††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, November 1, 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 Downís Syndrome Awareness Week
Mr. McRobb: I rise on behalf of the official opposition in tribute to national Downís Syndrome Awareness Week, November 1 to 7.
Downís syndrome is defined as an error in cell division in a fetus that results in mild to moderate mental disabilities. It occurs in about one out of 800 births on a national basis.
In the past, Downís syndrome was misunderstood and many of those afflicted were treated badly by society. Due largely to the struggles and the hard work of parents and professionals to involve Downís syndrome children in daily life, they are living fuller, richer lives and are contributing to society. The life expectancy of Downís syndrome babies has increased from nine years in 1929 to beyond 50 years today.
†Many are employed and live on a semi-independent basis. Despite this progress much more can be done. Educational and economic supports are needed to fully integrate Downís syndrome people into our daily lives. Organizations such as Community Living and Special Olympics, both nationally and here in the Yukon, provide support for parents and Downís syndrome people.
A basic belief in the inclusion of every person in all life is central to the organizations supporting Downís syndrome. Valuing uniqueness and differences in understanding the common humanity of everyone are lessons we can all learn from Downís syndrome.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to recognize national Downís Syndrome Awareness Week. This week is dedicated to recognizing Canadians living with Downís syndrome and to help increase public awareness of the contribution individuals with Downís syndrome make to our country.
Downís syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that is present in approximately one in 800 births in Canada. There are approximately 35,000 Canadians with Downís syndrome.
With the proper support, individuals with Downís syndrome are making important contributions to Canadian society. They are working, they are volunteering, they are attending school and theyíre living independent lives. Yukoners living with Downís syndrome make this a better place to be, adding their own unique contribution to the fabric that makes Yukon so unique as well.
†The Yukon is proud to be only one of six Canadian jurisdictions recognizing Canadians living with Downís syndrome and those who are committed to helping those individuals reach their fullest potential, and we are proud to be counted.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Women Abuse Prevention Month
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to the month of November as Women Abuse Prevention Month. Spousal violence continues to be of great concern. Approximately one-quarter of all violent crimes in Canada are related to family violence. The majority of such violence to victims is perpetrated by the spouse. Eighty-five percent of all spousal violent crimes are against women. In the decade past, 617 women were killed in this country by a current or former spouse.
The physical assault of women is, of course, a very serious matter. Women are six times more likely to be sexually assaulted than men and five times more likely than men to require medical attention as a result of an assault. Aboriginal women have much greater rates of abuse, which is totally unacceptable.
Most abuse of women occurs from within relationships where there is a situation of dependency and trust. Because of this we draw your attention to the effects of abuse on the psychological health of women. Women who are abused are more likely to experience conditions such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder. Coping strategies such as addictions and self-destructive behaviours multiply the negative effects of physical abuse.
But abuse of women is not only physical. Psychological abuse, which women experience far more than men, can cause many of the same psychological conditions as physical abuse.
Women are four times more likely than men to report being threatened and four times more likely to report being denied access to family income. Furthermore, the psychological effects from the abuse of women are likely to spread to children.
We pay tribute to the dedicated professionals and volunteers who are helping to cope with abuse of women. In particular, we draw the attention of the House to the transition homes in the Yukon, which continue to offer supportive services for abused women. The Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre will once again be sponsoring a number of events this month to educate the public about Women Abuse Prevention Month.
They will be holding workshops for older women for understanding the link between substance abuse and violence, information on legal issues, and a ďlady bewareĒ workshop with the RCMP.
We urge the members of this House and the public to attend these valuable events.
Thank you. Mahsií cho.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today as the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate to recognize November as Women Abuse Prevention Month.
According to a national survey, at least one out of every four women who has lived with a male partner has been abused in some way. These women are from many different backgrounds as family violence knows no social or economic bounds.
Domestic violence often follows a cycle where the same behaviours and actions are repeated in families from generation to generation. Abusers believe that violence is okay. Itís not ó not ever.
Healthy relationships are built upon equality and trust, and this year, as in the past, the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre is leading the public awareness campaign surrounding Women Abuse Prevention Month, an RCMP-taught self-defence class for women, bingo and movie nights for women as well as a proclamation on violence against women from our own Commissioner, Jack Cable.
In addition to the Womenís Centreís activities, the Womenís Directorate will also be running a series of print advertisements emphasizing the message that a manís strength is not for hurting. As well, the Womenís Directorate will be launching a CD by our local Raw Element, entitled Once Upon a Time, to target young people. Breaking the cycle of violence at a young age, before it becomes engrained in the way people deal with relationships, is one of the best ways to help stop abuse before it starts.
As individuals, families and communities, we need to break the silence of violence, to provide support for victims, to encourage accountability for acts of harm, and to support our communities in their ability to provide education, prevention and healing.
I would also like to send out a heartfelt thanks to all the womenís organizations and the many women who volunteer their time day in and day out, including our own transition homes, the shelters that serve Yukon women and children on a day-to-day basis, for all the instrumental work that they do in raising awareness of this very serious issue confronting our territory, and for certainly providing assistance to those in need.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Womenís Abuse Prevention Month. People call abuse of women many different things: wife battering, wife assault, domestic violence, spousal abuse, physical or mental cruelty, violence against women and assault.†
No matter what it is named, it has to end.
The minister has mentioned that a national survey done in Canada in 1994 found that one in four women have been assaulted by a current or previous intimate partner. Three-quarters of these women had also been emotionally abused.
We have many agencies to serve the women of the Yukon: the RCMP, the womenís transition homes in Whitehorse, Dawson, Watson Lake, Carmacks and Ross River; Victim Services in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake, the Law Line, Legal Aid, First Nations court workers, counselling and support services, social assistance, the womenís advocate and the Womenís Directorate, and those are just a few.
We would like to tribute and express our thanks to these organizations and agencies, and especially the people who volunteer and who work with them.
Thank you for your support and your efforts to end the violence. Every woman has the right to be treated with respect and to a life without violence. This month, as we heighten our awareness of this issue, let us make it a year-long, lifelong effort and end the violence.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Mr. Cathers: I rise in the House today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to amend the Wildlife Act to clarify that Yukon citizens who purchased elk, reindeer or bison own and have full title to those animals and their descendants.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes
(1) that the Yukon Party government, through its decision to change the rules for land applications around the City of Whitehorse, has created an unfair process for obtaining country residential lots;
(2) that the applicants themselves are not at fault;
(3) that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has made the situation worse by refusing to accept responsibility for the decisions that have caused this problem; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to reject all land applications around the City of Whitehorse until a fair process for applications has been completed and appropriate consultation with all interested partners has been conducted.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: †Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
†Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. I was at the public meeting in Carmacks on Friday, and the message was clear. There is wide support for a new school, but not with a college attached. Many reasons were given for this, but because of this governmentís heavy-handed decision, some of the people were saying that they would rather wait for a school until there is a government that will listen to them. I have had many people call me and come up to me, saying they were worried that they wonít get a new school at all. Is that the ministerís position, that Carmacks might not get any school at all unless they accept a school with a college campus attached? Would the Minister of Education answer that for me?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As the Minister of Education was not present at the meeting, I will respond to the Member for Mayo-Tatchunís question.
I must say I was very pleased to be able to attend this meeting in the community. I thank the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation for hosting me on their traditional territory, and I would like to respond to the member opposite by pointing out some things that were very evident in the meeting.
A number of the respondents or presenters were focused on social issues, Mr. Speaker, and I of course assured them that these types of issues are something we can address not only within our educational system but, more importantly, outside of our education system.
Secondly, there was clear evidence that, for the First Nation, this was also a financial issue, and I assured the First Nation that our presence, financially, in the existing administration building would not be diminished ó quite the contrary. Given the fact that the First Nation has requested this government to look into a Yukon River management plan and arrange a program, I would submit to you in this House and to the First Nation that our financial presence will, in all likelihood, increase with Little Salmon-Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for answering that question. At least weíre getting some answers. The Minister of Education certainly doesnít want to do it, but the Premier did skirt around the question, and Iím hoping he can focus on it.
About 60 people were at Fridayís meeting. Many of them spoke up. Only a few of them were in favour of combining the new Tantalus School with the College campus. That option clearly does not have widespread community support, and the Premier knows that.
This question is directed to the minister. The minister overruled this joint building advisory committee that he created. That was the cause of this mess. He breached an intergovernmental agreement he signed with the First Nation. Surely the minister is capable of admitting he was wrong.
Will the hon. minister now honour his signed commitment with the advisory committee and the First Nation and base his final decision on what that committee has asked him to do?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This issue pertains to the meeting on Friday in the community of Carmacks. There were a number of individuals present. It certainly did not reflect the majority of the citizens of Carmacks. Iím sure there are upwards of 300-plus people that live in the community.
I think itís important to recognize that the planning committee itself had entered into an arrangement with the department and the minister to provide recommendations on building a new school in a community, in this case Carmacks, where a new school is badly needed.
Also, they were discussing ó they were discussing at great length ó during this year-long process about the combining of the campus with the school and they were discussing areas of concern that we could mitigate. I think evidence of that came forward at the meeting. The concerns of interaction between young people and adults who may be attending a college campus can certainly be dealt with scheduling and how access is gained to a college campus and/or indeed a school.
But I think the most important point is the presentation from the government side, vis-ŗ-vis myself, that we need to start talking about the positives that can be gleaned from building a learning institution in the community of Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the community of Carmacks does have one, with all the latest technology that government and the College demands of it.
I ask the Minister of Education to answer this question ó and this issue wasnít as a result of the community meeting in Carmacks. The minister knows that.
The Premier knows that as a result of the ministerís decision to overrule and override the First Nation and its own committees.
Mr. Speaker, this minister has a take-it-or-leave-it attitude and way of doing things, and that is shameful. How dare the minister come to the community of Carmacks and tell them what is best for them? More than 30 years ago, there were ministers who thought they knew best. Children were taken out of their homes and put into mission schools. Now this minister thinks he knows what is best for the people in Carmacks. That is a step backwards some 30 years. Many parents have threatened to pull their children out of school if the minister sticks to his decision. Is that what the minister wants ó a school that has no students because the minister insisted he knew best? Can the minister answer that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again this relates specifically to the discussion held with me ó not the minister ó in the community of Carmacks last Friday.
And the member has brought something else up that came out in the meeting, and that is the issue of residential schools. And I would caution the member opposite, the MLA for this riding, to think carefully about that statement and how that correlates to building a new learning institution in a community that is for the benefit of all the citizens within a public education system.
I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that another issue came forward in the meeting on Friday, and that is division in the community. This division is being exacerbated by this type of comment coming forward from the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. There is no place in the building of this learning institution for this long-standing, deep-rooted problem that all governments must work on ó the residential school issue ó all governments being First Nation, federal and Yukon. However, in this case in the community, the minister is advancing what is a very needed initiative, a new school and college for all the people of Carmacks, and that is our obligation, that is our duty, that is what we will carry out.
Question re: Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
Mr. Hardy: Iím actually quite shocked at what the Premier just said ó an accusation he made to my colleague. I cannot believe the words that just came out of his mouth and what he is accusing my colleague of doing, when heís trying to represent the people of his community. Maybe that Premier better think very carefully about what heís saying, because that kind of language goes back 40 or 50 years in the white manís way of looking at how you treat First Nations.
On Thursday my colleagues and I pointed out numerous instances where this government wasnít listening to people. On Friday the Premier was in Carmacks; he has referenced that a few times. Nearly 60 people showed up and spoke against the governmentís plan to incorporate the Yukon College campus into the new school.
Judging from the radio coverage, it doesnít sound like the Premier really heard what was being said up there. As a matter of fact, heís putting a new spin on it ó we heard it today.
A very simple question, Mr. Speaker: will the Premier reconsider this decision in regard to Yukon College, or does he insist on sticking with his ministerís take-it-or-leave-it approach, because thatís what the people of Carmacks have been facing?
Speaker: Before the hon. Premier answers the question, the Chair is uncomfortable with the nature of the innuendo on each side of the floor, and I would ask all members of the House to respect each other. Please carry on, the hon. Premier.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: My sincere apologies to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Speaker, it was also evident in the meeting that there would be a need for a sizable investment in dealing with the existing College and its facilities, and thatís why the minister, after a long period of consultation with the community in dealing with the planning committee, was trying to make representation in this regard that we could make an investment here that could accomplish a number of things.
By housing or combining a facility, a campus and a school together, the investment that we would have to incur to upgrade and improve the existing facility would also be important in this regard because we could divert that money into programming and equipment and tools in a learning institution. For example, we could complement what the minister is already doing in a $500,000 investment in curriculum change for First Nations by adding more areas of learning within this school to address the First Nation culture and needs and recognize within our school system that very point. And, Mr. Speaker, we as a government are looking at all the issues and all the concerns, and that is exactly why we had the meeting on Friday, and we still are going to relay to the community the positives of such a school.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess people just have to accept the fact that the Premier knows best. People are allowed to be on committees as long as their conclusions are exactly what the Yukon Premierís government wants, exactly what the Premier wants. It might not be so bad if the Yukon Party lived up to what they promised during election time two years ago, but we have witnessed promise after promise ignored, neglected, twisted, denied or shattered.
Now, letís go back to something the Premier said after Fridayís meeting in Carmacks. The Premier hinted at a future investment in the First Nation administration building for the Yukon River management plan and the Ranger program. And it really does beg the question: when did the Premier think of this? Now, is the Premier suggesting heíll open his chequebook for the First Nation if they go along with moving the College campus to the site of the new Tantalus School, or will that still stand if the College does not go there?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me address the beginnings of this question from the leader of the official opposition and his comments about ďpromises made, promises shatteredĒ. Thatís right up there with the official oppositionís view of the territory, that it is a place of madness and misery. The statistics certainly are contrary to that position.
This is not something that the government came forward with. This is a request from the First Nation that we are now addressing and looking into how we can best deliver it. It would create an investment in the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nationís administration building. It would create training for Little Salmon-Carmacks people. It would create jobs for Little Salmon-Carmacks people. It would create overall benefit for the Yukon River system within the Little Salmon-Carmacks traditional territory. It is a good thing.
So the government is doing more than simply building a school in a riding we donít hold. We are trying to address demonstrated needs where they come forward ó in this case Carmacks. This government is living up to its commitments to be fair to all Yukoners, unlike the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: I have to remind the Premier opposite that the ďmadness and miseryĒ caption came from all the notorious headlines that that government created last year. We certainly know the Premierís chequebook is getting bigger and bigger. I hope he doesnít think that will buy him goodwill in the next election after trampling on one community after another by deciding first and consulting later.
This morning the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations made it clear that many other First Nations are watching the Carmacks situation closely. He suggested this could affect the Education Act review, which has been stalled for three years. He also suggested it could lead some First Nations to think about setting up their own schools. I hope the Premier is listening very closely and I hope the Premier hears.
How does the Premier plan to reassure other communities that their advice wonít be ignored in the future the way so many people in Carmacks feel that they have been ignored to date?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the community of Carmacks and its citizens have hardly been ignored. This process has been ongoing for the better part of a year. Also, this government, recognizing how the former government completely misread the situation in our education system when it comes to First Nations, has offered something entirely different than an Education Act review. We have offered to reform our education system. Thatís an important point.
Secondly, we are already making investments in language, curriculum change and other training initiatives that are specific to First Nations and their communities. Also, Mr. Speaker, the member should well know that when it comes to the final agreements, the treaties in this territory with self-governing First Nations, they have the authority to take down education. We all know that. However, when it comes to the merits of what the Minister of Education and his department are doing, itís about a public education system providing enhanced and improved education services in the community of Carmacks for all its citizens, and it is out of the public purse. That is our obligation as a public government; we will carry out that obligation.
Question re: Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on Friday afternoon the Premier got an earful from the community of Carmacks about broken promises from this government. After campaigning on a slogan of ďTogether we will do betterĒ, this government is now governing under the slogan, ďIf you donít like it, do it yourselfĒ. What a change in attitude. And the community is not happy.
The Premier said on Friday, ďIím going there to listen. Thatís exactly what this government does.Ē He then said, ďThe governmentís going to build a school with a college attached to it. The decision has been made.Ē Cosmetic consultation canít cover the cracks in this government. Government has to listen to the public.
My question is for the Minister of Education. Why is the government refusing to hear what the people of Carmacks have to say about their school ó his responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to correct the record here from what the member opposite is suggesting. This government does listen. This whole process is about improving education and the education facility in Carmacks. I fail to see anything negative about that, Mr. Speaker. This government, along with the people of Carmacks, will some day all benefit from a very nice facility in Carmacks.
I think itís important for this member to lay out on the floor what the roles of each government are. The First Nation government is there to serve their beneficiary members. The municipal government has the responsibility of providing all kinds of services to the community of Carmacks, such as recreation, sewage and water treatment and garbage pickup. Those are responsibilities of the municipal government.
Then it comes to YTG. We sort of have to fill in for all those. We do recognize that each government has its responsibilities, and this government is holding up its end of its responsibilities.
Ms. Duncan: This summer the Minister of Health and Social Services spoke at the CYFN General Assembly. He was heavily criticized by the First Nation leadership over this governmentís refusal to listen. What was his response? ďWe will work harder.Ē No. ďI hear you; weíll try to change the way we do things.Ē No. His response was, ďIf you donít like how weíre doing things, do it yourself; use your authority and take over the services.Ē So much for ďTogether we will do betterĒ.
His attitude was take it or leave it, and the mess in Carmacks is the result of the same attitude. The government wonít listen and the government wonít work with the community. Why is the minister trying to force on the community what the community doesnít want? Why is the government refusing to hear what the people of Carmacks have to say? Why are they doing that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I remind the member opposite that we do have a responsibility to listen to every citizen in Carmacks, and thatís exactly what weíre doing.
I will also remind the member opposite that in the previous sitting, the direction of the Liberal Party was that we do not move that school anywhere but where the present location is ó the member even cited the costs of how much the NDP government paid to buy that land. Well, I thank that member. It was all accurate information and we were well aware of that.
Mr Speaker, I want to say again today that this whole issue is around building a new facility in Carmacks, one that will provide jobs, put a good boost to an economy where there is one basically non-existent, that is going to provide training for the citizens in Carmacks, for whom, I might add, this government has already arranged the pre-carpenter training course to get people ready for this project. Mr. Speaker, there is nothing but positives here and I certainly want to commend the Mayor and Council of Carmacks for addressing the issues of providing good services to the community.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, once again the minister has failed to answer as to why the government is adopting this attitude of, ďIf you donít like it, do it yourselfĒ and why theyíre not listening to the community. The mistakes the government is making in Carmacks are spilling over into other education issues. Theyíre threatening the Education Act as well.
†The Grand Chief noted today that many First Nations are not prepared to cooperate with the government on the Education Act review because of the dispute in Carmacks, because of the attitude from the members opposite. Will the minister listen to the community of Carmacks and get on with building a school so that we can move forward on a much-needed ó and promised, committed to ó review of the Education Act? Is the minister going to be part of the solution or is the minister going to continue to be part of the problems?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Letís start by correcting the member opposite. Itís not an attitude; itís a process that has been created to build a new school in Carmacks that this government has committed to, something that both opposition parties failed to deliver on in the past 12 years. This government will do it in one mandate. Yes, there are always differences of opinions between governments. Itís nothing new. Itís absolutely nothing new that governments will disagree with each other ó so be it. At the end of the day, the fact remains that there has to be a replacement of the school in Carmacks, and this government, being the fiscal, responsible government it is, will look at doing that job within the budget.
