was elected, they assured us there would be no reduction to the workforce, and yet, time and time again, we have seen evidence that there was a reduction and that it was continuing and growing.
Now, the impact of taking $40 million out of the budget has a profound effect throughout the territory. The huge reduction of money that is put into the capital works, historically, to be dropped to that level, sent a massive shift of perceptions for the future of this territory. And what we saw was a continual exodus of people leaving the territory from the private sector and the public sector because they believed what the Yukon Party said back then, which was that it is a doom-and-gloom place, this is not a place where you have much future, there is no money, the piggy bank is empty, there is a $1-million surplus, the spending trajectory is out of control and we have got to reel it in, we have got to roll it back, we are leading up to a precipice and we are going to fall over the edge. These were all the words that were used last spring. They were quite interesting.
The public hears this. The public servants hear this, and what are they supposed to assume? Well, obviously this is a new government. They have looked at the books. They have a good handle on the financial situation in the territory, and therefore we are going to trust them and we are going to make our decisions accordingly. Well, they have told us that there is no future here; letís start looking elsewhere. Maybe there is a brighter spot out in Canada where we can go and work.
That is not just the private sector that has been doing that. That is also with the public sector. Because if thatís the case and if thatís what the government is saying, if the government is saying the trajectory is all out of whack and the spending practices are way too high, then of course there are going to be cutbacks. There are going to be cutbacks in the very areas that they work in, and they have been happening. So, maybe there is not a future for them.
So, because of that kind of messaging, we are seeing an erosion of belief in this territory. Weíre also seeing an erosion of the spending power of money that is spread throughout the territory by the proper distribution through wages. Instead of a lot of money going to very few people, which this government seems to like to do, the collective agreement ensures that there is a decent and honourable wage paid to a large percentage of people, which can then put that money back into the economy, which then can generate employment opportunities in the private sector, who then can ensure that many of these businesses ó some of them have been around for 50, 80 years ó will continue to operate. Unfortunately, thatís not the direction the Yukon Party felt we had to go in.
The economy was already struggling. Thereís no question about it. Unemployment was already very high. So what was the solution? Letís cut some more. Thatís going to really stimulate the economy ó letís cut some more. And the Yukon Partyís position is weíre going to base our argument on this false position that weíre going to put out, and thatís the position that there is no money in the kitty, we are broke, and weíre going to make some very serious cuts. But not only that, weíre not going to outright fire people, weíre not going to outright lay people off, because the Yukon Party said thatís not the way they were going to do it. What weíre going to do is weíre just not going to fill positions. As positions become vacant, weíre going to leave them open, weíre going to leave them empty, which means the work that was being done by, say, six people is now being done by five, then itís being done by four. And you shrink the public sector.
And you do it in a very behind-a-door way. You do it in a way that you feel you can still live up to your election promise but still get the results you want, and that is a reduced workforce with the public servants.
That work still has to be done. So, if the trajectory was wrong, if the Yukon Partyís position was wrong ó and today we find out that of course it was wrong, because there is a huge surplus and there is a substantial amount of money and they were completely inaccurate. The Premier himself even admitted that today, that the Auditor Generalís report was accurate, that there was $70 million and that he obviously read it wrong. If that is proven today, then what is the motivation for shrinking the workforce? Itís an ideological one. This is a government ó a Yukon Party government ó that firmly and truly believes that public servants have a very small role to play in our economy and that it should be driven by the private sector.
We have seen this applied all around the world. We have seen it applied by a multitude of governments in Canada as they have come and gone. We have seen it applied, as I said, all around the world, and weíve seen it applied and weíve seen that it doesnít hold true.
But these are ideological people. This is their mantra. This is what they believe in. These are the promises they made behind the scenes, that they would shrink the public sector because this is what they stand for. Somehow they would shift that responsibility and those duties that are often delivered through the public sector, for the public good, into the hands of for-profit private sector.
They believe that is good for the economy. And thatís a fundamental belief. I stand here and say today quite clearly that thatís what they stand for. Thatís what Conservative governments have often stood for historically, even when theyíve been proven wrong and when weíve seen the disasters of some of the governments in other provinces when they have adopted this approach with too much vigour and force. We have seen extreme cost overruns when it has shifted that way. There are limits to how much you can shift that.
Now, that is the challenge here. How far do you push your public servants, and how do you shrink them and push it over to the private sector before you go too far and have a failure of the system ó failure of delivery, a more expensive delivery, costs and less and less accountability to the public?
Now, Iím a firm believer in a mixed economy. I believe in a multitude of industries running. I also believe very strongly in the fact that public servants are hard-working, professional people and that many of our departments deliver programs that are best suited to be delivered by the public servants. They do it cost effectively, and they do it well, and they do it for the public good, without the idea of profit behind them. Health care is a perfect example.
I also believe, as I said, in a mixed economy, and therefore believe that the private sector has a role to play as well. Itís finding that proper balance that best delivers programs, some through the public service and others through the private side. Overall, the Yukon has been shifting back and forth on this.
But every time a Yukon Party government comes in, we see this large, large shove in one direction and it starts to create problems. We donít have to look too far back in our history ó in 1992-96, where we saw a tremendous amount of difficulty during that period under a previous Yukon Party government, and realized that, no, we have to find that balance, we have to work to achieve a balance that is best for the people of the territory.
But when youíre driven by an ideologue, that this is the direction you have to go in, you can also make very foolish mistakes because you canít step back and analyze if this is the best way of delivering a program, if this is the best decision we can make for the people of the territory, because you rely too much on that mantra that constantly runs through your head and you try to shove it forward that way. Unfortunately, people get hurt. The government that is in power gets hurt because often the public will respond quite strongly. I feel thatís what is starting to happen.
I also believe that there is another side to this. The Yukon Party, recognizing that there would be some resistance to this and wanting to hurry up some of the reductions of the workforce, has created an environment with their own employees, one of, I guess you could say, a poor work environment, one where employees feel that they donít have the confidence of their employers.
Thatís difficult for an employee because your day could be made up of eight or 10 hours ó many of our employees work 10 or 12 hours a day, they take work home on the weekends, theyíre very dedicated, they put in a lot of time because they truly believe that what they are doing is good and they are committed to doing the best job that they possibly can. As I said earlier, theyíre over overworked, burdened with far too much work. Of course that happens because the government doesnít want to hire anybody else to relieve the pressure on them.
So they have to get this work done, so they take more and more on, and it does affect their quality of life. However, theyíre very dedicated people. When they feel that the elected government doesnít value them, then they wonder why are they here, dedicating eight, 10, 12 hours of their day to working for the public good. Their employer doesnít respect them in that manner. Five days a week ó thatís a substantial amount of a personís life dedicated to the public good that is being undermined by an attitude of a new government. Now, weíve seen failed negotiations already with the one of the unions that represents the majority of the workers with the government. And that always causes stress. That doesnít send out a good signal, but it does happen. That can be recognized. Sometimes itís just too difficult to come to terms. Still, itís not an indication from the government that they value their employees. We are aware of positions that are not being filled, and thatís putting a greater strain on the employees, and at some point they say, "Enough is enough. I canít do any more."
Now we have to add on top of that the computer use investigation. Thereís no question about it; I think weíre all aware that there were a few people who were working for the government that had abused their usage of computers and had abused it in a manner that is totally unacceptable for any reasonable scale that you want to put it on.
But those few people should not have been used as an excuse to go after almost a quarter of the workforce in such a manner that it demoralized the whole workforce. I have heard the position taken in Question Period that at all times the investigation was conducted with respect and dignity and they value their employees. If that is the case, then look on the other side. Stand as an employee, not as an employer. Stand as an employee and see what it looks like from that side when you are targeted. When your department receives letters ó 60 letters in some departments, or even more ó and all of a sudden people go missing for one day, two days, five days. You donít know if theyíve taken holidays. You donít know if they are being disciplined for inappropriate computer use. You donít even know what it is for. I am talking about the people who didnít receive the letters at this moment. But all of a sudden you wonder what is going on in your workplace. What value does the Yukon government place on the workers when they are quite willing and quite eager to conduct an investigation that has spiralled out of control, to conduct an investigation when many other organizations and agencies, not just in Canada but definitely in North America and around the world, do not use that method.
We have examples within the government workplace where the corporations have used a different method, and they did not end up with one appeal. They delivered a policy on computer use; they educated their workforce and they treated them with dignity and respect. They didnít attack them and, in the end, as I said, they didnít end up with one appeal. They ended up with the employees buying in and working together to resolve an issue and a problem that, in many cases, is being considered almost endemic, not just in the Yukon but across Canada, not just with governments, but with many corporations and businesses.
How do you deal with that? You can make a choice. You can do it so it demoralizes people, puts fear in them and causes tremendous stress and is basically extremely heavy handed, or you can do it so it engages them, talks about the problem, works to find solutions together, recognizes thereís a serious problem that has to be addressed but that weíre going to do it together.
The Yukon Party government made a choice; they liked the heavy-handed approach. They like to hammer their employees to the ground. So why was that decision made?
Well, weíve already seen some of the results: a reduction of the workforce. Thereís no question about that. There has also been a demoralization of the workforce; itís not a good place to work. Thereís no confidence in the newly elected people, no belief that they value them. Frankly, if you look at it, in many cases it looks like itís part of the picture. It just happened to fall in their laps. Well, letís use it.
The impact that this is having in the territory is substantial. We have heard many businesses saying, "Weíre not getting the spending that we had." Thatís because people werenít sure if they were going to have a job or not. People werenít sure if they wanted to stay here and work for these people, so they pulled back on their spending and started saving some money, thinking that they might have to quit their job. They might have to search elsewhere and might be facing a move. They just donít want to spend money in a territory working for a government that has no value for them, that is trying to reduce the work force, that has started an investigation against them and has not shown any compassion about it.
Itís a government that wonít take any responsibility for its own actions. Of course, weíve already heard one of the members across the way blame the opposition as the cause of this investigation and all of the problems surrounding it. I donít know what fantasy land heís living in, but I wish heíd come to earth and visit the working people of this territory. Obviously, his position and his perspective donít come from talking to the employees or workers. Itís from sitting in a little office and imagining everything is fine, even though he doesnít know whatís going on, which heís publicly admitted.
We can ill afford to continue along this path. The economy is not doing well. I know the Yukon Party is committed to rejuvenating the non-renewable sector, and I applaud them for that. Thatís always a good task to take on. It shouldnít be the only one. I wish they would dedicate the same kind of interest and dedication to their own employees as they do to re-establishing industries that often say they donít want any government interference. Of course, we know thatís kind of a funny spin on that one because I have never heard one refuse government assistance.
Iíve often seen that people who preach that government should get out of the economy and get out of the private sector, hand out lots of money to the private sector. So the actions and the words donít really work out well, and most people have looked at the way economies work and the way governments work within an economy and recognize that itís just rhetoric, frankly, and the truth is theyíre interrelated, theyíre very well connected, and they do need each other. We canít pretend that you just pull away and everythingís going to be rosy. Thatís not the way it works.
I think they are realizing that across the way, and I see some indications by their commitment in some of these sectors, and I applaud them for some of those initiatives. But the motion today is really around the public servants, and itís around what is happening to them. They make up a huge part of this economy, and thereís no question about it. The Yukon governmentís the biggest employer in the territory. The amount of money that is shared, that is spread out through wages and contracts and other methods, through NGOs, in most cases stays in the Yukon and runs through the whole system. And the goal, of course, is to try to ensure that as much money as possible that we spend stays in the Yukon and cycles through the Yukon economy more than once, that it touches enough people to generate more jobs.
Iím not sure if there is a study out there at this present time. I should ask some of the economists how big of an impact the public servantsí wages and benefits have in the economy. How many times does that money circle through? How many businesses and people and families does that money, that $40,000 wage, how many times does that come through and benefit somebody else? Because that would be a very fascinating study to understand the true impact that one single public servant wage has on our communities and the Yukon.
Actually, Iíd like to see the Yukon government initiate something like that. It would be quite beneficial, I think, for everybody.
Now, in communities ó I know my colleagues will talk more about this ó but in communities, two or three jobs can quite easily have a huge impact on the economy there, when you are talking about a community of 300 or 500 people and youíre talking about wages of anywhere from, say, $35,000 to $55,000. People live there; they spend their money there; they go to the grocery store; they do their recreational stuff there. That can have a significant impact.
When we see a loss of a job in those areas, itís felt; there is no question about it. It is felt not only on an economic side but itís felt on a ó what would be the proper word here? ó on a social side definitely, but on a belief that the community itself is health and strong and continuing.
I feel itís very important that the government recognizes that one or two cuts in a small community send a very dire message, send a very negative message to the community that this government has any faith in it.
I would really encourage the government to be conscious of the mental impact it has ó not just a financial impact, but the mental impact it has on the people who live in these communities. The government must believe in the communities in order to assist the communities to believe in themselves. All governments ó municipal, territorial, federal, First Nation ó we must believe. And we must believe through our actions. So where itís possible we should be trying to generate work and we should be trying to generate work not just through the private sector but also through the public sector.
Thereís a tremendous opportunity to do that, and one way to do that is to not make cuts. Donít allow positions that become empty to remain empty. Donít allow the burden to fall upon the workers who are left, when, in most cases, they are already working very hard. Donít allow that to pile up on top of them. Donít allow services to diminish because of that, but replace people.
