Thursday, April 22, 2004 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.
In recognition of Earth Day
Hon. Mr. Kenyon:Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to give a tribute to Earth Day 2004, as Yukoners join more than 500 million people worldwide to celebrate the 24th annual Earth Day, the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide.
All individuals and institutions have a mutual responsibility to act as trustees of Earth, seeking the choices in ecology, economics and ethics that will eliminate pollution, poverty and violence, foster peaceful progress, awaken the wonder of life and realize the best potential for the future of human endeavour.
Former U.S. President Gerald Ford, in proclaiming Earth Day, said the Earth will continue to regenerate its life sources only as long as we and all the people of the world do our part to conserve its natural resources.
It is a responsibility every human being shares. Through voluntary action, each of us can join in building a productive land in harmony with nature.
I had the great pleasure of helping a large group of volunteers this morning sweep the streets and sidewalks of Main Street here in Whitehorse. I had a lot of fun this morning. I encourage more people to get involved in that on Earth Day next year.
There are 500 million people in more than 180 countries, including six million Canadians, who are taking part in special events and projects to address and bring attention to local environmental issues. Here in the Yukon, Earth Day celebrations include "Donít waste your week" ó the waste Yukoners produce and disposal options available ó and "People didnít used to die here" ó a celebration on rural thinking, minimalism and the awakening of the ecozoic. This public talk is tonight at 7:00 at the Whitehorse Public Library and is followed by the annual general meeting of the Environmental Education Association of the Yukon.
April 17 saw the kickoff of the Celebration of Swans, Yukonís premier bird festival, and I would like to invite residents and visitors alike to partake in some of the activities scheduled for this week at Swan Haven. These include area birding tours, bird identification workshops, family activity weekend, guest speakers and peaceful swan-watching opportunities. Itís a good excuse to get outside and enjoy our beautiful Earth and some of its wildlife.
Environmental issues surround us and we need to be fully aware of how very fragile our environments are. We need to take steps to protect our Earth.
It would be easy to say that individually we canít accomplish anything, and it is probably just as easy to say that we are only a small group, so what can we do? Well, I can tell you. As Earth Day has grown in international scope and recognition, this global event has been able to bring pressure on heads of state to participate in the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to address such issues as climate change and worldwide loss of species.
Earlier this week, representatives of my department spoke publicly of the recovery project for the Chisana caribou herd, and this is something that we are doing actively to protect against the loss of a species.
We can, as individuals and as small communities and as government, make a difference if we concern ourselves with things like preventing the destruction of the environment, climate change, the handling of disposal of special wastes so they donít impact our water or other living things, recycling, and all the steps, big and small, which are well within our capability.
We must keep Earth Day every day as we go about our lives and our jobs. We are, Mr. Speaker, the custodians of our environment, and we have a very big job to do.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to International Earth Day. Today more than ever, we have an opportunity to renew the sacred balance with all inhabitants of the Earth. We can do our part to join the millions of Canadians and people in over 140 nations in taking action today and every day.
A few days ago, I tabled a motion asking this House to endorse principles of the Earth Charter here in the Yukon. It is our responsibility to speak out, to protect our lands and forests, our water and air for future generations and for those who canít speak for themselves. The Gwitchin people have much experience in this area with our plight and trying to protect the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We join and express our gratitude to the many workers and volunteers who give their time and their effort, such as the people of the Yukon Conservation Society, the Raven Recycling, the Energy Solutions Centre and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, who help make us aware of the consequences of our daily actions and give us practical ideas on lifestyle choices that respect our environment, and, more especially, the elders of our communities who took care of our traditional lands so that we may live in a good way today.
Today we ask Yukoners to consider taking actions to limit their consumption, to consider ways to protect the most vulnerable and sensitive areas in the territory, and to support the people, organizations and events honouring Earth Day. Letís make a commitment to be responsive to the reality of what humans are doing to our planet. Letís make a commitment to restore the sacred balance.
Ms. Duncan: One of the Earth Day Web sites opens with a picture of the wilderness and a Kashmiri proverb that states: "We have not inherited the world from our forefathers; we have borrowed it from our children." Our children learn from the examples that are set for them and the teaching of their elders, and as they learn so do we. I would like on this Earth Day to especially thank our teachers and administrators of the green schools throughout the territory. These green schools, such as Jack Hulland, recycle in their classrooms and throughout the schools. Parents are encouraged to send garbage-free lunches and continue their reduce, reuse and recycle efforts at home. Environments and environmental awareness are part of school life from kindergarten to grade 7 in our elementary schools, and into our high schools.
In keeping with the cleanliness aspect of our respect for Earth, I would also like to encourage the government to continue with the recycling club, which is normally announced in this Legislature in the spring. It fosters an awareness of recycling throughout the Yukon.
Finally, I would like to close my Earth Day tribute on behalf of the Liberal caucus with a quote from the music of a great Canadian: "Respect Mother Earth and her giving ways or trade away our childrenís days".
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart:I have for tabling the Yukon Liquor Corporationís 26th annual report for the year ending March 31, 2003.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to demonstrate its willingness to begin taking a balanced approach to environmental protection and responsible development by immediately convening an environmental round table to develop a new direction for the Yukon Party government that recognizes the need for future economic activity to be both socially acceptable and environmentally sustainable.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to adopt a comprehensive energy policy for the Yukon by implementing the recommendations of the Cabinet Commission on Energy under the previous NDP government, which included a variety of practices to promote energy conservation and alternative energy production and use.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to work with the governments of Canada and the United States to make the cleanup of abandoned military sites throughout the Yukon Territory an urgent intergovernmental priority.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:Whitehorse Correctional Centre, segregation cell
Mrs. Peter: I have a policy question for the Minister of Justice, and I hope we wonít have to have a repeat performance of the Minister of Health and Social Services rising to her rescue today. She is the minister, and she is accountable for her department. The Department of Justice ignored a Supreme Court finding that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is not an appropriate therapeutic environment for people with serious mental disorders.
My question to the Minister of Justice: why did the department ignore this issue?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is just another attempt by the opposition to link our government into the debate to build a new Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The issue before us is one of an individual who was charged. The courts ordered him into remand at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. He has subsequently been found to be not criminally responsible. It is no longer a criminal justice matter; this situation is a health matter. There is the aggrieved party who was assaulted, and thereís the individual who committed the assault, who was found not criminally responsible. Letís allow these individuals to go through the healing process, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: A person was wronged in this matter. The government House leader, Mr. Speaker, is not the Minister of Justice. As far as I know, heís not the Acting Minister of Justice. Iím also not aware that the Minister of Justice has any conflict of interest that would prevent her from doing her job and answering to the Yukon ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Minister of Environment, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, a point of order on this.
On October 22, 2001, the Chair ruled the questions are addressed to the government or to the Cabinet as a whole. They may be addressed to individual ministers; however, the ministers of the Cabinet may make their own decisions. I ask the Speaker to bring this ruling to the member oppositeís attention.
Mr. Fairclough: Thereís no violation of the Standing Orders here, Mr. Speaker. The question was directed to the minister. It is the government sideís own choice as to who answers the question.
Speaker:There is no point of order. However, the Cabinet is a collegial body, and any member of the Cabinet can stand up and answer a question.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
My question was to the Minister of Justice. However, whoever would like to answer the question, one more time, Mr. Speaker: why was the ministerís department using a punishment cell at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to house remand prisoners with serious mental disorders four years after the Supreme Court said it was wrong to do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, regrettably the situation occurred. The individual has been found not criminally responsible. Itís now a health matter; itís no longer a criminal justice matter. As to who gets sentenced to remand or who gets dealt with, thatís the justice arm of the Department of Justice. Itís due process. What this clearly points out is the process worked, and at the end of the period of time, after a psychiatric evaluation of this individual, he was found to be not criminally responsible. Letís not re-victimize everyone involved in this situation. Letís let the healing process move forward. This individual is currently in the Whitehorse Hospital. Heís undergoing the medical attention that he requires, and there is a very strong likelihood, Mr. Speaker, that this individual will be reintegrated into society and prove to be a contributing member of society.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, we need some accountability to the questions on behalf of the public. Since this story broke, we have heard every kind of buck-passing imaginable. Everybody wants to protect the Minister of Justice. The Cabinet spin doctor says it is an operational issue, so the minister is muzzled. Departmental officials are now passing the buck to the doctors, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Health dishes out nonsense about proving that the system works ó all this to protect the Minister of Justice.
I challenge the minister to do her job and tell the Yukon people right now why her department ignored a clear message from the Supreme Court four years ago that the jail should not be used as a mental health unit. Why did this happen?
Speaker:Prior to the minister answering, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin made the statement that the replies were nonsense. That in itself is unparliamentary, and I would ask the member to not use that term.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows full well, there are three facilities in the Yukon that the courts could have sent this individual to. The courts chose to send this individual to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We have to abide by the court rulings, but this matter is no longer a criminal matter as this individual was found not to be criminally responsible. The health care system is now charged with the responsibility of addressing this individualís needs, and in all likelihood thereís a very good chance that this individual will respond well to treatment and will be reintegrated into society. Letís not revictimize the individual who was assaulted; letís not revictimize the individual who has a mental health condition. Letís let the healing process work.
Mr. Speaker, I urge the members opposite to address their responsibilities in this area.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, segregation cell
Mr. Fairclough:The Minister of Health and Social Services has taken on an additional responsibility as the spokesperson for the Department of Justice, so I have a question for that minister. Will the minister be asking the Department of Justice to provide a report on why it has ignored the Supreme Courtís finding regarding the use of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre as a mental health facility for the past four years? Will he be asking for that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am aware that there is an order-in-council designating three facilities in Whitehorse for this purpose. Itís up to the courts to assign individuals to any one of these three facilities. Instead of putting this person into remand at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, the courts could have put this individual into the Whitehorse Hospital. That was a choice. That was their option.
We donít call the shots as a government. Weíre in the service-end delivery. This matter is no longer before the courts. This individual was found not criminally responsible. Although there is an appeal period of 30 days from the date of sentence, this individual hopefully will respond well to treatment at the Whitehorse Hospital.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister ought to take his job seriously and ask for a report on this matter because the public is very concerned.
This minister has quite a track record of trying to shut down questioning thatís coming from this side of the House. Heís used things like: itís in the courts now; itís out of the courts. He said that the opposition is trying to revictimize this person. He says that this proves the system works, and on and on it goes. What we arenít hearing is the appropriate minister taking responsibility for their departments. Has the corrections branch now been directed to stop using the Whitehorse Correctional Centre as a therapeutic unit for people with serious mental disorders? If not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The courts determine which facility someone is going to be placed in. There are three choices in Whitehorse. That said, this individual is now no longer in the criminal justice system, save and except for the 30-day appeal period. This individual was found not to be criminally responsible. It is no longer a criminal justice matter, Mr. Speaker. Itís a health matter.
Mr. Fairclough: Then the minister ought to take this issue seriously, as the Health minister. This situation might not have existed at all if this government had done the right thing and replaced the decrepit Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Maybe in that process they would have addressed the need for a proper mental health facility for people facing criminal charges. But weíre all waiting for the Premier to share his personal vision of correctional reform.
In the meantime, itís business as usual for a government that puts bridges ahead of peopleís needs. The minister knows the limitations of the Whitehorse General Hospital as a mental health facility. He knows the Yukon has big gaps in terms of mental health services, so will the minister make a commitment to establish a secure, humane, therapeutic facility for prisoners with serious mental health problems so the Whitehorse Correctional Centre will not be used for that purpose again?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís an interesting conclusion the member opposite came to. I can see clearly now this is a veiled attempt to coerce, persuade and embarrass the government into building a new jail. Thatís the issue thatís before this House today: build a new facility, a new warehouse for inmates.
What we are concentrating on is correctional reform. On the issues of mental health and medical detox, our government is examining those. Hopefully, when the Thomson Centre is open again, it will have a wing that contains a mental health unit and a medical detox centre at a greater capacity than currently.
As to the sentencing of this individual to Whitehorse Correctional Centre, itís the courts that make that determination. The judge makes the determination as to which one of the facilities this individual is to be placed in. It has nothing to do with the government. We are the service provider. As this matter is no longer before the courts, Mr. Speaker, this individual was found not to be criminally responsible. It is now a health care issue.
We will do our level best in the health care field to provide this individual with the care he needs in order to ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the member conclude?
Question re: Yukon Wildlife Preserve/Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the Minister of Environment. Yesterday I asked the minister several questions about the governmentís double standard when it comes to purchasing game farms. If youíre in the Yukon Party line, you get the game farm purchased. If youíre not in that line, you donít get bought out. The minister refused to answer the questions. The reason that was given, outside of this Legislature, was that it would be a conflict of interest for the minister to answer. The minister has several conflicts with the department, and weíd like to keep them all straight.
What is the nature of the conflict of interest, and most especially important, why wonít the minister explain how the double standard is going to be resolved?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess yesterday I started out by explaining a bit of the history of reindeer, and today Iíll elaborate a little bit on that.
Now we all know Rudolph was very important in history. We also know that Dancer and Prancer and a number of other reindeer were very important, so we need to handle this very delicately.
On a more serious note, there has been a long association between the man and reindeer population ó probably for about 15,000 years. This relationship and livelihood with reindeer developed cultures of a nomadic people dependent upon herding and breeding of reindeer, up to 4,000 years ago. Later, reindeer herding was adopted as a production strategy by aboriginal people in northern Russia. Over the centuries the reindeer industry in Russia and Scandinavia has maintained the status of herding businesses. Tame pastures are planted for reindeer consumption. Velvet antlers are harvested or animals are slaughtered.
Ms. Duncan: The minister clearly has conflicts of interest throughout the Department of Environment and should be replaced. Ethics is at the bottom of the list of the priorities of the government as is apparently taking concerns of Yukoner constituents seriously.
This Yukon Party government found $2 million to purchase the Yukon game preserve. It has found another $2 million to operate the facility for four years. At the same time, the minister is choosing to ignore a request from the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm to purchase their animals. The Yukon Party double standard is alive and well. The Yukon Party created that double standard and now there is an obligation clearly to fix it. How is the government going to fix this double standard they created?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Yukon territorial government is responding to the recommendations of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Board on proposed regulations for the keeping of wildlife in captivity and specifically the letter sent to the Yukon territorial government on January 31, 2003, in which the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommended that the two existing facilities operating as private captive wildlife facilities be bought by government and only one facility should be operated and run by a non-profit organization. The single reindeer facility was never mentioned.
Ms. Duncan: The Fish and Wildlife Management Board has yet to address this issue. The fact is the Yukon Party government created a double standard when they purchased the game farm, and they have an obligation to fix it. They are refusing to tell the public how they intend to do that. This government wrote the book on double standards and backroom deals. Government has a double standard throughout its operating history of two years. The Minister of Environment created this. We buy some game farms; we donít buy others.
In a March 26 radio interview, the Minister of Environment said he was buying animals from other game facilities in the Yukon, including one in Carcross. How much money was set aside for that purchase? How did the facility in Carcross get on the Yukon Party list of game animals to be purchased and the reindeer farm is being ignored and being told no? How is the government going to fix the double standard they created?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to start by correcting the member opposite. It appears that in my opinion the member opposite may be saying that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board has double standards and not this government. I also want to say that ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker:Order please. On a point of order, leader of the third party.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the minister in his response is implying motive on the part of the questioner, and that is outside our rules of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís no point of order. Thereís no Standing Order cited as being breached, Mr. Speaker. This is just a dispute between members.
