††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Wednesday, December 8, 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.
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Speaker: Under tabling of returns and documents, I have for tabling the annual report of the Ombudsman and Information and Privacy Commissioner for the 2003 calendar year.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the 2003-04 annual report† of the Yukon Liquor Corporation and also the annual report dated March 31, 2004, of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) this government is planning to utilize the Canada-Yukon affordable housing initiative for housing for seniors;
(2) they are in the process of developing building projects that are based on public/private partnerships; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to examine the mandate of the Yukon Housing Corporation with a view to determining if implementing the Canada-Yukon affordable housing initiative allows for public/private partnerships.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Speaker: Prior to proceeding to Question Period, the Chair will provide a ruling on a point of order raised on December 6 by the official opposition House leader about comments made by the Minister of Education.
The Chair has reviewed the remarks made by the minister and agrees that there is a point of order. It is unparliamentary to suggest in any way that a Member of this Legislative Assembly does not represent that memberís constituents or that a member is not acting in the best interests of his or her constituents.
The Chair will also rule on a point of order raised yesterday by the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding the use of the phrase ďPeter PrincipleĒ by the Member for Kluane. The Chair concurs with the Minister of Health and Social Services that the term, as used in the context it was by the Member for Kluane, was demeaning, and therefore not in order.
The Chair would remind all members that the very basis of this Legislative Assembly is the belief that all members are acting honourably. We may disagree, and that disagreement may be very intense, but we must not, and cannot, go down the road of questioning the motives of the colleagues with whom we are disagreeing or make insulting remarks about them. We must always realize that in this democracy others are entitled to their views and positions, no matter how mistaken we believe them to be.
If we do not keep this in mind and we come to think it acceptable that we can insult others or accuse them of not acting honourably, we may find we have done damage to this most valuable of democratic institutions. I would therefore ask all members to keep this in mind when they are framing their remarks.
We will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re:† ††Alaska Highway pipeline
Mr. McRobb: During the past two days of debate in Committee of the Whole, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and I had the opportunity to discuss several issues, including pipeline preparedness. The minister promised he was working hard to maximize opportunities for all Yukoners on the Alaska Highway pipeline; however, this government has made minimal progress in preparing for the impacts of this megaproject. These impacts include the social fallout resulting from the intrusion of thousands of Outside workers in our small communities, culture and environment, the drain on our existing workforce and the impact of the heavy traffic on our highways. What is this minister doing to minimize the social impact of the pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have been spending resources on our transportation grids throughout the Yukon.
We will continue spending resources to upgrade the roads so they will handle any traffic that is put forward for any pipeline. As far as minimizing the social impacts and maximizing economic benefit, we certainly are looking forward to that. We have put together the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to address all those issues from the aboriginal side of the table.
I think we are doing a good job in moving forward with this project. The project is on the horizon. Nothing has been triggered. There isnít a pipeline happening next week. Thatís why we are putting our house in order today so that, when and if a pipeline is a reality, our community will be ready for it.
Mr. McRobb: Well, by then it would be too late, Mr. Speaker. It takes time, and this government needs to be proactive. There is a noticeable lack of information and public awareness campaign on this matter from this Yukon Party government. Our territory needs time to prepare in advance to meet the challenges of a pipeline. How much lead time is necessary? Well, itís reasonable to expect it would take a couple years just to find out from Yukoners what those challenges are and how best to deal with them.
Yesterday the minister said he was just as concerned as we are about the social fallout from an Alaska Highway pipeline. If thatís true, will he ask for a review of this matter by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre working within this government to address the issues that will come forward when this pipeline is a reality.
Mr. Speaker, until such time as we have a pipeline in reality, all we can do is the front work that weíre capable of doing. We have a lot of concerns about the pipeline. We have the Mackenzie Valley pipeline issue, but we as a government today are drilling in the southeast Yukon. We have an economic partnership in north Yukon to drill in January. Weíre moving ahead in the oil and gas industry in Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: That would be laughable if it werenít so embarrassing. Iím pleased to put on record that an NDP government in the Yukon would ask for a review of the pipeline from the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. That review would examine all the social fallout. Further, the NDP government would act upon the YCEEís recommendations on how best to prepare ourselves from the overwhelming presence of what would be the largest contract ever let in the history of the world.
The mandate of the YCEE is to deal with major economic and environmental issues and to raise public awareness of significant developments. Reviewing a project like this would be perfect for the YCEE. How will the minister ensure the territory is prepared to meet this huge challenge, if not with the assistance of the YCEE?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, for the member opposite, this government is getting prepared for whatever pipeline and whatever decision is made in Ottawa to make the reality that a pipeline is coming. Weíre working with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the Alaska Highway pipeline. And, of course, as the member says, there are going to be challenges, and this government is prepared to meet those challenges.
Question re: Yukon Housing unit purchase
†Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation. Is the Housing Corporation involved in buying any units at the new seniors housing development at Normandy Place in Takhini subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím certainly not aware that anything is being actively looked at there.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister should take a drive by and check it out because the Housing Corporation logo is on the sign. Yesterday in the House the acting minister said that he anticipates using the Canada-Yukon affordable housing initiative money, which is $5.5 million over five years, for seniors housing, and the corporation is now in a position to put in an application. This government is drifting into a P3 policy with seniors housing. They are using affordable housing money to do it. Perhaps Partnerships B.C., as part of their exorbitant $320,000 contract, is helping the corporation develop a new mandate and policy. Bridges are just their first venture into our taxpayersí money.
Has the mandate and policy of the corporation changed to include partnerships with the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I also noticed the community development fund logo on some of our sports facilities, but I donít understand that they own them.
The affordable housing initiative has been a longstanding concern of ours because of a number of restrictions. Thereís a 50:50 funding initiative from provinces and territories, which has hit the territories most severely but even Newfoundland and Labrador have had problems on any kind of uptake on the programs. The interventions are restricted. Rental versus ownership is skewed in many directions. In some cases, it really gives problems to low-income housing as opposed to rental. Phase 2 coming in is even more of a problem in many different ways, so weíre looking at a variety of different ways of working with the federal government to access these funds in a more meaningful way for individual territories and jurisdictions across Canada. A single solution for all of Canada does not work, and weíve made good progress in that over the last week.
†Mr. Cardiff: Yesterday I pointed out that there are currently 30 people or families on the social housing wait-list and there are no plans in the works to meet these desperate social housing needs, Mr. Speaker. The cost of a unit at Normandy Place is $168,000, plus $1,000 in taxes, plus the monthly association fees and utilities. There are very few seniors who can afford that. This is not affordable seniors housing. This is housing for retirees who have good pensions and lots of savings.
The minister needs to take into account the needs of seniors who donít qualify for a mortgage and who have fixed incomes. How much of the $5.5 million will be spent on real affordable housing for seniors ó and I stress, ďreal affordable housingĒ?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Actually, the member brings up some good points. The problem has been in accessing these funds through the federal government. As I mentioned before, we have made good progress even over the last week ó especially over the last week ó in doing this.
One of the problems weíve had is, again, the number of different initiatives. Seniors housing is certainly a high priority here. Itís not to say that other things are not a high priority but our biggest is seniors housing. Thatís not a horribly big issue with Nunavut. Itís there but they have a different take on it. Nunavut alone could use $3 billion next week to solve their problem.
When we look at what theyíve moved into phase 2, $5.5 million in phase 1 becomes $300,000 in phase 2 for us, and fairly restrictive. Nunavut is an example of where $4.96 million becomes $290,000 in what their government has dubbed ďthe affordable house initiative.Ē Northwest Territories did a little bit better ó with a bit of subsidy, they might get a duplex out of it.
We have to solve these problems, and it would appear that Minister Fontana heard us at our meetings and our private meetings last week and will be getting back to us very shortly, I would hope, on the solutions for that. Our emphasis certainly is affordable and accessible housing for seniors, but it will cover the entire gamut.
Question re: †Dawson City bridge
†Ms. Duncan: I have questions for the Minister of Economic Development. Itís great to see the minister, because Iím hopeful he can clear up the laughable policy and financial mess that the Yukon Party has created since they decided to build a bridge in Dawson City.
On November 5, the minister put out a news release ó Iím sure heís familiar with it ó confirming that the Government of Yukon was using a public/private partnership to build a bridge in Dawson City. On Monday in this Legislature, the Premier contradicted the minister. He said no decision had been made about how the bridge would be built. The Yukon Party is nine months into this project; almost $900,000 has been spent, and the government has no idea how this bridge is going to be built and paid for. Either the minister is wrong or the Premier is wrong; which is it?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly, the interpretation, I would say, is whatís at fault here. The phrase ďto build a bridgeĒ ó at first, we need to look at the qualified people who would be willing to look at the project. We have secured the assistance of Partnerships B.C., an organization that has worked on over $3.5 billion worth of P3s ó with great success, I would add. Once the request for qualifications comes in, we will then have the opportunity to actually call for bids and proposals. Depending on what comes out of that, all of this is part of the policy building and policy analysis process. So to say that we have already engaged in building ó we have engaged a process to start that happening, but I donít think weíve hammered any nails yet.
