Wednesday, November 26, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan:I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of records of all documents, records and correspondence from the Department of Finance relating to TVX, Kassandra, Curragh receivables since November 2002.
I give notice of the following motion for the following production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of records of all documents, records and correspondence relating to travel and expenses for said travel by Yukon Party government ministers and caucus members on government business since November 2002.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Party government has clearly indicated over the past several days that it intends to forgive all outstanding business loans owing to the government; and
THAT such an action would demonstrate egregious disrespect to those who have paid back business loans; and
THAT this House urges, in the strongest possible terms, the Yukon Party government not to forgive business loans outstanding to the Yukon government.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukon children with special needs face long waiting lists for psychological testing and diagnosis;
(2) sending children out of the territory for diagnosis and treatment of emotional and mental conditions adds a significant burden to our health expenditures;
(3) both the Education department and the Health and Social Services department have had positions of clinical psychologists vacant for many months; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to immediately make efforts to recruit clinical psychologists for each department.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the childrenís recreation fund is extremely valuable in assisting children from low-income families to become involved in healthy activities such as sports, arts and cultural events that are not usually available to them; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to increase the childrenís recreation fund at its earliest opportunity to a level that meets the needs of low-income families throughout the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukonís cost of living has increased by more than 17 percent since 1991, with no corresponding increase in social assistance rates by the Government of the Yukon;
(2) the increase in social assistance rates introduced in the 2000-01 budget has not been implemented by either of the two governments elected since 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to immediately increase social assistance rates to a realistic and liveable rate that reflects the Yukonís cost of living.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) one valuable resource responding to the problems of youth addictions and homelessness in Whitehorse has been the Outreach van, which offers advice and support several evenings a week;
(2) several hardworking individuals have put together a joint effort to fund this much-needed project, which will end in the next few months; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to honour both the letter and the spirit of its commitments to fight addictions and support children and youth, by fully funding the Outreach van with a multi-year grant.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukon families spend thousands of dollars each year to care for elderly and handicapped relatives in their homes, which saves the Yukon taxpayers many more thousands of dollars in institutional care;
(2) caregivers of adults are almost always women, who give up employment to care for others; and
THAT this House urges the government to implement a policy of paid adult foster care that will respond to the financial needs of adult caregivers.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) two years after the provincial and territorial governments reached agreement with the federal government on the final framework of a cost-shared program called "affordable housing", the program has yet to be implemented in the Yukon;
(2) the Government of Yukonís main and supplementary budgets for 2003-04 do not reflect any response to this and other housing programs available; and
THAT this House urges the government to allocate funds to begin implementing the affordable housing program no later than the main estimates for the 2004-05 fiscal year.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the heavy use of alcohol by young people throughout the Yukon Territory is on an upward trend;
(2) while two thirds of the junior and senior high school students are reported to have consumed alcohol in the past year, the prevalence of substance use increases with age; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to evaluate its present prevention and treatment programs directed at youth to make them more responsive to the needs of youth, both in Whitehorse and in rural communities.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the high rent the Whitehorse Youth Centre pays each month can more economically be used for a mortgage on a more permanent location to house its much-needed programs;
(2) volunteers with the Youth Centre showed great initiative by raising a total of $36,000 from the community toward financing a permanent home; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to provide adequate funding to help the Whitehorse Youth Centre reach its goal of acquiring a permanent location for its programs.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House
(1) there has long been a need for a territory-wide crisis line to respond to immediate social problems such as violence and child protection;
(2) immediate responses to crises can save long-term social service spending; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to honour its campaign commitment by providing stable, long-term funding for a territory-wide crisis line that is professionally staffed 24 hours a day.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Taylor:Iíd just like to ask all members in the House today to provide a warm welcome to my parents, Diane and Ivan Raketti.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Withdrawal of motions
Speaker:Before we conclude notices of motion, the Chair wishes to inform the House of changes to be made to the Order Paper. Motion No. 7, standing in the name of the Minister of Community Services, shall be removed from the Order Paper, as the Chair has been informed that its provisions have been fulfilled. Motion No. 133, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane, requested that certain business be called for government private membersí business on this day. As other business has been identified for this day, Motion No. 133 is now outdated and will be removed from the Order Paper.
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon College funding
Mr. Cardiff:Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education. Yukon College just released its economic impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis. The report clearly explains the Collegeís vital importance to the Yukon economy, communities and government. The report says that, as an economic generator, Yukon College is comparable to utilities and larger than the oil and gas industry, yet when the Premier launched the economic strategy in October, he failed to include Yukon College.
Will the Education minister ensure that Yukon College is a central part of the new Yukon economic strategy and wonít be treated as just another special interest group?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question. I can assure the member opposite that this government places education as a very high priority in its mandate. This government also recognizes that education is detrimental to economic development, and we do support education.
Mr. Cardiff: We would note that the College is going to be part of the economic strategy as of today, but when it was announced it was not included. Last spring I recommended that the government restore the training trust funds and boost the Collegeís operating grant by at least $1 million ó that was March 5.
The government only went partway and acted on my recommendation to restore the training trust funds, and that was good news. Surely the minister doesnít need long to read the report and to tell the College what his government is going to do in response. Will the minister make a commitment today to persuade his colleagues to meet the Collegeís need for a $1-million increase, no later than next yearís budget, so no more College employees need to lose their jobs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to put on the floor of the Legislature that I donít think we need to be prompted by the opposition to support the College. Iíve already made that commitment. I made the commitment several months ago at a board meeting. When I was at the Board of Governors meeting, I did say to them that this minister will be having dialogue with the rest of the group, the rest of my colleagues, and yes, this will be an issue for discussion.
I also want to say that I disagree with the member opposite that we have never had much thought of support for the College. The $1.5 million of training trust fund money does benefit the College, and I donít remember the member opposite requesting $1 million for the College, but if he did, thatís with him.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíll remind the minister; in fact, if Iíve got a copy of it here Iíll send it over to him. It was March 5, the day before they released the budget. The Yukon College does a great deal more than generate jobs and economic activity. The minister should know this. The campuses in Whitehorse and in the communities are vital links with people building careers and pursuing lifelong learning opportunities.
What the College doesnít need from this government is more talk. Once again, will the minister commit to getting the College at least $1 million more to protect Yukon jobs and the important programs and services the College offers throughout the territory?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíll reiterate what I just said. This government on this side of the House does not have to be prompted by the opposition to support the College, because we do.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre
Mrs. Peter:I have a question for the Minister of Justice. Last week I asked the Minister of Justice to provide an update on the governmentís plans to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, which is hopelessly outdated. The ministerís answer was very revealing. She made absolutely no commitments. She hid in the shadows, which is this governmentís way of being accountable. Today I expect an answer. Exactly when will construction begin on a new correctional facility?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I think that I have been on record repeatedly over the last year that our government is committed to replacing the Whitehorse Correctional Centre here in Whitehorse. Our government, however, wants to make sure that the project replacing the Whitehorse Correctional Centre properly reflects the needs of the community it serves. First Nations governments, organizations and citizens all have a particularly large stake in the direction of the future of corrections in the territory. That is why our government is working with Yukon First Nations, as we speak, to develop a public process that will engage all Yukoners in the delivery, in the evaluation, as well as the design of correctional services in all of the territory.
Mrs. Peter: It is completely unacceptable for this minister to cause confusion with this issue for the Yukon public. This jail is a safety hazard for workers and for inmates. Itís also a public safety hazard for the people of the Yukon.
Once again, this past weekend an inmate was able to walk away scot-free from this leaky old jail. He was at large for two days while public anxiety continued to mount. What specific steps is this minister taking to end this pattern of easy escapes from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the member opposite for the question. Itís a very legitimate and valid one, and Iím very happy to answer it accordingly.
Mr. Speaker, the safety and security of Yukon citizens is of utmost importance to me, as Minister of Justice, as well as to this government. It should be pointed out that this particular incident that just transpired over the last couple of days was certainly not the first breach of security. As a matter of fact, past breaches of security have occurred with previous governments, including the previous Liberal government.
With respect to this particular incident, the inmate who escaped was apprehended yesterday and is now back in custody, facing additional charges related to this escape. An internal investigation is fully underway as we speak, as is the procedure that has been done in the past regarding such incidents. Once the investigation is complete, the Correctional Centre will review the findings and we will take the appropriate corrective action, as is required.
Mrs. Peter: One of the concerns we hear over and over is how long it takes for the public to find out that someone who may be quite dangerous is at large in the community. If a jailbreak occurs on the weekend, there are no newspapers to circulate a picture of that person who has escaped. The minister has a responsibility to tell Yukoners as quickly as possible when their safety is at risk.
Has the minister given any direction to correctional officials or to the RCMP to use tools, such as the local radio and television, the Internet and the community notice boards, to inform the public in a much more timely manner that an inmate is at large?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, Iíll just reiterate for the member opposite that an internal investigation is fully underway. We will be looking at the findings of that investigation at the end of the day, and we will be taking corrective action.
Yes, we will be looking at recommendations as to how to improve the delivery of messages to the public, as the people should be fully informed. I should also say that with respect to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, our government also initiated a risk-threat assessment soon after taking office in November.
We have also contracted with the Justice Institute of British Columbia to deliver additional training to our corrections officers.
So safety and security of Yukon citizens is our governmentís utmost priority. It will remain so, and we are always looking for ways to improve that.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre
Ms. Duncan:The Minister of Justice and the Premier halted construction of a new Whitehorse Correctional Centre shortly after taking office.
The minister and caucus visited the facility, tripping over the dirt mounds where the work on the new facility was well underway. The stacks of reports calling for replacement of the ageing facility were wading knee-deep in the ministerís office when she took office, yet this minister and the government have stubbornly ignored all the evidence and issued the stop-work order without consultation.
In January of this year the minister said that construction of the new facility would begin ó and I quote ó "in no longer than a year." The time is up, and public safety is at risk.
Can the minister tell the House: how many more prisoners need to escape before construction on this sorely needed facility is going to resume? When will the shovels turn again?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, just for the member opposite, it should be pointed out that, again, this was not the first breach of security, and I cannot guarantee that it will be the last breach of security. Breaches of security have occurred in every government possible that I can ever remember.
With respect to the correctional facility, we have made the commitment to work with First Nation governments, to work with the public, to review the design, delivery and evaluation of correctional services in the territory. We think thatís a responsible thing to do. In the meantime, we are making every effort to ensure the safe operation of the current facility by adhering to each of the recommendations of the fire marshal, as per his recommendations in the report of December 2002. Those recommendations, as per the renovations, are actually reflected in this fallís supplementary budget. So we are taking the necessary steps until we determine the scope and design of the correctional facility to go up.
Ms. Duncan: The Justice minister has responsibility for the safekeeping of prisoners and the safety of workers. She has responsibility for the contract with the RCMP. She has responsibility, overall, for the safety and security at the Correctional Centre. She is part of a government with a $61-million surplus. She also, as we all well know, has authority over tow trucks.
She wonít tell this House when the new jail will actually be replaced or how many lives have to be put at risk. Will she tell the House why it took two hours before the RCMP were notified that the escape had occurred?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I really thank the member opposite for the opportunity to speak on the two-hour notice. What was reported yesterday in one of the local newspapers was wrong. That the RCMP were not told of the escape for two hours is simply wrong. Rather, the inmate who had escaped was determined missing after head count at about 19:20 hours, followed by a search of the facility for 10 minutes. The RCMP were called shortly thereafter, not two hours; it was simply a matter of 10 or 15 minutes, so the member is incorrect, which is not the first time.
Again, we are taking immediate action. We are adhering to the recommendations of the fire marshalís report of December 2002. Those recommendations are reflected in this fall supplementary budget. In the meantime we are also making strides, working with First Nation governments and working with others to develop a public process that will look at the design, delivery and evaluation of correctional services in the territory.
Ms. Duncan: There are apparently two key files on the Justice ministerís desk. There are the stop-work orders and there are the tow trucks. There should be a third file called "public safety". The public is placed at risk because the minister refuses to resume construction on the jail. The jail, as everyone knows, including the minister, has to be replaced ó not repaired. She bears the responsibility. She knows there are many reports telling different governments to replace the jail. She knows itís beyond repair; she knows construction had started; she knows public safety is at risk when there are escapees, and she has the public responsibility as the Justice minister.
When will the stalling end and the reconstruction ó the actual reconstruction ó of the new jail begin?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, again for the members opposite and for the public record, our government is indeed committed to replacing the Whitehorse correctional facility here in Whitehorse.
In this fall supplementary budget we have identified $200,000 toward correctional reform. We are committed to that process. We are making strides with respect to that.
Mr. Speaker, we are living in a time when the justice system in the Yukon is going through some significant changes, such as those resulting from the settlement of land claims in the territory, as well as sentencing changes in the territory.
Our government, like it or not, feels that full consideration should be given to these changes and that careful public consideration should also take place before we can embark upon the construction of a new Whitehorse correctional facility. We are being responsible.
Again, our government is committed to replacing the Whitehorse correctional facility and, again, we want to ensure that the new facility is both accountable and responsible to Yukoners and one that reflects the needs of Yukon today.
Question re: Doctors, recruitment and retention
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. We, the official opposition, have consistently received letters and phone calls about doctors leaving town and people not being able to get a family doctor. The recruitment and retention of doctors is an emergency situation, we believe, in the Yukon. A year ago the minister said that he was working on it and so far we havenít seen anything yet. Why hasnít the minister made this a priority and done something to correct this situation over the past year, or is it not important to the minister any more?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The recruitment and retention of health care professionals, not just doctors but the full spectrum, is a top priority of our government. It is a constant, evolving, continuing process. Let me share with the member opposite some statistics. We just have to go back a few years: 1995-96 population, 33,000 or 34,000 ó there were 45 licensed general practitioners billing on a fee-for-service basis, Yukon health care plan. In 2002-03, population of the Yukon was 29,000; there were 65 general practitioners licensed here in the Yukon; 60 of them were billing the Yukon health care on a fee-for-service basis. The balance were billing Yukon health care system on a contractual basis.
Mr. Fairclough: He says it is a top priority yet we still have doctors leaving the territory. I ask the member ó he said he was working on it and we havenít seen any improvement yet. The deputy minister has announced that they will be doing an exit survey of doctors who have left to find out why they have left. This should have already been done. It has been a year since the minister took over that portfolio. I believe it is just a tactic that the minister has in delaying decision making.
We are aware of at least one case where a cancer patient is being passed from one doctor to another. There is no consistency in her treatment. The Yukon Medical Association is recommending a retention bonus for doctors to encourage them to stay here in the territory. Will the minister follow through immediately with the YMA recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite well knows that the YMA and the Government of Yukon are entering into negotiations for renewal of their contract. To negotiate that contract on the floor of this Legislature is extremely inappropriate.
What must be clearly pointed out is that we have a number of doctors, and itís the highest number of doctors for our population that has ever existed and stayed here in the Yukon. Yes, there is a constant change in the number of these health care providers, and a constant recruitment, and doctors are constantly leaving ó as is the case in virtually every profession here in the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, in his answer the minister didnít indicate that he would follow through with those recommendations, so I have to assume the answer is no.
There are very few doctors who want to come to the north, let alone stay here. The advertisements on the Health and Social Services Web site for physicians are pathetic. They donít even give a balanced picture of the situation in the Yukon. We believe that an aggressive project for recruitment and retention measures is needed now. The Northwest Territories seems to be hanging on and recruiting physicians.
We are in a very difficult position here in the territory and a very serious one. As a result of doctors leaving the territory, we have orphaned patients. What are the ministerís solutions to the problems that orphaned patients are facing?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have more doctors now for our population ó 65 doctors practising here in the Yukon ó than we did when our population peaked at 35,000. The NDP government of the day turned the economy into the toilet. The Liberal government that followed flushed the toilet with the economy in it, and our population is just now recovering from those lows.