Speaker:The Chair did not hear a violation of 19(g), and I would ask the minister to carry on.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I also want to put on record that there was a request by probably thousands of Yukon citizens to look at the game preserve and to keep it in the Yukon Territory. So again, Mr. Speaker, if this government is guilty of anything, weíre guilty of listening to the citizens of the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, segregation cell
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. For days now, we have watched the Minister of Health and Social Services try to protect the Minister of Justice from answering for her department. At the last sitting, we watched the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission try to protect the Premier from answering questions about his own actions. When the Premier selected the members of his Cabinet, did he explain to them that they are responsible to the Yukon people for their actions and for the actions of their departments?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, Iím not quite sure why the member would even be asking this question. The situation that the Cabinet members are in is based on an oath. We all understand that there is due process with the collectivity of Cabinet, and thatís exactly what takes place. There is nothing sinister here. The Minister of Health is answering on matters that are related to that department. The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission responded to questions related to that department. And based on your ruling, Mr. Speaker, any Cabinet minister can stand and answer and respond to any question coming from the other side. So maybe the member has a different question of more substance and a question that has more reflection of the issues and concerns of Yukoners.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Iíd like to remind the Premier opposite that this is a question that has come from the people of the Yukon. He shouldnít belittle it. The Minister of Justice wonít do her job. The Minister of Health has tried to sweep this whole disgraceful situation under the carpet.
Perhaps the Premier will do the right thing since it was his decision to not replace the antiquated Whitehorse Correctional Centre in the first place. Will the Premier, who is also the Minister of Finance, make funding available to provide badly needed mental health facilities so that the Justice department will not continue ignoring court rulings about the inappropriate use of Whitehorse Correctional Centre for that purpose?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated earlier to this House, on quite a number of occasions, the department is examining and will be proceeding in due course with taking the Thomson Centre and placing a wing in there that includes medical detox and mental health. Currently there are three facilities that the courts sentence people to in the Yukon, and itís the courtís choice, but what we see here is a display by the opposition parties of trying to bring forward a new warehouse to warehouse inmates here in the Yukon when the issue is the treatment, the programs and correctional reform, whether it be a matter that has currently been dealt with by the justice system, which is now a health matter, as this individual has been found to be not criminally responsible. This attempt is just very, very hard to fathom, Mr. Speaker, when we have to look after the people and not just build a big warehouse, as the members opposite are suggesting.
Question re: Youth housing
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. This week the minister made public comments concerning the young woman who is living in a downtown youth shelter with her baby. This is some of what the minister said, Mr. Speaker, and I quote: "That young lady is a member of KDFN and theyíve also offered her housing, so thereís an issue there. Itís one of lifestyle choices, but KDFN has provided SA to this individual and theyíre offering to provide housing also."
Did the minister have written permission from this person to reveal very personal information of this kind?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís exactly what this young lady said on the radio.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is wrong on that matter. It was after the fact. The minister said that the situation the young woman found herself in was a lifestyle choice. Because the minister was revealing her private information, the young woman was put in a situation of having to publicly explain why she does not want to live with her baby in an unsafe situation.
Can the minister explain what he means by saying the young motherís refusal to live in an unsafe situation is a lifestyle choice?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíll endeavour to get a transcript of her conversation, which Iím sure was recorded on CBC the other morning, and send it over to the member opposite. Maybe he can grasp a better understanding of what she actually said during the course of her interview on CBC.
Mr. Fairclough: How typical of the Yukon Party. These ministers skirt around the questions and donít answer them. The member knows it was because of his remarks that she had to come out publicly and explain things.
Mr. Speaker, in 1991, the Ontario Minister of Health inadvertently disclosed the name of an individual during Question Period. That minister was forced to resign her post as minister and the matter was referred to the Ontario Provincial Police.
Now, the Yukon minister did not use the young motherís name; however, this is a very small jurisdiction and he did give out private information about the womanís situation that should not have been revealed.
Would the minister take this opportunity to apologize to this young mother, or is he exempt from the rules of confidentiality that every other Health minister in Canada must obey?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If any one is amplifying the situation surrounding this individual, itís the official opposition member who is raising this question once again. This individual was reported on in the papers and has been interviewed on the radio. Iím going to endeavour to do my best to get a transcript of that interview and send it over to the member opposite so that he can understand exactly what this individual said.
This is a situation that we are prepared as a government to address ó the issue of homelessness ó and we have. We have done our level best through another whole series of organizations in the Yukon, but the issue of the purchase of the Roadhouse is not one that we are entertaining. There isnít a solid business case to make the situation here in the Yukon to purchase the Roadhouse as a youth centre. Itís a hotel that is looking to be purchased for people from the age of majority to 30 which, I understand, is the age of most of the individuals housed there. To that end, we will do our level best to deal with any identified needs in society, and we will do so.
Question re: Yukon promotion and publicity
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Premier who also happens to be the Minister of Economic Development. During the year and a half since the last election, we have heard a great deal from the Premier about the need to get the Yukon brand into the national and international marketplace. Itís certainly true that the Yukon has developed a high profile under this Premier. Weíve hit the national news over and over and over ó the kind of publicity money canít buy. Is the Premier satisfied with how brand Yukon is being seen across Canada?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The government side is very satisfied with how we have gone out to promote the Yukon Territory, attract investment and present to other citizens of this country and, indeed, the world, what a wonderful place we have. Unfortunately, the opposition promotes the Yukon in a very negative light. I would challenge the member opposite to explain to the Yukon public and, indeed, the rest of Canada and the world, why that is, considering the facts of the matter when it comes to the Yukon: its great opportunity, its great potential, the magic, the mystery, the history and the culture.
We are very positive about this territory; we promote it that way. The official opposition and the third party promote it in a very negative light.
Mr. Hardy: Well, letís look at what Canada has learned about the Yukon under this Premierís watch. Itís okay for a Cabinet minister to stiff the taxpayers for unpaid loans. A phone call to the right minister can get your tow truck released. The whole elected government will remain silent while their employees are put through a demoralizing witch hunt: the computer use investigation. One minister will help another minister settle old political scores by firing an entire municipal government. Itís okay to ignore Supreme Court rulings and itís okay to use punishment cells as mental hospitals. Ministers are not responsible for the policies of their own departments, as weíve seen today and we have seen time and time again.
This is how Canada sees the madness and misery of a Yukon Party Yukon.
Now, what steps does the Premier have in mind to take the tarnish off the Yukon brand in the second half of his mandate?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The members opposite can remain mired in negativity trying to reconstruct the past. But letís look at some of the indicators that have resulted from the approach this government is taking in promoting the Yukon: 1,000 more people in the workforce than at this time last year; more people in the population; third lowest unemployment rate in the country; projection of $30 million in mining exploration; applications in for drilling oil and gas; a film being shot ó a big picture being shot in the Yukon; tourism projections are up.
We will continue to promote the Yukon positively. The official opposition can continue to promote the Yukon negatively. Let the Yukon public pass judgement.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has expired. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, in general debate.
Bill No. 10 ó First Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Hon. Mr. Fentie:It is with a great concern that the government side must express to the public that the fact the official opposition is portraying the Yukon in its negative light as a place of "madness and misery" is really unfortunate. In the face of all the evidence, itís obvious that through the course of this debate on the budget, the official opposition is fixated on reconstructing the past. I can say unequivocally with the greatest of confidence to the Yukon public that the government side is focused on building a future. This budget is a tool that we will use to build a much brighter and better future for the Yukon public.
There is ample evidence that shows the territory is moving in a different direction, a direction that is creating somewhat of a positive trend. We agree that there are many challenges ahead, but given the fact that the government side approached those challenges with a positive outlook, with a vision and a plan, itís by far the better choice than having the official opposition trying to do something about the territoryís circumstances mired in negativity, fixated on reconstructing the past. With that, I would urge the opposition to delve into constructive debate on the budget.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, Mr. Chair, weíre starting up where we left off on Tuesday, unfortunately. The Premier is saying that weíre casting the Yukon in a negative light. Iíd like to point out to the Premier that weíre not responsible for the issues that were brought up in Question Period, and weíre not here to discuss Question Period. Weíre here to discuss the budget.
What did the Premier say about the discussion that was happening on Tuesday? On page 2252 of the Blues, about two-thirds the way down, he says that itís needless debate. Well, itís not needless debate. We want information, and the government doesnít want to provide information. He also said that he wanted to take us by the hand and lead us to the promised land of information that is already in our domain. Well, itís not the information thatís in our domain that weíve been asking for; itís the information that they refuse to provide.
I asked several questions last Tuesday about things that are of the utmost importance to Yukoners and to my constituents. Theyíre the questions that my constituents and the people who have been talking to me on the street have asked me to ask, and they want to hear what the Premier has to say about post-secondary education.
They want ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: The Premier says to read Hansard on Tuesday. Well, I did read Hansard on Tuesday. Itís right in front of me, Mr. Chair. But he didnít answer the question. He read the budget speech again. Now, are we going to have to listen to the Premier read the budget speech over and over again? We had to listen to it for two hours the first day, and on Tuesday he went right back to the script, dragged it up, brought it out and there we were again, listening to the same budget speech.
Now, those are all matters of importance I raised. What is the Premierís opinion of doing a study of the benefits of expanding the role of Yukon College? He didnít want to answer that question. Just like you canít get an answer in Question Period, you canít even get an answer from the Premier here today or on Tuesday about issues that are important to Yukoners.
I asked the Premier about his commitment in the budget to clean drinking water. Weíll see what the Premier said about clean drinking water.
Clean water is a fundamental service. The Premier talked about the fact that there is a process in place where they are looking at a source-to-tap-water study that the Health and Social Services minister has undertaken, but the information that was mailed out to all the public in no way, shape or form addressed the issue of affordability. A key to it being a fundamental service is that it has to be affordable, in my mind, but the Premier didnít address that issue.
The well-drilling program that the minister briefly mentioned also doesnít necessarily address the issue of affordability. Again, the Premier failed to provide answers to this House about issues that are really important to my constituents and to other constituents in the Whitehorse area. The well-drilling program, for starters, wonít address the needs of people within the municipality of Whitehorse. Thatís a fact.
The well-drilling program is only going to be available where the Yukon government is the authority for taxing. In the City of Whitehorse, that isnít the case; in some other municipalities, I suspect thatís also the case.
But what does it do for people who already have wells drilled that are dry or substandard? Will it address those needs?
Itís the Premierís words that weíre taking from the budget speech on Tuesday, and he repeated them on Tuesday, about water being a fundamental service. This is truly an important thing and the Premier needs to take it seriously.
I believe that water is not only a fundamental service but it should be a fundamental human right that you have access to water. People cannot live without access to water. There are certain things you need: you need to be able to breathe clean air, you need access to clean water, and you have to have food, clothing and shelter. Itís pretty straightforward.
While I applaud the efforts to initiate a well-drilling program, nothing is in place. Itís strictly an enabling piece of legislation that still needs the development of a program and regulations to go with it. There wonít be a well drilled under this program until probably the fall.
So how does that help constituents in my riding or constituents in the greater Whitehorse area or in the north end of town in the Member for Lake Labergeís riding? I know water is also an issue out that way, and the price people are paying for water delivery. A well-drilling program may be a start to addressing some of those issues, but itís not going to solve the problem.
The Premier and the government need to take a look at what else they can do. I donít see in the budget what theyíre going to do to address the issue of affordability of water that people need to survive. Weíre not just talking about a few people; weíre talking about 600 customers of water delivery companies here in Whitehorse and on the outskirts of Whitehorse out to Marsh Lake in the Chairís riding as well. The price of water has greatly increased, and people have had their water bills double, basically going anywhere from $60 to $120 to $150 a month. Some of these people are on fixed incomes. Theyíre senior citizens on pensions. Theyíre single mothers. They donít have the ability to deal with those kinds of increases in living expenses when itís a basic necessity of life.
As a government, I think they need to look at whatís fair for all Yukoners. Some communities pay a lot less for water delivery. In some communities, you can get three or four loads of water a week for $11 a month. Yet just down the road itís $150 a month. Where is the fairness in that, and where in this budget has the Premier tried to address those inequalities?
My constituents want to know, constituents in Lake Laberge want to know ó people in the Member for Lake Labergeís riding have asked that this question ó and constituents in Southern Lakes have also asked me this question. Iíd like to know what the Premier plans to do about it.
A $700,000 well-drilling program that isnít even going to see a well drilled until September isnít going to solve the problem. Itís going to address some of the issues, but itís not going to be the be-all and end-all that will alleviate the problem for people.
Iíll give the Premier an example of some of the reasons. In some areas ó and Iím sure the Premier knows this too ó wells arenít always successful. I have a couple of examples, and these are from constituents who live in Mount Lorne ó a 500-foot well, half a gallon a minute. Thatís a lot of money invested for very little water and water of poor quality ó and not enough.
When it was drilled, 225 feet cost them $7,500 and it was dry. I wonder if, under the well-drilling program, you get the loan and you drill a well and itís dry, do you have a well or do you not have a well? Maybe they wonít have to pay the loan back, like the Member for Klondike. Maybe the Premier would allow that under that program. Three hundred feet into bedrock and itís dry.
Now, theyíre going to lend people money to drill dry wells. Are they going to make them repay the loan? This is the Premierís response to my question about how they are going to make water affordable. Itís a $700,000 well-drilling program, and thatís pretty much his answer.
Water is a fundamental service. I believe itís a fundamental human right and people deserve to have access to affordable water. But there is not a level playing field out there. People were willing to pay the price, but when the price becomes unaffordable for people because of their economic circumstances, the government needs to do something. Iíve had constituents who are on water delivery call me, send me e-mails and say, "You know, my water bills have doubled. Iím paying $120 a month. I can afford it, but what about the people who live down the road who canít afford it?"
I hope that the Premier will take this issue seriously and not say that this is needless debate. I know heís going to get up and say, "Well, the Minister of Community Services has all the answers". Well, the Minister of Community Services is part of the team, and we talked about the team the other day. The Minister of Health and Social Services doesnít have the answer. Iíve talked to him. The Premier is the leader of the team; heís the coach. What my constituents want is an answer from the Premier about what heís going to do to make water more affordable. I look forward to his answer, and my constituents look forward to his answer. I will guarantee that it will be a mail-out.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I hope the member does mail it out, because the Premier ó I, as leader of the government side, as the member pointed ó has laid out in the Budget Address the direction on a number of issues, and this one in particular: safe, affordable drinking water. There are two departments involved. The Department of Health and Social Services is undertaking a major public process that will guide us toward the realization of safe, affordable drinking water. The Department of Community Services is undertaking a program to assist Yukoners. Itís a step forward thatís further than weíve been in a long time. So in the spirit of constructive debate, the member opposite will get much more detail out of getting into department line-by-line items.
Thereís no point in delving into a specific issue in great detail in general debate. We have ministers who are ready, willing and able to do exactly that, and it moves debate along and creates a very constructive environment with which the member opposite can contribute and will certainly be the recipient of the necessary answers as far as the government side has.
With that, the direction has been laid out in the Budget Address. Weíve now gone through a number of days of general debate on the budget. It is the biggest budget on record in the history of the Yukon. There are many departments to go through, many lines to go through, and thatís where the detailed debate will come. It certainly wonít come in general debate.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cathers:Iíd like all members of the House to join with me in welcoming two of my constituents, Alastair and Julie Cook, to the visitors gallery.
Mr. Cardiff: The Premier again falls back on what was said, which is a $700,000 well-drilling program. The literature the Minister of Health and Social Services provided does not address the issue of affordability. The letter he sent to some people had the word "affordable" in it once. I can probably actually even provide that letter to the Premier, if he wants. I probably have it here.