Ms. Duncan: Or poured concrete. The issue is embarking upon a process for public/private partnerships with no policy in place. And another player in this mess is the Minister of Highways and Public Works. In January of this year, the minister received a report from his department that said the bridge is a poor candidate for a public/private partnership. Quote: ďA P3 is not recommended, as the cost is significantly higher.Ē
The report had to be obtained under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, because this open and accountable government would not release it. This same report put the cost of the bridge at $44 million. Itís the governmentís own report. So what does the minister do? He goes out and pays somebody else to do another report and give him the answer he wants. We have now contracted Partnerships B.C. at $320,000 to get the answer the minister wanted in the first place and ignored the advice of Yukonís own respected public service. Why is the minister so intent on using a P3 when his own officials are recommending against it and the cost is significantly higher?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: What we are intent on is to develop a policy and develop an idea of where this will take us. Thatís really what this is all about. One thing Iíve certainly noticed is that itís important to note that the UMA estimates, or the report that was done that the member opposite refers to, has added a higher than usual 20-percent contingency cost ó well above the industry standard. Thatís maybe something to point out, but it gives us a range. What we need to do is see the actual proposals and how this will be done. I think thatís the important part of developing the project. Itís the important part of developing the policies.
Ms. Duncan: I think the minister should focus on his department, as opposed to spending some time elsewhere. The government is actually withholding information from the public that says, ďDonít use a P3 to build a bridge.Ē They did not release this report to the public; it had to be obtained under access to information.
For months, the government has told the Yukon public, ďDonít worry. The bridge will only cost $25 million.Ē Their own officials are putting the cost at $44 million. It started the project with no policy in place. It has no confirmation from the State of Alaska that the road on the other side of the river will be open for more than six months of the year. It has no data whatsoever to say that the bridge will increase tourism. The City of Dawson is in desperate need of a new sewage treatment plant, not a bridge.
For all these reasons, the Yukon Party should not be proceeding on the bridge.
Speaker: Will the member ask the question?
Ms. Duncan: Will the minister do the right thing and cancel this project?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím surely appreciative of the wide range of Liberal estimates. Iíd rather deal with what we see and what comes out of these proposals. Itís important again to note that there are contingency fees built into all these estimates, and this gives us a wide range.
There has been a great deal of misinformation, I think, to the public through the media, through discussion and on the Internet. I have to put out a number of different things here. The ferry is going to age. It has an annual cost. Retaining that ferry will probably cost us in the same range as what the bridge will cost ó a lifespan of maybe 20 to 25 years versus a lifespan of perhaps 70 years.
I would also like to point out to everyone about the claim that this has something to do with the MLA for Dawson ó the bridge discussions began in 1992; he was elected in 1996. So I tend to think that thatís a bit of a red herring. The TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation has come out in support of the bridge. If it doesnít make sense to replace the ferry, they why arenít we discussing the ferry to nowhere?
Question re: Customer service training facilitator
†Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Acting Minister of Highways and Public Works. Can the acting minister explain why department employees who were taking part in a training workshop on service delivery last Thursday were abruptly directed to return to work because the workshop was being cancelled?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would have to say that I donít know those details so I canít answer that question.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, perhaps the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission can provide the answers to the question. I understand that concerns had been raised within the department about the person who was facilitating the course. In fact, the person in question has a lengthy criminal record, including at least nine convictions for fraud, several other convictions for common assault, assault causing bodily harm, criminal harassment and sexual assault. Can the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission confirm that this is why the training workshop was cancelled, and can she also explain the process that was used to select the facilitator in the first place?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †In response to the question raised by the member opposite, the staff development branch as well as the property management agency within the Department of Highways and Public Works contracted with the Yukon Tourism Education Council to deliver customer service training for agency employees. A facilitator was hired by the Yukon Tourism Education Council to deliver customer service training for this contract, as the member opposite made members aware.
The training began on November 29, 2004, and concerns came to light about the choice of the facilitator on Wednesday, December 1. I should add that steps were immediately taken and a decision was made to discontinue the customer service training using this facilitator so as to ensure the wellness, safety and security of our employees was maintained.
Mr. Cardiff: This individualís record was extensively reported in both local newspapers in September in regard to the latest incident. In fact, the judge in that case used some extremely harsh words to describe this personís conduct. Iím sure the minister can appreciate how this might have caused some of the employees to feel uncomfortable in a workshop situation with this person. This raises some serious questions about what process the government uses to determine the suitability of people who conduct training programs for public employees. I can also appreciate the ministerís dilemma, because this person officially has served his debt to society on the conviction, as I mentioned earlier. So let me ask the minister this: if it was appropriate to engage the individual as a facilitator in the first place, why was it also appropriate to cancel the contract so abruptly, and how much is this going to cost Yukon taxpayers by the time itís finally resolved?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, itís important to reiterate for the member oppositeís information that we, the Yukon government, did not hire, did not enter into a direct contract with this individual, this facilitator in question. Rather, the facilitator was hired directly by the Yukon Tourism Education Council. I should reiterate that as soon as concerns were raised with the Public Service Commission, as soon as concerns were brought to their attention, steps were immediately taken, and a decision was made to discontinue the customer service training using this particular facilitator. So we did pay heed to these concerns ó number one to this Government of Yukon is the wellness, security and safety of our employees, and we took immediate steps to listen to the employees and discontinue this service that was contracted though the Yukon Tourism Education Council.
Question re: ATIPP request
†Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. The other day in Committee debate, the Minister of Highways and Public Works spoke about the confidentiality requests under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. These are the ministerís words: ďIíll reaffirm again that staff do not release the name of the individuals who are making the requests. That is not a requirement of that particular process; in fact, it is just the opposite.Ē
My question for the minister is: how did the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation find out that the official opposition had filed an ATIPP request in September?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, requests like this come in all the time and itís usually pretty clear who they come from. I would point out to the member opposite that, in the discussion, it was the leader of the official opposition who rose and identified himself. Frankly, he wasnít the one I was thinking of.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister should read Hansard from November 16. Before any reference was made about ATIPP, the minister sitting across the way said this: ďI can certainly confirm that there was an ATIPP request in September from the oppositionĒ ó with a small ďoĒ ó who had been asking questions for months. But the third party hasnít filed any ATIPP requests on the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
The minister mentioned a specific request in a specific month. Who told the minister where this ATIPP request originated? Was it the deputy minister or another senior official? Was it another minister who told him about that? Or is he still going to insist that he got the information from street gossip?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I still have to admit that I am a little sceptical of why the member opposite is so embarrassed at having made the request in the first place. But I have to say again that such a request ó I did know that it had been made. I honestly donít know where that was from.
With the small ďoĒ opposition ó members opposite are constantly correcting us, saying itís the ďofficial oppositionĒ ó I made the assumption that it came from somewhere on the opposite side of the House, not knowing anything about the three potential sources, and knowing that for one potential source it is near and dear to their heart, it seemed a logical lead.
Again, it was the leader of the official opposition who stood and identified himself. Obviously, I am a better fisherman.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister needs to review the Hansard and see who said what when. Obviously Iím wasting my breath trying to get a reasonable answer from this minister, so let me turn to the Acting Minister of Highways and Public Works. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act is extremely important legislation. Itís also extremely important that Yukon people feel confident that their identities arenít going to be revealed when they file requests for information under the act, like the minister did with the official opposition. Now the Minister of Highways and Public Works apparently has some secret process for reviewing the act, and it includes a list of 23 issues to consider. He wouldnít tell the House what those issues are, who decided them, or what the issues were that needed to be discussed or reviewed, so will the acting minister make a commitment that the review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act will include how to prevent the identity of people who file requests from falling into the hands of people who shouldnít have that information?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Itís my understanding from the Minister of Highways and Public Works that that review has actually been underway for some time, and Iím sure heíll be aware of that and Iíll bring it to his attention and am happy to include that. Again, I have to say that it was the member opposite who identified himself.
Question re: Permanent art collection
†Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. The departmentís Web site refers to four art collections that are managed by the art section of the ministerís department. There is the Yukon permanent art collection with more than 180 works; thereís the Yukon government art collection; thereís an annual exhibition and acquisition of works by young Yukon artists through the Yukonís young peopleís art collection; and finally thereís the art acquisition program of works to display in public areas of government-owned buildings.
With hundreds of people visiting the building in the past few weeks, can the minister explain why none of this public art is currently on display in the lobby and hasnít been?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I am unaware of that particular matter raised by the member opposite, but I will be sure to get the information back to him.
Mr. Hardy: The purpose of public art is to allow any member of the public, be they residents of the Yukon or visitors to the Yukon, to see and enjoy visual artistic expression by Yukon and northern artists. The Friends of the Gallery started the Yukon permanent art collection back in 1981. The Yukon Lottery Commission has used some of its revenues to fund this collection. Itís something all Yukoners should be proud of, and definitely something that should be available to them.
Can the minister tell us how many publicly owned works of art are currently not on display in public areas of government buildings but are hanging on office walls that are not normally accessible to the public?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †No, I donít have that specific number on hand, as the member opposite can fully appreciate. But we certainly do appreciate artwork of each individual artist in the territory, and we do our best to display as much art as we are able to.
Mr. Hardy: I wish the minister would take a look around and maybe admire some of the tremendous artwork that exists in the collection. She would have noticed blank walls when hundreds of people were filing through here in the last couple of weeks, especially to hear the school choirs, et cetera. The walls were blank. Why didnít the minister take a look around? Thatís her department.