Weíve heard of cuts already. The Minister of Education cut 12 positions; there have been cuts in the Health and Social Services areas; Iím sure there are cuts in other areas. Interestingly enough, itís very difficult to get that kind of information. The opposition on this side has asked for it, and we havenít been able to get a good reading on what departments have been most hit because of the actions of this new government.
I would like to see this government reinvest in the public service, reinvest in the very good workers that we do have. Offer more training; indicate to them that they have a tremendous role to play in our economy, in our social well-being, in the fabric of the territory.
I would like to see a change in attitude toward the public servants by the Yukon Party government. I think it would benefit them, frankly.
Now, they can smile; they can think that my words, advice and wish to them is nonsense, but Iím speaking from a workerís perspective. Iím speaking from what itís like to be a public servant and what they would like to see. Iím not standing here speaking from an MLAís position. Iím speaking from their perspective and how they would like to be treated, not what has been happening so far, but how they would like to be treated, how they would like to be valued, how they would like to see their employers place their value ó indicate it, give them some assistance, hire some of these positions back. Thereís no question about it ó the government is awash in money.
The spring gloom-and-doom message was nonsense ó absolute and utter nonsense. And now the money is there. A small investment can go a long way to restoring confidence in our public servants. It can go a long way to indicating to the rest of the people who donít work for the government directly that this government values their employees and stands by them, not against them, which is what we have seen over the last few months.
Thatís my advice, in this regard: stop the cuts, fill some of those positions, and find new ways to serve the public better, re-establish your sense of trust and value in your own employees, and defend your employees once in awhile instead of defending yourself and your departments. Defend your employees, once in awhile. Once, maybe, would be nice.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today. I appreciate the comments by the leader of the official opposition, and Iíve been looking forward to debating this motion that he tabled in the spring.
Mr. Speaker, this motion gives reference to cuts, cuts of $40 million in public spending, and suggests that cuts by this government have had and/or will have a serious negative impact on the territoryís economy.
The supplementary budget that was tabled yesterday refutes these claims here. We have here a total value in the supplementary budget of $95.5 million in expenditures.
Iíd like to refer to a few of the areas in which spending by this government and prudent fiscal management, as well as prudent direction of expenditures, have had a positive effect on building the start of an economic resurgence in the Yukon and ways that, I believe, will have an effect on that.
In an economy there are certain numbers, such as the unemployment figures that were cited by the leader of the official opposition, that are a fairly good indicator of certainly who is working. But there are other trends, other indicators, that show the beginning of a fiscal resurgence of an economic re-growth. The Yukon has been suffering for the last number of years from a made-in-Yukon recession from actions that our caucus here, when we were elected just over a year ago ó a year ago as of yesterday. We believe that the economic problems faced by the Yukon were not due, as some would say, to declining values and mineral costs in the resource sector or to some hocus pocus magic out there that just happened to catch the Yukon. We believe they were directly due to the management and mismanagement of the Yukon by previous governments.
It has been our intention to make sure that we reverse that trend, that we begin the economic resurgence of the Yukon, that we create true economic growth, and economic growth must begin with the private sector. The public sector is a very important part of our lives. Public service employees do deserve great respect because they are responsible for managing the direction that the government takes. But the purpose of a public sector is generally to manage the activities of individuals and of the private sector.
We donít have much of a private sector left in the Yukon today. Those who do have been struggling. We see the signs today ó since our election a year ago and taking office 11 months ago ó that things are starting to turn around, but these things do take time. One thing that our government gave Yukoners, and gave those thinking of investing in the Yukon, was hope. Itís something that theyíve been missing for a long time.
Now, as I said, there have been recent indicators that the economic trends, that the recession weíre facing, are starting to turn around, somewhat like the iceberg ó 90 percent of it is below the surface. Well, weíre starting to see the lead trends that are not visible in many peopleís lives yet ó weíre aware of that. Theyíre starting to have an effect. Thereís the increase in retail sales. They have gone up substantially. Thereís a document that Iím searching for in the pile of papers on my desk ó building permits, numbers from September 2003, released by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics. I believe this is already a public document. I donít believe thereís a need to table this, although I will if requested. These are building permits as of September 2003, prepared by Yukon Bureau of Statistics, released by Statistics Canada, November 4, 2003.
The total value of Yukon building permits increased $18.3 million, or 84.5 percent seasonally adjusted, comparing the period from January to September 2003 with January to September 2002 ó an 84.5-percent increase. Thatís pretty substantial. The value of residential permits in the Yukon increased $2.3 million, or 15.1 percent, while the value of non-residential permits increased $15.9 million, or 265.7 percent, for this period.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Speaker:Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: The Member for Lake Laberge indicated that he is prepared to table a document but he expressed his view that he thought it may already be a public document. Well, Iím not so sure about that because he claims that all the indicators are up. My understanding is that all the indicators are down. So I would request that he do table that document. I certainly would appreciate a copy of it.
Deputy Speaker: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order here. There has been no citing of any Standing Orders that have been breeched. Itís just a dispute between members.
Deputy Speakerís ruling
Deputy Speaker:During the Member for Lake Labergeís comments he indicated a willingness to table the document. As it has been requested by the Member for Kluane that the document be tabled, I would ask the Member for Laberge to do so, to table the documents.
Mr. Cathers: Yes, I am quite happy to table that document at this time so that the hon. Member for Kluane may peruse this to his heartís content.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I thank the Member for Kluane for his helpful interruption.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, Iím trying to regain my train of thought here, as I was referring to the increases in building permits, which have been quite significant as the numbers I just read and the document that I have just tabled will show.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to go over a few areas here that are examples of how this government has taken action to achieve the opposite of what the leader of the opposition has referred to in his speech as far as his comments of an economic reversal.
Iíd first like to reference the community development fund, some of the awards that have been given. This is a tool that has been used by this government, an initiative of the NDP formerly, that we have taken and that we believe we have made improvements to it. It was an initiative that was cancelled by our predecessors, the Liberal government, which we felt was in error. We have taken steps to reinstitute that program at the original funding level, and we have put in place methods that we believe make the awarding of this more successful and more respectful of the technical merits of this program.
We want to be sure that this is a program that doesnít end up, at any point, fostering unfair competition or creating an unfair disparity between people. But we believe that it can be a very valuable tool if properly directed. It has been the action of this government to put in place steps that we believe have made it more capable of being properly directed, and we hope it is being directed in that manner.
Of course, if problems arise ó as problems can arise with any program; nothing is perfect ó we will immediately take those constructive inputs and take the appropriate action.
Some of the areas in which the community development fund has been used to create direct stimulus and direct impact of value to the lives of Yukoners have been in the approval of community development fund for the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation: $13,900 for the youth centre roof repair. This project will create 744 hours of employment for four people. For the Dawson City Art Society, $377,195 is for renovations and additions to the old liquor store. This project will create 3,900 hours of employment for 30 people. For the Dawson Snow Trails Association, $35,000 is for a snow trail groomer. For the Klondike Placer Miners Association, $25,000 is for an executive director. This project will create 1,280 hours of employment for one person. This, of course, is part of this governmentís ongoing commitment to the Yukon placer authorization in developing a fair and complete strategy in cooperation with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which respects the interests of the economy, but also protects fish and fish habitat and puts in place a sensible balance between conservation and requiring purified water to go back into streams that are naturally extremely silty.
There are other community development fund projects. For the Klondike Snowmobile Association, there is $68,935 for the Trans Canada Trail. This project will create 2,460 hours of employment for 10 people. For Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon, there is $21,600 for making reading work. This project will create 680 hours of employment for two people. And thatís an initiative, Mr. Speaker, that Iím very happy to see. I believe that not being able to read is probably the most serious impediment, in some ways, that can be faced by an individual. It is so much of an impediment that it can be as great as a physical handicap in the effect that it has on someoneís life in preventing them from fully participating in society and from understanding society. Itís very beneficial to see this money going forward to assist individuals who have difficulty learning to read in becoming fully capable of reading and fluent. Another project, the Old Crow Recreation Society, received $20,900 for Old Crow youth health and fitness. This project will create 1,950 hours of employment for three people.
The Pelly Banks Aboriginal Society ó $18,200 for restoration. This project will create 1,120 hours of employment for eight people. The Teslin Recreation Society ó $41,986 for playground equipment at the Teslin Friendship Park. This project will create 80 hours of employment for two people. The Teslin Tlingit Council, Village of Teslin received $59,360 for the George Johnston Trail. This project will create 1,600 hours of employment for four people. The Town of Faro and the Ross River Dena Council have been approved for $49,000 for the Dena Cho Trail interpretive plan. This project will create 600 hours of employment for three people. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation received $22,596 to support the Moosehide gathering. This project will create 1,275 hours of employment for three people. The Village of Carmacks ó $65,000 for a visitor kiosk and highway pullout. This project will create 960 hours of employment for three people. Whitehorse Youth Centre ó $24,908, youth worker internship and training. The project will create 960 hours of employment for two people. Youth of Today Society ó $74,592, "bridging the gap". This project will create 3,840 hours of employment for three people. Yukon Council on Disabilities, $44,764 for "fit to work". This project will create 1,184 hours of employment for two people.
For the Yukon ElderActive Recreation Association, there is $25,000 to assist in the hosting of the Canada Senior Games. This project will create 5,030 of employment for three people. This is also part of this governmentís commitment to sports, recreation and toward advancing physical fitness within our society.
Another project: the Yukon River Commercial Fishing Association ó $40,000 for the Yukon River Salmon Cooperative. The project will create 10,440 of employment for 13 people. There is $51,000 for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival. This project will create 1,800 hours of employment for three people.
There are some large community development fund projects. City of Whitehorse ó $75,000 for heritage fire hall renovations. This project will create 2,072 hours of employment for 23 people. Town of Faro ó $120,285 for Faroís golf course cultivation. This project will create 6,000 hours of employment for 10 people. Yukon aboriginal sports circle, $55,000 for aboriginal sport development and aboriginal sport role model program. This project will create 2,080 hours of employment for 11 people. There is $150,000 for the Yukon Arts Centre technical equipment upgrade.
I donít have numbers on how many person hours thatís expected to create.
Mr. Speaker, those are just a few examples of ways our government has expended money to create a direct impact on peopleís lives, to create a direct impact on employment, in assisting people and creating real community impact in a positive manner.
Iíd like to go over a few of the areas in which this supplementary budget for 2003-04 has implemented items ó or, put items in place. I shouldnít refer to them as "implemented", as it hasnít been passed, but it includes items that will also provide direct positive economic impact for Canadians.
In this supplementary budget, we have $100,000 for the Canada Senior Games. For the Canada Winter Games host society and infrastructure fund we have two different line items, each for $2 million. Thereís money in this budget for the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter ó $75,000 core funding. Thatís one that Iím very pleased personally to see, Mr. Speaker. Itís an issue that has been raised by a number of constituents and for which I have previously requested our government allocate funding. Iím very pleased to see that item in the budget.
Mr. Speaker, I have so many items here of good news, itís hard to flip to the right page. Moving on, Mr. Speaker, to more good news here, we have the Tantalus School replacement, an item Iím sure that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun will be very pleased to see: $400,000 for planning the replacement of the Tantalus School. This has been an ongoing concern of the community of Carmacks. It has been a request that they have asked for time and time again, and this government has taken the action to address that demonstrated need.
Mr. Speaker, Iíve heard the members opposite go on and on for what seems like hours or perhaps days about this government favouring its own, only giving money to our friends and only supporting our constituents ó $400,000 for the Tantalus School replacement in a riding that is represented by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who happens to sit in the NDP caucus. We represent all Yukoners and make best efforts to address the needs of all Yukoners. Previous governments, including one that the current Member for Mayo-Tatchun was a member of, did nothing to address the need in Carmacks for a new school. We have allocated those funds and, subject to the approval of this Legislature, that money for the planning of replacing the Tantalus School will be flowing in this fiscal year.
Yet another commitment to education ó Porter Creek Secondary School, shop and cafeteria expansion, $200,000.
Mr. Speaker, moving on to more education items, this government is currently spending $1 million on an education needs assessment. We have made it very clear to all Yukoners that it is the intention of our government, where a demonstrated need exists, to fill it.
I heard the leader of the opposition, in his discussion on this motion, refer to a cut of 12 teachers by this government in the spring. I am very happy to let the leader of the opposition know that we have increased teachers and education assistants where a demonstrated need exists. In fact, in this supplementary budget there is $456,000 for increasing teachers and education assistants in the schools.
Mr. Speaker, another thing our government is very proud of is the rapid agreement with the teachers on their contract. We made it very clear that we would deal with teachers and with the public employees in a fair manner when we were constructing contracts. We wouldnít get into an intense adversarial situation of trying to whittle them down to the lowest possible dollar. We make it clear ó our governmentís commitment to those areas and our respect toward the job that they do.
We want the best and so we intend to pay for the best. We have given to the teachers a very fair offer and to the public employees an offer that we feel is fair and we will be, I understand, hearing from arbitration on that ó that was a less fortunate side.
But to the teachers, we presented an offer that was second to none, and we received a rapid agreement with them. The previous government got into the first ever teacher strike in Yukonís history. We laid a fair offer on the table and received approval.