This is an issue thatís not going to go away. Water is an important necessity for all life, and I think the government needs to take a look at it. I encourage the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Highways and Public Works to work toward a solution to the real problem.
Mr. Chair, the Premier doesnít want to talk about water. He just wants to re-read the budget speech when it comes to asking questions about the large picture dealing with education. So weíll try to move on to something else that is in the Premierís domain, and thatís the devolution transfer agreement.
Perhaps the Premier could help me out on this because I may not be totally clear on how this works. We enacted, last spring, the Yukon Waters Act ó and the Premier is also responsible for the Water Board. There was a court action and a decision delivered when it was in the federal purview, I believe, about sewage treatment in Dawson. So there is a decision. And I am wondering if the Premier could tell me whether or not itís in the territorial governmentís purview now or if it is still in the federal governmentís purview.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There has been a water licence issued for Dawson City. I donít have on the top of my head the exact date that that took place, but it has been issued.
It obviously comes from recommendations from the Water Board. If itís a class A licence, it will be dealt with in the Executive Council Office and the Premierís office has to sign it off.
But again, there are a number of questions of detail on specific issues from the members opposite. This is general debate. Every minister, department by department, line by line, is prepared to enter into detailed critique of their respective departments and their budgets, and in the context and the spirit of constructive debate on behalf of the public and in their interests, I urge the member to move along and we can get into departments. And if the member is fixated on safe, affordable drinking water, he has two ministers, the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of Community Services, whom he can deal with at great length and detail. Thatís what department debate is all about; thatís what line-by-line debate is all about. That is not what general debate is all about. General debate, from our perspective on the government side, has been concluded for days now.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the Premier just doesnít want to deal with the issues. He doesnít want to be in here. The view from his side is a lot better. He at least can look out and see what the weather is doing. Over here, we get to look at the members opposite and the wall with some plants. The Premier is just aching to get outside where the weather is better than it is in here; I know the air is fresher, thatís for sure.
My question around the Water Board has to do with the devolution transfer agreement. My understanding is that Canada remains responsible for enforcement actions commenced by Canada and that YTG is given authority on a case-by-case basis to lay or prosecute charges on behalf of the Attorney General of Canada. What Iím wondering is ó weíre hearing different stories. This is, again, a case of not getting good information out of the government about what the actual status of the water licence in Dawson is.
Is the water licence going to be challenged? Is the government asking the municipality of Dawson, or the trustee, to challenge the water licence decision handed down by the federal government? Does the Premier know that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the member is correct in his dissertation that there is incorrect information being made available to the official opposition. We witness that on a daily basis. I would endeavour to help the member opposite with trying to correct the record for him, but again the member is somewhat confused on what the federal government is dictating to the City of Dawson.
There is obviously a minister who is responsible in this area. There is a trustee appointed in Dawson because of insolvency. The government cannot work outside of the law. The Municipal Act is clear, and in the case for Dawson a trustee has been appointed. The trustee will do their work to determine next steps. The government, on a priority basis, will be dealing with the issue of effluent from the City of Dawson. To date, the City of Dawson has spent some $10 million plus on a sewage treatment plant and the likes of an arena. To date, we do not have a useable arena in Dawson City ó thatís taxpayersí money, I would remind the member ó nor do we have a sewage treatment plant in Dawson city ó again, taxpayersí money. So the issue before us, when it comes to Dawson City, is determining what has happened on behalf of the taxpayer and in the public interest.
When he gets into detail of what the federal government order is for Dawson City, the Minister of Community Services is responsible and will respond. When we get into the departmental debate for the Executive Council Office, we can delve in great detail into the water licence issue, but in general debate there is no point. Because if the member wants to go into the water licence, class A type, then letís go to the Executive Council Office debate, and we will move along. If the member wants to deal with the sewage issue, the effluent issue, and the federal governmentís position, then letís get into the Department of Community Services and debate that issue ó not in general debate.
The government is going to ensure that the opposition benches, in the context of managing the publicís business in this House, do so in a constructive way. So we are not going to sit here in endless circular discourse in general debate, filling the pages of Hansard with nothingness. Thatís not the governmentís position. The government is here to present to the public the information that is requested by the opposition. We do it on a daily basis, and if the member wants that practice to continue, the member must get into department debate and line-by-line debate for detail.
Mr. Cardiff: We went around and talked about information availability the other day. If the Premier wants to go there again, we can go there again.
I asked about the information that used to be provided back in 2001, which isnít available any more ó the budget handouts. He keeps telling us that the information is flowing. The information isnít flowing on a daily basis. There is definitely information flowing, but it is not always correct.
An example: the Premier said $10.4 million and we are working up to the right figure, I guess. Yesterday, the Minister of Environment said $10.4 million. His exact words, I believe, were that this government had spent $10.4 million on sewage treatment in Dawson, and what did we get?
Today the Premier just said that we spent $10.4 million on something that resembles an arena and sewage treatment and totally ignored the fact that there was a swimming pool built and included in that money. It was included in the funding agreement.
So the Premier has a problem with providing the correct information and the Minister of Environment does. Itís no wonder the Premier thinks weíre confused because the information provided isnít always correct.
I want to ask one more question about the devolution transfer agreement and whether or not the government has any plans to proceed with an appeal of the water licence decision. I asked the Premier that and Iíd like an answer.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Minister of Community Services will have the detail here. To the best of my knowledge, the City of Dawson has already appealed the federal order. I donít necessarily relate that to a water licence issue. It was a federal order. The City of Dawson itself has already appealed it.
Mr. Cardiff: What I want to know is what this government is going to do to address the situation of sewage discharge in Dawson, and they donít seem to want to answer the question.
I have a couple more questions in one other area and then Iíll let my colleagues ask some questions.
The Premier is also responsible in his capacity for land claims. Iíd like to know whether or not there are currently any discussions going on around programs and services transfer agreements with First Nations in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, there have been tables set up for quite some time now. Iíll give examples: the PSTA, programs and services transfer agreement negotiations; thereís education, obviously; there is justice; there are other tables that have been ongoing. But the federal government is the primary agency government responsible for the implementation of the land claim when it comes to resources necessary, and weíre also in the nine-year review. But again, this detail should be fleshed out in the Executive Council Office debate.
And if the member wants to get into this detail, what Iím saying to him is letís move into department by department, line by line, and do the job we are obligated to do on behalf of the public. I donít think the public wants to hear this endless discourse.
There is little substance that weíre dealing with here. The detail is in each department. Thatís why theyíre structured the way they are. Thatís why the budget has line items. And thatís where the debate must occur. If the member wants to talk about this for the next 10 days, thatís the memberís choice. But the response will continually be that, if the member wants detail on a specific issue from a specific department, we must get to that department and debate it line by line.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the Premier keeps looking outside. We know he wants to get outside and play, or maybe thereís a hockey game on that heís itching to watch.
So maybe Iíll ask the minister this. The Government of Yukon is at the table when these PSTAs are being negotiated or discussed. Thereís a territorial interest in a lot of them. So what Iím going to ask him to do, and maybe he can provide the list of the tables or the discussions that are going on and the areas that these programs and services transfer agreements are being negotiated. So if he could send a list, Iím sure that itís available and itís something that has recently come to my attention that Iím interested in. So if he could provide that information, then I would have the information and maybe I would be ready to discuss it with him when we get to the Executive Council Office.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Has the member had a briefing on the Executive Council Office yet with the budget? Thatís number one. Thatís where those questions can be asked. Thatís why we put technical people into briefings with opposition members to provide them finite detail. Thatís what theyíre there for. The member opposite can ask the questions. Hopefully the member has an understanding of the PSTA issue. The land claims have been going on in the Yukon for 30 some years. This is not a new initiative, so letís get on with some debate here in regard to the budget instead of this, as I say, circular discourse.
This is a costly venture in this place. Itís a costly venture, and the costs are borne by the taxpayer. I highly suspect that the taxpayer is not all that thrilled with this kind of discussion. Thatís why Iím urging the member, with the greatest intentions from the governmentís side, to move on to department debate and line-by-line debate.
Iím sure the member will find a tremendous amount of information here to the memberís liking. I suspect the opposition is going to have a difficult time voting against this budget. As they have stated, the budget is 99 percent NDP initiatives. Thatís why I would like to hear the members in detailed debate, department by department, line by line. The government side is interested to hear those 99 percent initiatives and what they are. Then the government is very interested, as Iím sure the public is, to see if the official opposition is going to oppose, vote against, their own 99 percent of the initiatives in the budget.
Mr. Cardiff: It was hard to get answers and information when we were in supplementary budget debate. I asked the Premier a simple question. I asked him if he could provide information, and I couldnít get a commitment. Instead he stood up and talked about wasting time. But he canít even provide the information.
For the Premierís information, I wasnít at the ECO briefing. Okay? Iím not the critic responsible, and this just came to my attention within the last couple of days ó the question around PSTAs.
I would like the Premier to provide some information I donít have and which I donít have access to. The Premier didnít have to stand up and talk for three or four minutes and tell us weíre wasting time and that this is expensive, because we know that. What Iím asking him to do is to provide the list. We know itís available. Just yes or no, will he provide the list?
Thatís all I want.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, weíll provide all the information when we get to the department known as the Executive Council Office. The land claim initiative is housed in that department, and Iíll be more than willing, in the context of constructive debate, department by department, line by line, to provide information. Thatís how this system works.
Secondly, Mr. Chair, there is a question here of what we are doing when it comes to the cost borne by the taxpayer. Anybody who reads Hansard will obviously draw their own conclusions, but I suspect it wonít be a very favourable one.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the Premier is telling us that we need to take the information we have and ask the questions. When I ask for more information, the information isnít forthcoming. Where do you go from here?
The Premier is saying we have to get into the departments to get the information. What Iím requesting is to have the information in advance of going into the departments so I can ask the questions. I would like a little bit more information so I can understand it a little bit better and formulate some questions.
I donít want the minister in Executive Council Office to say, "Yes, weíll get you that information," and an hour later or two hours later we are into another department, and the information comes over and I then canít ask the question because we are not going to be in that department.
I am asking for the information in advance of debating Executive Council Office. The Premier doesnít want to provide it. That is not open and accountable government. That is not working cooperatively with members on this side.
Now, if the Premier doesnít want to do that, then so be it. He can stand up and he can agree to provide the information or he cannot. So be it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will have somebody send the member opposite a copy of the Umbrella Final Agreement. I guess the member doesnít have one, but I will send the member a copy of the Umbrella Final Agreement. Itís all there.
Secondly, maybe the member should have asked whoever on the NDP benches attended the Executive Council Office briefing. All I am saying here is that, in the spirit of constructive debate and being cost-effective on behalf of the taxpayer, we can move into department debate. General debate has long since been over. This is becoming somewhat of a useless exercise. Letís get on with the departments and the line-by-line. Thatís where the detail is fleshed out. Thatís what the process is about.
Mr. Cardiff: The Premier is not being helpful at all. I didnít ask for a copy of the Umbrella Final Agreement. I would beg him, in the interest of the environment, to not go out and order another copy for us because we donít need it. We donít need to kill more trees to print more copies of the Umbrella Final Agreement. There are plenty of them out there and I donít need another one.
I asked him for a listing of the table that he referred to, or the list of programs and services transfer agreement negotiations that are going on, that the government is participating in with the federal government and First Nations in the Yukon.
I think I just heard the Premier sayÖ My hearing is getting better actually. I thought I just heard him say that heíd be more than happy to do that. So Iím assuming that I can expect to get that any time. Maybe the Premier can stand up and acknowledge that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, thereís a thing about hearing, and thatís the ability to listen at the same time. The Premier will respond when we get to the Executive Council Office debate.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís the same minister. Itís the Premier. Itís the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office. Itís the Minister of Finance. Itís the Minister of Economic Development. Itís the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate. And he is the leader. There is a matter that has been brought to my attention recently that concerns programs and services transfer agreements, and all Iím asking is for him to provide that information to me, but he doesnít want to do it. Now Iím not sure how long Iíve been asking this question. Itís a pretty straightforward question. What Iím asking for Iím sure is sitting on his desk, or on somebodyís desk, and all he has to do is run it down to the photocopier and send it over. But I canít get the information.
He wants to provide it in Executive Council Office, so that way thatís going to work is that Iíll get up, Iíll ask the question, heíll provide the document and by the time I get it ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: The Premier says I want the Umbrella Final Agreement. Thatís not what Iím asking for. Iím asking currently ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Mr. Cardiff, you have the floor.
Mr. Cardiff: What I am asking the Premier for is what is ongoing now? What are the negotiations? What are the discussions now around programs and services transfer agreements? What issues are being discussed? What is the status? And if he canít provide that information, itís going to be a long day. Weíre in general debate. Iím asking for a simple piece of information. Iím sure that itís not going to be huge. I didnít ask for a copy of the Umbrella Final Agreement. He mentioned a table; he mentioned education, justice and other things. All Iím asking him to do is to provide a document that Iím sure that he already has, so would he please do that?
He said he would be more than willing to do it, but he wants to wait to provide the information. Basically, what it will amount to is the Premier wants to provide the information to me after the fact, after weíre done. "Hereís the information; ask the question next fall or next spring." By then, maybe it wonít be an issue any more. What is the Premier trying to hide? This is supposed to be public knowledge. The Premier and his officials ó and in the Executive Council Office ó are doing the publicís business. This should be pretty straightforward stuff, and I donít understand why the Premier wonít commit to providing ó Iím not asking him to go up and do it right now; Iím not asking him to ó I donít want to harangue the minister until 4:30 when we take a break and then maybe heíll go upstairs and find the photocopier and do it.
Iím asking him to commit to getting it for me within the next few days. This isnít something I want in the next five minutes. If I wanted it in five minutes, Iíd be late getting it already.
So if the Premier could just commit to providing that one simple piece of information, I could sit down and let my colleagues carry on.
Ms. Duncan: Itís a pleasure to engage and re-engage with the Finance minister, the Premier, in general debate on the budget he brought forward.
Iíd like to begin my questions this afternoon by following up on some of the general debate statements the Premier has already made. The Premier has indicated that ó on April 19 which was Monday, I believe ó in the budget there is an investment in Kwanlin Dun of over a million dollars in waterfront development right here in Whitehorse. He goes on to say, "To that end, we advanced monies to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation for design work. This is a significant project Ö for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation Ö." Itís on page 2224 of the Blues from April 19.
Would the Finance minister explain that statement in terms of what precise amounts and where we might find that information in the budget and when those funds were advanced and how much it is?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís part of a land claim. Actually, that member initialled off the agreement. Itís part of a land claim for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. That particular area happens to be in the Executive Council Office ó a great place to have this debate.
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister and Premier might be in a big hurry to get into lines of the departments, but we quite enjoy having him here in the Legislature debating with us so weíre going to carry on for awhile. Now, he brought this up in general debate. Iím responding to comments he made in general debate and I would like an explanation. Yes, Iím quite well aware of the fact that it was the Liberal government that initialled the Kwanlin Dun First Nation land claim agreement and what monies were in there. Is this in fact a revote of those monies or is it something different? The Finance minister, the Premier, the MLA for Watson Lake, made the comments in general debate. I would like a full, more complete explanation in general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís part of the Kwanlin Dun land claim. Itís a commitment by past Yukon governments and itís a commitment that this government will honour.