Perhaps the minister would be willing to look into this matter from a policy standpoint. We have heard reports that some senior officials have works of art, bought through public funds, hanging on their walls for months ó or even years ó in their private offices. Surely that is not how public money should be spent.
I know the art that is displayed in my office is privately owned. Will the minister undertake to review the policy and practices of her department regarding public artwork and make sure that art bought with public funds is accessible to all Yukoners and visitors? Will the minister please do that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will certainly endeavour to discuss with our Department of Tourism and Culture why, in fact, there was no artwork hanging on the walls at a particular time. I canít specifically give you an answer because I donít have that information at my fingertips. But we do take great pride in our Yukon artists and our cultural industries. We help facilitate discussions and develop their skills and develop their work by supporting their artwork year after year and day in and day out. I should also add that there are tours that are taken throughout the Yukon government building, which give plenty of opportunity for visitors and Yukoners alike to enjoy different pieces of artwork throughout the Yukon government.
Question re: Mackenzie Valley pipeline
†Mr. Arntzen: My question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Iím sure that the minister is aware that the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline proponents have now filed an application with the National Energy Board for the building of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and, if approved, the building of the pipeline will commence fairly soon. Now, will the minister give me an update on where the Yukon stands today in regard to Yukon readiness to participate with our workforce and an update on business opportunities?
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the member oppositeís information, we are certainly working with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project. Our government has a reciprocal deal with the territories, so both our individuals and our corporations can take advantage of the opportunities that the Mackenzie Valley pipeline will bring forward. We are going to work with the NEB and intervene on behalf of the northern producers to make sure that our gas is not stranded, that it will be put into the scenario when the pipeline goes forward. And at the end of the day, Yukon gas will be part and parcel of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.
Mr. Arntzen: Can the minister update us on whatís in place as far as Yukonersí readiness for tapping into that pipeline to bring north Yukon natural gas resources out?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That would be involved with NEB ó the National Energy Board ó making sure that we do have access to the gas, to the pipeline for our product. It would be part of our intervention to make sure that we have a cost-conscious price and that we have access to the pipeline. Itís very important. The concept of stranded Canadian gas in the Mackenzie was one of the reasons why Canada was very concerned about which pipeline would go first. We are Canadian, and we do have gas stranded at the moment. It will be involved, and it will be part and parcel of the decisions of NEB when they make the decision on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would ask all members to join me in welcoming to the visitors gallery Mr. Karp and a number of individuals working their way through the immigration program here in Canada who hopefully will end up being residents here in the Yukon.
Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mr. Arntzen: Just a quick question. Have those negotiations started with the proponents of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The proponents with the application triggered the process. Weíre prepared to meet those dates set out on the application, and we will be very aggressive working on behalf of Yukoners to make sure that our northern resources are not stranded in any way by the Mackenzie Valley pipeline decision.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 391
Clerk: Motion No. 391, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges Canadaís Minister of Immigration, the Hon. Judy Sgro, to direct her department to fulfill its responsibility to deal with the refugees currently living in the Yukon in a manner that is fair and equitable.
Mr. Cathers: As the mover of the motion, I will, of course, be speaking in favour of it. First of all, Iíd like to welcome the guests that have joined us in the gallery. Itís a pleasure to see you here today.
Since March of 2004, over 50 new refugee claimants have moved to the Yukon and are currently living here. They hope to make Yukon their home on a more permanent basis, a sentiment that Iím sure all of us here in this Assembly and any Yukoners listening to this today can certainly share and empathize with.
Some of these refugee claimants are now facing possible deportation. On Monday of this week we heard that one of these families was scheduled to be deported yesterday. I was very pleased to hear that this family has been granted a stay of the removal order and that the pre-removal risk assessment will be reconsidered. This does not, however, mean that they have won their fight to stay in Canada.
However, it is my sincere hope that the reassessment will be done fairly and will include full consideration of the facts. I think everyone recognizes the fact that unless Canada is to revert to a practice of accepting every person who applies to immigrate, there has to be a screening process for applicants.
Under Canadaís immigration system, special consideration is given to refugees fleeing their homeland. I think itís safe to say that the vast majority of Canadians want to see our nation do its part in providing a safe home for refugees, especially those who have a strong reason to feel their lives will be in danger if they are forced to return to their country of origin.
The refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board determines the validity of requests for immigration as a refugee. Its Web site lists the following information about its role, and Iím quoting in part, of course, Mr. Speaker, from what is on the Web site.
The refugee protection division determines claims for refugee protection made within Canada. All claims for protection made within Canada are received by a Canada border services agency immigration officer at a port of entry, border, airport, port, or at a Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) immigration centre. All claims deemed eligible by the officers are referred to the IRB for a hearing. Canada is a signatory to several international agreements, including the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Under these three agreements, Canada must process all claims for protection made within Canada.
The site goes on further to provide a bit of an explanation on who the refugee protection division provides protection for, under the heading ďFor Whom Does the RPD Provide Protection?Ē Under the above agreements, the RPD must provide protection for convention refugees and persons in need of protection.
Who is a convention refugee? Within the meaning of the United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees, refugees are persons who are outside the country of their nationality and have a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.
Who is a person in need of protection? Under a number of conventions, persons in need of protection are persons for whom removal to their country of origin would subject them personally to a danger of torture, a risk to their lives or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishments. The RPDís role is to determine which claimants are convention refugees or persons in need of protection.
If the RPD grants either convention refugee status or protected person status, the claimant receives the status of a protected person and has the ability to apply for permanent residence in Canada and eventually for citizenship. There are a number of processes for appeal, but I wonít go through the whole list of information I have here. I do want to give other members a chance to weigh in on this. Iím attempting to provide a bit of an overview of the process.
The Immigration and Refugee Board is an independent tribunal responsible for making decisions on immigration and refugee matters efficiently, fairly and in accordance with the law. Among its other responsibilities, the IRB decides who needs refugee protection from among the thousands of claimants who come to Canada annually. So there is a process.
What I find to be great cause for concern is the fact that many Yukoners who have befriended the people currently seeking refugee status here in the Yukon feel that that process has not been fair or equitable. There are real concerns in fact about whether the process was even followed. This process is put in place to make very real decisions affecting the lives of real people. In fact, if a wrong decision is made and a genuine refugee is deported to their country of origin, it could result in them facing persecution or even losing their life. This is not a game. It is critical that the process for determining whether someone is indeed a refugee be fair, equitable and effective. Considering the potential life and death consequences of these decisions, this process must also be seen to be fair and to be equitable.†
To this point, the process does not seem to have met the latter test in the minds of many Yukoners. Current events on the national stage have raised questions in the minds of many Canadians about the fairness of the immigration process. It is doubtful whether the Department of Immigration and the minister responsible have ever experienced less credibility in the minds of Canadians ó perhaps even in the eyes of the international community.
I understand that stories of the controversy that the Minister of Immigration, Judy Sgro, is currently embroiled in have been widely reported around the world with questions about the integrity and fairness of Canadaís immigration system being reported by the press in countries including England, Ireland, South Africa, the U.S. and Romania. Faith in the immigration process seems to be at an all-time low at home and abroad regarding the way our country is reviewing this.
In July of this year, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ms. Sgro, announced an overhaul of the refugee appeal process. At that time, the federal government was criticized for failing to provide refugees with a truly effective means of contesting the substance of refugee board hearings under this new framework. A Globe and Mail article of July 26 quoted Minister Sgro as saying there will be some trade-offs to shorten case processing times ó ďsome trade-offs.Ē Do these include fairness? Do the trade-offs include removing steps to ensure refugee claimants are treated equitably and given a reasonable opportunity for appeal in a desire just to speed things up? Certainly I recognize the need and desire to conduct things in a rapid and expeditious fashion, but process has to be followed, and we canít cut corners when weíre dealing with a matter this serious.
Some of the questions Yukoners have include the following passage, which I will briefly quote. It appeared in the Whitehorse Star. ďIn a handout given to people passing by the protesters Friday, it is argued the five families have followed the federal immigration process but have been victims of circumstances beyond their control, including lack of representation in Whitehorse, where the only legal aid lawyer available to assist the families had never done immigration work before. Inconsistent rulings ó throughout this process, it appears that many immigration decisions are subjective and based on nothing more than what sort of mood a staff member is in, the handout reads. This has been most apparent in the granting of refugee status to a mother while her daughter was denied, even though they had both suffered from the exact same circumstance. Evidence ignored ó the handout states families are told to hand in all immigration forms and applications as soon as possible, and the supporting documents and evidence can be submitted at a later date, but then nearly all supporting documents given at the later date are ignored.Ē
The document then encourages Yukoners to contact Judy Sgro, the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to push for the fair and just process.
Our Minister of Health and Social Services has already faxed a letter to Minister Sgro that was dated November 26, and another one dated October 5. There have been a couple of letters on this regarding the refugee claimants. The one of November 26 is expressing concern that the minister apply due process and ensure itís applied. This is certainly an issue that we on this side of the House do regard very seriously. We want to be sure that fair process is followed and that fair opportunity is indeed given to these people.
Again, there is a real concern about perceived inconsistencies in this process. The media has also reported that there is one family here where all but one member was approved to stay in Canada, and the reports go further to claim that cases with similar evidence were treated differently, with some being accepted and others rejected for reasons that are not apparent. This is the perception out there: Yukoners clearly have little faith in the process, the Department of Immigration or the Minister of Immigration.
