††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, October 25, 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 Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today in this House to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to pay tribute to 11 very special Yukon women. Mr. Speaker, these women have shared their stories and bared their souls with the intent of helping other Yukon women learn about how to take care of themselves and practise good breast health, to take responsibility for themselves.
Eight are living with breast cancer, and three are women who, like our wives, daughters and mothers, know what they need to do to keep themselves healthy and want to share that information with others.
This Friday at the High Country Inn they will be seen on the big screen during the premiere of a Yukon-made educational video on breast health during a women-only launch.
†This video has been funded jointly by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Whitehorse General Hospital and the Department of Health and Social Services. It will be used throughout the Yukon as an educational tool.
This video is 18 minutes long and speaks about the importance of breast self-examination, regular clinical exams by a health professional and regular mammography screening. What makes this such a good tool, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that it features Yukon women speaking to other Yukon women. They should all be very proud of their contribution in creating this tool to assist in promoting good breast health for women.
One in nine women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
We would like to again acknowledge the 11 participants and also acknowledge and pay tribute to all women everywhere who live with and battle this disease, and we applaud those who support them.
Thank you very much.
Mr. McRobb: I am also proud to rise today on behalf of the official opposition to tribute October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This awareness month is especially important because the first step in the fight against any type of cancer is education. The more we know about the cause, symptoms and prevention of all types of cancer, the greater chance we have of decreasing the number of deaths caused by this dreadful disease. We have seen several events already this month increasing our awareness of breast cancer and raising money for research. We applaud these national and local efforts and all the volunteers and organizers involved.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian women. More than 10 percent of them will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Four hundred women in Canada are diagnosed with breast cancer every week; 100 of them will die. This disease is not limited to women. Although the numbers are much smaller for men, it is still important for all of us to be aware of its symptoms and preventive measures.
The cause of breast cancer is still unknown. Many people with breast cancer donít have a family history of identified risks. Some of these deaths could be prevented with early detection and screening. The good news is that rates for this disease have stabilized and death rates have declined steadily. Research is still needed, particularly in the relationship between all types of cancer and environmental pollution.
It is important for all of us to continue to support fundraising and educational events put on by the Canadian Cancer Society. Research and support can give us hope that in the future we will have beaten this disease.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to recognize national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. October 2004 marks the 20th annual national Breast Cancer Awareness Month ó 20 years in educating women and men about breast cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment.
During national Breast Cancer Awareness Month we recognize that progress is being made in the treatment of this disease. Each and every one of us has been touched in some way by breast cancer, be it a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt or a very dear friend.
We in the Yukon on Motherís Day walk, bike or run in the Run for Mom for breast cancer awareness. Mammograms are the most reliable breast cancer screening tool available today. Regular mammograms can spot a breast tumour while itís still small and easier to treat, boosting a womanís chance of surviving this disease.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides a reminder to all women to perform a breast self-examination and schedule a mammogram. Please remind all of the women in your life to do the same.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Peggy Sue Schadl
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: † I rise today on behalf of the House to inform the members of a prestigious award bestowed on a Yukon student in Watson Lake.
Peggy Sue Schadl, a grade 5 student at Johnson Elementary School, received a national award from World Literacy Canada. Peggy Sue was recognized for her excellent poem entitled Living in the Yukon. Her poem was one of 1,500 entries from grade 4 and 5 students across Canada, and it was picked as the prize winner for the Yukon Territory.
I am honoured to rise in this House today to pay tribute to Peggy Sue for making the Yukon come alive in her award-winning poem. I would also like to take this moment to acknowledge the teachers, staff and students at Johnson Elementary and Peggy Sueís parents for supporting her in her writing.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the interim report from the Senior Advisor on Electoral Reform.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
Mr. Hardy: I have for tabling the first report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts of the 31st Yukon Legislature. The report is based on public hearings held in February of this year and was released to the public on July 15, 2004.
Petition No. 4 ó received
†Clerk: Mr. Speaker, and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 4 of the First Session of the 31st Legislative Assembly, as presented by the leader of the official opposition on October 21, 2004. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 4 is, accordingly, deemed to be read and received.
Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 52: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I move that Bill No. 52, entitled Act to Amend the Education Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 52, entitled Act to Amend the Education Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 52 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hassard: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to reinstate its funding to Skills Canada.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) in the contract between the Department of Education, the University of Regina and Yukon College, an evaluation of the Yukon native teacher education program is required every five years;
(2) in the 14 years since its inception YNTEP has been evaluated twice and neither evaluation was acceptable to the parties; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to fund a competent, thorough evaluation of YNTEP before making any further decision on its future.
Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to reinstate its funding to the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to deny outstanding rural residential land applications made as a result of a change in the rural residential land application policy effective June 1, 2004; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to impose a moratorium on future rural residential land sales within 30 kilometres of community boundaries until proper consultation has taken place and an appropriate land use plan has been developed for the area in question.
Mr. Cathers: I rise today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to streamline the land application process and make more land available to Yukoners.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly require all members to attend the Legislature unless leave of absence has been granted by the Speaker; and
THAT convention and past practice have outlined a number of absences that may be granted by the Speaker; and
THAT this House recommends that parental leave be considered by the Speaker to be just cause for absence from the Legislature until such time as the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges can address this issue.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Caribou permit allocation
†Mr. McRobb: As you know, Thursday marked the first day of this fourth sitting under this Yukon Party regime. It also marked the first time this new Environment minister has bothered to comment publicly on his unilateral decision that has infuriated many Yukoners. I am speaking about the hunting allocation for the Aishihik caribou herd where he decreased the number of animals available to resident hunters and First Nation hunters and transferred those animals to the outfitter.
Mr. Speaker, this overruling of local boards and committees by the minister occurred within a couple weeks of his assumption of the post previously held by his colleague from Porter Creek North. It infuriated members of boards and committees across the territory. It has infuriated local hunters and many other people.
On Thursday he indicated that there was some process matter that ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask the question, please?
Mr. McRobb: Certainly.
Would the minister now shed some light on what he has cited as the reason, the ďtenets of natural justiceĒ?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The question has been asked. The question has been answered.
Mr. McRobb: The question has not been answered. I asked him to explain what he meant by ďtenets of natural justiceĒ and so far he has refused to do so. The record will speak for itself.
So I will ask the minister to explain not only the first question, but also my second question, which is: the CHON transcript from Friday indicates that he had a problem with the fact that the resource council did not provide reasons for its decision. I notice, Mr. Speaker, that the Umbrella Final Agreement section 16.8.4 indicates the minister must provide written reasons for decisions within 60 days of overriding any council. Has he done that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As stated previously, the issue is one of natural justice, which must prevail. Everyone has a responsibility in this process. The Alsek Renewable Resource Council, the affected outfitters, the Outfitter Quota Appeal Committee and the Department of Environment ó we all have a responsibility.
As minister responsible for the Department of Environment, my responsibility is to ensure that the processes are followed, adhered to and reported on in a timely fashion. That is where we are at today, and what happened at the end of the period of time is the same numbers of animals were harvested this year as were harvested last year.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister is avoiding the questions. He did not answer the question whether he has provided written reasons for his decision to overrule the Alsek Renewable Resource Council. He also has not answered the first question as to what he meant by ďthe tenets of natural justice were not followed during the procedureĒ. Mr. Speaker, itís time for this minister to tell this House and Yukoners the real reasons he overrode the process and his former colleague. Can he do that now?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, that was explained thoroughly on a number of occasions, and I would encourage the member opposite to go back and review Hansard.
Question re: Land applications, Fish Lake Road
†Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. I have corresponded with the minister on a couple of occasions regarding the rural residential land application policy. I have a letter from the minister stating that he would like to confirm that no major changes have occurred to the federal program. The former policy was a federal policy, and now as of June 1, 2004, itís a Yukon government policy. The fact of the matter is that under the federal policy there were no applications being entertained within 30 kilometres of municipal boundaries. The new policy allows for land applications within that 30-kilometre boundary. So in light of the land rush thatís occurring, does the minister not feel that this is in fact a major change in policy?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The answer to that is no. We did mirror what the federal government had done in the past. We are working within that policy to answer the questions about the land that had been staked and put in front of us since June of this year. There has been land applied for in that area over the last five or 10 years. There are people who live there on the Fish Lake Road who acquired land through the same process as the people are today.
Mr. Cardiff: This is causing a lot of problems and itís causing a lot of concern here in Whitehorse and in the communities surrounding Whitehorse. The minister has an obligation to ensure that community development happens in a planned and responsible manner. There is a whole department upstairs in community services. He should talk to his colleague about that. Weíre not making good, effective use of it.
I have raised this issue with the minister in budget debate, my colleague raised it in the spring ó about a big land sale ó and the minister thought that was a great idea. But what we have is development with no planning. The minister should get his act together. Theyíve had five months since we raised these questions in the spring about responsible land planning and spot land applications in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne and other areas. Why was there no responsible land planning being done prior to this land rush?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have been looking at and working with responsible land planning, but I remind the member opposite that we do take seriously their questions in the House here and we work with them. But we do have an obligation to follow the policies in place. Nobody out there broke any laws. They have to go through the system to acquire their land. The land will be assessed. There are all sorts of steps to go through before this land is put into private hands. So this is the first step on a long road, and these people will be treated like any other Yukoner who makes that request in the lands office.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister should read the policy because it says, right here on the front page of the policy, ďÖto ensure community interests are protected with respect to the management and disposition of land.Ē Well, community interests arenít being protected. There are lots of people who are concerned. What the minister needs to do is immediately rethink this policy. An NDP government would immediately put a halt to this present land rush and a freeze on all land dispositions until a planned, responsible land development policy is developed through full and fair consultation with Yukoners, local advisory committees, hamlet councils, municipalities ó thatís what we would do.
I want to know if the minister will now admit that the real problem is the current policy, and will he commit to placing a moratorium on rural residential land applications until there is a full consultative process with all Yukoners? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Isnít the Yukon in good shape that it doesnít have an NDP government?
We arenít in the process of micromanaging policies that are in place nor short-circuiting policies. The policies are in place for all Yukoners, and at the end of the day there is a process. For the member opposite to insinuate that weíre going outside the parameters of that policy ó heís dead wrong. The government of the day ó the Government of the Yukon Territory ó will honour the policies that are in place. The people in question will have their day in court and the policy will unfold the way it should.
Question re: Land applications
Ms. Duncan: I also have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. The Yukon is currently experiencing a staking rush, and itís not for mineral claims. Almost 60 new land applications have been received since August, and many of those are for prime locations around the City of Whitehorse. There has been a great deal of speculation over why this has happened. It has been reported that the main reason these lots are being grabbed up is because the rules have changed since the Yukon government took over the process in April of 2003.
Iíd like to start this afternoon by asking the minister about that rule change. Can the minister tell the public if any rules, regulations, laws or policies have been changed since the Government of Yukon took over the sale and land application process in 2003?
Hon. Mr. Lang: When Energy, Mines and Resources took over the land from the federal government in April of last year, it mirrored the legislation, and we had a commitment. As the member opposite says, there are 60 applications before the land office today. I hardly call that a land rush.
†Thatís the lands office doing the job we set them out to do: to get land in the hands of Yukoners so that they can all benefit from the use of that land.
Ms. Duncan: Under this Yukon Party government, land is being made available in an entirely new way. According to a document on the Government of Yukonís own Web page, the policy for land applications has been changed. The date on the document is June 1, 2004. Under the new policy, applications are now being accepted for land within 30 kilometres of municipalities. Previously, application of the former federal policy was limited to 30 kilometres outside. There was a change. Itís on the ministerís own Web site.
The public has never been informed of this change. There has been no public information session. No notification to the public that this policy change occurred within the ministerís own department on June 1, 2004.
How does the minister stand and explain to the public that they werenít notified on this policy change? How does he explain that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering that question, anybody in the Yukon who is interested in the land policy, I recommend they go to the lands office and get updated on the land policy on the Yukon. Thereís nothing secretive about the office. The office is open from 9 to 5 every day. Itís available to the general public to answer those questions.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Party government has made a policy change. They have a responsibility to tell the public about it in an open and public manner. The policy change was made in June of this year and the Yukon Party government didnít bother to tell anybody. There was absolutely no public notification of a significant change in policy and the result is a free for all on land around the City of Whitehorse.
Can the minister confirm that the Yukon Party government had no consultation with either the City of Whitehorse or the Kwanlin Dun on these important changes to land policy?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering that question, again I go back to the policy. The policy is in place for all Yukoners to take advantage of. Weíve had some issues on the Fish Lake Road, which we addressed through the policy. Certainly all First Nations have ó the LARC process is in place. The public has some input in there. There are checks and balances on the way the land is handed out.
As far as knowing about policy or whatever, we have a very active lands office and we are answering the concerns of Yukoners. The people who staked the land did nothing wrong. They will be put into the process and they will be processed according to, I guess, what point they put their proposals in. But at the end of the day we have a responsibility to follow the policy in place, go forward with that and work with Yukoners to get land into the hands of Yukoners so they can build their homes and their dreams in the Yukon.
Speaker: Order. Prior to the member asking the next question, I would just like to remind all members of the House that extraneous chatter is not allowed. I would ask the members to restrain themselves while another member is speaking.
Question re: Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
†Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. On opening day of this Legislature, we saw dozens of people in the front of this building protesting the ministerís decision about the placement of the College campus in Carmacks. The minister didnít listen to them. This governmentís relationship with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and other First Nation governments has gone down the drain over a very simple matter.
How has the protest on Thursday affected the ministerís view? Is he still insisting on going against his own democratically appointed planning committee?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess I would have to say that I respect everybodyís point of view. Thatís my job. I went to Carmacks. I listened to all of the people. I didnít select whom I would listen to. I came back with a lot of information that was very valuable in making the decision that was made.
And I want to remind the member opposite of how the childrenís safety is paramount over everything, including becoming a political football with this school.
The school in Carmacks is not wheelchair-friendly, and I honestly believe that even elders would have a very difficult time trying to manoeuvre around in that school. Itís a very unsafe situation for the children.
Mr. Speaker, both opposition parties had the opportunity to build a new school. Neither did. This government will attempt to build a new school, and we will accomplish this task.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I hear his colleagues cheering him on in this matter, Mr. Speaker, but the minister didnít hear the question. Iím talking about the community campus, and the minister decided to read notes that were given to him. Iíd like him to maybe concentrate on the first question and try to answer this next question.
††††††† For over 10 years, the College has provided excellent training opportunities for adults in Carmacks in its present location. The relationship the College has with the people of Carmacks and the First Nation couldnít be better, yet this minister thinks he can improve on excellence. He wants to reinvent the wheel. Does the minister believe that the Carmacks campus is not meeting the needs of the community?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, Iíd like to clarify something for the member opposite. This is an issue that this minister has been dealing with for some time and really doesnít have to read notes. I have listened to the people in Carmacks.
Mr. Speaker, the government does have a responsibility. That responsibility is to ensure that public infrastructures are built throughout the territory. Schools so happen to be public infrastructures, and the Yukon College campus is also a public infrastructure. It is in every community. It is in Whitehorse, and I donít think it should be any different anywhere else. Mr. Speaker, I have to say that by building this infrastructure, itís only going to boost the morale of all people, and I think this building needs to be given a chance, and not condemned before the first nail is driven to even start the project.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, then, the minister needs to follow his own words and not try to delay this project. He said he would listen to the people in Carmacks. Well, why were they protesting outside this building? Because they werenít heard and the minister didnít go to them and ask them the questions. Neither did he ask his own committee, Mr. Speaker, so the member opposite really needs to hear what is being said here.
Until this minister came into office, the opportunity was always given to each community where new schools were being built. They were asked to choose where they wanted to see the College campus located.†
Watson Lake, Ross River and Mayo chose to have the campus in their schools. Thatís their privilege. Dawson City, Pelly Crossing and Haines Junction chose not to have the campus attached to their schools. Carmacks wants the same opportunity.
Will the minister tell Carmacks publicly why they are being treated with less respect than those other six communities?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe in my heart that thatís only the member oppositeís own opinion of things.
The thing I did hear from Carmacks when I was there was that that member never did consult with the people in Carmacks. There was some question as to how his government could be in power for eight years and never, ever build a school or consult with the people about how and when they needed a new school.
This government believes that there is a very real need for a college in Carmacks and again, Mr. Speaker, certainty is a very important factor here.
The Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation is now self-governing. They have responsibilities in their government. At any given date they could grow to the size where they need every available inch of their own band administration office. Then what happens with the Yukon College campus? There is no other place in Carmacks to put a college at this point in time.
Itís important to build one so that certainty is there and so that it will be there for many years to come and it will be an infrastructure that all the people in Carmacks can be proud of. Iím very positive that they will enjoy this new building.
Question re: Dawson City, proposed UNESCO world heritage site designation
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Dawson City is one of 10 Canadian sites being considered for a world heritage status through the United Nations Economical, Social and Cultural Organization. Iím sure the minister is aware of the tremendous impact a world heritage designation would have on Dawsonís tourism industry and Yukon tourism in general.
If she needs an example, she could look at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where tourism has grown by 10 percent a year since the town was declared a world heritage site in 1995.
What steps has the minister taken to support this nomination, and will she provide us with an update on the status of this nomination?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †We on this side of the House are very supportive of the Klondike region and their many efforts over many years to protect and to preserve their long heritage pertaining to the Klondike region.
The world heritage designation is something that has been in the works over the last 10 years, I understand. It is one of two sites actually on the preliminary list to be designated. We on this side of the House are supportive of the efforts of the community of Klondike and the efforts of Parks Canada, and we encourage Parks Canada again to step up to the plate to increase resources to heritage preservation.
On this side of the House, weíre doing our part by actually reinvesting and investing more and more dollars into heritage.
I should add that our heritage dollars over the last two years have actually doubled compared to the previous government. So we on this side of the House are doing our part.
Mrs. Peter: Dawson Cityís planning board has expressed concern about what impact the proposed location of a new bridge in Dawson might have on the application for the world heritage status. The Yukonís representative on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has also expressed concern about the proposed location of the bridge.
Does the minister share those concerns and has she brought them to the attention of the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Highways and Public Works?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Again, it was part of our party platform during the last election to commit to the construction of a bridge over the Yukon River in Dawson City, and weíre just doing that.
There is a bridge planning committee in place and they are doing their due diligence. They are working with the community and its residents to ensure that whatever option is an option that is supported by the majority of those residents in the community of Dawson City. Again, our department has been involved with respect to the planning, the design, the construction of the bridge, and certainly we are very much in tune with the needs and the aspirations of the community of Dawson City when it comes to the bridge, and we will do the right thing when it comes down to the actual location of the bridge as well as the design.
Mrs. Peter: I hope the minister is listening to the concerns being raised by the very knowledgeable people in Dawson. I donít recall her mentioning this issue at the Tourism Industry Association Roundup this past weekend. Choosing the wrong location for a bridge could have a very damaging effect on our tourism economy. I hope weíre not seeing another Yukon Party project where the government acts first and consults later. Will the minister give her assurance that there will be a proper review and consultation that considers the heritage and tourism implications of the bridge before a final decision is made on where this bridge will be built?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I should also add that I have been in Dawson City. Iíve been to Dawson City on a number of occasions over the last summer. Iíve met with a number of stakeholders, including the Klondike Visitors Association, the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce, the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, to which we are also providing support with respect to heritage preservation. Weíre very supportive of their efforts. That city is going through some difficult times, and we on this side of the House are very supportive to assist wherever we can.
The Premier was just recently in Dawson City as well, as part of his community tour, and he took part in those discussions with respect to the construction, planning and preliminary design of the bridge. He also committed to ensure that the heritage preservation would also be a very important priority when it comes down to the location as well as the preliminary design of the bridge.
Question re: Refugee claimants
Mr. Hardy: Just over a month ago the Minister of Health and Social Services made some very distasteful remarks on the radio about a number of refugee claimants who moved to Whitehorse over the summer. Among other things, the minister said this: ďCurrently of the 52, I believe all but one is receiving social assistance here in the Yukon.Ē These are the ministerís actual words and he canít claim that the media was making it up.
It is absolutely wrong for ministers to disclose information publicly that would identify someoneís health record or their social assistance status. Ministers have been forced to resign for doing just that in other jurisdictions, and I hope weíre not less than other jurisdictions in this matter.
Will the minister now apologize to the people whose privacy he breached with his unacceptable remarks?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government welcomes to the Yukon new Yukoners from any walk of life, from any region in Canada. To that end, we have a whole series of areas where our government provides assistance to newly arriving people in the Yukon. One of the many facets is the social assistance area. But the bottom line is that we welcome to the Yukon new Yukoners. They are the people who have built the Yukon, along with the First Nation people who were originally here.
If you look back to when the Yukon was first created, about 80 percent of the people who came to the Yukon were from a foreign country. That was during the gold rush. These people have remained; they have been augmented with people from other countries, theyíve returned and come to the Yukon, and they have provided the backbone that has developed the Yukon into the wonderful place that it is today. Along with the First Nation population, there has been a tremendous asset and wealth of people from all countries in the world. And our government welcomes them.
Mr. Hardy: † Mr. Speaker, this government, the Yukon Party government, does not welcome people of the Yukon unless they are of the type that they like.
Now, this minister refuses to listen, and letís see how he actually welcomes them. Last year, he was blaming single, employable males from B.C. for spiking social assistance costs ó a $1-million spike in social assistance costs ó yet he offered no proof for those allegations. Now, this year the target is the refugee claimants. Once again the minister hasnít produced a shred of evidence to support his claim. Hereís more of what the minister said last month: ďSome appear to have different reasons for coming here other than gainful employment, but some of them do have work permits from the federal government.Ē Now, why does the minister think it is acceptable to make comments like that about an identifiable group of people, especially in a small jurisdiction like the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, our government welcomes to the Yukon anyone who wants to come here and get involved in the community and provide a meaningful way of life for themselves and their families. That said, it was our party that urged the House ó the Member for Southern Lakes urged the House by way of a motion to have the Immigration and Refugee Board expeditiously schedule a hearing here in the Yukon. Weíve taken unprecedented steps in many, many areas to ensure that any one among these groups of refugees has an opportunity to become meaningful members of Canada and of the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: What doublespeak, Mr. Speaker, what doublespeak. Iíve never heard anything like it in my life.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the interview in questionÖ
Speaker: Order please. I believe we went through the whole issue of doublespeak during the last session, and we had decided collectively, if I remember, that we werenít going to use that term any more. I would ask the member not to do that.
Please carry on.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The interview in question was aired on CBC on Wednesday, September 15. It is now October 25, and the minister hasnít issued a word of apology.
Even worse, the Premier of the Yukon Territory defends this ministerís comments. It is not acceptable for any leader in any community or the official leader of the territory to support those kinds of comments made by that minister on public airways.
Now, people in Whitehorse and across the territory are appalled at the callousness of the ministerís statements. Iíve had people tell me that they consider this nothing less that racial profiling. At the very least, it is demeaning to people who come here to find a better life and it marginalizes them according to their economic situation.
Now, will the minister agree to take a course in cross-cultural awareness before he finds himself tempted to make similar disparaging remarks about people he has the responsibility to help as the Minister of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I pointed out earlier, it was this side that moved the motion asking the Immigration and Refugee Board to hold the hearings here in the Yukon.
To that end, I would like to table two letters ó one to the Hon. Judy Sgro, the Citizenship and Immigration minister, asking of her the same, as well as our Member of Parliament.
The question that should be asked is: what initiatives have the member opposite and the official opposition party taken in this area, and what lobbying have they done on behalf of these people to make them welcome here in the Yukon and make their transition to becoming Canadian citizens and Yukoners in an expeditious manner?
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 46: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 46, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Lang.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I move that Bill No. 46, entitled Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources that Bill No. 46, entitled Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I stand before this Legislature today to speak to the amendment to the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. These amendments to the act were developed in partnership with Yukon First Nations and enforce the commitment to provide a common oil and gas regime.
The intent of the common oil and gas regime is to provide a consistent, streamlined legislative process for managing oil and gas resources throughout the Yukon on public and settlement land.
Since the passing of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act in 1997, the oil and gas management branch has kept an ongoing list of required amendments in order to bring the act up to date and to correct any minor drafting errors that were overlooked in the original bill.
This list has now been transformed into the 2004 proposed amendments. The amendments will also correct minor oversights in the original legislation and provide the oil and gas management branch with more comprehensive and flexible regulatory tools.
There are a total of 32 amendments, 19 minor and 13 substantive. The minor amendments are required to maintain legal clarity throughout the Oil and Gas Act, and in their absence there exists the possibility of interpreting certain provisions in a manner different from the original intent by the Legislature. The substantive amendments arise from an administrative duty of the oil and gas management branch to undertake the general Oil and Gas Act housekeeping on a continued basis. These amendments are designed to create consistency between the Oil and Gas Act and the incoming Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, create consistency between the Oil and Gas Act and its regulations, revive the definition of ďministerĒ and ďdepartmentĒ to reflect the substantive changes in responsibility for the administration of the Oil and Gas Act from the Minister of Economic Development to the minister responsible for the act, reconcile Oil and Gas Act with the new Yukon Act R.S. 2002, create a regulatory mechanism that reflects more appropriately the current administration of the Oil and Gas Act. The MOA oil and gas working group, which represents Yukon, Council of Yukon First Nations, KDFN and the Kaska, has reviewed the amendments and recommends that their respective principals adopt them as an integral part of the common oil and gas regime.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to these amendments. I look forward to hearing from the opposition on this bill and addressing any of their concerns. I urge all members of this House to support these amendments so that we, as legislators, can create legislative certainty, stability, clarity and simplicity by reinforcing a regulatory regime that is legal and operationally sound.
Mr. McRobb: Iím a little surprised at the brevity of the ministerís comments about the bill. At this opportunity in second reading, itís commonplace for the minister to not only stand up and fully explain the proposed amendment, but defend the amendments as well. The minister didnít do that. What we heard instead was a brief advertisement of this Yukon Partyís record in this area, which we know represents his view only.
This Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act, or Bill No. 46, is something that we will be addressing in greater detail once the bill reaches the Committee stage. We have plenty of questions about it. Just this morning we had a briefing with departmental officials on the bill, and I would like to thank both officials for the information they provided. It was very interesting to have a discussion on the Oil and Gas Act.
It has been some time now since this Legislature has debated this very issue. I recall, from I believe it was five or six years ago when the previous NDP government brought in the act, speaking to it at length, and some of the discussion this morning rekindled many of the thoughts I recall from ó I think it was 1998 ó when the act was brought in.
The act, when it was introduced and passed ó ďpromulgatedĒ back then ó took into consideration many concerns of Yukoners. The government worked with what was referred to as the MOA group and that group was comprised of various Yukoners, including Yukon First Nations, who worked together with the Yukon government in drafting the legislation.
At the time, it was considered quite a good piece of legislation, especially under the circumstances, where there was a lot of pressure to bring in legislation to deal with this emerging industry in the territory and provide some legislation to help regulate it. In the course of the number of years since then, Yukoners have had opportunity to reflect back on the act and identify a number of areas that need to be addressed and to tune in the Oil and Gas Act with what we know as Yukon realities. Yukon realities, Mr. Speaker, are factors such as the Umbrella Final Agreement and specific First Nations agreements, as well as other factors that we know describe the Yukon, such as the large land base, the small population base, and the regional aspects of the territory, including our own specific environmental legislation and so on and so forth. Those are what are referred to as Yukon realities.
Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat disappointed this morning in the briefing when I asked the officials how this act compared to other oil and gas acts elsewhere in Canada, and their response to me was that itís virtually the same. Well, if itís virtually the same, where are the provisions for these Yukon realities? Mr. Speaker, I think itís time for some closer inspection of the act and that opportunity will come in second reading. The opportunity today, Mr. Speaker, is for us to identify some areas of concern and interest on the record.
Mr. Speaker, there were also some issues that have arisen both nationally and internationally with respect to oil and gas development.
Some of the issues pertain to what is deemed to be unnecessary regulation that constrains the industry; but, moreover, there are concerns about the impact of the industry on other parties. I think that the Committee debate will be an opportunity to explore both sides of the issues ó at least I hope so.
On the side of the issue with respect to peopleís concerns ó public concerns are some issues pertaining to the development of oil and gas and how it might compromise public values and property owner values.
In Alaska, we see how people have tried to rise up against the development plans of the oil and gas industry. Such cases mainly involve property owners and the dispute they have with developers drilling on their property and the set of conditions under which any drilling would take place.
We know that property owners have very little control of whether the industry has access to the resources beneath the surface of their land. This act is quite light in addressing that concern. We would like to know what the Yukon Party plans to do with respect to protecting the rights of property owners.
We also see examples of this concern from our own Canadian provinces. Alberta is one where, on the television quite regularly, we will be exposed to the concerns of property owners ó mainly ranchers and farmers ó who have had difficulty dealing with the oil and gas industry and drilling on their property, along with its impacts on their livestock, families and the very land.
These are issues that are of importance. These issues should especially be important to Yukoners, because we are at the forefront of this emerging industry. If we donít integrate proper constraints and regulations into the act that governs this industry, it will be a lot more difficult to do so later on, so Iím wondering why the minister neglected this area for consideration in the amendments he brought before this House.
Was he not doing his homework over the summer? Was he not listening to Yukoners? Was he not watching the television? Was he not reading the Edmonton Journal or Anchorage Daily News, or did he not care? I suppose either one is possible or perhaps several of the above are possible. But, Mr. Speaker, thatís why this Legislature has an official opposition: to point out deficiencies in what the government does or does not do. I feel I have highlighted this particular deficiency and hope to explore it in greater detail when this bill reaches the Committee stage.
What about coal-bed methane? This is raising all kinds of concerns in Alberta and B.C., as well as south of the 49th parallel. In the spring sitting I asked the minister whether he would impose a moratorium on coal-bed methane and he refused to do so. This amendment to the Oil and Gas Act could have had a moratorium as part of it until such time as coal-bed methane was properly regulated and controlled within the Yukonís boundaries, and certainly a period of public consultation is vital before any decision can ever take place on opening up the territory to coal-bed methane production, unless the minister, of course, is prepared to throw away these types of issues and just blindly march ahead with his pro-development banner, which would not surprise me.
We have not heard much out of this minister in way of balance when it comes to weighing development and environmental and socio-economic concerns. There is not much there for balance at all. Itís all pro-development. Itís like the current land grab we see in the territory. There was no balance. Itís like so many of the other ministersí decisions that have created uproars in this territory. Overruling boards and committees is another example.
When it comes to the Oil and Gas Act there is plenty this government has to answer for. And speaking of answers, today we saw another Question Period where there was very little of substantive answers. Hopefully the Yukon Party ministers will be prepared to provide some answers when this bill reaches the Committee stage and the bright lights of the camera are off. Maybe then it will stray from the small message box each one of the ministers has been ordered to stay within and not answer questions directly but just read the answers. Maybe then we can open up and have a little touch of democracy in this House.
†Letís find out what each of the members across the way really feels about oil and gas issues and development and so on. Letís find out. Letís get them out of the box because those tight message boxes donít serve anybodyís interests. I believe Yukoners reject that kind of an approach. Itís anti-democratic. This government should be responding to questions and then simply sit down. But we see a totally different approach in this Yukon Party. And if they donít know it by now, they should know, and that is that voters can be very fickle in this territory and this next election could be five in a row. These ministers should consider that when they stand up and give non-answers and only read some ďthank you very much, weíre doing thatĒ routine and not answer the questions directly. So the Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act, Bill No. 46, is an opportunity in Committee for them to get out of the box.
Letís hear what they have to say. Letís find out what the Minister of Education has to say about oil and gas development in Kwanlin Dunís First Nation territory. Letís find out what the Minister of Economic Development has to say about oil and gas development in the Whitehorse Trough, whether it could be marketable, whether it makes sense, how many press releases heís going to issue and so on. Letís find out whatís going on. Letís find out what each and every one of them really thinks. There is no need for the backbenchers to be ashamed or too guarded. This is an opportunity for them to speak their minds. If we donít hear much, then I suppose their level of thought will be taken into consideration by the voters in their riding. So with that inspiration, Iím sure the private members will resort to pen and paper, take out the Oil and Gas Act and do their homework and prepare some considerable notes they can relay to this House at the next opportunity. And Iíll be looking forward to that, as Iím sure all Yukoners will be.