I think itís important to note here that this whole process was started by the NDP government and it was followed by the Liberals. They started this process of adding colleges to public schools. I must say that was the smartest thing they ever did, Mr. Speaker, because it is a fiscally responsible decision.
Question re: Ambulances
†Mr. McRobb: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The minister purchased two box-type ambulances recently and he forced the personnel within emergency medical services to accept them. The minister says that the ambulances are state of the art; however, these behemoth box ambulances are too big, too clumsy and are injuring the attendants who use them. As a matter of fact, there have been two more injuries since last weekís question on this matter.
Now we have learned the Province of British Columbia has dumped these types of ambulances. In fact, B.C. used to have 37 of them. Now it only has seven, and they are planning to reduce that number to five next year.
Will the minister tell this House what kind of market research was done on the purchase of these vehicles and which professionals he consulted before engaging in a sole-sourced solo soiree?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, it was the department that purchased the ambulances. The minister facilitated it by ensuring that money was in the budget for the appropriation. Due process was adhered to and followed. The type I ambulance is a standard North American ambulance configuration; four-wheel drive type I is peculiar and itís used in a lot of the remote areas of North America and to a great extent in British Columbia in the forestry industry, in the mining industry and a lot of other remote sectors.
In case the member has an opportunity to travel outside of Whitehorse, let the record reflect that a four-wheel drive vehicle is very much a necessity in many, many areas of the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: That doesnít explain why the province to our south is unloading these very same types of ambulances.
Last week the Yukon Employees Union passed a resolution asking for an inquiry by the Auditor General into this ministerís abuse of contract regulations for purchasing these very ambulances. Ministers are expected to uphold the regulations and to conduct public business with honour. The ministerís actions have created confusion and hardship for the employees. He has put his public servants in a very awkward position. Will he now clarify his actions with respect to the purchase of these ambulances so the people of the Yukon can judge whether he has acted in their best interest?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The question should have been: what did our government do for emergency medical services here in the Yukon compared to what the previous administrations have done?
We put a quarter of a million dollars into the acquisition of new equipment. Further to that, we put another $200,000 into clothing; further to that, we put a whole series of dollars into training as well as to increasing honorariums for volunteers. Thatís what our government has done. We have done our utmost to enhance and improve the exercises for emergency medical services to provide the highest consistent level of service possible to Yukoners, and we are doing our utmost to ensure they have the tools at their disposal to accomplish that end.
Question re: Dawson City interim chief administrative officer
Mr. Cardiff: My question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last April, the trustee in Dawson hired a chief administrative officer at $600 a day, four days a week for 50 weeks, plus expenses. That money is paid out of the City of Dawsonís coffers.
The other day in the Legislature, the minister stated that Dawsonís finances are dire and require intervention. The trustee recently declared that when a new mayor and council are elected, the salaries are going to be drastically reduced.
In light of this, does the minister feel that itís necessary for the city to pay well over $120,000 a year for a chief administrative officer?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned, the finances of Dawson City are in dire straits. And do I think itís worthwhile? I think itís imperative they get appropriate financial assistance, both from the CAO and the trustee, to get their finances in order.
Mr. Cardiff: For $120,000 a year, $600 a day, four days a week, 50 weeks of long weekends ó it has been six months since the hiring of the CAO, and there still isnít a formal job description. The petition that I tabled on May 18 on behalf of the residents of Dawson asked the minister to allow for ďa full and unbiased disclosure of all the events and circumstances that led up to the cityís current financial situation and the removal of the mayor and council.Ē
The minister responded to that petition last Wednesday, but he didnít address this request in his reply to the petition. Could the minister please respond to that request now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we, the trustee, is responsible for running the current affairs of the City of Dawson, and he is utilizing the services of a qualified CAO to assist him in that manner. They are currently going through their financial books along with the forensic auditor, who is currently still in Dawson going through the records, and we intend to follow through with that process. We think itís very important that all our financial stuff gets looked at and reviewed to ensure that we know exactly where Dawson City stands financially.
Mr. Cardiff: Let the record show that the minister didnít answer the question. I was talking about an independent inquiry. We were looking for a full disclosure ó an unbiased disclosure ó of the events and the circumstances. Unfortunately, a forensic audit is only going to deal with the money trail. Itís not going to deal with the circumstances that led up to this action.
This seems to be another prime example of ďthe Yukon Party knows bestĒ, Mr. Speaker, and it comes along with the usual lack of real public consultation and involvement in this process.
The petition asked him for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the situation in Dawson, to investigate the events and the circumstances that led to this situation.
So, will the minister now commit to establishing an independent commission of inquiry so that the citizens of Dawson can find out exactly what led up to the decision to remove the previous mayor and council?
Hon. Mr. Hart: To answer the member oppositeís own question, that is exactly what we are doing. The member opposite asked. We are digging into the financial situation aspect, dealing with why the City of Dawson got in the predicament theyíre in. We need to have a forensic audit to determine where they stand financially. Thatís the first step to identify whatís happening, where it came from, where the financial aspects came from, why the result is the place we find ourselves in with the City of Dawson with regard to the financial statement. Letís not forget the fact that the City of Dawson took time to get into the position that theyíre in. This didnít happen overnight, didnít happen while this government was in place. This all took place prior to us taking over in the government.
Dawson Cityís situation is there, and Iím not going to try to hide behind anything in this process. We are doing what we think is necessary. We have hired a forensic auditor, and we are going to get in there and weíre going to get to the bottom of this situation once and for all.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 12: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 12, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 12, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 12, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, in the fiscal year of the largest budget in the history of the Yukon, the Supplementary Estimates No. 1 for 2004-05 requests a gross budgetary expenditure of $34,311,000. Of this total, $30,037,000 is for operation and maintenance and $4,274,000 is for capital.
The most significant increase, totalling almost $10.5 million, is required to fund fire suppression costs, which were approved earlier this year by special warrant, plus an additional $4 million for fire suppression, which is a revote carried forward from last year. This $10.5 million points out a serious deficiency in the devolution transfer agreement that I raised with the new Minister of DIAND, the Hon. Andy Scott, on his recent visit to Whitehorse. We indicated to the minister that it is our intention to invoke the five-year review of fire suppression costs pursuant to section 5.5 of the devolution transfer agreement, in order to address the inadequacies of the current formula. $19 million of the $34.3 million are revote items. $5.6 million are O&M and $13.4 million are capital.
The new expenditures outlined in this supplementary further advance our economic, health and social agendas outlined in our 2002 election platform. I would like to highlight some of these expenditures for the edification of the House. We are investing $1.85 million in capital pre-planning initiatives in Highways and Public Works, to include $100,000 on engineering work on 15 kilometres of the Campbell Highway; $50,000 on planning granular surface improvements for the Dempster Highway; $150,000 for 40 kilometres of design work on the Atlin Road to update the design plan from the Tagish Road intersection to the B.C.-Yukon border. Again, this is an example of our commitment to Yukoners to increase our investment in infrastructure, specifically our highways. After consultations with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the City of Whitehorse, Community Services is pleased to announce $150,000 for the extension of Hamilton Boulevard to provide a secondary access route, both for public safety reasons and to promote the development of this important area for the City of Whitehorse.
Our government is also contributing $440,000 to White Pass & Yukon Route to upgrade its rail line into Carcross in exchange for acquiring the ownership of the Red Line passenger train ó in short, advancing and enhancing our tourism industry by bringing a significant amount of traffic from Skagway, Alaska as far as the community of Carcross.
There are other highlights, and they include: $150,000 in new funding for violence against women added to the previously designated aboriginal womenís violence prevention initiatives, an area that this government took the lead on in listening to aboriginal women of this territory; $300,000 additional funding for home care services and initiatives to meet increased demand for these services and program enhancement in areas such as palliative care services, training for community home support workers and in matching clientsí needs to services ó another example of the government and the minister responsible listening to Yukoners and providing investment in areas of demonstrated need.
$350,000 is being invested in a scenic drives initiative marketing campaign to highlight the Alaska Highway, the scenic drive, in order to attract additional highway travellers and to increase their length of stay. We have a bright light and the strategic industry in this territory, and that is tourism. The minister responsible for the Department of Tourism and Culture has significantly promoted this initiative to enhance our ability to attract travellers to the Yukon. This investment is all about listening to the tourism industry and delivering.
There will be a $500,000 increase and a $44,000 revote in community training funds to bring the total to $2 million, with $1.5 million already spent. $500,000 of that investment is to trades and technology, an area of focus for this government because we listen to Yukoners; $300,000 is to literacy and basic employment skills development, again an investment that has spawned from listening to Yukoners, and this government is delivering; $200,000 is to heritage and cultural development. Our government is also providing $600,000 in an extraordinary grant to Dawson City in order to make provision for cash flow relief for the town in order to address current and short-term liabilities, such as the interim repair of the recreational centreís roof so it can be used this winter. Thatís an example of listening to the residents of Dawson so they have a usable facility this winter. This supplementary budget has that investment in it.
Our government, together with First Nation governments and the Council of Yukon First Nations are engaged in some major consultation initiatives dealing with the Childrenís Act review, educational reform and correctional reform. That is all about our commitment to formalizing our relationship with First Nations, and these major initiatives are clear examples, clear testimony to listening to First Nations and delivering on what we heard. $460,000 is being provided in this supplementary to initiate the education reform process; a major undertaking. Unlike past governments who tried a limited successful approach to amending the Education Act, we are looking at reforming the education system itself to better reflect the culture and needs of First Nation people.
In keeping with our 2002 election commitment, $200,000 in additional funds is being made available for the Yukon grant due to increased enrolment and indexing. Unlike what the member opposite keeps saying to the Yukon public, this is, again, another example of a commitment made and a commitment delivered upon. Itís in this supplementary budget.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources will be receiving a $1.288-million increase in the agreement with Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for the care and maintenance and closure planning of abandoned mines.
The development of a new Yukon placer authorization regime remains a top priority and $100,000 is being provided in this supplementary to carry on this important work. A further $350,000 is being provided for the management and project permitting of major potential mining developments such as Carmacks, Copper and the Wolverine properties.† These are two examples of how we have listened to industry ó a strategic industry in this case, the mining industry ó and we have delivered again. Once again we have delivered on their request. That is listening.
This appropriation also provides Energy, Mines and Resources with $298,000 for forestry, $168,000 for inventory and $130,000 for forestry renewal. These were revotes from 2003-04.
The Department of Environment is about to begin a major environmental initiative to clean up the Marwell tar pits. Now, Mr. Speaker, how long have the citizens of Whitehorse, and indeed Yukoners, been putting forward this very request when it comes to the Marwell tar pits? This government listened. This government is acting.
It is also planning to spend $45,000 on the very successful Chisana caribou herd recovery project, another wise investment on behalf of this territoryís future.
The Department of Health and Social Services is requesting $996,000 in funding for an increase in the number of children in care as well as increases in rates resulting from special needs. Mr. Speaker, this government listened to those in need. This government is investing where we can to assist those in need.
There has been a seven-percent increase in social assistance, a four-percent increase in the number of cases and a three-percent average increase in the cost per case over the same period last year, totalling $1.2 million in additional costs.
Mr. Speaker, we have heard the members opposite berate the Minister of Health and Social Services on his commitment to those who require the social safety net. Well, hereís the evidence of what that ministerís commitment is all about ó a $1.2 million increased investment to again ensure that our social safety net is sufficient.
The start-up costs for seven new beds in Macaulay Lodge and 12 new beds at Copper Ridge total another $340,000-increase investment.
The cost of providing proper health care in Yukon continues to rise, and $1.526 million is being requested for insured services and a further $1.65 million for hospital claims. We are, as a government, listening to our health care system and those in it, and we are increasing our investment there.
$100,000 is being provided to cover the operating costs of the tele-health program that is no longer funded by the Canada health infrastructure partnerships program. Hereís an area of reform in our health care system. This government listened. This government invested.
Ambulance services will be receiving $195,000 to cover overtime and auxiliary personnel required to meet increased demand and costs of backfill for staff on extended leave, as well as a further $82,000 for honorariums, clothing, repairs to vehicles and insurance, et cetera ó another example of listening, another example of delivery.
Our governmentís collaborative approach with Yukon First Nation governments and correctional reform will ultimately determine what facility or facilities will replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Our government is not neglecting its obligations to inmates and staff.
In this regard, Mr. Speaker, $83,000 is being requested in this supplementary to start a three-year training plan to ensure the basic safety and security for staff as well as for inmate services. $520,000 is required to address the safety issues at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre identified in the fire marshalís report.
The Yukon Housing Corporation has reached an agreement with the White River First Nation to provide project management and services for the building of four housing units in Beaver Creek. We have listened, and in this case there is a need for housing in outlying communities, especially, and we have acted in that regard. Yukon Housing Corporation will expend a total of $155,000, of which $57,000 will be covered under the existing home repair program to implement its affordable housing program.
Our government has also announced its intention to help seniors offset increasing fuel costs by adding $75,000 to the base grant of $750,000 already in place for the pioneer utility grant, bringing it to a total of $825,000. The grant was increased last year by 25 percent and indexed against inflation. This latest $75,000 increase will come into effect in the new 2005-06 budget cycle. Mr. Speaker, hereís an example of us listening to the opposition ó a government that listens, a government that acts upon what we have heard.
These increased expenditures and revotes will increase this governmentís total expenditures for 2004-05, this $740.4 million. All these expenditures ó the total amount ó is an investment in Yukon today and in Yukonís future. I think the statistics bear out that our investments are going in the right direction.
Our net financial resources at year-end, even with this sizable investment for 2004-05, will total $34 million, which is double the projected net financial resources contained in the main estimates. Again, an example of our financial administration in strengthening the fiscal situation this territory experienced in the last two years, as left by the former Liberal government. That strengthening of our fiscal position has allowed us to do many more things in terms of delivering what we committed to.
Our first task upon coming into government in November was to put that very fiscal house in order, and we have done that to date. The 2003-04 main estimates laid the foundation for the financial future of the territory, and now our 2004-05 budget has built upon that foundation and is helping to determine the future economic course of the territory for the duration of our current mandate. I indicated last March that the 2004-05 budget would be the most important of the four budgets our government will develop during our current mandate. It was designed to be our financial flagship that, together with our economic strategy, is helping to build a sustainable and competitive Yukon. That budget and that strategy are working.
In August, we achieved an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, the lowest recorded unemployment rate since the statistics have been collected in 1992.
This historic low unemployment rate was achieved while the Yukonís population was increasing. As of June, 493 more people are calling Yukon their home. Our employment numbers for this September compared to last September are very good news indeed. The labour force increased by 500, or 3.4 percent. The number of employed Yukoners increased by 1,100, or 8.5 percent. The number of unemployed Yukoners decreased by 600, or 40 percent. The unemployment rate decreased by 4.3 percentage points to a mere six percent, one of the lowest in the country.
In the month of September 2004, the Yukon rate of unemployment of six percent was 1.1 percentage points lower than the rate for Canada nationally, at 7.1 percent. In September 2003, Yukonís unemployment rate was 3.1 percentage points higher than the rate of Canada. Thatís the type of turnaround weíre experiencing through the investments of this Yukon Party government.
Mining exploration has more than tripled since our government took office, rising from $6.9 million in 2002 to an estimated $25 million this year. Despite our record forest fire season, tourism visitor numbers increased by 3.6 percent over last year. We are drilling in the southeast Yukon for the first time in almost three decades. Devon of Canada is spending $20 million on drilling on its existing leases in the Kotaneelee.
Under the leadership of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, timber permits have been issued in the southeast Yukon for the first time in three years.
Mr. Speaker, in our 2002 election platform we promised to put the Yukon economy back on track. The statistics I have just quoted clearly show we have kept that promise. Unlike the members who continually point out, in a very incorrect manner, that this government has not lived up to its commitments, in the face of all the evidence I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite should get on board and start working with us to build a better and brighter future instead of trying to dismantle the past.
The Yukon economy is on a roll. Our policies, actions and budgets ó particularly the 2004-05 main estimates ó have helped kick-start the Yukon economy.
Our decision to halt the Yukon protected areas strategy helped restore investor confidence in the territory, in our critically important natural resource sector. Our efforts to support the placer mining sector develop a new Yukon placer authorization have helped save this historic economic mainstay. The Department Energy, Mines and Resources and the Department of Environment have adopted a collaborative and integrated approach to resource development and environmental protection.† Thatís all part of the commitment we made to the Yukon public, and we are delivering, Mr. Speaker.
The re-establishment of the Department of Economic Development and a stand-alone Department of Tourism and Culture have helped turn this economy around. Unlike the previous Liberal government, we are not dismantling the machinery of government; we are creating the machinery of government in a way we can build a brighter future for this territory. The statistics point that out.
The Kaska bilateral agreement has opened up natural resource development in southeast Yukon for the benefit of all Yukoners. Our building of relationships with First Nation governments, with our two sister territories, with Alaska, Alberta and British Columbia have helped to rebuild the Yukon economy and put the Yukon firmly on the national stage.
A fundamental commitment we made in the election of 2002 was to formalize our relationship with the Yukon First Nations and to make them full partners in the economic development of the territory. In that regard, I would like to explain to this House why this commitment is so important. The settlement of land claims has forever changed the jurisdictional map of the Yukon. Once all 14 Yukon First Nations have achieved a settlement of their land claims, there will be 15 provincial type governments in the territory ó namely, the Government of Yukon and 14 self-governing First Nation governments. It is critically important for the Yukon government and all Yukon First Nation governments to work in collaboration. This is why our government has signed a memorandum of understanding with self-governing First Nations to create a Yukon forum where issues of mutual interests, and/or concern can be dealt with in a formalized way as governments.
It is our intention to ultimately establish the Yukon forum in legislation. In addition, to the memorandum of understanding on the Yukon forum, our government has a growing list of agreements, protocols, accords and initiatives between the Government of Yukon and First Nation governments: an intergovernmental relations accord with the Vuntut Gwitchin government; a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation; the Kaska bilateral agreement mentioned earlier; a protocol on consultation with self-governing First Nations ó one of the reasons we took a year in discussing and consulting in the community of Carmacks around building a learning institution for that community; the Kaska Nation and Yukon forestry agreement in principle; an agreement with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations on the Alsek strategy forestry management plan emphasizing economic opportunities, forest health and forest renewal, including beetle-kill areas; and the northern Yukon economic partnership agreement with the Vuntut Gwitchin, TríondŽk HwŽchíin and the Na Cho Nyšk Dun.
Our government has also helped foster First Nation participation in economic development in the territory. We helped facilitate the partnership between Kaska mineral resources and Teck Cominco over R15 in the southeast Yukon that could lead to the development of a major mine. We have also helped facilitate the creation of the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, comprised of seven First Nations from Yukon and B.C. along the route, with the three remaining First Nations having observer status.
Our collaboration with First Nations has played a major role in rejuvenating the Yukon economy and improving our relationship with First Nations in the Yukon. First Nations currently contribute millions of dollars to the Yukon economy. Yukon is their home and Yukon First Nations spend their money here, thus reducing leakage to the Outside.
Mr. Speaker, this supplementary budget will help continue the considerable progress our government has achieved in meeting its commitments to Yukoners as we reach the mid-point in our mandate. I commend this supplementary to all members of the House. It is investing in todayís Yukon to build Yukonís future.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, that was once again another lecture on how great the Yukonís doing under the Yukon Party government in the eyes of the Yukon Party Premier. However, thatís not exactly the view that many, many Yukoners have of whatís happening. Iíll go over some of those, but it was quite interesting to listen to the Premier. It sounded like the same speech he gave, except a little shorter, in the springtime. So obviously not much has really happened.