Ms. Duncan: Is this the specific land parcel that the million dollars is referring to? Is it a commitment toward a cultural centre that is several years old? The Finance minister went on to say that there were monies advanced. How much money and specifically what contribution agreement? This is, in effect, pre-implementation of a land claim agreement, so how much of the funds have been advanced?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Is the member saying that when signing this agreement the member did not know how much this investment was on behalf of the Yukon government, where it was going, what it looked like, what it was for? I would hope not. I would hope the member knows in detail, in great detail, what this investment on behalf of the Yukon public, and indeed what entering into an agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, was all about. Itís needless debate here. If the member wants to delve into this agreement in detail, we can have discussions in the Executive Council Office, and away we go. But if the member wants to stand here all day long on this one issue, I can guarantee the member this: the answer will be the same. It is a component of the land claim agreed to by Canada, the Yukon and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Ms. Duncan: I donít understand the Finance minister and the Premierís reluctance to answer questions today ó I really donít. He has gone on at great length in this Legislature about the wonderful budget that he and his Cabinet colleagues have produced. Now itís incumbent upon that Finance minister to answer these detailed questions.
He may find them needless on the part of the opposition. He may find them repetitive. However, the fact is that thatís what the opposition does: we get to ask the questions. Itís the Finance ministerís responsibility to answer them in the Legislature.
We can continue this if he wishes to berate individuals for their questions; then thatís the way the public record will stand. The fact is that the Finance minister stood and took credit for an investment in Kwanlin Dun of over $1 million, he said. He said "to that end, we advanced monies."
I am well aware, as is the public, of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation agreement. What I am asking for is the detail in this budget. What precisely is the money that the Premier referenced in those remarks in Hansard. He said that monies had been advanced. How much money of that million dollars had been advanced and precisely what million dollars is he talking about?
It is the Premierís responsibility to answer the questions, and I would appreciate an open and accountable answer, just as he promised the Yukon public.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Forthcoming in the debate for the ECO. Clear.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís this side that clears, not that side. And itís really unfortunate that the Finance minister is already ready to give up the job; he doesnít want to answer the questions ó amazing. The fact is he made the statement in the House, and I and Yukoners would like to know. Itís his budget and his Management Board that advanced monies. How much money was advanced? Will he answer that question, please?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Finance ministerís unwillingness to answer questions will be made clear to the public, and his reluctance and lack of desire to do the job will also be abundantly clear to the public. In general debate on the budget, the Finance minister also talked about revenue-sharing agreements from the development of the forest industry with the Teslin Tlingit First Nation and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. Would the Finance minister outline this resource royalty revenue-sharing agreement for the public?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, weíre on record consistently forming full economic partnerships with First Nations in areas of First Nation traditional territory. Where a resource such as forestry may be viable toward developing a forest industry, a full economic partnership means to this government that we will share in the benefits. One of the mechanisms to do that is looking at stumpage, for example, and partnering with First Nations on that particular mechanism.
This government will enter into those relationships with any First Nation in this territory. Thatís a guarantee; thatís a commitment; thatís certainly not the position the member opposite takes though.
The member opposite is against an economic partnership with First Nations. The member opposite espouses the "them" and "us" attitude: itís "them", the First Nations, and "us", the white guys.
Thatís not this governmentís position. Itís "us", and we are going to continue to forge those partnerships with First Nations for the benefit of not only First Nation people in this territory, but for net benefit Yukon. I canít help it if the member does not support, in any way, shape or form, partnerships with First Nations. Thatís something the government side cannot address. Thereís no answer in this House that can solve that problem for the member opposite. Thatís the memberís own bed; the member must sleep in it.
This government will continue to forge those partnerships everywhere they are possible to the benefit of the Yukon Territory, and we are advancing those relationships today and are working on a partnership arrangement and a joint process with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.
That member opposite, when in government, signed an agreement with the Kaska First Nation in Canada that dictates that, before any interim wood supply can be made available, there must be a forest economic benefit agreement with the First Nation. The memberís own minister signed that agreement, Mr. Chair.
So I guess the member is here to rag the puck and waste time in general debate when we could move into department debate and really extract and ferret out from that member how much that member opposes the First Nations of this territory.
Ms. Duncan: Fascinating that when the members ask a pointed question to provide information that his continued response in this Legislature is to attack the opposition. I will stack my signature on the Taían Kwachían land claim, four signed memorandums of understanding, and my ministerís signed agreement withÖ
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Does the member wish to speak? Iíll gladly wait for an answer.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: I gather thereís none forthcoming.
As I said, the attack on the opposition continues. The belittling of Yukoners and their concerns and the suggestion of casting motives, the suggestion characterizing our government: that is ó as the member opposite well knows ó completely incorrect. I will stack the record of myself and my government in successful working partnerships with the First Nations of the territory, with all Yukoners, against his any day of the week. Any day.
The Teslin Tlingit will receive a revenue share from the development of a forest industry in their traditional territory. Those are the Finance ministerís words. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations will receive a share of royalties of revenue from resource development in their traditional territory. The minister is making reference, I believe ó although he is completely unclear as usual ó the quotes were from page 2225 of Hansard, general debate on the budget, resource revenue sharing ó revenues are part of the budget.
Would the Finance minister, who has responsibility not only as Premier but as minister responsible for the Executive Council Office and Finance, provide either an indication of the time frame of those negotiations or precisely what has happened? Is this just another statement by the minister ó grandiose statement ó or has there been some actual work done in this regard?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Premier is unable to state what work has been done. I would assume then, as would most listeners, that there has been absolutely none.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, again the third party is exposing its position when it comes to First Nations. The member says that she would stack her governmentís record with First Nations against our governmentís any day. I urge the member to do that. In fact, I would coordinate, should the member wish, a meeting to allow the member to do that ó a venue, a forum, for the member to do that. Iíll stack up the previous Liberal governmentís record when it comes to First Nations in this territory alongside this governmentís.
Again, it is needless debate for this Assembly, and the member is showing the "them" and "us" attitude is alive and well in the third party, although the government side is clearly demonstrating through evidence and its actions that we believe this territory and its future must and will be built in collaboration with our First Nation people in partnership, formalizing our government relationship, developing full economic partnerships. One of the mechanisms to do that with First Nations is to ensure they get a share of revenues and benefits from resource development.
Considering current events, the Yukon is ahead of the curve on this matter. We have a Prime Minister now standing in front of the aboriginal leaders of the country, demonstrating the exact same position: that itís time in this country ó not only in the territory ó that aboriginal people benefit from the development of resources in their traditional territories. The Yukon government started that some 16 months ago. We are very encouraged and pleased to see our national government seize that initiative and proceed in the fashion that we are in the Yukon.
The Yukon is ahead of the curve. The Yukon has shown leadership, demonstrated leadership, in partnering with First Nations to ensure that benefits accrue to them also when we realize resource development in our territory. We stand behind that solidly. The member opposite, the third party, no matter what question is asked in this House, can never demonstrate through evidence that the third party in this territory supports in any way, shape or form this type of initiative and certainly does not support full economic partnership with First Nations. The member has voiced that time and time again. The member has attacked the Kaska Nation. The member has demonstrated over and over the true position, the real position of the third party when it comes to economic partnering with First Nations. I would encourage the member not to go down this road any further. The damage being created for the member is quite severe.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just a friendly reminder to the Finance minister that belittling the opposition and suggesting motives is not healthy, constructive debate. And I hate to remind them of the number of times he has broken that so-called New Yearís resolution of constructive debate and working with opposition parties.
And I just would remind the Finance minister that the forest economic benefits agreement he referred to earlier is between Canada and the Kaska, not YTG.
Mr. Chair, I find it quite interesting that when the Finance minister finds himself in trouble and unable to answer questions that he has to reassure the back bench of his abilities and show his complete disregard and disrespect for the members opposite and their questions ó who, whether he appreciates it or not, also represent the Yukon public and are asking their questions, the questions that they ask.
The minister has not answered the question I addressed to him. His words state that, in essence, the Government of Yukon, the Yukon Party, is working on one-off agreements, and he names two First Nations ó forest agreement and resource revenue sharing. Would he state for the record the status of those negotiations? Is there an agreement signed? Is there a negotiation process going on? Precisely what is the status of those forestry resource revenue-sharing agreements with the Teslin-Tlingit First Nation and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again the member has demonstrated the third partyís opposition to economic partnerships with First Nations. She just called them ó when it comes to the development of this territory and its future ó a one-off agreement. Mr. Chair, that is diminishing the achievement of First Nations in this territory, not only through the land claim process but through self-government, through their investments to date in trying to build capacity and revenue streams for their people. This is a terrible day for Yukon and its democratic principles, and itís being demonstrated by the third party. The third party opposes economic partnerships with First Nations, has demonstrated clearly again in building this territoryís economy and future with First Nations in partnership as a one-off agreement. I am very concerned about where the member is going.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps in his deep, heartfelt concern the Finance minister could answer the question. What is the status of these agreements? The Finance minister has stated that they will be ó he used the words "piece of the action when it comes to development". He used the words "single agreements". Now Iím asking the question: what is the status of those agreements? Are they being negotiated individually, as the Finance ministerís own words would suggest, or are they being negotiated in a collective manner? This is specific to the revenue share from the development of forest industry in traditional territories.
How is that being negotiated? We have a signed final land claim agreement with both the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the Teslin Tlingit First Nation. How are we negotiating the forestry resource revenue-sharing agreements, and what is the status of those discussions? Would he please answer the question?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I know that weíre not allowed to have props in the Legislative Assembly; however, I feel that given this situation the member has dug herself into, maybe we should bring in a screen and a projector, and we can put up in quite a sizeable fashion, in big print, a full economic partnership. Weíll start there.
The member does not support an economic partnership with any First Nation is this territory. She demonstrates it here on the floor of the Legislature, and she certainly demonstrated it when in government. I donít know how else to put this to the member. Full economic partnerships are definitely happening in this territory with our First Nation people. We are going to develop the Yukon economy and its future in partnership with First Nation people. We as a government will ensure that they share in the benefits of economic development in the territory. Yukon is ahead of the curve on this. We have now the federal government heading down the same road when it comes to resource development and traditional territories of the aboriginal people of this country.
If the member wants to continue this questioning, I think itís best that the government side stay moot, and we will just send out the clips of Hansard so we can demonstrate to all the public the memberís real position when it comes to the First Nation people of the Yukon and their desire to be involved in the development of our economy and its future.
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister and Premier has repeatedly stood on his feet and suggested, "Well, weíll portray the third party; weíll just send this out to everybody and weíre going to say it how it really is."
Well, those are the Finance ministerís words; they are not mine. I am asking the Finance minister a very clear question based on his own words. His own words in this Legislature were, "Full economic partnership includes resource revenue sharing for First Nations. It is in the agreements we have entered into." I am asking about those agreements.
Have they been concluded? Are they under discussion? Are they being negotiated singly with each First Nation? What is the status, specifically, of the forest resource revenue-sharing agreement the Premier has mentioned? The Premier has already decided the answer Iím getting, so perhaps he could share it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The land claims are an agreement that ensures that we share oil and gas revenues. Itís in the Umbrella Final Agreement; thereís another agreement. We have a forestry agreement with the Kaska. First, the memorandum of understanding is signed. That was the framework on how we proceed. That memorandum of understanding dictated that, before any interim wood supply can be made available, there has to be a forest economic benefit agreement with the Kaska. Well, thatís done.
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations has the potential for a revenue stream out of the development of the forest resource there. We are working with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.
The beetle kill is a huge issue. That also includes working with the federal government on the issue ó another area that has potential. And I would remind the member that not all regions in the Yukon have the potential to support a forest industry. Some areas have the potential merely to provide a level of subsistence use. Other areas like the southeast Yukon have a huge potential for the development of a forest industry. So when we look at the southwest Yukon, the Teslin Tlingits, they are interested in the forest industry and moving ahead with a forest management plan. They have a corporation that is involved in the primary breakdown facility, and we the government will ensure that any go-forward plan to extract forest resource in the Teslin Tlingit traditional territory as we forge economic partnerships will include benefits for the First Nation. Thatís what the economic partnership is all about ó at least in one component of it. We are going to share benefits, and the federal government is now doing the exact same thing: a commitment from the Prime Minister, the highest office in the country, that on a go-forward plan, any development of resources in the traditional territories of aboriginal people in the country must create a benefit for those First Nation people.
Thatís the answer. And it clearly shows a contrast between the government side and the third party in our respective positions. The government side is supportive and actually building and forging economic partnerships with First Nations. The third party is opposed to economic partnerships with First Nations and opposed to sharing of benefits. Let the public decide.
Ms. Duncan: The public will decide. The Liberal Party has a very strong tradition of support for the Umbrella Final Agreement and its passage and its full and complete implementation: the spirit and the intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement. Our support and work within the Umbrella Final Agreement was also clearly reflected in signatures on land claims and in reaching four memorandums of understanding with Yukon First Nations. Itís clearly reflected.
What has not been clear to the public this afternoon is that the Finance minister, the Premier, has said that there are full economic partnerships, that there will be resource revenue sharing. Letís speak specifically about the forest revenue sharing that the Finance minister talked about with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the Teslin Tlingit First Nation. How does the Premier intend to reach this forestry resource revenue sharing with those two First Nations? Is it going to be an agreement negotiated with each of them? Are those negotiations underway? "How" is the question that has not been answered. And the Premierís answer is his accountability to the Yukon public. How does he intend to do that?
We have a final agreement with those two First Nations. Chapter 17 addresses forestry resources. Chapter 23 addresses resource royalty revenue sharing. Those chapters do not address the issues of forestry resource revenue sharing. That particular issue is not addressed in the land claim agreement. Now how does the Premier intend to address the issue? Will he reach agreements with each of those First Nations, or is the template the agreement with the Kaska? Would he answer that question? Without the full economic partnership and trying to portray the Liberal Partyís position and that belittling rhetoric, could he answer the question of how?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Yukon government will negotiate partnerships with self-governing First Nations, as any government should, with mutual respect and understanding, trust and ensuring that mutual benefit is the objective. Thatís how we will do that.
The member is again demonstrating, by quoting the Umbrella Final Agreement and what it does or does not do ó the third partyís opposition to ensuring that First Nations benefit from resource development in their traditional territories. The government side is not going to, in any way, shape or form, promote the member in any other light. The third party opposes it. First Nations know it. They knew that back when the member was in government, and they brought forward proposals on how to move forward with economic development in the territory and received an emphatic, "No, not under this governmentís watch."
Well, that was then; this is now. This government is committed to it. Mutual benefit will be the objective as we forge these partnerships. The mechanisms necessary ó whatever they may be ó will have to vary; each region in the territory has differences. There is no way to compare the southeast Yukon and its forest resources to any other region in the territory. They are dramatically different in volume, in land base, in stand profile.
The memberís questions are not connected to realities. The member should just move on, and, when we get into departments like Energy, Mines and Resources, the minister responsible can expand on some of the processes to date, whether it be with Champagne and Aishihik or the Kaska or other areas. There is training in mining. There is a huge partnership being worked on right now in terms of a framework with other First Nations in north Yukon. We are committed to investment in a capital plan for the community of Old Crow, and we demonstrated that here in the budget. And the list goes on and on and on.
We are building a future with the First Nations in the territory. The past government did not take that approach. Well, we cannot do anything about the past. We are focused on the future, the road ahead. The member opposite is much more concerned about what the third party, when in government, failed to do.
Ms. Duncan: The member can try to portray all he wants and misrepresent the position taken by our government. The facts are ó one example that immediately comes to mind is the Mount Sima development. It happened under our watch ó an economic partnership with a Yukon First Nation, the largest First Nation in the Yukon ó and the ability to reach within the Umbrella Final Agreement, living up to its spirit and intent ó four MOUs.