We have more money in here to address the needs of education, proving our governmentís commitment to the future, to our young people, the children who will one day grow up to do everything in society. We hope to have them well-educated in doing so.
For the Association of Yukon School Councils, there is $60,000 in this supplementary budget. School council honorarium, $50,000 ó this was a priority area for us. Earlier on this year when we faced a very uncertain, at best, financial future, we were forced to trim a large number of areas that we were not happy about, but through sound fiscal management and through our success with the federal government on the census undercount issue, we are in the position now where we are fortunately able to address these issues that we feel are of great importance. There is $50,000 in here for honoraria for school councils.
But the good news doesnít end there. Yukoners are well aware of the success achieved by our government, in cooperation with the other two territories, on the health care front ó how our Premier approached the premiers of the N.W.T. and Nunavut ó and, in cooperation, they went forward to the federal government and laid down a hard line and made it very clear that the federal government, for years, has not been properly addressing the needs of our citizens.
Per capita funding does not address the needs of the northern territories. The three northern territories in total comprise 39 percent of Canadaís land mass, yet we only have a few thousand people. The areas we must cover, the distances we must travel ó the distances involved when people require emergency medical treatment or surgery to reach a major medical centre ó are far, far greater than those in southern centres.
The northern health care accord is a $60-million agreement ó $20 million per territory ó for three years. Whatís more important is that we have finally achieved, for the first time in history ó this government, in cooperation with our two northern neighbours, has finally got the federal government to admit that per capita funding does not address the needs of northern Canadians.
This is a very historic step, and it applies in other areas. It has been referred to before, the large amounts of money ó I canít recall the figures. It was $1 billion and some handed out by the federal government for daycare, but the amount that accrues to the Yukon is a mere $23,000.
$23,000 ó that vast number that sounds so wonderful when they announce it, but it means very little to northern Canadians, because they have not been addressing our needs and recognizing that per capita funding does not work for northern Canadians. Mr. Speaker, it was a very, very historic achievement that the three northern territories were able to get on this, achieving the admission from the federal government that per capita funding does not address our needs and receiving the agreement of all the provinces and their support for us in our approach to the federal government on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, I have some other notes on the health care issue that I also must flip through my notes for. For diagnostic medical equipment, there is $500,000 in this supplementary budget. It is this governmentís intention to fully meet the needs of Yukoners in health care to the best of our ability. We are still underfunded by the federal government. That $20 million that we will receive over the three-year period only addressed the rising costs of health care per year. This is still an area where we are facing rising costs in the order of $7 million to $10 million per year upon taking office. This is an area that every jurisdiction in this country is having trouble dealing with: the ageing population, the rising cost of prescription drugs, a number of factors. Mr. Speaker, this is not an easy area to deal with. Itís a very difficult portfolio that the Member for Klondike, the Minister of Health and Social Services, has taken on in dealing with this, but we are making every effort to meet those needs to the very best of our ability.
Mr. Speaker, this supplementary budget is composed of money to fulfill our platform commitments ó as well as items in response to the needs of our constituents and all Yukoners as well as, of course, the large number of ongoing items and needs which were continuing when we took office.
The leader of the opposition attacks us rather heavily on this budget. My understanding is that he was claiming that we pled poverty in the spring session when such was not the case. I would encourage the leader of the official opposition to actually look at the books. I am a little surprised to see this, as it is my understanding that the leader of the opposition is actually the chair of the Public Accounts Committee. I would think that he would have access to this information and realize that much of the information is contained in this supplementary budget, without even getting into a detailed account analysis of the money that this government has succeeded in adding to the surplus through sound fiscal management.
We worked hard to create this surplus. The census undercount was a very large item. The census undercount ó as many Yukoners are aware, as weíve spoken on this before ó was an ongoing issue that weíve been dealing with with the Government of Canada, the argument being that Statistics Canada, in their census, undercounts the population of the Yukon and has been doing so consistently.
You may recall in the last Legislature, Mr. Speaker, that one of the major issues that came up constantly ó the grave worry of the future ó was the issue of the census adjustment that was expected and with the outflow of Yukoners from the territory. The expectation was that the Yukon would be facing a major, major adjustment in the transfer payments.
We had booked, as advised by the Department of Finance, $15 million as a contingency fund to cover costs that we expected to occur in that area. We expected to have the federal government cut our transfer payments and $15 million was the amount that was booked to deal with that possible adjustment Ė because that adjustment was retroactive to transfer payments.
However, through hard work on the part of the Premier, who is the Minister of Finance, and his Finance department officials, they succeeded in making the case successfully to the federal government that the federal government has been consistently undercounting the number of Yukoners back to 1996.
Mr. Speaker, this supplementary budget is $95.5 million. Forty-four point nine of that is directly due to the transfer of control of Yukon lands and resources from the Government of Canada to the Yukon under the devolution transfer agreement.
There were 245 federal employees transferred from the federal government to the Yukon government. The money coming from the federal government was pursuant to the devolution transfer agreement. The exact numbers were not known at the time of the last budget, which is why they were not included in it, but the ballpark basic amount of it was no secret.
So, $44.9 million of this $95.5 million budget is directly due to devolution. We were criticized this summer for putting that money ó which was a direct flow-through from the federal government, already committed to specified areas ó through in a special warrant rather than recalling the House at that point.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I think the House is not supposed to be a place for us to waste our time. Itís supposed to achieve productive results, and everyone who analyzed this knew that that $44.9 million was a direct flow-through from the federal government, already committed to designated activities.
Not only is this supplementary budget large, but the surplus is indeed large now. However, this is due to hard work. Upon taking office, this government tried very hard to get a handle on the fiscal picture, to make sure that money that had been voted on for a certain purpose, but not utilized, was not then reallocated to a new purpose.
Itís prudent fiscal management.
Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the first thing any prudent and intelligent business person does when taking over a new business, or any sensible government does upon taking office, is to get a handle on what is being spent and how. We are here to manage government. And whether you like it or not, finances are required to do every single thing that government wants to do.
Now, there are times when I suspect that the leader of the opposition would rather just deal with broad concepts and theories, but you have to have the dollars to back it up. Everything the government does require money. Even the communists, in their attempt to create a perfect system in which everyone would work together and love each other, were brought to their knees in the end because even they came down to the bottom line of any economy, of any system, which is that money is required. Government canít just pull out the printing presses and print off more money, because pretty soon it doesnít mean anything. Inflation goes right through the ceiling, and soon the money you have isnít worth the paper itís printed on. You might as well just light your fires.
So as I say, Mr. Speaker, the first thing any prudent, intelligent business person does when they take over a new business, or a sensible government does upon taking office, is to get a handle on whatís being spent. You take money that has been allocated to wasteful or non-productive areas of expenditure, and you redirect those funds to areas that will create real benefit and real economic growth.
Letís make no mistake. The private sector is the engine of the economy. The government is a very necessary component of our society and system in keeping balance, in creating regulations and making sure that we are not all put at the mercy of whoever has the biggest wallet or the biggest army. But the private sector has always been, and always will be, the engine of any economy.
Studies from around the world ó New Zealand, World Bank studies ó show the amount it costs for government to take a dollar from the private sector and spend it. Those studies show that the cost for one dollar is at least between $1.30 and $1.60 on average, and it can be as high as $3.
So, Mr. Speaker, the goal of this government has to be to foster private sector growth. Weíre doing this on a number of fronts. The recently formed Red Tape Review Committee ó a platform commitment weíve delivered on ó was put in place to address this need and to fix this problem. The committee is chaired by my colleague, the Member for Copperbelt, and I am a member of this committee. The goal of this committee is to reduce regulations and red tape, to eliminate overlap and duplication. Basically, we want to make sure that the regulations, laws, policies, et cetera, that are in place are sensible, needed and achieve the intended effect, and that businesses, private citizens and whoever are not required to jump through unnecessary hoops or cut through morasses of red tape to get something done. We want to remove the roadblocks to peopleís lives and to economic growth in particular, because the economy has been addressed as the main concern of Yukoners.
This government was elected a year and one day ago and took office 11 months ago. On the doorsteps a year ago, I can tell you that the economy was by far the main issue which my constituents were concerned about. Economic growth is of course the main goal that we have to achieve.
Now, these things do take time. Upon taking office, it takes awhile to get a handle on where everything is, and then you begin taking steps to achieve real effect. I believe that weíve made a lot of progress there. I believe that the steps that have been taken have already begun that economic turnaround. The more than doubling of investment in mining exploration in this year, when compared to last year, is a real positive sign. The Yukonís investment in mining exploration has been in a downward trend since 1996, which just happened to be the last time a Yukon Party government was in power.
It has been going down and down and down. This year it has gone up. It has gone up in large part due to the efforts of my colleague, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and his department. They have been working very hard on this issue, on speaking to investors, going to the Cordilleran Roundup and other venues to promote Yukonís willingness ó we are open for business. We are not saying to anyone, "Come in and do whatever; we are not going to pay attention to it." There are in place a lot of regulations to control land use and to make sure that development does not have an adverse impact on the environment. The goal is laudable. In some cases there is a tremendous amount of red tape in those areas.
The Yukon, I believe, has a record of taking four years, on average, to approve or disapprove a major mine application.
Other jurisdictions, such as Manitoba, have a set timeline. I understand it is six months for Manitoba. The application is made, there is an environmental review thatís very clear ó what the process is for environmental review, for community input, for assessment. It is assessed, the decision is given: yes or no.
They come to the Yukon and, for the last number of years, they have been told, "Come to the Yukon and four years from now we might get around to giving you a decision on this, but maybe not. But it might be." Or they can go to Manitoba and six months later they find out yes or no. It costs companies a lot of time to sit and wait for government to make up its mind.
Unfortunately, it seems that one thing previous governments have not been aware of is the effect that even a couple of weeks of government delay can have on a business. It can be enough to stop the project. Well, if weíre going to stop the project, letís let them know right off the bat what the rules are and why it would end up being stopped ó not take so long to find ourselves that we never know whether itís going to happen or not.
The protected areas strategy, which was undertaken by our two predecessor governments, was a perfect example of disastrous government policy. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, upon taking office, one of the first things our government did was to cancel that protected areas strategy.
Let me be perfectly clear: this government does not condone and has no intention of permitting environmental devastation. We want companies, resource developers, to be responsible corporate citizens and we want to take every necessary step to make sure that they are responsible corporate citizens. If they are not, they reap the consequences of their actions ó not Yukoners.
This government made it very clear that the Yukon Territory is open for business.
I spoke of our surplus in this budget ó $69.7 million. Of this, $34.5 million is the result of direct actions taken by this government. Of that surplus, $23 million came as a direct result of the work on the census undercount issue and successfully convincing the federal government that it had underestimated the Yukon population for a number of years. On top of that, there was $15 million that had been booked for the contingency fund, assuming our transfer payments were cut, which they were not. There is $38 million directly as a result of that work.
Additionally, there is $10 million from the dissolution of the permanent fund. This was an initiative of the previous Liberal government that was based on their taking a look at Alaskaís fund and the Alberta heritage fund. It had large amounts of money sitting in the bank and the interest from these funds could be used for valuable and positive public activities.
Those funds were very successful. However, the previous government took a mere $10 million at a time when interest rates were at an unprecedented low and put it into a fund, set aside where it could do nothing except just sit there and earn very poor interest.
That did not make sense, particularly when the Yukon is in a time of unprecedented economic trouble. It is the intention of this government to sensibly utilize government money to create long-term economic benefit to Yukoners and other initiatives such as the community development fund to create short-term economic benefit so that we donít see Yukon citizens, Yukon contractors, employees, numerous private companies leaving the territory because they have no work. We have put this in place as a short-term solution to keep them here, because once they go itís hard to get them back, and if we get them back for a project such as the pipeline ó the touted saviour of the Yukonís economic fortunes by the previous government, the solution from heaven, perhaps. Even if it does come through, which certainly it looks very hopeful that it will someday, but thatís down the road, by the time it ever got to that stage, who would be left in the Yukon that would have the skills to work on that pipeline? There is a grave, grave chance that the people working on that pipeline would all be transient workers from Alberta, B.C., et cetera, and that very little of the money would end up staying in the Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Point of order, Mr. Chair. Iíve been listening to these circular arguments from the Member for Lake Laberge, and Iím concerned that he may be too dizzy to drive home tonight, and I would ask you to remind him to stick to the contents of the motion.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order. Iím simply presenting the arguments for how this government has achieved the opposite of what the motion says it has, and itís simply an amusing commentary by the Member for Kluane.
Speaker:The Chair rules that there is no point of order. It is simply a dispute between members, and I ask the Member for Laberge to carry on, please.
Mr. Cathers: I appreciate the Member for Kluaneís sense of humour on this, though I must say that, as enjoyable as it has been being back in the House and listening to the comments, helpful suggestions and witty ó or not so witty ó attacks from the members opposite, I am a little bit puzzled as to what they think this is. The leader of the opposition earlier referred to tap dancing. Does he think this is a dance class? Now the Member for Kluane ó is he under the impression that this is a comedy club?