Now, we do know that this is primarily supposed to be a legislative sitting, and the government wasnít capable of delivering any legislation of any significance to date, so obviously theyíre trying to spin once again the best picture possible. What it really does is raise a question of what the government did all summer, and Iím not quite sure, frankly. I do know what some of them did, and thatís fine, but it sure the heck wasnít necessarily the work that is expected of them when they are in government.
Now, what is one of the issues that we often hear out in public that is often not reflected by the Yukon Party government in here? A lot of it comes right down to ó itís not the fact that thereís another government in place. There have been NDP governments in the Yukon for 16 or 17 years, I believe, somewhere around there. There have been a few Yukon Party governments, and people do remember them. Of course, there has been one short period when there was a Liberal government in. And each of them brings forward budgets, and each of them tells how great the Yukon is doing and how much the work that theyíre doing is having a great impact upon the improvement of quality of life and the future for the Yukon.
Itís interesting that you could probably take a lot of these speeches that are given and theyíre pretty consistent with those of other governments and other premiers, because, of course, thereís no way in the world the Premier is going to get up and say, ďYou know, we have some serious problems here. Weíre struggling to address them.Ē No, theyíre going to put on the bright light, the bright spin. Weíll get into the statistical analysis in a bit, but one thing people of the Yukon do look for, Mr. Speaker, of course, is a government they can trust. Itís not just where youíre spending your money, but itís how you spend the money. Itís what you do in government. Itís how you conduct yourself in the kinds of relationships you have with other levels of government, be it First Nations, municipal, federal government, but also the people.
Unfortunately this is a government that has lost the trust of the Yukon people. They have not lost the trust on spending, because as weíre told on a continuous basis, this is a government that spends more than any other government in history. This is a conservative government that spends absolutely to the max everywhere they can, often actually to some very interesting areas such as the consultants they hire, and they have hired, which add up to quite a substantial amount which we will one day bring forward. We often find that the consultants have a long history with their party. Is that a good usage of money? Well, thatís another thing that we will debate, Iím sure, over the next year or so that they have left in government. The people of this territory are not comfortable with the conduct of this government.
Of course it is reflected by the budgets that are brought forward and the supplementary budget weíre talking about today. It also reflects how thatís arrived at and how people are treated. In the public today, there is definitely a feeling that this government does not respect or listen to the communities, NGOs, organizations or individuals. I get that message delivered to me daily, and I donít say that lightly, because it is daily, whether Iím at home ó in the evening I get phone calls from around the Yukon ó whether itís out shopping, at activities. This is what people talk about. They donít talk about how great the economy is and how great everything is. They talk about the fact that they cannot trust these people on the other side. Thatís a serious allegation the people of the territory make, but you have to listen to it.
As a matter of fact, I would recommend that this government listen to this as well ó listen to what I say here. Iím not making it up, and Iím not saying it to try to injure or hurt anybody. I am just reflecting what I hear. Itís a common theme that we have.
Frankly, Iíve seen a lot of governments in the territory. We have a tendency in the Yukon to try one; three and a half years later, four years later or two and a half years later, theyíre gone. People in this territory do not tolerate incompetence; they do not tolerate arrogance; they do not tolerate behaviour that they feel is untrustworthy, all those things ó whichever government it is. Thatís what they hang their hat on. Itís not the government that brings in or spends the most money ó which this government seems to like to talk about. I get concerned when itís a race to spend a billion dollars over there, it seems like.
They keep cranking it up and cranking it up and bragging about it and cranking it up. You have to really wonder ó what is that to brag about? But the people out there understand that. They donít think this is overly impressive, that they spent a record amount of money. What people talk about in public is: is this a government that listens, is this a government that consults, are these elected members whom they can trust, and will they reflect the values and will of the people of the territory? What is coming back after two years is, no, they do not believe, they do not trust and they do not think that this government is going in a direction that is reflective of the wishes of the people of the territory. And, of course, you know what the outcome of that will be? Because we have it all the time ó weíve seen it time and time again: the government goes and a new government comes in and inherits some good programs and also some major problems. Thatís a given almost with any government because, of course, there are always some very good things done but there are also some that are questionable. That could be lack of experience or be pure stubbornness that you think you should have something like that in place and it doesnít necessarily work out within the context of serving the people.
There is a lot of information out about good government. There are a lot of books written about how you should conduct yourself, but frankly, from what I can see, there are a couple of elements that are repeated over and over. Of course one is common sense on how you conduct yourself and treat people, and sincere consultation ó allowing people to have a voice ó is very important. Try in your conduct and in your policies to reflect that. If it does gibe with your party mantra or party vision, then you have to be able to explain that. You have to be able to argue that position clearly so that the people understand where youíre coming from. That, I feel, has not happened yet. We still feel that there is no vision coming forward from this government after two years. We hear the same lines in every session that opens. I can take those lines and go back to 1992, to 1996, and they will be the exact same lines as we heard then. Itís the same writer who writes them. He has carried forward the same concepts and theyíre just transferred to a new group of people.
But they didnít work then and theyíre not going to work now, because behind the words there has to be something of substance. The Premier has listed off a fair number of some of the areas within the supplementary line item expending, and some of them are very good. I think some of where theyíre spending money is very good, of course. The $150,000 for violence against women who are First Nation ó absolutely. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I mean, I think everybody in here feels, if anything, thatís not enough. But at least itís a good step, and I applaud the minister and I applaud the Premier for doing that. The $350,000 for home care ó well, thatís so short of what is needed, but still it is recognition that that is an area ó and there are other areas. I am not going to respond to every single item that the Premier listed, but I did want to definitely mention those two, as well as the community training funds ó an NDP initiative years ago. Obviously it has continued ó obviously the Yukon Party sees some value in that and has committed some more money toward that, and I applaud them. Those are excellent.
When you are going to spend $750 million ó four years ago I think it was $600 million, and now weíre up to $745 million. Thatís a $145-million jump. I hope that there are some new initiatives from when the NDP was in last time because there is a substantial increase in funding that is available to spend. But what concerns me is that a lot of the spending is not very wise, and hiring people for a substantial amount of money without really good checks and balances does concern me. And there is a very big list of people who have been hired on contracts.
Today we had in Question Period the question about a person who was sent up ó I believe heís called a trustee. Iím not sure if that is his exact title.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: CAO? The CAO of Dawson was put in place to help with their financial issues. We find out his contract is $600 a day for 50 some weeks, basically a year, four days a week. That works out to, roughly, $120,000. I think that the whole council and mayor didnít even come to that amount ó not even near it. But that is just one person who was sent up there, and heís still up there. My understanding is that he doesnít even have a job description. Generally you have a job description before you hire somebody. You kind of know what youíre hiring them for and there are some parameters setting out what they are going to go. If I hire a journeyman carpenter, I expect a certain degree of knowledge coming, and I expect the performance and the work to reflect the knowledge that they should have that I am paying for. If I hire a first-year apprentice, I donít expect the same as a journeyman and that person I would pay accordingly, and I would make sure they are assigned work that they can do as well as learn from.
As well, there was another contract, of course. There is the other person up there. I think his contract is for $800 a day. So now weíve got $1,400 a day for two people. His contract is supposedly shorter. One of the questions weíll have to ask, of course ó and my colleague from Mount Lorne who has been inquiring about Dawson City affairs will be pursuing this. But youíre looking at $1,400 a day right now, and definitely one of them is coming out of the coffers of Dawson City, so it is increasing its debt. But before that, there was also the hiring of another consultant, and Iím not sure what his amount was, but I would suspect it was anywhere from $600 to $800 a day as well.
There are a lot of high-priced consultants being hired, and I talked last week about the hiring of an old party member and former MLA to take a look at the electoral process being done, in British Columbia predominantly, for a very substantial contract. You really wonder what the motivation was behind that and why this amount and if it was just to delay an election promise, because this is not what was promised two years ago, Mr. Speaker. Itís very clear. Two years ago, around the electoral process, immediately upon forming government, and these are the Premierís words ó I could be corrected, Iím quite happy to be corrected if Iím a little bit off. But immediately upon forming government, the Yukon Party, the new government, was going to strike a committee to look at electoral reform. Guess what? Two years later we donít have that. Instead they hire a friend to go and watch proceedings in another province.
I was quite curious about this. I went on the Internet and looked at what he was watching and found out that not only his interim report ó 90 percent of the stuff ó came off the Internet within 40 seconds but I could actually go to their Web site, and then ó by the way, Mr. Speaker, itís actually an amazing Web site. Theyíve put a ton of work into it to make it available and accessible for all people anywhere in the world, and I applaud the Citizensí Assembly and the government down there for making it this open. But I can go on there and hit a point on it where I get the whole video feed as well. So I could feel like Iím sitting in the room listening, watching the man or woman speak, and the proceedings happening, and I donít have to leave my room. I donít have to fly to Vancouver. I donít have to stay in a nice hotel. I donít have to run up another expensive bill for the territorial people to do that. I can do it in front of a computer and get all the information that we got in the interim report.
Granted, the person hired has to give a final report, and I look forward to it. I have talked to him about it since. He assured me I will be pleased with it, and I hope that happens; I really do, because I would hope, if itís a very good report, we can very quickly move forward on it.
Of course we brought forward changes. We brought forward a democratic reform bill, and part of that is electoral reform and striking a committee. I believe that can happen now. That committee can be struck. The consultant can be a reference in this and can finish his report, and we would move forward a lot faster. Iím hoping; Iím looking forward to having that debate in here, because I think people of this territory want to see that kind of debate, and they donít understand why thereís a delay. Frankly, the delay weíre witnessing is not uncommon for this government when it doesnít want to address one of their promises or a difficult issue.
There are so many other issues facing the territory today. The Premier has touched on some of them, but that doesnít mean theyíre necessarily getting resolved. We have issues around special warrants, for instance, and a big part of this is special warrants.
So we have the Premier on record, formerly on this side in opposition, criticizing the previous government for special warrants and being very vocal about it, feeling that the way theyíre used is very inappropriate. Since the Premier was elected, his use of special warrants has exceeded every other government to date.
You wonder why. Is it bad timing? Is it not being able to do your finances right, to get your books balanced? Is it not understanding spending habits? If thereís an emergency ó absolutely; thatís what special warrants are for.
Thatís what theyíre called: special warrants for special circumstances when you need to spend money. But we have seen special warrants used by this government to date in a manner that is not in an emergency, but itís more expedient for them to use a special warrant.
Now, is that to say that all special warrants are wrong? No. The fire issue, the fire suppression, amounts ó I think the Premier mentioned $10.5 million, I think it was, of special warrant in that regard ó that probably applies and is probably legitimate. That was a special circumstance, but not the other special warrants that we have witnessed in this House by this Premier, especially considering his very vehement and strong arguments against it.
So, of course, that questions the credibility of the government. When youíre not in government you make a statement, a very strong statement, about something: itís wrong for the government to do this, blah, blah, blah. As soon as youíre in government, you do it. Now thatís two things. One is youíre on this side saying these things just to discredit the government on that side, but you have no intention of following through, and itís intentional that you donít. Or else you really donít understand the situation and you get over there and realize that, well, I have to do it. Of course, then youíre looking back again. I havenít seen anybody admit to this yet. Maybe thatís one of the problems within our system here: we just donít allow much room for anybody to say, ďYou know, I was wrong or I made a mistake.Ē It just seems like everything is at times always on this balance of scoring points or getting your sound bite out or discrediting somebody. You know, itís difficult to do that all the time, on either side, and I would hope that the bill we brought forward ó the democratic reform bill or act ó will be seriously debated and we can move with that into trying to create a different environment where we can work together more. Not always together: we always have to have debate. We have to have constructive, challenging, exciting debate ó or argument, or whatever people want to call it.
But we also have to recognize that ultimately weíre all elected to represent the people of the territory, we have a responsibility there. But we will have to wait and see. We the NDP have brought this bill forward to help create good government. Itís not just the regular, as-it-goes government that people seem to get so frustrated with. And there have been a lot of complaints. All we have to do is look at the last elections. The NDP was in in 1992, and then it was Yukon Party. Following the Yukon Party, in the next election, it was the NDP again. After the NDP, right away into the next one, it was the Liberals. Now the Liberals are gone and weíre back to the Yukon Party. Everybody says the next one has to be the NDP again, in that cycle. Well, I donít mind that argument. However, I think governments last longer when people vote for a person or a government instead of voting against. Right now I think weíre in the voting-against stage and may be in it for a long time to come. But why do people vote against? Because they get frustrated with the government thatís in. The changes that they want to see or expect to see, the positions the government takes during an election, the promises that are made often do not materialize in that period and they get very frustrated. But one of the biggest problems, without a doubt, of course, is listening and consultation ó and I mean serious, meaningful consultation and not just going through the motions and, of course, knowing full well that youíll consult with somebody but youíve already made up your mind, really, about what is going to happen. And I think what has happened in Carmacks is exactly that. That is why there is so much anger being exhibited up in that area.
If you donít come to the table, with whatever group or other level of government, with the idea that you have an open mind, that youíre going to sit down with them and youíre going to come up with a solution to the problem, whether itís building a new school, building a bridge, coming up with money to do some health services in a community or work with NGOs. There are many, many areas, many, many reasons. Even when you think you already know what is needed, if you donít come to the table with that open mind and that willingness to hear very clearly what people are saying and be willing to be influenced by their opinions and their arguments ó as long as they are justified on solid grounds ó you are always going to have this problem.
Whatís happening in Carmacks? From what I can see, there was an advisory committee, and the advisory committee was quite clear. They didnít want the College attached to the school, for whatever reasons. The First Nation that makes up the predominant people there did not want the College attached to the school, for whatever reasons. The Premier earlier said it was financial. I wouldnít go so far. I think they have some very legitimate arguments. Of course one of them is that they already have a college there. It is running well. Itís already in a building, and it is functioning. Everybody seems to be quite content. I havenít heard a single complaint about the location or the running of the College out there. That in itself is an argument for keeping it exactly the way it is. Itís not always you have good programs happening in a location that people are quite content with.
Why change it if itís not broken? Why fix it?
The minister went up there and changed the rules. He basically said, ďA yearís consultation, the yearís work, what you have identified you want and need is not going to happen; Iíve decided this is going to happen.Ē That right there is going to cause serious problems. It questions the yearís work. It questions the sincerity of the government to allow people to volunteer time out of their life to try to come up with what they feel the community needs. It doesnít place value on the work theyíve already done.
Why did they even have to go through this whole year-long process if the government had already decided what it wanted? Why couldnít the government just come right out, right up front, and say that this is the school, this is where itís going to go, this is the College attached to it, and now we can have our debate? Why allow these people and the First Nation of Carmacks to go through that whole process, and then just say, ďNo, we donít like what you people have come up with and weíre going to change itĒ?
Thatís what happened, and of course it makes people angry. Theyíre not being listened to. Thatís the first thing. Why did you do this to us? Why did you put us through this? Of course theyíre fighting back, and they have a right to do that. They have a right to have a voice and they have a right to express their absolute frustration about that.
But what has happened from that? It has now spilled over. It has gone broader. Itís not so much just about the school now; itís about the government and the way they consult, as they put it ó ďconsultĒ. Iíd argue that they donít know how to consult and this is one indication of that, but it has gone broader. People are questioning whether they should sit down and negotiate any deal.
The Premier mentioned MOUs, the ones that are being signed with the First Nations across the territory. My understanding is that not all First Nations have signed them; however, a lot of them have been signed. I have already heard that theyíre looking at those MOUs and they are wondering if the words written on that paper are worth anything if this is what can happen.
The Education Act review. We heard this morning that that is part of this whole argument now. Carmacks school. The Education Act review. Do we trust this government to sit down and go through a review process to spend a lot of our time and resources to try to do our work and review the Education Act when we donít feel that theyíre going to listen to us in the end? Look what they did up in Carmacks. Why should we do this? Why should we trust the minister? Why should we trust the Premier, or any of the people in government? So the Carmacks school problem, yes ó but now the problem has gotten this big. What is the problem? Lack of consultation, lack of respect for peopleís opinions and views and what they have come up with if you empower them to do it, and trust.
The Fish and Wildlife Management Board ó changes to that. Why did the government make changes? There was a recommendation regarding somebody who was on that board. There was tremendous respect for that person. They had done a lot of work, obviously contributed a lot, and that person was up to speed on the issues. There were many recommendations for that person to stay on that. He was removed by the Yukon Party government. Two people were put on who have openly said that theyíre Yukon Party members. That created distrust within that board. It created distrust toward the government. Why did they do that? Why canít a person just be judged ó put aside the party stuff ó on the work theyíve done. Why canít the knowledge they have and what they can contribute to the territory be considered? It didnít happen.
Lots of hirings ó questionable, whether theyíre contracts or not. We have problems, Mr. Speaker, over in ó well, what I consider a problem ó the Yukon Development Corporation where there was a contract given out to a person. That contract became a job: full time, deputy minister level. Not only that, there are people who no longer work there. Whether theyíre away on a yearís leave for stress or whatever, I would like to know what happened there. Not only that, this person is now wearing a multitude of hats that should probably not be happening because it puts that person in a difficult position ó personally, from my viewpoint ó but it also puts the government in a difficult position for the criticism that theyíll face for the minister allowing this to happen. And it puts the board that has allowed it to happen in a difficult situation.
We try to avoid one person wearing a lot of hats who is in control of, say, a department or an entity ó in this case, we call them an entity ó because of the conflict and the difficulty that that person could end up in. And decisions made that may be not good decisions ó thereís another problem there.
We have hirings in the past ó a $200,000 contract for our First Nation liaison person, I believe, to help with the Kaska ó my understanding was from mostly in southeast Yukon. That person has moved on. I believe heís not even working in the territory any more. But truthfully, whatís the product? What was done, what was the job description? $200,000 is a lot of money, Mr. Speaker.
And we still really donít know what kind of value for dollar there was in that and why it happened. It was never really explained that well. There were a lot of other examples, and we have, of course, the failure of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. I could be wrong, but I donít think SCREP has met more than once in two years.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The member opposite says I walked away from it. The Member for Lake Laberge, once again, because itís generally him, said that. But I would like to remind him that I left, and I made it very clear that I would come back when we are discussing and not arguing, but obviously he doesnít remember that. Now, I believe SCREP has a role to play, but it bogged down in the first meeting. It bogged down on the makeup.
Appointments to boards and committees ó every government deals with this. It has been two years now, and this government still hasnít dealt with it, and yet there were all kinds of promises made around it. So why is it stalled? And, yes, there were promises made about the appointments to boards and committees. Is that going to be resolved? Is that going to be dealt with? Well, you know, the people of the territory expect us to deal with this and move forward, and I would like to suggest that if there is some difficulty in coming up with a good model for this one that they look at the Public Accounts Committee. Itís working. I am very, very pleased to work with the people on that committee. Theyíre doing a very good job, and theyíre really focused on what they feel is their mandate and whatís necessary to serve the people of the territory.
I think that, with that attitude, that kind of approach to the other boards and committees that need to be operating, we could have some that are quite successful, but there has to be a strong commitment by the people on these committees. Like I say, I find the Public Accounts Committee is doing a good job and we have good support as well.
What does that mean? It means that we are doing the publicís good. We are fortunate to have the staff of the Auditor General working with us to give us guidance. Ultimately, decisions we make, the work that weíve done to date and the work that we are going to do in the future do serve the public good. I think thatís what we are elected for.†
Going back to the structure that we work under and going back to how people view us, it comes down to trust again. It always comes back to trust. Can you trust this government? Unfortunately people feel that there has been a break in that trust. And there is a lot of unfinished business out there.