Just a suggestion for the Premier that, if he doesnít want to answer the questions, Iím sure there are willing members ready to step forward because heís so obviously tired of the job. Itís unfortunate he wonít be open and accountable with the Yukon public about agreements that have been entered into and wonít share them with the public, or how he intends to reach the agreements.
The Umbrella Final Agreement is very clear. We even have an understanding ó the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement, a straightforward, simple guidebook for those who canít take the time to read the larger edition and understand the spirit with which it was negotiated and signed.
Every Yukon Premier, save the current one, has understood and lived up to those principles of economic partnership, of resource royalty revenue sharing with all First Nations, regardless of what was in their traditional territory, and thatís what is spelled out.
However, the Premier wants to negotiate this deal in the backroom and tell Yukoners about it later, as he has done with others ó unfortunately not the openness and accountability that Yukoners have asked for and continue to seek.
The part of the forest development and forest redevelopment, growth and expansion of our forestry is ó and I would just like to quote from the Premierís party ó well, his current party ó platform. It says, "Öensure stumpage fees support the continued growth and expansion of lumber mills".
How is the Premierís forestry resource revenue sharing going to accomplish this? In the Kaska agreement, the stumpage fees ó how are they going to accomplish this absolute commitment to the Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Seeing as how the member is such a supporter of the Umbrella Final Agreement, I think weíre going to have to go through some circumstances here to get the member to understand exactly what has taken place.
There is no mandate to negotiate a land claim in the southeast Yukon. However, all selected lands have an order-in-council setting them aside. They are removed, withdrawn.
Under the agreement, that supports our commitment to ensure that we can establish a viable forest industry in the southeast Yukon. The Kaska have placed all of their selected wood as part of the allowable annual cut. Thatís a huge investment. That investment will certainly lend itself to the growth of a viable forest industry in the southeast Yukon. And it goes on to state that the Kaska, in negotiations with British Columbia, will make best efforts to ensure that wood will flow from B.C. into the Yukon, another very important investment by the Kaska Nation on behalf of benefits accruing to the territory.
This is an investment ó an investment that will allow us to grow and build a viable forest industry in the southeast Yukon that will benefit all Yukoners. That is in keeping with our commitment to the Yukon public without a doubt.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the sensitivity of the Premier to the questions can be assessed by his tone of voice. Screaming it into Hansard isnít going to change the answer and isnít going to provide a clearer answer. The rhetoric has become quite tiresome. I would like a very straightforward answer. How does the Kaska agreement ensure that stumpage fees support the continued growth and expansion of lumber mills, as per the Premierís party commitment?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, Mr. Chair, Iím embarrassed for the member opposite. The member opposite doesnít recognize that there are reforestation fees, that there are upset fees, that there are fees that can be generated to build infrastructure, and the list goes on and on and on. The member has no understanding of what a forest industry is. And when the member said again, "I asked the Premier to respond to the question," I did by pointing out that there is a huge investment here collectively, but that gets us back to that economic partnership that the member opposite opposes. We are partnering with First Nations to build our economy and our future in this territory. Thatís exactly what the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has done in entering into an AIP with the Kaska on forestry in the southeast Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is a quote about the game of life being a game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy. The Premier said, "But the Yukonís lacking in its knowledge about forest ecosystems, and that knowledge base must be better developed." He also said, "Itís a lot easier to identify the areas we want to protect up front before development occurs than it is to create protected areas after industry has made investments and settled in.
The Premierís flip-flops are quite legendary. What is his current position on raw-log exports?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is becoming quite amusing. Letís go into this.
As I see it, at least, reality would dictate that I, the Member for Watson Lake, joined the Yukon Party, and here we sit today.
Now, there is a reason why that happened. I saw the error of my ways. I am more than willing to stand up publicly and state that fact. I saw the error of my ways ó without a doubt.
But letís look at knowledge of ecosystem. For 10 long years, the forestry question in southeast Yukon has been consulted on, has been discussed, has had science added to it, has had more science added to it, has had experts ó duelling experts involved in it. There is no need for further discussion. This government is now moving into the action phase. We are advancing our ability to build a forest industry in the southeast Yukon. Why? Because itís a strategic industry, as weíve laid out in the plan. Why? Because it will provide net benefit for Yukon. Why? Because it will attract private sector investment into the territory.
There is a list of other things we can do; letís look into them. We have the potential of reducing the output of fossil fuel exhaust into the air, by using waste from a forest industry ó a hugely efficient system known as "cogeneration". We have the ability to start looking into producing our own seed because of that. We have a tremendous ability to advance silviculture. There is no question that all the components that would develop the forest industry, not only from primary breakdown through to secondary manufacturing but beyond, are available in the southeast Yukon.
This is a solid investment, Mr. Chair.
Now, the member in speaking about how words can come back to bite you; on occasion I agree with that statement. What you say can, at some point in the future, reflect upon you, but only if you are not of the level of integrity where you can admit mistakes.
It was a mistake for me to allow the New Democrats in this territory to recruit me ó no question about it. The leader of the official opposition even made mention of that. It was not a good fit for me. There was no question about it. I made the decision to move on, and thatís exactly what I did. I moved on.
I guess we would have to say to the member opposite, considering the fact the member was one time a staunch supporter of the Progressive Conservatives in the Yukon, at one time a card-carrying member of the Independent Alliance and now ó by the way, Mr. Chair, in the election of 1996, she was in the offices of the Yukon Party demanding a certain riding and she would run for them and, when they said no, she went and joined the Liberals and ran for them. Speak about the word coming back to haunt you, Mr. Chair ó thereís a prime example.
Ms. Duncan: The member can try to reinvent history all he likes. The facts and the member opposite are strange bedfellows when it comes to my own political history. He does not appreciate or understand that there is a very large difference between the federal Progressive Conservative Party and the Yukon Party.
Absolutely, I was a supporter of the federal Progressive Conservative Party. The Yukon Party demonstrated then, as they demonstrate now, that thereís no room for women in that party. Thatís why Iím not there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Member for Whitehorse West is of the female gender.
Chair:Order please. There is no point of order, but once again I would encourage members not to make personal comments. I would also remind members that abusive, insulting language, including sexist language, is out of order in our Assembly.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I agree with you and I support and appreciate your ruling. Thank you very much. I would suggest that the member oppositeís version of events and my political history differ significantly. The facts are that I appreciate what an honour it is for me to serve not only the Liberal Party as the leader, but also my constituents in Porter Creek South who elected me in 1996 over the memberís current party/Independence Alliance and who have continued to do so. And I appreciate that I am here on their behalf to ask a series of questions to the Finance minister and the Premier. Perhaps he could focus on the issue at hand as opposed to his version of political events, which is the resource royalty-sharing agreements with First Nations ó he has not answered that question ó and the stumpage fees commitment made in the platform has not been answered, and the Premierís position on raw-log exports, the current position. Does he support raw-log exports? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, we would certainly support raw-log exports coming out of British Columbia, Mr. Chair. However, the member opposite is the one who signed an agreement with the Kaska Nation, for example. Did the member have any position with the Kaska Nation in that regard? Because there has been a degree of raw-log export in the Yukon, and it certainly, certainly was an issue on many occasions. Raw-log export in the past has been used as a vehicle to create employment and a revenue stream.
The governmentís position is to build an industry here in the Yukon. Therefore, raw-log exports would compromise to a degree our ability to do that. So we are advancing forestry in the southeast Yukon today in order to build a forest industry there on the ground in the Yukon. So we have to look at things in context. And let me point out to the member that if we take the forest district known as YO1 on the far southeast of the Yukon Territory, economically itís very difficult to haul wood from there all the way back up to Watson Lake on a viable basis but, at Mile 317, there happens to be a road off the Alaska Highway, 17 miles out of Fort Nelson. There is a large forest industry on the ground in Fort Nelson. The way the government would approach this ó and thatís again an important element of the partnership with First Nations such as the Kaska ó is we would look to a reciprocal arrangement with British Columbia so that wood flow went both ways. The agreement with the Kaska speaks to that. The position is to ensure no net loss of log volume for the Yukon.
The member opposite, in asking a yes-or-no question on raw-log export again demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of what a forest industry is, how the forest itself relates to the building and development of that industry and what the long-term demands on any industry are to be able to maintain a viable and sustainable operation.
What else can I say, Mr. Chair? Our position is no net loss of log volume for Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I would just remind the Premier that he can qualify his answer without belittling the questioner or the question. That would lead to constructive debate in the Legislature.
The Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council made a recommendation that it does not support timber being exported and processed outside of the Yukon. That seems to me consistent with what the Premier has just said. Have I heard him correctly?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I canít repeat verbatim what I just stated to the member opposite, but the question was answered in great detail on how this would unfold. The Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council, which was another component of the agreement the member opposite entered into with Canada and the Kaska, is a body that will help steer the evolution of forest management and the development of an industry in the Yukon. They have a position on raw-log export.
I have stated it in terms of no net raw-log volume loss to the Yukon. Iíve also provided the member opposite a clear understanding of the geographical impacts on economic viability.
So, Mr. Chair, when we put it all together, the Kaska agreement is an investment. The go-forward plan now is to put together the necessary management plan on allowable annual cut to attract the investment to create our ability to utilize and create a revenue stream out of residual waste, to create a primary breakdown process, to create a secondary manufacturing component of the industry, to develop markets, to create a strong silviculture component of the industry, and to look toward investment in infrastructure that we can derive out of developing the industry, and to look at our seed and the genetics of the forest, given the fact that we, in reforestation in todayís Yukon, send our seed out.
With the advent of an energy source and using residual fibre, we have an opportunity to get into the growth of our own seed, the development of our own seed, to look into research and development. There are huge investment dollars available at the federal level when it comes to research and development. At a minimum, there are tax issues that provide an incentive to industry to go down these roads.
We have a clear vision and a plan here. But, on the issue of export of raw logs, our position is clear: no net log volume loss for Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: So the Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council says that it doesnít support timber being exported and processed outside of the Yukon. The Premierís position is that raw-log exports are okay, provided B.C. ships some back to us and they are processed, and there is no net loss to the Yukon. That is what the Premier has just stated for the record.
I would like to talk about the Elijah Smith forest renewal program and the funding under it. YTG is responsible for collecting. This fund was transferred to us and YTG is responsible for collecting ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Ms. Duncan, you have the floor.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
The fact is that the Government of Yukon, after devolution, became responsible for what is called the "Elijah Smith forest renewal program". YTG is responsible for collecting the revenues and coordinating them with Yukon First Nations and representatives of the Yukon forest industry.
The Premier has gone on at great length about these different agreements and resource royalty revenue sharing with forestry. First of all, would he outline where in the budget documents the Elijah Smith forest renewal program funding is located? Would he also ó as he has responsibility for negotiations with First Nations ó indicate where the discussions are with respect to the collection of revenues and the expenditures of those revenues and what percentage is being put into that fund under these agreements?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is Energy, Mines and Resources specific. Percentage? Thereís a direct fee. Weíve inherited or adopted the framework that the federal government had in place on stumpage and reforestation. Those amounts are housed in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. This is a specific question of detail to a specific department. It is in no way a general debate item.
Ms. Duncan: So the funds in the Elijah Smith forest renewal, fundamental to our forest health, is all in Energy, Mines and Resources, but the Premier, who has responsibility for everything, is off negotiating these forestry revenue agreements with First Nations. So forestry revenue agreements have nothing to do with forest renewal. Is that what heís saying? Make it clear to the public who is negotiating, how theyíre being negotiated, where the funds are going and where this fund fits in with it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member is really embarrassing the third party in this House. The member is not even coming to the realization that stumpage has nothing to do with reforestation; itís a separate fee. Reforestation charges are a separate item specific to one thing, and that is reforestation. Thatís not stumpage, not at all. Stumpage is a fee that the Crown would charge, which is similar to a fee for a concession that a proponent would pay to have the right to go and harvest X number of cubic metres of forest.
But the proponent would also have to pay another separate fee, which would be reforestation. It has nothing to do with stumpage. But again, Mr. Chair, this is specific, detailed questioning that relates to a specific department. It is not general debate; therefore, I move that we go into department-by-department debate, line-by-line debate.
Chair: There is no such motion. As long as there is general debate, and there appears to be, we will continue on.
Ms. Duncan: So what has been made embarrassingly clear to the public is that the Premier is out negotiating backroom deals because he wonít make them public, wonít discuss them on the floor of this House, wonít discuss the terms, wonít discuss even how theyíre being negotiated, under what framework, what template. He belittles the opposition for asking the question ó daring to ask the all-knowing Premier the question, and then when there is a specific question related to our forest, related to forestry renewal, related to the very resource that the Premier is discussing, he says, "Oh, itís a different department." Talk about making a deal and leaving other ministers to try to clean it up and cope with it. It completely ignores the framework of public policy. Itís the whole public, the entire agreement and the individual agreements that have to be considered. It is all of the Yukon that has to be considered when these individual deals are being struck.
The Premier finds it quite difficult to answer questions in general debate, that he started the debate on, as has been evidenced by Hansard. Iíd like to move on to another specific issue. The internal audit function was re-established under the Liberal Party government. It was formerly the Bureau of Management Improvement. What is the Premierís philosophy and position with respect to internal audit, management improvement and, dare I suggest, accountability to the public?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member has just stood on her feet and put on the public record that the Premier negotiated a forestry agreement with the Kaska and then has left the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources responsible for it. Well, Iím compelled to correct the record. The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, led by the minister responsible, negotiated an agreement with the Kaska First Nation. The reforestation fees, stumpage fees, any other royalties that we may deem, as we go forward in developing a forest industry, to be necessary to be charged to industry will be housed in that department, not the Premierís office. So the member again is incorrect and showing clearly a serious lack of understanding not only of this issue but most of the issues she brings to the floor of the House. And when it comes to the internal audit initiative, that is housed in the Executive Council Office. That is a specific detail question to a specific department; it is not general debate.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I donít have it at my immediate fingertips, but I believe youíve made a ruling in the past that general debate affords all members an opportunity to ask questions of a general nature. The question I asked was indeed of a general nature. As I said I donít have your ruling at hand. Itís certainly my understanding that that is what general debate is all about. I would suggest that the Finance minister, Premier, put it on the record ó as weíre in general debate on the budget, the finances of the territory ó how he views that overall internal audit and management of those finances. What is his particular philosophy and perspective? Does he bring the NDP philosophy of a bureau of management improvement or an internal, more refined, defined internal audit function?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Of course the government side supports the internal audit function but I disagree with the member opposite. This is a specific question of detail in regard to that function. That function is housed in the Executive Council Office; therefore, the member will receive much more detail in response when we debate the Executive Council Office.
The member can continue to try to make the representation that the government side is not answering, but the government side is, and the answer is, when we get into specific questions of detail or a specific department, we should be going to debate that department. Therefore, given the questions coming from the opposition benches, we deem that general debate is now over.
Ms. Duncan: Much as he might like to, the Premier doesnít get to make the decision that general debate is over, and he may find it tiresome to answer pointed questions from the opposition. However, welcome to the task: thatís his job and, as I said, if he doesnít want to do it, Iím sure there are ready and willing members in his caucus who would be quite willing to do so.
I was pleased to hear the current government supports the internal audit function. Iím looking forward to asking the Premier more detailed questions.
Another one of the Yukon Party platform commitments was that they, being the saviours of all things, were going to wean us as a territory off of federal revenues and ensure that we, the strong and proud territory that we are, would stand on our own and hold our own within the confederation known as Canada.
Understanding as I have it from the former method of accounting and the budget documents, federal funding accounted for about 64 percent of our revenues.