Returning to the federal debate, which is occurring in the House of Commons, some of the recent accusations levied at the Minister of Immigration include an accusation that the minister fast-tracked immigration for a campaign worker, questions around the existence of a special program whereby exotic dancers are granted faster immigration to Canada, including cases where they would not otherwise even be granted entry, questions about the number and distribution of special ministerial permits for immigration, and an accusation that a person for whom a Canada-wide arrest warrant was out for their deportation was actually delivering pizza to the ministerís campaign office during the last election campaign and hung out there on numerous occasions.
Again, we go further to accusations that the minister received an illegal campaign donation funnelled through a campaign worker. There are also questions around the sheltering of U.S. refugee claimants who are, in fact, simply avoiding the law in their country, including drug traffickers and Hellís Angels. This is something that has actually extended questioning. Itís not just the U.S., I believe, that is the main source of these claimants, but there are a number of other countries that abide by the U.N. convention on human rights that Canada processes refugees from.
Iíd like to briefly draw your attention to some of the debate that has taken place in the House of Commons and touch on a few of the highlights. Starting with a question from a New Democrat Party member, Mr. Bill Siksay, the Member for Burnaby-Douglas: ďMr. Speaker, the government has failed to implement the merit-based refugee appeal division provided for in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.Ē That is from Question Period, I believe, on November 2, 2004, when that issue was raised.
I go further on here to comments by the Member of Parliament for Calgary-Nose Hill, Diane Ablonczy. Again, this is from Question Period on, I believe, November 17: ďMr. Speaker, the Immigration minister helped a campaign worker jump the queue, someone who came here to work as a stripper on a temporary work visa, then married a Canadian and applied to stay. The supporter has never been ordered to leave, nor was her application turned down. She just did not want to wait in line like everybody else. Her husband said that normal channels were too frustrating, so she volunteered to help the minister to get a special deal, which is exactly what she got.Ē
It goes on further here again that the husband of the stripper said he was desperate because he had been frustrated in his efforts to go through normal channels at the Immigration department. The minister claims she is going to clean up abuse of the system.
Another except from Hansard of the House of Commons is from December 1 ó more recently, again, the Member for Calgary-Nose Hill for the Conservative Party, Mrs. Diane Ablonczy:† ďThere are troubling inconsistencies in the Immigration ministerís story. First she said she did not want to separate her campaign worker from her Canadian husband. Now she is forced to admit that separating couples is precisely what the Liberal government policy demands in such cases. Why did she not change the rules to make them fair for everyone rather than giving a special permit to this one campaign worker?Ē
These are just a few of the questions that have come up in the House of Commons recently around this. As stated, these have been reported locally, nationally, and internationally, and they are certainly not contributing to a feeling by anyone that the process is being followed fairly and fully.
Again, going on comments ó Member from Simcoe-Grey, Ms. Helena Guergis: ďThe parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration told us the stripper program did not exist. The Prime Minister told us that it did exist but was under review. The minister told us it was really not about strippers after all.Ē
The question goes further on to say, ďThe facts are the program does exist. It is degrading, insulting, and it exploits women. Why are women in such vulnerable positions being told that they should submit a nude photo of themselves in order to be accepted into the country?Ē
This is the kind of debate that is occurring nationally around this whole program here. We have a number of people who have moved to the Yukon who are trying to be admitted as refugees, and who are, in some cases, receiving a fair amount of frustration with the process. Meanwhile, at the federal level, we have allegations going on of someone gaining admission to Canada purely because this person worked on the Minister of Immigrationís campaign and that there was a special program in place to admit exotic dancers with preferential treatment.
Certainly I for one do not think that that is a fair and equitable process if that is indeed the case of what is happening and how this is being processed. Again, just touching on a few other comments made in the federal House of Commons, the Member for York-Simcoe for the Conservative Party, Mr. Peter van Loan, says, in part, ďThe Immigration minister said that this was a good program. Then the parliamentary secretary said there was no stripper policy. The Prime Minister told us it was under review. The Deputy Prime Minister told us that it was cancelled. Today we discover that the Human Resources minister was happy he cancelled the program. However, apparently under government policy, strip-club owners can still make a business case for skilled strippers.Ē
Now this has certainly been the topic of much debate. In reviewing some of the comments that are occurring on this in my research for debate on this motion, I came across a wide range on that subject.
Iíll now move on to some of the other questions that have been asked in other areas related to the policy, this one touching on the issue that I referenced regarding the claim that someone who was scheduled to be deported, and in fact was facing a Canada-wide arrest warrant, was delivering pizza to the ministerís campaign office during the campaign. Quoting in part from, again, Ms. Helena Guergis, the Member for Simcoe-Grey, ďThere are reports that an Indian deportee facing a Canada-wide arrest warrant on the run from her very department regularly delivered pizza to and hung out in her election headquarters.Ē The question, which did not really receive an answer, was: ďDid the minister alert her department, and if not, why not?Ē
Then we touch on another issue that is bringing into question the credibility of the entire immigration process and its system and how itís applied, and that is the claim regarding Canada hearing refugee claims from countries considered safe by U.N. convention. Mr. Randy White, the Member for Abbotsford: ďMr. Speaker, Canada is hearing refugee claims from countries considered safe by U.N. convention, such as Germany, Switzerland and the United States. I would like to ask the Immigration minister why legitimate refugee hearings were put on hold to hear hundreds of refugee claims by U.S. citizens last year.Ē He goes on in the next part of his question to point out that some recent American refugee claimants include drug traffickers, people fleeing from multiple crimes, army deserters and even a wanted Hellís Angel. While waiting for a hearing, these so-called refugees stay in Canada and receive medical benefits and financial assistance, handing Canadians a bill for millions of dollars. Why does the Liberal government knowingly shelter American criminals instead of deporting them and freeing up our resources for real refugees in this country?
So we have here American criminals dodging warrants within the United States coming to Canada ó they seem to have better luck under the system staying in Canada than it seems some of these people do who have moved here from countries and have a credible claim that they may indeed be refugees. There seems to be a complete double standard in the process, and it certainly is cause for great concern. There are a lot of things that the federal government really needs to provide some answers on, because there are a lot of grey areas. We donít really know whatís happening within the process because the answers are not being provided. Meanwhile, you have families here, some of them sitting in the gallery today, who are facing being deported. I know if I were them I would be looking at this and wondering why people dodging the law in countries which follow the U.N. convention seem to be getting a safe haven in Canada when they canít.
Mr. Speaker, other issues that are in question here ó I have questions from Saskatchewan, again, pointing out that throughout the whole country we have Members of Parliament asking questions on behalf of their constituents. Ms. Lynne Yelich, the Member for Blackstrap, which is in Saskatchewan: ďMr. Speaker, the Immigration minister continues to deny wrongdoing or even bad judgement in skipping her campaign helper to the front of the immigration line. This does not sit well with my constituents. Saskatchewan is trying to attract immigrants, yet we witnessed several self-sufficient Romanian families ripped from their lives in Saskatchewan and deported. The minister has been quoted as saying nobody is exempt from the law. Why does this law apply to community-minded families in Saskatchewan but not to the ministerís favourite helpers?Ē
Again, we have accusations that a double standard is alive and well and operating within the Immigration department.
Returning to my earlier point, I think we all recognize the need for a process. The process has to be followed, but it has to be fair. Other questions I referred to earlier, the questions in the House of Commons regarding the number of discretionary permits signed by the minister and distributed, questions by the Member for Edmonton-Strathcona, Mr. Rahim Jaffer, asking the minister, in part, on December 2 how many permits she has personally signed off at the request of Liberal ministers. No answer to that question was given. Itís sort of a non-answer in reply.
Going on to another Member of Parliament, this time from British Columbia, Mrs. Nina Grewal, the Member for Fleetwood-Port Kells, ďMr. Speaker, the Immigration ministerís decision to grant a temporary residence permit to a campaign worker reeks of political interference. She granted a permit after stating none would be issued during the election campaign, breaking her own rule. The ministerís press secretary states the minister has personally approved 800 temporary residency permits. She denies compassionate cases like people seeking life-saving transplants while approving others for political gain.Ē
Again, Mr. Speaker, there are many questions out here about whether due process has been followed. We recently have the extended leave of absence by the ministerís chief of staff, the appointment of a new deputy minister for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. I believe that occurred on December 2 ó and meanwhile you have families here who are wondering when justice and fairness will be served.
I could go on at great length on this. I found information from provinces throughout the country and from ridings where people from various parties at the federal level were asking questions on behalf of their constituents. It was very troubling how many questions are out there ó throughout this entire nation ó about whether the immigration process is operating fairly and equitably.
However, I do look forward to hearing the comments from other members. Iíd like to give them a chance to participate in this, and hopefully all members of this House will take the opportunity to express some comments on this issue. I would urge all members of this House to support this motion. Iím hopeful that we can give this unanimous passage and that we can send a signal to the federal government that they need to ensure that the process is fair, equitable and that it is applied in a consistent manner to everyone and grants fair treatment and a fair outcome.
I wish the people in the gallery who have come to watch us today the best of luck. I thank you for coming out here today to listen to this debate.
Again, I urge all members to support this motion and thank you all for your attention today.