The other change that was made under the previous Liberal administration was to open the licensing requirements for doctors. A number of the doctors can come here and practise under a senior doctor and get their accreditation here in Canada. We have a turnover in that category of doctors, but our department is constantly recruiting and enhancing the program for retention and recruitment of health care professionals ó not just doctors, but all health care providers.
The bottom line is that we currently have the highest number of doctors per capita that the Yukon has ever had.
Question re: Anti-Poverty Coalition recommendations
Mr. Hardy:On September 16, the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition wrote to the Minister of Finance with eight concrete proposals that would help address the very real problem of poverty in the Yukon. The coalition was asking the minister to consider these proposals for his next budget. Since then, the minister has come into a pot of money from the federal government and is sitting on a huge surplus for the current fiscal year. Why doesnít the ministerís $95-million supplementary budget for this year include a single one of these recommendations that came forward from the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Where the member opposite is heading with this line of questions is to the social assistance rates. Yes, Mr. Speaker, they have not been increased since the early 1990s. They were not increased by the Yukon Party government, by the Liberal government or by the NDP government.
What we have to be cognizant of at all times are the SA rates in our neighbouring jurisdictions and what is taking place in those jurisdictions. We have to be in line with those jurisdictions. Otherwise, we will see an inward migration just as a consequence of our SA rates. You have seen it in Alberta a few years ago.
What we want to do here in the Yukon is look after Yukoners.
Mr. Hardy: Well, that Minister of Health is wrong on two accounts when he said where I was going. I was talking about the Anti-Poverty Coalitionís recommendations that he brought forward. Maybe he should read it.
But the question was directed to the Minister of Finance, and I would appreciate if the Minister of Finance would stand on his feet and answer these questions.
While this government makes plans to sell the Yukonís infrastructure to the highest bidder, this government has done nothing to develop an effective anti-poverty strategy for the Yukon.
Last week the Anti-Poverty Coalition wrote to the minister again with a very modest, very reasonable request for three things to be in the ministerís next budget. Quite frankly, I donít see why the minister even needs to wait until next yearís budget. He has the money and he does have the ability to amend the current supplementary budget or to introduce another one before December 16, as we have already asked.
Will the minister agree to increase the childrenís recreation fund by a modest $150,000 per year, starting right now, so that kids from low-income families can get the same benefits from sports, arts, cultural activities that other kids do?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have to compliment the NDP opposition in that there were a number of motions put forward in this Legislature today by that party that, on examination, may prove to be beneficial to implement. The letter the member opposite is referring to was sent to the Premier, but because it mostly falls under the Department of Health and Social Services, it was referred to my desk. Some areas are being looked at and there may very well be an enhancement of some of the programs.
Our government has indicated that, where need exists and is duly recognized, we would move forward and fund that initiative, and we have done so in many areas. Itís very hard to single out an area that we have not examined and come to the conclusion that there is a need to either address the issue with additional funds or maintain the status quo. But our government is committed to meeting the needs where the needs exist.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, once again, the Minister of Finance doesnít think itís of great importance enough to stand up and talk about the social issues of this territory. Instead, he passes the buck.
The other two requests of the Anti-Poverty Coalitionís latest letter are also very reasonable and are both long overdue. One calls for the training trust fund of about $2 million to help social assistance recipients get real training for real jobs and help break the cycle of poverty for them and their families.
The other request is for a realistic increase in social assistance rates. The shocking fact is that the SA rates have been frozen for 12 years. In the meantime, the cost of living has gone up by more than 17 percent. A government that allows this to continue is not solving poverty, Mr. Speaker, it is manufacturing poverty.
Will the Finance minister make a commitment that these two social assistance issues are addressed without further delay?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government has put millions into the area of health and social services ó millions ó in the first part of our mandate and in the second part of our mandate. The supplement bears witness to the additional funding that weíve put into a broad range of social programs, enhancing them for the benefit of Yukoners. We will continue to meet the demands where the demands exist. But, you know, letís get focused as an opposition and letís examine the areas that we have addressed and will continue to address. Look at childcare. Look at the amount of money that has gone into that area. Thatís just one example of enhancing programs. There are many, many more. Time is too short for me to get into them, but Iíd encourage the members opposite to examine the total number of dollars that our government has committed to health and social services.
Question re: Psychologist position in schools
Mr. McRobb: Last April the Minister of Education said his department had three full-time psychologists. However, two of the departmentís three psychologists are now on leave for a full year. Many people across our territory are affected by this issue. Iíve heard directly from parents in my riding, whoíve expressed their deep concern about the lack of service for their children. The psychologist who served Haines Junction for years has left.
The minister should know that before teachers can respond, students must be assessed and an individual education plan developed. Without access to a school psychologist, students are deprived of an education. When will this minister fill these important positions so rural schoolchildren can receive their education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There are currently two school psychologists on staff with the Department of Education. Two more psychologists are working in Yukon schools, those being Porter Creek Secondary and in Old Crow.
The government does take this as a very serious issue and will treat it as such.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that information from his briefing note. But the question remains: when will he fill these important positions on a full-time basis?
Now, school psychologists can diagnose some learning problems but they canít treat children in need of treatment. That treatment requires a clinical psychologist. However, that position has been vacant for a year now.
In April, the minister told this House that he felt the number of psychologists was adequate. His words at the time were reported in Hansard: "If the need arises, there are provisions to contact consultants." Now, the department says itís contracting part-time from B.C. and Alberta. How many contracts have been made with Outside consultants since last April, and what is the total cost to date?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, the department feels that this area is being adequately addressed. And it is true that they do, and will continue to, use Outside contractors when needed.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if the department calls the shots in government, why do we have the political level of government? Itís up to this minister to respond to public need, and thatís what weíre asking him to do.
Now, on a related matter, weíre still waiting for this government to come through with its professional team approach in dealing with FASD. Local psychologists have years of experience in dealing with such problems. There are a high number of Yukon children with FASD and other disorders. What makes the minister believe that itís adequate to have a psychologist come in from Outside for one week each month?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think if the members opposite ever get around to discussing the supplementary budget, they will quickly realize that this government is putting a lot of resources into education and into FASD. The departmentís third psychologist position is vacant at present. However, the department is still advertising to have that vacancy filled. I remind the members opposite that this is a professional position. Just as itís hard to recruit other professionals in medicine and whatnot, the same problem exists in this area. Psychologists are not in abundance.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 132, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers.
Motion No. 132
Speaker:It has been moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue its efforts with First Nation governments, municipalities, non-government organizations, business and labour organizations to improve the investment climate within the Yukon.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me great pleasure to rise today on this motion. I believe that this motion is very critical to send a clear signal to Yukoners and to investors from outside the territory that this government ó and hopefully, with the cooperation of the members opposite, this Legislature ó intends to work together for the betterment of all Yukoners.
Our government was elected just over one year ago ó and took office just under one year ago, on December 2 ó on a platform that Together We Will Do Better. We were elected primarily to create a strong economy, along with practising good government and improving the quality of life for all Yukoners.
It is important that we work together to remove the roadblocks to economic growth. This means working with First Nation governments, working with municipalities, non-government organizations, business and labour organizations, as well as all other Yukoners, to improve the investment climate within the Yukon.
This is about minimizing the impediments to business while maintaining sensible safeguards. Itís about working together with First Nations, recognizing their role in the territory, and creating a supporting infrastructure. Although there is focus on creating short-term jobs, which is very important so that we do not see Yukoners leave this territory, the primary focus is on a long-term vision for the renewed growth of the economy.
We have also tabled a minor amendment to the Taxpayer Protection Act, the primary benefit of which is to allow for public/private partnerships and to create a situation where we will be able to fully show the Yukonís true financial picture. The Auditor General of Canada has expressed her full support for moving to full accrual accounting. This is in compliance with her recommendations.
An example of the situation is a project such as the one-stop service centre undertaken by the previous government. Instead of having this project conducted as a rental, which Yukoners will not own at the end of 10 years and $6 million ó at the end of that time period, through a lease-purchase arrangement under a public/private partnership, Yukoners could have owned that building.
But because of auditing rules and the requirements for booking lease-purchase agreements, while the cost of a rental is only booked on a yearly basis, the current standing of the Taxpayer Protection Act would have meant that booking the cost of that as a lease-purchase would have triggered the election provision under that act.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I see weíre once again getting the undoubtedly helpful commentary from the members opposite. This government is moving forward, hopefully with the cooperation of the opposition but that does not always seem to be the case, unfortunately. But we do make efforts to continue this.
We are witnessing a turnaround in the economy already. It is the beginning of the trend; it is the beginning of the resurgence of the economy.
Some of the leading-edge indicators are that building permits are up $18 million over the same period of last year, and this is an increase of about 85 percent. Most of this is due to commercial construction but it is encouraging to see, as well, that housing construction is up by $2 million. Additionally, thereís an increase in retail sales over this same period last year. Mining exploration has more than doubled since last summer and it is expected to double again, or perhaps more, next year.
We have seen the increased interest in investment by companies such as Teck Cominco. The film industry is seeing an increase. The numbers are growing on a daily basis and tourism is experiencing growth, including in niche markets like learning tourism and English as a second language.
This is only a start. For being in office one year, I think this government has done a fairly good job. The first job is to get the economy going. The efforts we have taken, in cooperation with the Finance officials, to increase the surplus are all about increasing spending power to create jobs in partnership with others.
This is also about creating certainty for long-term investment. Government alone cannot create an economy, despite what the view of the members opposite seems to be. But we are laying the groundwork for economic growth and removing roadblocks while maintaining safeguards.
The partnerships with First Nation governments are about working together to remove impediments to investment and responsible development for the betterment of all Yukoners. We made a commitment during the election to work together ó to move forward, when possible, through consensus, collaboration and, when necessary, compromise. This is what we call the Team Yukon approach. Itís about working with First Nation governments, municipalities, non-government organizations, business, labour and indeed all Yukoners.
Previous governments adopted what we felt was a confrontational approach. We are, whenever possible, moving forward in a respectful and collaborative manner, with all who are involved.
I made it very clear to my constituents during the election that I felt that in this territory we either needed to work together or no one would be working at all. I can tell you that the vast majority of them were in 100 percent agreement with that philosophy, and that is what this government has tried to do.
Initiatives that we have used include the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. Weíve worked together with the First Nations along the corridor of the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline to create a group similar to that in place in the Northwest Territories, and we have identified $250,000 in the supplementary budget that, hopefully, we will soon be debating, depending on the members opposite.
Itís important to lay the groundwork for a natural gas pipeline. The previous Liberal government spent a tremendous amount of time lobbying producers who were going to make the final decision ó based on numbers, anyway ó to put a pipeline in place in the Yukon, but they never did the groundwork from border to border within the Yukon, which is why industry favoured the Mackenzie Valley route, because they did do the work on cooperation and putting the groundwork in place.
This Aboriginal Pipeline Group is very similar to the Northwest Territoriesí. The federal government has committed millions of dollars to the Northwest Territories Aboriginal Pipeline Group to assist them in this, and we will be going after them for assistance in these efforts.
Our bilateral agreement with the Kaska First Nation is another example of our cooperative Team Yukon approach. Itís an economic deal whose main purpose is to allow resource development in the area in absence of a land claim that will meet the needs of all Yukoners, both Kaska members and all Yukoners, and will meet the needs of both levels of government.
Itís our intent to create a positive investment climate in the territory and to promote the Yukonís competitive advantages.
The bilateral agreement with the Kaska has established a process to open this resource-rich area for forestry, mining and oil and gas development. The supplementary budget that we will be debating shortly includes $95.5 million to create jobs, stimulate the economy and help with social, health and education issues of importance.
Let me reiterate once more that government does not create economic growth. We can remove roadblocks; we can help to stimulate long-term economic growth, but the private sector always has and always will be the engine of the economy. It is important to remove the roadblocks to private sector growth while maintaining sensible safeguards for the benefit of all Yukoners.
We have also moved forward in short-term job creation areas such as the community development fund and FireSmart partnerships that are about creating benefit for the community as well as short-term jobs to keep qualified Yukon people in the territory instead of continuing the mass exodus to the south that we saw under the previous two governments.
This government made a commitment to reinstate the community development fund to previous levels, and we have done so. Some of the projects that have been approved under this are the Champagne Aishihik First Nation Youth Centreís roof repairs, $13,900; Dawson City Arts Society for renovations and additions to the old liquor store, $377,000; and Village of Carmacks for the visitor and kiosk highway pullout, $65,000. The total program budget, including revotes, is over $4 million for this.
The FireSmart program, in addition to creating jobs, is about protecting Yukoners and Yukon communities from fires. Every one of our communities faces the risk of being impacted by forest fires, as most of them are situated in old-growth forests. To date, we have spent $1.85 million on 27 projects, which have generated 60,000 hours of work, or approximately 80 short-term jobs.
As well, this government followed through with a commitment to put back $1 million into the community training trust funds and, in fact, we allocated $1.5 million.
Other examples of projects are 13 people trained on the job as part of the highway construction trainee program, entry-level oil and gas training program, from which six graduates were employed, and Challenge has also conducted a pre-employment, 13-week woodworking program.
Other initiatives we have undertaken are the replacement of the Tantalus School in Carmacks, a project which has been a long-standing concern of that community, and which this government has taken the steps to address. Additionally, we have undertaken to put a winter road into Old Crow, the Robert Campbell Highway upgrade, and we are assisting in the construction of the multiplex.
Other initiatives being undertaken include that the Department of Tourism and Culture and the Department of Community Services will be working with business and non-governmental organizations on a new initiative "The Decade of Sport and Culture." This program connects sport and cultural events for the next 10 years ó the 2004 Canada Senior Games, the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and the 2010 Winter Olympics.
We have also followed through on our platform commitment to reinstate the Department of Economic Development. This supplementary budget has allocated $2,844,000 in operation and maintenance and $7.56 million in capital. Most of the funding for this new department has been transferred from other departments. For example, $4 million in community development fund will not be administered by the Department of Economic Development.
Economic Development has also begun the process of engaging stakeholders in discussion on the structure, mandate and strategic direction of the new department. These stakeholders include labour representatives, First Nation business organizations, business and industry stakeholders, as well as other partners. Economic Development also includes $200,000 for the strategic industries development program. There is $825,000 for film incentives, which, when added to the existing funds, yields $1 million to assist this important growth industry.
This government has a very clear and progressive vision for stimulating Yukonís economy. Itís about creating certainty, particularly in the area of land tenure, so that we can attract private sector investment. Itís about managing the finances effectively and ensuring that the federal formula is not a disincentive to economic growth, on which we have been lobbying the federal government and will continue to lobby them.
As you are aware, most of the surplus in the supplementary budget, which this House will soon be dealing with, was gained through the efforts of the Department of Finance officials, in conjunction with our minister, in lobbying the federal government regarding the issue of the census count of Yukoners through which we succeeded in reaching their agreement that they had been consistently undercounting the number of Yukoners retroactive to 1996, I believe, and this has created a total increase of $38 million in the Yukonís financial picture.
Mr. Speaker, itís not enough to go out and lobby for economic development to try to attract investors. Itís important that we have the infrastructure in place to stimulate growth, such as high-tech services, roads to resources and waterfront development. These are all key parts of the infrastructure program.
The aboriginal pipeline group, again, as Iíve highlighted before, is a very necessary component to reducing the impediments to a future Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. From the indications weíre getting from the private sector, as well as from the U.S. Senate and Congress, we do believe this will be a project that will come to fruition, but it is important to remove the possibility of legal challenges, as in all areas of resource development, which is why we have been moving forward very clearly in respecting First Nation governments, working together ó unlike previous governments ó recognizing that, together, we have the collective responsibility of working for the good of all Yukoners, and that we believe that itís very important to recognize the constitutionally mandated authority of these governments and to work together for the good of all Yukoners ó we work together, or no one will be working at all.