There are many other concerns with this act that Iíd like to flag at this time. Iíve talked about coal-bed methane; Iíve talked about subsurface rights and the intrusive aspect on property owners and so on. There are plenty of other issues. What about the issue of actually following the five-step process for public consultation? This past summer, we saw a prime example of how this Yukon Party just walks over process and sort of draws up its own rules as it goes along.
In the case of the Turner wetlands ó now, to refresh peopleís memories, the Chief of the Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation put on record very strong opinions against the development of the Turner wetlands in the Peel River Plateau. But the minister overrode the First Nationís concerns and plunged ahead and issued the exploration rights to a southern company, regardless of what the First Nation said. Yet, in the next breath we will hear the same minister and his colleagues get up and pronounce how great their government is in respecting First Nation agreements and working hand in hand with First Nations to better the Yukon and improve the economy, and blah, blah, blah, blah ó it goes on and on and on, Mr. Speaker.
Well, words are nice, but actions are a lot better. In the case of the Turner wetlands, we saw the actions of this government and we saw how the actions of this government go against the rhetoric. So, why isnít a provision included in the Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act, Bill No. 46, to plug that loophole?
This government should not be ó nor any of its successors, which should be starting within two years, Mr. Speaker óallowed to override the public statements and dire concerns of the First Nation with respect to tendering oil and gas bids and issuing the permits as this Yukon Party government did.
It should be against the law for a government to promote its relations with First Nations and yet, on the other hand, act completely differently.
Well, one would figure that this act here before us today would have been a good example to include something to make government better. Is there something in here to make government better in that respect? The answer, sadly enough, is no.
That jogs my memory back to day one under this Yukon Party. The first piece of legislation they ever brought into this House ó guess what it was? I donít see the lights coming on over there, so Iíll have to tell the members. It was an act to repeal the Government Accountability Act. Shame on them. The first action ó legislation by this Yukon Party government ó was to remove government accountability. It repealed the previous governmentís Government Accountability Act and so far has it replaced it with a better act? No. With a lesser act? No. How about no act? Because this government, when it comes to action, is silent on government accountability. And thatís quite evident to viewers of Question Period, listeners of Question Period. I especially refer them to the first question today when the minister referred to Hansard. Well, look at Hansard, check out the Web site, look at the Hansard. Youíll find out that the minister was completely out of synch with any reference in Hansard. There is none.
So weíve talked about this governmentís priorities and, as far as legislation, how it really doesnít want to promote good government, how it is ignoring interests of the people, how it really didnít do much over the summer. I know there was lots of cake-eating and maybe there were some ribbons cut, but those ribbons were bound around projects from previous governments and had very little to do with anything initiated by this government.†
This government is quite adept at taking credit for things it has very little to do with, yet when it has an opportunity to do something substantial, to improve life for Yukoners, to make the Yukon a better place, it still comes up empty-handed. I say, ďShame on this government for that.Ē
Mr. Speaker, how many public consultation processes are ongoing in the territory now? How many have there been in the last two years? The answer is: not very many. In fact, a couple of the main ones have been stalled and delayed and theyíre in some kind of regulatory limbo. When are we going to see the Education Act or the Liquor Act or the Workersí Compensation Act? Where is that legislation Yukoners have been waiting for? Where is it? We donít know where it is. Theyíre not telling us.
Instead, we saw the backbenchers go out and consult on whether a big fish should be allowed in the territory. That shows where this governmentís priorities are. I think a lot of Yukoners are thinking it looks pretty fishy to them. It wonít be long before everybody catches on.
There are some other concerns I want to identify at this opportunity. Some of them have been publicized already. What about the issue of identifying who bidders are on oil and gas leases. I raised this in an article in, I believe, the Yukon News earlier this summer. There is nothing from the minister about that. The State of Alaska identifies who the bidders on oil and gas leases are, but the Yukon doesnít. Why not? This is an opportunity to be more open and accountable. Maybe that explains why there is nothing in the act, because weíre getting to the stage where we know how this government really is vis-ŗ-vis repealing the Government Accountability Act and so many other examples. So, identifying bidders by name, immediately, should be part of this act.
What about compensation to property owners? What about reclamation on any land developed or impacted or ruined by the oil and gas industry? What about the impact on wildlife? This is an opportunity to address important issues such as these, yet when it came time for the Yukon Party to step up to the plate, its performance resembled nothing greater than the great Casey at the bat ó they simply struck out.
Itís another failed opportunity by this government to improve the legislation. Instead we see proposed amendments to Bill No. 46 that are almost totally housekeeping in nature, and a good opportunity has been bypassed to do anything substantive.
We also want to explore areas on how First Nations might be regulating the oil and gas industry on their lands and what types of processes should be followed, et cetera. I look forward to that discussion with the minister.
What about land use planning? What about activity on First Nation land and cases where there is no settled land claim agreement? What about the R15 block in southeast Yukon? What about the Kaska First Nation and its priorities and concerns for oil and gas development on land it has set aside? What rules apply in those cases and, similarly, to all First Nation lands, from Beaver Creek to Carcross and elsewhere? The minister has a lot of explaining to do.
I want to go back to a point I mentioned earlier when the officials mentioned that this act does not differ very much from other acts in Canada. We were also told that the main person in drafting this act was from Alberta and the amendments to this act were relying on 50 years of experience in Alberta. Well, this is no time to simply template the situation in Alberta and apply it to the Yukon. To the contrary, I say this is the time for some examination of what has happened in Alberta over the past half century and to try to fix that legislation before templating it in the Yukon. There are known problems. There are holes in the regulations and legislation that apply in Alberta. This is the time to address those concerns before simply reapplying Alberta laws to the Yukon.
With that, Iíll pass the floor over and I look forward to further debate later on.
Ms. Duncan: If memory serves me correctly, YOGA ó Yukon Oil and Gas Act ó was officially passed in 1998, and I believe it had the full support of all parties in the House. The reasons that this particular piece of legislation, which was very complex and detailed, had the full support of all members of the Legislature were twofold: number one, because it was an initiative not solely of the government that presented it, but of the John Ostashek government that preceded it, and it was concluded and brought forward then by the McDonald government.
Throughout that piece of legislation, which was very complex, coming forward, all members of the Legislature who availed themselves of the opportunity were provided the detailed information. We were walked through that very technical piece of legislation step by step by step, and in plenty of time so there was opportunity to fully understand all the details of the legislation.
I would just like to note for the ministerís information that itís for the betterment of the Legislature, our work as legislators, and for the legislation itself if thereís a greater degree of cooperation with all members in terms of briefings and information in a timely manner. Itís a constructive suggestion for the minister. Unfortunately that constructive suggestion has fallen on deaf ears with the House leader.
The other key factor in the Yukon Oil and Gas Act being such strong legislation is that full credit has to be given to the public administrators and officials who developed the legislation. Iím referring to the public servants who work for the Government of Yukon, the officials with the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Kaska, and the representatives of the third sector, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. All of those ó Iím going to use the term ďofficialsĒ ó and public servants were all involved and worked with the drafting team on the Yukon Oil and Gas Act and on these amendments that are before us today. They have their full support. Theyíve argued out at the technical level the details of this legislation and I want to thank all of them ó both those who work for the Government of Yukon and representatives of the First Nations, and the third sector, CAPP ó for their efforts. Theyíve done an admirable job on the original act and on these amendments on behalf of all Yukoners. I thank them for that, and those who provided the briefing this morning.
Legislation that passes this House can pass in spite of everybodyís best efforts. Change occurs. There are errors that occur in drafting. It doesnít matter how many times we all proofread it, sometimes errors occur. We are all human, after all. The other thing that occurs is change. For a very good example, DAP ó we all recognize that name ó has become YESAA, the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Act, so the changes have to be reflected in the legislation. I understand that, from the briefing this morning and the quick review of the amendments to the Oil and Gas Act, that what are before us in second reading are largely administrative changes, like I mentioned ó changes that catch up with the errors that occurred when we originally passed this act and the change that has occurred in our society and in other references. The Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ó those sorts of changes, we have to catch up. We have to do it in acts like this. Those are the administrative ó or what we sometimes refer to as ďhousekeepingĒ amendments. I have no difficulty with those.
There is a number of what are called ďsubstantive changesĒ to this legislation. I understand that ďsubstantiveĒ is used in the legal sense in this legislation, in that these are not huge direction changes. They are not changes in, for example, the common regime, of which all the governments are very proud in this legislation and work within. These are changes that are more in the legal sense. Fundamentally, the Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act does not represent a major departure from what we have on the books, a major change in the common regime philosophy or any of the major tenets of the act that were developed so well some time ago.
For that reason I support this particular piece of legislation. I do concur, as the Member for Kluane has noted, that discussing this act does provide us an opportunity to discuss our oil and gas industry in the Yukon, current developments and, of course, other current issues and developments in the industry worldwide that affect the Yukon as well. So I certainly look forward to that debate. If such a fulsome debate occurs, I certainly look forward to it. Otherwise I would indicate to the minister that Bill No. 46 at second reading has my support, as I understand its intent and the effort by all of the professional public servants that has gone into it.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the members opposite commenting on the member from the oppositionís comments and understanding that his comments lead to many discussions, one of them being his real knowledge of the Yukon oil and gas legislation, and itís limited. So what we have to do in the debate is bring him up to date on the makeup of this bill and move ahead in the oil and gas industry in the Yukon.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 46 agreed to
Bill No. 53: Second Reading
Clerk:††† Second reading, Bill No 53, standing in the name of Mr. Hart.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move that Bill No. 53, Act to Amend the Insurance Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No 53, entitled Act to Amend the Insurance Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am pleased to rise today about another example of this governmentís commitment to putting Yukoners first and improving the relationship with our communities. The Association of Yukon Communities wrote a letter to this government in July of this year asking us to make changes to the Insurance Act. The association was looking into alternatives to their conventional insurance program that would stabilize costs for member municipalities. The option preferred by the association and its members requires that amendments be made to the Insurance Act before proceeding.†
This government listened. This initiative is in direct response to the needs articulated by the Yukon municipalities, through the Association of Yukon Communities. The amendments requested by the association will enable the formation and licensing of an insurance instrument called a ďmunicipal exchangeĒ. An exchange also known as a ďreciprocal or inter-insurance exchangeĒ is formed when a group of subscribers, or individuals with common interests, agree to share the risks and losses associated with their activities. Risk is shared and subscribers are assessed for losses in a manner similar to that of conventional insurance companies. An exchange is, in essence, a form of self-insurance.
This type of agreement is used by municipalities and other jurisdictions as an option to addressing their insurance needs in an affordable manner. Like conventional insurance companies that offer insurance to the public, an exchange is formally licensed and regulated by the Insurance Act. There are currently three exchange licences in the Yukon.
The existing legislation permits the superintendent of insurance to license and exchange only if it holds a valid licence in another jurisdiction. In 1988, amendments were made to the Insurance Act to allow for the registration and licensing of existing exchanges. The volume of exchanges wanting to do business here was low and there was not sufficient opportunity to develop our internal expertise in this area.
The requirement for an exchange to be registered in another jurisdiction reflects the decision of the government of the day to rely on the expertise present in outside jurisdictions. Municipal exchanges as defined by this amendment will not be required to be licensed in another jurisdiction before being considered.
Mr. Speaker, while we are pleased to be able to offer this option to the municipalities, we are also mindful of the need for protection of the public. If municipalities decide to pursue an exchange to meet their insurance needs, the municipal exchange will be formally licensed and regulated under the Insurance Act. A municipal exchange will provide the same level of protection to the public as insurance provided by a conventional insurance company licensed under the act.
The exchange was essentially the insurance policy and is subject to the approval of the superintendent of insurance. Yukon municipalities have consulted with their experts in the insurance industry to determine whether an exchange is a viable option to meet their insurance needs. Experts have indicated that an exchange with a $250,000 limit would both meet the needs of the municipalities and ensure the protection of the Yukon public. Experts have advised that $250,000 is the optimum level because savings are negligible beyond that amount.
Municipalities will purchase conventional insurance for risks over the $250,000.
We believe this bill is an important step in supporting responsible government in our communities. Municipalities will be able to choose how they address their insurance needs and any cost-savings realized from the use of the exchange will benefit the taxpayers.
We have worked in partnership with the Yukon municipalities and the Association of Yukon Communities to produce these amendments, effectively restating our commitment to improve relationships with the communities. With the passage of this bill, we will be showing Yukoners once again that this government is listening and is responsive to their needs.
Mr. Cardiff: It gives me pleasure today to rise and speak to Bill No. 53, Act to Amend the Insurance Act.
I thank the minister and his officials for the briefing that was provided today. We understand that this is facilitating something that has been requested by municipalities and the Association of Yukon Communities, and we feel that it is a good idea.
It is interesting that the government acts in such a speedy way on this matter. We realize that there are time constraints and that this needs to be dealt with in order for it to become effective.
What is unfortunate is that the government hasnít been listening to what the general public has been saying about insurance in general. While these amendments to the act are good and can be supported and will provide benefits to municipalities and to the taxpayers in those municipalities as well, one thing that is on the minds of many Yukoners is the insurance rates that they pay on other insurance. It is my understanding and belief that those rates are also regulated through this act. Now, maybe the minister can correct me if Iím wrong, but thatís the way I read it ó a quick scan of the 118 pages of the act. It allows the superintendent to approve rates so filed or to disallow the rates ó thatís on automobile insurance, in section 25 of the Insurance Act, on page 31.
So itís not just car insurance; itís house insurance, itís life insurance, itís liability insurance. This is also a concern for community associations and hamlet councils, local advisory councils ó the liability insurance that they are required to carry.
The insurance industry ó they changed the reporting structure ó used to report quarterly on their profits; now they report annually because basically the public couldnít stand all the bad news: good news for the insurance companies, bad news for those people, the consumer. The consumers are the ones we should be concerned about. The Insurance Act is administered by consumer services branch. Well, the municipalities are consumers in the insurance industry. So is every person on the street just about in the Yukon. They buy car insurance, they buy house insurance, and we need to look at the record profits that insurance companies report across this country every year. Yet why are the consumers ó the people who drive cars and insure their houses ó paying such high rates? This isnít new. All you have to do is listen to the radio, read the newspaper: insurance rates have been a big issue for a long time in just about every jurisdiction in Canada, to the point where the government in New Brunswick has brought in legislation around insurance rates.
So while we support this, itís too bad that this government didnít listen to Yukoners, didnít pay attention to issues and has not done its work to protect the average consumer in this area. So weíll look forward to discussing this further when we get into Committee of the Whole. I would like to thank the minister for bringing this forward.
Ms. Duncan: Bill No. 53, Act to Amend the Insurance Act, is reflective of the current struggle with insurance that has become commonplace on the nightly news. Everywhere throughout our country, we are hearing of struggles by industry, by municipalities, individuals with the current situation around insurance and the high rates of insurance and how to deal with them.
Examples close to home include wilderness tourism outfitters in the outfitting industry that have issues with insurance companies and gaining insurance. Sports groups that contribute a great deal to our community, such as the Klondike Snowmobile Association and their maintenance of the Trans Canada Trail, have issues with insurance, as well. Yukoners and the oil tanks that are in some homes ó issues around gaining insurance once those homes are sold. It is a struggle right now; itís an issue ó a major issue ó and municipalities are not exempt from having to deal with that particular issue around high rates of insurance. Municipalities, the Association of Yukon Communities, came to previous governments as this situation worsened and asked, ďHow do we deal with it? How can you help?Ē
Our government worked with the Association of Yukon Communities, and the solution that has come forward in that work and in that effort is before us in terms of changes to the Insurance Act and in this municipal reciprocal or inter-insurance exchange that is the suggested solution for municipalities in dealing with these insurance issues. It has, as I understand it, come from Association of Yukon Communities in their homework that was done with the assistance of the Yukon government, including the previous Yukon government. This amendment requires timely passage in order that the municipalities can act upon this proposed solution. I understand that this amendment does not in any way create an additional liability for the Government of Yukon. I appreciate the work by all officials in that respect.
I also look forward to the opportunity and the government working with those organizations, for the lack of a better word, that are not defined as municipalities, such as the hamlets and the organized communities and how they might also be able to deal with the insurance issues that are before them.