Another comment earlier by the leader of the opposition to one of my caucus colleagues and suggested that he come down to earth. I would like to express my relief that the story carried in the newspaper earlier this summer about the leader of the official opposition being kidnapped by aliens appears to have been inaccurate or, if it was indeed accurate, that they seem to have returned him in full health.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I must express to the members opposite how much I appreciate their witty commentary and suggestions that are undoubtedly intended to be helpful on this.
Now, to regain my train of thought, this government has also made it very clear that we believe all governments in this territory must work together ó rather than spending their time fighting each other ó if we, as Yukoners, are to move forward. We made it clear during the election campaign, and have made every attempt to make this clear since taking office, that we respect the final agreements with Yukon First Nations. We recognize that they are a constitutionally recognized order of government. They have their role, as the Yukon government has its role. Previous governments seem to have spent a tremendous portion of their time fighting with Yukon First Nations.
There are difficult areas of discussion that must be resolved from time to time in certain matters with First Nations, and we recognize that. We will have areas of disagreement, but we will always ó always ó endeavour to have any disagreements conducted respectfully and fairly. We respect that they are a level of government.
Mr. Speaker, it is incumbent upon the Yukon government, and the governments of Yukon First Nations, to work together for the good of all Yukoners. It has been a belief of mine and other members of this caucus, as well as a point we promoted very heavily during the election campaign of just over a year ago, that if weíre not working together, no one is going to be working at all.
Itís very, very important that we work together and, where areas of dispute exist, we must make every effort to resolve those in a fair and respectful manner.
There have been a number of areas where this has been proven by this government: signing of consultation protocols outlining how the Yukon government consults with First Nations and how they consult with us, and what areas that must apply to; there has been the agreement with the Kaska Nation, the bi-lateral accord that, in absence of a land claim, is intended to allow Yukoners to permit access of investment into that area. This has been a benefit for Kaska members and all other Yukoners alike.
The federal government has pulled away from land claims negotiation with the Kaska Nation. We do not, unfortunately sometimes, control the federal government, but weíre making every effort to work together with or without federal involvement on this issue.
We remain committed to settling land claims once and for all, moving forward together as Yukoners toward a brighter future. But we do not control the federal elements of this and we are working together to the best of our ability to achieve agreement with First Nations to get economic activity, investment, resource development and other activities happening within traditional territories with the agreement of the Yukon government and of the First Nation government to achieve economic result for all Yukon citizens.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke earlier of the Holy Grail, for lack of a better word ó the solution from heaven touted by our predecessors, the Liberal government of the day ó of the Alaska Highway pipeline. Well, our government has been very clear that we do support the Alaska Highway pipeline. But unlike our predecessors, weíre not putting all our eggs in one basket. In fact, for them, it wasnít just all the eggs in one basket; there was only one egg in the basket, and it was an egg that you wouldnít be able to cook for a long, long time.
One of the reasons that the producers have favoured the Mackenzie Valley route going first is because of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group in the area. Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear, as I believe we as a government have always been, that it is the producers who will make the decisions on which pipeline will go first or if any will go at all or if both will be built, or whatever happens. And we do believe that both pipelines will probably be built, based on the best assessment of the indicators that we can come up with. But it certainly looks like the Mackenzie Valley route will probably be built first.
There are questions around that. Certainly the recent controversy regarding a federal official and alleged impropriety regarding land transactions could create a potential problem for that.
But the issue in this area is: how did the Mackenzie Valley route get approval from the producers over the Alaska Highway route? In large part, that was due to the existence, the formation, of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group in the Northwest Territories that put the First Nations in the area together in a group that made it very clear that they were willing and happy to see pipeline development.
Our predecessors, the Liberal government of the day, didnít do the groundwork in this area. So when producers looked at where to put a pipeline, they say that the Northwest Territories, the people are ready for this, the First Nations are ready for this, the non-First Nation people are ready for this, the roadblocks are being removed ó letís go. They look to the Yukon and say, well, it doesnít appear that the Premier has even picked up the phone to talk to the First Nations. We believed that had to change and so we have done so. We have the groundwork, and in this supplementary budget there is $250,000 for the Yukonís Aboriginal Pipeline Group. $100,000 of that is relocated from amounts that our predecessors had committed to the Alaska Highway pipeline and $150,000 of that is new money. We have put that in place. We have worked on the formation of the group. It is not complete but the indications are very positive. We have very positive relations with all the First Nations along the corridor where the pipeline would be built, and we are making every effort to improve those relations and to overcome any areas of difficulty that lie between us.
Another area of resource development for which we have put money in the supplementary budget is forest engineering. The work needs to be done to allow forestry to happen, to recreate the forest resource sector within the Yukon ó $500,000.
Mr. Speaker, Iím once again receiving helpful suggestions from the members opposite and questions about the relevance to the motion. Iíd like to point out the motion by the leader of the official opposition refers to the economic health and stability of Yukon communities and to cutbacks in government spending. This is the clear evidence that these cutbacks that are referenced have been overridden by the fiscal commitments of this government toward areas of need and where we can create economic growth.
The opposition seems to be in a very helpful mood, Mr. Speaker.
Infrastructure is very important for the development of the Yukon economy. The ability to access resources is important to get resource development companies to come to the Yukon. The improvement of existing infrastructure is necessary so that travel on the roads is possible, so that travel on the roads does not do damage to roads that are wearing thin, and a number of our roads are also fairly narrow. Efforts must be made, whenever possible, to address that.
The supplementary budget includes $500,000 for an engineering assessment of the Robert Campbell Highway in order to reconstruct that link to levels that will enable real economic activity on it. So for highways planning there is $500,000.
Another area, Mr. Speaker, not directly related to the infrastructure as far as roads go but, with communications infrastructure, is the rural electrification and telephone program. This is a program that is of great value to rural Yukoners, to my constituents, and to the constituents of other rural MLAs. As youíre probably aware, the program has government investment to put in place the infrastructure and then has a set criterion by which repayment must occur from the individuals. This government has committed an additional $300,000 on top of previously committed amounts to address the needs in this area and to enable more Yukoners to have electricity and telephone service at their homes.
Mr. Speaker, personally, I can comment that this is really a wonderful thing. For the majority of my life, Iíve lived off the power grid, and it has only been since my election and purchase of a house out on the Mayo Road that I had access to the electricity grid. Previously, being across Lake Laberge, the costs of getting hooked up to the electrical grid would have been far in excess of the cost of running a generator or putting in place solar panels for perpetuity. So it really does make peopleís lives quite a bit easier. Itís something that Yukoners in Whitehorse take for granted. But for my constituents and the constituents of other rural members, itís something that can make a very positive impact on making someoneís life easier and also in providing the electricity through more environmentally sustainable and sensible manners.
I would like to go over some more highlights here and go through some by department here now. We created the Department of Economic Development. This was cancelled by the previous government, the Liberal government of the day. It was cancelled by our predecessors at the time when the Yukon needed this department the most, but they got rid of it.
As committed to in our platform, as requested by Yukoners, we have created the Department of Economic Development. It is currently being constructed and its workplan is being developed in consultation with industry stakeholders.
The budget for this department is $7,956,000 and has a number of areas under this, including film industry funds of $825,000; business incentive policy ó which I know the leader of the opposition cares greatly about and I commend him for his interest in that valuable program ó $862,000; the strategic industries development program, $200,000; jobs and contract possibilities under this department ó $200,000 has been put into developing the Old Crow winter road.
Another item in the forestry area that I overlooked before is the money that weíve put in for forestry renewal and for an assessment of the beetle kill area. I know the Member for Kluane is no doubt very concerned about the beetle kill by Haines Junction and the danger of it catching on fire, particularly in light of the situation that happened in Kelowna this summer.
Itís something that this government is very concerned about as well, and efforts will be made to address this area. Of course, to that end, we have allocated $250,000 in this supplementary budget.
Mr. Speaker, our government made a very clear commitment during the campaign, before we were government, to address the problem of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. This is a platform commitment that we have delivered on, and will continue delivering on. In this supplementary budget, there is the allocation of $1 million for this fiscal year, including areas such as education, training for teachers in trades, and this is a program that will be in place for three years. So, there is $3 million over the life of this program and $1 million in this year.
We addressed the problems in childcare, or began to address the problems. We are working on a fuller solution to it, in cooperation with stakeholders and partners. We increased the direct operating grants for childcare by $675,000 ó delivering on a platform commitment.
Another platform commitment was to index the student grant. That has been done. There is $100,000 in this supplementary budget.
We committed to increasing the pioneer utility grant to make life easier for our seniors who are often far more short of funds than we would like to see at that stage in their lives. We increased that by 25 percent and indexed that against inflation. The item for that in this supplementary budget is $47,000.
Mr. Speaker, another area that this government has made a commitment to is road maintenance. There is $750,000 in this supplementary budget for road maintenance on secondary roads. This is to improve the safety of Yukoners, and it is intended to increase auxiliary and casual employment.
This is an issue that is very important to many of my constituents, because the majority of my constituents access their homes by secondary roads.
Mr. Speaker, in other areas, on the cultural side, there is the Film Commission. We put $1 million into that, and it is expected that that will leverage between $3 million to $5 million.
There are other signs of economic growth and interest in growth. It is my understanding that this yearís geoscience forum, which is to take place this month, has far more booths than last year. I believe the number is over 100 more. There is tremendous interest in that. It is proof that industry is looking at this territory and seeing that, finally, we have a government in place that is willing to work with industry to move forward and create economic growth.
Industryís interests, businessmenís interests, are in making money. And you know what they do when they make money? They go out and spend it to make more money. And you know where that money goes? It goes to employ people, private citizens.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: To employ workers ó exactly.
But, Mr. Speaker, lest you think itís all about the economy, weíve made commitments to address social issues. Iíve mentioned the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder ó a commitment to funding for that. And this month, being the prevention of abuse of women month, it seems an appropriate time for a tabling of this supplementary budget, which has an increase of $100,000 to address the issues of family violence and violence against women, to prevent them.
Let me be very clear that it is important that everyone feel safe in their homes, on the streets, everywhere, and Iím very glad to see that commitment, and this is something that will address the social needs as well.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Point of order, Mr. Chair. Obviously the government side is filibustering this motion because it doesnít want to get to the other motion on the unpaid loans. This speaker has been going at it for more than an hour and a quarter. As a matter of fact, weíve heard dead silence for about the last half a minute. He has clearly run out of things to say. The honourable thing for him to do would be to sit down and let somebody else speak.
Speaker: The Member for Laberge, on the point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I want to lay out the full picture. There is no point of order. Iím merely attempting to lay out the full picture for the members opposite who, through their comments by the leader earlier in his commentary, as well as other comments in the House, have made it clear that they do not understand the good financial activity that has been done by this government.
Speaker:The Chair feels that there is no point of order. It is simply a dispute between members. I would ask the Member for Laberge to carry on, please.
Mr. Cathers: I apologize if the members opposite become impatient with me looking through my notes of all the wonderful, good things that have been done by this government that are increases in spending and designed to contribute to the economic health and stability of every Yukon community.
Other commitments under the Department of Health and Social Services are family service staffing, $210,000; autistic children, $133,000; child residential treatment, $502,000; group and receiving homes, $460,000; residence group home, $298,000; increase of money for health and hospital, $1,809,000; medical travel, $389,000; ambulance for the community of Ross River ó I know my colleague, the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, will be very glad to see the needs of his constituents being addressed by this ó $85,000.
I am just overcome with all of the wonderful initiatives that our government has undertaken.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I think I heard the Member for Kluane comment that he is dizzy with delight as well. I am very glad to hear that.
This government has been pursuing what we call a Team Yukon approach to work with all Yukoners in the public sector and in the private sector to move forward. The motion by the leader of the opposition references cuts of $40 million and suggests that they will impact public employees. Despite the reductions this government was forced to make earlier this year, no personnel were laid off. The suggestion has been by the leader of the opposition in his commentary that this government was deliberately not filling vacancies for the purpose of cutting expenditures. The direction to the contrary of that was issued. It was made clear to departments that they were not to lay off employees or create vacancies for the purpose of balancing their budgets.
Let me correct the member on what the commitment that we made in the election was. Certainly on the doorsteps to my constituents I made it very clear what the intent of this was, of this commitment by our party to this ó that we would not lay off Yukoners from the public service for the purpose of balancing the budget. There was nothing said about vacancies or managed vacancies or a commitment to always rehire for a position if it was let go. We made it clear that we were not going to cut your job to take away your paycheque to balance our books. That was the commitment, and that commitment was fulfilled and will be fulfilled.
Mr. Speaker, another thing I heard the leader of the opposition talk about ó he seemed to be saying that all companies had their hands out and never turned down government money. Well, I think thatís very disrespectful of businessmen and businesswomen. As someone from a business background, I tell you with great pride that the company in which I have an interest never took a government grant or loan, never wanted anything. Other people make different choices at different times, for different reasons. But to suggest that all corporations are just out there looking for a government handout is very, very disrespectful of the hardworking members of the private sector. The entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy. Theyíre not the only important members. Everyone plays a role in this economy, in this society. Everyone is of value.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I apologize for getting up for a third time ó or is it a fourth time? But the member has gone on for an hour and a half now. If he wants to talk about unpaid loans, letís call this motion and get to the next one, which is on the unpaid loans. Itís almost as if the member doesnít want us to get to that other motion on unpaid loans today.