Mr. Speaker, many of the problems and economic difficulties the Yukon faces today are due to a failure of previous governments to work in a collaborative fashion. This government is taking steps to work together with others to move forward to create a diverse economy made up of the private sector, as well as First Nation and other government partnerships.
Mr. Speaker, Together We Will Do Better was the campaign commitment made by this government just over one year ago. Together, I believe that we have done better, but the road has just started; there is much left to do. We will be working together with First Nation governments, with the municipalities, with the NGOs, with business and with labour organizations to improve investment within the Yukon.
The changes to the Taxpayer Protection Act are minor changes, the primary benefit of which will be to allow us to enter into lease-purchase arrangements, to have private sector money funding the creation of these projects, instead of having government be the source of all revenue, of all capital. Itís about bringing in other money than the money that lies within the public funds of Yukoners, bringing in the private sector so that they are creating the economy, rather than the government being responsible for all economic creation.
Previous governments utilized a number of methods to get around the Taxpayer Protection Act, including the Liberal governmentís rental of the one-stop service shop instead of purchasing it, the previous NDP government with the Connect Yukon project, borrowing from the immigrant investor fund and setting up a numbered corporation, on which we are still paying high, ongoing loan fees. Itís like a joke, Mr. Speaker, talking about numbered companies and all this stuff. Frankly, it was a joke. This government is going to show the true financial picture of the Yukon through laying out the books in compliance with the recommendations of the Auditor General. Rather than doing end runs on the Taxpayer Protection Act like previous governments, we are going to lay the facts clearly and fully on the table, fully disclosing the Yukonís true financial picture.
Mr. McRobb: It gives me great pleasure to be the first to respond to this motion today. I think the previous speaker took great liberties in presenting his view of the world, which dated back long before his arrival in this Legislature. Perhaps that would help to explain some of the irrationality of the perspective with which we were provided.
The member raised several issues, and I managed to take note of some of them. Hopefully Iíll have an opportunity to respond. There are also a few matters Iíd like to raise for the memberís attention regarding previous economic initiatives undertaken by previous governments.
This motion today is all about creating an investment climate within the Yukon. The motion names a number of other parties, stating that it would be important to include them in working toward developing that investment climate. But what weíve seen in the past year from this Yukon Party government is a track record that is not very good when it comes to working with the very groups that are identified in this motion.
Letís just take a minute to analyze that. The first group mentioned is First Nation governments, which are, in themselves, governments ó at least those with settled land claims. We know that. Just yesterday in this Legislature in my questions to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I clearly put on the record an example where this government has ignored First Nation interests.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to summarize what happened in that particular example. This government released securities from a deposit for reclamation from the mine owner at the former Brewery Creek mine site. This former mine site is loaded with contaminants and is located next to a salmon-bearing river. It is also adjacent to First Nation settlement lands.
The First Nation has worked very diligently since the get-go to monitor this whole development, which, in its beginning, was named the Loki Gold mine at Brewery Creek. Loki Goldís name later changed to Viceroy Resources and Viceroy Minerals.
The First Nation has a very large say in the reclamation of that particular mine site and fully expects to be involved in any decisions by the Yukon government to release securities for the cleanup of that mine site. In fact, the minister acknowledged that yesterday, but thereís a difference in what was acknowledged and what was done.
The facts speak for themselves. The First Nation received a letter back in July from the minister telling them what was to be done. The letter informed them of a decision already made, yet yesterday the minister called that consultation and working in collaboration with that First Nation. The difference is, telling a First Nation what youíre going to do and what youíve already decided is not consultation. And the First Nation indicated as such in its response letter to this Yukon Party government and used some choice words in describing what it thought of this after-the-fact consultation, Yukon Party brand. This issue is not over and done with but it certainly is a glaring example that indicates that this Yukon Party governmentís rhetoric about how it works so closely with First Nations is, in fact, inaccurate.
There are plenty of other examples as well, Mr. Speaker. I know Iíve mentioned on record several of them, going back to last spring sitting, and there are several mentioned this fall. I canít recall all of the instances at this time but I certainly know this governmentís track record in listening to Yukon First Nations, and working together with them leaves a lot to be desired.
Thatís understandable, I suppose, because the Yukon Party is a right-wing government similar to the former Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance and whatever it might be named in the future if the unite-the-right movement does proceed, and so on, Mr. Speaker. Itís understandable that in the past the tradition of right-wing governments was one that was not conducive to working with First Nations and recognizing them as governments. I think weíre seeing a spillover of that today, at least generally speaking. It seems there are exceptions in southeast Yukon, but weíll get to that a little later.
The government indicated that the Taxpayer Protection Act amendments were to facilitate a brighter future for the Yukon, but I wonder what First Nation governments feel about that. Has this government even bothered to ask? Has it consulted municipalities about the matter? Has it asked non-government organizations what their views are? Has it asked all Yukon businesses and labour organizations about it? These are the very groups that are identified in this motion. Iím aware of several issues these groups have with what this government is doing and, more accurately perhaps, what itís not doing.
I think there are great liberties taken in identifying these particular groups and stakeholders and governments in this motion when this government has shown that its track record to work with those parties leaves a lot to be desired.
I want to put on record a note I received from someone who also took exception to this motion. The point raised was, "From the labour perspective, the words are particularly annoying." The person asked what effort this government has made with labour to improve the investment climate. Thatís a very good question. What effort has this government made to work with labour to improve the investment climate?
About the only matter this government has dealt with labour on is having its own employees investigated for the computer use scandal. What really made it a scandal was this governmentís handling of the whole situation. It didnít go about it in a fair and open way. Workers suffered through ó shall we say ó periods of anxiety, even fear in the workplace, and for what?
We saw a good policy exercised by the Yukon Energy Corporation that was hailed as being fair. But this government took a very hard approach to the whole situation. Now letís go back to its working with labour. Is that a good example? Of course itís not a good example. Itís a very bad one.
Another response received raised the question of what the investment climate in the Yukon currently is. Thatís a very good question, Mr. Speaker, because nobody really knows. All the public hears is rhetoric from various politicians saying itís good, bad or indifferent ó it used to be good, used to be bad, whatever. The Yukon Party is notorious for those types of messages, comparing us to other jurisdictions when, really, there wasnít a very good link at all ó a link in logic, that is.
But, Mr. Speaker, what analysis has been performed to really benchmark the investment climate in this territory? Such a benchmarking would be important in order to assess any future performance. But I suppose the government prefers to continue the approach where the loudest rhetoric wins. We know it has a majority of members in this House, and perhaps thatís the route itís going to take.
But Yukoners still deserve a clear picture of the situation now, as well as in the past and the future. We have to know where we are and where weíve been before we can chart a better course. There have been several landmark events in recent years that have affected the investment climate in the territory. Just off the top, the Bre-X scandal was a huge hit to the territory.
Yet it basically took away any chance that small operators could find financing. It was a huge hit. It affected the mining sector deeply.
As well, world economic declines reduced the values of base minerals, including gold, silver, lead and zinc. That was a big hit in itself. I believe that the price of zinc fell to near 40 cents. The former Faro mine required something in the neighbourhood of 55 cents to operate. We know that the former Faro mine provided something in the neighbourhood of 40 percent to the Yukonís economy. So that was a big factor in Yukon economic history ó the collapse of world metal prices.
We are seeing some rebounding today, Mr. Speaker, and that is normal and itís to be expected. We all know that metal prices are cyclical in nature, and after such a hard downturn, there is really only one way that it can go and that is to eventually improve. Hopefully what we see now is the start of what will be a long upward trend in metal prices. Currently gold sits at about $400 U.S. per ounce and that is very good news for the placer mining industry. There is also hope for other base metals.
In the lead zinc area, Teck Cominco is now reporting a profit at its Red Dog mine in Alaska, whereas a year ago it was a sizable loss.
So metal prices translate into jobs, economic growth and how our investment climate is perceived. We all know, in our humblest opinion, that the Yukon government has very little to do with world mineral prices. The Yukon government can try to claim some credit when it comes to a rebounding economy, especially in the mineral sector ó it is based on increasing metal prices ó but we know itís due almost entirely to world events. What is more important is what this government does about it ó or any government, for that matter.
On the matter of the Brewery Creek security deposit refund, Mr. Speaker, does refunding money from the account really improve the investment climate in the territory? I see the backbenchers nodding in agreement that it does. However, when the chickens come home to roost and if thereís a big gap between the final cost of reclamation and what is left in the account ó which will be zero at one point ó then who must pay? Even the Mines minister yesterday admitted that itís the Yukon taxpayers who must pay.
So if the Yukon taxpayer is burdened with a multi-million dollar debt thatís hanging over everybodyís tax heads, for example, is that really improving the investment climate in the territory? I should say not.
Itís reasonable to assume that such action is detrimental and would actually reduce the investment climate within the territory. For many years we saw this day coming, when the territory would assume responsibilities for abandonment and reclamation of mine sites. We all hoped the territorial politicians would be responsible and prudent in how each case was handled. However, the example of Brewery Creek, where this government has prematurely refunded millions of dollars from the security deposit, contrary to a report that was done, which indicated that the costs of reclamation were in excess of the security deposit, raises the question of whether the federal government has been absolved of its liability with respect to Brewery Creek.
Now, Yukoners were told that Type II mine sites were the federal governmentís responsibility, but it doesnít take a rocket scientist to know that when studies that were in existence and had been ignored by this government ó studies that pointed out that the security deposit was insufficient, studies that pointed out several failings in the reclamation work done to date, and studies that warned of potential environmental damages resulting from inferior work, or perhaps the exclusion of future work ó one has to wonder whether the federal government has a good case to break the handshake and say to the mines minister, "Youíre on your own, buddy. You ignored this study. You went too far. You ignored the advice that was given to you."
And if thatís the case, Mr. Speaker, it has huge ramifications, not only for this particular mine site, but other ones that are now in the territoryís domain, as well as future mine sites. Iíve talked to miners about this whole situation and whatís interesting is we can all agree. We can all agree that responsible mining means thereís enough money to clean up the mess. And if I can interpret their position for them, what they want to avoid are bad operators giving the whole industry a bad name.
The miners I talked to also want to avoid situations where the government has been too charitable to certain operators, which actually ends up enticing them to walk away from potential environmental disasters. These are some of the concerns that I have learned from reviewing this file over the past few weeks.
I am sure that if we had witnesses here from some of the other agencies ó perhaps from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in ó we would also hear other important concerns and issues about this whole matter. Unfortunately, it seems that our political system doesnít provide for such opportunities.
So we get back to the bigger political game about the investment climate, about whose rhetoric is the loudest, and we hear the government put up speakers like the last one trying to champion First Nation agreements, First Nation cooperation and others who try to champion the governmentís economic record. But we know now that those arguments donít withstand the test of scrutiny. What we need are proper checks and balances in the system. We are not getting that, Mr. Speaker.
What this government should do is develop a policy for refunding security deposits and develop that policy in consultation with Yukoners and any stakeholder who wants to participate, so that it is well-grounded in public support. Such an undertaking would improve the investment climate in the territory. It would remove question marks surrounding such issues as mine reclamation and also be a good example of what Yukoners can accomplish by working together.
So letís hope we can move in that direction, but itís going to require a change of attitude in this Legislature. Itís going to require the dismissal of a lot of the rhetoric and some self-examination, and more accurate reporting about what exactly is taking place. Because in some of the answers we heard yesterday, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there were cases that directly contradicted written evidence.
Anyway, the government also indicated the other day that, in situations where an Outside mining company comes to the territory, it ignores its environmental record in other jurisdictions. Is that logical? I should say not. Canadian society is a whole; the world economy is becoming global. We need to share information about corporations that do business in our backyard. We need to learn from any information thatís available elsewhere about such corporations that want to do business here in the territory. Anyone Iíve ever talked to does not want someone doing business here who is not going to uphold good standards for how it treats the environment and people here in the territory.
Nobody wants another mine to come in and leave a big, unpaid bill for cleanup costs, since the federal government will supposedly cover ó and I give the proviso of the Brewery Creek situation, which still isnít clear ó all existing mine sites that require reclamation.
Weíve heard estimates of the cleanup cost in Faro being in the neighbourhood of a quarter-billion dollars or more. Well, if such a price tag is picked up by Yukon taxpayers at some future point, it will simply be unaffordable. We cannot afford to pay such huge costs, given our low number of taxpayers in the territory. We have a small tax base here. A quarter-billion dollars represents half of our annual budget. Itís simply too much. This government needs to be more responsible about how it treats companies coming to the territory, especially ones with poor records elsewhere.
There are some other matters Iíd like to address, and one of them is the Taxpayer Protection Act. The Member for Lake Laberge said it would give a true financial picture, but I believe the contrary is true.
I believe it will cloud the financial picture. We see our current surplus increasing exponentially just because of bookwork ó that does not provide a truer picture of our economic standing.
The member also indicated the act would facilitate more P3 arrangements ó thatís public/private partnerships. We see many P3s elsewhere in the world, in the country, in our provincial neighbours in the south. One such example that comes to mind is the sale of ó well, actually privatization ó the sale of B.C. Rail, which I believe was finalized yesterday: a huge sellout. Is that where the Yukon wants to go?
We saw the B.C. government bear a lot of wrath this past summer in response to its proposal to privatize the Coquihalla Highway. What the Liberal government in British Columbia wanted to do, of course, was lease out the highway for 55 years for a huge up-front payment, which in return would allow the successful bidder to impose a toll on travellers. Well, Mr. Speaker, that issue came to an abrupt stop when the government finally saw the forest through the trees and realized it just wouldnít fly.
Now this government stands to learn from nearby examples that have happened recently before it launches into any long-term agreements that sell out the territoryís interests, that lessen the territoryís future, that decrease the investment climate in the long run.
I think that such examples might provide a short-term gain but not without long-term pain. In the end, if our major assets are owned by private interests, it will cost us all more. The assets of the territory will be less. I think the Yukon Partyís plan will start with a bridge in Dawson; it might include a road to resources in southeast Yukon; maybe a few more pet projects from the secret agenda. We hear about a potential jail. The list is endless. Weíve heard about schools; weíve heard about tolls on our highways. Where does it stop?
Well, fortunately, it might stop at the next election, because I believe that most Yukoners will reject such an agenda. People are proud of what they own. They donít want to see it sold off. We saw an example in Saskatchewan recently where the political issue was privatization, and a government that was not expected to be re-elected for a fourth term in fact was re-elected based on taking a strong position against privatization of public assets.
Well, Mr. Speaker, there are direct similarities with whatís happening now in this Yukon Partyís approach.
The Yukon is put up for sale to the highest bidder under this Yukon Partyís approach. Well, does it have a mandate to proceed with that agenda? The answer is no. It campaigned on something entirely different. This is a secret agenda, and one that we see starting to unravel, early in the second year. It will be very interesting to watch, but itís imperative to stand up against it because of where it will lead the territory.
The previous speaker also patted himself on the back for this governmentís efforts to lay the groundwork for the gas pipeline. Well, this is laughable. What this government has done is to impose severe cuts to the budget for the pipeline. What we saw in the U.S. energy bill was the result of a complete void of Yukon participation in the whole debate.
Now, the backbenchers are shaking their heads, but we know they donít know, and we can understand that. Thatís reasonable.
But had the Yukon spoken up on the matter to provide some back pressure against the Mackenzie line to Ottawa and to other interests, then industry groups and others could have carried that ball further. But the Yukon government dropped the ball, and thatís why the energy bill came up short, where companies, like Cominco, Phillips, were not very pleased with the end result. It now appears that that bill will not pass the U.S. Senate.
So, the reality is quite a bit different from what this House was told about half an hour ago by the Yukon government.
The previous speaker also took a lot of credit for this bilateral agreement with the Kaska First Nation. He said it allows more resource development in the absence of a land claim. This, in fact, is an end run around the Umbrella Final Agreement, and I know that there are plenty of other First Nations in the territory watching this whole situation very closely as it develops. Itís not consistent with what this government promised a year ago at election time. But we see the true right-wing agenda starting to emerge. This government doesnít respect the Umbrella Final Agreement, and we see evidence that proves that now.