I also understand that this is not a departure ó itís not precedent setting in that the Government of Yukon has this sort of reciprocal insurance with the Yukon lawyers insurance society in Canada, the asset protection, as well as the health care insurance. So itís not precedent setting. It works. It will work for municipalities. It will be of benefit to municipalities and, of course, all of the taxpayers therein, and overall a benefit to all Yukoners in terms of assisting municipalities in dealing with these insurance issues, for lack of a better term.
For those reasons, I support Bill No. 53, and I urge its passage through the House is a timely manner in order to facilitate this solution for the municipalities and for all Yukoners.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the members opposite for their support for these amendments. I look forward to discussions on many of the issues they brought forward.
I will state that this is an important element with our communities. We have worked together with them fairly closely to reach this objective. We also have looked at the risks to the Yukon government, ensuring that they will not be increased, and we are looking at dealing with it. Itís a situation that provides a win-win situation for both the municipalities and the Yukon government.
In relation to the member oppositeís question with regard to general insurance, I will advise that the Yukon is a very small player in the insurance industry in Canada ó I mean very small. It is, in comparison to other jurisdictions in Canada. We have a very limited leverage to deal with the insurance companies but, as I mentioned earlier, we are willing to sit and discuss the issue with you. We also, I believe, previously offered to the members opposite an all-party committee to address the issue of insurance and the rising costs. So we will be looking forward to some of their ideas on that particular issue and look forward to further discussion.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 53 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 46, Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Bill No. 46 ó Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 46, Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act.† We will begin general debate.
Mr. McRobb: Let me begin by saying that itís somewhat of a surprise that weíre dealing with this bill in Committee today. That is because we were not notified at House leadersí meeting this morning that we would be at this stage. As you know, itís incumbent upon a government, especially a government that considers itself to be accountable, to advise the opposition parties of when bills would be called and particular stages of review held. At this morningís meeting we just heard there would be second reading without any Committee debate, and the third item of business was supposed to be the Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, second reading.
So I want to put on record our disappointment and dismay with the government. They have pulled a fast one. Theyíve changed the tables on the opposition. Thatís fine. Weíll roll with the punches, but those members should be warned: the knockout punch will be coming on election day and theyíre going to be flat on their backs because if the public understands how it treats the opposition parties and how it treats the democratic process, then this government will be rejected at the polls. So letís let the actions of this government speak for themselves.
I identified a number of concerns in second reading that we will begin to explore. One of the first ones was the question why this government felt it necessary to adopt what is basically an Alberta template, and reapply it in the Yukon . Did it not take Yukon realities into consideration?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly we did. And in the future we will always take into consideration the uniqueness of our territory. The member opposite, if he were to look through YOGA, would see a lot of changes that would benefit all Yukoners. Certainly we take into consideration Albertaís leadership in the oil and gas industry in Canada. Theyíve had 50 years of experience, and we certainly respect that experience. But when we template anything, we take into consideration the uniqueness of the territory.
Mr. McRobb: Those words ring pretty hollow. We see nothing in these amendments to substantiate that this government has factored any type of Yukon realities into the drafting of these amendments. We were told this is basically the Alberta model. Itís a template of 50 years of experience in Alberta that this minister is trying to apply here. Heís ignoring the essence of the question. Heís trying to stick to his message box.
Mr. Chair, Iíd invite him to loosen up a little bit and let us hear how he feels about this act.
This Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act is of paramount importance to the territory. Oil and gas prices are at unprecedented high levels; the industry is in a boom; there are pipelines being considered for both the Alaska Highway and the Mackenzie Valley; there are all kinds of additional pressure on the Yukon in terms of oil and gas development.
This minister had an opportunity to incorporate concerns into the amendments to the act, but he neglected to do so. He had the opportunity but he didnít feel it was important enough, so here we are today with a few suggested housekeeping amendments to the bill. What a farce this is, Mr. Chair. What was the minister doing all summer?
Now, itís left up to us on short notice to try possibly to make some suggestions, but we know how this Yukon Party treats those types of suggestions from the opposition. The government says itís open to suggestion, even tries to put some pressure on the opposition parties to produce suggestions. Mr. Chair, weíve been there; weíve done that. The net result is the Yukon Party does what it sees fit. It doesnít listen to anybody other than itself or its close circle of buddies. Mr. Chair, decisions are made in advance of public consultation. When there is public consultation, itís on issues that really donít matter. On items that do matter, there is no consultation. Itís the Yukon Party cherry-picking what it wants to involve the public in and what it doesnít want to involve the public in.
And we have a bill here, the Oil and Gas Act, that is up for amendment. The Yukon is at a crossroads. Either we can go the way of Alberta with all the problems inherent with its legislation, or we can stop and check those concerns by responding to what are known as Yukon realities on behalf of the Yukon public, to plug those loopholes, to stop those inequities, to make this bill a better bill that is more fair to Yukoners and as well fair to industry. So where is that balance? We donít see that balance from this minister in these amendments or in anything else this government puts forward. There is no balance. It is full steam ahead on one side only, and itís full steam ahead with the blinders on. This government doesnít care much about what anybody else thinks. It already knows where itís going, and the race to it is how fast it can get there.
Mr. Chair, why should we adopt the Alberta template without fixing it and amending it to what Yukoners want? Why should we allow oil and gas companies to push land owners off their property to drill beneath the surface for possible resources? Why should we let that happen? Why should we allow the coal-bed methane industry to develop in the territory to a stage where it could be too late to introduce changes? Why should we let things slide down the slippery slope, Mr. Chair? Once the door is open, it will be pushed wide open.
The opportunity is now to do something about the problems inherent with regulating this industry and how it operates on public land.
So, the minister likes to get up and give brief little quips that he thinks sound snazzy, but there is very little substance behind them. What Iím looking for is some explanation from this minister as to why he is prepared to accept the Alberta model, the Alberta template, and just apply it to the Yukon without addressing some of the problems inherent in the industry in that province?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In commenting to the member opposite, Iíd like to remind the member opposite that YOGA was structured under the government of the day, which was an NDP government. So weíve been working with a faulty bill since it obviously was put in place by his government.
What we are doing here today is working with tweaking and modernizing an act that is built for all Yukoners on how we are going to manage oil and gas in the Yukon.
As far as the concern about pushing property owners off property or public land or whatever, those questions are answered in YOGA. There is a process for private land owners. There is a process there for Yukoners. There is a process at the end of the day that we all participate in under YOGA.
For instance, things that arenít in the Alberta legislation, things that YOGA did, his government did, we did as Yukoners, was make sure that permafrost was part of the scenario. They donít have permafrost in Alberta. A tight window ó in other words we do have an ecological situation in the Yukon where areas are not accessible at certain times of the year. That has been addressed. Well abandonment deposits have been put in place so that if wells are abandoned, thereís a process. Itís a common regime. Itís a regime that has been built by all Yukoners in conjunction with the First Nations so that we can have a common regime in Yukon. Those are not part of the Alberta legislation, so it isnít an exact template of Alberta. But I think we as a government or we as a community, as Yukon, would not be doing our due diligence if we didnít take into consideration other jurisdictions and how they managed their oil and gas industries.
As the member opposite says, we are in our infancy in oil and gas. By the way, for the first time in 30 years, we are going to have roughly between $20 million and $30 million spent in our jurisdiction this year in the oil and gas industry.
So we are making small steps to improve the lives of all Yukoners. So when the member opposite says that we arenít doing our due diligence, we arenít doing our job, heís wrong. Heís wrong because he obviously hasnít read the act. The act is very self-explanatory on how this process works.
So for him to come into the House so ill-prepared does a folly to not only the members of the opposition who in fact were the ones who put this into legislation, and to stand up and make comments that are misleading to not only ó
Chair: Order please.
Chair: † The member is fully aware that indicating that a member is misleading is entirely out of order. Iíd like the member to retract that statement.
Withdrawal of statement
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker. I retract the last statement questioning the manís whatever.
Anyway, the member opposite is grandstanding for political reasons; itís not working toward a positive thing in the Oil and Gas Act. I find it amazing. This act will reflect on all Yukoners. This act is an act that will cover how we manage that resource and at the end of the day, it will benefit all of us as Yukoners.
So, Mr. Chair, I say to you that this is housekeeping; this is just a process. The NDP, when they were in power, put this act together. If it was such a bad act, why would they have brought this forward for Yukoners? Why is it up to us ó if itís such a bad act ó to change the whole act, because in fact heís admitting that his government did not originally do a good job on the act.
I hope that we can move ahead in this debate. I hope that we can pass this and go on with managing the oil and gas industry in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, very interesting indeed. You know what comes to mind, if the minister wants to dub the bill ďa bad actĒ, is what does he think about his Premier? Because the leader of the Yukon Party was one of the main proponents of this Oil and Gas Act when it was brought in in 1998. So if this minister is calling it a bad act, is he in fact calling the Premier a bad actor? Is that what heís doing? Because, Mr. Chair, it would call that into question.
The minister is attacking a bill that this Premier was a part of. And other criticisms levied by the minister ó ones that you, Mr. Chair, didnít call out of order that I suppose are allowed in here but are nevertheless are unsubstantiated ó include a lack of knowledge of the bill on my part. Mr. Chair, I donít know where this member was back in 1998, nor do I really care to find out, but I can tell you where I was. I was sitting next to where he now sits, reading the Oil and Gas Act. So I was familiar with this bill long before he even knew it existed. So, Mr. Chair, letís try to get some substantial debate here this afternoon and less criticism.
I asked the minister why he didnít bring forward amendments to address issues regarding property rights and so on that are significant public concerns in the Province of Alberta, where the template for this legislation came from? Why didnít he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To clear up a few points on whether or not I was questioning the act, I am certainly not questioning the act. Iím just reminding the member opposite that he was part of the original act and that I find it amazing that heís so critical of it at the moment. I just consider the situation, and Iíll overlook that. But the property rights, all the issues that pertain to ownership of land, drilling rights, how it unfolds and the process, are all addressed in YOGA, Mr. Chair. Itís there for the benefit of all Yukoners to make sure that when the oil and gas companies come to Yukon, that they do address private property; they do address environmental questions; they do address the industry as a whole to make sure that it benefits and it doesnít reflect in a negative way on the Yukon population. So as far as property rights are concerned, there is consent. They need consent to do these things on private land. There is also a form of rebuttal if something happens between the oil company and the private individuals, or if they have a question, there is a mediating system. So at the end of the day, I think this act is pretty good, and I would like to compliment the government that put this act in, that it did cover those things. So at the end of the day, we have an act that works for all Yukoners, a common regime between us and all the First Nations so that we can address this industry in a very productive way as it comes to the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: As the minister was going on, it gave me time for a period of reflection. I think where the problem lies here is that there seems to be a misunderstanding that we are criticizing the act. If the minister will refer to my comments in the second reading speech he will discover that I clearly indicated the act was good legislation at the time it was brought in. There was a need to bring in legislation in 1998 in order to help regulate this emerging industry and the legislation was best efforts at the time.
Mr. Chair, Iíll also give a plug for all of those who worked on drafting the legislation because they did a remarkable job under the circumstances. I recall one of the aspects of the oil and gas legislation was how quickly it was developed and brought to this House. If I recall correctly, I think it was unanimously supported by all 17 MLAs at the time.
Maybe we can agree to that point that the act was good at the time. My point is somewhat different. My point is that, in the six years hence, it has given the Yukon an opportunity to think about how the act should be changed to better reflect Yukon realities and prevent some of the problems experienced elsewhere, most notably in the Province of Alberta, with respect to oil and gas development.
Mr. Chair, the Yukon Party struck a red-tape committee headed by the backbenchers that was going to review legislation and dust off legislation on the shelf and help tune it in with the times and bring it forward in the Legislature.
Well, where is it? What has that committee done? It has had a long time now ó at least a year. What has the minister done? What have the others done?
What about notes accumulated perhaps by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and other departments, including the Department of Environment, regarding this file over the past six years? What has happened to those notes and those concerns about this legislation? Were they brushed aside?
We all have to recognize that we are seriously at a crossroads in oil and gas development in the territory. This industry is on fire, and the Yukon is wide open.
We could see significant changes in the next couple of years to our territory because of oil and gas development. So why didnít the Yukon Party roll up the notes? Why didnít its Red Tape Review Committee provide some recommendations? Why havenít the other ministers and backbenchers brought forward suggestions? And moreover, why hasnít this government appealed to others in the territory, to the opposition parties, for suggestions to improve this act? Why hasnít it done any of those things?
Well, I can only speculate, and I wonít bother doing that because it would sound too critical and, as members know, I try to stay positive in here and avoid criticism even when it is substantiated and deserved. I try to avoid it ó just dish it out in small amounts. Hopefully that will nurture the members opposite to becoming better MLAs and giving better answers.
I am beginning to think, though, that Iím using the wrong kind of fertilizer, based on what we heard in Question Period today, because certainly the answers arenít getting any better or fertile. They seem to be wilting away.
Back to the act. I asked the minister what provisions in these amendments and the existing Yukon Oil and Gas Act provide property owners with rights that Albertans donít have, and I want him to answer that question because on television ó Iíve alluded to this already ó we see ranchers, farmers, other property owners giving rather convincing testimonies about how the industry is running them off their land. In Alaska we read accounts that are very similar. Do we want the same thing to happen in the Yukon? So the minister hopefully is listening and can respond to that point.†
I want to give him another minute to think about it, and in the meantime I want to emphasize a little more how we are at the crossroads here in the territory. We all know about the Alaska natural gas pipeline thatís proposed down the Alaska Highway corridor. Thatís a $20-billion megaproject. There have been recent developments, including an incentive package, passed through the Senate and Congress. It has been signed off by the U.S. president, who, I must add, is hopefully at the helm for his final week. There are all sorts of steps and hurdles that are being brushed aside to expedite the development of this industry in the territory. Once the gas pipeline is here, well, of course that makes it more feasible and economical and practical to extract oil and gas from elsewhere within the territory, and we could see a secondary boom in the territory to carry that out.
All of this can bring massive change for the Yukon. And once those companies are here and established, itís awfully hard to make any substantive changes, especially if they involve constraints to the way they operate.
As we heard at this morningís briefing, one of the things the industry likes is certainty. That means things spelled out very clearly, no doublespeak. I certainly hope they donít read Hansard from todayís Question Period and misinterpret that as oil and gas legislation.
But anyway, they want certainty, they also want stability, they want clarity, and the industry wants simplicity. Those are all things the oil company executives want from the territory.
We can speculate on other things it wants. We would get into the area of incentives and tax breaks and whatever else it can extract out of the territory before actually extracting the resource itself.
We also know that the oil and gas industry hates government. Thatís a situation this Yukon Party has to deal with. Itís sort of ironic yet consistent that itís finding itself more hated within the territory all the time but it goes Outside and finds that industry even hates it as well. Itís having to work with people who arenít favourable toward you and make best efforts to do whatís right for the territory.
When the minister is down in Calgary, toasting and wailing away with his buddies in the oil and gas industry, and whatever ó you know, Mr. Chair, birds of a feather ó he should remember how people feel in Old Crow or in Whitehorse or Watson Lake or Ross River, Mayo, Dawson City, Haines Junction or Beaver Creek. He should remember how those people feel when he has his arm around the CEO of some oil company and heís having a great time, and the ballroom is lit up with the fever currently being experienced in the oil and gas industry. He should remember the poor folks back home and how their concerns should be expressed by him. He shouldnít lose touch with reality. He should remember that these are the people who elected him, not the oil barons from Texas and elsewhere, but the people back home.
So this is a serious issue. It raises the question of why the Yukon Party didnít do its homework. After six years one could assume this is a reasonable juncture in which to reflect back on the act and look ahead, and thatís what Iím speaking to ó looking ahead. Thatís why weíre at a crossroads now.
The minister has only looked back. He didnít look ahead. Thatís why weíre dealing only with housekeeping amendments here, Mr. Chair. We know, as opposition parties, that we donít have to strictly go by the governmentís agenda and only deal with what it proposes, because whenever an act is tabled in this House, we get an opportunity to do as Iím doing now, and that is to stand up and speak to the act at a higher, more general level.
And these concerns Iím speaking about arenít included in the amendments, but they should have been. And failing that, they should have been identified by the minister, that there was something cooking on the back burner. He could have identified the processes and timelines and so on as to when Yukoners would expect an opportunity to address the act at a higher level. Did we hear that? Did the minister say anything about that? No. The minister failed us again. He wants us to all hop in his little car, putting along in reverse, and heís driving through the rear-view mirror.