Mr. Hardy: I also would like to thank the refugees and their supporters for coming to the Legislative Assembly to hear the ensuing debate. Unfortunately, it is a debate that has been brought about by their plight, a plight that I believe they should not be involved in and part of. In many cases, we should not be having this kind of debate within Canada, a country that has been built in many parts ó with the allowance of the First Nations ó by people from all countries.
I, myself, am not directly an immigrant, but my grandparents were. They came from a different country than the refugees who are here today, but they came.
They came with a belief and hope of a better world, a better life, a better future for their children. I believe that in Canada they received that. They got that, and they were welcomed with open arms.
The immigration policy that exists today is substantially different from the one when my grandparents came. I donít know if I can say it is better, because I donít believe it is.
I am speaking on behalf of my colleagues on this side of the House ó the NDP. I will be the only person who speaks because I firmly believe that this is a motion ó although I do have some slight problems with the motion ó that we should not be spending a lot of time on. Itís one that we can accept and move forward on. We can send a very clear message about the immediacy and the need, which testifies to the immediate passage of this motion.
However, I do have some concerns about the presentation by the mover of the motion. I understand why he possibly focused so much on attacking another level of government and a Member of Parliament. Some of the points he raised may be legitimate, but I have concerns about the kind of personal information that was presented on the floor. That is not what I believe should be part of a motion of this type of need.
The comments made, the actions by that Member of Parliament ó fine, we can debate that and talk about it. But I can assure you that the NDP on this side of the House support the refugees. It was my colleague from Mount Lorne and I who marched in their demonstration over a week ago to offer our support. I would have liked to have seen more people from the Legislative Assembly attend that march in support.
But in doing so we had a chance to talk to the people who are supporting the refugees and the refugees themselves and understand a little bit more about the issues theyíre facing. Weíre very pleased to see that there has been a stay on the deportation in regard to the one family. I hope that translates into them becoming Yukoners, because the Yukon needs their contribution and what they bring to our society.
We are a multicultural society. Itís what makes us great. Itís what makes Canada seen throughout the world as a place where people can come to fulfill so many dreams. I canít imagine a country like Canada being anything but. Itís people who come here who believe that thereís a hope, a future, who add to that dream. It adds to the image that Canada is an open and compassionate society. I hope and believe that my party and the colleagues in it and other people in this country feel that as well.
I have had a long activist history in working with many causes, whether itís protests about multilateral agreements, about the economic integration of North and South America and the problems that could cause culturally and socially. I have been involved in fighting the exploitation by the First World over the Third World, and Canada unfortunately has been part of those kinds of actions and we have shame in that area.
One of the greatest speeches I ever heard in my life was in Quebec City a few years ago, and it was about that integration. It was a former ó I might get this wrong as it has been quite a few years now ó the former President of Costa Rica, Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, spoke at this forum, and it was one of the most moving and powerful speeches I have ever heard. And it was to ask the North American culture of people not to impose their will and lifestyle upon other cultures, on other countries, not to take and withdraw and extract their riches through the IMF, through the World Bank, not to impose draconian rules when they offer aid. I was very moved. That speech changed the course of that conference.
As I said, we will accept and we will support this motion. We will listen to whomever else wants to debate or discuss it, but our position is very clear on this side ó the NDPís position or the official opposition in the Legislature, as weíre called ó that we support the refugees and their claims.
We have to remember, though, that even within our own ranks there are some differences of opinion around this. Regrettably, a little over a month ago, the Minister of Health and Social Services made comments that were distressing, and we had a debate in here about that, trying to call the minister to account for the comments he made.
I wonder where this motion came from and why when we hear comments that were made in that manner. I hope that minister stands up and apologizes to the refugees about those comments because they were very disturbing. They were comments that reported ó these are the quotes ó and Iím going to ask for an apology on this, in front of the people here today: ďThe Yukon is a great place. Anybody that has appropriate skills and can bring these skills here to the Yukon, we would welcome them. But some appear to have different reasons for coming here other than gainful employment.Ē
Thatís not acceptable, Mr. Speaker. Thatís not acceptable. Half of the immigrants who have worked to make Canada a greater country would be eliminated if that became the standard. And what about the tremendous pressures on people, refugees who come here, and who may have been activists and may have spoken out in their own country against poverty, against injustice, the right to organize, the right to belong to unions, the right to see wealth shared within their country, the right for their children to go to school, and the fear that many of them lived under?
When I was first elected, I had a very large painting on my wall. It now hangs on the wall in my home, which my children see daily. Once again, Iím trusting I can get this right ó it is the gathering of the mothers in front of the government building of one of the countries in South America. I apologize for not remembering the name, but I think itís symbolic. They would gather there in their colourful clothes every day, not just as a testimony but as a reminder that their children have gone missing, their husbands have gone missing, their brothers and sisters have gone missing, and there has been no answer to where they have gone or what has happened to them from a government, a regime, that imprisons people without any proof or reasons or rights to do so.
Oppression. People have to leave that. Sometimes they leave their culture; they leave their families; they leave their lives, and theyíre trusting that where theyíre going they will be well-received. In Canada ó shame ó itís not happening in this case. We have tests that are making it more and more difficult for people to come to this country, and thatís unacceptable. We have a massive land mass, tremendous wealth. We are probably the richest country in the world. Look at what we own. Look at the material wealth each and every one of us has; it far exceeds any other country, especially Third World countries that often feed us, that often supply materials, unfortunately exploited by us for our lifestyle and our standards of living, which far exceed anywhere else.
We have a population base that is so small, and we do not have an increasing population. If you remove the immigration factor from the equation of our population growth, we would be in the negative. This country, population-wise, would be shrinking; it would not be growing. It is imperative for us to ensure that we have a good immigration policy and people can come here, and itís not just those who have money, and itís not just those who can buy their way into this country or bring skills that we may be missing, but it is also people who have no hope in their own country or are being persecuted, and they have come here out of fear or they have come here when there is no hope left there.
They also contribute. It does not just have to be material; it has to be compassion.
There are spiritual reasons why we should do this, as well, Mr. Speaker. If we call ourselves a Christian country with Christian values, we would open our arms to so many people, but our immigration levels are so low compared to other countries that it is embarrassing. Yet we have so much capacity to take more people in, to extend that hand and help people.
There are many other countries far smaller than ours with far greater populations, with far less wealth, that take in 10 times as many people a year. Thatís a shame. Thatís a policy I cannot accept.
The First Nations ó they are the First Nations in this country. They welcomed the explorers from other countries. They worked with them. Unfortunately, in many cases, they were exploited. We are only now, many years later ó hundreds of years later ó starting to address some of those injustices that were put upon people who welcomed us into their land. What is so sad to see and hear is people from the immigrant base now saying who can and canít come in, and on what grounds ó grounds that may not be ones of openness and compassion ó saying, ďIf you can bring $1 million, if you can bring a business, if you will purchase or contribute in a monetary or materialistic way, you are welcome, but if you come here poor, you are going to have to jump through a lot of hoops.Ē From my point of view, that is totally unacceptable.
I want to thank the people who have helped and worked with the refugees, and some of them are in the audience today ó Iím not going to identify them; they know whom Iím talking about ó because they opened up their hearts and their homes and they have spoken publicly about it. That is what Canada is about. Thatís what makes this country great. Churches have offered sanctuary, not just in the Yukon but throughout Canada. We thank them as well.
Like the speaker before me, I look forward to hearing some more comments about this, but as I said earlier I will be the only speaker from the NDP, and weíre united by these words. We welcome you here today, and we hope you are going to be here for a long time to come.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to speak in reference to this motion, and I would like to extend my warm welcome to the individuals who have joined us in the gallery today, both those who are dealing with this situation and seeking to immigrate to our country and also those who have supported them. You are truly fine ambassadors of our Yukon community and thank you for extending a warm welcome.
I fully support fair and equitable treatment of all refugees and immigrants applying to become and remain citizens of Canada. My own family, if youíll permit me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a brief personal moment ó I have four other siblings and my parents as well of course ó and Iím the only Canadian-born citizen; they all immigrated to this country from other countries, and I understand that when they first arrived in Canada it was very difficult, and I appreciate the warm welcome given to them as new Canadians and would seek to perpetuate that warm welcome.
Unfortunately, I must also state that I do not support the manner in which the Member for Lake Laberge made his comments today. Itís unfortunate, because the presentation was not for this Legislature; it was an extensive discussion of what has gone on in the House of Commons and unfortunately it was a presentation of the questions, not necessarily the answers. I found that very disheartening, because it didnít focus on the issue.
It was an effort to discredit the federal minister and to speak of a debate that is going on outside of this Legislature, in another House, and it can remain in that House. Our issue is working with all of those who are seeking to assist these individuals.
I would like to share with you, as well, that I also work with and support Larry Bagnell and his office and his efforts. Many individuals often will speak with Larry or me, and we work together on a number of issues. I support very strongly his efforts in this example and in many others, particularly in dealing with refugees, with immigration cases, and with citizenship issues, which are all under the same minister. We have worked together on many citizenship and immigration files.
I would like to speak about that, if I might, in that there is a long history in the Yukon of dealing with these citizenship and immigration matters ó and from the Yukon government perspective. I would just like to speak about my time here. Since I have been elected as a Member of the Legislature, the Yukon government embarked upon an immigrant investor fund. It was the NDP government at the time. They formed the Yukon gold fund, the Yukon Government Fund Limited, and worked with individuals who were seeking to come to this country and Immigration Canada to establish the immigrant investor fund, and that fund continues to be administered today.