The amount of our current federal funding is not listed as a percentage; itís listed as numbers in the main documents ó in the mains. Would the Premier care to ó I know that he doesnít like to answer, so would the Finance minister and Premier indicate what the current percentage is of the dependency on Ottawa, or federal funding. Also, would he indicate for the public record how he intends to fulfill this Yukon Party commitment of weaning us off the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Letís look at it based on the facts.
The member has the information in the document provided. But, because the member obviously doesnít know how to find it in the document ó the grant from Canada is 66 percent of the overall total. Itís all there for the member. I guess the member didnít have the time to go over that document in preparing for debate, which speaks volumes about the kind of debate the member is providing in this Legislature.
Furthermore, when it comes to the issue of more private sector involvement in the Yukon economy, we have a good start, Mr. Chair. The indicators show positively that with more people in the workforce, more industry getting interested in the Yukon, more own-source revenues will develop for the Yukon Territory. Thatís exactly how we reduce our dependence on the federal government and the southern taxpayer.
This is not going to be a one-year project. Our dependency has been built over many years. We are now turning the corner. We are now heading in the right direction. The indicators prove that, the evidence is there, but we still have a lot of challenges ahead. Weíve said that also time and time again. But itís done by creating own-source revenues. Obviously income tax is an own-source revenue. The more jobs we create in the Yukon ó especially from the private sector ó the more the own-source revenues will increase.
I think the member has all the information available. The stats are available to the member. The Budget Address and the budget documents are available to the member. So the issue is, for the percentage, 66 percent, and I think itís falling. It has gone down marginally already, another indicator.
Ms. Duncan: The grant from Canada, the formula, may be 66, but the subtotal transfer from Canada is closer to 72 ó 71.3 to be precise. Thatís not weaning ourselves off a dependency on Ottawa as promised door to door by some members.
The Premier indicated in his budget speech ó and weíll leave the inability of the Yukon Party and Premier to live up to those commitments he made to the Yukon public for the time being and focus instead on the consultation surrounding the budget. There has been a request by the official opposition for the precise job-creation figures of the budget, and itís the first budget I can recall, or budget speech, where I donít recall ó and it was a very long speech so I may have missed it ó the Finance minister, Premier, saying, "This job will create almost 700 jobs" ó as did a previous budget speech. So what are the job creation figures? The departments have them. They have been asked for; they havenít been provided.
Secondly, the budget consultations ó that information has always been asked and requested of the Premier, and there were public meetings held. Members have made reference to them. There are specific requests made by communities. Where are the notes from the meetings and when will those two pieces of information be provided?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This question has been answered. We went through this a few days ago, over and over and over. The governmentís budget will create over ó itís investing in over 3,500 jobs within government and hundreds of jobs outside of government. Thatís the figure.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, theyíre not creating the jobs. Previous budget speeches have said that specific job creation measures in the budget will create X number of jobs. Iíve delivered the line; Iíve heard the line. I know it exists. The departments do this. They indicate project/jobs, project/private sector full-time equivalents. The information is provided by the department. Why is the Premier so reluctant to provide it? Is he ashamed of it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The answer, "hundreds of jobs," including the current workforce number of the Government of Yukon, is not providing the information. Itís restating the rhetoric of the Premier. Why not simply answer the question? Why not? What on earth does the Premier have to hide?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the question has been answered: "hundreds of jobs." Thatís what the budget will create: hundreds of jobs.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, itís unfortunate that the Premier has such disrespect for the public service that he forces us to ATIPP every piece of information, which is readily available and at his fingertips, right beside him in this Legislature. That information is available, and he refuses to provide it and finds it intensely humorous. The Yukon public would simply like an answer. Itís not hard; itís not difficult. Itís there. Unfortunately, the Premier will not provide it.
The Premier hasnít answered the question, also, with respect to the budget requests made by community and information provided to him. Itís a public meeting. Normally a Finance official attends, as well as the MLA for the area and interested members of the public.
Will he provide that information ó the requests that were made of him ó to members of the opposition? Will he file that information in the House?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíve provided the members opposite with a detailed breakdown of the capital investment in every community in the Yukon. A lot of the community requests are reflected in that. We also know thereís an ATIPP request for the notes of every community meeting. I would sometimes wonder if some of those individuals ó those citizens out there who had things to say ó want the member opposite to know what they said.
No matter; the ATIPP process has already been triggered and weíll let it go through due process and see what happens.
Ms. Duncan: Itís amazing that itís such an awful thing to ask for that information when the member was on this side of the House and asked exactly the same question and had the information provided to him. He didnít have to ATIPP it; it was provided.
But oh no, this opposition is terrible to have asked for the information from the budget consultations. Amazing how times and views change when someone moves to that side of the House.
Does the Premier have a date for us yet as to when we might receive the economic outlook weíre waiting for?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Sometime between today and before the end of the sitting, Mr. Chair.
I have to state for the record that, when in opposition, not only did I not attend budget briefings, I didnít ask ridiculous questions.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Ms. Duncan, you have the floor; please continue.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. This debate, unfortunately due to the lack of interest the Premier has in doing his job and answering the question, tends to degenerate.
I would appreciate very much if the Finance minister would provide, or commit to provide, the budget consultation notes, as were provided to him. Whether he asked for them or not, or some other member of his caucus ó his former caucus ó asked for them, the information was provided. Previous governments have done it; why wonít the current? The current government just simply doesnít apparently respect the request.
Weíve had a change in our accounting. The amendments made by the Taxpayer Protection Act have changed the look of the budget, the presentation of the budget. This has been done to account for our assets and to demonstrate to the public what assets are and to enable the Yukon Party government to borrow against them. Environmental liabilities ó we havenít made such progress in recording them. Whatís the current status of working toward a recording of our environmental liabilities, outside of those ones contained and outlined in the devolution transfer agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We are following the Public Sector Accounting Board guidelines on this matter, and when they come forward with how theyíre going to proceed with booking environmental liabilities, we will follow their guidelines.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that the member opposite is waiting for guidelines. We were recording our assets and working toward recording of assets and doing some work on environmental liabilities long before the Taxpayer Protection Act was amended and the Public Sector Accounting Board regulations. So there must be some work being done. I would hope there is some work being done. Is there work being done and, if so, how far along is it? Initial stages? We have some idea of what the guidelines might look like because weíve negotiated environmental liabilities in the devolution transfer agreement. We have some idea of how to record them. Has there been some significant work done in this particular area?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Work is ongoing, and the guidelines are important because that will dictate how we will book them. The devolution agreement is clear. A huge portion of the existing environmental liabilities today lie in type II mine sites. That responsibility is the federal governmentís.
Ms. Duncan: There are also a significant number of environmental liabilities that are Yukonís. What is the ballpark figure in the work that has been done? Do we have an idea?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Another detailed question with respect to a department ó the Department of Finance is where this debate would take place, not in general debate.
Ms. Duncan: Sorry, Mr. Chair, itís a complete surprise apparently to the Premier that he is also the Finance minister and could answer these questions. If he wants to wait until debating Finance, so be it.
The minister can carry on with that answer if he wishes, but the fact of the matter is that he is going to be here answering questions for awhile.
Another issue that has an overall bearing in terms of the governmentís financial picture is the Curragh, Anvil Range, 123 Inc., Kassandra mine story. For the Finance minister and Premier, who hasnít dealt with this particular issue before, itís the ownership by the Yukon government of a portion of a gold mine in Greece. What is the current status of that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is a multi-page briefing note. The only way to handle this is that I will direct officials to provide a detailed briefing for the members opposite, should they choose. If the third party would like only one, thatís fine too, but there is no point in us going around this merry-go-round on the floor of the Legislature. It is a very complicated, multi-levelled, tangled web.
The best thing to do is have technical provide a briefing on this specific issue. Thatís the answer.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I understand just how complicated this particular issue is, and I think I still have somewhere a diagram that shows how complicated it is and traces this whole issue. It was drawn on the back of a notepad in here for me. I just asked a very simple question. At the top of the briefing note, there is usually one line that says this is how you can answer the question. Whatís the current status? Is the mine not in production and holding is out, or is there no change?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister says no change. My concern is, yes, we have a portion of the ownership. Does that portion of the ownership include a portion of any environmental liability?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: No change, and a technical briefing is the only way for the member to actually get this kind of detail. Itís not for the floor of the Legislature. It is a very complicated issue, and I think, in the best interests of everybody, let a technician sit down with the member opposite and go over this in detail. There is no change, though, from when the member was in government.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, so for the public record, "no change" would mean that Yukon has not received any revenue in the past 18 months from our gold mines?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Correct. A detailed briefing is important here.
Mr. Hardy: I have a few questions, and some of them might sound like theyíre repeats of the questions previous, but often thatís generated because the answers we receive are either not satisfactory for this side or we feel that there are different aspects that we need to explore or to get clarification on. So if the Premier will bear with me, I think we can move along on this.
Has the Premier had any formal meetings with Council of Yukon First Nations recently, especially in regard to the oil and gas division of the Council of Yukon First Nations and their attempts to work in regard to pipeline and development?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I and other ministers meet quite regularly with Council of Yukon First Nations, and I specifically with the Grand Chief. We have broad-ranging discussions, this being one of them. There was an issue that was brought forward when it came to work done to date. I know the First Nations are sitting down collectively. Theyíre looking at these issues. We as a government, with the due respect deserved by the First Nation governments, allow them to go through that process and come forward to us with what they think.
We talk about many issues; we certainly talk about partnerships. We certainly talk about Childrenís Act review. We certainly talk about educational reform. We certainly talk about correctional reform. We are very pleased that the Council of Yukon First Nations has been attending with us, through representation of the Grand Chief, things like the recent conference in Anchorage, for example, and the Canadian Gala where the Grand Chief was a participant in a northern economic partnership workshop and conference before the gala. There are other examples.
The Grand Chief has been very much involved, along with Council of Yukon First Nations, in the issue of placer mining and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In fact, I believe today they are in Ottawa with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, sitting down with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to deal with the placer authorization and the issues related to it here in the Yukon. So that is another example, and the list goes on and on. So our discussions are ongoing; theyíre regular. We are endeavouring to ensure that dialogue continues. In fact, weíd like to improve ó always ó that dialogue because that dialogue is so vital to the improvement of our relationship between governments.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier mentioned that the First Nations gather collectively to discuss many issues. When he suggests that, when he says "collectively", is he referring to those that are within the Council of Yukon First Nations and those that are still not participants within Council of Yukon First Nations, those that have agreements and those that havenít achieved agreements yet?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís a question better asked of First Nations, but First Nations in the territory do sit down and talk about issues, whether theyíre self-governing First Nations or not. There is always contact and dialogue. Thatís a fact.
Mr. Hardy: No, I believe itís a question that can quite easily be asked of the Premier. When he goes to these meetings, is he under the understanding that the Council of Yukon First Nations is speaking on behalf of all First Nations, or are they speaking on behalf of a certain segment of them, so that he can accord the proper comments in regard to that and ensure ó as he has often talked about ó that all First Nations are at the table, that the discussions he has with, say, the Council of Yukon First Nations are inclusive, or does he need to have separate meetings as well in order to bring forward the same issues facing all levels of government? So Iím looking on some clarification on how he approaches these meetings.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think we have to clarify the Council of Yukon First Nations and its role in this matter. The self-government First Nations are the individual First Nations that have reached those agreements. That being said, there are a number of First Nations today that donít have an agreement, so obviously the government has to work on an individual basis with each First Nation in the territory, specifically when it comes to self-governing First Nations because that is the government-to-government relationship. But we also work very closely with the Council of Yukon First Nations as represented by the Grand Chief and its members.
Its members, its self-governing First Nation, the members of CYFN direct and provide mandate to the Council of Yukon First Nations and its Grand Chief. Thatís essentially the relationship.
So there are actually two elements: we have to work with the council and the Grand Chief but we also work individually with each First Nation because the self-governing First Nations are the government ó even those who donít have agreements yet, we still work with them individually and/or collectively, depending on the issue, the circumstance, the timing, and all those things.
Mr. Hardy: I appreciate the synopsis the Premier has given. I do understand it. Iím trying to find some understanding of how the Premier approaches some of these meetings ó if itís a collective issue that has impact or reflections upon all aspects of the societies within our territory ó how he would approach the discussions, per se, with CYFN and also how he would approach those that might not be sitting at the table to ensure the same message is being received or passed on from this level of government to another or to the other levels of government.
My original question was basically in regard to the oil and gas division that the CYFN has and the fact thereís another separate group ó I believe itís called the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. Can the Premier tell me if some of the work thatís happening from the territorial level, hopefully corresponding and working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group and the CYFN oil and gas division, are in sync?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The First Nations are the lead on this matter. When requested, the Yukon government will assist. There is also a federal government involvement. So, the discussions between the branch within Council of Yukon First Nations and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group are between them. Have they had discussions to date? Yes. But the question that the member is asking is specific to the First Nations. They are the ones in the lead on not only the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, but in the branch housed in CYFN when it comes to oil and gas.
Mr. Hardy: So, taking the comments made by the Premier ó in other words, unless they are asked, they donít have anything to do with these two groups.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, when asked to support, we support. We are also working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group and, basically, this is an issue that is important to Yukon, because a level playing field nationally is critical. We are working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group to solicit from the federal government the necessary resources to do a lot of work that must be done here internally. We have said that over and over and over. We have to get pipeline-ready internally, border to border.
The federal government has invested millions in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. We have said that the Yukon and its First Nations and its citizens are Canadians. The Alaska Highway pipeline project will prove huge benefit to Canada; therefore, Canada must invest in kind here in the Yukon when it comes to the Alaska Highway pipeline. That is the work that is going on.
There are a number of members of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group and there are also the members of Council of Yukon First Nations. They are discussing things and working on issues and we, the Yukon government, are there to be helpful.
Mr. Hardy: Has the territorial government been in discussions with the federal government in regard to support or financing in relation to or in mirroring some of the activities and support the federal government has put in toward the Mackenzie pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Actually, I just did say that. The Yukon government has been working with the APG and First Nations in the Yukon to ensure that the federal government invests in kind here in the territory on a pipeline project that will provide great benefit to Canada. We in the Yukon are Canadians. Our First Nation people deserve the same attention as the Mackenzie Valley. The federal government is openly discussing these issues. Theyíve asked for workplans. This is a very positive initiative, Mr. Chair, because the federal government is compelled ó obligated, if you will ó to ensure that they invest in this project on behalf of First Nations in the Yukon so that we can get pipeline-ready internally, border to border.
Mr. Hardy: Now, the Premier just mentioned that itís very positive. Thatís a nice word. Can the Premier tell me where weíre at with those negotiations with the federal government, jointly, what indications there are that there might be some positive outcome from it and what the schedule for that is?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, detailed questions relating to a specific department ó Energy, Mines and Resources ó are not for general debate.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Chair, like my colleagues on this side, I believe that the Premier does have the ability to answer a question like this. I would hope he would be interested enough, especially with the relationships with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group; of course, the Council of Yukon First Nations, oil and gas division, and discussions ongoing there; and the relationship and discussion at a very high level with the federal government and the impact theyíll have on all people of this territory if and when the pipeline does go through.
So same question: can the Premier give me an idea what the status is of these negotiations? He has mentioned that theyíre positive. Can he give us a little more detail in regard to what kind of money might be seen flowing in order to get pipeline-ready?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As the Premier, I donít micromanage. As the Premier, I have every confidence in the members on this side, the ministers, in carrying out their duties. This is the detailed question that relates to a specific department and a specific initiative that is housed in that department. It is for debate for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and thatís the suggestion I would make to the member opposite. Have this discussion with the minister responsible who will provide the answers to the member opposite.