Speaker: Member for Laberge, on the point of order.
Mr. Cathers: There is no point of order. The Member for Kluane is simply interrupting me on the argument I am laying out on this motion.
Speaker:The Chair feels that there is no point of order and asks the member to carry on and reminds the House that the member replying has unlimited time. Please carry on.
Mr. Cathers: I am wondering here if the Member for Kluane is just getting impatient to adjourn the House or something.
Back to my argument here and to conclude on the point I was making when the Member for Kluane interrupted me, Yukon business people are very hardworking and, over the last number of years under the NDP government and the Liberal government, they have faced a very, very hostile regulatory environment. I applaud those who have had the tenacity and commitment to this territory to stick it out and stay on here so. Itís not an easy environment to deal with, and I commend them for doing that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I will try to take the suggestions from the members opposite with the good humour and intent that I am sure is intended.
In the interest of moving along the debate, since the Member for Kluane seems to be getting very impatient at this point, I will at this time thank the House for their rapt attention. I assume that thatís rapt attention that I am reading on the face of the Member for Kluane, unless he has swallowed his gum.
I thank the House for their attention on this and, in closing, Mr. Speaker, I will have to oppose this motion as it is very, very grossly inaccurate on a large number of points. I commend the spirit of the motion but they need to do their research a little better.
Mr. McRobb: Wasnít that a spectacle to behold, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest the member take a taxi home tonight because Iím not sure if heíll recover from all those circular arguments in time. Heíll be too dizzy to drive.
Mr. Speaker, instead of taking an hour and a half, Iím going to limit my comments to about three or four minutes, which is what you would have if you condensed the comments from the Member for Lake Laberge down to anything constructive.
The cuts to the civil service imposed by the Yukon Party in its main budget, and the impact on the territory, was some $40 million. Some of that has been replaced by the supplementary budget. For instance, Mr. Speaker, Iíll talk for a minute about the highway maintenance cuts.
In the main spring budget, the cut across the board was about three percent; however, maintenance in the Klondike region increased by some 20 percent. So I did some calculations and discovered that if the increase to Klondike was also subtracted, the real cut across the territory became some 7.3 percent.
This is to highway maintenance, Mr. Speaker. This is to plow our roads in the wintertime, cropping vegetation alongside the roads, patching potholes and any other kind of maintenance to our highways ó the replacement of vehicles and employee wages and so on.
I know the previous NDP government had a commitment to never cut highway maintenance for obvious reasons of public safety and import to Yukoners, so, when I saw such a tremendous cut, it was quite shocking.
There is another figure that balloons that 7.3-percent cut up to nearly 14 percent, and that was the rip-and-reshape upgrade to the highway north of Beaver Creek that was undertaken this summer. Its cost was some $2 million, and it was entered under a maintenance cost when, in fact, it was capital upgrading. If you subtract that $2 million, the real cut becomes some 14 percent Yukon-wide, and thatís really outrageous.
Now, I note in the supplementary budget that there is some $750,000 allocated toward highway maintenance. I think we on this side can take some credit to the reinstitution of some of the budget that was cut. Obviously, thatís the result of bringing some flame to the toes of the Minister of Highways and his colleagues on this matter, as well as them hearing from other Yukoners about the importance of highway maintenance in the territory. Let them learn a good lesson from this ó donít try to cut something as important as highway maintenance and shuffle the money into their pet projects that might serve their own interests in their own ridings.
Now, in the spring Legislature, I indicated some of the employee cuts that were suffered in my riding. I wonít go into too much detail. There were some highway cuts that Iím quite concerned about and would like to see replaced. There were a couple of social positions. One of them was promised for Haines Junction but it never materialized. It was cut by this Yukon Party government. And I would like to re-emphasize the importance that even one employee has in communities like Haines Junction.
Each employee usually has a family, has people in school, they buy groceries at the store and other items in the community, they participate in community events and so on and so forth, and help to make the community what it is. And when those positions are cut, all of that is lost, and you end up with a greater level of real estate on the market, which, in turn, deflates the average price of a house if there are more for sale than the market demand can take up. So all of these factors are negative, and all of them need to be considered whenever the government makes cuts to jobs in the communities and the public service in general.
Our leader referred to the real economic impact of the public service. The public service tends to re-spend money in the communities where it works, and in the situation of rural Yukon, Mr. Speaker, that money circulates several times over and then ultimately usually recycles in Whitehorse itself and sometimes back out again. That money is kept and retained in our economy for quite awhile. And I recall a study done on this a number of years ago, and I seem to recall a figure ó something like six times is the average number for this same money being re-spent when itís spent on the public service in the first instance.
So we have a lot of benefits from retaining our public service, who by and large do a wonderful job in this territory, helping to make it what it is. I certainly give my encouragement to all the members of the public service to be more like the Clerk of the Assembly, who is approaching his 25th year, which is really something to behold. One day soon, Iím sure, we will all be honouring the Clerk of the Assembly for his many years of some fascinating service to all legislatures in this House.
I note with some amusement that the Clerk also seems to be amused, and I appreciate that.
The public service has been operating in a lot of fear in the past year, certainly for several months at least. I have become aware of that from talking to several people employed by the government from around the territory. This seems to be a characteristic of how they feel when there is a Yukon Party government in place. I would have thought this government had learned a valuable lesson from its predecessor, and that is not to try to prosper at the expense of the public service. Sadly, it seems that no lesson has been learned. I know that relations between the public service and this Yukon Party government are not very good, and thatís probably an understatement.
So I think I have reached the end of my three or four minutes. I know there will be lots of opportunity in the days ahead to readdress matters such as these and go on and talk about the supplementary budget, which was finally tabled after a five-and-a-half-day embargo. It was finally tabled yesterday.
We all might hear the budget speech tomorrow, which would be in excess of a week after the original lock-up, so we will have to wait and see what happens.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It gives me great pleasure to stand before the House and speak to this motion today.
It is my opinion that the leader of the official opposition strayed from the motion and spoke about a personnel issue regarding the computer investigation; therefore, Mr. Speaker, I will start by making some comments with regard to the comments made by the member opposite.
Mr. Speaker, the computer investigation is a personnel matter and a breach of the Yukon governmentís workplace harassment policy and a violation of the Human Rights Act. The Public Service Commission, by law, was required to investigate. The investigation was conducted with strict confidentiality and respect. Under the Public Service Act, the power to conduct these investigations rests with the Public Service Commission and the deputy ministers.
Mr. Speaker, the computer investigation was a matter dealt with by the deputy ministers and Public Service Commission. It is a personnel matter. There is no political involvement in this process. When members opposite say that I am not a leader because I refused to direct the computer investigation, it is important to note that I was not involved. It was the right thing for me not to be involved.
Just as the Member for Mount Lorne put in his press release last month, information on personnel issues is not normally a part of public debate. The investigation into computer misuse was a personnel matter properly handled by the Public Service Commission and the deputy ministers.
In my opinion, the opposition would do justice to all government employees by putting this issue to rest. It is our governmentís position that this investigation is over.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be a member of a government that takes pride in doing what is right for all citizens in the Yukon Territory. The budgets presented speak for themselves. I will not repeat what has already been said by members on this side of the House.
However, I am very pleased with the support I have received from my colleagues, and the Yukon Territory can look forward to good governance and a bright future. In my opinion, the intent of the motion is incorrect; therefore, I am opposed to this motion.
Ms. Duncan: Where to begin in addressing this motion. There is a great deal to talk about concerning the Yukon Party and the economy ó unfortunately, very little of it positive ó and there is also much to discuss in terms of the Yukon Partyís relationship with the public servants ó again, very little of it positive.
Mere months ago, the Premier and Finance minister was advising Yukoners of doom and gloom because the government was going broke. Now, he has revealed he only missed his guesstimate on the budget surplus for the end of the fiscal year by $60 million. This smacks of gross financial mismanagement on the part of the government. The Premier fumbled the ball on the surplus projection very badly, and the ones who have suffered, and are going to suffer, are Yukoners looking for work and, as the motion indicates, our professional public service.
Yukoners were promised a year and a few days ago that their economic outlook would be rosy under the Yukon Party government. Unfortunately, all weíre feeling these days are the thorns.
The Finance minister said the budget surplus would be $1 million on March 31, 2004. Well, in his much ballyhooed but empty budget, the figure is $61 million. The Finance minister spent all summer saying they were broke, using it as an excuse for an abysmal job creation record, yet all the time knowing they were sitting on a very large pile of cash. And I say this, Mr. Speaker, because itís well known in this Legislature that the state of the surplus is item number 2 on the Management Board agenda. It is always item number 2. Iím not saying anything thatís new or revealing a Cabinet secret. That information was tabled in the Legislature by the previous, previous opposition. So itís item number 2 on the agenda.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker:Member for Klondike, on a point of order
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 3(1), there appears not to be a quorum present in the House.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Well, on the point of order, Mr. Chair, if, indeed, the government House leader is correct, and you pro-rate the percentage present from the opposition benches to the government side, you see, in fact, itís the Yukon Party who is not here in the same numbers today.
Speaker: According to the Standing Order 3(2), "If, at any time during a sitting of the Assembly, the Speaker's 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 the bells off and I will do a count.
There are 14 members present. A quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
The hon. member of the third party, please continue. I believe you have about 18 minutes left.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
As I was saying, the Finance minister had said that the budget surplus would be $1 million on March 31, 2004. In this much ballyhooed but needlessly bungled budget, the figure is $61 million. The Finance minister spent all summer saying the government was broke, using that as an excuse for their abysmal job creation record, yet all the time they were knowingly sitting on a large pile of cash. I can say this with certainty because, as I was saying earlier before I was interrupted by the government House leader, itís a well-established and well-known fact in this Legislature that Management Board is the body of government of the Executive Committee that deals with the finances of the territory, and the state of the surplus is item 2 on the Management Boardís meeting. Management Board meets, by and large, every week. Item 2 is: what is the state of the surplus? Itís a moving figure, granted, but the government has known that all summer and known it was large ó even before the summer.
Yukoners are legitimately asking, why? Knowing they had at least $60 million of surplus at their disposal, why did the Premier and the Finance minister not do the responsible thing and put Yukoners to work?
They blew a whole construction season, and the budget that has finally been tabled offers little hope and no vision for the revitalization of Yukonís economy. Itís really nothing short of another in a very long string of embarrassments for the government. Itís embarrassing that, despite all their crowing, thereís no imagination; thereís no vision and thereís no knowledge to use the giant surplus to put Yukoners to work. There was no capital budget in the fall, despite the contracting communityís desire to see one.
And only now, more than a year after being in power, is the Premier actually going out to ask Yukoners what theyíd like to see in the next budget? Itís not going out on a limb to suggest that the answer from Yukoners is going to be that they want to see some job creation; they want to see some hope, and they want to see a vision of the Yukon economy.
What was the Finance minister doing all summer, besides unilaterally signing deals with constituents? Imagine if that consultation had gone on this summer, and imagine if he had said, in response to repeated questions in this Legislature, in the public media outside this Legislature after we closed in the spring ó all summer long ó imagine if he had actually said at that time, "This is what the surplus is." Yukoners would have come forward with good ideas. Many of those Yukoners include Yukonís professional public service.
The focus of the motion today is the economy and the governmentís treatment of the Yukonís professional public service. My point with respect to the Yukon Party and the economy, addressed in this motion, is that the Finance minister is now embarrassingly late in consulting Yukoners, and itís truly unfortunate that heís using Legislative Assembly time to go and talk to them.
The Yukon Party government passed a motion through the House seeking Monday, November 10, off, using a transparent excuse that it would be better for rural members, when in fact it was about the previously planned personal schedule of the Premier.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:The Member for Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Rouble: The member opposite is imputing motive. The member opposite has come up with some fantasy as to why we have come up with a reason ó a very responsible reason, the responsibility that we have to our constituents ó and is now turning that into some type of political game about being a reason why weíre not going to be here so we can attend Remembrance Day. Thereís a motive being impugned.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: I would ask the Member for Kluane to wait until one member is finished talking before he starts, but please speak on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: There is no point of order. We all know in this Legislature that the first duty upon anyone calling a point of order is to cite the reference from the House rules, and that should be known by the member because he is the Deputy Speaker and he is familiar with the rules, and he should have done that. So therefore there is no point of order.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: With reference to the point of order, I believe that I am stating the facts as I know them to be. It would appear that the Member for Southern Lakes disagrees with me. That would be a dispute between members rather than a point of order.
Speaker:The Chair would like a chance to examine the Blues on this issue and therefore will make a decision tomorrow on this point of order. Iíd ask the member to carry on, please.
Ms. Duncan: Certainly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The essence of the issue that I was addressing was the fact that a motion appeared and was brought forward as government business on the same day that an ad appeared in the newspaper stating that the Finance minister would be absent, and the meeting was set for 6:00 p.m., meaning that obviously ó clearly, the Finance minister would be absent.
Rather than deal with the issue at hand, which is the economy ó thatís the point Iím trying to make. From a government that promised consensus and collaboration, there has to be an openness and a sense of accountability. Itís about business. The difficulty that Yukoners have is that the Yukon Party isnít creating business. There isnít business.