Under my term in government, our government signed with Canada an immigration agreement in 2001, and it was the nominee program. Under that agreement, the Yukon has the option of selecting applicants it has determined will be of significant benefit to economic and industrial development and who could fill labour market shortages specific to the Yukon. That agreement was in keeping with the Government of Canadaís desire to work with provinces and territories. It also ensured that the Yukon had a say in these issues. I have to ask myself: what are the members opposite doing on these issues? Weíve seen no initiatives from them.
Since 2002 and the election, I wrote to the previous minister, Denis Coderre, and asked that he establish a full office in the Yukon to deal with citizen and immigration cases. We do have an office here ó I recognize that, and Iím not speaking in any way disparagingly about the public servants who work in that particular office. What I am speaking of is the amount of resources that are given to those individuals.
We have to remember that we have upward of 300,000 people cross our borders. We have a neighbouring jurisdiction; we have an international border that is American, of course; we have many individuals who live and work in the Yukon, who immigrate to the territory and who may or may not choose to become Canadian citizens.
I would suspect that if we did a full and thorough survey, we may find that the Yukon has, per capita, more immigrants to Canada who may not have gone on to get their Canadian citizenship, and thus vote in an election, but who certainly welcome us at their doorsteps and take part, but may not take the next step of becoming Canadian citizens.
I found myself dealing with a number of citizenship and immigration cases and a number of situations and so I wrote to Denis Coderre and asked him to establish an office here so that we could have refugee hearings and could deal with these many cases. Unfortunately, there was a change in Cabinet. I followed up and also made the same case with Minister Sgro. I made the case because, in particular at that time, I was dealing with a citizenship case where an individual had received their Canadian citizenship but needed the documentation and needed to go through the official ceremony and had been told, unfortunately, ďWhy donít you drive to Prince George and pick that up?Ē Thatís not an option. We are a northern territory. We need to be able to deal with these matters, citizenship and immigration, in partnership with the federal government, which has responsibility for this area. We need to work in partnership with them. We need to ensure that we are able to deal locally with these situations and to respond in a timely and proactive manner at a level that makes decisions as well.
Unfortunately, although I had a negative response from Minister Sgro, the different situations continue and the case for having such an office, having a partnership, having an agreement, and working with Canada ó the number of instances continue.
Unfortunately, again, I call upon the members opposite to be proactive. There is ample opportunity for the members opposite to do far more than send a letter. We have no hesitation in asking ministers to attend functions that some would question what we were doing there ó a reception as opposed to a federal-provincial-territorial meeting ó and why have we not sent whichever minister is going to take responsibility for immigration down to make this case? Why have the members opposite not approached any of us and asked, ďWhat have you done on immigration cases? How many are you getting as a member? How many are you dealing with?Ē I would have happily shared them, but unfortunately when I asked for membersí opposite help on a particular case, after much delay I received the response, ďWell, we canít just simply write a letter; youíll have to prove your case.Ē
This is one hon. member to another, Mr. Speaker, asking for help for a Yukoner, and that was the response I got from the members opposite.
We need to elevate this. The Government of Yukon and the Yukon Party need to take some action. They need to embark upon an agreement with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to ensure that there are full services and that we are able to respond with decision-making in a timely manner and that we can give meaning to agreements that have been reached in the past.
I call upon the Yukon Party government to do more than bring forward a motion. I call upon them to take action ó far more than sending a letter. They have the resources of the entire professional public service as well as their own budgetary resources to deal with these issues and to work with Canada, and to work with those who seek to become Canadians. The Yukon Party government could and should be doing far more than what they are.
I would like to close my remarks today by restating my support for the individuals ó those who have joined us in the gallery, those who have provided a warm welcome and support to the refugees. I would like to express my support for what you are trying to do and I look forward to welcoming you to our country.
As I said, I support the motion. I also go further today and call upon the Yukon government to do more.
Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start today by welcoming all the visitors to the gallery, and I sincerely sympathize with the hardships that they are facing in the Yukon. I also want to thank all those who have opened their hearts in assisting them with their immigration problems.
Mr. Speaker, unlike some of the speakers before me, my family did not immigrate to this country. I am a traditional First Nation person ó that is, indigenous to this country. I believe that maybe some of the people in the gallery may also be indigenous to North America. I heard from both official opposition parties, and they do have their opinions, and they should respect the individual opinions of the people from this side of the House.
There is no need, in my opinion, to criticize what anyone has to say, Mr. Speaker. Itís about the individual, and thatís where it should stay. I believe it puts a negative spin on a positive initiative. The positive initiative here is the fact that this motion came about because this government is sincere about what motions this government brings to the floor of the Legislature and why. It is not for any political purpose, and some of the comments coming from the other side appeared to be very political.
Mr. Speaker, Iím going to address this issue strictly from a traditional spiritual perspective, and I believe that, through the eyes of the Creator, everyone is equal. Thatís the Creatorís law.
There is no one person who is higher than the other on this earth; we all belong. It is my opinion that no one really has the right or the authority to designate and tell anyone where they should and have to live.
I believe that the leader of the official opposition made comments that Canada is a big country, and he is right. There is lots of land in Canada. I believe the official opposition leader was also right when he said that there is room for more people in Canada. I support those comments.
Traditionally, we would look at seeking understanding of this issue rather than calling judgement on it. When we talk about seeking understanding of this issue, we must take the necessary steps to do that. For example, I do not know what brought our friends to the Yukon. I do not know the situation that they were in in their homelands where they came from. There are a lot of people who have come to Canada and to North America from other parts of the world who adapted very well and have lived here for many years. Many generations of their families have made Canada their home.
So, when we want to try to understand the issue here, a lot of homework has to be done. For one thing, the First Nation people do not condemn others who come to the country. A good example is the Yukon itself. If you look at the history of the Yukon Territory, the First Nations were here when the first non-native fur traders came into the country.
The First Nation people were here when the gold rush came into the territory. The Han people in Dawson City, for example, had a great influx of people to their traditional territory and had to accommodate that change. It was the First Nation people in this country who had to adapt to the change of people immigrating to the Yukon Territory. The gold rush is just one example.
If you look at the building of the Alaska Highway and the influx of tens of thousands of people coming to the territory overnight ó I believe one elder summed it up pretty well when he said in the document Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow, that overnight 10,000 men came to this country with no women of their own. 10,000 people in one night is something that would have a tremendous impact on any people living in the territory at the time.
I talked to a number of elders throughout the territory about that particular incident and a lot of them had grave difficulty explaining the impact that it had on them. But today the Yukon is thriving and well, and I believe that our friends who are here today really shouldnít be having such a hard time to make this their home. I know, as a First Nation person, I have no negative thoughts whatsoever to these individuals staying in the Yukon Territory.
I believe that they should be able to move to the Yukon, and I think a lot of people right across the country donít really understand the dynamics involved in having these individuals, with their children, move such a long distance and find a place where they want to develop a sense of belonging. Again, that goes back to talking from the traditional perspective, where you develop a sense of belonging. It is critical, it is important, that an individual feels like they belong somewhere, and if theyíre prepared to move such a long distance to develop a sense of belonging in the Yukon Territory, then I believe that they should be accepted and should be given that opportunity to do such, without anyone in Ottawa dictating to them how they should be accepted here.
And some of the comments made about my colleague here and his opinions of the federal government ó itís probably only right that the member of the third party defends the national Liberal Party, but I would stand here today and say that there isnít one political party that is 100-percent right, 100 percent of the time. They do make mistakes, and maybe there were some mistakes made by the Immigration minister that needed to be called on. Again, I respect the opinion of my colleagues. I respect the opinion of the opposition. I truly do speak from my heart when I say that I wish my friends in the gallery the best of luck in being able to develop a sense of belonging in the Yukon, and I sincerely hope that they are given that right.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Arntzen: I would also like to welcome everybody in the gallery today.
It gives me great pleasure to speak on this issue and this motion on immigration and refugees. Canada is a country of immigrants and refugees. Other than Canadaís aboriginal people, of course, some of us have just been here longer than others.
As I look around this Legislature today, I realize that I am the most recent immigrant in this House. When I decided to make my journey, or make Canada my home, some 30 years ago, I expected that my application would be treated in an unbiased and fair way, and I assume it was. I am here today. Therefore, I expect the applications of other immigrants and/or refugees to be dealt with in the same manner ó a fair and equitable way.
From what I read in the most recent newspaper articles, that is not the case. That is not the case. It appears that Yukon refugee applications have not been dealt with in a fair and consistent manner. I understand that the lady who was to be deported last night has received a postponement. She has relatives in Toronto, with whom she entered Canada, and who have been given landed immigrant status. Why them and not her? This does not seem to be fair and unbiased treatment.
Canadaís population is ageing, our birth rate is falling, and to combat that we need immigrants to come to this country to keep our productivity high and to support those of us who are facing retirement.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that in my 30 some years in Canada I have contributed to the productivity and become a useful citizen. All indications are that the present refugees are doing the very same thing. I understand most of them have obtained work and are already contributing to Yukon and Canadaís economy. I wish you good luck.