Mr. Chair, the oil industry isnít satisfied with that course of action, and neither are Yukoners. This is the time to look ahead and recognize that the road weíre on is merging with a five-lane freeway. The traffic is rolling along at a fast pace, and weíve got to speed up to join in in order to do whatís right to regulate this industry before itís too late. Instead, the minister is in reverse, driving through the rear-view mirror. Heís failing to look ahead. He doesnít even know there is a five-lane freeway around the corner. The minister is completely lost, and itís shameful. Instead we hear him stand up and talk about due diligence ó well, thatís an oxymoron for this minister.
Mr. Chair, I want him to specifically address my question: what provisions for assistance to property owners are afforded in this legislation that extend beyond what is provided in Alberta? Can he tell us that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering that last statement, in YOGA, in section 69, there is consent needed to conduct activity on private land. In other words, if somebody is a title holder on a piece of land that an oil company is interested in, they have to get consent. If they canít get consent, then it goes to the Surface Rights Board to deal with the issue on private property. We do have checks and balances for the average Yukoner to make sure that oil and gas companies donít infringe on their rights. There are checks and balances, like there are in all jurisdictions in Canada.
As far as industry hating governments, thatís folly. Industry works with governments all over the world. The oil and gas industry is in almost every part of the world and they work with governments all over the world. So, as far as hating the government ó that would be very unproductive for any oil and gas industry to hate the government of the day. They certainly donít. But they do appreciate a straightforward regime and a competitive regime.
We are in a competitive world. There are oil and gas companies and there is oil and gas all over the world.
As the member opposite said, we in the Yukon are just starting out in the oil and gas industry. We do have things ó we have been working on this act for five years. Have we been doing nothing? Have we been sitting still? I say to the member opposite that we have just enacted the licence administration regulations. We have also put the geoscience exploration regulations together. Weíve also had the drilling and production regulations put together. Weíll also be looking at the royalty regulations in the spring. We have been moving. That department has been working on a daily basis to upgrade our regulations and get them in place so oil and gas companies that come to Yukon ó the questions are answered.
What oil and gas companies want is certainty, certainly, and to protect their investment. In that, they have to work within a structure. Thatís what YOGA does. That act makes the oil and gas companies confident that things wonít change down the road, and it doesnít.
Now, as far as tweaking the system so that at the end of the day we have a modern oil and gas act, that will go on as we move through the industry. I remind the member opposite that in southeast Yukon we do have a $20-million exploration well being dug right at the moment ó a three-decker rig is down there employing Yukoners and moving ahead in the oil and gas industry.
†We have some potential in north Yukon with the same corporation doing a drilling program and also a geoscience program. So there is another $10 million or $12 million. So we will grow into this industry. I understand the concerns of the members opposite on how we are going to proceed with it, but I think that YOGA is in place to answer those questions.
So as he gets more informed on YOGA, he will be more comfortable with the act, and I am sure that it will benefit all Yukoners to make sure what comes out of this House is factual, that they can work with YOGA and, at the end of the day, that we modernize it. So itís not unusual for us to modernize bills so that we can move ahead in the industry.
Mr. McRobb: I suppose Iíd feel more comfortable with the act if the minister responded to the question. I want to ask him again: what added protection is afforded Yukon landowners that is not afforded Alberta landowners?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, look at section 69 in YOGA. There is a process how we address private landowners.
What Iíd like to remind the member opposite is that section 69 addresses just that question. In the Yukon, if youíre a private property owner you have the surface rights and the subsurface rights are owned by another agency ó in other words, an oil and gas company. They have to address the private landowner and thereís a process on how that unfolds. First of all, they have to have consent to go across the property. If they canít negotiate consent, then it has to be taken to the next step and the Surface Rights Board addresses those issues. So there are checks and balances and, again, industry will know what the procedure is, how this thing unfolds, and it is no different from any other jurisdiction in Canada. The subsurface rights are owned by either the mineral holder or the oil and gas holder, but the landowner ó the surface right holder ó has to be addressed. There is a process on how that is done.
In YOGA we have a consent thing where the oil and gas company has to come to a consent agreement with the landowner.
If in fact thatís impossible, then we have to take it to the next step and we have to go to the Surface Rights Board, which has the responsibility to address those questions. When the member opposite questions landowners and title holders of property who might be affected by oil and gas or mineral, there is a process where their rights can be protected. Surface right is protected in YOGA. There is no doubt about it. There is a process in place there, and it was put in place for just the reason the member opposite questioned: what are we going to do with the surface right holder? Well itís there in black and white in section 69. How will that be addressed? In YOGA it is addressed.
Mr. McRobb: But, Mr. Chair, he didnít tell us what added protection is afforded Yukoners that isnít afforded Albertans. He didnít relate it to the terms in which the question was asked.
The minister can get up and rant and rave, but at the end of the day, if you sift through his answer, itís nuggetless. Thereís nothing there you can go on; itís just a bunch of empty words.
If the member had been around 106 years ago during the Klondike Gold Rush and he had been prospecting for gold, I would suggest that his times would have been pretty darn lean indeed, because heís certainly not very good at goldpanning the nuggets. I would call on him to kick it up a notch.
If heís so hyped up on the five-step process and everything thatís part of the existing process, then how can he explain the situation in the Turner wetlands where the First Nation chief is so disappointed in this government, especially when this government turns the other cheek and promotes itself on how good its relations are with First Nations? How can he explain that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly when we are looking at dispositions, we have to look at balance. There is a process in YOGA, the five steps. Most of those steps are consultation, and we certainly take the First Nation issues very seriously. At the end of the day we compromise. When we talk about the Turner wetlands, weíre talking about an area where, through the five steps, we extracted the Snake River and the Peel and the Bonnet Plume out of the disposition, because First Nation issues were there. We shrunk the Turner wetlands out of it to be about a tenth of what it was when we first put the disposition out. So we addressed those questions. Plus, the Turner wetlands will be addressed on a different environmental level than the rest of the disposition. So we answer the questions. We work away, but we are government and we have to move ahead with dispositions, and at the end of the day everybodyís concerns are important to this government.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is again engaged in self-promotion. He fails to recognize the essence of the question. We have a problem in the relations between Yukon First Nations and this Yukon Party government. The situation regarding the Turner wetlands is a good example of that problem area. If everything is nice and rosy, as the minister would like us to believe, then why is the First Nation still troubled by what has transpired? One can assume that the Yukon Party was only willing to engage in a partial solution. The Yukon Party may have been satisfied with its partial solution, but certainly Yukon First Nations werenít.
In terms of this amendment to the act, I want to ask the minister what is in the amendments to the act to prevent something like this reoccurring?
Hon. Mr. Lang: There is nothing in the act that is going to change this. This is a process ó there is a five-step process on how we put out dispositions, and we are in discussions with all levels of Yukoners to make sure that these dispositions answer what Yukoners want to see. We certainly address any First Nation issues that involve this Crown land and traditional use areas. So we certainly, through the process ó thatís why we have the process in place.
At the end of the day, we have a very, very thorough consultation within these five steps. And again, weíre working toward a balance. We certainly listen to whoever has concerns on these issues. We go to all the communities. We take in any concerns, and we address those concerns from the disposition is put out there.
So I remind the member opposite, as far as north Yukon was concerned, we took out a huge part of that because of those questions, and we put another obligation on the part of the Turner wetlands that was involved that said to the proponent at that point in the game that there was another environmental umbrella going on that. So the Turner wetlands would be looked at in a different environmental light than the rest of the disposition.
So we answered 99.9 percent of the questions that all proponents came forward with on the north Yukon disposition. So I think the system works. YOGA has the five steps. We went through the five steps. We informed, we worked with and, at the end of the day, we answered the questions.
Mr. McRobb: Maybe I should have my hearing checked, but now I hear the minister say that YOGA works, but just a few minutes ago he said that YOGA is a bad act. So I donít quite understand how both of those statements are consistent. If I heard them correctly, I would suggest those statements are inconsistent. I donít know what type of logic compels this minister to do what he does, but certainly if there are inconsistencies like that, that would explain the mess before us and the mess of missed opportunities.
He seems to be quite happy with how the Turner wetlands issue was dealt with, but I want to ask him: does he feel Na Cho Nyšk Dunís concerns were met?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to correct the statement on the fact that we think YOGA is a bad act. Our side of the House never ever said that we thought YOGA was a bad act, and we work positively with YOGA to make it work better. Thatís what these small changes are going to do. Itís going to make the act more modern and itís going to move forward with the act. As far as how we handle dispositions, certainly we have the five steps, and itís very positive. I think that the oil and gas branch in the department has done an excellent job of communicating with the communities, First Nations and other interest groups to make sure that at the end of the day we have a viable oil and gas industry, and also the added advantage of addressing the issues that the community has. We have worked very positively. We have only been at this for five years. Thatís since the act was put forward in 1998. So I think the Government of Yukon has done a commendable job of making sure we have oil and gas regulations in place, the certainty for industry, and at the end of the day we answer the questions that come before us from industry and also from the citizens of the Yukon.
So at the end of the day itís a positive act and I think this modernizing and bringing things forward as we see things change and because of devolution and all these minor changes ó I think at the end of the day weíll just have a better act and weíll move forward. And everybody in the Yukon has participation in any disposition we do in the Yukon and has their voice heard. We certainly work with all the governments, whether itís the First Nation government of the traditional area or the municipal governments or, of course, the general public. I think the act covers all those bases. I think to rehash it would not be productive. I think it works, and I think at the end of the day these changes will be positive and weíll move forward in the oil and gas industry.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister answer my question please?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have been answering questions here for a period of time.
I appreciate the fact that the member opposite is asking the questions, but again I go over the fact that YOGA is moving forward. This is just a modernizing of the bill that we, over the last five years, have been working with, and we are going to clarify the act a little better, and we are going to move forward with the issues at hand in the oil and gas business.†
I remind everybody in the House here that this year is the first year in 30 years that oil and gas investment in the Yukon will probably be anywhere between $25 million and $30 million. So YOGA does work, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is dismissing the concerns of First Nations, and the Na Cho Nyšk Dun in particular. I clearly and concisely asked him if he felt their concerns were met by his decision to grant an oil and gas disposition in the Peel River Plateau, and specifically, the Turner wetlands.
Can he indicate to us his feelings on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question ó itís just that ó a question. Thatís what it is; thatís what itís like to manage the oil and gas in the Yukon. We put those dispositions out. We work with the local participants. In north Yukon itís a frontier situation. Until we get some form of transportation to move the product to market, it will always be a frontier industry in north Yukon.
So we are moving ahead, and with the Mackenzie pipeline becoming closer and closer to being a reality, there will be a potential to move the product out. We are just working in baby steps in that area to answer the concerns of industry and, in turn, working with the Yukoners to make sure that every step we make has an overview and that we take Yukonersí concerns seriously ó and we have been.
Thatís what YOGA is about. YOGA is about communication, consultation, and working with industry. Because without both of them in balance, you are not going to have a good act. I think YOGA is a good act, because thatís what it does. It balances the local concerns with industry so that everybody knows where they stand and they move forward.
Mr. McRobb: Well, not only do we have the minister doing a 180-degree turn now on his view of the act, but we also have a further example of how he dismisses the First Nationís concerns, Mr. Chair. I clearly asked him a question and repeated it, but he ignored responding to the question. Iím sure the First Nation will be just as disappointed as I am in this ministerís actions.
Now, Na Cho Nyšk Dun wants land use planning to take place first, before any development. Does the minister agree with that? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíve moved ahead with land use planning. Weíve got the commission put together for north Yukon. Itís now up and running. We certainly find that the land use planning is important. We agree with the First Nation. We both agree that economic development in the area is part of land use planning, and weíre moving forward. Thatís a commitment we made as government, that we would get these land use commissions up and running. Weíre doing that, and hopefully itís a positive experience and we do it in a timely fashion. But economic development is part of land use planning.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the question that was asked was whether or not the minister felt that land use planning should take place first. We know the planning commissions are up and running; we know that. In other areas it has been worked on for a long time. But this is one of the concerns, as raised by Na Cho Nyšk Dun, and the minister didnít really answer that question, other than ďwork is being doneĒ. Is he saying that oil and gas and land disposition is going to take place parallel to land use planning as things proceed from here?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly work with the land use planning commission as itís up and running. We feel as a government, in discussion with the First Nation, that we have to look at also a balance between economic development and land use. And we are certainly working in a positive fashion so at the end of the day the land use planning commission goes forward and we come out with a land use plan that works for all users of the land, whether itís for economic development or wilderness tourism or local use of the land. All of those questions will be addressed as we move forward. But economic development is part of land use planning. I mean, it only goes to say that if you donít have economic development and land use planning working together, the land use planning wonít work. You have to take both of them into consideration as you move forward.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís exactly why the concern was raised. The minister knows that. There are all sorts of land use planning in different forms. The question that was asked of the minister was whether or not land use planning should take place first. Does he anticipate that land use planning is going to be a long drawn-out process, and thatís why the move is to go ahead with land dispositions first?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, if the past is any kind of a mark, what weíve done in the past ó land use planning has taken an awful lot of time. How many land use plans do we have that have been completed in the Yukon? How many years have we been at land use planning? We hope as a government to move this land use planning ahead, and we are committed to putting the thing into work so that at the end of the day we have a land use plan in the areas.
So we are actively working, we are the government that put the committee together, the group together to get that done in north Yukon, and we certainly work with all the people in the area to make sure that land use planning works. But again, at the end of the day, you have to have a balance and land use planning is part of economic development planning and it does go out in parallel. So at the end of the day weíre not going to hold up land use planning because of economic development, and vice versa weíre not going to hold up economic development because of land use planning. That is not what land use planning is. It is not a tool to stop anything. It is a tool to move ahead. Thatís what our government is committed to doing ó move ahead with land use planning and, in conjunction, work with economic development to make sure that it complements that land use plan.
Thatís what weíre doing on this side of the House. Weíre moving forward and we have put these committees together and weíre actively working with them to make sure itís done in a timely fashion.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is trying to confuse the matter to himself, I think.
The government has all kinds of resource people working on this matter: land use planning, oil and gas and so on. How long does he anticipate a land use plan to take place and be put together in north Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly we donít want to commit to a timeline that would restrict the land use plan so it wouldnít be finished in a positive fashion. The board is up and running as we speak. Weíre working with all of them to make sure that the land use plan comes out in a timely fashion but there are huge things to address in the land use plan in north Yukon. Thatís why it was urgent for us as a government to at least get the committee up and running, to get it up in front of this thing and go to work on the land use plan in north Yukon.
Now, whether itís going to take two weeks or two years, I couldnít answer that question. What I want to see at the end of the day is a land use plan that takes into consideration all aspects of land use planning in north Yukon or in any other part of the Yukon so that at the end of the day we have a positive land use plan that can work with economic development and other users of the land so itís a positive experience and is workable for all Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: I canít believe that the minister doesnít even have a vision about when a land use plan could be put in place. How can we operate and say weíre going to develop an area without even addressing this very serious and important matter that was raised? Maybe it is the ministerís interests not to see a land use plan take place at all. Maybe thatís part of the issue. I would think that if itís being worked on now, in a very short period of time ó in the near future, in a year perhaps ó this could be in place for all Yukoners to look at and to see and use, and for guidance. Does the minister not agree with that or is he so far out of touch with land use planning that he doesnít know?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question opposite, I make it very clear that the land use planning group is together; all the appointments have been made; we are moving ahead with the plan. Thatís what weíre doing. Weíre working with the group and weíre working with north Yukon to get the land plan in place.
Now for me to stand in the House and say that itís going to take two months or the lack of vision ó we had the vision to put the commission together to go ahead with the plan. And we are committed to seeing the plan put in place. But for me to commit to a six-week program or a year program ó in the perfect scenario, we could do something within the next 18 months or two years that would be a positive experience for a land use plan, but Iím not going to rush the land use plan in north Yukon, because a rushed plan is not a good plan.
We are going to work with that commission; we are going to answer the questions asked of the commission; weíre going to fund the commission and weíre going to move ahead in a positive fashion. That to me is vision. Thatís the vision we have as government, to move ahead with land use planning, to address those issues so we can move ahead with managing north Yukon and its resources. So weíre committed to moving ahead. Thatís the vision this government sees. This government put the commission together. This government has worked at this very positively, so at the end of the day we have a land use plan that works in north Yukon for all Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thatís everybodyís hope, Mr. Chair. I donít believe there is one government that didnít want to move ahead.