Yukoners are proud. They want to work. They want to start businesses, they want to see their businesses flourish, they want to be engaged in work and they want opportunities to better their lot in life. And that goes not solely for business, but also with respect to the public service and Yukonís professional, hard-working public service.
Iíd like to speak for a moment about the Yukonís public service, as itís also addressed in this particular motion. I believe the public tends to think of the public service in two distinct groups, if you will. Perhaps thatís because we deal with the wage issue separately in this Legislature.
There are the teachers. We ask our teachers to perform an incredible task every single day of every school year. Not only are they asked to teach and impart knowledge to young people with respect to whatís commonly referred to as the three Rs ó the reading, writing and math skills ó we also ask them to be in part social workers, in part spiritual advisors. We ask of them a tremendous amount.
And itís well and good ó Iíve heard the Minister of Education stand on the floor and say, well, we have the best student/teacher ratio in the country. Well, that doesnít take into account some of the other needs that are exhibited in the classroom. Sure, there may be only 20 students or far fewer in some of our rural schools in any given classroom, but 19 of those 20 students may have the need for an individualized education plan that weíre also asking that teacher to deliver. And in their off hours, we expect teachers to be community leaders and contribute as volunteers, as all of us do, as well. Itís an incredibly demanding job, and all one has to do is spend time in the classroom with teachers, and one would recognize we ask a great deal. We also ask a great deal of Yukonís professional public service. Members, forgive me, have heard me say this many times before. Yukonís professional public service serve, to the absolute best of their ability, whatever government is in power. They are professionals, they work incredibly hard, and they are individuals who also are caring community volunteers who contribute a great deal.
They have more than earned our respect and should be given the respect for their knowledge, for their advice. The respect that I refer to is the courtesy of listening to their advice, of hearing what they have to say. They have the same goals that every government in power has, of bettering the life for Yukoners, doing the best they can. To disregard them, to treat them without respect, to not listen to their advice, not ask for their advice, not seek their opinion, does all Yukoners a disservice.
With respect to the motion, it urges us to honour both the letter and spirit of the Yukon Partyís commitment not to diminish any kind of workforce within the government. Unfortunately, we have seen that happen over the summer months. The Yukon workforce has been diminished and it has been a very incredibly stressful, sad and very, very difficult time for Yukon government employees ó a very difficult time. We would be remiss if we didnít recognize that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, on the floor. I understand that itís a personnel issue. I understand the privacy issues involved. I also understand that there are a great many of Yukonís public servants who, disillusioned, have left the territory or want to leave the territory, who are genuinely frightened, are worried, have endured a tremendously stressful, terrible summer. The responsibility for that has to be with the government. They are the individuals in power.
The fact is, in terms of diminishing our work force, after one year under the Yukon Party government, there are 500 fewer Yukoners working ó 500 fewer Yukoners working than there were a year ago ó and it drops steadily. So much for the promise that economic prosperity would begin on November 4. It wasnít last November 4, and it certainly isnít this November 4. What November 4? What decade?
I would like to state for the record that I support the motion put forward by the leader of the official opposition. Itís very difficult to imagine any further erosion of the territoryís economy. If the government continues on with the trajectory of the fiscal management weíve seen so far, itís possible. All Yukoners are looking to see something concrete from the government in the form of job creation ó something concrete that generates some hope, that demonstrates some vision and exhibits some leadership.
Yukoners ask, "When are we going to see some thought, some vision, some hope?" My personal hope for Yukoners is that itís sooner, not later.
Mr. Rouble: I stand today to discuss the motion that calls for the government not to diminish any kind of work force within the government in order to avoid any further erosion of the territoryís economy.
Mr. Speaker, this government has not laid anyone off. We campaigned on a promise that we can do better, and our first budget and our supplementary budget are certainly proof of that.
The members opposite asked for something concrete; we certainly have it in these budgets. When we took office a year ago, we committed to practising good government, achieving a balance between the economy and the environment and achieving a better quality of life for Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, our budgets deliver on these commitments.
We have a responsibility to our constituents, to the people of the Yukon and to the citizens of Canada to provide services. We have that same commitment to, again, our constituents, the citizens and the rest of Canada to do so in a fiscally responsible way. Mr. Speaker, we are rebuilding the territoryís economy, and we certainly canít do that by giving everyone a government job. Mr. Speaker, I feel thatís what was intended by one of the earlier speakers, that thatís the solution to the problem, that YTG just simply goes out and hires everyone. Well, Mr. Speaker, they may dream of a day when everyone works for the government, but that to me is a nightmare. That ideology simply doesnít work.
Mr. Speaker, the government shouldnít be doing something that the private sector can do. The government shouldnít be competing with the people who pay the taxes, which makes government possible. For example, Mr. Speaker, if we needed a new ferry, is it reasonable for us to create our own ferry development corporation to hire internal architects and then have YTG employees design and build the ferry, following the B.C. fat-cat fiasco model? That doesnít work. When we need light bulbs, do we go out and hire government employees to mine tungsten and create glass and put the light bulbs together? No, certainly not. There are much more efficient ways of doing it, and we have a responsibility to everyone to find the most efficient way to do things.
Mr. Speaker, this government remembers what government is supposed to do, and it does it, and it does it well. Again, itís not the role of government to employ everyone, and just because we once had punch-card operators or ice haulers or streetlight lighters, that doesnít mean we need to have them on the payroll now. To do so would simply be irresponsible.
Our job is to make the Yukon a conducive place to live, work and grow, a place with hope and a place with future, and thatís what our budgets and our operations are doing.
Mr. Speaker, we are working to rebuild our industries, our resource industries ó forestry, mining, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, construction, the cultural industries. Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on. We have a tremendous opportunity here in the territory, and we need to grasp it.
Itís the private sector that creates wealth in a community. This motion calls on the government to avoid any further erosion of the territoryís economy, and weíre building it back.
As well as managing the territory in a fiscally responsible way, weíve been fortunate that our revenues have increased. This is due to devolution. With the agreement we have signed, we have become responsible for many more things. Weíre now masters of our own backyard, and with that responsibility comes substantial obligations and funding from the federal government to ensure that theyíre done.
So weíve obviously seen an increase in our budget because of devolution.
The census and our transfer payment has grown. This is due to the excellent work of our officials in the census count and determining that the Yukon does deserve more, and that we donít have to use up the money that we have saved for a rainy day in order to accomplish what weíre supposed to do, so, additionally, that has increased our budget. Also, there has been some excellent work by our Health minister and by our Premier in increasing our health funding. We all know the costs of health care are increasing. We found a way to respond to that. But, Mr. Speaker, this increase in revenues doesnít mean that we can go out on a willy-nilly spending spree. We are committed to practising good government, and we have a responsibility to the Yukon people to budget our funds wisely.
That, Mr. Speaker, is what weíre doing. Our budget and our supplementary budget responds to the needs of Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, when we took power a year ago, we found ourselves in a situation with our budget ó and like every careful manager, we sat down and took a look at it ó and there were problems. The territory could not sustain the trajectory of spending that we were on. We were simply living beyond our means, and we had to find a way to deal with that reality. Weíve done that, Mr. Speaker. Weíve found out where and how we can spend our money wisely and efficiently and respond to the needs of Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, this supplementary budget that was tabled responds to those needs. It responds to what we are responsible for doing, and it will stimulate the economy, the territory, and provide value for Yukoners. Some of the highlights of the supplementary budget include money for fetal alcohol syndrome disorder that was a responsibility; a platform commitment that we made that will certainly go to help Yukoners.
Student grant indexing ó substantial money has been put into this to help our youth, our students. And as a recent student, I know the value of something like this. Weíll have an educated workforce, and obviously a more educated workforce is much more employable.
Mr. Speaker, weíve put more money into teachers and EAs. This money will go directly into our schools to provide additional teachers and additional support for the students who need it ó again, responding to a need.
We put money into childcare operating grants ó again, a recognized need, a recognized area where more funds are directed.
Road maintenance ó again, I canít think of anything much more important to many of the people in the Yukon than the roads that we drive on and ensuring that they are in operable, good condition ó that we can actually get through. We have put more money into that. That was certainly an issue that was raised with me in my constituency: "Weíd like to see more money in roads." We responded.
Rural electrification and telephone ó again, investing in the infrastructure of the territory that will allow us to compete on a world scale.
Again, more money into health care, through diagnostic and medical equipment funding ó responding to a need.
Mr. Speaker, there is also money for the Canada Winter Games and the Canada Senior Games ó investing in the social and cultural needs of our community.
Another highlight is money for the Yukonís Aboriginal Pipeline Group ó an incredibly proactive way of developing the infrastructure here in our territory. Again, it was a commitment by our government to work with all of our partners ó all of the orders of government ó to ensure the economic success of the territory. Weíre working together with our partners, rather than being at loggerheads with them.
Additionally, there is money in there for the Robert Campbell Highway engineering, highway paving, creating a cultural centre in Carcross ó all great things, and all developing the infrastructure of the community and responding to the needs of the community.
Mr. Speaker, this government is clearly meeting the needs of Yukoners.
Iíd also like to comment on our excellent public service. The Yukon and its people benefit from the hard work that our excellent public service employees do. And Iíd like, on behalf of the government, to acknowledge the excellent work and to applaud the work that they all do. They provide a very valuable service and are an intrinsic part of our community. Personally, I look forward to working with them for the years to come.
Mr. Speaker, we campaigned on the promise that we can do better, and this budget, our supplementary budget and our original budget are certainly concrete proof of that. When we took office we were committed to practising good government, achieving balance between the economy and the environment, and achieving a better quality of life for all Yukoners. And thatís what weíre doing through the hard work of the elected officials, our management, our public service, all of us. Weíre all working toward these goals ó toward to the goal that we can do better.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, I canít speak in support of this motion, though, as much as Iíd like to. I find that itís flawed and based on some inaccuracies. What I would like to do is get on with the business that we were sent here to do and to work toward making the Yukon a better place.
Mr. Speaker, I include the opposition in the "we" when we say, "We can do better."
It has been my pleasure and my honour to talk to the motion.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise to speak to this motion, and I must say Iím not comfortable with this motion, given that the current situation in the Yukon is 180 degrees opposite to what is being portrayed here by the motion put forward by the leader of the official opposition. The Yukon Party government has gone the extra mile. We have met that platform commitment and will continue to meet the platform commitment of sound fiscal management. Thatís the first step.
We had to get a handle on the finances here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and we have just recently accomplished that.
Yes, it has taken us some time; yes, we would have liked to have done the job a lot faster, but when you come into power and youíre faced with a shrinking amount of cash and a shrinking amount of transfer payments from Ottawa as a result of the ineptness of the previous government we replaced, we have to take the time necessary to deal with the issues at hand.
Letís give credit where credit is due. There was sound direction given from the political arm of this government, and the officials did an exemplary job of identifying issues ó where it had to be dealt with politically, it was done; where representation had to be made to Ottawa, that was done.
And we took that money and assembled the surplus that we currently have today. It was through the tremendous efforts of a large number of people, but let us recognize that it takes sound political sense and sound political direction to accomplish what our government has accomplished since we came to power, Mr. Speaker.
Thatís a given. There were trust funds set up that were dissolved. That money was put back into the surplus. Great pains were taken to ensure that the census adjustment was, well, realistic, because there was paranoia around the whole Yukon that we were going to lose millions of dollars as a result of this census adjustment. This was a hype of the previous government: make sure everyone gets counted. Well, thatís a given. You want to count all Yukoners. But from there, the negotiations between Yukon and Ottawa that were conducted at a high level by officials within this government deserve the utmost praise and recognition because that is where a lot of the surplus was accumulated from.
The amount that had been booked previously by the previous administration for census adjustment ó $15 million ó was also dissolved into the surplus. When you add this all up and look at what we have as a surplus and what we projected to have, you have the answers there. We did the work necessary on the political arm. The officials did the work necessary and we give them top marks and top credit for their diligent attention to detail ó officials not only here but officials in Ottawa.
They resolved a number of outstanding issues. And what we came to recognize, Mr. Speaker, when weíre dealing with the census adjustment is, in the Yukon, we had no ability to deal with Statistics Canada, and thus we have a new Statistics Act here in the Yukon. That gives us the ability to ensure that we have access to the databases at the federal level, that if there is a dispute between Statistic Canada and Yukon, it wonít be of such a magnitude that itís going to result in us having to book $15 million for a census adjustment. We basically have an understanding that will come together, and we wonít have these disputes.
What you want to do as a government is reduce the risk to the lowest possible common denominator, and our government, Mr. Speaker, is taking those steps, ensuring that there is a surplus here in the government, ensuring that surplus is spent on capital projects and on social programs that will benefit Yukoners.
One only has to look at a number of areas, for example, the new Department of Economic Development, Mr. Speaker ó its budget is $7.9 million. In that department, the film industry and the fund for incentives now amounts to something thatís workable, something thatís going to attract business into the Yukon ó $1 million. Mr. Speaker, that is a significant amount of money, and that in itself tells you that we as a government are prepared to put our money where our mouth is.
Yes, we have put money into the business incentive policy, industry development programs. The business incentive policy is another $862,000. The industry development program is another $200,000, and the start-up costs for the Department of Economic Development are $291,000.