Mr. Speaker, I am supporting this motion.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I just have a few things to say and to certainly add my voice to welcoming our friends in the gallery. The Member for Copperbelt is correct, I guess ó I had to do some math there for a minute. Iíve been here 35 years and am also an immigrant. So you are the most recent, I guess. Iíll stay with that.
I came to Canada in 1969. I came up for a job and just never left, and I fell in love with the country. I donít think anyone has to require a degree in statistics to work out the ballooning of the population and the problems that weíre having with the age groups. Right now, certainly, as I mentioned in Question Period, the ballooning of seniors and seniors staying in the territory and the demands that that is putting on our housing ó quite unique in the history of the Yukon. Thatís happening all over Canada, too. As I mentioned before, you donít need a degree in statistics to work out that Iíll probably get my old-age pension ó maybe sooner than later at the rate Iím going, but Iíll probably do all right. But when I look at our pages, I hope theyíve worked out the fact that the chances of them getting their pension are very, very low. We donít have the population base to continue to pay those bills.
The way out of that is immigration. We need immigration. We need people coming to Canada to work. We need people who are skilled. We need people who have investments to make in the Yukon and in Canada. We have a great need for people with sweat equity who want to come and make their home here and make their life here. I think the one thing that really to me has been missed in many of the arguments, though, is the degree of stress that going through something like that puts on you.
I just want to tell a short story because I did a lot of work with refugees and new immigrants in my days in Toronto. I worked for 13 years with a fellow ó Portuguese ó from the Azores. We used to joke that he wasnít a real Portuguese; he was only from San Miguel in the Azores. He loved working with the multicultural groups. Heís the only person Iíve ever known who could tell a basic joke in more than 30 languages. He didnít necessarily speak them, but he could tell a basic joke, ask about the weather, say hello and goodbye, and he loved working with any kind of a multicultural group.
He worked so well with all these groups and had so much fun with them that he ended up getting appointed to this very immigration panel. When that happened, he was quite torn. Should he go into that line of work for the fairness and what he would accomplish, knowing full well that he could no longer really involve himself with the groups that he did. For fairness, he had to withdraw and stay away from these groups ó to act as a fair judge. Not 100 percent, but it certainly put a stressor on him and it put him into dealing with incredibly stressful situations.
After working for 13 years with this fellow, at age 42 while he was getting dressed for work one morning, he dropped dead of a massive heart attack. Stress is a big part of immigration and refugee status issues, and I think thatís something that has missed a lot of the reporting and a lot of peopleís considerations on this.
I certainly support the motion.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I am very pleased to also provide my wholehearted support to this motion that we are speaking to today. I have to say that this is a really difficult motion. It speaks to many difficult issues. There is really no simple answer to any of these issues that have been raised over the last number of weeks.
I have to say that, to begin with, immigration is a federal matter. It is not a territorial or provincial matter; it is a federal matter. I think the reason why we set aside each Wednesday afternoon for private membersí motions is to talk about issues that are of importance to all members of the Legislature, representing every single corner of this territory.
While some members may not agree among each other as to what is important and what should and shouldnít be debated, I think itís incumbent upon all of us to make due efforts in putting forth our perspectives on important issues such as this. I have to say that I commend the Member for Lake Laberge for putting forward this motion, allowing us to speak to it and what it supports.
It supports due process ó fair and equitable process ó for refugees to have that fair hearing and that due process be applied to each and every refugee who has come to the territory ó who has come to every province, for that matter.
I think itís really important that we do take this opportunity to talk about issues of importance such as this motion that is here before us today, to seek the full support of all Members of this Legislative Assembly, regardless of the party stripe, regardless of our personal perspectives. I think that this is a very important matter and that the power is always in numbers.
When we are able to show full-fledged support to issues such as this, we are able to effect change; we are able to send a clear and distinct message to Ottawa, to the federal government, to say that this is something that is important to the people of the Yukon.
After all, we are elected by the people of the Yukon ó all 18 of us ó and we represent every corner of the territory, as I have stated earlier.
Now, Iíd also like to thank all the members in the gallery for coming out this afternoon and for spending some time with us, the legislators. I think that this afternoon is a perfect opportunity for us to voice our support and also to speak to some of the issues at heart that we are talking about and have heard in the media and directly from individuals over the last few weeks.
We as a government have been very supportive of this matter, and the Minister of Health and Social Services has indicated his support through not one, but two letters. He has taken up the issue with our Member of Parliament, Mr. Bagnell, and has obviously taken it up with the respective minister. I do think that efforts such as those letters, phone calls, meetings and motions such as this, are important and are ways that we can all, again, send Ottawa a clear message.
I would certainly like to thank all the local residents, such as Rick and Joy Karp, and businesses such as Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are so many businesses and so many individuals that itís very difficult to hone in on every single person who has offered their support in this particular matter.
But as was stated in the media and as we all know, businesses, such as KFC for example, and the support that has been expressed to date, has been very overwhelming. I think that it just shows that the community support in this territory is alive and well. It always has been, and we will continue to rise to the occasion when we feel itís very important. Itís interesting that I was reading in the paper not long ago about the KFC in particular and how they were able to, I believe on Sunday, donate I believe half of their Sunday proceeds to this particular matter. That type of action is to be commended wholeheartedly.
Now there have been a lot of issues raised over the last several weeks of people being outraged about the way these individuals have been treated by the Government of Canada, about the inconsistencies and about evidence being ignored, as has been quoted in the media. As the Member for Lake Laberge also alluded to earlier, in one particular circumstance one familyís circumstances are being treated differently in another city from what they are here in Whitehorse. There certainly seems to be a growing perception that, perhaps by coming to the Yukon, these individuals were seen as fleeing the matter at hand and were attempting to flee the country. I mean, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, these individuals have found jobs and theyíve made homes within the City of Whitehorse and they have established roots here over the last several months. These individuals are contributing members of our society, and I commend them for that. We welcome new residents to the territory all the time. We are always looking to grow our population and certainly that is what our country was first founded upon.
As the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate, I should also add that earlier in the month of October in celebration of Womenís History Month, the Womenís Directorate highlighted the contributions of immigrant women by developing and launching a poster featuring Filipina women in the Yukon.
And while our efforts really concentrated on Filipina women, I remember taking part in ó it was a celebration in the Whitehorse Public Library. There were a number of women in the library all paying credence to our country and to the Yukon as a great place to live, a great place to raise their families and to do business, as well, and to do well. There were a number of testimonies from a number of women who have made the Yukon their homes for the last 20 years plus, and some as recently as the last few months.
This was just another clear indication of how very welcoming our community has been and how much the immigrant women and men and families contribute to the social fabric and the economic well-being of our territory. And we certainly have a lot to be proud of here in the Yukon. The event, in particular, again highlighted the incredible accomplishments of immigrant women here in the territory and also highlighted the challenges that some people face when theyíre beginning to grow roots in a new country ó a new language, new customs, new cultures ó but certainly marked, first and foremost, a brand new way of life starting here in Canada. And despite all the challenges and despite all the changes, the rewards of living in a country such as Canada, which has been deemed to be one of the best places on Earth to live, has been wholeheartedly received.
To work through the challenges of settling in a new country or new territory, such as the Yukon, I think that we as Yukon citizens have demonstrated our interest and support to new immigrants, including those applying for refugee status. As I mentioned earlier, this support has been demonstrated by churches, community groups, business owners, and many supportive citizens with contributions of furniture, gathering spaces, teaching English, and raising money to help provide immigration lawyers as well.
One of the issues that I did want to talk about this afternoon in particular has to do with my responsibility, my portfolio of the Womenís Directorate. I actually met with two of the refugee women not long ago and was able to listen to their stories and their hardships and all the challenges that have been presented to them over the last few months. In particular, one individualís concern was that she didnít want to leave due to the lateness in her term of pregnancy. I think that this story has received a lot of media attention and the attention of all Yukon citizens.
The very fact that this individual will be giving birth here in less than a month speaks volumes about the challenges for this one woman in particular and how the risk of travelling so very near to the birth of her child seemed to me completely inexcusable. That she was to meet her deportation order in due course and that it would have to be within a couple of weeks before she was to give birth seemed incredibly unreasonable to me.
Either this individual had to go on a bus back to her country just before she is about to give birth or wait and she would have to bear the full cost of transportation afterwards, which could be up to the tune of $3,000. This is also incredible for me to absorb.
†I will just refer to the federal government, and one issue that we have raised as ministers responsible for the status of women here in Canada is that of gender equality. There is a federal plan for gender equality, and it was, in fact, Canadaís response to the 4th United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, to advance the situation for women both within its borders and beyond. As noted in the federal plan for equality ó again, it was adopted in 1995 ó it was determined that all federal government must ensure a gender-inclusive analysis be undertaken to ensure that all federal services, policies, programs in place and legislation do not have a differential impact on women that negatively affects their equality. As such I am very pleased to hear that the federal government immigration officials have recognized that the impending birth of this particular individualís child provides a strong rationale for a delay in the deportation case. I certainly urge the Immigration officials to continue to give a full gender-inclusive analysis of their programs, their policies, their legislation, how they apply doing federal business here in the country. We in the Womenís Directorate will continue to press upon this very point, and at times there are different circumstances for women, and full credence has to be given to those considerations.
While Iím very pleased to hear that this one individual has been granted an extension, to think about the grief and to think about the stress that this individual has had to endure ó not to mention also having the threat of her partner being away from her just soon after the birth of their child ó is also very difficult to understand.