The speaker also gave glowing praise for the FireSmart program. Well, I can agree mostly with the member, because it was a previous NDP government that created that program.
There is something more important now, and that is, post-devolution, the territory has a greater responsibility for fire protection, but this government is copping out. This government has refused to accept that larger responsibility. This government, to date, has only helped to reduce fuel load within community boundaries by continuing the FireSmart program.
In a community like Haines Junction, that only answers part of the problem. The bigger problem is the forest that interfaces the community boundary. There is a big need for fire protection, but this government has yet to do anything. The question I asked back in the spring was about what the government was going to do to assume the greater responsibility, but it had no answers.
This fall, when the harsh reality of wildfire was driven home to Yukoners through their television sets and reports of fires in British Columbia followed by fires in California, attention was galvanized on issues of fire protection in this territory. Itís disgraceful what has happened.
A few years ago the federal government commissioned what is called the Embers report. That report has been largely ignored. It has been sitting on a shelf collecting dust. And that report tells it like it is: that virtually every community in the territory is currently in a large state of risk from wildfire. There are several areas ó I donít think there are any exceptions. Perhaps Old Crow, Mr. Speaker, where trees are rather rare ó that community may be excluded. But in communities like Marsh Lake, Mount Lorne, Ibex Valley, Lake Laberge, in virtually every community in the territory there is a severe hazard. I might add that if anybody ever has a chance to talk to come officials who know, then that person will find out how severe this problem really is.
I know in the Kluane area I spent several hours with officials from Kluane National Park this fall discussing the need to work together with other jurisdictions in combatting this problem. Itís rather amazing that officials representing the park were eager to work with the Yukon government to do something. Even options like controlled burns were discussed.
I attended a forestry public meeting last week, where I talked to officials about this matter and emphasized to them the need to work with whomever we need to work with, in order to address this problem. In situations where communities are surrounded by national parks and First Nation lands, itís imperative to work with other jurisdictions.
One other note on FireSmart is that Iíve learned that FireSmart may actually encourage wildfire in the community by increasing airflow at ground levels. That is something that should not go unnoticed. I think in communities where such examples exist, more emphasis should be placed on reducing fuel load adjacent to community boundaries, where the present FireSmart program ends.
Having put that on record, Iíd also like to address the previous speakerís revelation that government does not create economic growth. Well, I donít believe that. I think government does, has and continues to create economic growth. How? I think itís rather obvious. The territory spends more than half a billion dollars a year. That huge injection of funds into this territory of some 30,000 people creates a lot of economic growth through programs that encourage economic growth, such as the film incentive fund.
In fact, we see industry setting up shop and doing business in the territory ó thereby growth is created. With the previous NDP government, we saw a program named "trade and investment fund" that also created economic growth. There were companies established and enhanced that became exporters of goods. This created economic growth. There are countless other examples.
So I donít believe in that Canadian Alliance-type rhetoric. I think itís rather obvious that governments can, do, will and have created economic growth.
My colleague from Mayo-Tatchun just pointed out that the mineral exploration tax credit does the same, and I would agree. What is a tax kickback to mining companies doing exploration in the territory acts as an incentive for them to do business in the territory. We see the results of that program today ó which, I believe was also established under an NDP government ó and it has been continued. We do see a bump in the exploration investment in this territory. That is a good thing, provided itís done in a responsible manner.
Hopefully this government doesnít cut out some of these successful NDP programs. I know that so far it has managed to avoid what the previous government did to many of those successful programs, and that is a good thing. I will concede that credit to the Yukon Party government. I see some grins and gleams and nods and winks from the members opposite. Itís good to have that in here once in awhile, Mr. Speaker.
I mentioned a minute ago the trade and investment fund. Well, when are we going to get that important program back? When it was cancelled, it was done with the knowledge of a report that was done and told a story that was very good about the performance of that economic program. Of course, that particular report was not made public by the previous government until it was released by a defected backbencher. Once it was made public, Mr. Speaker, we saw that in fact the trade and investment fund had a good track record, it was working, and Yukoners, by and large, believe there is no reason to cancel a good program that is working, that is developing Yukon businesses in a responsible way, and a program that encourages and creates economic growth.
So when are we going to see the trade and investment fund? It could have been here a year ago. It could have been here in this supplementary budget. Will it be here in the spring budget? Or wonít we see it at all? What is this government up to? As far as I know, it hasnít put on the record in this House or anywhere else, for that matter, its intentions with respect to the trade and investment fund.
We heard the previous speaker also hit on Connect Yukon and so on, but that very program provided a lot of benefits to the territory, it brought telephones and Internet service to unserved and underserved areas of the territory. It brought high-speed data service to points within the territory. It brought telecommunications to Yukon schools and others in the territory. It has already benefited several Yukoners who have received a higher level of education. I suppose that if one added up all the economic benefits from businesses being able to connect to more customers and so on, there would be lots of evidence to indicate it was a successful program.
I think Yukoners today can look back on Connect Yukon and compare ourselves quite favourably with how we stand when compared to the rest of the world. As a matter of fact, I think I recall a newspaper article from back in June that indicated the Yukon was leading the way in regard to telecommunications development and so on. So we have lots to be proud of.
In regard to improving investment climate in the territory ó the subject of the motion today ó what if this government undertook endeavours to enhance technology development in the territory?
We have a technology innovation centre located by Yukon College. We know this centre is operating on a low amount of funds and could certainly put more funding to good use.
Iíve spoken before in this House about one particular area of economic development that would enhance the territory, and that is attracting more Internet business to the territory ó people doing business in their homes. This idea works particularly well in industries where it really doesnít matter where the person involved lives, and we know the Yukon offers several lifestyle advantages to people worldwide. I think thatís proven by whom we attract here in the way of tourists. In some rural communities ó Iíll just mention Destruction Bay, for one, because Iím familiar with this case. It has grown in recent years by people moving into that community from elsewhere. Of course, the town is located on the shores of Kluane Lake, and itís surrounded by beautiful, natural scenery. In fact, itís spectacular. And when people from elsewhere view such spectacular scenery, theyíre drawn to the Yukon, and theyíre drawn to communities like Destruction Bay, and they want to live there.
So if we were able to improve our communications infrastructure to attract such people, then it would be a soft path to technological development that would benefit the whole territory ó a lot of investment to the territory.
Currently, Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing are like Ross River and Faro, where their Internet service is stuck at 33K, and thatís a long way from ADSL or high-speed Internet. This government should attend to that shortcoming so those communities can take part in this new-age technology, like other communities in the territory can. I think thereís a lot of potential in that area for growth. Such growth would be responsible and with very little environmental impact.
But this government is taking a much different approach ó the right-wing approach ó where itís trying to attract big industry to the territory while ignoring other interests, and it doesnít really care about their environmental track record. It just wants to increase the exploration dollars as much as it can and go from there, because to it the Yukon is for sale.
There are plenty of Yukoners who do not agree with that philosophy, I being one.
Another way to improve the investment climate is to enhance the micro-loans. Mr. Speaker, there are many people in the territory with good business ideas or existing businesses who could benefit from micro-loans, yet the government has done nothing to enhance this program. Again, itís more focused on the big-industry angle.
What about the fireweed fund, Mr. Speaker? This is a labour-sponsored venture that provides capital that could attract a lot of money.
So far, out of this government, we have heard no indication that it is willing to move to the use of this financial vehicle to improve the territoryís investment climate.
I have already mentioned film production, Mr. Speaker. There is a lot of upside to this industry. I believe that the territory to date has only experienced the beginnings of what could be a major industry and employer to the territory. I recall from a few years ago an example that was not a very good example. I will summarize it very briefly.
There was a childrenís television show that wanted to film in the territory and requested funding from the Yukon governmentís film incentive fund, but it was declined because of insufficient funds within that particular program. We talked about that matter in this House. I recall the former Tourism minister getting quite excited about the fact that the government was broke and how it couldnít enhance funding in that particular program. So, in the meantime, the Call of the Wild production located elsewhere. It didnít come to the territory.
The economic benefits from that one production were rather staggering. I recall something in the neighbourhood of 130 jobs and the figure of approximately $80 million in economic activity, yet it was turned down because there was a shortfall in the program. What we saw two months later was the Auditor General come in and indicate that the government had a surplus of some $80 million. The excuse provided by the government at the time that it could not enhance this fund was completely disproven a short time later, so it was a lost opportunity.
So how can we benefit from that example? Well, we tabled in this House probably two weeks ago a notice of motion calling on the government to provide regular reports on the financial state of the territoryís surplus. Had we known the true picture of the Yukon surplus that January, which had to have been known by the Premier at the time and possibly her Cabinet through what is called monthly variance reports ó had all members of this Legislature known about the huge surplus, then I think the debate around enhancing the film incentive fund could have taken on great proportion.
Perhaps the suggestion could have materialized, and perhaps that production could have come to the territory. Perhaps the territory would have many more productions today if it had, because the film of Jack Londonís story on television sets across the country and in many other countries is good advertising for the territory. As well, people directly involved in that production would tell others. Thereís quite a good possibility that other productions could have come to the territory since that time. So that is what we refer to as a lost opportunity.
In order to avoid such losses from recurring, and to capture as many potential economic benefits as possible in the future, we do need this government to reveal the true state of finances on a regular basis. Thatís the first step. In the meantime, thereís nothing stopping the government from enhancing that particular program.
Now, I know the federal government enhanced its program about a week and a half ago, and I think every jurisdiction in this country has to do the same, especially now that Arnold is Governor of California. He has mentioned his goal of bringing in disincentives for movie producers to go outside the United States. We in Canada, and we in the territory, have to do what we can to protect existing industry and to continue to attract more companies to the territory within that industry.
What we have heard from this government since that time is nothing. So in order for our investment climate to improve, there is another suggestion for this government.
Now, in preparation for this afternoonís debate, I looked through my files and found something rather interesting. I will be sending a copy over to the other side. I do have another copy of this. If they could just bear with me, they will get it. Itís called the Trade Team Times from November and December 1999. It was a newspaper supplement that was distributed to Yukoners and provided information on a number of programs and economic developments within the territory.
For the membersí information, I can turn to page 5 and see a picture of the now Premier shaking hands with people in the forestry industry. That was when we still had a forestry industry and there were actually people with whom to shake hands. But such people are pretty few and far between now, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Member for Klondike is rattling on about how ó I think he said his political fortunes were destroyed by the NDP. Well, we will have to wait until the next election to find out whether thatís accurate.
But I would suggest that he would stand better if he would listen to what I have to say. I will send him my spare copy of the Trade Team Times. We could just send it directly over to him.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: The Member for Kluane was quoting extensively from this document. I would ask that he table this for the information of all members of this House.
Speaker:There is no point of order, as the Member for Kluane had offered to send the document over. Iíd ask the Member for Kluane to carry on.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Lake Laberge is a little rambunctious and eager, but maybe if he stands in line heíll be the next to read it after the Member for Klondike. I know thereís great demand here today, because this government is starving for economic ideas. Thatís why he brought this motion to the floor and wants to hear good ideas on how it can improve the territoryís investment climate.
Iíve already provided them with the former NDP Trade Team Times and itís chock full of good ideas, and I will be reviewing some of them now.
Iíll just kind of go through the paper. Right up front here, on page 3, weíre talking about exporting chocolates. Now, the members laugh, but this is small industry making breakthroughs in other economies that produce jobs in the territory and enhance the economy. It improves the investment climate. It doesnít all have to be a big mining company coming in and leaving a big mess for future taxpayers to clean up. Sometimes we have to do what we can for small business.
But the production moves on to some good articles about attracting investment from around the world and diversification. Now, thereís a lost word, Mr. Speaker.
Thereís a word we havenít heard much about in recent months: diversification. Whatever happened to a governmentís diversification efforts? I think, Mr. Speaker, this government is focused only on efforts to bring big industry to the territory. Itís not doing enough to foster diversification that will improve the economy across the territory.
Iíd also like to point out for the members the ad on page 6, which will look very familiar to the members, because this same ad has appeared in recent newspapers, only in a coloured version. The same ad was paid for by this Yukon government. But yet we see it here back in 1999 in the Trade Team Times, that may be of particular relevance to some of the members who thought the ad was related exclusively to new Yukon Party action, but in fact, itís not.
We see all kinds of reports on trade team missions. I know the now Premier participated in two or three of those trade missions and spoke very highly of them. We also see a section on the oil and gas industry, and we know the Oil and Gas Act was brought in by that previous NDP government, and there is a lot of potential in that industry. Of course it must be balanced with proper safeguards for our environment, and Yukoners should be listened to when it comes to development, not sent letters that dictate decisions that were already made but didnít include them.
The paper also talks about how the air traffic to the territory has been enhanced. We know that extending the runway brought international flights to Whitehorse that otherwise wouldnít land here. Perhaps such infrastructure would serve to improve the investment climate in the territory. Maybe there are other examples that can follow suit.
There are stories in this production about how training will lead to a greater number of jobs. Weíve seen an exodus of workers from the territory in recent years. I know the members opposite will talk about the huge exodus, but that was related to the closure of the Faro mine. I think whatís really important is looking at what has happened after that bump levelled out. What weíve seen is a steady decline. We know there are 400 fewer workers in the territory than there were a year ago. In the year previous to that, I believe there were 300 fewer workers.
These are people who once had jobs and were forced to leave in search of a job and go elsewhere. That is a shame, because there is more the territory could be doing to retain our workforce and attract other members. Iím thinking back to last winter. The government announced sometime in December that it would initiate a huge winter works initiative. But that initiative wasnít brought in until ó I believe it was February, almost at the end of the winter.
So there was a lost opportunity there to put food on the tables of many Yukoners who have since left. Thatís not improving the investment climate in the territory because when those people who were forced to leave talk to their new neighbours, they are not going to say much good about the territoryís economy. That certainly doesnít enhance the territoryís investment climate.
So I think that the government, when it talks the talk, should walk the walk. If it says it is going to bring in a winter works program, it should do so without delay ó as it did earlier this year with a huge delay.
Now, this production ó just to wrap it up ó talks about diversification and its importance. It talks about new products, new services, new markets. It talks about enhancing the territoryís trade and stimulating local business, and so on. I would like to participate in a debate at some near point in this Legislature when we can actually talk about what this government is doing in regard to diversification, because so far we have seen very little in the way of action. We have heard a lot of rhetoric but we have seen very little in the way of results.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think that so far on record we have some good suggestions that will hopefully stimulate some creative debate this afternoon. But I would also like to point out that I have a problem with the wording of this motion.
It indicates itís going to continue efforts to work with the named groups in the territory. Earlier, I indicated several of those groups that were being excluded from this governmentís work. Some of those groups have come out with some pretty harsh language to that effect. I believe the motion is worded in too much of a self-congratulatory way and needs to be moderated and brought down to earth a little more.
I would like to introduce a friendly amendment that would improve this motion and make it far less political. I think this amendment would be something we could all agree with.
Mr. McRobb: I move
THAT Motion No. 132 be amended by removing the phrase "continue its efforts with" and substituting for it the phrase "initiate meaningful and balanced strategic efforts in cooperation with".
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT Motion No. 132 be amended by removing the phrase "continue its efforts with" and substituting for it the phrase "initiate meaningful and balanced strategic efforts in cooperation with".
The Member for Kluane has 20 minutes.
Mr. McRobb: As I mentioned prior to reading the motion, I believe this removes the element of political chest thumping that was integrated into the previous motion. The leader of the third party indicates that might be sexist language. I would actually tend to agree with her, so I would retract that and insert in its place the words "back patting". Letís move on from there.