For the life of me, Mr. Speaker, in a depressed economy, I canít understand why a government would abolish and eliminate the Department of Economic Development. It makes no sense at all, yet that is what happened under the previous administrationís watch. That in itself is appalling.
What the previous administration did was to take one of the best tools the government has at its disposal to further the economy here in Yukon, that being the Department of Economic Development, and eliminate it ó eliminate it. What a waste. And the resulting turmoil, resulting from the renewal process, is still having repercussions through the various government organizations and departments.
In order to look forward, you have to look behind you to see what has worked and what has not worked. Some of the initiatives that worked very well ó I canít understand, for the life of me, why a government would want to wipe them out.
Take the community development fund. The community development fund has been called everything from a political slush fund to ó you name it. But the issue is that this is a very good tool for the government to direct funding at specific projects.
Who better to undertake these projects than the communities and the various individuals themselves, and thatís whatís happening. Through the good work of the Minister of Community Services and a number of my colleagues, the community development fund money has been put to work. It is going to be doing an excellent job, as it did when we go back to some of the previous administrations, like the NDP government. And Iíll give the accolades where accolades are due. The NDP had a good idea with this community development fund money and I supported it and I continue to support it today.
Mr. Speaker, our government does not have the monopoly on good ideas. About the only government that had a monopoly on bad ideas was just recently wiped out and turfed out of office. That said, we will take any information and any initiative and, if they look good, no matter where they come from, our government will turn them and utilize them. Because really, weíre all here to serve Yukoners. Weíre all here to serve in the public interest.
Mr. Speaker, letís look at some of the criticism that was levelled at our government for not tabling a capital budget in the fall. Well, the way we are proceeding is completely within the Financial Administration Act. We know where we are heading. We know where we are going with quite a number of projects.
If you want to look at the money we are going to be spending on schools, that has been identified: Porter Creek Secondary School, the shop/cafeteria expansion; the pre-engineering for school planning at Tantalus School in Carmacks. And our government duly recognizes the whole review process that took place a number of years ago as to the order of replacement of the various schools that needed replacing in and around the Yukon.
The next one up for renewal and replacement was Carmacks. The Minister of Education, in consultation with a number of other Cabinet colleagues, has advanced the cause for the need of a new school in Carmacks. The planning money is there and we will, as a government, be moving forward in the replacement of that school with the consultation of the whole community of Carmacks. Thatís an important aspect of it. There are opportunities to enhance a school in rural Yukon that would benefit the community further. Those areas are being explored. These are capital initiatives undertaken by the government.
We are looking at the pre-engineering and design of the Robert Campbell Highway. We have put half a million dollars into that equation. Given the amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act, it is an area that could potentially be looked at for the three Ps ó the private/public partnership. We look at the roundhouse here in Whitehorse ó $250,000. We look at the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, another $250,000. We look at forestry renewal, another quarter of a million dollars. We look at forestry engineering, another half a million dollars. We look at the forestry study for the beetle kill in and around Haines Junction ó and I didnít hear the Member for Kluane jump up and pat us on the back for an issue that we should be receiving the recognition for, because the beetle kill in that area goes back quite a number of years. Yet we are the first government to stand up and face the issues right on and deal with them.
I could go on and on, Mr. Speaker, about the many, many good initiatives, but weíve undertaken a review of the capital projects and we are moving forward on a number of initiatives in this area. But at the same time, our responsibility to the social agenda here in the Yukon is receiving a tremendous amount of attention and money.
Mr. Speaker, we will probably end up with some of the best childcare programs in Canada here in the Yukon very, very quickly. We currently are one of the best areas for a number of social programs. And for those in need of drug programs, as resulting from an illness, we have some of the best programs in this area. If we start looking at what weíre doing for family services staffing, that has been increased, Mr. Speaker. If we start looking at some of the treatment homes and the group homes, those are being looked at, and money is being put into the budget for a group receiving home and a residential group home. And yet weíre meeting the expectations that currently exist that are volume and price driven in the health care system, Mr. Speaker.
Without expanding any programs, weíre looking at $5 million to $7 million a year. It has gone as high as $7 million to $10 million. But $7 million a year is about the normal. And how that was met was through the excellent work of the Premier of the Yukon, who, with his colleagues, the Premier of N.W.T. and Nunavut, made representation at the first ministers conference to the Prime Minister of Canada. And itís no secret that it was Premier Fentie, the Premier of the Yukon, who walked away from the table and took the two northern premiers with him.
Then, they were subsequently called back by the Prime Minister of Canada. Their demands were that the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut not be treated on a per capita basis because we needed a base amount of funding. And that agreement that was struck subsequent to the northern Premiers walking away from the meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada resulted in $60 million flowing north of 60 ó $60 million: $20 million for the Yukon over three years.
I was the proud recipient of a cheque from the federal Minister of Health when I attended a recent conference of Health ministers. That cheque for $6.6 million will cover the price in volume increases here in the Yukon. Thatís where weíre at in that area.
Mr. Speaker, weíre looking at expenditures in this coming area, like the purchase of a new four-by-four ambulance that will be going to Ross River. But the one area in my portfolio that I have some turmoil in my tummy over is the Thomson Centre. Weíve recently sent in a team of engineers, architects and others familiar with the fire alarm, sprinkler system and structure of the building. It looks like weíre probably going to need to spend another $2 million to $3 million on that building to make it usable again. That is on top of the $1 million plus that has currently been spent on a new roof. I find that appalling.
Weíll have an announcement in due course as to where we are heading with this initiative and what we are going to be doing. This motion is not a good motion. I could get into all of the other areas that the Yukon government has been faced with. I cannot support this motion, will not support this motion and will urge all my colleagues to follow suit, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you for the privilege of talking to this motion. I again, like my colleagues, would like to take issue with this motion on the basis of good government. Good government dictates that the first thing you do is get your finances in order. Thatís what our Premier did. Our Premier sat down with us and said that we have to understand where we are going, where we came from, and at that point, we have to make some corporate decisions. Mr. Fentie, the Minister of Finance ó
Speaker:Order please. Please donít refer to individuals by names.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Our Minister of Finance red-tagged a couple of issues. Health care, growing by $6 million to $7 million a year ó a huge issue for a small government. The undercount ó a huge issue for our government because what is the population of the Yukon? Now, that issue has been out there for many years. Itís not just our Finance minister. It was our Finance minister who said to his Finance department, "Letís get the figures here; letís find out the truth. Is there an undercount? What is the population of the Yukon? We had $15 million put aside because of the rumours of this undercut. The last government in power had the same problem as did the party before that. But our Finance minister took the bull by the horns and said to his department, "Letís get some true figures here." At the end of the day we were very happy with that decision, because at least we know where we are at. The $15 million was released out of our budget and put back into the economy of the Yukon, and we have a true figure of the population of the Yukon today.
The next issue was health care. How can you continue to having a gross of $6 million to $7 million a year and not have the wherewithal to meet those obligations?
So again our Finance minister took the bull by the horn, but before he took the bull by the horn, he thought and planned out an avenue of how he could get the Prime Ministerís attention on this issue. So with the cooperation of the two other territories, they lay the plan of attack and put the federal government on notice. It was a very proud day for us in northern Canada, north of 60, when those three premiers stood up in defiance of the Prime Minister of Canada and said, "This doesnít work for us."
Do you realize that northern Canada is two thirds of Canadaís mass? If you think the territory of the Yukon has a problem with its medical costs, look east. Nunavut ó airplanes, everything is done by air. Northwest Territories ó a lot of air is involved in their medical.
So, Mr. Speaker, with the leadership of our Finance minister, we triggered a $60-million improvement north of 60. Also, not only did we get the $60 million, which was $20 million a year for us and $20 million for each of the other territories, we also made it very clear that thatís not the end of negotiations. Weíre going back to negotiate a realistic medical cost to northern Canada. Theyíve committed to that, and they committed to that through the leadership of our very capable Finance minister.
So once we got the undercount straightened out ó we got the medical thing to a point where we can manage it ó all of a sudden we got an economic picture that we can work with. And at that point we waited for the Auditor General to come back with his report, to come back with some firm figures, understanding devolution was involved. And so there we end up today, with a surplus. The surplus is there because of the management of this very capable group on this side of the House.
I find it interesting when I look across to the member from Old Crow where she votes against her own community. She voted against a $500,000 capital budget so that they can get on with their capital projects in Old Crow. We in our supplementary budget took the next step and gave another $200,000, which I imagine sheíll vote against, and put it together so that the capital projects can go ahead. Thatís our government. Iím talking about a government for all Yukon. Every Yukoner is represented in this group on this side of the House.
I have to comment on the members opposite and their weak reply. I wonder why they would even bring this motion forward. Weíve increased the wealth of the Yukon immensely with good management. They sit across there and the member of the third party talks about communication and working with our employees. I say to her when I drove by a year ago or two years ago and saw the teachers on strike in front of this building to get their due, I thought to myself as a Yukoner, how mean spirited could a government get? The third party stands up today and goes on and on and on about how we can communicate and work with our civil servants or the people who work with us.
Weíre doing a good job, Mr. Speaker. We settled the question about teachersí wages. We added to that. We looked at the Yukon, not only from our constituencies that we have seats in. We sat down as a group of concerned Yukoners and looked at the Yukon from Old Crow to Watson Lake. And what did we do about it? We had a surplus of money. We have to get people out working. I agree with the members opposite. I agree that this isnít a perfect world in the Yukon. But I say it is a beginning, and the beginning is starting today, when the Yukon Party came up with their supplementary and the supplementary says to us, how are we going to create these economic benefits to the Yukoners? Now, my fellow members here listed a lot of things weíre doing. Weíre working with Old Crow on their capital budget ó $500,000 in the mains and $200,000 for a winter road. The member opposite will vote against that, and I will explain to the people in Old Crow, my friends, when I say, "Well, why donít you get your member to go along with the capital projects?" "Well, does she?" I say no, she votes against it, Mr. Speaker. She doesnít represent her riding, she represents a party, the no-development party.
Speaker:Order please. Make reference to the member, not to she.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Okay, the member. That is just one issue we have. It is very easy for the opposition to throw things back on us because we represent all of the Yukon.
Speaker: Order please. It is also not in order to intimate that a member does not represent their riding.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: I would ask you to retract that and carry on.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I retract that, Mr. Speaker.
So, as we go from the jobs out of our supplementary here, we can go through lists of things. For Old Crow, itís the capital budget we are concerned about. We go to Mayo, and we are working with the Mayo First Nation on Type II mines, making sure the capacity is there. They are managing the Type II. There is $750,000 to extend the snow removal on our secondary highways to make our highways safer for Yukoners. This will extend the workload on the territorial government, but they are asking for that kind of resource so we are giving that kind of foundation.
We went to Carmacks ó our Minister of Education went to Carmacks and addressed the issues in Carmacks pertaining to the school. We put $400,000 aside to get the drawings and get it up and going so that school can be finished in a prompt fashion. The Robert Campbell Highway ó we are looking at a $500,000 contract to see what we can do from an engineering point of view to get that road up to a standard so that, when we get our resource-based economy back on track, we will be able to get the ore or the lumber or whatever to the market. Roads are important. We canít ignore the roads.
If you had seen the Campbell Highway over the last 30 years go from a highway to a trail because of the lack of initiative of other governments ó we have a huge job on our hands. But we are prepared to do that job. The 11 of us here are prepared to go ahead with economic development with a balance with our environment.
One of the other things is the roundhouse. The roundhouse was a platform commitment. The roundhouse is sitting where itís going to be. The roundhouse is there, itís going to be renovated, and it will become part of our waterfront project, which, again, our government is committed to working on with the city and First Nations to get it finalized. There we are ó a progressive government, working for all Yukoners.
The Aboriginal Pipeline Group ó very important. We are Canadians. The Northwest Territoriesí Aboriginal Pipeline Group was funded to the tune of $17 million to get them socially and economically up to snuff so that the Mackenzie pipeline can be addressed. We are Canadians. Weíre going to Ottawa to demand some resources, so our aboriginal pipeline will be up front and will be up to date and ready when the call to build the pipeline comes. All weíre responsible for in this is to get our borders ready for the pipeline.
Like the third party that spent half its life down in Washington, D.C. trying to swing a vote in the Senate, we say, "Get our house in order and then move on with these projects." We have moved on with the pipeline. Weíre getting very positive vibes back from industry and now, with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group together, we are working as a unit to get this pipeline thing solved and to move on, if in fact the pipeline comes. You canít base your whole economy on a pipeline, like the last government did, because ó guess what? ó the decision is out of our hands.
We have to work with what we have in the territory to work with. So weíre prepared to do that. We donít ignore the pipeline. We donít ignore the importance of it, but we work on a day-to-day basis to improve every Yukonerís lifestyle.
When we look at northern housing projects, we put $186,000 into that for the First Nations. Thatís going to create some work.
In other aspects of my own portfolio ó when the members opposite talk about working with our staff, I am very lucky to be Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Energy, Mines and Resources is a very positive, upbeat department, full of very interesting and capable people. I tell the members opposite that they are going to be the engine of the renewal of the economy of the Yukon. Theyíre very capable. Whether itís oil and gas, whether itís land, whether itís agriculture, whether it is mining, we are up front. We are working as a team. Weíre pulling in the same direction.