Just for the member opposite, land use planning was a creation of the land claims agreement, not this ministerís bright idea, and I donít believe that he is going to fund it either. Just look at where the money is coming from.
I find that this minister does have a problem with knowledge of land use planning. Obviously, there is no vision of having things in place before development can take place. There are all kinds of issues that can be addressed through land use planning, and the minister knows that. It is unfortunate.
I am going to leave the questioning at this point and go back to my colleague for further questions. We will be going into detail in land use planning and I hope the minister bones up on this.
Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up with this minister on the area of balance.
He speaks as if he has a strong conviction that his actions are balanced. Well, I think he is sadly mistaken. One area that proves that out is the lack of funds set aside for land use planning, compared with the funds set aside for resource development.
You know, Mr. Chair, this Yukon Party has no qualms about going full steam ahead and for anybody left behind, I guess it feels thatís too bad for them.
Back in the spring, I asked him if he would introduce a moratorium on coal-bed methane before that industry got established in the territory. The minister refused. Mr. Chair, since that time, further information has come to light about the impacts put on the land and people and the wildlife by the coal-bed methane industry. Yukoners, Canadians ó people across the world ó are also more attuned to the demands of the industry and the industryís cut-throat competitive nature to extract the resources as quickly as possible and to do it as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, in the process, other values are compromised and the other values include the rights of property owners, communities, other people with an interest in the land, and the environment itself.
Mr. Chair, the minister has a golden opportunity yet to do something before itís too late. He talks about balance. Well, letís analyze this for a minute. The minister is bringing in some housekeeping amendments to the Oil and Gas Act, which is now six years old. He fails to look ahead, down the road, at the pace of this industry and at what the Yukon needs to do to gear up for it. He failed to do that.
He has failed to put any control in front of the coal-bed methane industry, yet he announces these amendments to the act and how the governmentís proceeding with oil and gas development. I would submit that a balanced government would have had something in the other hand. In his right hand he has goodies for the industry ó as if the industry really needs a lot of goodies right now because the big goodie to the industry is the price of oil and gas. That is self-motivation, and very little other incentive is required.
The ministerís left hand is empty, and this is part of politics, part of symbolism and itís part of the ministerís job, and all of Cabinet for that matter, to ensure thereís balance. What the minister could have done is have something in his left hand such as a moratorium on coal-bed methane development in the territory to balance things out a little bit. Instead the minister comes in here and expects us all to fall head over heels and accept, 100 percent, his story that he has a balanced approach.
Iím sorry, Mr. Chair, no amount of tea in China is going to get me to take that line. I donít believe it. The minister is not balanced and neither is this Yukon Party government. We see examples of that surfacing all the time. The concerns expressed by the First Nation in the Mayo area is one example. The other examples are just too abundant to identify at this time, but there are plenty of them.
The government has very little in the way of balance, so I want to ask the minister why he didnít see fit to balance this industry legislation with something on behalf of the environment, such as a moratorium or an announcement to put in place a moratorium on coal-bed methane. Why didnít he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, vision, and thatís what our government is all about. We certainly have to look at the gas from coal as an issue eventually. There arenít people breaking down the door trying to get gas from coal. There are certain issues out there that have to be addressed in YOGA. Certainly by denying the fact that itís there is not going to improve anything. We havenít been sitting still. Weíve been working within our own government to make sure we have licensing administration regulations, that we have geoscience exploration regulations, drilling and production regulations. Weíre working actively on the royalty regulations. In the spring we will be able to bring that in. This is not a government that doesnít have vision; this is a government putting down a balance, which is YOGA ó a balance between concerns of Yukoners and industry on how weíre going to manage a resource in the Yukon.
So as far as the comments the member opposite says about no vision, YOGA was set up to have a balance. Thatís why we have YOGA ó so that everybody, every industry, every individual has access to an act that works for all of us. It is a balance. We do work with industry. We have been very productive in southeast Yukon on the Devon project that is being drilled as we speak. $20 million is being spent in Yukon today that wasnít being spent here last year. We also have the prospects of more exploration work in north Yukon. So we do have vision. We are putting together an oil and gas act that works for all Yukoners. It has been worked on for the last five years. This is just housekeeping.
The comments about gas from coal will have to be addressed, but it isnít high on our priority list at the moment because in fact there is no need to address that. There is no demand. But I agree with the member opposite that we will eventually have to look at YOGA and see how gas from coal fits into that. So I appreciate the questions the member opposite has, but I think that at the end of the day YOGA will be the act that all our governments will work under and how oil and gas in the future will be managed. I think itís a good act. I think at the end of the day we can agree to the fact that we do need some housekeeping, that we will continue needing housekeeping. We will have to address the gas-from-coal question, which is a big question in certain jurisdictions in the United States. I agree. As that demand grows up here, weíre going to have to encompass that into YOGA to make sure itís managed in a proper fashion. But as far as today, the housekeeping things weíre doing today, itís just to modernize the act, move ahead with the act, and certainly as we go down, weíll debate the issue of gas from coal. That is a debate that weíll carry on in this House, but at a timely fashion when we have these other issues done.
So letís go forward. Letís get the royalty regulations in place. Letís finish up the licensing, the geoscience and the drilling so that companies can come to our jurisdiction and know what the rules are and go forward with the oil and gas industry in Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, Iím sure that if the minister keeps talking like that, the coal-bed methane industry would love to harness some of that hot air.
Now, Mr. Chair, this matter is quite serious to the Yukon and its interests, and he should be standing a little taller on this matter than what he is. Iím not making any reference to his vertical challenge, Mr. Chair ó itís a matter of speaking.
The minister should be taking this matter seriously. Itís a matter of concern to Yukoners. Itís also a matter that is being pushed ahead in the territory and itís a real can of worms. Itís a slippery slope, Mr. Chair. We could just pile on the analogies all afternoon. Itís a real Pandoraís box when it comes to balance in the territory and the potential impact, and the minister must recognize that.
I already made the point about where the balance is from this Yukon Party government. Itís just lunging ahead in one area only, and the quality of the work it is doing isnít very good at that. There are a lot of holes in the Yukon Party basket, and leaks are springing out all over the place. So, I wouldnít give it too much credit for the work it is doing, but certainly I want to draw attention to the work it isnít doing, and that is work to balance out the agenda.
I want to ask about another couple of matters here. As we understand it, the legislation pertains only to public lands, and as we know, there is a good portion of the Yukon Territory that is under the control of First Nations. Can the minister explain to us what process Yukoners can expect in terms of development and public participation for oil and gas development on Yukon First Nation lands?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think probably if you were looking back to why YOGA was put in place and why we have the work weíve done in the past, of course between the two governments ó the First Nations and the territorial government ó was for just that fact. How were we going to manage 100 percent of the oil and gas? Part 3 of YOGA addresses First Nation lands. They have the right to draw down. If they are not comfortable with YOGA, they can make their own legislation and go ahead with it.
As far as a balance, thatís why in a perfect world we want YOGA to cover all the situations in the Yukon so that the territorial government, industry and First Nations are comfortable with the act, so that it can oversee the management of oil and gas in all of Yukon. I remind the member opposite, they do have the right to draw down, and they do have the right to make their own legislation. At that point they have the management rights on their selected lands. As far as what we would do in that case, we donít manage that. They as a government can do that. So hopefully, as we move around with YOGA, they are comfortable enough within the YOGA program that they donít have to do that.
So the answer is: weíre working with First Nations. Hopefully, at the end of the day YOGA will cover all of their concerns and all Yukonersí concerns, so thatís how we will manage oil and gas in the future.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, Iíll have to refer to Hansard on that one, because I donít think the minister really covered all the bases.
I want to ask him about what process is in place for dealing with oil and gas development on the land where there are unsettled First Nations, and in particular the R15 block near Watson Lake that the Kaska First Nation has a claim on. Can the minister describe for us what process would occur there?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís very clear again in YOGA, in how that is handled. Any First Nation territory that hasnít got a settled land claim ó we as a government have to get consent from that First Nation. So they, in essence, have to give consent for the process to go forward.
Mr. McRobb: And does that First Nation have a veto over that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess consent would be ó consent is consent. We have to have consent for any First Nation that hasnít got a settled land claim. So is that a veto?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I think we on this side ask the questions and the minister is supposed to answer them, not the other way around ó although if the minister is fortunate enough to get himself re-elected, he could have an opportunity to ask questions next term.
Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister if this veto applies across the board to all unsettled First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: According to YOGA, consent applies to all unsettled First Nations. Consent.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, I thank the minister for that bold enlightenment.
There are a lot of questions to ask on this act, but out of respect for the time, I think Iím going to shorten the list. I know the leader of the third party has a question or two to ask. Some of my colleagues may have questions to ask. I think the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun may have some more excellent questions to pose to the minister regarding land use planning.
In my page of notes here, I think I would be remiss if I didnít ask about the issue as to why the minister didnít feel the need to include in the amendments before us today the requirement for bidders, for nominations of oil and gas leases, to be identified as is the case in Alaska. Why didnít he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The question asked is a confidentiality question, and industry demands that when they make a request or a bid, their name is kept private until such a time as a disposition is issued. Thatís a competitive issue, thatís an industry request, and we honour that request.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if one were to accept that answer, then one would be exhausting all options available to us here in the Yukon.
The minister is giving up on any options he has to make a difference. He is willing to accept what takes place in Alberta or Texas or who knows where else, but he is not willing to improve our legislation and resolve something that is rather inequitable.
Now, the example I gave was Alaska. Well, just for the ministerís information, Alaska prides itself on a reputation of being pro-development and a big-R Republican state. Alaska currently enjoys very significant revenues from oil and gas development. One of the biggest projects in the stateís history was the Trans Alaska Pipeline.
That occurred about 30 years ago. I am sure the member, when he was down in Watson Lake, probably saw some of the truckloads of pipe going past his front window. This is a state that is very pro-development, yet that state has a requirement to identify bidders of oil and gas nominations. Why canít the Yukon at least pony up with the equivalent? Why doesnít he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly appreciate the question from the member opposite, but the fact is that we work with industry, First Nations and the territorial government to get a YOGA thing that works. Industry requested that there should be some confidentiality when they have the process. This is not an Alberta issue; this is a Canadian North American issue.
Now, if we were to be, like he says, progressive and make those names public, that could be covered by industry by not having their name on the bid, by having numbered companies, by doing things that arenít kosher. In other words, we are working with industry, the government, to make it work for all components: industry and Yukoners. CAPP was part of this negotiation. At the end of the day, this was a request that CAPP made to us that we would fall in line with all jurisdictions in Canada and America and at the end of the day would come up with a credible act that would work for everybody. The confidentiality of the bidding process is something the industry wants to hold close to their chest. So for us to go against that I would think would be folly.
In a perfect world it might work, but it isnít a perfect world we live in. We do listen to CAPP and these people who come up with industry. We are learning as we go along and this was one of the major concerns industry had ó the confidentiality of their bid. Now, itís pretty self-explanatory if you look at how the process works ó that they would like the confidentiality to do their homework and then come in and do the final bid and come up with a decision so that theyíre not snookered.
This will work. This does work all over North America, Mr. Chair, and at the end of the day we have an act that will work for industry and Yukoners to make sure that the confidentiality of the bidder is confidential ó just that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister doesnít quite get it. First of all, I wish I had a map of North America, because I would send it over and he would see that Alaska is part of the continent. So when heís talking about rules and regulations consistent across North America, he is neglecting Alaska, which provides for openness and transparency in the process to identify companies who bid on a call for nominations for oil and gas. What this minister is saying is Albertaís rules for the past 50 years are good enough for him.
Well, Mr. Chair, those rules arenít good enough for the people in the State of Alaska. Why should they be good enough for us?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, again I remind the member opposite that this is a process that we worked on with industry and we worked with the governments of Yukon to come up with an act. The act says that the corporations would like to be anonymous until such a time as the end of the race is decided. We in YOGA have covered that base. Now, in Alaska, they use land companies if they want to be anonymous. There is always a way to become anonymous. What weíre doing is just acting out front saying, no, that is not public until such a time as the race is won.
When the member opposite says he can show me a map of the world or North America and tell me what happens in that area, Iím concerned at the moment with what happens in the Yukon and thatís my responsibility. I donít think itís an undue request to be anonymous. I donít think that has any effect on you or I as Yukoners. Itís a corporate decision and weíve honoured that through YOGA.
At the end of the day, if a person is successful in the bid and they go through the race and they make a selection, certainly their name is out there. The bid is out there. Itís open to the general public. But Iím not going to short circuit that process and put the corporate name out front before they even know if they have the disposition. I think itís an unreasonable request. I think itís a reasonable request from corporations that this is how the process works. It doesnít do Yukoners any disfavour to not know what the name of the company is until such a time as a disposition is decided on. There is nothing unusual about that.
I can understand the corporationís point of view of not showing its hand before such a time as the hand is decided. There is nothing wrong with that. Itís just good business to do that. There is nothing deceitful about it. There is nothing about it that we should be concerned about. The process works. Corporationsí names are protected until such a time as the disposition is released, with the obligation the company has on them to manage that disposition. There is nothing wrong with that.
For us to sit here in the House and debate the fact that what weíre doing will short circuit a process that works, I donít think is productive. I think YOGA covers it. I think the confidence of the bidder is protected. The process is protected. I think that we do that in every aspect of our business life. When a building is bid on, we donít open all the bids and half way, before the end of the bid, tell the world what people bid, as they come in. We donít do that.
Itís confidential until the bid is released and the person who won the bid gets the bid.
So as far as the question about confidentiality, YOGA covers it. This is the process. It works in other jurisdictions all across Canada and it will work here in Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: The minister has gone a little too far. Nobody is asking the government to reveal the bid amounts as part of the tendering process. Nobody has asked that. Why did the minister mention it? Well, maybe he wants to muddy the waters.
Mr. Chair, the point is clear. There is a need for transparency in the bidding process. Itís good enough for Alaska; it should be good enough for the Yukon too.
Yukoners and others deserve to know who is bidding on these parcels of our territory. It shouldnít be a completely secret process.
You know, as I was listening to the minister go on and on about extraneous information, I reminded myself that even in a silent auction the bidders are identified ó even in a silent auction. All weíre asking is for the public record to indicate who wants in on developing our territory. That should be a transparent process, as it is in Alaska, which is known as a resource development state. Yet in the Yukon, where we are known as being somewhat more concerned about socio-economic and environmental concerns, we donít even have that type of a protective measure here.
Instead the minister stands up and he tries to defend the oil industry. Obviously his recollection of his last party at the oilmenís ball is too fresh in his mind; he forgets about those people in Old Crow or in Whitehorse or in Mayo who are concerned about this sort of thing, who are concerned about this industry trampling their rights because the Yukon is not prepared to regulate this industry before it gets a stranglehold on the territory and things have gone too far down the slippery slope.
This industry has a lot of things going for it right now: oil at $55 US a barrel, natural gas at extremely high levels, and incentive packages being passed by the George W. Bush regime in Washington ó who is prepared to sell out the farm for his friends in the oil industry. This industry has too much going for it. There needs to be some balance, and this minister needs to be the one who demonstrates the balance.
You know, he stands up and talks about balance, but is there balance? The answer is no, there is no balance.
Heís bending over to the industry and leaving nothing for anybody else. Why didnít he come prepared with something in his left hand, such as a moratorium on coal-bed methane production, or something simple like a slight amendment to this act, to identify bidders on Yukon parcels of land for oil and gas development so at least we know in advance who wants in? Itís the same for everybody, so rules of fairness and natural justice would apply. There is nothing unfair in this type of process. Alaska has been using it for years. We cannot ignore the experience from the state to our north and west and what it has learned about this industry over the years. Weíre new at this ó letís face it ó yet the minister is standing up like he knows it all. He is standing up like heís the grandfather of the oil and gas industry, and thereís no need to listen to anybody else because he knows best. And now that he has been plugged in by the Member for Klondike on some fresh lines to get up and promote, Iím sure weíre going to experience more of that father-knows-best psychology that the Member for Klondike is so famous for.
I want to put it to the minister: where is the balance? There is no moratorium on coal-bed methane. Will he at least pony up with what Alaska has ó identification of the bidders? Will he at least make an undertaking in the near future to do that?