This amendment indicates that we should initiate meaningful and balanced strategic efforts and cooperation with the groups identified. For the record, weíll identify the groups and since the motion language is rather short, Mr. Speaker, Iíll just read it in its entirety and insert the new language.
"THAT this House urges the Yukon government to initiate meaningful and balanced strategic efforts in cooperation with First Nation governments, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, business and labour organizations to improve the investment climate within the Yukon."
I think thatís something we on this side of the House can agree with, and it should be something with which the government side can also agree. It doesnít provoke any type of political retaliation from the governmentís side that I can envision. Itís rather matter of fact. I think we can all agree itís important to work with every one of those parties identified to improve investment climate within the Yukon. We should all be doing as such.
So, letís see what the government has to say about it.
Mr. Cathers: On the amendment, I look at what seems to be a very hastily prepared amendment in an apparently desperate effort by the Member for Kluane, I believe it is.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I know where the member is going. There is a typo on the motion, and instead of having my riding identified, it has another riding identified. That little quirk has been taken care of, and we should move beyond those typos, bring more solid debate to this Legislature, and do what we can to represent Yukonersí interests, instead of engaging in such tactics.
Speaker: Member for Lake Laberge, on the point of order.
Mr. Cathers: On the point of order, there is no point of order. There is merely a dispute between members and an attempt by the Member for Kluane to interrupt me.
Speaker:Actually, I get to say that.
There is no point of order. I would ask the members to carry on and tighten your discussions up just a little on the amendment. Thatís what weíre talking about. The Member for Lake Laberge, you have 17 minutes left.
Mr. Cathers: On the amendment, it appears that this is a very hastily prepared amendment. I would suggest that if the member opposite, the Member for Kluane, I believe, doesnít even take the time to make sure he has the right riding name on the amendment, it calls into grave question how well-thought-out the amendment was. Certainly to me, this amendment appears to be nothing more than an effort to play political games and suggests that this government has not been undertaking efforts in cooperation with other governments and groups.
And itís insulting, not only to me and my government colleagues, but itís insulting to all the Yukon government employees who have worked hard on these files and on these efforts. This amendment by the Member for Kluane, in my view, not only changes the intent of the motion but does not recognize the true state of facts. Itís half-baked in my opinion, and for that reason we are unable to support the amendment.
Mrs. Peter: I am happy to rise in support of this amendment that is before us. I have listened with great interest to what has been said here this afternoon. The motion that was put before us earlier mentioned that the motion was to improve the investment climate within the Yukon.
I have heard many of the issues concerning this very topic in the last few years since Iíve been in office. The riding I come from has a very cautious approach to governments when they talk about industry. We have a very serious, outstanding issue that has taken 20 years or more to address, and itís probably going to take us another 20 years. Thatís in regard to the Porcupine caribou herd, which is part of our lifestyle.
Also, we have a very large traditional area in north Yukon, and our brothers and sisters who hold traditional territory in the north Yukon are also very cautious about what governments are proposing.
The Member for Lake Laberge earlier entered the theme in which they campaigned, which was "Together we will do better". When I heard him say those words, it took me back to the document and a group of leaders 30 years ago from our communities. The chiefs from throughout the Yukon had to take a document to Ottawa, which was called Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. I have a lot of respect for people who take very serious note of that, because it took some 30 years to bring that document to the vision it intended.
We talk about bringing the investment climate within the Yukon to some improvement, and I would like to make a few suggestions and comments in that regard.
In the last few weeks weíve addressed a few issues with regard to investments proposed by this government, the Yukon Party government, and their aggressive approach to bringing big industry into the Yukon and attracting those kinds of dollars for the Yukon. Itís in regard to oil and gas development.
We heard about their initiative about the roads to resources. Also, they are always reminding us about the big dream about the pipeline. All these are long-range plans. These plans may become reality, if at all, maybe in 10 years. Are the people of the Yukon willing to wait that long?
Today our people are standing in soup lines. Today our people are standing at the social assistance offices so they can provide very basic needs for their families. We are coming up to the Christmas season. Families out there would like to provide for their families and spend the holiday season together in their homes and be able to provide for very basic needs ó not for the head of the household to be in B.C. or Alberta, thousands of miles away from their homes and trying to pay the extra expense to get from where they are back to the community so that they can spend some time with their families.
To me, Mr. Speaker, that doesnít improve our investment climate. That doesnít improve our way of living. We have people who are very interested in coming to the Yukon Territory for a visit ó whether it be any season throughout the year, whether it be for skiing. We have some beautiful country that the people of the world are very interested in. If we can attract those kinds of people and have them come and visit the Yukon, that will help to improve our investment climate.
We have people who are interested in viewing wildlife. That, Mr. Speaker, is another suggestion to which this government should pay attention. We have a vast variety of wildlife that the rest of the world does not have, and that is an attraction for people out there in the world. Thatís a simple idea. Maybe itís too simple, and we just canít see those things.
We have many skilled people in the territory, especially in the area of arts and crafts. People in this territory do some of the most beautiful beadwork and some of the most beautiful art that you can imagine and, for small businesses ó they laughed earlier when my colleague was talking about exporting chocolates; you know, that is not a laughing matter. Some people do make a living doing that. We have people making soap, and people are coming to their store and purchasing that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Peter: Thatís right. My colleague says "moccasins".
We have some very skilled people in this territory, and that is their way of life. I see some of the members across the way smiling and chuckling. Iíve heard it said in this House some time back that members on this side donít have any business sense, but I disagree with that.
Sometimes we have to take a step back and really have a good look at what the reality of the Yukon is. We live here; we come from the smaller communities. We know whatís out there, and we know how people make their living in our communities. The economic activities that happen in our communities add to the investment climate in the Yukon, and that has to be taken seriously.
The First Nations self-government throughout the territory plays a great role in that, and they do not have to be ignored ó especially in the area of building infrastructure throughout the territory. One of the biggest issues thatís before us today is the new Whitehorse correctional facility and how thatís being handled and addressed. That building itself can provide so many jobs for people in this territory so that they donít have to stand in lineups and ask for handouts, and it will make this Yukon a safer place to be.
We need to have commitment from the Yukon Party government in these areas. We need people out there to be working today, not waiting for the big industry to come to the Yukon Territory five, 10 years from now so they can leave us a big mess and then go away and then weíre stuck with a cleanup job that will cost millions of dollars. That, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is no investment in the climate of this Yukon Territory.
The environment is very important in this territory. We can promote many areas throughout this territory. We have some of the most beautiful spots, and if you think about it, you want to talk about partnerships ó again, a simple idea. Speak to the First Nation people who are out there. They can help you find these places and show you. You talk about wildlife viewing ó they know where those places are. They know the best places to fish. Lots of people like to go fishing. You take a drive in northern Yukon, up on the Dempster Highway, and you see some of the most beautiful scenery. You can see some animals that people down south have never seen before. Those are some of the suggestions I have.
We need to know who we have and the resources we have in the Yukon. Tap into the arts and crafts circles. See the beauty of that work and promote that.
I heard earlier the Member for Lake Laberge talking about Ottawa. The people in my community are subsistence people, and weíve always been. You want to talk about improving the investment climate within the Yukon; theyíve done that, way before any non-First Nation people came to our lands.
We had an economic activity happening then, and we have that happening today. Iím very, very proud to stand in this House today on my feet and say that some of the most creative investment opportunities were done by the people of my community of Old Crow. They made business ventures happen and they are successful today. One example is with Air North, the airline. We have two flights going down south. We had to constantly ask for support from this government to make that happen, and it took some doing, and an airline had to almost go bankrupt in order for us to get some kind of attention. Weíre happy to say that thatís getting better.
Thereís also the winter Cat train thatís going into the community of Old Crow. Again, that is by some very detailed planning by the people in the community, and presented two governments ago ó detailed plans for a vision for our community to improve the investment climate, not only for the community of Old Crow, but also for some companies in the Yukon Territory.
They have a joint venture with a company now thatís going to do some of that work. That is putting your money where your mouth is.
We donít need to wait around for partnerships with people. We make our vision happen. We had to wait around for years for people to step up to the plate with us. That is happening for most of the First Nations across this territory. They would like to make progress for their people. They are willing to put their money where their mouths are. Being paid lip service is not going to get anybody anywhere.
Many memorandums of understanding have been signed by the Yukon Party government. There is even a document that was signed to tell us what the definition of "consultation" is ó that consultation process is a duty of government out of respect. If you want to go into partnerships with people, you make sure that you follow the different processes that are in place, and make sure that each party is going to follow through with the commitment that they say they are going to provide.
You talk about the great relationship you have with First Nation governments, but we need to take that next step. We have had several examples just within the last day or so.
That is very questionable. I have only two more minutes left but the change in this amendment ó we had to bring that forward. The relationship that they have and the efforts that this government needs to put forward in regard to the relationship also with municipalities, with NGOs, with businesses and the labour organizations needs to improve. They need to be taken into consideration; they need to be consulted in matters that affect them most. And with that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank you for this time to speak.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíve listened quite attentively to the proposed amendment and I believe it is important to grasp the substance and the context of the main motion, as well as duly recognize what the official opposition is proposing.
I would at this time like to recommend an amendment to the amendment to Motion No. 132 that would replace the word "initiate" with "continue".
Weíve moved past "initiate".
What Iím suggesting by way of a motion is that Motion No. 132 would now end up reading:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue meaningful and balanced strategic efforts in cooperation with First Nation governments, municipalities, non-government organizations, business and labour organizations to improve the investment climate within the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 132 be amended by replacing the word "initiate" with "continue".
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 132 be amended by replacing the word "initiate" with "continue".
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the subamendment, the change would provide clarity and certainty to what we are doing. We have moved beyond "initiate". Our government, upon coming into power, initiated a whole series of undertakings. Now we would like to continue with those initiatives that we have initiated, and thus, the amendment to the amendment. It provides clarity, it encompasses what is being suggested by the Member for Kluane in his amendment to the motion, and it shows a cooperative, mutual understanding of the issues evolving in this Assembly.
I would encourage all to support this motion as it has been amended and further amended.
Mr. McRobb: On the subamendment, first of all, we need to see the written copy of his proposal. Unfortunately, he wasnít able to provide copies for all members of this House, which deprives us of the information we need to see in order to talk to it.
By the sounds of it, Mr. Speaker, what this amendment to the amendment does is revert to the former language thatís found in the original motion. The Member for Lake Laberge is cheering for that; we know the Member for Klondike has inspiration from his opposite corner in how he invents the language for these amendments.
Anyway, our amendment was offered, in good faith, as something that all members could agree to. There was no political language in it, no barbs or hooks. It was a straight shot, telling it like it is and spelling out that the government should initiate meaningful and balanced strategic efforts in cooperation with the stakeholder groups identified.
Obviously the government wants to revert to its protectionist language and continue its back-patting efforts and insist that it already is taking such action.
Such an opinion ignores the evidence put on record this afternoon. That evidence indicated that there were several exceptions to this statement. I think we can all level with each other and fess up to the fact that working with all those parties identified is not a simple task. Itís not a simple task, and it requires a lot of effort. It requires consultation, networking, reaching out, touching someone. That someone may be in a distant corner in the territory; nevertheless, that someone is important. This government has not done a 100-percent job of that. We know that. Why is it not humble enough to admit the fact and move on from here?
Obviously we see the political gamesmanship continuing. They point the finger at our side of the House, but this government should know that every time it does that, there are three fingers pointing back at them.
The governmentís refusal to accept the amendment and play games indicates that it is not willing to cooperate in consultation with all MLAs in this Legislature ó which it campaigned on a year ago. Instead, it wants to force through the votes in this House by using its majority. I predict, because of the stubbornness exhibited this afternoon, that thatís exactly whatís going to happen.
This amendment to the amendment will get approved, and if we get to a vote on the main motion, it also will receive the majority of votes but it wonít be unanimous. We on the opposition side can take credit for what I believe is about seven motions passed in unanimity in this Legislature this year. Seven motions that I can recall, including the YPA motion that was quite contentious, but there were about seven motions passed in this Legislature unanimously. This could have been another one, had the government relented a little bit and agreed to the amendment ó the apolitical language in the amendment ó but we see thatís not happening.
Before I sit down, I want to also put on record something from a couple of weeks ago in this Legislature when the government brought in its last motion, which was on the need to protect ANWR. What we saw that afternoon was quite interesting, Mr. Speaker, and fortunately it escaped coverage in the local media. Not too many people found out about it. I think itís to Yukonersí advantage to review that situation because itís highly pertinent to the situation we are currently in. That is, an amendment to the ANWR motion was brought forward to give it some substance. Otherwise the motion was very general; it was motherhood and apple pie. The amendment we brought in called on the government to actually take some simple action steps such as ensuring that the protection of ANWR was included in its speeches at oil and gas conferences in Calgary and abroad.
Mr. Speaker, what we saw following that amendment was shameful. What we saw was the Yukon Party members get up and talk out the motion. That talk required several hours of needless debate to ensure this House didnít bring that motion to a vote. This House could have had another unanimous motion, but this government knew that its position on that particular issue was hollow. It was looking for a motion that would make it appear that it actually supports ANWR but, in fact, its real agenda is quite different.
So, when we brought forward the motion bringing some meat onto the ANWR plate, this government chose to run, and it chose to run out the clock.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 35(b), when amending a motion, a member, other than the mover, shall confine debate to the subject of the amendment. Weíre not dealing with the subject of the amendment. The member opposite is wandering all over.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: If one were listening ó and also the Blues are there to check later on ó the Member for Klondike would notice that I connected my discussion of the previous motion with the circumstance weíre now in. My example had concluded at the time the member rose on this point of order, which is highly in doubt. I would submit itís a disagreement between members and, in fact, we struck a nerve with the government, and thatís why they complained.
Speaker:The Chair feels that there is no point of order. The Chair has also given latitude to all sides of the House on these Wednesdays. If the members would care for that latitude to carry on, I would suggest that they focus themselves a little bit better, or the Chair will have to step in more, which he is loathe to do; however, if forced to, he will.
Please carry on.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that ruling, Mr. Speaker. I would further suggest that if the government side wants to change the rules, we should reconvene the committee that has the instruction to do so ó that being the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. Before it convenes that committee, it should even out the membership so that anything decided at the committee has more support than just from the government side.
Now, getting back to the motion ó or the amendment to the amendment to the motion, that is ó what we see here is another failing to achieve consensus in this House because the government wants to stick to its guns and insist that the language reflect the fallacy that it is continuing to work together with all of those identified bodies.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: The Member for Kluane is charging members with uttering a deliberate falsehood, in contravention of 19(h) by use of the term "fallacy".
Speaker:There is no point of order. I did recognize the word in the context; however, I donít believe it was ó it was, at best, argumentative. I would ask the Member for Kluane to lessen the argumentative tone.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think what we should do is lessen the argumentative tone of this motion by rescinding this amendment to the amendment and just sticking with the amendment to the motion, which is rather innocuous, apolitical and removes the very type of language that you have warned us about using, Mr. Speaker. I think that point is clear. Iíll call on the government side to retract this motion.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the subamendment?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: The Chair can appreciate that the leader of the official opposition was moving toward his position there. Unfortunately, I didnít recognize it; however, I will allow him to speak, in the interest of democracy. But I would remind all members that when they stand to be recognized by the Chair, they are in their places.
Leader of the official opposition, on the subamendment.
Mr. Hardy: Today Iím going to talk much slower and more concisely, because I do know that there is one area that is a little short-handed, and by doing so, it will make their job a little easier in recording.
The point I have to make here is that the change being proposed, the amendment to the amendment, substantially changes the amendment to a point where weíre going back to the original motion.
Our intent, when we brought in the amendment ó especially the word thatís causing the problems, "initiate" ó was to direct the government in a certain manner, and we did change the motion to the degree we felt we would be able to agree with and, we believe, is more reflective of the status today.
The amendment to the amendment does bring it back to the original motion, which was not acceptable to us on this side. You often donít get amendments to amendments that take it right back to where it was, that donít recognize, in any way, shape or form, the first amendment that was brought in.