When you understand that that department took over the majority of the federal government employees, it was a very important day in the history of the Yukon when we took over the land, the water and the minerals. It was very important to us as Yukoners, and that department absorbed twice the number of people they had in their department, and everybody is working as a team for the territorial government, for Yukoners.
What does that say but great management? That was a huge task that was done in six months by a very astute deputy minister and a staff that I have to compliment. That job was well done.
On other issues, like health, weíre Yukoners. What about the health of our communities, understanding a large percentage of them live in rural Yukon? We have to have tele-health. Thatís a growing thing, but we committed $316,000 to grow so that we eventually, in our main hospital, Whitehorse General Hospital, could grow to the point where people in Carmacks, Old Crow, Dawson, if they have an issue, we can use technology to inform our nurses and our medic people out in the field of solutions to their problems.
Thatís thinking ahead, Mr. Speaker, and this governmentís thinking of useful thoughts, and weíre all looking ahead to a better Yukon. Now, in the medical area, $1.8 million for the hospital is in the supplementary. Thatís not peanuts. Weíre working with a solid commitment to help; without money, our system cannot work.
Once we realized the economics of the Yukon were different through the astute management of our Premier, we said, "Where are our priorities?" Well, if it isnít with the health of our community, then what are our priorities ó $1.8 million, just under $1.9 million, added to the hospital so they can do their good work. They donít have to spend their whole lives worrying about the payroll. They have enough resources to do the job they got hired to do, and thatís for the health of the Yukon.
We, by the way, with our Minister of Health, have one of the better health care systems in Canada; itís better funded, better organized, and thatís done with the cooperation between elected government and the hospital board and ó guess what ó employees. And we are working with those employees. The ministerís working with the employees on a daily basis, and I think the proof is in the pudding. Our health care is excellent. Weíre upgrading the hospital by a half a million dollars for equipment. So guess what? Weíre modernizing; weíre bringing our hospital to a standard so that one day weíre not going to have to fly people to Vancouver for medical issues. Weíre growing into it, and weíre committing money today that will pay off down the road. So again, are we not taking care of the health of the Yukon? Weíre looking at Ross River. We understand Ross Riverís problem with a two-wheel-drive ambulance. Weíre looking at it proactively. Weíre not waiting for an accident. Weíre going to upgrade that ambulance to a four-wheel-drive, because thatís what they need.
Weíre not going to pinch dollars on the fact that Ross River has an ambulance. Ross River doesnít have a good enough ambulance for the situation they are in. We have the North Canol and we have all sorts of other issues that say to us they need a four-wheel drive unit to do their business better. And we answered that ó the minister answered that demand. And there we are. Weíre going to get a four-wheel drive ambulance for Ross River.
The issue was, well, maybe you could buy a truck and put it underneath the ambulance and all of those issues. Thatís not good enough for Ross River. They need a brand new unit so they can do their job. And we met that demand.
Mr. Speaker, I think on the health end, weíve done our job. I think for the people opposite, when they look at what weíve done, we have sort of let the air out of their tires. They havenít got much to debate, Mr. Speaker. Weíre doing our job. Weíre doing our job for all Yukoners.
One of the large commitments on our platform ó the third party is always willing to bring that up ó is First Nations government-to-government relationship. Weíre actually implementing what we said. Weíre working throughout the Yukon, government to government. Weíre going to see how it works and weíre going to make it work because ó guess what? Itís in the final agreement. We didnít invent the final agreement; weíre just going to live within the means of the final agreement.
Another big step was southeast Yukon. Our Premier, you might say, is committed to southeast Yukon. But when you look at the map of the Yukon and the resources and the percentage of the resources in that area, we were foolhardy not to get a bilateral agreement with the Kaska and try to work on a business transaction with the Kaska. We did that. Our Premier did that. Out of that is going to grow other agreements.
According to YOGA, which the third party talks about all the time, we cannot have a disposition in an area of unsettled land claims unless we have consent from that First Nation. Well, guess where the oil is, ladies and gentlemen. The oil that we can get to market is in southeast Yukon. Our Premier bit the bullet and is negotiating to get this thing to the point where weíre under control, where we can put all Yukoners to work.
Mr. Speaker, another thing: it works. The First Nations want to go to work. The First Nations want to participate in our economy. I cannot agree with this motion. This motion is a dud. I say to you that the 11 of us sitting across this floor will do more work in two days than the last government did in two years. I say to you that, when we go before the people the next time, weíre going to be judged on product, and thatís where weíre going. Weíre going to put Yukoners to work. Weíre going to create some product, and this little budget here, this supplementary, is the start of it. They can laugh all they want across the floor, but Old Crow is as important to us as Watson Lake, as Carmacks, as Mayo. We address all the issues those people present to us in a very solid Yukon way. This is the start of a road map. This is a good road map. It has a start and it has an end, and the end is product.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Itís my pleasure to speak to this motion this afternoon. After what Iíve heard this afternoon, I have to say that I feel like thereís some educating I have to do, once again, of the members across the way.
Itís fine and dandy for the members opposite to think they know what issues have to be addressed in my community of Old Crow, but I live there for most of the year. Yes, I am very proud of my community. I was born and raised in that community. I lived out on the land, and I know what this entails.
This motion ó yes, it was introduced to this House last spring, and I believe it still holds true today. Iíve been in this House over the last few years, and Iíve seen, from one government to the next, how tales could be spun in this environment. I believe that I represent the people of my riding in the most respectful way that I can. And the people I represent let me know that that is true. I am very proud of that.
The employment rate in this territory has been at an all-time low, and thatís a fact. Thatís something that we cannot get away from. The tales Iíve heard being spun around that this afternoon is discouraging.
In my community of maybe 250 people, we live in a good way. Most of our community members still hunt and trap when they can. One of the most important issues ó and some members across the way have heard these issues brought up time and time and time again ó is the high cost of living we have to endure.
There are members from my community who have to leave to find work in B.C. and Alberta and they go to our neighbours in the N.W.T. They have to leave their families. They have to leave their way of life and adjust to a totally different environment. For us, that takes a large toll because we are accustomed to a certain way of life. We are accustomed to eating our own type of traditional food. I donít find that to be a laughing matter.
The families in our community live under a lot of stress. They are under a lot of pressure because what jobs are available are seasonal. With those seasonal jobs that they hold, they try to provide the very basics for their children. The elders of our community are under a lot of pressure, not only with the high cost of living but also to pay their bills. Whatever little money they have left over, there is no way that they are going to spend that on recreation or entertainment because they have to make it to the next time they receive their old-age pension in the mail.
We talk about prudent spending. The people of my community have to know how to budget, because the cost of living in the community is high, and the cost of food is high. And weíre lucky that weíre able to live off the land, and weíre lucky that weíre able to ó but not this summer ó fish in our rivers. And again, we know what pressures are there with fishing; we canít even do that.
For the few jobs that are available, the few government jobs in our community, the employees have a great impact on our local economy. For one job opening ó it might be auxiliary or a part-time or a casual, and, of course, we have the seasonal ó there are 20 or more applicants for that one position. Mr. Speaker, that is not a laughing matter. Everyone wants to be working. No one wants to be lined up at the social assistance office. Every person ó every man, woman and youth, in the community would like to work. We have seen an all-time low for employment in our community in the last couple of years. Our First Nation government is one of the highest employers in the community of Old Crow. And that creates an economy in our community. We also participate in the economy throughout the territory, because some of the people in Old Crow have the opportunity to come to Whitehorse to do business.
So, we have them staying at the local hotels, eating at the local restaurants, and we love to shop because the things we can get in Whitehorse, we donít have a chance to buy in Old Crow, and the price is a little bit cheaper. I know when we come home from Whitehorse, our children ó whether they be our grandchildren, our nieces, our nephews ó are excited when we bring home little gifts for them, whether itís clothing or toys. And of course weíre always going home with a few boxes of groceries because that would be the only chance we have to purchase these items for a little lesser price. People in Whitehorse take that for granted, and we donít have that kind of luxury.
We talk about the cut in spending and how itís so important to take care of our employees. In the last year I have seen and heard in the media, whether in the papers or on the radio, about investigations going on within this government. That takes a great toll on each individual and their families. As First Nations people, our families are very important to us and how we treat each other.
We care about the next person who sits beside us and we try to show respect in every way that we can. Placing that kind of pressure on people who make an organization run is absolutely disrespectful. There are many programs that are needed in my community. Yes, we can rail away for the $200,000 that we got in this $95 million budget. That is only the tip of the iceberg. The First Nation government in my community is working with very limited resources. I commend the people who work at our First Nation government offices. They do an extremely, extremely good job to help us to make progress so that we can have the kind of relationship that we need to build with the different levels of government. We need to be heard.
The speaker who was speaking just before me was saying they need better ambulances in several different communities. He mentioned my community more than two times. Our community is in need of an ambulance. We are so grateful to the many years of volunteer service from the local RCMP who act as an ambulance when we need one. We need that type of service because, one day, they might not be available when somebody is in serious need of that service, Mr. Speaker.
A service that most people take for granted in larger centres is dental care and dental hygienists. If we see this resource come to Old Crow once a year, weíre lucky ó if that. And the number of clientele on a waiting list for this service is unbelievable.
Another service thatís badly needed in our community is an optometrist. There are not too many people who have the opportunity to always be travelling to Whitehorse so that we can receive those services. The last time that an optometrist was in Old Crow was last summer. For the few days that this service was available, it ran from 9:00 a.m. to probably 9 p.m. It was non-stop. And those are the kinds of services that we need.
Most people can just pick up the telephone and say, "Well, can I make an appointment?" And even when we can do that, the waiting list is still a month to two months.
My recommendation to this government, Mr. Speaker, is to be creative in the area of employment. I think we need to see not more seasonal jobs in our communities but more permanent jobs.
We need to see in our communities more partnerships with the government, such as true secondments in different departments, so that we can make progress in the implementation of our self-government agreements. And I believe that was suggested years and years ago.
The community of Old Crow put forward some of their own money in the area of education and also to help in youth initiatives in the community. And that is money that we need to be keeping an eye on for future generations. But we spend that money today because itís very important for us that we make sure that our children get the best education possible. I believe that what weíre doing is taking some of the responsibility that the Yukon territorial government needs to pay more attention to and take very seriously.
I heard somebody earlier saying "putting our money where our mouth is". You know, we talk about the future generation. Education is very important, and the level of education that our students have by the time they get to Whitehorse has always suffered. We always have to play a catch-up game with the rest at the school, whether it be high school or junior high. But those are the kinds of issues that are important to our people. We have a very clear vision of where we would like to go, where we would like to be in 10 years.
That vision comes from the people in my community, at the grassroots level. Iím not standing here making this up. I know what goes on in my community, and I will always know what goes on in my community.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say in closing that we need to take care of our workers, we need to be more creative in how we go about doing that, and to know the impact and effect we have on the territory as a whole by the decisions we make today.
Mr. Arntzen:It gives me pleasure to rise in this House today to speak on this motion. I have listened to a lot of my colleagues, and people from across the floor speak quite passionately to this motion. I guess I have a little different view on it than do my colleagues across the floor.
If I remember correctly, the Yukon Party government, shortly after it took office, took steps to improve the welfare of all Yukoners by increasing private sector investment in the economy. Another major step that was taken was signing the economic bilateral agreement with Yukon First Nations, as well as with the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alaska and other jurisdictions.
Also, it is important to note that in spite of the $40-million reduction that was in the 2002-03 budget, no programs were terminated, no personnel were laid off and no fees or taxes were increased. So itís hard for me to understand where this motion came from and where we are going with it.
I see a lot of good news in the supplementary budget that was presented to us. As a matter of fact, I can think out loud that perhaps the embargoed copies that were delivered some five or six days ago to the opposition members is the same document that I have here, because I see a lot of good news in this one.
I see good news in many areas. For example, I think in the motion we were talking about reducing spending due to layoffs, which did not occur. The opposite is true. The spending capacity I think would be increased by the fact that Yukon government employees in their contract are being offered another 10-precent increase over the next four years.
Iím sure that a lot of that will go back into our economy, so that doesnít hold water.
In less than a year, the Yukon government has made expenditures of approximately $5 million to the community development fund and the FireSmart program. I believe there were some 27 projects that received $1.15 million in FireSmart alone, and the community development fund is another $4 million. That also creates approximately 175 people who will have work over the next few months. This is all good news, I believe.
As I look further down the page of achievements, there is a lot of good news here in health and social services, for example. And as some of my colleagues have said previously, itís very important that we have a healthy population so that we can have healthy people going to work when the jobs that we have created come to be.
I know that this has been said before by my colleagues, but good news, I think, is worth repeating. I like to point out that under Health and Social Services, another $1.8 million has been injected into the hospital. And also, it was mentioned that we have found money to invest in a new ambulance for Ross River. That is very good news.
And itís also very important to note that it is a far safer way to transport our people in a four-wheel-drive ambulance than a standard two-wheel drive. There are a whole bunch of other good news items under Health. Under Social Services, we have found another $210,000 for family service staffing.
Speaker:Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 54 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 5, 2003:
Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board 2002-03 Annual Report (Edzerza)
Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board 2002-03 Annual Report (Edzerza)
Church Report on Game Farming in the Yukon and other related documents (Kenyon)