There is the unfinished business of the loans. Iím sure everybody in here expected me to talk about the loans at some point because it has been a big issue. It doesnít go away, and if there is probably any one single issue ó and Iíve said this before ó that describes this government, it is the loans. It is one thing that frustrates people across this territory. Itís unfinished.
The Premier assured the House last spring that this fall there would be a solution, a permanent solution to the loans. Well, the fall has come and the fall has gone and we are entering winter now. We are in this legislative sitting and there is no solution. But that was a promise made.
What has happened in the meantime is that one of the ministers has now become the Deputy Premier. There has been a reward to one of the ministers who carries a substantial amount of the loan and sets the example from a leadership position to the rest of the people in this territory about paying loans.
Itís really interesting that just this morning a person came into my office and described their situation. Theyíve had some tough times and theyíre struggling for employment, and that. They were describing getting an overpayment from one of the departments in government and how that is dealt with. It wasnít in reference to the loans weíve talked about. They were describing a situation totally separate. They were saying, ďYes, you know, I was told I was overpaid and my next cheque had this much deducted, and it took four cheques to have that paid back.Ē That was good. I understood. I recognize that and I accept that. Now they were talking about a totally different issue, like I say; it wasnít specifically around the loans. But when they were telling me this, I found it quite interesting to listen to them. A person who has very little money is trying to make ends meet and has fallen on hard times occasionally, quite happily accepting the fact that they had been given more money than as per their agreement, and they were quite willing to pay it back and thought it was done properly.
Now take that and put it in contrast to the situation we have within the Yukon Party government where we have probably over $300,000 owing and has been owed ó now there are two separate loans ó for over 10 years.
If you average them, itís somewhere around $300,000 ó and no recognition that itís owed. It was borrowed. The minister refuses to comment on it, refuses to recognize it and the minister refuses to make a public statement to the rest of the people of this territory that he did receive money from the territorial government, from programs that other people got money from, and was going to deal with it ó no recognition. He absolutely refuses to recognize he owes anything, even though the Finance department will say it, the paperwork is all there and we all know where the money went.
You listen to the radio. The First Nation borrowed money to renovate their building and to make changes to their building in order for Yukon College to have a place set up in Carmacks. They borrowed the money; they are paying it off; I believe they have almost paid it off; they have never missed a payment. Yet the treatment theyíre getting from this government is atrocious. One of the people who sits over there canít even recognize that he owes the taxpayers of the Yukon money. Isnít that a little bit of a conflict? Isnít that a little bit disappointing? Doesnít that break the trust of the people of this territory when thatís happening?
It canít and should not be a moving target on who has to pay and who does not. The government should not have that authority. The Premier should not have the authority to decide whether or not he will collect that money. It should be expected and it is expected throughout this territory.
$300,000 has been spent at least 1,000 times. Iím sure the other MLAs in this room have all heard people comment about it. I wouldnít even doubt if their dear ones have made some comments about it. Iíll tell you, Iíve heard that money ó $300,000 ó being spent at least 1,000 times, especially by a lot of organizations that are struggling. They canít understand it. Theyíre doing a public service; theyíre working hard; theyíre getting paid poorly. They put in a tremendous amount of time in difficult situations, and very little funding comes from the government. $300,000 would do so much to assist them. They are helping people. They are helping the public, and they canít get it. Theyíre told, ďNo. No more money left in this program.Ē But guess what? Obviously thereís enough to let somebody walk away from their debt. Thatís what they have a difficult time understanding.
Iíll give you an example. Iím not saying they only complain about the loan, but itís just fresher on my mind. About three weeks ago I went to see an NGO, and theyíre doing tremendous work. I was really, really surprised and pleased with the tremendous commitment, the work that theyíre doing and the impact that they have on peopleís lives. Their funding dries up at the end of the year, and itís federal funding. This is typical, as many of us know in here, of the federal Liberals. Theyíll start a program; theyíll put some money toward it, and then it dries up. But this is a little bit different. This federal money was, of course, brought through as part of the agreement with the aboriginal healing fund, and they were able to access that funding for a few years. They are doing amazing work. This is CAIRS, the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools, and they are doing absolutely amazing work. I was really, really impressed with what is happening down there and how it is set up and just the number of people who are coming in there, the way they accept the place and the pride that they have with it.
Thatís a serious problem there.† All the money dries up, as far as I can see. Theyíre going to have to close the door, and yet that is affecting a lot of people. And theyíre running programs that far ó in many ways, you step back and think, how can they do this, how can they be teaching skills like knife making, drum making, beadwork, metalwork? All these things are happening in the basement. Up top when I was there ó I just dropped in ó there was music, people were playing guitars and singing. There were people working on beadwork. There was a creative element happening. There was a supportive nature. There was a place to come and get warm. It was a cold day that day, actually. People would come in and they felt really proud of that place. As a matter of fact, I heard a very interesting story that shows you how proud and how big of an impact this group of people has had and this program has had. They were broken into and some of their artwork that they had created ó some beautiful artwork that had been created ó was stolen.
And the next day, of course, they found this out. The people who come to CAIRS were very angry. Within two days they had that stuff back. They knew the streets. They knew where to go. And they went and saw the person. They dealt with it, and that stuff came back. They were very proud, but they did it themselves because they have a tremendous amount of pride in that organization and the work that is being done. And thatís theirs. You donít often see that. I was really impressed, like I say. But the big concern is what happens in January. I think itís in January that it happens. It will be a shame to see that closed down. So, is the territorial government willing to step in to ensure it doesnít? Have they been in discussions with CAIRS? Itís not a secret, what Iím telling you about, because it was in the papers. I was hoping that when they were doing up the supplementary budget, they would have gone and seen them. It wasnít there as far as I can see, but it could have been done. The issue of their funding was brought forward in the summer, and I would have liked to have seen it. Thereís no question about it.
Now there have been discussions around land claims. The Premier brought that up.
We have a ratification vote, of course, happening right now within the Whitehorse area. Kwanlin Dun First Nation is going through the ratification process and I think everyone in this room really, really hopes that they are successful. They are doing a tremendous amount of work to make it happen ó there is no question about that. They are running a yes campaign and I think that is the first in the history of ratification votes, that there is an organized campaign to vote yes, not just to vote, but to actually vote yes to support this. I know many people are really working hard to make that happen and Iím hoping for the best on that.
We have, of course, what happened down in Carcross where it was rejected and they are watching Kwanlin Dun and what they are doing, and they are considering going back into presenting it again. But my understanding is that there are no negotiations happening any more down there. The federal government has made their offer, it was brought forward and presented to the people to ratify it and it was rejected and thatís where it is basically stalled. Thatís a serious problem. Itís the first time in history.
So this year weíve had two major events happening around land claim agreements. One was a rejection and another one is a yes campaign vigorously being conducted and, of course, how do you return back to the one down there?
There are still other First Nations that have not come to an agreement yet to take to the people or are not willing to take it to the people. And there are areas where there are no negotiations happening at all at this present time. Southeast Yukon ó there are still stalemates as far as I can understand it down there. I didnít hear the Premier indicate that the federal government has come back to the table, and that is a big concern. I think we would all like to see a settlement there for the benefit of the people. But itís not happening under the Yukon Party watch, as the Premier likes to call it ó ďthe watchĒ.
White River ó again another area that needs a lot of work. There are a lot of issues and concerns in that area. So there are outstanding issues.
Land claims ó is there certainty? Of course there isnít. Thereís no certainty at all and the Yukon Party government hasnít brought any certainty in. No matter how they like to spin it, it hasnít happened. Weíre still facing these kinds of situations. If anything, in some ways theyíre more volatile than they were before. So there has been a failure for the last two years of that happening, and the First Nations have a lot of concerns. As the Premier indicated, there will be 15 reasonably equal territorial governments that have to be considered. Weíre a long way away from the 15 still, as far as I can see.
I havenít necessarily seen the actions that the Premier has taken down in the southeast Yukon area with the Kaska as advancing the settlements. If anything, from what I read in the paper, the Chief of Liard First Nation indicated theyíre quite willing to sign agreements but thereís no reason to be at the table right now, and there could be a lot of reasons. It could be the way the federal government treated them, or whatís put on the table, all that stuff, but they had also indicated theyíre getting what they want without going to the table. Thatís not an incentive, of course.
But we have to wait and see there, and see whatís going to come out of that. But I canít see that the actions to date by the Premier ó if he truly believes the settlement of land claims is a necessity to move forward economically ó have been what I call positive toward that achievement. If anything, theyíve been a negative.
Oil and gas: the Premier mentioned Devon drilling after a few decades. Well, yes, that was going to happen. We knew that. There was an Oil and Gas Act brought in when the NDP was in, and it was well-received and the industry liked it. There havenít been hardly any changes at all to it, as far as I know. Obviously the Yukon Party likes the work that the NDP did in that regard. Devon was planning to do some drilling and theyíve gone ahead and done it. But we also have the Peel River watershed area and the plateau there and what happened there. And there was nothing. I look forward to the minister standing and explaining exactly why no one took him up on it.
Now I think there are some outstanding issues around that. I think the industry stayed away. They want to have more certainty. They want to see some changes made. They want to see some settlement. Definitely the First Nations have some very strong concerns that need to be addressed.
When the Premier talks about working together, well, you canít go out and put out calls for oil and gas exploration unless all the parties that are affected are involved, if you work together. And I know the Na Cho Nyšk Dun had some very strong concerns and have expressed them to the Premier, and I believe he probably expressed them to the minister ó Iíve definitely heard them ó that they need to be part of it.
Mining ó now, these are traditional. What weíre talking about right now, of course, are traditional resource activities in the Yukon. This is old traditional employment. These are activities that people have made their life around in this area. But has there been a mine that has opened yet, after two years? Is there actually an up-and-running mine after two years? I didnít hear the Premier mention that, for some reason. Maybe that was an omission. Maybe there are some mines out there that are up and running that Iím not familiar with, but I donít think so. I think it would be well-received. As a matter of fact, there have been closures.
So, after two years, what has happened? Exploration is up; thatís good. Everybody knows that when exploration goes up, itís almost always connected to mineral prices or oil and gas prices. Anybody who thinks it isnít is misleading people if they say it. So there are a lot of factors, as well as that. There has been a lot of excitement about some of the finds in certain areas of the Yukon. Gem finds definitely stimulated activity in this area. There are deposits in the Yukon that have been known about for a long time that need more exploration. Thereís potential; thereís always potential. But every single government has had potential. Every single government has recognized the potential and worked with the industries.
I do not believe there has been an anti-mining government in the territory in the last 20 years. I do not believe there has been an anti-oil and gas industry government in the last 20 years.
The member opposite, the Member for Lake Laberge, once again falls back on his old favourite of party politics. He canít seem to rise above it. He says the NDP. As I just said, the Oil and Gas Act was brought in by the NDP. This is one that was done with the industry; they liked it; it was well-received. Obviously he seems to have this party viewpoint that was pumped into his head at some point and, like a jack-oí-lantern, he jumps up and barks out every once in awhile.
The NDP has a phenomenal record.
Deputy Speaker: † Order please. Relating the memberís head to a jack-oí-lantern is out of order and inappropriate, and Iíd ask the member to retract that characterization.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy: I will, Mr. Deputy Speaker, though I didnít relate his head to the jack-oí-lantern. I related his whole body, and I do apologize. I do retract that. Itís Halloweíen and that was on my mind, maybe, or my subconscious. However, I do retract that. Sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
But you have to just look at all the programs that have been brought in to help stimulate mining activities. Almost all of them were brought in by the NDP and they were all supported by the industry and we continue to reap the benefits from them. But where are the mines? I donít see them yet. So, once we start to see some, then Iím sure that will generate a fair amount of activity and jobs.
Now, going to jobs, there are interesting arguments around that. You can point very quickly to 100 jobs that were created, or 200 jobs that were created, at two or three stores in town. Great big megastores were built. This is controversial, but some people would say those jobs were created by the NDP because of an agreement they struck to develop the property.
I wouldnít say that, but it did allow that land to be opened up and thereís now a tremendous amount of activity happening there that is employing a lot of people. Now I wouldnít say theyíre great-paying jobs, a lot of them. Theyíre in the lower bracket, but itís employment for people. I always hope that the pay will increase. But there is no question about it ó there is a direct link to activities of a government of the day that helped stimulate that to happen. That made a change.
I just read a 2002 report that indicated that the economy was on an upswing. Jobs were increasing. Mineral prices looked like they were going to get stronger. Oil and gas prices looked like they were probably going to go up. There was more tourism; there was more this; there was more that. That was in 2002. At that time it was a Liberal government. By winter, it was a Yukon Party government. That trend continued. I didnít see a stalling of that. That economic prosperity or activity continued along those lines. Now governments have to be careful what they lay claim to. Things donít turn around overnight. I think it was the Premier who said way back a year ago something about turning around the economy is like trying to turn around a super tanker. I think heís very correct. Thatís a term that has been used by a lot of Finance ministers and governments.
And thatís very legitimate. It has probably got sounds reasoning. It takes a lot of work. But there are a lot of factors that are so far outside of the Yukonís control. If those factors donít coincide, if they donít work with the government, there is not much in some areas that you can do. One of these, of course, is mineral prices and oil and gas prices. That is outside of every government. Thatís the market. When they go up, of course, there is always more activity. When they go down, of course, places shut down and people scale back.
I can think of placer mining friends up in the creeks. Some of them scaled back when the prices in gold dropped, way back. And when prices in gold started rising, they were able to hire this person, hire somebody back. They were able to buy a piece of equipment and they could expand their operations, knowing full well that probably the prices were going to drop again. It could be five years from now, it could be 10 years, but knowing full well that when that happens they will scale back again.† They are being careful about their debt, what they carry. And because of that many have been able to stay in business for many years. They havenít overextended themselves. But they are also very concerned about a lot of other issues too.
And there are always the social issues. There are always the environmental issues. And this is one area, in environmental issues, where this government has completely fallen down. Given the shuffle that they had, putting the Environment portfolio with the loans officer who writes his own loans ticket, to me thatwas basically saying that the environment will have no role to play in this government.
So I have a big concern about that. You cannot remove the environment from the economy. They have to find that balance, and you have to recognize that a pristine environment creates jobs ó a lot of jobs. A pristine environment creates tourism ó lots of tourism. People can go anywhere and see activity of men and women on the landscape, but there are very few places in the world left where you can have wilderness and really feel like you actually are in a pristine environment, a wilderness, where you can take a walk and everything drops off. There are not many places left in the world like that. We are very, very fortunate.
And if we are too careless, we will lose that and wonít get it back. And if we lose that, we will lose an economic engine, one of those contributors that often are very stable. One thing about tourism, itís quite amazing ó Iíve heard tourism and the spending of governments in tourism slagged by lots of people and lots of other industries. They donít understand it. But every government very quickly understands that tourism is pretty stable. It employs a lot of people, and identifying why people come to the Yukon and what draws them to the Yukon ó I mean, on the motorized list, one of the obvious reasons is that, of course, a lot of people are heading to Alaska and we get the carry-through. But there are a lot of other reasons. People come to the Yukon and they want to stay an extra day. Weíve had so many programs and initiatives ó stay an extra day and on Yukon time ó anything to promote the Yukon. But fundamentally itís really promoted around our pristine environment, and people will come a long way to experience where we are so fortunate to live. I see it continuing to grow. I donít see it shrinking. Itís stable. It employs a lot of people. Itís a very good contributor to our economy. Thatís our environment.
I donít know why else. Iím sure the minister will enlighten me, but I think from my viewpoint thatís pretty well the number one reason people come to the territory, besides just passing through, but as a destination: itís our pristine environment.
But there are also other areas of employment and one, of course, is the outfitters. They need a good environment. It canít be one where there are roads criss-crossing every which way, activity of one nature only dominating the landscape. They need wilderness in order to conduct their type of business: guiding, outfitting, trapping ó thatís another industry.
Year after year people trap. It used to be bigger, it has fallen off lately, but it is an industry and it contributes and it allows people to make a living, and a good living. But if the environment is not treated properly, trapping drops off.
There are lots of other examples. You know, ecotourism, sightseeing, and all of that stuff. Agriculture: there is another industry. Agriculture needs a clean environment in order to function properly. Itís a growing industry. Itís interesting. Some of the activities that are happening in the agricultural industry that I think are quite exciting: the organic movement in the Yukon continues to grow. It grows because there is a demand out there. People want to know that the foods that they are eating now are healthy and there is a big concern. Weíre seeing a lot of cottage industries around the supply of eggs and chicken, turkeys, bison, beef, stuff like that, and elk. People are supporting those industries because they feel that the meats and the vegetables they are eating from these farms are of a pure nature. Theyíre willing to pay a little bit extra for it.
Thatís good for the territory. If you can grow your own foods and sell it locally, thatís wonderful. At some point, if things continue to develop the way they are, there will be possibly the opportunity for export. Maybe there is some of that happening already. But then again, there is another industry that has to be part of the equation when youíre looking at development.
The arts industry, the film industry ó Iíve said this before. That cap Iíve seen on a personís head whose name was Snow. It said, ďThink snow.Ē What drew people here for that? What was the whole thing around that? It was that we can supply snow. Now, I know some people wish the snow didnít come so early and didnít stay so late. I like the early snow but around March I would like to start seeing the snow melt. However, a lot of films and commercials and stuff like that are now looking for snow to do the shots in, and the Yukon has been continuing to develop the film industry and the availability of training and all that, and I applaud the government for continuing with that work, so much of which was done under the NDP government. And they continue to support it and expand it and thatís wonderful because I believe that creates a lot of jobs. And again, itís one of those stabilizers when other things turn down. If we have enough of these contributing to our economy, itís not so devastating when one goes down. And a lot of us have lived through a Yukon that did not have the diversification in the economy. And any government that just puts all their eggs in one basket is really asking for a complete failure, because weíve lived through it. I have lived through the collapse of the mining industry a couple times, and itís very difficult for people and you look forward to them getting better and getting stronger.
The bottom falls out of the mineral prices for whatever reason and people lose their jobs. It could be a specific mineral. If thereís enough activity at different levels, the economy and the community can survive. We have a perfect example of what happens ó well, we have two, I would say. We have, of course, Elsa, and beside Elsa there is Keno. But we also have Faro, Mr. Speaker, and that shows when you rely too much on one industry and, if itís not stable enough, then of course youíre going to set yourself up if anything ever happens. It will have a very, very dramatic and disturbing impact upon peopleís lives if it ever shuts down. Those are big concerns.
Iím a firm believer in diversification in any economy, but I hear a lot of people who arenít. Sometimes you see far too many resources being put toward one, and youíre not sure if itís affecting others because the moneyís not going to them; itís not being distributed fairly or equally.
Like I say, weíre still waiting for the mines to open up, and thereís still the big question of why there was no uptake. As I said, I look forward to the minister explaining to me why there is no uptake on the Peel Plateau that they have just released. I hear theyíre going to release it again. Hopefully theyíll do some work around that to ensure that the environmental concerns are addressed, as well as the impact it may have on First Nations and the concerns they have and that everybody understands exactly how work would proceed and that there would be actual benefits and jobs that would go to the communities first and foremost, because ultimately thatís what itís really all about as far as I can see.
Itís to ensure that they get the training and the opportunities to work on it. Why would you want to sell off or allow the export of resources if they donít benefit the people? I donít just mean a tax base, I mean in actual jobs and training. That has to be very clear, and it has to be attached to everything. Iím a very strong supporter of that.