However, thatís the case we have here, Mr. Speaker, and because of that, I cannot support the change that is being proposed, which is to replace the word "initiate" with the word "continue", which was in the original motion.
I would hope, if the Yukon Party is so inclined to work closely with us on this side, that they would take a look once again at this amendment to the amendment and come forward or propose another amendment that would reflect our viewpoints on this side so we could accept their initial Motion No. 132 with our addition to it and allow the House to come together to support the motion and indicate that we are capable of working together and recognize different viewpoints in order to advance motions in this House.
So with that, Iíll sit down.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the subamendment?
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to speak to the subamendment to the amendment to the motion. It would seem to me, in reading the subamendment, that what the government House leader, in his hasty attempt ó if you permit me, itís interesting that the Member for Lake Laberge referred to the original amendment as hastily drafted because it had the wrong riding. This subamendment is even more hasty. Itís handwritten and has a different member inserted in its haste. What the subamendment does is take us back to the original motion, and the objection from this corner of the side opposite is the use of the word "continue", because the facts donít bear out the use of the word "continue".
Iíd just like to address for a moment the facts of the matter. The difficulty is that the facts often become simply a dispute between members and differing interpretations of what one considers the facts. The issue at hand and the essence of the issue of the subamendment, the amendment and the motion itself is the reaction, working relationship, cooperation, efforts between the government and Yukon First Nations, as well as non-government organizations, business and labour. The difficulty is with the word "continue" in the subamendment and there is a difficulty with the words "cooperation" and "efforts" because, unfortunately, what we have seen to date has been the direct opposite.
Although the original mover of the motion spoke at great length in praise of the governmentís efforts, the view is a little different from outside of the House and from this side of the House. Letís take one example of one area of industry and economic hope in the territory ó that being our oil and gas industry.
When YOGA was introduced in this House ó unfortunately the Member for Lake Laberge was not with us at that time; he joined us at another point in time. The Yukon Oil and Gas Act brought in by the then NDP government and supported, I believe, certainly by our side of the House, but Iím not sure how the Yukon Party vote stacked up on that legislation at that time. However, the YOGA legislation provided a framework and a mandate for oil and gas development in the territory. It was agreed upon and supported by the House and, when we came to government, it was implemented.
So, while the Member for Lake Laberge has gone on at great length to say that economic efforts were solely focused on an Alaska Highway pipeline, in fact, oil and gas efforts ó and the early commitment of our government was, for example, a land sale every year. The reason that I point to this is that this is one area where the Yukon Party government has failed remarkably in their efforts. The land sale that was ready to go has not happened. It has not happened under the Yukon Party government. What industry asked for in developing the oil and gas industry was a land sale every year and the certainty of land claim settlements. It hasnít happened. It was ready to go when they took office, but it hasnít happened.
It hasnít happened because theyíre unable to achieve the agreement necessary and the efforts necessary working with First Nation governments. The royalty regulations require working with First Nation governments as well. Theyíve been in development for some time, weíve made substantial progress, but we havenít seen them under the Yukon Party.
Much discussion about the pipeline ó and the Member for Lake Laberge brought forward some very interesting perspectives and information he had been given with respect to our governmentís efforts. Words like "only spoken with the producers" and "all eggs in one basket." Well, Iíll spare the member receiving seven binders of speeches and news clippings of our governmentís efforts and remind him of facts like the work with training opportunities done by our government by then Minister of Economic Development, Scott Kent, in association with Akita Drilling and others.
During our term, the State of Alaska passed legislation banning the over-the-top route. The lobbyists in Washington had made a lot more progress than what weíve seen under this government.
The facts are that only part of the picture was painted. I would encourage the member opposite ó and Iíd be happy to loan him the seven binders so he could have the whole picture. Iíd also be happy to share with him the Alaska Highway pipeline project economic effects on the Yukon and Canada, commissioned by our government and used to substantiate the arguments that enabled the Premier of Alberta and the Minister of Energy, Murray Smith, to join in our lobby in Washington on this particular effort and to further the cause. Unfortunately, itís a cause that has suffered a significant setback from the bystanding of the current government.
And to suggest that all of the eggs were in one basket ignores the increase in the mineral exploration tax credit, ignores that the Film and Video Industry Association has light equipment, purchased in a public/private partnership, which government wonít own at the end ó but it has enhanced our cultural film industry, the visitor industry, the On Yukon Time project and the social framework.
Efforts working with First Nations have enabled the drawdown of justice by the Teslin Tlingit Council; that was done under our government. The consultations with CYFN on the new Correctional Centre were complete. The plans were in place and there had been substantial work, most especially with the Elders Council, that was completely ignored.
There was also incredible work done during the terms of all the governments that preceded us and by ourselves on concluding, under our watch, a significant number of land claims, including the final sign-off and ratification under our term with Ta'an and the initialling of agreements with Kwanlin Dun, Carcross Tagish First Nation, Kluane and White River. That credit belongs not only to the government of the day and Cabinet that worked on the significant issues brought forward, it most especially belongs with the negotiators from all three sides. Thatís why others in this House have real difficulty with the issue of "continue". We have difficulty with the word "continue" because we havenít seen efforts under this government in working with First Nations and non-government organizations.
Weíve seen an ignoring of issues brought forward by the Anti-Poverty Coalition ó one non-government organization. Weíve seen First Nation governments very concerned about violations and the ignoring of the recommendations and concerns put forward by duly mandated boards under the Umbrella Final Agreement. Weíve seen Yukon First Nations angry with the government for non-release of reports and weíve seen special arrangements made outside of existing land claim agreements, which are grave cause for concern for Yukoners who have worked within both First Nation governments and non-First Nation governments that have worked within those agreements.
To suggest that the government continue these efforts would be to suggest that the government is going to continue on a path that puts them contrary to the wishes of a number of First Nation governments and contrary to the wishes of some non-government organizations. Business has patiently, patiently, patiently waited for immediate results that were promised, and they have seen none.
Much has been made of the retail sales figures, but we donít as often hear about the fact that there are hundreds fewer people working in this territory under this governmentís watch.
So, no, Yukoners donít want the government to continue down that kind of a path. Rather, they want the Yukon Party government to initiate fulfillment of commitments, initiate a cooperative relationship, begin their efforts, and most importantly, Yukoners want to see some results and some living up to commitments that were made.
Letís not forget that there was a commitment not to change the Taxpayer Protection Act, that there was a commitment to consult on major pieces of legislation, that there was a commitment for a four-year degree program at Yukon College, that there was a commitment on a number of other initiatives. They go on and on and on, but we havenít seen them.
Together they were supposed to do better. Continuing the efforts we have seen today is not going to achieve better results. It is sending us down. The efforts we have seen so far: cancelling a land sale, a fractious relationship with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, issues around wildlife, issues about the accessibility of reports pertinent to First Nations and special one-of arrangements of the Umbrella Final Agreement are not efforts we want to see continue.
Yukoners want to see the government initiate cooperative working relationships, not only with First Nations, but with non-government organizations, business and labour. I would encourage them to initiate such relationships. Perhaps if the subamendment had been more thought out, it would have recognized that initiating and adding words such as are in the amendment itself really strengthens the motion and, I would suggest, is more conducive to an accurate reflection of how we all feel.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Question.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: I believe the ayes have it. I declare the amendment to the amendment carried.
Subamendment to Motion No. 132 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the amendment as amended?
Mr. Hardy: Most of the concerns I have have been raised by my colleague from Kluane. Unfortunately, what it really comes right down to is the belief that the Yukon Party government has not been doing what they say in the motion here. By accepting or agreeing to the word "continue" it leaves the false impression that we on this side of the House believe that the work theyíve been doing has been substantial enough to merit this motion.
There are questions we have to ask, and I think theyíre fairly legitimate questions ó like, what kinds of consultations have been taking place? We havenít seen very much from the Yukon Party side with respect to meaningful consultations with any organization. If there has been, it has been happening behind the scenes, and weíre not aware of it. For us to fully accept a motion like this, we would need to have the proof laid before us, and the Yukon Party doesnít seem to want to do that. The Yukon Party seems to want to present this image that they are doing it, without the proof.
Now, we would like to be assured, when we look at a motion like this, that all First Nations have had equal access to the Yukon Party government, have all been treated in the same manner, and there hasnít been any "playing favourites," I guess you could say. Thatís a concern we have brought up here before. We havenít had the reassurance that this hasnít been happening.
We are very concerned, of course, in the second name they use here ó municipalities ó that there hasnít been proper efforts with respect to working with the municipalities to improve the investment climate. Obviously, all we have to do is look at the very, very strained relationships that exist with Dawson City. That does not bode well for any type of productive or progressive movement forward on the economy when the majority of your time is spent fighting with them. At the present time, it seems like the Yukon Party government has decided that the city council in Dawson City is not considered a friend, and they have instituted a very aggressive and ó I would say ó regressive action against them.
That does not bode well for the investment climate within the Yukon, as the motion says.
Carmacks is another example. The municipality of Carmacks ó there are obviously problems with regard to the Education minister and how he makes his announcements and with whom he has discussions when he does that. It indicates, once again, lack of communication, and it is definitely not indicative of working together. So we have some things outstanding there.
I know that the City of Whitehorse has locked horns already with the Yukon Party government ó whether it was around the business incentive policy or other issues. The relationship at times has been very strained. That, itself, does not indicate, to the NDP on this side anyway, that proper efforts are being made to work closely together to improve the investment climate.
The non-government organizations ó well, we havenít really seen any indications of what type of work the Yukon Party government actually is doing in relation to NGOs. They have not been able to indicate to us on this side that they have been having ongoing meetings around investment climate, that they have been part of any economic development structure. As far as I understand, they are not. If anything, they are kept at armís length from decision making, especially in the investment climate. So thatís another area of concern.
Business ó in some areas, I believe that the government has been working with business, but in other areas they have been neglecting business. There are a multitude of businesses in the Yukon representing a vast variety of services, work performed. I can use an example: the construction sector is one that is definitely on its heels.
Because of the cuts in the spring budget and the lack of initiative in the fall supplementary, a lot of small- and medium-sized construction companies will be laying off a large number of Yukon workers, which has the potential for us to lose more in that area. Ecotourism and many other businesses ó the member from Old Crow indicated the arts. And there are a great number of people making their living or supplementing their income through the arts. Thatís not really reflected in any kind of debate or discussion that we have heard, unless itís happening behind the scenes and involves them.
I could go on and on in this area ó the NGOs, the small businesses and single businesses, and the mid-size businesses. It seems that the majority of discussions in the business sector have been focused around extremely large businesses, as this government seems to hope for the home runs that will turn this economy around.
I find there are shortcomings there, Mr. Speaker. The last one they list in the long list here is labour, and I believe thatís probably intentional ó the way they list by their priorities. They put labour at the back. From what I can understand and from what I see, there has been very little contact with labour.
Now, this government was unable to finalize a collective agreement with the largest workforce in the territory and, of course, theyíre waiting to hear from the arbitrator what the settlement will be, because they walked away from the table.
Labour has indicated on numerous occasions their difficulty in talking with or dealing with the Yukon Party government, and the frustration continues to grow in that sector. Labour does have a role to play in our investment climate. We cannot build an economy without labour. Itís not just business and I would hope that, at some point, the Yukon Party government will recognize that and involve labour in a more meaningful and direct manner than the method that they are using now.
The attack on one of the largest labour groups in the Yukon with the computer use investigation has demoralized the investment climate. Many of those people who work there do invest in local businesses, through their shopping and purchasing, and we could see some difficulty in that area for many of the small businesses that do rely upon the wages that are spent by labour.
Looking at all those points and not going into all the other ones that have been brought up, but looking at those points, I have a difficulty ó itís not that I wonít vote against this motion, Mr. Speaker, but I have difficulty in accepting the fact that this is the continual practice. The model that theyíve used so far is something that they can stand and say that they should continue with. I would rather have seen language that speaks to improving its efforts, speaks to trying harder, speaks to reaching out further, speaks to being more inclusive in the language, and I think if that was in this motion, I would be able to say yes, thatís an excellent motion, and we definitely support the government on the other side doing that.
To actually think that what they have done so far is good enough, that they should just continue with it, without making any changes, raises very serious concerns that we may be here in three years ó or maybe two and a half years before they finally call an election ó witnessing another motion from the Member for Lake Laberge that still talks about continuing a model that is obviously not that inclusive and does not reflect the opportunities available and how the government can partner with more than just the private sector. We all know there is a lot more to this than just the one sector of our economy. We need many pillars holding up our economy.
With that, I will conclude my remarks and apologize to the Hansard people for talking faster this time.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Question.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: I believe the ayes have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment to Motion No. 132 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Order please. Prior to calling division, I will read the motion as amended. It is moved by the Member for Lake Laberge:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue meaningful and balanced strategic efforts in cooperation with First Nation governments, municipalities, non-government organizations, businesses, and labour organizations to improve the investment climate within the Yukon.
Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: The results are 11 yea, five nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried as amended.
Motion No. 132 agreed to as amended
Clerk: Motion No. 113, standing in the name of Mr. Rouble.
Motion No. 113
Speaker:It is moved by the Member for Southern Lakes
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to provide funding for the upgrading of Yukon schools as needed, including upgrading the cafeteria of Porter Creek Secondary School and constructing a new school in Carmacks.
Mr. Rouble: Following our discussion on improving the investment climate in the Yukon, weíll now move on to part of our commitment for ó excuse me, what weíve discussed, rebuilding the Yukon economy; now itís time to move on and discuss another important part of our platform, that of achieving a better quality of life for Yukoners, our social agenda.
A very important part of the Yukon Partyís plan for the territory is our social agenda. We committed to providing Yukon students with the fundamental skills necessary to prepare them for jobs, responsible citizenship and lifelong learning. Education is very near and dear to the heart of every Yukoner. It is, in part, how we collectively raise our children. And education is very near and dear to my heart. My mother was a teacher, an aunt was a teacher, an uncle was a principal, and my masterís degree in business administration specializes in educational administration. I have other certification in training; in fact Iíve been a trainer, Iíve been a teacher, and Iíve been a substitute teacher. Itís certainly something that I value.
Last week in this House we talked about building wealth, and I believe it was the member from the other side of the floor who discussed how you can measure wealth in terms other than monetarily. I wholeheartedly agree. Wealth can be measured and valued in your knowledge, your appreciation for art, your appreciation for culture. There are many other ways to build oneís individual wealth, and education is an incredibly important way of doing that.
Now, our education system, despite its many challenges, such as a small population, vast distances, and changing demographics, is one of the best in the world. I would like to applaud and thank all those involved in it. Iíd like to thank the teachers and principals, administrators, facility management people, department officials, volunteers, and boards and committees. They all do a wonderful job, and they work hard to prepare our youth for the future.
Now, I have always been very impressed when Iíve gone to a Yukon school ó the beautiful condition, the upbeat nature, the facilities. That has either been as a teacher, a volunteer or for a meeting as a contractor. Our Yukon schools are something to be proud of.
Now, this motion is regarding providing funding for the upgrading of our schools. This is part of the infrastructure that we need in order to help students learn, and itís an important part of our education system. Other parts of our education system include our teachers, the curriculum, post-secondary efforts and financial support, and I look forward to debating those areas in the future.
But the motion before us today is regarding providing funding for the upgrading of Yukon schools as needed, including upgrading the cafeteria of Porter Creek Secondary School and constructing a new school in Carmacks.
Now, as Iíve said, Iíve always been impressed, but we do need to pay attention to our schools. We need to keep them in our mind and on our agenda. Thatís why this motion was brought forward.
Now, this motion calls for the government to provide funding throughout the territory. Thatís the first part of it ó "to provide funding for the upgrading of Yukon schools as needed". Itís important to remember that ó that weíre looking at all schools throughout the territory.