Mr. Hardy: Sometimes we have to listen to the speeches by the Premier in Calgary to find out what is actually being done in regard to that. It is interesting that he is willing to speak quite freely at those conferences, but in the Legislature it seems to dry up fairly quickly.
Iíll move on to another question, the Kaska court challenge that has been put on hold. Could I get some information in regard to that? Has there been any timeline set in regard to how long it will be on hold? Whatís the plan around that? Is there movement that it might be removed completely from the table, or does the Premier feel that there is still some very significant issues that might bring this forward still?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís an issue being dealt with bilaterally with Canada, who has the fiduciary responsibility, and the Kaska Nation. I can tell the member that they are in discussions in terms of negotiating an abeyance agreement to set aside all litigation.
Chair: Order please. We have reached our normal time for a recess. Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agree.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and general debate.
Ms. Duncan: I was listening with interest when the leader of the official opposition asked the Premier about the state of litigation with the Kaska. As I understand it, there are two litigation streams, if we can call it that. There is the devolution transfer agreement litigation, which was put in abeyance, or precluded, or whatever word the Premier wants to use, and an agreement was negotiated. There is also litigation around the land claim, which was put into abeyance. Land claim talks resumed, and the land claim agreement was not reached. It seems to me that that goes back to June 2002.
Now, could I just ask the Premier what the current status of both of those court cases, or non-court cases, are?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, first off, an agreement that the third party opposes vehemently was reached with the Kaska, the bilateral agreement, which removed the challenge against devolution. But the agreement also committed the Kaska Nation to get to the land claim table and conclude a land claim. Because of the federal governmentís policy of not negotiating while under litigation, there has to be an arrangement reached between the Kaska Nation and Canada before a land claim table can be struck. That negotiation or discussion is now ongoing to remove or set aside through an abeyance agreement all other litigation against Canada. None of that remaining litigation is against the Yukon ó none of it. The devolution transfer agreement issue, though, was inclusive of Canada and Yukon. That has gone. The abeyance agreement now on the land claim issue, if you will, is one that is against Canada only.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that, with respect to the land claim and putting any litigation into abeyance prior to proceeding with the federal government and sitting down to negotiate a land claim.
Perhaps the Premier could share with the House some further information. Are there currently negotiations between Canada and the Kaska with regard to putting this litigation in abeyance?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: So the Kaska are in Ottawa negotiating an abeyance agreement?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Premier is answering the question but not from his microphone. Perhaps he would care to answer it on his microphone.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I already have, Mr. Chair. This will be the fourth time, I believe, just today. I stand corrected ó third time. I discussed this with the leader of the official opposition once, who grasped it, and now I have to repeat again for the third party a second time. This is between the Kaska Nation and Canada. They are right now in discussions pursuing an abeyance agreement to set all litigation aside so we can get back to the land claim table.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that the discussions are between Kaska and Canada. However, the Yukon, as a party at the land claim table, is also preparing, or not, for returning to the land claim table and is kept well-advised of discussions between Kaska and Canada about an abeyance agreement ó for example, a time frame and when we might be returning to the land claim negotiation, and how the Yukon government is preparing its mandate to return to the negotiating table. Are such preparations being undertaken by the Yukon government? Is it anticipated that the negotiations will be successful in the very near future? Iím not asking for specifics. Iím asking in general terms. The Premier is kept well-updated on these negotiations. Generally speaking, would he indicate that the talks are ongoing and we anticipate returning to the table in the near future? Weíre not precluding any results. Iím asking for information that could or should be certainly publicly made available. Do we anticipate returning to the land claim table based on negotiations between Kaska and Canada by the fall?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The abeyance issue is between Canada and the Kaska. Yes, we are updated. Right now they are in discussions pursuing an abeyance agreement. Only when they have reached an abeyance agreement can we determine timelines and when we get back to the table, and so on and so forth. The Yukon obviously, in being a party to the bilateral agreement, concurs with the commitment the Kaska have made in the agreement to conclude a land claim. Thatís also our position. But without the abeyance agreement, litigation set aside, itís a moot point because Canada will not negotiate anything while under litigation.
Ms. Duncan: I am well aware of those details. What I didnít get, and did not hear from the Premier, was an answer. He said he is kept updated. Could he provide the House with an update of how those negotiations are proceeding? They are at the senior ministerial level and they are promising, and we anticipate returning to the table by September. I am just looking for general information on the progress of those negotiations. It is not unheard of for the question to be asked on the floor of the House and itís not inappropriate for the minister to answer. I am just looking for information on the status of those negotiations.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have answered that question, Mr. Chair. The discussions are ongoing and I will be ecstatic if they reach an abeyance agreement, because then we will have the capacity and the ability to get back to the land claim table.
But the discussions are between the Kaska Nation and Canada. They are progressing at this point in time. They have not broken off discussions. Therefore, remaining, as we all do on this side of the House, in a positive mindset, looking forward optimistically, we would hope that they conclude an abeyance agreement as soon as possible. Then we can determine how to go forward and next steps on getting back to the land claim, because Canada has to come forward with a mandate. There is no mandate to negotiate a land claim in the Yukon but, given the fact that Canada is in discussions on abeyance, we can only hope that Canada will bring forward a mandate with the Kaska Nation.
Mrs. Peter: I have a few questions for the Finance minister. I have been looking through some of the information before me, and Iíd like to bring the Premier back to January 28, 2003, when their government announced the discontinuation of the Yukon protected areas strategy. The comment in his budget speech states that it was eroding investor confidence in the territory. A few paragraphs down from that, it states that the government assumed the management and control of Yukon lands and natural resources through the devolution agreements on April 1, 2003. It gives the government the ability to manage Yukon lands and resources, and it also gives the Yukon government the competitive advantage when it comes to promoting the development of some of our strategic industries.
Those industries, with respect to mining, oil and gas, and exploration in many areas throughout the territory, will affect First Nation people and their traditional territories.
A few more paragraphs down from that, it tells us that Teck Cominco is back in the territory after a long absence. Weíve come across some very disturbing information regarding Teck Cominco and their care of the environment after they do whatever work they do.
The interest that Teck Cominco has in the Yukon Territory is over the long term ó 20 to 30 years. Iíd like to hear from the Premier if he has any updated information regarding Teck Cominco and their plans in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This was publicly announced. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is the minister responsible in this area, given the fact that this is housed in Energy, Mines and Resources. I will first respond by saying that this is a specific question of detail relating to the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and thatís where this question should be posed so the minister can get up and provide that detail. However, to date, Teck Cominco is committed to doing exploratory work in a certain area in southeast Yukon. That work is underway. Thereís a solid corporate relationship between the Kaska Nation and Teck Cominco, partnerships that we promote. Having the corporate community and industry reaching these kinds of partnerships with our First Nation people is another step toward ensuring this type of resource development will ensure they receive a benefit. This is a partnership, not a commitment by a corporate entity to provide some jobs. This is an actual corporate partnership.
So weíre also, as the minister would provide the member opposite, investing in training ó again, helping to build capacity. So this is a very positive event.
But I would caution the member to take as gospel information that has come forward around Teck Cominco, given the fact that those are legal issues and legal challenges. This government will put on record that Teck Cominco has a long history in the industry, a long history that was developed over time through decisions made by whatever government and whatever jurisdiction, based on the regulatory and legislative regimes of the day.
Beyond that, we are very pleased that Teck Cominco, a major company, has chosen to come back to the Yukon, and it reflects again one of those positive trends the government side continues to speak of. That is a company that has great investment capacity, has great knowledge, is a good corporate citizen. We are glad theyíre here.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that information, and weíve heard the minister on many occasions tell us how happy he is that the industries are coming back to the Yukon Territory. The Yukon government, Mr. Chair, has taken on responsibility for the management and control of Yukonís lands and natural resources.
As soon as this Yukon Party government came into power, the Yukon protected areas strategy was done away with. The Premier on many occasions has stated on the floor of this House that what he has put before us is a balanced budget for the people of the Yukon and resource industry ó and also to not have as much impact on our environment.
Iíd like to hear from the minister again how and what kind of vision he has for the Yukon. How does he see doing away with a process ó yes, that process was challenging. One of the challenges that we faced with this process was out in my own riding.
But in the end there was a solution. There are other ways to achieve that kind of balance in the Yukon Territory, and yet all I can see on this one page is trumpeting support for the resource industry. I would like to hear again from the Premier where that balance is.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I assume the member opposite, in talking about balanced budget, means there is a reflection in the budget that covers the social side of the ledger, the environment, and the economy, which we on the governmentís side have no problem stating confidently that thatís exactly what the budget does.
Letís begin with the fact that the Department of Economic Development is receiving less money ó less money, Mr. Chair ó than the Department of Environment is receiving. Thereís an example. We are investing more money in the Department of Environment than we are in the Department of Economic Development.
The Budget Address lays out a number of things we are doing in terms of our environment, very good things. We also must reflect on the fact that there is a litany of legislative mechanisms and regulatory processes available to us to ensure that we protect and promote responsible development, and we are soon to implement YESAA, the development assessment process, which was an assessment mechanism spawned out of the Umbrella Final Agreement and it provides much more local involvement instead of having to deal with an assessment legislative regime like CEAA. So there are a number of great things happening.
So I think itís important to note what we have achieved in this territory in terms of parks and protection. I would submit, Mr. Chair, that it is quite significant. Letís just talk about square kilometres, and I will use approximate numbers. I will not give definitive numbers, exact numbers, because we are talking in approximations here. But when you look at what we have under parks and protection and conservation today, we have some 44,000 square kilometres of the Yukon land base protected and conserved. We have other areas not only of parks and protection included in that amount that are called habitat preserves. We have all kinds of ecosystem representation in todayís Yukon that is under protection.
What we didnít have, Mr. Chair, was any sort of development going on ó none, nothing happening, Mr. Chair, in our strategic industries. And letís focus on the resource sector, because thatís where the member is going.
The New Democrats obviously are quite adverse to resource development. It goes against the grain. Now, one of the main reasons I had to leave the New Democrats was that the New Democrats did voice a great deal of commitment to the Yukon public that resource development was something that they would promote, but that did not happen. Instead, they created flawed processes like the Yukon protected areas strategy, which did create a huge impediment to investment in the Yukon. It created uncertainty. It was a politically driven process, Mr. Chair. And quite frankly, Mr. Chair, the decision to stand down on that flawed process was the right decision.
Now, we move on. The balance here, Mr. Chair, is clear. We are taking what exists in this territory today, as far as what is under protection, what is in parks, what is in habitat protection, what is in conservation, and we are coupling that with land use planning, special management areas, and other land access issues that alienate land from certain activities. Now weíre looking at how to incorporate resource development and access to resources on the land base. Thatís a balanced approach, and weíre investing in those areas. Secondly, we promote nothing more than responsible development.
Now, letís look at the two positions. The government side has no qualms about promoting responsible development on the land base before all protected areas in the Yukon are concluded because, quite simply, land use planning is the appropriate mechanism to be able to do exactly that. Land use planning will dictate this process. That is the overall commitment through land claims and the Umbrella Final Agreement. We did not need this flawed process known as the Yukon protected areas strategy.
And there are other regions right now that we know and are marked out ó Coal River Springs, for example ó that will be under protection. But weíre going to do that with the First Nations of that traditional territory. Weíre not going to do that by some politically driven, flawed process that drove the investment community out of the Yukon ó no, sir. And we will defend that decision, no matter what, because itís the right decision, and weíre seeing the indicators clearly that show that that decision, subsequent to it being made, has really started to put the Yukon Territory back in favour with the investment community, specifically in the resource sector.
So the member has a number of documents that show the schematic, where this is going. The budget obviously is one of them. The supplementary budget of last fall is another indicator. The economic direction, A New Direction, is another link. These things are all linked together, and it is quite simple. The immediate stimulus is vital to economic growth today. A number of the investments connect to mid-term and long-term economic growth and development ó such things as investment in infrastructure. Increases in exploration activity are also linked to mid- and long-term. Exploration activities are the prerequisite to get to development and production of any specific resource, which creates own-source revenue streams for the Yukon, which equals economic growth, jobs and benefit, lessening our dependence on the southern taxpayer. Itís all here in the pages of all the documents provided to the members opposite.
So weíre talking about an economic-specific issue here now with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, and in the best interests of expediting debate in a manner that weíre representing the publicís interest, I think that we should get to the Department of Economic Development to debate detail. We on this side of the House would be more than willing to delve into that detail, but general debate right now ó itís obvious what the plan is, the strategy, of the official opposition. Itís to try to come up with questions in general debate that are not of detail or reflective of a specific department. Thatís not happening on that side of the House at all. Itís very evident that most of the questions are of a detailed nature relating to a specific department, and the time has come to move on. There is little point in continuing general debate on the budget, given the line of questions.
So I will repeat again to the members opposite: should they wish to ask detailed questions specific to a department, then we should move on to department debate and line-by-line debate.
Mrs. Peter: I would have more questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources when we do come to his department. I just wanted to hear from the Premier himself what his vision and what his plans are in these areas for the people of the Yukon.
One of my main concerns in this area, Mr. Chair, is the information that is before us ó how safe are we in the Yukon? Are we really going to be protected as we need to be by this government in the area of environment?
The Premier can stand on his feet in this Legislature and give us the numbers and the facts and what information he has in the budget, but my concern and the concern of many people in the territory is that this government, Mr. Chair, is assuming management and control of Yukon lands and natural resources. That is a huge responsibility. I have been asked by many people to ask this Premier that question: how safe are we?
When this government is supporting industry, how are we going to know that areas that need to be protected out there in the territory are going to be protected? Thatís my question to the Premier.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Letís begin with this: in O&M alone, the Department of Environment, $18 million; the Department of Economic Development, $6 million. Weíve invested three times the money in the Department of Environmentís O&M budget than we have in Economic Development. Why is that? Well, because weíve taken over management and control.
We must administer the Waters Act, which is for environmental protection. We must administer the Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, which is to ensure that weíre doing the right things in the environment. We must administer the Quartz Mining Act, the Placer Mining Act, and the Environmental Assessment (Yukon) Act, soon to be replaced by YESAA.
We also have special waste regulations, air emission regulations, spill regulations, solid waste regulation, contaminated sites regulation, storage tank regulations, Parks and Land Certainty Act, Wildlife Act and its regulations, wildlife sanctuary regulations, trapping regulations, and Yukon Oil and Gas Act. All of these things lend themselves to environmental protection and making sure responsible development takes place.
Why $18 million, three times the investment in O&M for Environment versus Economic Development? Because we are administrating all these mechanisms to ensure protection and responsible development. In conjunction with all of that, we have federal legislation: we have CEAA, we have the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, we have the Fisheries Act, we have the Canada Wildlife Act, we have the Species at Risk Act, we have Migratory Birds Convention Act, we have the Northern Pipeline Act, and we have the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.
We have the Canada National Parks Act; we have Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. How, in the name of all thatís logical can we not help but protect the Yukonís environment and promote responsible development with all the mechanisms and tools we have? Yes, the environment is safe under the Yukon Party government. We have invested three times the money into environmental protection, conservation, ensuring responsible development as we have into the Department of Economic Development. Thatís the answer.
Mrs. Peter: That was a little rant I received from the Premier.
Chair:It is not parliamentary to characterize another memberís presentation to this Assembly as a "rant." While it was used earlier this week by one of our own members to characterize his own speech, that doesnít mean that it should come into casual use in our Assembly.
Mrs. Peter: Iíll rephrase that and use "tirade", which was used yesterday, I believe.