Now there is a lot of talk about the pipeline. I think it has been over 28 years now ó 27 or 28 years. I could be wrong, but I remember the Alaska pipeline excitement. The Premier mentioned a line item, I think it was $150,000, going to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. So obviously the government is continuing to spend some money, and there are other departments that are spending money on the pipeline as well. I look forward to finding out more about that. But after 20-some years, I guess I take a more casual approach to it. I donít get overly excited. I definitely donít go to the bank and go in debt, because I might get a job on it. I have some strong environmental concerns around it. I also have some very strong concerns about employment possibilities around it, but I also know that itís really out of our hands in so many ways. So much of what is happening, of course, in the United States of America is what will dictate whether that pipeline does come through and how it comes through. So much of course rests on the price of oil and gas.
Right now itís high. The latest study I heard was that for the next two years itís going to stay high. People are going to have to live with this. It could be the next 10 years. This could be where we are at now. We have to take a look at that as well, but the amount of money they are making off of it with the increases in cost will drive more exploration and will probably finally drive a pipeline. But there are some major concerns around it and the government should be doing not just the promotion and the work to get it here, but also all of the other work around the identification of the types of trades that are going to be needed, the skills that are going to be needed, the training that should be happening now.
Even if the pipeline doesnít come through, thatís not wasted training. There are a lot of youth, there are a lot of people out there looking for work who could upgrade their skills or get new skills. I can tell you, I know a lot of my friends left to work on gas plants in Alberta, including my brother ó very skilled people. He has three tickets now: machinist, plumber and pipefitter.† Those are the kinds of people we should have in the territory ó very skilled people ó when and if the pipeline comes through.
We need to train our people here so that they have those skills. Otherwise what youíll see, of course, is that companies will bid on it and I would suspect theyíll be massive companies. These are huge contracts that they let out. And thatís another discussion that probably needs to be put on the table: how do you make the contract small enough to allow local contractors to be able to benefit from it? That may again be out of our hands. We might not have control over that; however, that should be part of the discussion. What can we influence?
But the training is so essential for our people who would like to work on that job.
And generally the pay is good. Itís almost always union so there are benefits left over from anybody working on it ó pensions, usually, and stuff like that. So there is a really good opportunity for people not only to get employment at that time but also to get the training so they can go elsewhere if they need to or continue working here if there are opportunities. But also they have some long-term savings coming out of it as well. Often we forget in our equation, when we talk about jobs, how important it is that the employees have some kind of pension or savings at the end of a job. Something contributing to that would help a lot, and I can assure you it will help the government in the long run if itís paid up front within the contract itself. And it would definitely allow a better quality of life for people, especially in the industry of construction.
I looked after construction workers on one of my former jobs. I did it for seven years. And I can tell you that there was only one person in seven years who made it to 65 in the trades, and I looked after five different trades. One person made it to 65. They just physically could not do the work. It is not that easy. Your body starts to break down. You do it every day, five days a week, 10 or 11 months, whatever. A lot of it is heavy lifting. A lot of it is fairly dangerous, just by the nature of the work. Thereís always that element of danger. There are always injuries. I said one person made it to 65. Almost every one of them, by the time they were 55, was trying to find something else to do or was totally out of that type of construction. That doesnít say much.
Now, we have a problem then, if there has been no savings. If theyíre not paid well, of course they canít save much. If they donít have a pension, they canít use that to help them as their bodies are starting to fail on them.
He canít do that kind of physical work any more thatís expected at that level, so people wonít hire him, contractors wonít hire him. They have no coverage and they find themselves in difficult situations and we end up with a group of people out there, some of whom end up on SA. They just canít do it. Physically they canít do it. A lot of them end up going to Workersí Compensation because of all the injuries that they suffer from, and often, of course ó Mr. Speaker, Iím sure youíre aware of this ó knees and backs are what go. On construction sites, backs are just almost ó the scale is just crazy on the kinds of injuries you get. And itís the back; the back fails. The back fails because of the nature of the job theyíre doing.
I know there have been so many efforts to try to deal with that, but weíre still way behind the times when you think about it. In Sweden, you donít lift anything bigger than something about this size. Basically, if you do this and you try to lift ó if you open your arms wide and you try to lift something, like a sheet of gyp rock or whatever, youíre straining so many parts of your body but youíre putting so much pressure on one section, and thatís the back area, because you spread yourself out and then youíre trying to turn. Itís not always the weight; itís the awkwardness of what youíre picking up. I injured my back when I was sitting, hanging a corner bracket, corner shelf, that weighed two pounds. I could hold it with one hand. I turned and reached for a screw and I was in bed for a week because the imbalance, the muscles had been used steady in a heavy construction leading up to that, and that spasm that hit ripped the muscles in my back. I couldnít get off the floor. They had to bring the stretcher to move me. So I know from experience what that is like. I also know from experience that there are not many old construction workers no matter what the trade is.
So that is an economic concern the government has to constantly look at. Of course, trying to put more money into training, lifting awareness, and not just learning how to lift but maybe making some changes to what we lift and what is actually acceptable. It may sound silly but, down the road, weíll end up paying for it through the injuries, and of course the person with those injuries will pay for it for the rest of their life.
Those are big concerns I have. I donít see them addressed in the supplementary estimates. I didnít necessarily see them addressed in the budget in the spring, either, and thatís another whole area. I know the critic on this side will probably speak to that area.
Going back to the pipeline as an example ó a big project. We used to have this discussion a lot. If you have a big project where youíre going to spend a lot of money, how do you maximize every single level for the people ó training, employment, which jumps right out at you, and safety, being another part of it? What do you need? You need to identify the jobs that will be needed for that pipeline.
There will be a lot of people needed for first aid, class 4. Maybe they have a different class system now, but Iím speaking of when I took it. Youíre going to need a lot of those people. Youíre going to need a lot of the pipefitters, the plumbers, the labourers. And I believe the labourers make up the biggest element of it ó but the skilled labourers and training on how to work on a job site, and safety. Taking a person, young or old, who has never been on a job site and throwing them out there, saying, ďOkay, go to workĒ, youíre not going to get the production you need, the safety element comes in as a factor and that person feels totally out of their element. You have to train. For the gas fitters, there are all kinds of training needed.
Out of the pipeline there is anticipation that Whitehorse would get piped for the natural gas and that probably would put more people to work than the whole pipeline, truthfully, because there is a lot of pipe. Interestingly enough, itís all fusion now; itís not fittings. Basically you take this pipe and you put another pipe this way; put it on a machine and it fuses it together, almost seamless. It melts it; itís quite an amazing system. We need people trained to do that. We need plumbers who are journeymen to do this stuff, even if they have never seen it before.
I do know that the plumbers union has sent people out and have brought people up who have taught the course, a basic course on it. I do know that in Edmonton ó I think itís Edmonton ó they have whole acres of training facilities on how to lay pipe and how to do that kind of stuff, and also on how to do big pipe. I donít know what size they are talking about here. It could be anywhere from 42 to 54 inches, pretty massive size, but you need welders.
You need so many different trades. You need equipment operators ó very skilled equipment operators because of the kind of equipment that they are going to be using. A lot of it is crane work, swinging the pipes in. I would like to see Yukon people doing the jobs; but they arenít going to do the jobs if they donít have the training up front. They are not going to get that kind of training on a project like that.
The government has to recognize that and start working toward it. If they truly believe the pipeline is going to come through, then make the proper investment to ensure that people will benefit from it. How do you get the community people involved? How do you get the training up in the communities and not just done in Whitehorse? These are very serious questions in order to maximize the benefits.
Thatís the same with just about any job. Thatís the approach, I think, that I would like to see the government take. That is the approach that I recommend: that every job should be looked at; how can we maximize it, from small to large? How do you put people to work?
How do you ensure that the benefits go to the people? I havenít seen any movement by this government in that area ó Yukon hire. Thatís a promise in their election promises. I havenít heard any talk about it. I never hear this government on the other side talk about Yukon hire. Iím not bringing it up because there was a commission on it, and I was involved with it. This was before me; this is after me. People expect to get employed if the money is being spent. If the territorial government is going to spend ó how much is it up to now? Okay, weíll use the bridge as an example. We havenít got to that one yet. If theyíre going to spend $40 million ó or whatever it works out to on the bridge ó should we not ensure that the training is in place so that whoever gets that contract employs the people of the territory, people of that region, that community, and that they also offer training? That should be part of the bid ó training, and legitimate training, because Iíve seen bogus training before, Mr. Speaker. Iíve seen a lot of it ó legitimate training so that the people who start on the project will have advanced their skill levels by the end of the project. Itís measurable; itís seen and they would be able to be employed somewhere else and continue, whether itís under an apprenticeship program or not ó measurable training. And proper pay. Absolutely ó that should be part of it. Benefits should be part of it. Because if they pay now, as I said, we will benefit in the long run ó first the individual will, but so will the government, because it wonít come back on us when they can no longer do that work and they have no savings. Why not a savings, why not a pension, as part of the agreement?
Iím not talking anything abnormal. Itís like asking the company to pay workersí compensation as insurance; you ask the company to pay into a savings account for the workers so that they will be able to bank their hours and save. That money will be put aside, and it will grow, so that when they retire there will be a savings for them.
Thatís a pension plan; thatís all it is. But why not think like that? But I donít hear that talk.
The debate around the bridge is fascinating. Hereís a government that says ó it doesnít matter what anybody says ó thatís going to get built. They havenít done the consultation. They havenít brought the community together around this project, which I think is totally feasible and totally possible. It has been confrontation. As people in Dawson told me, it is their way or the highway. Is that necessary? Is everybody against it? No. But it has divided the community. Thatís another community that has been divided by this government.
Carmacks ó obviously it has caused serious problems because of their actions there. I talked about that already. But now we move up into Dawson City ó very serious problems, huge debate.
It is so bad in Dawson never mind the fact that they arenít even allowed to have their own elected representatives because this government doesnít trust the people to vote for who they want and vote the people that they want in. But it is so bad that you finally have a public meeting, which the MLA does attend ó I think it is a first for Dawson, but itís part of the community tour that the Premier goes on. And there were other members of the Legislature up there with the minister of loans that I guess had support. But when he was challenged about public meetings and why he never has them, Mr. Speaker, at that meeting ó now, this is going back to consultation, and this is going back to the trust factor again and I find that everything swirls around this.
When he was challenged, the question was: why do other MLAs have regular public meetings and ours doesnít? That was asked by a person in the audience. Another person yells out, ďCould you ask him for us when you talk to him?Ē The MLA for Klondike responded, ďI have a constituency group that I work with and we meet on a very regular basis.Ē ďWhoís that?Ē yells a person from the audience again. ďItís anyone who wants to join,Ē responds the MLA. ďWhere is it, when is it, how come we donít know about it already?Ē from the person in the audience, obviously voicing a strong concern. Obviously there are no public meetings up there. The MLA responds, ďBecause you havenít asked until now.Ē The person responds back, ďShould we have to ask? You are our MLA.Ē ďWell, Iím not going to come beating on your door.Ē
I think at some point the MLA did come beating on the door. Itís called election time. But what that indicates is no consultation. And what consultation has happened around the bridge? We have a divided community. Theyíre divided around the bridge, yes; ferries, yes. Then you split that again. You have the bridge people saying ďnot at this location,Ē so now youíve divided that group. It is my understanding there are six options up there for location, but it looks like the Yukon Party government has gone ahead with spending money from the budget on a location. Where is the ďlistening to peopleĒ? Where is the consultation? Where is the reflection within the estimates? I donít see it. Where are the words from the Premier when he stood and went through what he wanted and talked about all kinds of other stuff?
Dawson City has suffered; thereís no question about it. There are now Web pages created around the issues in Dawson, because they feel the Member for Klondike does not represent their viewpoints and doesnít have meetings. So now they have created Web pages. There are issues around the actions of the government in regard to the elected city council. Iím still waiting to hear when the new election is going to happen. I havenít heard anything for the last while. We are into November, but I still havenít heard when the elections are going to happen. When are these people who were sent up there to do the work going to be finished? Will their contract be extended?
There are very legitimate issues around the rec complex. You talk to people in Dawson ó theyíre divided, and thereís a lot of anger. I know the Minister of Community Services has heard that anger up there. I think there was a lot of anger at that meeting that was held a couple of weeks ago; but guess what? Last Friday it was the same thing again ó go into a community, pick a fight because you want to do your thing, but you donít want to listen to them. The Premier has to come up to try to put out the fires. In this case in Dawson City, the fires havenít been put out; in Carmacks, they havenít been put out. If anything, theyíre growing ó another community at odds with the territorial government and another community thatís having trouble within its own community because of the divide that has been created. Thatís not good government; thatís not good governance; thatís not good leadership.
If anything, itís a failure in leadership. But some people have labelled the Yukon Party as a divide-and-conquer government. They seem to like to have group against group, person against person, communities against them, and First Nations very frustrated and angry. Part of it is because itís so unbalanced. There is favouritism, willingness to listen to some and not others. And people see it. You canít hide that. It becomes public. If people see the government obviously favouring one community over another, it becomes well known very quickly in this small territory of large land mass, small number of people.
Now we have ó and Iím sure a lot of people are watching very closely ó the U.S. elections. There has been a lot of debate about that and what kind of impact it will have on Canada. Anybody who has been following it in the last week will know that there have been a lot of shows ó The National, Cross Country Checkup this Sunday ó and the week before that there was another angle, a lot of coverage on the impact the selection is going to have on Canada. Iíve followed some of it. The opinions are quite fascinating. But ultimately, the comment that I think that was most spoken and seemed to make the most sense is that it doesnít matter whoís elected. Itís not going to have an immediate impact. Systems donít change overnight. Relationships donít just fall apart, and stuff like that, and the impact in four years is not overly significant.
But it does have impact. It could have an impact ó and I think it will have an impact ó on, for instance, the missile defence system. As you know, one of the sites where they want to set up is Fort Greely, and they have been doing some work up there. A lot of people in the Yukon are very concerned about that. There have been talk shows in the Yukon. It would be remiss to have any kind of talk in here without addressing that concern and the feelings the people of this territory have around that. I donít think thereís anybody, or very few people who ó Iíll correct that. There are not many people who want to have that site that close to our borders and that close to our communities. It becomes a target just by the very nature of what they would be putting up there. Many people believe that itís not just for missile defence, that itís just the first stage of the long-term plan, which of course is weaponizing our air, our space. Most Canadians ó the polls Iíve seen in this regard ó do not want to have anything to do with that kind of action.
So the U.S. election does have an impact and it will have an impact in that area. It could have an impact on the pipeline. I was really actually quite surprised: I just looked at a piece of news today that showed two people running in Alaska ó one is Ms. Murkowski and the other one is Mr. Knowles. I had assumed, knowing Alaskansí past voting, they would be going to Republican, but the latest polls indicate that Mr. Knowles is supposedly leading that riding. There are a variety of issues, but thatís going to have an effect on our relationship and on the positions that we take within Canada.
I have no idea if the Premier has given any thought to that, but we sign agreements with Alaska. We try to build relationships and mutual agreements. I would have liked to see the Premier take a strong position on the missile defence activities up there, but he hasnít; however, that election can have an effect on that; it could have an effect upon the pipeline. There is no question about that too.
I think itís going to have an impact down the road for the Yukon Territory, but most of all, we represent people. If the direction comes from the Yukon that, you know, in regard to missile defence and the weaponizing of space, we are opposed to it, then that is something that should be made clear to other leaders, so they understand what our position is. It can be debated and it can be explained, and we must not pretend that itís not happening. It has got a lot of people I know concerned.
Within my own riding, waterfront development was mentioned. There are some issues surrounding the development of it. I do know that there has been quite a lot of concern with regard to consultation on that one. Some people want to open it up again. I believe that the Arts North group has asked to have input into the waterfront development. I think the Main Street merchants have also asked to be part of that. Iím not sure if the territorial government has had any discussions with the city in regard to that as well. At some point today ó I believe it is the minister of Community Services, I could be wrong ó perhaps he would address that. That would be interesting, because it affects my riding substantially. The whole waterfront in Whitehorse is part of my riding, from the SS Klondike all the way down into the Marwell area.
I know there are some questions that people have approached me about.† They have actually asked what the territorial governmentís position is on the development and the monies being spent in the areas they are involved in. My understanding is that the bids for the Canada Winter Games already came in overbudget, and there had to be an increase of funding put toward it. I always worry about megaprojects, big, big projects. Personally I would have liked to see them divided. Thatís my own personal preference. Iím not a big proponent of massive, massive structures where everything pours into them. I think that creates problems and it doesnít distribute the resources throughout and create a balance within a community. However, like I say, thatís a different viewpoint.
But this is a massive structure. My hope, of course, is that everything will come in accordingly on budget.† Most importantly, of course, is the success of it but there are also the O&M costs. I think we really need to watch closely what itís going to cost to operate this. There are, of course, some monies set aside within the agreements to accommodate the O&M over so many years; however, I do hope itís enough. My understanding is that the swimming pool is already overbudget on its O&M, and thatís always one of the biggest concerns any government has when they build a new building or they get involved in that kind of ownership ó the O&M. Itís easy enough to build it. Thatís not the hardest part. The hardest part is paying for it year after year after year, and it coming in on what you estimated. So thatís another big concern.
The pioneer utility grant was mentioned by the Premier. Now the Premier said that he listened to the opposition on this and thatís why they made the changes to the pioneer utility grant. Well, I was the person who suggested changes to the pioneer utility grant in order to help offset the very high, rising costs of fuel and heating oil for seniors. The pioneer utility grant only applies in that area, but my suggestion was that it reflect the increased cost of the fuel, not just raise it by 10 percent and assume that youíve addressed the issue, because it doesnít, and it falls far short. I wish the Premier and the minister would have listened and followed through with it; however, as I said, it didnít go far enough. Iím hoping that this government will review it again. And I also asked them to consider not just the seniors but those who also do not have much money, and how we could set up some kind of fund or assistance to address that. Because itís going to be a very tough year for people if we have a cold winter, and the fuel costs have risen as much as 70 cents per gallon since last year. Itís going to be very difficult for them. A lot of people donít have that extra money just to pay more for fuel. The government has the opportunity to make that change. It has the resources to create a fund during this period of hard times.
Itís a period of very high prices. There is no question about it. This government has a surplus, a big surplus, and it had a surplus last year. Contrary to what they said, there was a surplus. Public accounts show that. So they can use the money.
Now there are other issues in the downtown core: drugs, drug houses, safety issues, violence. Iíve tried to do some work in that area. Iíve held some meetings, brought in people. Weíve had great discussions. There has been a lot more activity by the RCMP that has had some successes. There have been a few drug houses that have been shut down. But it doesnít address the long-range problems. Itís not just about enforcement ó in no way, shape or form. There need to be programs, better, more targeted programs for the youth, and education. There need to be harm reduction programs that are very specific. There need to be treatment programs that help people get off these addictions, that are measurable and available and accessible. Some of them arenít. For some of them the person has to quit before they go in them, which if youíre going in to try to quit but you have to be off for ó some of them you have to be off for up to 28 days. Well, if youíve managed to go 28 days, youíre doing pretty good already. Thereís homelessness. Thereís a lot of that in the downtown core. I donít see it addressed. I donít see it addressed in any concrete way. $150,000 for another study to phone people and ask them what drugs they do ó thatís the way I read it in the paper. I hope itís not just that. Iím sure it isnít. But thatís $150,000 for another study. There was just a study released a couple of weeks ago and now weíre going to do another study. I think we know what the problem is. Iíve heard it from many experts. Iíve heard it from people on the streets. I just donít see this as an overly good move.