But there are a couple of points in particular that have been brought to my attention by my colleagues in caucus, as well as by members across the floor and members of the community. Those two issues are the upgrading of the cafeteria at Porter Creek Secondary School and constructing a new school in Carmacks. These are two particularly important initiatives that also deserve to be recognized.
There is not much more to debate on this issue, I think. Itís safe to say that we can all agree that we need to provide funding and continue to upgrade our schools.
I look forward to hearing the debate. I particularly look forward to hearing the comments from the members from Porter Creek and other members from throughout the territory on their views. I trust that I will have the unanimous support from the entire Legislative Assembly.
As our time is short here today, Mr. Speaker, Iíll cut my remarks short and allow us to get on with the debate.
Mr. Cardiff: I would agree with a lot of what the Member for Southern Lakes has said about schools being an important part of our social fabric, being the place where our children gain the knowledge and skills to go out into the world and live a full life and get jobs, and continue on that lifelong learning process.
Education is dear to me as well. I was a teacher of sorts. I was also a tradesperson, and Iíve had the opportunity to train many apprentices. Iíve also talked to those students of trades about the need for good training and good facilities, such as what this motion speaks to.
The motion basically urges the government to provide funding for the upgrading of Yukon schools, and I fully agree that we need to do that. The Member for Southern Lakes talked about beautiful schools, good conditions, and positive learning experiences, and in a lot of schools that is the case. There has been a lot of good work done by previous governments to improve studentsí lot in the education system. I can think of numerous examples. Thereís a beautiful new school in Ross River; thereís a beautiful new school in Mayo. The school in Pelly Crossing is undergoing renovations now, and the school in Old Crow was replaced because the previous building had burned down. Iíve been in all those schools, and I applaud the efforts of the governments that have brought things like that to fruition.
It truly is a wonderful thing to see a building that encourages students to learn, and there are lots of examples. There is the l'École Émilie Tremblay, the Elijah Smith School. In my own riding, we have the Golden Horn School, which has had some problems in the past, but I can tell you that my constituents are happy that they have a facility for the students who live in Mount Lorne. It also serves students in the Member for Southern Lakesí riding as well, and itís a real community-oriented school. There are a lot of positive things happening there. That doesnít mean that they are not in need of upgrades in that facility.
I guess where I would have a problem with this motion is that the Member for Southern Lakes is bringing a debate to this floor ó and part of the debate I can totally agree with, that we should urge the Yukon government to provide funding for the upgrading of Yukon schools as needed. I think thatís a very positive thing, including the upgrading of the cafeteria in Porter Creek Secondary and constructing a new school in Carmacks. I donít have a problem supporting that either. I think itís great. I applaud that. But unfortunately, it has already been announced. The upgrade to the cafeteria in Porter Creek Secondary is a done deal. Itís in the supplementary budget. Planning for the construction of a new school in Carmacks is in the supplementary budget. Itís a commitment that has been made by the Minister of Education, and I applaud that. Where I might have a problem, I guess, is that itís too bad it took them this long to get on with the planning of constructing a new school in Carmacks.
Now, Iím sure the Member for Southern Lakes knows full well that these arenít the only needs because he talks about "as needed". There are many, many more needs in the education system.
As well, I would direct the member and the Minister of Education to review the Yukon rural school facility study. Unfortunately, this was completed in February 1996. To the best of my knowledge, I donít know if this study has been updated.
There are some priorities identified as to the needs of school facilities in the Yukon. There are five high priority capital projects identified as being needed in the education system. These are schools that were in need of some replacement or some work. There are lots of these things. There is the replacement of the J.V. Clark School initiated by the NDP government, delayed by the Liberal government, but completed finally. It was completed by the Liberal government. After it went through some problems, it sat; it collected snow; the foundation heaved. It should have been closed to the weather.
The replacement of the Ross River school is a done deal now. It was built by the NDP government, opened by the Liberal government ó I am sure they enjoyed that. The replacement of the school in Old Crow, that was kind of a no-brainer ó it needed to be replaced. The government of the day, an NDP government, acted and that was done.
The expansion of the Eliza Van Bibber School was another one. I guess what Iím trying to get at is that there is a need. The replacement of the old wing at the Tantalus School in Carmacks, which is one of the schools weíre talking about today and one of the projects that is mentioned in this motion ó thereís no doubt that thereís a need. I applaud the fact that itís happening.
There needs to be a plan to address facility needs in the education system. I would urge the Minister of Education to take a good hard look at that one. We need to lay out priorities for the replacement of schools. As was mentioned earlier today, we need to have meaningful efforts made to cooperate and consult on what those priorities are, what the needs of communities are around education facilities in the Yukon. Iím sure everybody would like to have some work done on the facilities in their community, and we know the lobby is fierce for this. We even saw it during the election.
We had one party promising to build another school in Riverdale, whether or not it was needed, but there was definitely a request being made. The people felt there was a need, and they need to be listened to as well.
There are other schools mentioned in this report. The Teslin school, for instance, was opened in 1964, and it has been expanded in various stages in 1967, 1973 and 1981. What are the needs in Teslin? Are they being addressed? Has anybody gone out and asked?
The way I remember this being dealt with by a previous Minister of Education, of the New Democrat persuasion, was to consult with school councils. So we had a rural school facility study, and then we had a consultation. There was a consultation that took place between the school councils ó and they consulted with themselves and with department officials, and took forward a plan to the Minister of Education and the government of the day that has basically seen us through to today.
There may be some other needs in school facilities that are also being overlooked. We just talked about Teslin. The school there is getting old, and there are lots of problems around schools of that age. Being a tradesperson, Iíve had to address lots of needs around air quality in school facilities, and weíve heard horror stories about the Carmacks school with respect to mildew, bad air quality, and how that doesnít lead to a positive learning experience for children. If they canít maintain their health, theyíre not even going to show up for school. Theyíll be sick. Theyíll be spending more time at home than at school, and that doesnít lead to skill development and lifelong learning for students.
We would also direct the Education minister to a report from July 1996. Itís called the F.H. Collins High School Facility Analysis. There were lots of concerns about that facility.
Some of the recommendations that were made in this analysis of the largest high school in Whitehorse, the one with the most students who would be affected by the condition of that facility ó some of this work, I think, has probably been done, but there are two things on here that I can say for sure havenít happened. There are six recommendations ó and the price tag in 1996 was pretty steep ó but these are things that need to be addressed. They need to be considered. The thing is that they need to be considered in consultation with school councils. School councils need a voice.
I will just list these proposals. There was construction of a new classroom wing and administration area to include a new main electrical room, a new boiler room ó which was to address shortcomings of the electrical and mechanical systems in the building ó demolition of the two-storey classroom wing and administration area. Obviously, it was in need of replacement in 1996. We know that hasnít happened. The construction of a new gymnasium and associated support spaces ó we know that hasnít happened because number four hasnít happened either.
The gym hasnít been demolished. There was also upgrading of the science wing and the industrial arts wing. On that, we see the upgrading of a cafeteria in Porter Creek Secondary.
Another area of cooperation the government could work on in regard to facilities ó and I know theyíve done this in the past ó is in the area of trades. Unfortunately, my son was supposed to go on a field trip today and tour facilities in the automotive service area ó a trip sponsored by Skills Canada, an NGO that gets a high level of support from business and labour, and itís something I believe the government should have another look at in promoting Skills Canada and the facilities they have and those theyíve created.
As I was saying, my son was supposed to tour facilities in the automotive service industry today. Unfortunately heís ill. Trades training is something I would like to see more of, and Iíd like to see some way of having at least modest facilities in more communities. We have a fairly substantial facility at F.H. Collins when it comes to trades. Iíve had the opportunity to tour that facility. There are some rather small facilities in Vanier. When I was working on an addition to the old school in Ross River, there was a trades component to that.
I donít recall there being a large trades training component in the facility in Ross River when I had the opportunity to participate in the beginning of the construction of that facility. The needs in school facilities are immense. We can always do more.
I think there needs to be, as I said earlier, a plan and itís a plan that is based on the priorities of school councils. School councils do a lot of work on behalf of the government. They talk to the parents of students; they make decisions around the priorities for their schools. And the government supports school councils. Weíve heard the Minister of Education talk about the support that his government has provided to school councils. The other thing that the minister talked about was his support for the Association of School Councils, which is another vehicle that could provide input into the upgrading of schools. The minister blew his own horn, basically, about how he provided funding to the Association of School Councils. Well, the minister did in a kind of round about way, and I would suggest that this could be one of the first priorities of the red-tape reduction strategy: the circuitous route that money has to go to get to the Association of School Councils.
They would probably love to provide some input on facility upgrading, but number one, the school councils have to provide the minister with some direction that they are actually going to support the association, then they have to get the cheque, and give the money to the association. Well, you know, it seems like a lot of red tape to this person over here. When I was at the school councils conference, it seemed like a lot of red tape to many members of school councils who are just waiting to provide the minister with some advice and information about what their priorities are.
So in the spirit of trying to improve upon the motion that has been presented today, I have an amendment ó and I heard a groan. I honestly believe that this amendment does ó as did the amendment we tried to propose previously today ó improve and provide some direction for the government.
Mr. Cardiff: I move
THAT Motion No. 113 be amended by deleting the remainder of the sentence following the words "Yukon schools" and substituting for it the following: "in accordance with a long-term capital plan based on priorities identified by school councils throughout the territory and the findings of an updated school facilities study."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Mount Lorne that Motion No. 113 be amended by deleting the remainder of the sentence following the words "Yukon schools" and substituting for it the following: "in accordance with a long-term capital plan based on priorities identified by school councils throughout the territory and the findings of an updated school facilities study."
Mr. Cardiff: I just want to assure and restate my support for the amendment. By deleting the upgrading of the cafeteria at Porter Creek Secondary School and the constructing of a new school in Carmacks ó by deleting that from this motion does, in no way ó believe me ó take away our support for those particular projects. We fully support those projects.
I think that with what the motion says, "to provide the funding for the upgrading of Yukon schools", it gives the government a little more direction as opposed to having the government talk about something that is already in the works. It provides some direction for the government and for the Minister of Education; it gives them a path to follow.
What weíre asking the government to do is develop a long-term plan thatís based on the priorities of school councils throughout the territory ó school councils that represent the parents and students who attend those schools. Theyíre the ones who are closest to the ground in identifying those needs and providing the government with the necessary advice. And this has been done before. It also points out the findings of an updated school facilities study.
I know that we donít like to study things to death, but what Iím asking for is an updated school facilities study. Iím sure a lot of the work that has been done in the past on this ó some of it could probably be addressed in-house. You could probably go through some of these things, and you could check off the things that have already been done.
The needs that have been addressed in these previous facilities studies could probably be ticked off, and the ones that havenít been dealt with could be looked into. You could ask the school councils and school administrators to identify the needs of their particular facility.
As I said earlier, a long-term capital plan based on priorities identified by school councils ó this was the way that this has been dealt with in the past. We talked about the priorities; the rural school facilities study identified Eliza Van Bibber, the school in Old Crow, the school in Ross River, J.V. Clark and Tantalus. Those were the ones that were identified in 1996 and the priorities in replacement of those schools ó or dealing with the problems that existed in those schools ó were laid out by school councils. That plan was delivered to the Minister of Education and it was followed through on. I think the only possible glitch was the fact that the school in Old Crow burnt down, and hence, that moved up, logically, the list.
So this has been done in the past and what weíre asking the government to do ó this is part of good fiscal management, and Iím sure the Member for Klondike would agree that planning for school replacement is good fiscal management. Youíre planning how youíre going to spend your capital budgets, how youíre going to use it as well as an economic generator and how you can do training in communities in the interest of lifelong learning and providing needed facilities and upgrades to those facilities or replacement of those facilities.
I think there are lots of opportunities. Itís a proven fact that that can happen in communities. It has happened on pretty much every one of these projects. Iím assuming that the Minister of Education will make training a priority, and Iím sure heíll hear that when he consults with the school council, the municipality, the First Nation and the people of Carmacks when they rebuild the school. Iím sure there will be a training component in that school.
We are running out of time, and I would like to hear the membersí opposite reaction to what I believe is a friendly amendment to their motion. It provides some direction and a path they can go down. It identifies school councils as a vehicle to consult and identify those priorities, and it encourages them to also update the school facility study.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge the members to support this amendment, and weíll support the motion.
Ms. Duncan: While the benches opposite are discussing the amendment put forward by the Member for Mount Lorne at some length, Iíd just like to make a few points for the record in Hansard on this particular issue.
First and foremost, with respect to the amendment that has been brought forward and the school facilities study, Iím very familiar with the study, as I was in opposition at the time ó actually, they were brought forward in February 1996, and the election was October 1996. There is no question that we need that kind of study to tell us the precise condition of the schools in the territory. There is a rural school facilities study, and there is also a Whitehorse school facilities study. There is also a separate document that deals with Grey Mountain School, and the facts of the matter surrounding Grey Mountain School are often left out of the debate. I would like, once again, to put them on the record.
First and foremost, the portables that were moved to and form the Grey Mountain School ó they are portable structures ó were put there as a temporary measure. They were used portables at the time, and those portables are between 38 and 40 years old ó well past their "best before" date, in short. The proposal to build a new school to replace Grey Mountain Primary has been examined by the Yukon Party, the NDP, and the Liberals. The Liberal Party in opposition, and the Liberal Party in government, committed to the replacement of Grey Mountain School, a less than $4 million project, which would provide a safe and healthy place for children to learn.
This was not about picking one school over another. Grey Mountain Primary is a unique school, and it is also, in part, an extension of the Child Development Centre, which we supported. The catchment area, if you will, is a number of children throughout Whitehorse. It is not strictly another Riverdale school.
The argument that the school was not needed ó we believe, and I will maintain, that the Yukon population will grow. I believe strongly in building for the future and I believe very, very strongly in providing a sound education for children. That K-to-3 environment, as I said, is unique. The record of that particular school speaks for itself. And there are some who charged at the time that this is elite. No, Mr. Speaker, itís not elite when itís open to everyone.
I do apologize if some members find this particularly boring; however, the fact is that the misinformation that tends to abound about this particular school does not only Grey Mountain, but all schools in the territory, a disservice.
Taken in context, the rural schools study, the Grey Mountain study, the Whitehorse school facilities study ó there is no question that there is a great deal of work to be done on a number of schools throughout the territory. There is no question that they are hot-button issues in this Legislature. Every opposition of every stripe has stood up and asked a question about when the Minister of Education was going to deal with the mould in a particular school. Iím sure that the current Minister of Education is looking forward to that question ó because it will come ó because a number of schools have mould issues, including Grey Mountain Primary, in those relics from the past ó those portables.
The fact is we need to spend some capital money on our schools. We need to do it on a priority basis. The priority basis needs to be established based on good, solid research.
Itís not about who holds what riding. Itís about providing a safe, clean, healthy environment for children to learn in. This capital discussion also ought to include the playground equipment in these schools. An Education minister with a million dollars to dispense should not be putting off replacing playground equipment that has caused serious problems for children. It shouldnít be put off for a year; it should be done now.
I refer to the playground equipment that resulted in serious injury to a child this summer. It shouldnít be put off for a year.
Thereís no question that there should be a new school in Carmacks. Thereís no question that the repairs that were on the books when we left office for the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing should proceed ó absolutely. These should be done.
We should be building schools on land we already own and that we have set aside for educational purposes. We have done this in the design of subdivisions. The NDP government purchased land specifically for the Carmacks school. We should be building a new school on that land.
The motion speaks specifically about the school in Carmacks. The amendment simply encourages the government to make sure the long-term capital plan is based on solid information and that it be proceeded with. Yes, the school councils in the territory should also be asked for their review of the capital plan ó absolutely.
School councilsí response at the time the Minister of Education in the NDP government put this information forward to them ó they tried to put the school councils in the difficult position of deciding which school was to be built first, and that was a real issue for the school council members at the time.