Leading from environment into the next area of tourism and culture, we have some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada. There was a discovery of a 9,000-year-old artefact in the Kluane area. And there are areas throughout the territory that people come from all over the world to see. If weíre going to protect our environment ó we just got a commitment from the Premier to do so.
We need also to protect our heritage. In my riding of Vuntut Gwitchin, we have asked for partnership for years to build a new visitor reception centre. And we acknowledge the fact that this government is stepping up to the plate with a contribution, and we appreciate that.
I would like to hear an update from the Premier on the usage of Air North by the Yukon territorial government employees.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I donít have numbers, Mr. Chair, but I can tell you that, since this government took office, government travel on our locally owned airline has increased. Our position was fair and equitable travel on our airlines. That is happening today. I would suggest to the member opposite that a discussion with the airline, in which the Vuntut Gwitchin Development Corporation is a partner, would probably be well worth the time spent to see how things have gone. Get the airlineís view on the issue. Donít take the governmentís word for it ó get their view. But I certainly have flown on the Air North airline a number of times, and I can say without any doubt that we have increased the government travel on our local airline.
Mrs. Peter: I donít need the Premier to tell me to ask my own airline for information. I do have that information. I was just wondering if the Premier had some of the same information and knows what is going on with the usage by the territorial government. That was my question.
Throughout his Budget Address and the highlights, I couldnít help but notice how many times Governor Murkowski of Alaska was mentioned. Thatís pretty impressive, especially when the Governor of Alaska, supposedly one of our friendly neighbours, does not ó as people well know ó support the Vuntut Gwitchin people in the Yukon in regard to protecting a little piece of land in northeast Alaska as the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd.
I have asked for support on many occasions for that issue, both financial and otherwise, and we have yet to see that support from the Yukon Party government. It was mentioned in their campaign document, and theyíve stated it in words on the floor of this House, but to actually follow up and provide financial assistance ó we have yet to see that.
The plans to build a bridge over the Yukon River at Dawson City will bring a lot of people into that area, whether from Alaska over the Top of the World Highway or the Klondike Highway leading into Dawson.
There is a celebration coming up this summer. I believe the 25th anniversary is being planned for celebrations of the opening of the Dempster Highway.
I have written a letter to the Premier suggesting that the First Nations people in four of the communities in north Yukon ó and especially the elders who helped pave the way so that this highway could be constructed through their traditional territory ó
Mr. Chair, in the budget highlights it states that it was a vision of John Diefenbaker, and I would like to put on the record that this vision would never have been completed if it werenít for the use of the traditional knowledge of the elders in north Yukon who knew that country. They guided the people through those mountains, through the trapping areas, and now we have that highway that connects us to the Mackenzie Valley.
We have visitors from throughout the territory, from Alaska, throughout the world who fall in love with the beautiful country we have up there. I would just like to hear from the Premier about plans for a celebration, when thatís going to take place and if people in those traditional areas have been contacted.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It appears to me that this is a Tourism department specific question of detail. It would be the Tourism department organizing this issue so that question is better left for the Department of Tourism, although I suspect thereís going to be involvement of the federal government here too.
The member has put on the floor that she has written me a letter. We certainly will look into where that letter is in the system. I assume that the correspondence is about this celebration and ensuring the involvement of our First Nation people, and I concur. But again, it would not be me leading this initiative in terms of the celebration for the Dempster Highwayís anniversary; it would be the Department of Tourism, and probably the Department of Highways and Public Works is involved there somewhere also.
Mrs. Peter: Iíd like to follow up with some questions in regard to education. I think the Premier knows that this is a priority for First Nations throughout this territory. One of the more general questions that I do have in the area of education is if the Premier is aware of any cutbacks that may happen in the area of teachers for our communities this upcoming year.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís correct. Iím the leader, but I donít micromanage. We have a very good, competent team here. If I had to do this all myself, youíd haul me out of here in a basket.
Our ministers are more than capable of answering these detailed questions. We have increased the budget for education significantly in this budget, and I am very, very comfortable that when we get to the Department of Educationís debate, the members opposite will soon see that our commitment to education in this territory is a solid commitment. Our commitment to the First Nations ó their culture, their language ó is a solid commitment. The member should save this question and ask the minister responsible for the Department of Education this question because I know he will respond with a long list of initiatives and deliverables that this government is undertaking when it comes to education.
Mrs. Peter: Again Iíll state for the record that this is our only chance to get the Premier on record answering our questions that we put before him. We know that we can ask each individual minister specific questions. But I believe I heard the Premier say before that they work as a team, and team members usually inform each other and know a little bit of information about what each is doing. Iím trying to get the Premier on record to see if he knows what some of the issues in education are throughout the Yukon. I believe he has met with people who are concerned about educational issues in the territory.
And of course one of them is the teacher shortage. We had a group of people who came to my community to meet in regard to education issues, and one of the areas of concern is the formula used to bring resources to our communities, depending on the number of students who are in our schools ó and thatís a real concern for Old Crow. And if the Premier is not aware of that, as the leader of the territory, then, yes, definitely something is wrong.
One of the areas of concern within the Department of Education is addressing the fetal alcohol syndrome cases that we have within our classrooms. This is another one that heís going to say, "Ask the Minister of Health and Social Services or ask the Minister of Education." The Premier doesnít want to hear these questions. Itís more specific to the department, he says. My question to him is: what is his vision for the educational and curricular systems that we have in our communities? Iíd like to hear that from the Premier.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess Iíd best stand up and answer this question for the member opposite. With regard to FASD, the FASD initiatives that were included in the supplementary even totalled $261,000.
The Department of Education has launched two new initiatives to support students affected with FASD. These new initiatives will provide support services to learners from the time they enter the public school system through to supported learning at Yukon College.
At the primary and secondary school level, the prime objective is to improve studentsí literacy levels and mathematical skills. This initiative is based on a three-year pilot project thatís currently underway at the Ross River school.
At the post-secondary level, the new program will assist students to successfully complete academic and/or vocational programs and enable them to make successful transitions into the local labour market in the community.
So, Mr. Chair, this government is concerned about the FASD issue, and I might add that, to the best of my recollection of 40 years of living in the Yukon Territory, Iíve never seen any other government take as many steps toward this issue as this government has done in one year.
Mr. Hardy: I have a couple of questions in regard to Watson Lake. A while back, when the only mine that was up and running along the borders of the Yukon closed down ó unfortunately when it closed down, it put a lot of Yukoners out of work. It closed down under the watch of the Yukon Party. Once again, theyíre continuing their record of mines shutting down when they come in.
We can all remember the Faro mine shutting down when the Yukon Party was elected, and itís an ongoing process.
My question is ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Thatís not the way you were before, Premier. I remember you used to have to stop when we talked to you so that you could understand what we were saying.
The question is that there was what we call a rescue team that was sent down to Watson Lake to try to create jobs and try to deal with probably some of the social issues that would arise from the closure of the mine. Could the Premier give me an update of the work that has been done in that area with respect to the team that went down?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Given the circumstances, we put together a team of people from related departments and agencies in government to go down and assist the community through a difficult period. That would have been looking into: can we expedite access to EI, and what other issues are there?
You know, thereís a situation where a mine closure impacts many people, so we also looked at areas where we could provide some stimulus. Obviously, mechanisms like the community development fund and FireSmart program became very important mechanisms in this area. The community came forward with some applications ó some qualified, some didnít.
But we made every effort to lessen the impact, if you will, of the closure of the mine. We have to move on. The mine issue is certainly not in the control of the Yukon. First off, it sits in the Northwest Territories, and secondly, itís owned by a company that today is suddenly starting to sell shares again. So there could be some positive news coming in the future. Weíll have to see.
Mr. Hardy: Is the Premier saying that the team that was sent down to assist the town is no longer in place and has been dissolved?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I hope we havenít dissolved them because they still have to carry out many duties in government. They were just officials who came together to represent the related departments and agencies to go down and lessen the impact on the community.
Mr. Hardy: Iím familiar with how the NDP approached the issue in Faro when the mine had shut down there and they sent off some assistance and help along the lines of applying for EI, and areas like that. Was this a similar type of model that was used in order to assist in the transition period?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We used no model. We just went into the community, sat down with them, looked at what resources government had available, what agencies were in the community and directed people to them, and looked at where we could possibly get some stimulus going. I said we used the community development fund and FireSmart. The community came forward with applications ó some qualified and some didnít.
Mr. Hardy: Could the Premier give me a cost on the team that went down to give that transition assistance?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We donít have the costs for that. The officials are paid anyway, so the only costs would be lodging and travel.
Mr. Hardy: Itís my understanding that is a cost, unless the Premier doesnít think thereís any cost in that either, that itís just peanuts in a massive budget.
There must be some kind of measurement of successes. There also must be some ability to track the amount that was spent in order to help in this very difficult period for the community. Can we have those figures?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Is the member saying that, out of a $705 million budget, weíre going to start looking for some pennies of travel costs for a group of officials who are part of the workforce of the government on a daily basis to travel down to a community to provide some assistance to the community of Watson Lake to lessen the impact of the closure of the Cantung mine?
The member canít be serious. I absolutely will not have officials trying to figure out ó through this massive amount of work that these officials do ó what those travel costs were. Absolutely not. Mr. Chair, it was our duty, our obligation. Whatever the costs were was money well-invested to help a community. If the member wants the costs, use whatever processes are available.
Mr. Hardy: Well, here we go again, Mr. Chair. The Premier gets up and starts ranting and raving and yelling. And, as he likes to admit, he goes on tirades, because we dare ask a question of accountability.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair:Order. The Chair commented within the hour about the use of the term "rant". That would include the use of the term "tirade". If a member wants to characterize his own comments as a "tirade", thatís one thing. But again, that doesnít open the door for all members of the Assembly to use that type of language. In our Assembly, we are all bound by using parliamentary language while engaging in appropriate debate, strong discussion and a vigorous examination of the issues. I believe we can all do that and accomplish the objectives of our Assembly without stooping to baser levels. So I would just ask all members to raise the bar a bit and continue to use appropriate language ó the language that the people of the Yukon would expect us to use in this Assembly.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Chair, I will try to restrict my language to a very narrow, defined box.
Now in regard to spending, there has been a lot of discussion about loans, banking services and stuff like that. But Iíd like to ask the question, since weíre still down in the Watson Lake area ó and contrary to what the Premier thinks, I was not criticizing the money spent down there to assist the community. Far be it for me to make that kind of judgement and far be it for me to imagine that that money was not well spent, nor that the officials didnít do a very good job. I believe they did the best job they could during a very difficult period to assist the people who were facing that difficult situation when a mine closes. Whether the mine sat just across the border in the N.W.T. or sat within the Yukon, many of the people employed there ó many of them I know personally ó did lose their jobs and that has an impact on the Yukon. Of course it has an impact on the communities. I believe Watson Lake probably felt the most negative impact in that regard.
We have witnessed and seen on numerous occasions the closure of mines and often the fallout to the towns adjacent to the mines, to the businesses ó the many, many businesses that are recipients of the benefits that a mine will often bring economically ó as well as the usually massive unemployment that happens within a community. Could the Premier give me an idea what the unemployment level in Watson Lake would be today?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I donít have with me a community breakdown of unemployment for the territory; however, factually, based on statistics, Yukon now has the third lowest unemployment rate in the country. The statistics we have do not break down by community the unemployment rate.
But as an MLA for the community of Watson Lake, I can tell you the unemployment rate is too high, and thatís why weíre doing what weíre doing. Thatís why we entered into a bilateral agreement with the Kaska. Thatís why we are promoting forestry development and having a partnership established with First Nations in southeast Yukon. That is why we worked to get Teck Cominco back into the territory. That is why we are processing an application for drilling in the Kotaneelee. That is why we have $3-million plus of capital investment in the community of Watson Lake. That is why we have the community development fund and the FireSmart program. That is why we are promoting strategic industries. And that is why the Department of Economic Development has a pillar, which is all about regional economic development and a focus on the regional aspect.
We are also investing in the Robert Campbell Highway. We are experiencing an increase in mining exploration, which is providing benefits to people in Watson Lake. But itís still not enough, and we are going to continue to work and build on the economy of the southeast Yukon. It is a treasure trove of resources and has huge potential. The southeast Yukon ó there will come a day when it has a tremendous impact on the economic well-being of the Yukon as a whole, given what the opportunities and potential are in the southeast.
That is why we are promoting these kinds of partnerships with First Nations, Mr. Chair.
There is another reason, and it is an important reason. For far too long, the Yukon Territory has experienced leakage of investment dollars out of the territory, and partnerships with First Nations will ensure that we diminish that leakage because they will receive a benefit that is kept here, kept here in the Yukon Territory. They have a great deal to contribute to the future of the Yukon economy, and today they are contributing a great deal.
Let us take the Kaska Nation, for example, and what it expends in Watson Lake. It is in the millions of dollars, Mr. Chair ó not investment but spending power in the community, buying goods, services, those types of things. So there is a very strong interrelationship with our community and the Kaska Nation, not only in the Yukon but on the B.C. side where there are Kaska communities ó Lower Post and Good Hope Lake, for example, and also at Fireside, come to Watson Lake to purchase goods, to access services, and they expend a great deal of money in that community.
Mr. Chair, there are many challenges here, and we recognize it. But there is going to be advancement, and we have the territory heading in the right direction. The indicators show that. I have repeated that a number of times in this House.
Mr. Chair, the community of Watson Lake is a community of great resilience. The community of Watson Lake and its citizens have a tremendous amount of talent and skill sets.
The community of Watson Lake, by the way, has suffered through a long period of downturn. It just did not happen this year.
It began back in 1986 with the first closure of the Canada Tungsten mine. Cassiar closed, the asbestos mine, some 90 miles plus out of Watson Lake. The community of Watson Lake serviced that mine. The Erikson gold mine closed ó another mine that was predominantly serviced out of the community of Watson Lake. This community has shown its strength of character, its resilience, and it is going to do very well as we go forward in the future. I as an MLA am greatly concerned about the community today, and I should be, but I also am very proud of its citizens and what they have managed to achieve and how they are able to deal with this type of adversity. They are a very unique people, the people of Watson Lake. The southeast Yukon is a very unique region.
The Kaska Nation is contributing greatly to the southeast Yukon, not only today but along with its history and culture. The Kaska Nation has brought a great deal to the community of Watson Lake.
The community also has a great history. It was part of the war effort. Obviously the world-famous signposts have been established in Watson Lake because of that. Itís a draw, an attraction for many a traveller coming up the Alaska Highway. Let us not forget that the community of Watson Lake is the gateway to the Yukon.
That is a very proud label we carry as members of that community. We will continue to work on every level we possibly can to improve the economic situation not only of Watson Lake but of every community in the territory. The budget reflects exactly that. The members opposite have the detailed capital breakdown of the capital expenditures in every community. Thatís evidence in itself. We have gone a long way to ensuring that Yukoners are getting some of their needs addressed where we can. We canít do everything, but weíre certainly doing enough to help stimulate where the Yukon is today, exactly as we committed to do.
We will continue to invest over the longer term in such things as infrastructure and promoting resource development, promoting the development of strategic industries, promoting and growing our tourism industry, our cultural industry, our technological industries, and our film industry. Thereís no question, given the recent statistics from the shoulder season from the airlines. They broke a record in volume during the recent shoulder season ó another indicator that people are coming to this territory, that thereís a sense of optimism, and that we are on the right track.
I doubt the members opposite want me to go on at great length and detail about all the constructive measures in the budget. They have it before them and they can certainly read it. So with that, I move that we report progress, Mr. Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 22, 2004:
Yukon Liquor Corporation 2002-03 Annual Report (Hart)