So my hope, and what I hope to see happen in the next while, is that people will get together and come up with an action plan that is connected and that we use together, and that is from all levels so everybody works together, and I think there would be some positive results out of that.
We have concerns about social housing, Yukon housing. Itís in the supplementaries. What social housing has Yukon Housing built? It puzzles me, when I look at this sometimes ó letís take a look here.
Yukon Housing: on the first page it says, ďProvide social housing to serve the changing needs of clients.Ē When was the last time Yukon Housing built social housing? I have asked this before and Iíll ask it again, ďDoes the mandate of Yukon Housing match with why it was created and what it is doing today? Do they fit?Ē There are a lot of questions about this. I canít remember the last social housing built in the Yukon by Yukon Housing. Yet, that is right up there on the top. The first one, ďTo assist people to meet their housing needs. To help the housing marketplace work better by furthering the self-sufficiency of communities, industries and people by providing social housing to serve the changing needs of clients.Ē Yet they are not building them. Thatís a concern. They arenít fulfilling their mandate. What are they doing? I know theyíre doing some very good programs, and theyíve helped a lot of people in the territory, but in one area ó almost their number one goal; their mandate ó they are doing nothing. You have to question that.
The Executive Council Office: ďTo conclude outstanding land claims agreements.Ē I have already said this. I donít think this government has moved the land claim forward one iota. If anything, they have created uncertainty in that area.
ďTo ensure effective implementation of land claims agreements and areas of Yukon responsibilityĒ ó well, you know, itís a huge problem, Mr. Speaker ó implementation. You sign the agreement. The basic premise is, now that you have signed the agreement, all parties have agreed to it, everybody is going to follow it and you can move forward. The First Nations can move forward on their agreements, the transfer of money, and their rights as defined by the agreement. But then they often find after the signing of the agreement that now theyíre struggling with implementation. A lot of that comes from federal responsibility and there are what can be considered breaches within the agreement. How is that being addressed?
To build strong government-to-government relationships ó well, Mr. Speaker, whatís happening up in Carmacks is not what I call building strong government-to-government relationships. Whatís happening in Dawson City is not building strong government-to-government relationships. Whatís happening up in Mayo is not building strong government-to-government relationships. And there is a degree of trust around that whole issue.
To work with First Nations to enhance economic partnerships and opportunity ó well, yes, in some spots, yes; in other spots, zero. I see a lot of attention and a lot of work going down in some areas but, in other areas, itís like they donít exist.† You know, if you go to the Department of Community Services, the number one bullet says to promote sustainable, healthy communities by supporting local governments. Well, how do you support local governments when you run roughshod over them? Weíre in November now. This is a government that shut down Dawson Cityís elected members, appointed two people who are costing probably three times as much, who promise to have elections, and we havenít heard a word about elections happening up there again.
We see a lot of money being spent, there are no job descriptions, and thereís no direction being given by this government to the people of Dawson City. Of course they have a right to be angry when theyíre treated this way. So thatís a very serious concern.
This government can pretend that itís not happening or we, in opposition, are all wrong, but when people on the streets tell you, or when you read it in the paper or when you see it by the actions, when you hear the words spoken in the Legislature, it has to be true at some point. They can stick their heads in the sand all they want, but itís happening.
Economic Development ó the $1 reinstatement of this department; everybody remembers it was $1. It has been two years and itís continuing to climb way beyond one dollar. Weíre getting closer to anywhere from $8 million to $10 million in this department.
Now, this was really a reinstatement of a department that the NDP had and that the Liberals, I believe, shut down. I think it was a good move on the Yukon Partyís behalf to reinstate it. The Department of Economic Development has a role to play but its objectives are not being fulfilled at this present time, as far as I can see. To forge partnerships with First Nations in the economic development in the territory: in some areas, yes; in other areas, no. Iíve said that. Thatís the way I see it. Thatís what Iím hearing out there from First Nations.
ďTo pursue economic initiatives with a shared vision of prosperity, partnerships, innovation.Ē Well, as far as Iím concerned, itís only if you do as this government wants that that will happen. If you donít, if you have a different view, a different perspective, of course you donít know what youíre talking about. Thatís what we hear on this side. Thatís what is directed toward us. We may have a different view but itís also what the communities are saying. So I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done in this department, although thereís a lot of money being spent now, so it will be interesting to see. It will be interesting to get into the line-by-line debate on it.
The Department of Education: here we come to Carmacks again. The first bullet of the objectives of the department: ďTo ensure effective lifelong learning opportunities are available for all Yukon people so they may participate effectively and work in their communities. This is to be achieved through planning, developing, implementing and evaluating.Ē Okay, that sounds fine. But there was an advisory committee up there that was to assist with the planning, developing, evaluating, implementing. The First Nation was part of it, and the community. And guess what? That work was done and then that work was thrown out the window by this government to implement the wishes of the Premier and the minister. So why did that happen? Why waste the time of the people?
Energy, Mines and Resources: ďEnsuring land is available for Yukoners and Yukon development projects.Ē Well, we really do know what is happening. I think and I hope the minister knows what is happening with land development and land planning because it sounds like we have a real mess out there. There is staking not just up the Fish Lake Road. I notice the minister seems to like to keep it contained to that one, but the staking is happening elsewhere. There obviously was a change made and it was not properly advertised so that all people of the Yukon had an opportunity to know what the change was and the opportunity, if they so wished, to make application for land. That happened under this ministerís watch. Thatís not fair.†
I think the minister has failed in that area. Now we have these pockets of a fair amount of staking happening.† A lot of people are asking. I was approached by quite a few people last week ó phone calls here, on the street, homes, at events I attend. People are asking, ďWhy didnít I have an opportunity to do this? Why the sneaky process?Ē That is their opinion. I tell them to call the minister. Iím sure he will enlighten them as to how this happened, just the same as he does for us in here.
We have a lot of departments to go through. All the critics in the NDP will be speaking to these.
Department of Environment: I just find this so sad.† I see no work being done in this area. I see raw-log exports once again. I see the problems around Tombstone and the disrespect for the process and the self-government agreements in that regard. I do not see the principles of the Yukon conservation strategy being applied. I just find that this is a government that seems to have a real hate on for the environment or anything environmental. Whatís the old sticker? ďIf you canít grow it, mine itĒ? That seems to be what has returned to the Yukon again. Itís being reflected by their policies and their actions.
At one point, as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun just pointed to me, under departmental objectives: ďUndertaking resource management activities that meet the Government of Yukonís obligations and respects the rights of aboriginal people and relationships established through land claims and self-government agreements.Ē We know for a fact that that did not happen with the actions of this government in regard to the Tombstone Park. Once again, theyíre in court. Thereís a lawsuit going forward, and once again thereís a divide; thereís anger; thereís no trust, and it is totally contrary to this governmentís promise of respectful government-to-government relations. The shifting of the environmental portfolio from the previous minister to the new minister was an indication that anything environmental was going to be crushed, was going to be squashed, and the people and the concerns of our environment ó long-term, short-term and mid-term ó are now all put on a backburner. That is whatís going to happen.
Health and Social Services, you know, is an amazing portfolio for anybody to become minister of. It has so many broad aspects that affect so many people in our society, and it means so much to people ó whether itís the health or the social side. And you have a minister who runs amok and makes comments about refugees that can identify them and yet he will not resign ó and theyíre very crude, rude comments that are hurtful. Sorry, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
†Speaker: To describe another memberís comments as ďcrude and rudeĒ is unparliamentary, and Iíd ask the member to retract that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy: I retract that, Mr. Speaker.
They were very hurtful comments and the refugees felt it. There are people who work with the refugees trying to help integrate them into our society, help get them jobs, make them welcome in the Yukon. No matter what their backgrounds, they can come and be welcome here. This minister took a position that I felt did not reflect the values of the Yukon, but reflected his own personal values and they are incorrect, and they were hurtful.
Mr. Speaker, thatís the same kind of message he sent out to single, white males in the springtime when the social assistance rates were being increased. And yet there was no proof given. Time and time and time again, in talking about the budget and talking about this issue, we asked the minister to give us the proof of the statement he made about the single, white males causing a million-dollar-balloon in social assistance. It never was shown, never was proven, never was given. And the Premier accepts that, but itís unacceptable in this Legislature that comments like that can be made but the proof not given. You really have to wonder why anybody on that side can accept that and does not hold that ministerís feet to the fire so that he can justify those kinds of comments, because they hurt people. Theyíre just hurtful statements and donít serve this government well or the people of this territory well, or, most of all, anybody who holds the portfolio of Health and Social Services.
We have questions around the Thomson Centre. Thereís a small item in here in regard to that, and we will be wondering whatís happening with the Thomson Centre; what the plans are for it; where we are with the renovations of it and when can we see the facility up and running again? I have heard just recently, in regard to the Thomson Centre, some concerns about what itís going to be used for and what is actually needed out there. The critic from Kluane, of course, has also been hearing those as well and has some strong concerns in that area.
† If the minister wants to do it and just respond, I look forward to finding out about that.
Highways and Public Works ó there is a question out there and I want to have it clarified, because itíll help us on this side. Where does the bridge in Dawson City actually sit? Which department is it actually sitting in? Everybody assumes that any kind of development around the bridge in Dawson City would sit with Highways and Public Works, and I know the critic for Highways and Public Works is trying to figure out where it is at. We are told, and hopefully it can be clarified, that it has been moved to Economic Development; we would really like to know what the justification is for that and why itís there and why it is not with Highways and Public Works.
It does raise the issue of P3s. Maybe thatís why it has been moved there. It is all built around a financial proposal that this government has talked about but we havenít heard anything about for a long, long time. Our question is: what is happening there? Is this government going ahead with P3s? Are they going to use P3s on the bridge? I know the Premier indicated that this is one of the projects. He indicated that in the Legislature. We would like some information on that.
How about the jail? Where are we at with the jail? The report I was reading and that I had mentioned earlier, the 2002 economic outlook report, indicated at that time that the jail was going forward. Now, there was a government change and obviously there was a ó I wouldnít say a new direction; I think there was a stalling or a pulling back from that project, yet it is so needed. Well, within here there is almost a million dollars that have been spent on renovations.
And the Justice critic from Mount Lorne had some very serious concerns about that. A million dollars ó now, thatís a million dollars that could have been put toward a new structure, but once again we see more and more money being spent on a building that truly should be condemned. It is just taking more and more money to keep the thing open. This government continues to drag its heels, and because of that itís throwing money out the window. A million dollars for a building that we may tear down in a year ó do they have that much money, taxpayersí money, that they can make these kinds of decisions without thinking ahead? I know a lot of people who wouldnít mind that million dollars. If they had started the project ó the NDP did a bunch of work on it, the Liberals followed through and continued working on it, recognizing the necessity of getting a new jail in place. As the Liberal leader mentioned, they even got to the point ó well, first off, I think they loaded the ground, then they turned the dirt. The Yukon Economic Outlook 2002 indicated very clearly that the jail was going ahead, everything was ready to proceed with the construction of the building. Itís not about the programs. It was about the building. It was a necessity. It had to be done.
This government comes in and shuts her down and doesnít give any proper reasoning, doesnít tell us whatís happening around it and comes up with some strange models, agreements. There is a big question out there: what is actually happening? Is this a P3 project as well? Who are they negotiating with? Why donít they tell the public what the status is at the present time? But theyíre not. So we asked the questions on behalf of the public. Give us an idea. Now itís two years. That jail probably could have been finished by now. I donít know what the timeline for building it was, but I would suspect it wasnít more than two years.
But they will build a bridge. They wonít build a jail, but they will build a bridge, and the bridge is probably going to cost twice as much, interestingly enough. But that raises the question around P3s: is that what the public wants? And that raises the question around the Taxpayer Protection Act and what they did there. And again, it is about trust. On opening day in the Legislature this fall, what did we have? We had demonstrations out front; we had people with picket signs. And we had a reindeer at the door, all dressed up. A person was delivering the reindeer. It was Mr. Fentieís reindeer.
Speaker: †Order please. You know ó
Mr. Hardy: I know.
Speaker: Carry on, please.
Mr. Hardy: Okay. That was a sign I had seen, actually. Iím sorry about that, Mr. Speaker. It was the Premierís reindeer.
Now, what happened that day is that the Premier refused to come out and talk to the people. The Premier probably did ó and I stand to be corrected on this, but it is the first time that I know of, other than possibly one other incident, when the Premier on the opening day of a session refused to talk to the media. Now, usually, on the opening day, the government is proud, it has a lot it wants to say to the people of the territory, what the session is going to be about, what legislation is being brought forward, the supplementary budget, itís feeling good about themselves, theyíre back in the Legislature, good debate is going to happen, and the Premier is willing to stand up and tell the people that and address the media and answer the questions and meet the public, and it didnít happen. He refused to come out of his room. And thatís a shame.
Now, the only other time I think this has ever happened was with another Yukon Party government. I believe it was the first day. I could be wrong; it could be the second or third or fourth. But, of course, it was the closure of the Faro mine and there was a demonstration out front again, exactly the same kind. There were more people at that time but it was the same feeling, the same betrayal that the people were feeling. The Premier of that day, again a Yukon Party Premier, refused to come out and address the people.
However, saying that, at least that Premier was willing to talk to a delegation that did go inside and meet with him. He was willing to do that. This Premier has not done that to date. He never met with the delegation that day and did not meet with the person who brought the reindeer, the couple who have cared for the reindeer for 17 years and have found themselves in a position where they canít do it any more and definitely canít pay the costs because of, unfortunately, the problems around the classification of reindeer. Of course, theyíve asked and had negotiations with this government and with the Premier specifically in which they thought they were in a mediation process. Itís spelled out, letter after letter: yes, mediation; yes, mediation; yes, you can name the people; you can have involvement in whom we pick, blah, blah, blah; only to find out that the Premier changed his mind and said no mediation and didnít even give it a chance to happen. They felt betrayed too. Their trust was broken.
So they were forced to bring the reindeer into town. I donít know what theyíre going to do now. I honestly donít feel that theyíre getting the proper representation that they need from their MLA. I donít think the Premier is hearing the message loud enough or strong enough from their MLA, and I donít think this is a situation that is being resolved in a manner that was agreed to. There was no mediation. It was agreed to have mediation; there was no mediation. It is unacceptable to change midstream. Mediation is not something that should be feared.
So many issues.
The economic stats are far better than they were in the past for employment. Thatís good. If the government had some involvement in that, I congratulate them. However, stats are figures on a piece of paper. Go down to the soup kitchens. Youíre seeing families down at soup kitchens now. Youíre seeing young children, youíre seeing homeless people, and youíre seeing single parents with their children trying to get food baskets and food. It has increased. Thatís not a stat. Thatís not part of the picture. I donít see that reflected in those stats, and thatís always why I have problems with the way we compile stats and what they reflect and how they reflect it.
Generally, these are based upon people who are on unemployment, not the people who can no longer collect it. What happens to them if they canít find a job and canít get UI? They would be considered unemployed to me. Most stats donít necessarily reflect that ó theyíre based on UI. What theyíre being paid, what they call the working poor, is not enough, or barely enough, to make ends meet. Thatís not in the stats. I donít see that anywhere. Yet thatís a very serious problem and should be reflected.
You can go down to the soup kitchens and see the numbers. You can talk to the people at Salvation Army and theyíll tell you whatís happening there.
You can talk to the Maryhouse, and you can talk to the church groups that put on the soup kitchen. You can go into the communities and see that there is a very, very high unemployment rate in some communities; in other communities, there is actually some good activity happening. Thatís not reflected either, so I always look at statistics like that with a sense of: okay, in that snapshot, in that category, that looks good now, thatís legitimate, but thatís not the whole picture; letís not forget there is this section of society, and thereís that, and itís not included in those statistics. The true reflection might be a lot different, as it often is.
But most governments donít want to do that. They donít want to make an analysis of what the department gathers as part of the whole picture because it does give you a totally different perspective of what is happening in our society. I think itís a far truer perspective, and I wish it were reflected more. Once we got used to it, then we would have a better understanding of what weíre dealing with in our society and how best to assist ó spread the wealth and assist people ó so that we have a healthy society.
Ambulances ó big concern. It keeps coming up about how that was decided.
Liquor inspections ó Iím concerned about that. I know the critic will speak to that.
There are a lot of issues and I look forward to the debate that weíre going to have around this. I look forward to my colleaguesí comments, as well as the leader of the third party and her comments. Theyíre always insightful.
I think the debate that happens in this room is the kind of debate that gives a better picture, and we should never shy from debate.
As I said at the beginning of this, we can probably find a better method to do it.
So with that Iíll close, Mr. Speaker, and allow somebody else to speak on this.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †It is indeed my privilege and honour to stand before members to speak to this fall supplementary budget and to pay recognition to some of the good work that has been done by the Government of Yukon. As the Premier stated earlier, we have listened to the opposition ó we always have, and will continue to ó and have actually implemented some of that feedback, as is currently reflected in this supplementary budget.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of items to talk about. Unfortunately, we only have 20 minutes to discuss some of these good initiatives, but I do want to target three particular areas. One has to do with my own riding of Whitehorse West. Another, of course, has to do with some of the good work that the Womenís Directorate is doing, as well as the Department of Tourism and Culture. I also wanted to talk very briefly about an overview of where we sit today in terms of the economic profile of the Yukon.
I have to take members back. It was almost two years ago that we were elected with a majority government, and I had the privilege of being elected for the first time as the MLA for Whitehorse West. Going door to door, a number of issues were raised that were of importance to Yukoners. In particular, number one was the state of the economy. Yukoners were at armís length with how the economy was not performing. They wanted to see improvements, dramatic improvements, in how our economy performs.
Of course, for a number of the younger families reflected within the demographics of my own riding of Whitehorse West, a couple of other issues were child care and health care and the need to improve those particular aspects of our society. So Iím pleased to say that this fall supplementary, coupled with that of the 2004-05 budget tabled earlier this spring, certainly reflect our continued good work that we do on a day-to-day basis here in the Yukon. We continue to listen to the concerns raised by Yukon citizens and act upon those.
As the Premier said earlier, I have to say that our government has come a long way. We have worked hard. It hasnít been an easy road, but we have managed to be integral, very instrumental, in helping turn the economy around. One only has to look at a number of the economic indicators before us, one just has to look at the unemployment rate. The Premier spoke earlier about having the lowest unemployment rate since 1992. Thatís pretty significant. The population is growing for the first time in many years. If youíve lived around here for a long period of time, we certainly have known the challenges before the Yukon and the need to certainly address the number of young families moving out of the Yukon, but now we actually do have a lot of young families moving to the Yukon. One only has to look at my own riding, Whitehorse West, where there are a number of young, working professionals with families, who are working very hard to make ends meet and working hard to do well for their families.
The labour force is growing, which is very encouraging, because there is tremendous potential here in the Yukon, and one has to look not only at today but the future years ahead of us and all the economic opportunities for Yukon citizens. The key will be for us as a government and Yukoners in general to see how we can take advantage of those benefits as Yukoners and how we can grow our economy on a sustainable basis.
Exploration mining is up. It has almost tripled in the last few years, which is great to see. Tourism, which is near and dear to my heart ó we appear as an industry to be growing. Again, while we havenít specifically reached those levels prior to 9/11, we certainly are making great strides. I have to say that this year was certainly no exception to that. In fact, if one looks at our statistics that we measure between border crossings and the visitor reception centre stats from between May to the end of September, we are up approximately six percent, and that is consistent in both groups, which is very encouraging.
Real estate transactions, for example, are up. And again, one only has to look at my own riding of Whitehorse West and how significant the growth is in that riding.