They have this information. The government has the information and should update it, should compile it and should deal with these issues, put capital money into schools. We should also, when weíre building schools, do it right. Porter Creek was not designed for the student population it has today. The shop class was never designed appropriately for a high school. The cafeteria wasnít designed for 700 and there are problems with a particular hallway in the structure as well.
I absolutely support the Porter Creek renovations. In fact, when asked for my input on work projects when they first took office, I said to go ahead with Porter Creek and get it done.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Well, year and a half. It takes a little while to hear some membersí voices but it has been heard. Iím glad itís going ahead ó very pleased itís going ahead. I would hope they would get on with it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Time flies when youíre having fun.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon schools are such an important part of our community. I would be remiss if I didnít mention the fact that one of the older schools, also in the Whitehorse area, and one with air exchange difficulties as mentioned by the Member for Mount Lorne, is the Jack Hulland School. Jack Hulland School has also an addition added on and it certainly has been there for quite some time, as many parents within my riding also attended that school. It is, at its absolute foremost, in addition to being a green school and a quality daily PE school, also a community school. You can go through the halls of Jack Hulland at any given point in the day and youíll see many parents in classrooms, in the hallways. You see terrific turnout by the community for the Hulland Haunts and Holly, the Christmas fair.
Thatís just Jack Hulland, and I know that at schools throughout the territory that is also the case. There are celebrations in the foyer of the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow.
Every school is like that. Robert School in Dawson ó a tremendous turnout. They are community places ó St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction ó and they are the lifeblood and heart of the community. Itís where we come together. So, itís important ó they arenít just buildings. They are more than that. As buildings, they should be structurally safe, they should be healthy ó free of mould ó their playground equipment should be safe and healthy. They are places of learning. We should be spending the appropriate amount of capital money to make sure that our schools are these places, that they are safe, they are clean, and they are healthy.
Now, we all know that government has limited resources and we canít spend or do everything all at once. Letís establish the list of priorities based on solid evidence. Letís get the input from the school councils and letís move forward with a clear plan that these are the repairs, this is the reconstruction, and this is what weíre going to do.
I have no difficulty in supporting the amendment. If the government chooses to defeat the amendment and simply ask that their motion pass ó the amendment widens the motion and gives a broader look ó I have no difficulty in supporting that. If the government chooses to simply focus on the very narrow aspect of Porter Creek Secondary School and Carmacks school alone, I support the ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Absolutely ó I suggested the renovations to Porter Creek. I believe very strongly in a new school for Carmacks as well.
I would hope that the government would see their way clear to finally accepting a broader look that has been brought forward by someone other than a government member. Itís worthy of support. I support the amendment and would certainly also offer my support for the motion.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I canít support the amendment put forward by the member opposite. I think the Porter Creek issue is too big an issue. I respect his thought and the work that went into the motion, but I canít support it. I think the cafeteria at Porter Creek Secondary School is a commitment that our party has made. The member opposite from the third party sends the conversation about direction, about what we should plan in the future and, of course, what her government did in the past.
I feel very confident that our government will meet the commitments of education in our communities. Porter Creek Secondary School is definitely in a situation. The cafeteria is substandard and has been for a long period of time. Our government has addressed that. The previous government did not address it. We are committed to do that expansion and meet some of the needs of that school. That school is a successful school in the City of Whitehorse.
You only have to go through the building to understand that it is very well run. It has a great feeling of esprit de corps and a great feeling of interaction between the faculty and students. I think that they certainly deserve an expansion to their cafeteria, and we as a government are going to address it very quickly in our term.
I find it interesting that the member opposite talks about a year and a half when, in fact, weíve only been in power 12 months. In 12 months, weíve addressed a lot of things in the education field.
Our Minister of Education has done extensive travelling in the Yukon to answer some of the questions that are out there with the general population. Carmacks needs a new school for the community, and part and parcel of that will be consultation with the population ó First Nations and the residents of Carmacks.
A school is an important thing for communities. A lot of people who havenít lived in small communities donít realize the importance of a school to a small community. Whether youíre in Old Crow or Watson Lake, the school becomes a part of you.
I lived many years in Watson Lake, and I know that Iíve gone through many discussions about the school and what was going on in the school. Of course, we had the two schools in Watson Lake ó elementary and high school. Some of the issues there are issues that little communities have.
So itís important for small communities to have a good school, a well-received school, and have a part of the making of that school in the hands of the community itself.
So Carmacks is going to get a school. The school in Carmacks has been talked about for many years. Our Minister of Education has made a decision that that will be a priority of our term in office.
Certainly the schools in Whitehorse need upgrading. You have Vanier School. Iím probably one of the only people still here where, when I went to school, all we had in Whitehorse was Whitehorse Elementary High School. I went to that school. I personally worked at building the Jack Hulland School. I worked there as a tradesman, so I understand what schools are and I understand working at schools and the needs of the community.
I think we have other schools, like the Teslin school ó it needs a new gym, it needs some expansion, it needs some work done on it. That has to be thought out and those expansions have to be addressed by us as a government.
When we look at Pelly Crossing, the Pelly Crossing school is now done. Weíve done some extensive work on that, as government, over the last period of a couple of years. At the Robert Service School in Dawson there are upgrades because of location. The location is very restrictive so lots have been bought so that things can get expanded in the Robert Service School. Those are all works-in-progress, Mr. Speaker. And of course going back to the old Whitehorse Elementary School, it has to be stripped of the lead that was in the basement for the rifle range. All those issues are things that have to be addressed and they have to be addressed on a continual basis. So we do have our hands full in the actual structures of where we teach and where our children go to school.
Safety is a big factor. I think that we have to make sure our school is safe and I think that what we have to do is we have to look at the flexibility of government and certainly working together as government to make sure we prioritize where these schools are upgraded and where these schools are replaced. Certainly the answer in a lot of respects is ó we tend to think in the Yukon, if you talk to a lot of people, that just because a school is 25 years old we should tear it down and restructure it. Well, I think we have to look at structure, we have to look at cost, and we have to look at the necessity of tearing down our schools.
Harvard, if anybody understands where Harvard is, was built about 1780. People are still going to school in Harvard. So the issues are there. We have other issues. F.H. Collins was built when ó I was in the first grade 9 class to go into F.H. Collins. We went in there in ó was it February of 1962, I think?
Now, F.H. Collins has been expanded many times. Again, they have had an influx of students there. I think they had as many as 1,200 students at one point, but now with Porter Creek Secondary School being made into a high school, that population has dropped, I think, to probably be comparable to Porter Creek.
So those facilities in F.H. Collins ó though there is some question about the construction of the building, the physical plant itself. But I think possibly, with its industrial arts department, it is light years ahead of the Porter Creek situation. On my tour of Porter Creek Secondary ó we have very substandard IA equipment, metalwork, industrial arts. It has a huge population of almost 800 people and the industrial arts department is weak. It is weak because it was designed for a smaller group. The equipment is archaic. All of those have to be addressed by us, the politicians.
In the House here, we all have a common goal, and the common goal is that our children get a solid education so that they can go on to further education ó further education, meaning trades, academics ó or get on with their lives and have a solid background in education ó in other words, make sure that the product that we turn out at the end of the day is, first of all, that they have the academic strength to go on with the chosen field they are in, and also that they are comfortable in life. I think those are important issues.
But as far as looking at our schools, I think the Porter Creek Secondary School is very important for us as a community because we, as government ó not us in this room today. But we as government decided to make Porter Creek Secondary a high school ó we eliminated junior high. I donít know the reason behind that because I wasnít here at the time.
But, at the time, we should have been more thoughtful about what we were doing with the school and what an expansion would do to that school. So, we are going to address that problem, and that problem is going to be addressed this year.
Now, as far as the outlying schools, Golden Horn is at capacity. I think the school is maxed out, and I think Hidden Valley is the same way. All I hear about those schools ó now, theyíre not in my riding, per se ó are very good things from the parents who are lucky enough to have children going to those schools. Now, it doesnít mean that we, as a government, would ignore Golden Horn or Hidden Valley and their needs, and Iím sure the Minister of Education would not do that, but I think we have to prioritize the dollars we have for the expansions we want. Iím very happy to see that Porter Creek Secondary School will be getting the expansion it needs.
Iím very happy to see that the Carmacks school is finally going to get some recognition on the radar screen that there is a great need for the school. The minister is working with the First Nation and residents of Carmacks to decide on many issues. There are many that have to be decided on ó location, working with them on design, needs. We have to address all of those issues up front because the people in Carmacks have to live with this structure for probably 20 to 30 years. They have to be comfortable with it to make sure itís a success story.
As far as schools in the Yukon are concerned, I think we have to be very conscious, first of all, about where we put our schools and our money. Mayo is an example of a school we spent a lot of money on. There was a great need there because it was a school that had burned down and had been replaced by substandard buildings. They had a need, but Iím not quite sure when I walked through the school ó now that it has been open for a very short period of time ó that the shelf life of that school is going to be very long.
It has foundation problems, and anybody in the trades knows that if you donít have a solid foundation, you donít have a solid building. The building has problems. How would you address those problems now? Well, you address them through the Department of Education keeping a conscious eye on the school, making sure that the maintenance is there and making sure we work on the school on a regular basis. But I think if we had done our homework, and if we had taken a look at the location and maybe had talked to somebody in the community to find out where the permafrost starts and where it ends, we could have probably come out maybe with a more solid foundation so the life of the school would have been in better hands.
But we didnít do that and those issues are past government issues. I am not pointing any fingers at what government; I am just saying that there was a problem with the foundation in the school. I think that we as the territorial government bear some responsibility for those decisions.
Now, as far as the Old Crow school is concerned, they moved the Old Crow school. The community wasnít happy with where it was so they picked another spot and they built a beautiful school there, which today is a great centre of the community of Old Crow. Itís standing up well. The building itself ó understanding that the foundation work in Old Crow has a lot of problems, obviously the engineering group that engineered that school put a great foundation in it and today we have a school in Old Crow that everybody in the Yukon can be proud of.
Those kinds of issues are issues that we have to decide on. We have to prioritize the money that we have at hand. We have to prioritize, first of all, making sure that we get the right engineering in place so that these schools are well-built and well-thought-out and, in turn, get community blessing because the community has to live with the school once itís built.
We have to understand the perception of a school in a community is very important for the community, because a lot of the smaller communities outside of Whitehorse have limited resources, so the school becomes not only a school but, in a big way, a community club, a library, all of those other issues that are out there. Again, we have to be conscious of these things.
The Porter Creek situation again is close to my heart because I can see a great school that has a small need, which is an expansion of the cafeteria and a readdressing of the industrial arts department, and we can do that. We are capable of doing that. We can address that in a very business-like way and make that school more comfortable for the faculty who work there and certainly, Mr. Speaker, for the students who work there. If we can keep that group happy and we can get them into that system and they can come out the other end with a solid education, itís going to bear fruit at the end of the day.
I think by eliminating that in that amendment that I canít support, I think itís too important ó and I found it amazing that the member opposite from Porter Creek South could just slough over that as if that wasnít important. Well, it is important to me from Porter Creek Centre. A lot of my constituentsí kids go to that school and theyíre very proud of that school, so it is too important an issue for me to not address and bring to the floor here on the Porter Creek South Porter Creek High.
I will not be supporting this amendment and I would like to thank you.
Mrs. Peter: Iím happy to speak to this amendment to the motion and will be in support of it.
Iíve heard the issues put forward before us by the previous speakers. The school that we have in Old Crow ó we are very fortunate to have such a beautiful facility and also very, very grateful that the students in our community can have such a facility for their education and also for the community to hold community gatherings.
The school in Old Crow, before this new school was built, had burned down, and the students were scattered all over the community and trying to do their best to achieve their academic learning for that year. It was the NDP government at the time that supported the building of the new facility in Old Crow. It was a great undertaking. Much planning went into that, and we were fortunate and grateful, as Iíve said.
I understand that there was a prioritized list at the time that was taken by the Minister of Education of the day, and that was done in consultation with school councils.
School councils voluntarily take on a lot of responsibilities in their communities.
Their main priority is that educational issues get addressed for their specific communities. In the report that was done, the priorities were identified by school councils in conjunction with the minister of the day. The report that was referred to earlier, I believe, can be valid in todayís world.
I was very fortunate, Mr. Speaker, to have many teachers in my life. When I talk about teachers, I donít specifically talk about the ones who were in our school system. Iím talking about the traditional knowledge Iíve learned from the elders of our community while growing up. Combining that with academic knowledge is of the highest priority in todayís society. That vision is very clear for our people out there. Weíve heard many statistics for First Nation people, not only in the Yukon, but across Canada, across our country, showing how itís very difficult for students from a smaller community to come to a bigger centre and be at the same academic level as the students who are in the bigger centres.
We hope to overcome that. That is our hope ó that we would overcome that. How we would go about that is having a good environment for our students in the communities, so that they can achieve their academic goal and have the traditional knowledge that is so important to use as a foundation, so that when they have to leave home at a young age, they know who they are. And when they come out here, they will feel secure enough within themselves to address the challenges they meet in our education system. That for us is a priority. It has been mentioned at the leadership level many times, and it has been brought to governments time and time and time again.
The Minister of Education, in a news release, had another $1 million allocated to the education system. You know, that is good news, but at the same time, that money is going to be put toward consultation. We have been consulted and consulted in my community on where our needs are in education. They are there ó in reports, lying around gathering dust, and yet another one is going to be done.
Language is one of the very keys within our education system. In Old Crow, our language is Gwitchin. I have said in many debates before how important that is for First Nations people across this territory, because weíre losing our language.
Weíre trying many, many initiatives, Mr. Speaker, to try to hold on to that and keep our language strong. The reason I am bringing that information forward in support of this amendment to this motion is because we have a clear vision for the students in our communities. We do need the facilities to go with it. We are in total support of the new school in Carmacks. I can only imagine that the facility that they have is in dire need of upgrade.
Again, there is another example of a First Nation community that is willing to make progress for their students. The Minister of Education made a huge announcement when he went to the community of Carmacks and almost caused a division in that community, pitting one people against the other. Education is so vital in our communities that it has to be addressed from both the First Nationís point of view and from the non-First Nation people who come and have to live in our community. We have to be united so that our children can have that kind of academic learning that they need before they leave that community.
Weíre very, very fortunate that we have those strong, united relationships in the community where I come from.
There is an issue that is out there, Mr. Speaker, and I heard the Minister of Education bragging about that today and thatís in regard to the clinical psychologist. He said that there is one in Old Crow. We were just very, very fortunate once again in that the wife of the principal who replaced our last principal is trained in that area.
The Department of Education would never hire a clinical psychologist for Old Crow. It was because she was there; sheís the partner of the principal who is living in Old Crow for the next little while, and thatís the only way that we have that much-needed service in our community.
Weíre very, very grateful for that. We talk about working in partnerships with First Nations and people across the territory, and this amendment speaks to that. It asks the government of the day to base their priorities identified by the people who are most knowledgeable in the communities about what happens in their school and the kind of programs that they would like. I think that is key. That is the key to bringing our students the kind of facilities that they need to address their learning. Most of these facilities in the communities are used for community gatherings, as was mentioned earlier.
They are places of learning. In the school in Old Crow we are, again, very fortunate to have a library and also a computer centre. Many of our people from the older generation are not very up to date with how to access information on computers. We learn from our kids. We learn from our grandchildren how to use computers, because they have a trusting relationship.
You go to the school together, you walk your grandchildren to school ó maybe in the evenings for evening activities. And when that place, that resource centre, is open, then someone can learn something new that day. That child can teach their grandparent how to use a computer, get access to information and encourage that wealth of knowledge thatís out there. And itís exciting. Itís very exciting for our people in the communities to be able to do that and combine it with the traditional knowledge that needs to be documented. That also was being done.
Speaker: The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on the amendment to Motion No. 113 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.