Chair: Order please. Before the debate continues, the Chair would just like to take an opportunity to remind members that commenting on the motives behind a decision when they have not been stated is contrary to our Standing Orders. I refer to Standing Order 19(g), which says that it is out of order to impute false or unavowed motives to another member. I recognize that we have been away from the Assembly for some time and we may be a bit out of practice, but I would just like to remind all members of that and encourage healthy debate.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member opposite and his concerns about how we should mirror Alaskaís jurisdiction on how they manage oil and gas in Alaska, and I appreciate his faith in the Alaska system, but we have YOGA in place. Weíve dealt with industry and weíve dealt with concerned citizens and also the governments of the Yukon, and weíve come up with an act that works for all Yukoners. So in answering that question, I say to him that YOGA works and weíre moving ahead with it, so we should get back to the changes on the bill here and move ahead with this discussion and hopefully come up with a solution here by the end of the day that works for all Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, could we have a recess for 10 minutes, please?
Chair: The members have expressed a desire for a recess, so weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: The House will now come to order. We will continue on with general debate on Bill No. 46, Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act.
Ms. Duncan: I donít have a lot of questions for the minister, just a few. I did have the opportunity while we were engaged in general debate to have a look at the previous passage of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act that passed this House in December of 1997 and was proclaimed in 1998. So the last time the members in this Legislature really debated this act was in 1997, and I think it is to the actís credit and the credit of the people especially who worked on it in drafting it that this is the first time it has had to come back for any sort of substantive or administrative changes.
That being said, the regulations have not proceeded quite as well, and I would like the minister, while we are in general debate, just to state again for the record ó I did catch bits of it in general debate, but I would like him to state which regulations have indeed been promulgated ó I think that is the correct word ó under the act, and what is left to be done, and Iíll go from there. So if he can tell us what regulations have gone through under YOGA in the last six years and whatís left to be done?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The transfer regulations are completed, the disposition regulations are in place, the licence administration regulations are in place, geoscience regulations are in place, the drilling and production regulations are finished and in place. The one that is out there is royalty regulations and they are going to come hopefully this spring. Then, of course, there are the pipeline regulations. The pipeline regulations have to be completed and also the gas processing regulations have to be put in place. Weíre about 80 percent done at the moment.
Ms. Duncan: So the one that leaps out at me is the royalty regulations. They have taken an extraordinary length of time ó like, three governments have worked on the royalty regulations. Whatís the hold up with them this time?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly I appreciate the member oppositeís question on the royalty regulations. I guess, in answering the question about what took so long, we have been working on this for five years. We are getting to the end of the royalty regulations. There is a process in how we address the regulations, how we work with First Nations ourselves to come out with a regulatory royalty regime that works for all of us.
So I guess in saying that, and the length of time ó understanding that any regulation we have and then bring out has to be workable within YOGA. It has got to be agreed to by all of the parties. At the end of the day we want regulations that work. So I guess the length of time it took royalties ó itís there, weíre going to get it done and hopefully have it all finished this spring.
Again, I remind the member opposite that weíve only been at this for five years. So weíve done quite a bit of work in the oil and gas division of the government to get these regulations up and running as promptly and quickly as we possibly can. I guess we have to prioritize which regulations we put out there and make sure that, at the end of the day, the regulations grow into the industry. So royalties are the next regulations that weíre going to have out there. Weíre going to have them in place by this spring, hopefully, and move ahead with the Oil and Gas Act.
I donít think any government should beat itself up too much with the fact that it took five years. Thatís only 60 months, and I think that weíve grown with that. Our whole industry has grown. The oil and gas department in our government has grown with the strength of these regulations. We now have issues out there. We have the oil and gas exploration going in southeast Yukon. We have potential in north Yukon. So as we go forward with managing this resource-based industry, we have a commitment as a government or as a jurisdiction to have these in place, so royalties, God willing, will be in place by this spring.
Ms. Duncan: I do appreciate the ministerís answer. Let me rephrase the question for him.
There is no question that public servants and the committee ó the officialsí level and CAPP ó have worked very hard on the regulations in the last six years under the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. Theyíve done a tremendous amount of work in a very short period of time. This is a relatively new industry to the Yukon, and weíve done a lot of the legislative homework.
One of the difficulties has been the royalty regulations. It has not just plagued this minister; it has been something that other ministers have worked on as well. What Iím asking for is this: what are the specifics ó if the member can be that forthright ó of the problem? Is it a choice of royalty regime that is the sticking point? We just havenít been able to reach agreement yet with our partners? Is it the percentages we are arguing about? What are the issues on the table in the development of the royalty regulations? That is my specific question.
I am not blaming anyone for the length of time ó not in the least. I am wondering, and I would like the minister to state for the record, what are the issues that are being dealt with in the royalty regulations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the fact of the importance of the royalty regulations, and I appreciate the member opposite.
Itís very important to industry that they have certainty on how these royalty regulations will work, and we certainly are pushing forward with it.
Now what are the stumbling blocks? We have stumbling blocks in ó not stumbling blocks; we have challenges. Hopefully, at the end of the day, YOGA will be a common regime, so we certainly have to involve First Nation governments and their issues.
All those issues have to be addressed so that we can have a royalty regulation that is acceptable to all governments in Yukon, so I think we are on track. We are certainly working with First Nations, and we are moving ahead with this.
Whatever regulations we have, whether it is for royalties or the other regulations, we have to try to have, at the end of the day, a common regime that everybody in the Yukon can live with. I think the royalty regime is probably one of the more important parts of this puzzle, but at the end of the day, the puzzle has to fit, and it has to fit into YOGA.
So the time we are spending isnít wasted time. Certainly, at the end of the day, the common regime will be YOGA, but every player has to be comfortable with that regime. So, I just think itís evolution. I think that we are growing with this. I think that we canít beat ourselves up on the time it takes, because at the end of the day we have to have a common regime and everybody has to be comfortable with it and everybody has to understand it.
Sixty months is not a long time when youíre putting together a massive act like YOGA and working with the players in the territory. So again, Mr. Chair, we are on track, and hopefully the royalty regime will be in place and everybody in the Yukon will be comfortable with it, and we can move forward in the industry with a common regime.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I understood the minister to just say was that we havenít yet been able to reach agreement on the royalty regulations, and thatís why they havenít been completed yet. Weíve been unable to reach agreement with our partners and with all involved on a royalty regime that is going to work, and thatís why we donít have the regulations yet. It is taking some time; I understand that.
The reason I am asking these questions is that regulations donít come before this House for debate, so there is no opportunity for us as members to argue with the Cabinet ministers responsible about what the regulations state. This is our opportunity.
The minister is not willing to state what the issues are on the table with the royalty regulations; I understand that. Itís a discussion process. Iíd like to just move on and wish the minister and the staff well in trying to reach agreement, because letís hope we do get them by the spring. It is a lot of hard work.
The explanatory note on the Oil and Gas Act notes that the oil and gas industry requires certainty, stability, clarity, and simplicity to guide its planning and operation of oil activities in the Yukon.
One of the key commitments by all the governments prior to this Yukon Party government was a commitment to industry that there would be a land disposition every year. In 2004, the fourth land disposition was delayed and weíve heard the announcement today that there were no bids.
Now the minister has said the government will move ahead on land disposition number five. Where is land disposition number five intended?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering that question we certainly perceive that we will move ahead with dispositions in the future. Itís important for the Yukon, as a jurisdiction, to be in the game, per se, and so to have certainty on dispositions. To speak right now about where those dispositions will be, at this point Iím not able to answer that question but we hope to have dispositions in the future in a timely fashion and work with industry to make sure it unfolds.
Ms. Duncan: The minister himself has just recognized the problem with the Yukon Party government not proceeding in a timely manner with number four. Not only did it let down the industry that had come to expect a disposition every year, and not provide the stability, certainty and clarity that industry seeks from the Yukon in this industry, but now, to further complicate matters, there were no bids received. Does the minister have an explanation for that? Was it his delay?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís not a fair statement, saying that it was because of the delay that there were no bids in our disposition in north Yukon. We all understand that any disposition in north Yukon is a frontier disposition. There is no access to market there. There is no infrastructure. So any kind of investment there would be a long-term investment. We certainly take the fact that there were no bids in north Yukon. We certainly have to balance that. Industry dictates whether there is going to be a disposition in fact taken or not taken. I donít think it had anything to do with the timing as much as where the disposition was. To say that weíre amiss because that disposition came out because of the timing, I say that the demand isnít there until we get access to a market, so certainty, again ó certainty to industry. And we certainly, as a government, are looking at ó this year, the oil and gas department, the division of Energy, Mines and Resources, is looking at $30 million worth of money spent in the oil and gas industry in this jurisdiction.
So have we done our homework? Certainly weíve done our homework. Was the disposition taken? No, it wasnít taken. Weíre not going to whip ourselves because of that fact. Thatís the nature of the business. Thatís why weíve put dispositions out there, to see if there is interest in the market. There wasnít interest in the market because of where the disposition was. Now, Iím not going to second-guess industry. Iím going to say to industry, ďWhere would you like dispositions?Ē† Where is it more beneficial to industry and us to work in the oil and gas industry? So as far as a government, I think Energy, Mines and Resources, the department that Iím the minister of, has done an exceptional job of getting interest in existing dispositions to get investment dollars in so that we can all benefit from the oil and gas industry in the Yukon. Do you realize the last time there was any money, really, in drilling programs was 30 years ago ó 30 years ago was when the southeast Yukon was drilled the last time. Now we have a commitment there ó in fact, as we sit in this House, there is a rig working there, as we speak, to explore and expand on that resource.
Everybody in the Yukon, every government in the Yukon, benefits from the oil and gas exploration work that was done in southeast Yukon over the last 20 years. Thatís because those wells in southeast Yukon were the most productive wells in North America at one point, Mr. Chair. They are very productive. The company has decided to go in and enhance those wells and extend the life of those wells that we will all benefit from. Also the corporations in the north are committing to do some work in the north to expand on their disposition. So are we doing our job? Certainly. Are we not doing our job if a disposition isnít taken up? Weíre looking at it. This is the first time that weíve had a disposition that there was no interest in.
So we have to go back to the drawing board, take a look at that and ask, ďWhy was there no interest?Ē, and answer those questions. But as far as screeching to a halt here because of one disposition that wasnít taken up, that is not what weíre here to do. Weíre here to work with the industry, to expand the industry for all Yukoners so we can all benefit from this oil and gas industry. So, are we disappointed? Yes, weíre disappointed. Disappointment means that we move on. We have to take another look at north Yukon and say, ďWell, maybe thatís not where oil and gas corporations want to invest their money.Ē We have to look at the Mackenzie Delta. When is the pipeline going to come? When are we going to get access to that pipeline, if we are? Whatís the best way of moving the resource out of north Yukon? Those are all questions that have to be addressed as we go forward with the management of the resource in the Yukon.
At the end of the day there was no take on the disposition in north Yukon. Thatís what happened. Do we stop in the oil and gas business because one disposition was spurned, that nobody took us up on? I donít think so. What weíre going to do is move ahead in an aggressive way to manage oil and gas in the Yukon, compliment ourselves in southeast Yukon to get those corporations down there to expand and spend the money theyíre spending, take a look at north Yukon and see the work structure thatís going to come out of north Yukon to go to work in the gas reserves there and all the geotech work thatís going to go off in north Yukon. I think weíve done a commendable job.
I think all Yukoners should be very proud of what weíve done in the last 60 months in the oil and gas industry. Weíve got producing wells. Weíve got investment. Weíve got a future in the oil and gas business. YOGA proves that it works: a common regime in our territory thatís going to work and benefit all Yukoners. So the disposition in the north was not taken up on. That was too bad, but it doesnít stop the oil and gas industry in the Yukon. We move ahead on that, and I ask the member opposite, ďAre we going to have other dispositions?Ē Certainly weíre going to have other dispositions.
Thereís more interest out there. As the pipeline in the Mackenzie Delta goes ahead in the future, that oil and gas and those reserves in north Yukon are going to become more valuable, not only on Crown land, but on traditional territory and First Nation lands. So all of that is going to be managed, and this is what YOGA is about ó how are we going to manage oil and gas in the future? Thatís what weíre going to do.
So are we disappointed? Yes, weíre disappointed. But is it the end of the road? No.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that answer. Unfortunately, it didnít answer the question I asked. The question I asked very specifically was: is the minister going to commit to annual land dispositions? The industry has told us over and over, very clearly, that it wants stability, clarity, certainty. They want to know that, yes, there is going to be a land disposition every year in the Yukon.
Now, the Yukon Party failed at that in their first year of office. Are they going to ensure that there is a land disposition to companies interested in oil and gas in the Yukon every year? Are they working toward that? Thatís the specific question.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess in answering the member opposite, we would certainly like a disposition every 12 months, every six months, every four months in a perfect world, but we donít live in a perfect world. We have to also address the sensitivity of the Yukon population as a whole.
There are a lot more questions out there than whether or not weíre going to put out a disposition. We have to understand ó would we continue putting dispositions out on dispositions that have not been taken on? That would be folly. Weíre not going to put out dispositions just for the sake of putting out dispositions. Weíre going to work with industry, weíre going to work with Yukoners, weíre going to work with First Nations and weíre going to work smart. Being smart is working as a team and thatís what YOGA is about.
YOGA is about how the act is going to work for all Yukoners, a common regime across Yukon thatís beneficial to all Yukoners.
So in answering about a disposition, itís not written in stone, Mr. Chair. Weíre going to work on these issues and weíre going to move forward. As a government, in 60 months ó or us being here for 18 months. In 18 months weíve had two dispositions, one of them with no take on. But in those 18 months we put together a drilling program for southeast Yukon, we addressed the Kaska and the Acho Dene Koeís issues in southeast Yukon, we moved ahead in north Yukon and put together a program with corporations that will expand on their potential in north Yukon. That drilling program will enhance the reputation of the area, and weíre also working with a corporation to do a geotech thing.
Weíre looking at $30 million worth of oil and gas exploration this year in this territory. That is putting Yukoners to work; putting the industry to work. Thatís why we have to get the royalty regulations up and running; thatís why weíre working every day on these regulations, so that at the end of the day we have a system thatís transparent and workable for all segments of the Yukon population. Iím not going to commit to putting out a disposition every 12 months. That would be irresponsible. What Iím saying is, are we going to quit? No. Weíre going to put dispositions out there, but there is no timeline on a disposition. It depends on where we are going to put it, who we have to work with and how we have to address the concerns of the people that it is going to affect. So we are going to put dispositions out. Are we going to put one out every 12 months? In a perfect world we would. But if they need more time to do this, weíre flexible. Weíre flexible in doing this, but we have done a massive job in 18 months.
Again, $30 million worth of oil and gas money is being spent in the Yukon this year alone. Does that mean that industry hasnít got certainty? I donít think so. Would you, as a corporate citizen, invest that kind of money in an uncertain jurisdiction? I think they are comfortable with YOGA. I think YOGA is workable. Industry is working with it as we speak. In southeast Yukon there is expanded oil and gas; in north Yukon there is gas and exploration in the geotechnology field up there. We are aggressively in the oil and gas business. We are not Alberta. We donít have that kind of massive oil and gas exploration going on, but weíre taking small steps. Thatís what YOGA is about; thatís why weíre doing this housework, to fine tune it so we can go forward with the act. I think the act works.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the act does work, and it has worked very well. I believe we have covered that ground. It was raised earlier that there is a five-step process, and I can visualize the diagram of the process for a land disposition. Where is the minister in that process for disposition number five?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To be fair to the department, we have just completed number four and weíre in the planning stages for number five. So where weíre at is weíre cleaning up the last disposition and weíre moving forward and starting to work on disposition number five.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I donít have any other questions in general debate. I just would like to express my thanks again to the officials in the department and to Council of Yukon First Nations, the Kwanlin Dun and the Kaska, as well as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, who have assisted Yukon in the development of this legislation and its implementation, and I look forward to the ministerís report, hopefully this spring, that we have the balance of the royalty regulations and perhaps some of the others coming forward.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: No doubt the minister has read the article, ďNo Bids Received for PeelĒ. Do any alarm bells go off? Is this a concern at all to the minister, or is this the order of business for him, for this government?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I really havenít read the news article on the disposition. To be fair to industry, itís not uncommon to have dispositions out there that arenít taken across the nation. This is a process of eliminating areas that corporations donít have an interest in. Am I worried about that? No, itís called managing the oil and gas in the Yukon. We certainly are going to have dispositions out there I imagine in the future that arenít taken up, so itís not unusual. The process is there. We put the disposition out there and at the end of the day there were no takers. There was interest. But at the end of the day there was no interest. So are we disappointed? Again, like the member opposite, we are disappointed. We would like to see these dispositions work in a positive way, but with it not being taken itís not the end of oil and gas in the Yukon and it shows that the system works. We take an area, we take a look at it, we go through the five steps, and at the end of the five steps, companies are invited to bid and at the end of the day we have a timeline on it so that we know when the bids come in and when we make those decisions. Disposition number four had no takers. So at the end of the day we go back to managing oil and gas in the Yukon and move forward.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister says he doesnít have any concerns about this news. If the general public is looking at it, I would say they would have a lot of concern about why this happened and why ó in what we thought, I guess, could be an oil- and gas-rich area of the territory ó they would not have an interest, especially a fairly big parcel of land ó some 40,000 acres of land.