That brings me to the area of the Whitehorse West riding and a couple of very good-news announcements that are reflected in this fallís supplementary budget. It happens to have a lot to do with the Whitehorse West riding. Whitehorse West, of course, for members opposite who may not be familiar with it, comprises the neighbourhoods of Copper Ridge, Arkell and Logan.
As I mentioned before, I have to say it is perhaps one of the largest growing areas in the territory, if not the largest. Weíve seen incredible growth, many homes, and many areas for potential in that particular area. One of the great news announcements that I am very pleased to support is that of the planning monies, the $150,000 that was designated toward the extension of Hamilton Boulevard for planning purposes.
I have to say that I have been going door to door in the riding over the last couple of months, and consistently what I have heard at the door is, ďWhen are we going to see a second access through that area, through the Copper Ridge area, through the Logan area, through the Granger area, through the McIntyre area?Ē and so forth for two reasons. Not only will it provide an emergency route of access, in case there was an emergency, and two, it would certainly alleviate some of the traffic pressure along Hamilton Boulevard as it currently exists northbound.
I think for those two particular reasons, weíre very pleased to support this initiative. It will certainly take a considerable amount of consultation among residents, the City of Whitehorse and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, which holds a large tract of land as proposed in its land claim agreement in that particular area, which again may also lend to future land development in that area, if that should transpire, with the future development of Hamilton Boulevard.
So again Iím very pleased to see that this government is moving in that direction, and I certainly look forward to taking part in those discussions.
Another initiative announced in this fall supplementary was that of start-up costs, money for the 12 new beds that will be opening fairly soon at the Copper Ridge Place. I was just at the Copper Ridge Place a couple of weeks ago visiting the residents and talking with them one on one, as well as with the staff and volunteers who put their time in, day after day, taking care of these very important individuals. Copper Ridge Place has come a long way. Itís not an institution. It is a community that is growing, and itís an important community that we have to pay real importance to. So Iím very supportive. Of course, earlier this spring in this yearís budget, the Minister of Health and Social Services announced $1.9 million toward the opening of the 12 new beds, as well as the seven beds at Macaulay Lodge. As reflected in this fall supplementary, we have some funds identified for the actual start-up costs. So again, Iím very supportive of that initiative.
Of course, looking in my own riding as well, there is additional money ó $300,000 ó toward home care expenditures. That certainly will go a long way in helping my constituents, assisting them in their efforts to stay in their homes longer. The pioneer utility grant is a wonderful initiative, and Iím very pleased to see that we did address that in our election platform, but in addition to the 25-percent increase to the grant, we also indexed it against inflation. Of course, as is reflected in this budget that weíre debating over the next few weeks, there is also an additional 10 percent to the base grant. Again, this will go a great way in assisting seniors and elders to remain in their homes and to be able to combat some of these very exorbitant, rising costs of heating fuels.
So, again, very supportive, and there are many seniors and elders who reside in my riding and who will certainly benefit.
There is a whole host of things I wanted to touch upon, particularly in some of the respective departments Iím responsible for. One of the areas I wanted to touch upon was the very important issue and the very unfortunate matter of violence against women. This is a fundamental initiative that the Womenís Directorate has been working very, very hard on over the last couple of years. We certainly made it a priority to reinstate the Womenís Directorate, for one thing, to place the importance of women in the territory. We felt it was so important that we should go ahead and reinstate the Womenís Directorate, and that is exactly what was done in the very first year we were in office.
Another thing we committed to was looking at a long-term prevention education/public awareness campaign to address violence against women. As I mentioned before, we have a great staff at the Womenís Directorate, who work tirelessly. And they work collaboratively with all womenís organizations throughout the territory and women at large in the Yukon to address some of the issues that are facing our communities on a daily basis.
I just refer to the earlier announcement by the Premier, in his capacity as the former minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate. He had announced $100,000 to go toward violence prevention initiatives pertaining to aboriginal women in the north.
So, from there, a number of positive initiatives have occurred. Earlier this year we had an aboriginal womenís forum on violence. That was held in February. From there, we solicited the views of aboriginal womenís organizations and those who attended the conference to get a good sense of how the money should be distributed to combat violence against aboriginal women ó a very dire and serious issue. From there, we were able to come up with some terms of reference and some criteria for womenís organizations to solicit the Womenís Directorate to seek different proposals. Weíre very pleased to announce that a number of very important initiatives have occurred. The Womenís Directorate, with the support of the advisory committee, has signed agreements with a number of aboriginal womenís organizations, including the Selkirk First Nation at Pelly Crossing, the Margaret Thomson Healing Centre in Ross River, Yukon Aboriginal Womenís Council, as well as the Liard Aboriginal Womenís Society in Watson Lake. We are also working with the Yukon Status of Womenís Council to leverage additional funding from the federal government, which also has a very important role to play.
In addition to this funding, Mr. Deputy Speaker, $150,000 has been earmarked toward a number of violence prevention initiatives to assist Yukon women, both aboriginal as well as non-aboriginal women, and I have to pay thanks to the leader of the official opposition for giving our government credit for this funding and his recognition of the importance that these violence prevention initiatives, this funding, will go toward achieving ó initiatives such as emergency safety kits for women leading abusive relationships, monies to go toward revision and reproduction of the splitting-up guide, a comprehensive overview of family law issues pertinent to Yukon women, and a policy forum on aboriginal women in self-government to be held later on this year. Funding will also be made available to hire a First Nation liaison to commence work on the development of a long-term public education plan on violence against women ó that again was a commitment that we made during the last election ó as well as to liaise with aboriginal womenís organizations.
So we certainly are committed to working with all womenís organizations and will continue to work collaboratively with women on these and other joint initiatives.
It is unfortunate that we have almost run out of time because there are a number of very important other initiatives that I wish to speak of. In Tourism, for example, and reflected in this particular budget, is $350,000 in new funding to go toward the scenic drives initiative. This initiative was something that has been earmarked as a priority among industry. It is identified in our three-year strategic plan. It is something that we certainly will be targeting from here on out, year after year.
Again, we are certainly pleased with the results of tourism visitation. Our two airlines here in the Yukon, Air North and Air Canada, have certainly reported strong increases in traffic, and weíre very proud to see that the two airlines have stepped up to the plate and have worked with one another and worked with industry very diligently to address some of the challenges before us. When we look at convention spending travel compared to two or three years ago, we have increased from just over $1 million in economic spending to over $4 million this year alone. So that is as a direct result of the Yukon Convention Bureau and industry working with each other, to which we were also pleased to provide additional funding.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, seeing that my time is just about up, I look forward to hearing the comments from the other side of the House and look forward to espousing more on some of the good work that we are doing.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Liberal Party, as well as the residents in Porter Creek South, to speak to the supplementary budget. The supplementary budget tabled by the Minister of Finance is all about public financial management. Itís all about how the government has managed and will manage the territoryís, the Yukonís, the publicís, money.
There are some principles of public financial management, like the principles of the five tenets of the Canada Health Act, that I think bear review when we look at this supplementary budget. One of those principles is that taxation and spending should not be done without the explicit consent of the governed. It should be democratic. Democracy is certainly present in the Yukon and weíve had some discussion publicly about democratic reform. I would caution the members to remember: the voter giveth; the voter can also taketh away.
Another principle is that governments should be equitable and treat people fairly in how they raise and in how they spend their money. In other words, capital projects and grants or funding programs should be expended fairly to everyone: not to the benefit of particular ridings or not, but fairly to the whole Yukon.
Another principle is that governments, in spending money, should be transparent. It should be fully public knowledge and it should be subject to public scrutiny, which is what this supplementary budget will be when it is debated at length by all members of the House. There has to be the ever-present reminder to the government that they are not the owners of this money. This is the publicís money and they are the stewards of it. And just as we are stewards of the environment, we have to be mindful that we donít leave our children an environmental mess to clean up and we donít saddle our children with debt, that there shouldnít be an undue risk with public money.
And the final principle is accountability. Those who deal with the public funds should be regularly called to account for how they have spent that money. This government, the Yukon Party, in construction of the supplementary and in expenditure of the supplementary budgetís funds, have forgotten these principles. Theyíve repealed the Government Accountability Act, one of the first acts of government by the Yukon Party ó to repeal the Government Accountability Act. Change the Taxpayer Protection Act ó they committed publicly to Yukoners, ďNo, we wonít change it.Ē They changed it ó the Taxpayer Protection Act, which was clearly recognized as the best in the country.
They committed publicly that they would reduce Yukonersí dependence on Ottawa, on that federal transfer. Itís quite amazing that instead of reducing that dependency, we have gone from 69.4 percent of the territoryís revenues coming from Ottawa to 71.6 in two short years ó 71.6 percent of our revenues coming from Ottawa, from a government and a party that promised they would reduce that dependence on Ottawa. Together we will do better ó not so far.
The Yukon Party also committed that they would be good financial managers. Well, letís take a good, hard look at some of that financial management. Revenues have certainly increased ó absolutely, because the Yukon Party is the beneficiary of Paul Martinís sound financial management previously and his solid understanding of what provincial and territorial governments face in meeting the needs and demands of our citizens and providing good services to our citizens.
The Yukon Party has freely and openly spoken in the previous throne speech about the price of metals being at 10- and 15-year highs. There has been a significant increase in resource revenues ó in excess of $2 million more in oil and gas revenue receipts. These are not to the credit of the Yukon Party, no matter how much spinning is attempted. These revenues are not to the credit of the Yukon Party. Even the credit for Devonís activities in southeast Yukon has been publicly recognized by Devon as being anticipated to take place, regardless of what stripe of government occupied the seats opposite.
I will suggest that the lack of interest in north Yukon for the fourth dispositions is the fault of the members opposite. The current Premier criticized endlessly the efforts of previous governments in shilling these bids outside of the territory, working with industry to increase and enhance their interest. And the current Premier has tried himself, and the government has failed to attract the interest.
The infrastructure for the Canada Winter Games that is currently under construction in the Yukon has absolutely nothing to do with the members opposite or the Yukon Party government. A benefit of this infrastructure construction is most notably being felt in the Whitehorse area and in the territory, in that when the larger companies are engaged in such infrastructure construction, smaller construction outfits are able to build the homes and the smaller construction projects. There is a trickle-down effect.
The current housing boom in the Whitehorse area can be attributed to several factors, including low interest rates and, unfortunately, a high marital break-up rate in the Yukon.
There is no question, from the supplementary budget, that the Yukon Party has more money in grants. There is more money in revenues from resources. There is more employment and more infrastructure construction, as I have noted. And Yukoners in Porter Creek South and throughout the territory have recognized this, but they also recognize that these fortunate incidences are not the result of the Yukon Partyís efforts. Because Yukoners I speak with continually recognize that the hard work of government is not being done by the members opposite. We see the examples of that in this legislative-light session, Mr. Speaker, with the supplementary budget, the keynote part of discussion. There has been no work on the Liquor Act. The Education Act review is stalled. There are the cover-your-act amendments; however, those and the Motor Vehicles Act amendments, I will make reference to at a later date. Promised, committed initiatives that members opposite have spoken about have not materialized in spite of comments that the Yukon Party listened to the opposition. The requested changes to deal with the five pieces of legislation that deal with animals and animal control that the Minister of Community Services committed would be brought forward this session, we havenít seen.
We arenít going to see ó the Minister of Health committed to me on the floor in response to a constructive suggestion to increase the money to the kids recreation fund that, yes, theyíd look at that for the supplementary. Not there, despite the fact that the government is awash in cash.
Other commitments to the hard work of government made by the Yukon Party and not done: most notably, of course, the commitment by the Minister of Justice in a recent letter to me that the government has every intention of creating a standing committee through the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, the all-party committee on appointments. Nothing, in spite of the fact that that standing committee is referenced in our Standing Orders and that the hard work on construction of the committee was done by the previous government and there was a commitment made by the Yukon Party ó nothing.
First Nation relations at the land claims table involve tough negotiating and hard work. There are reasons that it has taken 30 years to reach nine settlements. Land claims are about our children and our childrenís future. Theyíre about government-to-government relationships. It takes hard work and it takes hard work building upon the work of previous governments. Itís policy work. Itís tough decision-making. Itís building relationships over time.
I would say, as others have said, that for me it was an absolute privilege and an honour to work with all Government of Yukon staff, and especially those I enjoyed a close working relationship with in the land claims secretariat. These professional Yukoners have served all of Yukonís premiers professionally, capably and very, very well.
They are respected for their professionalism and their dedication to natural justice, to fairness, to the Yukon, to people, to the process.
This government, the Yukon Party and the Premier have not spent the time. He has not done the hard work. He has not listened, worked with ó broadened his level of understanding. Even the former leader of the Yukon Party was so appalled at the sorry state of the First Nation relations under the current Yukon Party and the land claims negotiations that he was compelled to speak publicly about this Premier not working with the land claims staff and the professional land claims secretariat. He said that the Yukon Party and the current Premier do not understand the land claim process, and he referred to them as a do-nothing government.
There is a proud tradition in this territory of strong government-to-government First Nation relations. We have led the country in the way that the Yukon government and Yukon First Nation governments have worked together. Thatís not happening now.
What we have seen is an Environment minister, former Environment minister, apologize and be shuffled out of the portfolio, and the Health minister saying to the Council of Yukon First Nations, ďIf you donít like what weíre doingÖĒ, not, ďHow can we help, how can we work together in a government-to-government relationship?Ē but ďDo it yourself if you donít like what weíre doing.Ē
They have no real understanding or concept of what that really means. We have First Nations launching lawsuits. We have First Nations indicating they want to draw down education. The fundamental tasks of government are health care and education. It is so important that there be a strong government-to-government working relationship in so many areas. And we see that government-to-government relationship between the Yukon Party and First Nation governments at an all-time low under the Yukon Party.
The government-to-government failures extend to other areas. The municipal governments ó there has been absolutely no consultation with the City of Whitehorse on this new land application process, with the policy tweaked by the current minister responsible.
There was a mess over the Yukon hire policy and the Canada Winter Games funding with the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon Party government. There is the fractured relationship with the City of Dawson. There is the very situation of amendments made to the Motor Vehicles Act proposed by the government that fundamentally affect the way people live and travel back and forth to school in the community of Old Crow, and the members opposite havenít even consulted with the First Nation government in Old Crow. The members opposite have not and are not doing the hard work of government. It is evidenced in the examples I just gave. It is also evidenced further in the supplementary budget.
The Department of Environment ó what a surprise. Doing the hard work of government, one would have recognized that it was completely unrealistic to anticipate $300,000 in revenue when you havenít done the hard work of consulting with Holland America, you havenít done the hard work of ensuring that the original expenditure was made on time.
To no oneís surprise, except perhaps the members opposite, in the supplementary budget the revenues are far short of what the government anticipated.
The hard work of government is also recognizing that policy decisions, such as purchasing the game farm, made at Management Board can have far-reaching impact. You have to be mindful that there has to be a fairness to everyone. Weíve quite clearly seen that recognizing those policy implications has not been done by the government, otherwise we wouldnít have seen the presentation of a reindeer on the first day of this sitting. Public policy decisions have to be fair.
The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has not recognized that fundamentally the land application process has to be fair to everyone. Currently itís not. Another example of ó
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will endeavour to conclude in the two-minute time frame. There is a great deal to talk about, and we will be going line by line.
Another example is that Economic Development was underspent because funding was outlined, but no fair policies were developed when the funding was committed.
In conclusion, I would point out that with respect to the supplementary budget, the sound principles of public financial management have been abandoned by the Yukon Party. They presented themselves as good financial managers ó not so ó and the hard work of government remains undone.
Thank you for your time. I appreciate the membersí attention.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today in support of this supplementary budget. Our government is working on behalf of all Yukoners to achieve three goals. Our first goal is to achieve a balance between the economy and the environment. Our second goal is to practise good government. Our third goal is to achieve a better quality of life. As my hon. colleague, the Premier, noted in his introductory comments, the Department of Community Services, an example given, is planning work for the extension of Hamilton Boulevard. The Department of Highways and Public Works is working on the Atlin Road, and weíre playing an integral role in achieving these goals to get by.
I would like to now address the Department of Community Servicesí budget requests as laid out in Bill No. 12. Through the Department of Community Services, we are working on the achievement of a better quality of life through our initiatives in the area of community development, protective services and consumer and safety services. I would also like to note the significant work being done in the area of sport and recreation. I will come back to sport and rec in a few minutes.
Overall, my departmentís budget requests reflect the hard work done over the summer on wild land fire management and firefighting, the good projects my department undertakes in the communities, and the fiscal prudence this government applies on all aspects of its agenda. In total, my department is requesting $15.2 million for operation and maintenance expenditures and a net decrease of $2.2 million in capital expenditures. The bulk of the departmentís request under this supplementary budget is related to cost incurred for fire suppression during this past wild land fire season. As we are all well aware, there were an unprecedented number of fires in Yukon this past summer. All told, there were 279 fires in the Yukon this past summer that burned in excess of 1.8 million hectares of the Yukon. In most cases, those fires were allowed to burn as they were in wilderness zones; however, many fires required direct attention to preserve nearby communities, and I would like to commend our team in fighting fires this summer. I think they did a commendable job considering the number of fires that were burning all at once. It was a very successful campaign considering that we had minimal amounts of loss to facilities in remote areas, such as trappersí cabins, or in areas outside of our major municipalities.
And I would have to say that, all things considered, if you looked at the map this summer, the Yukon was on fire, totally along with our friends in Alaska, in comparison to the rest of Canada, which also made it convenient for us to draw on sources from other provinces in Canada to assist us in our campaign.
These fires drove fire suppression costs above $20 million and provided a major test of our ability to respond to the first significant season since devolution. Iím proud to say that Yukonersí protective services responded very well to these fires and did their territory and government proud.
I believe these results are a testament to the abilities of the Yukon wild land fire management team and the group that was put together to work on fires this summer. However, Mr. Speaker, the fires did tax our financial bottom line, and as a result, this supplementary budget includes a request for $14.5 million for protective services. That request does include significant recoverables, including more than $10.1 million under the devolution transfer agreement for fire suppression activities and a further $3.1 million under the mutual aid resource sharing agreements.
In future years, we hope to be able to negotiate more money up front from the federal government for fire suppression costs, as the Premier had indicated. For this year, however, we have to spend the money now and wait for the federal government to pay its share of the costs. Mr. Speaker, my department is not content to simply spend each summer during peak fire season. All fire suppression is dependent on prudent planning and effective preparation on the off-season. That is why my department continues to support those programs that can help reduce future fire risk and associated costs.
We continue to support FireSmart and have just announced a special program in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse to help affected residents deal with the fallout from recent wind storms.
Looking beyond fire suppression, my department also continues to play a significant role in community life from Old Crow to Carcross, Haines Junction to Watson Lake, and elsewhere in between. My department plays a key role in ensuring that our unincorporated communities receive the necessary services they require. A significant part of those efforts relate directly to drinking water.
This government has made access to reliable drinking water a major focus over the past two years. I commend my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, for the regulatory work undertaken by his department. My department is building on that regulatory framework as it works to ensure that all Yukoners have access to reliable drinking water.
This fall we launched the rural domestic water well program, which is designed to help Yukoners develop private wells on their own property. Work is also underway on a rural drinking water supply strategy. This strategy will help my department plan future capital expenditures to address drinking water issues where the need is most pronounced. I hope to have an announcement with more details about the strategy by year-end.
The department is also working with the federal government for joint participation in a municipal rural infrastructure fund. This fund is directly tied to the Community Servicesí mandate, as many of the affected projects will be funded in part through my department.
Communities across the Yukon stand to be direct beneficiaries of this fund, whether they are building new community centres or improving waterfront facilities. We are also negotiating details on a Canadian infrastructure fund with the federal government. We expect roadways, water supplies, and sewage projects to benefit under this joint funding agreement.
Both of these programs have been announced by the federal government over the past couple of years, but itís taking a long time for us to move along on these two programs. We are currently working with the federal government under the first level of CIF funding, and we are negotiating with the government on an MRIF fund and hope to have something from them sometime early in the new year.
The federal government has played a major role in bringing these separate funds forward; however, it is important to remember these funds are dependent upon matching expenditures, and Community Services will expend significant dollars on many of these projects once they are approved.
My department also provides financial support to various humane societies, delivers motor vehicle services and funds a variety of local governance initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, a part of my departmentís community governance initiatives relates directly to Dawson City and, as mentioned here by members opposite, Dawson Cityís current financial situation is a very difficult situation for them as well as for us. We need to get a handle on exactly whatís happening in Dawson City, and to assist us in that event an auditor is currently working over the books, and we expect to have something from him in the next month or six weeks.
The funds we are providing Dawson City are on an as-needed basis to assist with their cash-flow difficulties they are currently incurring.
Wherever possible, my department will do what it can to support the city as it works through its current financial difficulties. We are doing everything we can to support the trustee, to assist him in organizing and operating the City of Dawson, and also to ensure that the City of Dawson is being maintained as far as water and so their basic services are being provided.
Under sports and recreation, I would like to remind my legislative colleagues that we are in the midst of the Yukonís decade of sports and culture. As a centrepiece to the decade, the Yukon will be hosting the 2007 Canada Games, the largest sporting event ever held in the territory and the first time ever north of 60.
My department will continue to work with the host society and the City of Whitehorse to make the 2007 Canada Winter Games a resounding success and a memorable experience for Yukoners and our guests alike.
I think itís important for our members to understand that itís not just the two weeks that our athletes will be here, but itís also the weeks leading up to the event and the weeks after the event. So we are looking at anywhere from a four- to six-week process with respect to the Canada Games, and I think itís very important that everybody understands that itís not just the two weeks of the games themselves.
I think weíll be showing the rest of Canada what the north can do with our pan-northern approach to these Canada Games. I encourage everyone to provide their assistance in the form of volunteerism when the time comes to put on a good show for our southern neighbours.
As part of the budget, my department has requested a $140,000 increase for the Best Ever program, most of which is fully recoverable. This program supports our athletes as they prepare for these games.
Our goal is to do everything we can to ensure Yukonís athletes will be fully prepared to compete at a national level at home in front of our friends and families and supporters, because I think itís important that our local athletes get as much training and coaching now as possible as we work toward 2007 so we can put on the best product during our games, because the majority of the fans in attendance will be locals who are wanting to watch our athletes in action. The Best Ever program is one way to strengthen Team Yukonís participation in the Canada Winter Games, and I think itís an admirable cause for us to work toward.
I would now like to turn my attention to the Department of Highways and Public Works. The department is forecasting an increase in operation expenditures of $1.7 million, of which $190,000 will be recovered, for a net increase of $1.5 million. French language immersion is increasing among Yukonís youth and adult population, and $3,000 of this supplementary request is for additional French language immersion courses to meet increased demand. The immersion courses break even financially and the cost of the additional courses will be offset by the student fees.
For some time now, the Yukon francophone community has consistently requested that the Yukon governmentís French Web site be upgraded. I am pleased to request an additional $100,000 for a bilingual Web coordinator and to report that we have negotiated with the federal government to refund 100 percent of this money. As a result, we have a Web coordinator currently working on our Web site to improve the Web site as well as provide the French content necessary to appease both the local francophone community as well as our minister responsible for francophone affairs.
The $1.5-million increase in operation and maintenance also reflects a $60,000 increase in airport security, and this is required to meet more stringent Transport Canada regulations. Security coverage at the Whitehorse Airport has to be increased from 14 hours a day to 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. This is a considerable increase to what we had anticipated, and again it is a requirement of Transport Canada and one we must meet.
Mr. Speaker, this supplementary operation and maintenance increase includes $750,000 in additional transportation maintenance this winter. The focus of these funds would be on auxiliary and auxiliary on-call staff and to be utilized for snowplowing and clearing and road clearing on secondary roads throughout the Yukon. This work will mean more jobs for Yukoners territory wide. Better roads improve winter service.
The Department of Highways and Public Works will invest in vegetation control on various roads, as weather permits, and will invest more money on our winter road maintenance throughout the Yukon. We are currently hiring people from Carcross, Teslin, Pelly Crossing, Dawson City and Ross River for this type of work. In total, this additional funding is expected to generate winter employment opportunities for varying periods of time, which will help keep our auxiliary staff working longer and allow us to hire additional casual employees ó again, more stimulus to the economy all throughout the Yukon and to the communities for the safety of all Yukoners.
The Department of Highways and Public Works is also requesting a supplementary capital budget in the amount of $1.8 million. This money is to plan and prepare for road upgrades that will equate to more jobs in the future and better, safer roads for all Yukoners.
Good planning is crucial and the department has identified the need for these dollars to ensure that detailed planning for capital projects is done in advance of the next fiscal year. We are doing more planning now so that weíll be ready to start capital projects as soon as weather permits. The department is requesting funding for work to commence on engineering and planning for the Campbell Highway, for the Klondike Highway from Whitehorse to Carmacks, for monies to be spent on the Dempster Highway as well as on the Atlin Road.
During the mid-1980s, a geometric and structural design plan for the Atlin Road was completed. Todayís request is to update that plan from the Tagish Road intersection to the B.C./Yukon border.
The departmentís supplementary budget also includes monies to purchase a historic passenger rail car from the White Pass & Yukon Route railway. The Red Line train will be purchased to help expand the White Pass railway service into Yukon. This is a mutually beneficial agreement. White Pass plans to use the proceeds from this sale to market its expanding service into the Yukon from Bennett Lake to Carcross and to increase its ridership for the next few summer seasons. In the short term, the government will lease the car back to White Pass while it implements its Yukon route marketing plan.
The department has agreed to lease the 28-passenger rail car back to White Pass for a minimum of two years ó another exciting process of working with the private sector to improve tourism into the Yukon and generate further investment into the Yukon.
I would like to take a few minutes to tell the House about the capital investments my department has made ó
Speaker: Order please. The member doesnít have two minutes; he has one minute left.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Okay.
I will just do a quick wrap. I would like to state that my department is working very hard to generate employment throughout the Yukon and for the safety of all Yukoners to enhance the safety of our roads and to ensure that we can create employment on a steady basis.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise to speak to the supplementary budget to outline the initiatives that have been begun by our government and how we are continuing along the path of servicing Yukoners. I will be brief.
The majority of the dollars are being spent in this supplementary on forest fire suppression. The initiatives that our government has in-house in the Department of Health and Social Services are self-explanatory. They continue with our plan of opening additional beds at Macaulay and Copper Ridge and for the expansion of home care and the additional funding to Hospice Yukon ó some $40,000.
We have also had an increase in SA payments and these SA payments have seen a balloon of an additional $1 million-odd having to flow out. These are volume and price increases ballooning very much in the summer months.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on at great length as to the number of initiatives that we have brought forward, that we have committed to Yukon, to Yukoners. They have placed their confidence in us as a government and we have demonstrated clearly our managing of the areas and, where a demonstrated need exists, we have met that demonstrated need.
When I look into the Department of Environment, there are a lot of cost-drivers that are driven by final agreements and commitments to other levels of government. The biggest change, of course, is in the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, and this initiative is going to be a tremendous asset to Yukon, Mr. Speaker ó a tremendous asset indeed.
Itís taking a number of people in the Yukon and putting them into responsible roles to identify with, and clearly enhance, the research and educational opportunities in this area.
Mr. Speaker, we have other initiatives underway in the management of our natural resources that are extremely beneficial and show our dedication to the conservation issues and to the protection of our natural habitat here in the Yukon.
We are midway through a term. We have another two years to go in the mandate, but we only have to look back and reflect on the tremendous advances that have been made and manifested themselves in restoring investor confidence, rebuilding the Yukon economy, a growth in population, a very low unemployment rate here in Yukon ó one of the lowest in Canada.
Iíll save my remarks for general debate where I know there are going to be line-by-line discussions in a number of the zones. Iíd like to hear what the opposition has to say because itís pretty thin gruel for the opposition to till when this government has done such a magnificent job.
Speaker: Does anybody wish to speak?
Mr. McRobb: After that performance by the Member for Klondike, itís difficult to resist any urge not to speak at this juncture, especially with some of the outrageous claims that I believe I heard, such as his good feeling about how his government has responded to needs that have arisen.
Mr. Speaker, it is pretty common knowledge that one of the top needs that people believe in across the territory is the need for that member to pay back his government loan. What has he accomplished in that area? Absolutely nothing. He hasnít paid back one penny of that loan, yet he can stand up and say what he did.
Well, there are words for that. Unfortunately, theyíre not allowed in here, so I canít say them.
Mr. Speaker, on the loan file, the government took a lot of credit for its solution to the problem.
But that solution fell through. Weíve yet to see the Premier require the Deputy Premier to pay back the loan. As a matter of fact, last week in Question Period, I believe I heard the question asked to the Premier whether he ever asked the MLA for Klondike to pay back the loan. And, in typical fashion, the question was skirted and was not directly answered.
Well, there are only a couple of possibilities to explain that. Usually the first one is that theyíre too embarrassed to answer, and thatís why we hear the circumlocutions around the question. Obviously the Premier was unable to say definitively that he had asked the member to pay back the loan, so we all know what the scoop is. We can see the wild horse look in the eyes of the members across the way at the same time. It doesnít come across on the radio transmission. We can see the body language. Not only that, we talked to some of the members opposite in private and Iíve got a pretty good idea what some of them think of this whole situation, yet the Member for Klondike can stand up and rave about his governmentís great accomplishments on responding to the needs of Yukoners. Well, again the words that describe that best simply arenít allowed in here. So if members care to know what those words are, theyíll have to approach me after 6 p.m.
Now, usually in this opportunity in a budget reply speech, even on a supplementary budget, I try to respond in three areas. Those areas are: riding-related concerns and issues, critic-related concerns and issues, and government-related concerns and issues, and that pretty well covers all the bases of interest to an MLA and critic.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, 20 minutes does not provide enough time to cover the long list of concerns. As a matter of fact, it might not even allow enough time to cover the list of concerns in any one of those areas. There are that many, after only two years of Yukon Party rule. There are many concerns regarding government.
As I was listening to the Member for Klondike, it struck me that this really is a government that has gone bad. It simply passed its best-before date. And I wondered, if this government were a loaf of bread, if the baker hadnít tossed it out long ago. So, really, itís a stale-dated government that seems to be past its time and is simply something really nobody wants. Weíre already hearing Yukoners asking when the next election is.
As a matter of fact, in some communities, like Carmacks, weíre hearing people talk about absolutely delaying certain government actions until the next election when they know they can get a fair break from the government. What causes that kind of reaction in the community? Thatís a good question. Obviously itís a whole mindset that government knows best. We know the Yukon Party has had the government-knows-best mindset from day one.
We know that. There are plenty of examples ó again, too many to mention.
So, in the case of Carmacks, the government knows best. It promised people there local consultation and local decision-making but, in the end, the government made up its own mind and, despite the efforts for public consultation, even the government admits that it had its mind made up on these issues before it visited the community. So, what kind of public consultation is that? Itís consultation in reverse, and it speaks to the allegation that this government doesnít listen and doesnít respect people.
Now, a lot can be said for a select group of insiders ó friends of the government ó to prove that theyíre treated much more favourably. Weíve seen that since day one. Just look at the appointments to boards and committees. It looks like a whoís who list of the Yukon Party.
Itís also something I heard again on the weekend while I was in Haines Junction at a public meeting. Someone came up to me and expressed real concern about this ďloading upĒ, the stacking of boards and committees across the territory. Yet, the Yukon Party promised an all-party committee for boards and committees selection. Well, where is it? Itís nowhere to be seen. Itís not on the radar screen, and we donít hear about it. Meanwhile the Yukon Party is continuing to put its people ó like-minded people ó on boards and committees.
Sure, theyíll point to the odd one who doesnít fall within that template but, Mr. Speaker, thatís what you call window dressing. The vast majority of the appointments are politically driven.
There are lots of examples about what the Yukon Party said in opposition and how it wonít follow through now. The Motor Vehicles Act amendments is one area weíve explored recently. I refer you to Hansard from last Thursday. There are numerous examples about standards the Yukon Party tried to hold the previous government to, yet it wonít do the same: itís not prepared to hold itself to that same standard. And virtually all these were items that were raised by the previous leader, who is also the MLA for Klondike and the government House leader and the Deputy Premier, because we know he was promoted over the summer. He was promoted to Deputy Premier despite making no progress on the loans file. Well, I say shame, and there are lots of Yukoners who are saying shame.
Mr. Speaker, I had the fortunate occasion to meet with some groups and governments in my riding recently, and this ethics issue came up time and time again.
We were asked about it. As MLAs, we were asked how we could possibly not hold ourselves to a higher standard than as set by someone like the MLA for Klondike, who wonít pay back his government loan, and some of the others?
In such situations, itís very difficult to explain that weíre not part of the Yukon Party government. People just donít buy that. They see us all in one group. This brings me back to something Iíve said on record. A lot of people out there do see us as one group and we on this side are being embarrassed by the lack of ethics demonstrated by a few on that side. Itís incumbent upon the Premier to step up to the plate and do the right thing and raise the bar where it should be ó to the height demanded by the Yukoners ó and demand no exceptions.
If there are exceptions, those people should be out on their ear, floating down the Yukon River, along with their dreams of a $50-million bridge.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, that got a reaction; that got a reaction. And it should; it should get a reaction because we are all judged in a similar manner. When one of us delves below that bar, we all wear it. A lot of people donít understand the difference between the parties. As a matter of fact, I dare to say that a lot of people donít appreciate the distinction between the Yukon Legislature and Canadaís Parliament, Mr. Speaker, and itís unfortunate but itís true. That just drives the point home that this Premier needs to act. Nobody else can do it. Perhaps if we were in a minority government situation, somebody else could do it. But the Yukon Party has a majority of 12 out of 18 seats, and since day one it has been using that majority to its full advantage, virtually excluding suggestions from any member of the opposition to help it better govern the territory.
And that has caused us, in the official opposition, to re-examine the whole situation.
Youíre a studious fellow, Mr. Speaker, and I know you have probably reviewed the bills we tabled in this Legislature last week to improve the way the Yukon Party can govern. Thereís a conflict of interest act, thereís a democracy act, thereís another act ó Mr. Speaker, three substantial acts, each one of them more substantial than anything the Yukon Party has tabled.
That was proven last Thursday when we had a good look at the Motor Vehicles Act. It was supposed to be the flagship piece of legislation. We looked it over and itís bare except for a few housekeeping amendments. Thatís shameful. And thatís their flagship piece of legislation this fall sitting ó 30 days. Well, we in the official opposition did our homework and we added to the agenda substantially with these three bills.
Now, we hope, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon Party will be willing to serve the public interest and the public good, as we are, and provide sufficient time for debate on those bills, any fine-tuning that is necessary and opportunity for approval of those bills before the end of this 30-day sitting, which will bring us to mid-December.
Otherwise, itís going to be pretty thin soup in here in the last couple of weeks, if the Yukon Party uses its majority to basically force things through and only allow us one Wednesday every two weeks to debate our own bills.
Mr. Speaker, one doesnít need a crystal ball to really foresee this situation arising. So Iím calling on this government right now to do the right thing and make sure thereís sufficient time in the last couple of weeks where those bills can be debated. Even if itís a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday, Mr. Speaker, letís fill the calendar of this sitting with something substantial. Letís call those bills forward; letís hear what the government has to say; letís hear its suggestions on how to improve those bills. Let it not be silent. These members had lots to say during the campaign only two years ago; letís hear what they have to say on these bills.
They should not be deprived of putting on record their own beliefs and the positions and concerns of their constituents. They should not be forced into being quiet or forced into submission or forced to the point where they all have to vote against it as a block. Mr. Speaker, only the Premier can force that upon these members. If the Premier has any inclination to force the other 10 members of this caucus into voting against these bills, he should be held to account. In this Legislature, on behalf of Yukoners, he should provide a full explanation for why he wants to stall those three pieces of legislation, which is exactly what Yukoners want to see passed. There is no excuse to stall it.
I look across the way and see some members nodding in agreement. Well, letís see what happens. Letís see what happens, Mr. Speaker, when the verdict comes down from the corner office up there.
A phone call from Watson Lake comes in, and he says, ďEverybodyís voting against this. Whoís your daddy?Ē
Speaker: The member has three minutes.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
While weíre at it, thereís a favourite saying of the Premier that keeps recurring to me in situations like this: lead, follow or get out of the way. Well, if heís not willing to lead on this legislation, and if heís not willing to follow the lead weíve set, then maybe he should consider getting out of the way. Maybe he should take another vacation back east or something on the tail-end of this sitting and let us conduct the public business as the public wants it to be conducted, not as he wants to force it into some kind of closure or exclusion practices where these kinds of bills canít be brought forward. Let him take another holiday. If heís short on places to go, let him ask us. Weíll come up with some suggestions on where he can go.
On that note, Iíd like to thank the members opposite for their attention.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to start out by saying that contrary to what the members opposite would like the public at large to believe, this government has worked to turn the economy around. That has been quite evident in all the reports in recent news articles.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the 2004-05 supplementary budget for the Department of Education. I must say that this government has proven to be very fiscally responsible and very trustworthy in administering the public funds. This year, the government substantially increased the budget for the Department of Education. In fact, the budget passed this spring was the largest Education budget in the history of the territory.
This supplementary budget continues our commitment to respond to the critical education needs of Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education is requesting a net increase of $1,286,000 in operation and maintenance expenditures. This request is made up of the following: revotes of $530,000, which will enable the completion of the projects approved in last yearís school needs assessment program. Some of the projects could not be completed until the summer when schools were not in session. A detailed list of all expenditures is available. Funding of $25,000 is being provided for the purchase of a seat in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. When a seat is purchased from an educational institution, the government is covering a portion of the institutionís internal cost to educate a Yukon student.
A seat purchase does not cover the cost of the individualís tuition. We are in discussions with the First Nations regarding a process to make changes to the education system to better meet the needs of all Yukoners, especially First Nation students. We have committed $468,000 for the education reform process this year. The department is preparing to launch this consultation process under joint leadership with First Nations. It will be targeted to First Nations and other partners in education to address outstanding education issues stemming from the Education Act review. Addressing the disparities of First Nation and non-First Nation student outcomes by increasing aboriginal learner success continues to be a challenge for both First Nation governments and the Department of Education.
The two-year process will be modelled on the Childrenís Act review and will recommend changes to reform the Yukon education system.
Iíd like to state, Mr. Speaker, that a large amount of the information gathered for the Education Act review was in fact more related to social issues than education issues. Like the Childrenís Act review process, the Kaska and Kwanlin Dun First Nation will be invited to join the process as members of the project executive committee. This invitation will be extended to non-CYFN members because the process recognizes the respective jurisdictions of all First Nations and the Yukon government for education.
The Yukon government has committed to implement a late French immersion program this past fall. Heritage Canada has increased its funding contribution by $121,000, of which $115,000 has been allocated for the late French immersion program this year.
Motion to adjourn debate
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Seeing the time, Mr. Speaker, I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: The Minister of Education has moved that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 12 agreed to
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 stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.