In the article, it did say that some of the problems could be the fact that First Nations, both here in the territory and in the Northwest Territories, have outstanding environmental concerns that havenít been dealt with. The minister said everything went well, but he didnít answer my colleaguesí questions about whether or not the First Nationís concerns were taken care of. Were the concerns the First Nation of Na Cho Nyšk Dun raised not taken care of, and are we now seeing the fallout of this process?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to answer that. We, as a government putting out the disposition, answered 99 percent of the First Nationís issues. Iím not going to second-guess industry on why they didnít take us up on the bid. Priorities in corporations change. Investment dollars change. You know, again, weíre looking at a frontier area. Weíre looking at an area that if you put money in there and invest money, you might have a long time before you get any returns.
I think they certainly looked at all of the concerns and made a corporate decision. That corporate decision was that there wasnít the interest in that area at this time. It doesnít mean that five years down the road, if the Mackenzie pipeline comes to any kind of a reality, that there isnít going to be interest in that area.
And we certainly will be looking at that as the process works itself out. But again, I donít want to second-guess industry; that is not my job. My job as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is to work with YOGA in a positive fashion so some of these dispositions can go to work.
Again I remind everybody that ó I mean, this disposition not being taken is not the end of the road for the oil and gas industry in the Yukon. Itís not unusual in a jurisdiction to have dispositions not bid on. Thatís part of why we put them out there. We want to know if industry is interested in that area. Now, if theyíre not interested, itís not like somebody is going to pack off the land and go somewhere else. The resources will remain there for the future generations, maybe. But again, we work with corporations on ó if they bid on it, we move forward. We have today, in 18 months of us being in government, two years ó we have today $30 million worth of oil and gas industry going to be done in this jurisdiction, working within the YOGA framework in a very positive way so that we as a corporation can get into the oil and gas industry in a very positive way.
So oil and gas in the Yukon is alive and well. One disposition wasnít taken up; itís not the end of the road. Weíre going to move ahead. Are we going to have other dispositions? Certainly weíre going to have other dispositions. Weíre going to move ahead in the oil and gas industry in the Yukon. We committed to do that; weíre going to do it.
Mr. Fairclough: I think the only person who is saying that things are not going to move ahead is the minister himself. We believe that Yukon is rich with resources. Iím concerned about the process. Iím concerned about the questions that the minister has to answer ó and that is to the people.
Both Yukon and Northwest Territories had environmental concerns. Was the minister aware of these concerns, or did he think they were taken care of?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In response to the member opposite, YOGA ó the five steps ó has a process in how we have devolution in the department. Environmental questions are answered in the next steps. We certainly have checks and balances on the environmental questions, but of course we donít second-guess them before we start going through the process.
The Yukon has, within our act, a way to answer environmental questions. Itís a very sensitive area, north Yukon. Itís not just the First Nations who have questions about the sensitivity of the area; there are huge parts of our population in Canada who have questions about the sensitivity of that area.
We are aware of it and we will work within those parameters. As far as the corporation second-guessing the environmental risk of the area, we certainly red-flagged it by putting an umbrella over the Turner wetlands, saying thatís going to have another step in the environmental overview that isnít normal in a disposition. So we certainly red-flagged that area. Through the five steps, that was one of the questions we got from concerned people ó how were we going to address the extra environmental responsibility a corporation would have if, in fact, that disposition was taken.
Did they look at that and say thatís too heavy a responsibility? Maybe the corporation did, but we were responsible by putting that umbrella over the Turner wetlands, the small part that was part of the disposition, and said that is the way this government is going to treat the sensitivity of the Turner wetlands.
For me to second-guess why industry didnít take us up on the disposition would be, in my opinion, a waste of time. Weíre going ahead with oil and gas in the Yukon; weíre moving ahead in a very positive way. This year alone, with $30 million being spent in Yukon, putting Yukoners to work, at the end of the day I think weíve done all right for two years, and I think weíve done all right for 60 months.
But it is a growing thing. Itís not something weíre going to resolve overnight but I think that at the end of the day, once we have all the regulations in place, have a common regime and move forward with YOGA, thatís the way weíre going to manage the oil and gas industry in the Yukon. From both governments, whether First Nation or territorial, I think itís a positive working relationship. It has been a working relationship since day one, so when we question how things take awhile to get done, we do it by consensus. We go to work; we address the issues; we go back to work; we come out with a regime that will work for all Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Certainly that doesnít apply across the board to all the ministers, does it?
Iím concerned about this news. Iím sure that people from Mayo and Na Cho Nyšk Dun are thrilled to see news like this. After all, theyíve been asking the minister to concentrate and give good direction on land use planning. Now that there are no bidders in the Peel watershed, is the minister or the government going to strongly consider land use planning before any more land dispositions take place in north Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again I remind the member opposite that we are actively working on land use planning for north Yukon. Certainly we on this side of the House feel that we can use land use planning not only for ó land use planning and economic development go hand in hand. Iím not saying to the member opposite that we will not have any more dispositions in north Yukon; that would be irresponsible. We are here to manage the oil and gas resources of this territory. We are committed to land use planning and weíre working very actively with that group to get this thing done in a timely fashion. But as far as no economic development until such a time as itís finished, that to me is not productive.
Part of land use planning is economic development. At the end of the day, economic development and land use planning go hand in hand, so without one or the other, I think you cripple either one youíre going on, so at the end of the day we are going to work with the land use planning group in north Yukon. We certainly are going to move forward in the oil and gas industry in Yukon and at the end of the day have a very productive oil and gas industry.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I donít believe that the minister really has a good grasp on what land use planning really is. He didnít even add anything else other than economic development. But, certainly, industry wants certainty in the Yukon. One of the ways of doing it is through land use planning. For the minister: would it give industry more certainty if there was land use planning in place?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, I agree with the member opposite. In a perfect world, if we could get the land use planning up and get it finished, that would be more productive than having it drag out for a long period of time. I agree with him 100 percent that land use planning does add certainty for industry, and thatís very, very important. But in the process of land use planning, we are committed to working with all users of the land, which is wilderness industry, outfitters ó whoever uses the land ó plus Economic Development, to make a mosaic of land use that works for all Yukoners.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Chair: Clause 2 includes all of the subclauses as well.
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No 46, entitled Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: Mr. Lang has moved that Bill No 46, Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Weíll now continue with Bill No. 53, Act to Amend the Insurance Act, general debate.
Bill No. 53 ó Act to Amend the Insurance Act
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíd like to offer time for members opposite to provide general debate on this particular aspect. Iíve already given my prep speech.
Mr. Cardiff: As I said earlier, we feel that this is a good piece of legislation amending the Insurance Act. Itís something that has been requested by the Association of Yukon Communities and itís going to make life easier for them and help them provide services to their constituents.
I did have some questions around some other areas of the Insurance Act, though.
I was wondering why the government wasnít interested in moving to address the high cost of insurance for consumers in general. Iíd be interested to know because this is a concern. It doesnít matter whether itís household insurance, automobile insurance or liability insurance. This has been an issue for consumers around the country, and here in the Yukon for sure.
It appears to me that the ability to have some effect on the premiums that consumers are being charged is available to the government, and Iím just wondering why the government, at this time, has chosen not to try to address this issue.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are monitoring other jurisdictions and seeing what type of automobile, household, and liability insurance is being tried in other jurisdictions. We are closely monitoring the situation in Alberta to see what happens there with respect to auto insurance specifically. Hopefully, that is supposed to take effect as of October 1, I believe. So, maybe as of next year, weíll be in a position to see what kind of position that takes in that particular jurisdiction. Weíre not the only ones watching Alberta. All of the other jurisdictions are watching Alberta. Itís a big change from whatís out there.
Some of the Maritime provinces have taken smaller issues with respect to auto and household insurance. They are looking at it, and we are monitoring some of those to see what the success ratio of that is also.
The member of the third party also brought up the issue of wilderness operators. Weíre also looking at ways and means of trying to deal with those particular industries.
You know, it may well be that a reciprocal agreement might work for them. But right now we would like to try this out for us and the municipalities. We believe that we can put this into place, see how it works, if itís going to work, and demonstrate that it works. We may be able to use it in other forms of insurance out there. But, as I said earlier, we are monitoring other jurisdictions closely in all aspects of this.
With regard to the tanks coming out of the ground, that is strictly an insurance issue brought on by issues from back east that have just basically forced many Yukoners to pull their underground tanks out even though the tanks, when theyíre pulled out, in almost 80 percent of the cases, still have the sticker attached to the tanks and they are perfectly fine.
But, in essence, itís not something that we as a government can control because itís an insurance issue. But as I said, we are looking at other jurisdictions to see what theyíre doing and we will be keeping you informed as we go along.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for that response.
Maybe, if he could just clarify then: as theyíre monitoring what is going on in other jurisdictions ó in particular, he said, in Alberta ó does this mean that possibly we would see some other legislation or changes being brought forward within the next year that would address the concerns of the people of the Yukon with the rates that theyíre being forced to pay?
I think that what happens ó if you look at the reporting of the insurance industry and the huge profits that they seem to report on an annual basis, people donít readily understand why it is that they are being forced to pay so much.
I mean, insurance companies seem to be making lots of money and profit, but that doesnít get passed on to the consumer, and that becomes a real issue with people who are trying to feed and clothe their children and send them off to school and provide a home for them. It is just one of those added costs that people have to bear. When they see these increases coming on an annual basis, it seems the rates keep going up, and so do the profits, but when the profits are so great, you would think that consumers would see some relief and some benefit from all of the profits that are being made. It is a concern, so could the minister ó does he have an idea of timelines of when the government may be able to do something on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, as I indicated, we are awaiting the situation to transpire in Alberta. Once we have seen what happens there ó it is currently being challenged by the industry, so we will see what comes as a result of that particular venue. But if, in fact, it looks like it goes forth, then obviously we will be looking at making some legislative changes to bring forward to the Legislature to enable all Yukoners to gain from that particular process.
I will state, however, that the market is softening somewhat. It is not as tough as it was before. I will state also that a good portion of the increase came after 9/11 and those same insurance companies were all whining they lost all their shirts and money, and so theyíre trying to make it up in the next little while. But also, the increased insurance has not just affected the consumer. It has also affected governments, municipalities and even this government. And one of the reasons why we have looked at going self-insured for ourselves is to reduce the cost to the Yukon taxpayer.
Mr. Cardiff: I know that one other issue is around liability insurance for community associations and the like that were previously participating anyhow and administering FireSmart programs in Yukon. A lot of community associations felt that those costs were unbearable and that they were unable to participate in those government programs. I donít know whether thereís a vehicle to address any of those concerns here or if that would fall under a different piece of legislation, but in order for the government to have these programs and administer them, I would be interested if the minister could provide us some information on that.†
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will try to answer his question directly. With regard to FireSmart, most of those insurance expenditures should be included in their administration when they submit their application to the FireSmart program. But I will state that we do provide some liability insurance for some of our recreation in our rural areas where they are basically not incorporated.
Ms. Duncan: I may have not heard the ministerís last answer correctly. As I understand it, these changes applied in municipalities, so could the minister just outline for the House how we are working with the hamlets? I think I heard part of the answer, but if he could just outline the process. How are we working with, say, the Hamlet of Mount Lorne or Ibex Valley on their insurance issues?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are liable for the hamlets that the member opposite referred to.
Ms. Duncan: Is there an option for the government, on behalf of these hamlets, to somehow participate in this program with the municipalities? I mean, itís kind of a convoluted way of doing things, and might require another legislative change, but it might also provide those hamlets and municipalities with greater independence from the Government of Yukon and be on the same sort of playing field as their counterparts, the municipalities. Has that idea been discussed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When we were dealing with Association of Yukon Communities, it was strictly to do with the municipalities. There was no discussion about LACs, local advisory councils, because they have no venue in which to pay the fees in order to participate in the program and get into that particular venue.
There are also other issues related to the Association of Yukon Communities, including the LACs and hamlets within their purview, but it was not really discussed ó including them in the process ó because it was seen as they have no means in which to participate because each hamlet or LAC is somewhat different and itís difficult to try to mix oranges and apples.
Ms. Duncan: But everybody is dealing with the same insurance issue regardless of whether theyíre an orange or an apple or some other member of the fruit or vegetable family. The fact is theyíre all dealing with the same insurance issues. Everybody is.
The concern I have is: have we spoken with the LACs and the hamlets? I understand weíve worked for a long time with the municipalities. What about everybody else? Where are they in the process?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We do have consultations with the LACs, through the AYC, through their membership. But not all LACs participate in AYC so we will have to look at providing another venue in which to look at this particular option that the member opposite is talking about and will undertake to have a look at it. But right now, the issue before us is the municipalities and we have a timeline by which we have to get underway in order for them to take advantage of it at their year-end.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that this is a solution that the municipalities, through AYC, have worked with the Yukon government. They have come up with this very appropriate workable solution and I applaud all the efforts of all the individuals involved in reaching this solution and reassure the minister once again of my support. I just want to be assured, as I am sure all members do, that now that we have dealt with the municipalities ó once this is passed; letís not leave anybody out ó that there is some kind of a process where other local advisory councils or hamlets can approach the minister and say, ďAll right, how do we work on a solution?Ē I understand they are covered by the Yukon government now; however, is it the ministerís intention and is the government receptive to working on solutions for those not included in this particular answer?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I plan that we could look at this in the future. We would like to also, as I mentioned previously, have a look at the municipal aspect to ensure its success. Then we could look at that program and see how we can adapt it to the LACs, as the member opposite wishes.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Ms. Duncan: The Commissioner in Executive Council may make regulations ó is it the governmentís intention to have regulations, and in what time frame?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we are looking at regulations sometime in late November, December.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, are the regulations developed now? There is usually a consultation period associated with regulations, and there are certain time periods associated with regulations before theyíre promulgated and signed off and gazetted. Is the minister saying that the regulations are likely to come before Cabinet in November or that theyíre done and the time period will expire in November? Could he just be clearer on what exactly he means by that time frame?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The regulations are already in process. Theyíre not that difficult to get going. We have been in discussions with other jurisdictions to ensure we have the appropriate protection for the public as well as at the same time considering the burden upon the compliance for Yukon communities.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 9?
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move that Bill No. 53, entitled Act to Amend the Insurance Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Hart that Bill No. 53, entitled Act to Amend the Insurance Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 53, Act to Amend the Insurance Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Committee of the Whole has also considered Bill No. 46, Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
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. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:50 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled October 25, 2004:
††† Electoral Reform: Interim Report (dated July 31, 2004) by Ken McKinnon, Senior Advisor on Electoral Reform† (Jenkins)
††† Standing Committee on Public Accounts: First Report (dated July 2, 2004) (Vol. 14)† (Hardy)
The following documents were filed October 25, 2004:
††† Immigration hearings for refugee claimants, letter from Hon. Peter Jenkins, Minister of Health and Social Services (dated Oct. 5, 2004) to Larry Bagnell, MP, Yukon† (Jenkins)
††† Immigration hearings for refugee claimants, letter from Hon. Peter Jenkins, Minister of Health and Social Services (dated Oct. 5, 2004) to Hon. Judy Sgro, Minister, Citizenship and Immigration Canada† (Jenkins)