I think what this whole ordeal, this unbelievable situation, really points out is that there really is a need for more information. There is a need for more understanding about the immigration process here in the Yukon and, as the member of the Liberal Party said earlier, I concur with her thoughts that the immigration office should be further expanded and further enhanced so that we as Yukoners can be equipped with a much better understanding of how the immigration process works, as well as refugee protection and the act ó the legislation that is in place that pertains to the processing of these matters ó not to mention the immigration appeal division, again so that we as a community can better support those who are applying for status of permanent residents.
I understand that back in 2002 the former Citizenship and Immigration minister announced that implementation of the refugee appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board had been delayed.
Speaker: The member now speaking has one minute to conclude.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I just wanted to say that, more than two years later, this appeal division has still not come into effect. So Iíd like to just conclude that I give my wholehearted support to these members in the gallery, to our citizens of the Yukon in giving their full support to this very important matter, and it is very important for all of us as members, each and every one of us in the Legislature, to give our full support to this matter ó if not for these individuals, for future individuals who choose to make Yukon and our country their home.
Mr. Hassard: It is my pleasure to speak to this motion today, and Iíll be very brief. I feel itís timely, given the situation that we see here in Whitehorse today. Daily we are hearing about the families that are fighting desperately to stay in Canada, and some of those are with us here in the gallery today. While Iím not an expert in this area, by any means, I do have some concerns about how the federal government is handling their situation. It is disturbing to hear that they had among other things a lack of representation in Whitehorse, that evidence has been ignored, and that refugees have been subjected to inconsistent rulings by the federal government.
Weíve heard from many members today who are immigrants, like me, or who have family who are immigrants. I will speak for a moment and mention that my motherís family arrived from Norway in 1929 or 1930 ó Iím not sure. They made their way across Canada and eventually settled in B.C., just north of Fort St. John. My recollection of my grandparents is that they were very thankful to have been able to come to Canada. It was something they did to make a better life for themselves ó not that they were necessarily fearful about where they had been living, but it was something they felt would help them out. They, along with many other people from Norway, moved to Canada, and they formed a little community, actually, and opened up that part of the world to farming. Today, they or their families still live and farm in and around that community, and they are still contributing to Canada as a country.
I know that many other people have similar stories. We have heard some of those today. I canít help but wonder if my relatives had been treated the same way as some of the families we are seeing in Whitehorse are being treated, I wonder if I would even be here.
So with that, I would like to wish my best to all those in the gallery today. I support this motion.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Cathers: I would like to thank all members in the House for the contribution that those who have spoken on this motion have given. I thank the members opposite for supporting the motion. It is certainly a rare thing to see the opposition agreeing with anyone on this side of the House, and it is a pleasure.
Now, I heard comments from the leader of the NDP and the leader of the Liberal Party that they personally didnít like some of the matters I brought forward for debate and wouldnít have brought them forward themselves, not feeling that the national debate was germane to the issue. Well, immigration is a federal responsibility; I think the federal debate is very much relevant to the issue at hand. Thatís all Iím going to say on that issue. Iíll try to move on in a collegial fashion.
†I thank members for the debate that has come forward. As did the Minister of Tourism and Culture, I would like to thank the people who have been active in helping or trying to help the refugees in making their case at this time. As has been said by several members, we are all immigrants ó our ancestors were immigrants, rather ó whether our ancestors came here recently or a long time ago, whether itís a case of someone immigrating themselves or for those of us who were born here, that our ancestors immigrated at some time in the past. And whether that be hundreds, or in the case of First Nation people thousands, of years ago, this nation draws all its people and all those of us who make up this country through immigration. So I think that itís incumbent on all of us to exercise the same sort of compassion as we would have wished to have been given to our ancestors who moved here, or in the case of those who moved here themselves, that they would have wanted applied to them.
Mr. Speaker, I wonít go on any further on this. This is an issue that we could certainly discuss for many hours and days with all the facets of it, but I look forward to the vote on this. I urge all members to vote in favour of this and send a strong signal to the federal government that Yukoners are concerned about this issue, that they want to see a fair and equitable process applied and ensure that it is also seen to be fair and equitable.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
†Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: The results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 391 agreed to
Motion No. 322 ó adjourned debate
Clerk: Motion No. 322, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers; adjourned debate, Mr. Cathers.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges the sport and culture ministers of the Yukon government to work in cooperation with their counterparts from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and the 2007 Canada Winter Games Host Society to develop a pan-northern approach to sharing unique northern sports and cultures when the Canada Winter Games come ďnorth of 60Ē for the first time.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me pleasure to once again rise in the House on this motion, and Iím hoping that members of the opposition will be interested in debating it today.
Just to recap briefly ó I will let most of the comments I made previously in Hansard stand on this one. But to build my argument in favour of the motion, I do need to recap some of them for members who were perhaps not paying as close attention as they could have been two weeks ago.
A little over two years ago ó November 4, 2002 ó my government colleagues and I were elected on a platform of Together We Will Do Better. Today, the evidence is all around us that we are doing better, with unemployment down to 5.3 percent in October ó the fourth lowest rate in Canada and the lowest rate in Yukonís recorded history.
One year ago, unemployment in the territory was at 11 percent. Today, 1,300 more Yukoners have jobs than they did between October 2003 and October 2004, representing an increase of 10 percent in the number of people who are employed. This is at the same time as the Yukonís population has grown by about 500 people.
When we took over the reins of the Yukon government, the Yukon economy had been locked in a nosedive for about six years under the NDP and the Liberals. Yukonís economy under those two previous governments had been heading south fast, if youíll excuse the pun, Mr. Speaker. There is certainly nothing funny about that situation.
As I may have mentioned previously in the House, one of the things that compelled me personally to run for office was the fact that I was seeing for myself the effect on friends and others who were finding themselves forced to leave the Yukon in search of employment.
The fact is, at the time that we were elected, Mr. Speaker, quite literally the majority of my close friends I had grown up with were forced to move out of the territory, looking for work. They didnít want to leave; they were forced to leave. It was a forced mass exodus from the territory of about 4,000 people between 1997 and 2002.
We didnít promise to wave magic wands or deliver overnight solutions. We recognized and we made clear that it took two governments to devastate the Yukon economy and fixing it would take time. Another thing that had been severely damaged by the previous government under the Liberals was our relationship with neighbouring jurisdictions. In particular, our relationship with the Northwest Territories was particularly frosty.
Our predecessors, the former Liberal government, had spent an inordinate amount of time and money lobbying for an Alaska Highway pipeline project. While we, too, support an Alaska Highway pipeline project, we have recognized and have been upfront about the fact, from day one, that the decision of which pipeline will be built first ó the Alaska Highway or Mackenzie Valley ó will be a decision that is made by producers on a cost-benefit analysis. This is not a decision that the Yukon government can make. As the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has pointed out, if this contract is indeed let for the Alaska Highway pipeline and does proceed, it will be the largest contract in history anywhere. This is a very significant matter. Weíre talking about ó in the order of the last estimate I heard, which has probably gone up significantly due to rising steel prices ó somewhere in the order of $18 billion for building an Alaska Highway pipeline.
Well, the Yukonís entire budget just for the first time this year went up around the $700-million mark. We wouldnít have the money to build that ourselves ever, and to think we can exert a significant influence on such a project, with producers who regard the Yukonís total budget as a tiny drop in the bucket for their corporation, is just absolutely ludicrous. Weíve certainly put our focus to work on putting the regulatory certainty in place and in establishing the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, which was an area that the previous government badly neglected. They spent all their time lobbying for a pipeline while they didnít have the regulatory framework in place, from border to border in the Yukon, to even allow that pipeline to be built.
We have no intention of going down that road, of not doing the hard work, which is what the previous government did in spending all their time jetting around on trips to tell people what a great job weíve done when the work isnít in place. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and his department have put their heads down and their shoulders into the harness and got to work on this issue.
Weíve also put in place, as has been discussed in the House, an agreement with the Northwest Territories so that we can share labour so thereís ease of moving companies back and forth across the border to provide services there so thereís a bit of a northern preference and northern benefit for the Northwest Territories workers in working in the Yukon and vice versa, with the Yukon workers and companies getting the opportunity to work on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, because neither territory has enough tradespeople or companies to even begin to supply the support services to handle the demand that will exist. So why would we not work together in mutual, pan-northern cooperation ó or in this case, only with one other jurisdiction, the Northwest Territories, but still cooperation ó with one of our neighbouring jurisdictions, to get benefits for both territories? So rather than drawing lines in the sand and battle lines with our neighbouring jurisdictions ó as it seems the previous Liberal government did ó we have chosen to work together.
So this is one area and one area of early success that we as a government have had in reaching out the hand of friendship to our neighbours. In dealing with the pipeline and dealing with discussions around a railway project and certainly around the recent increases to Shakwak project funding for upgrading the Alaska Highway, which was received from the United States government, continuing that Shakwak agreement ó which had been ongoing for quite a number of years but was coming to an end ó our ability to do that and get that increase was largely due to the work done by our friends in Alaska ó cooperating and working together with the Alaskan government. The Alaska Highway certainly is a vital link for Alaska. It also provides great benefit for Yukoners. We depend on it as our main source of supplies and the portions that have been upgraded as a result of funding from the U.S. government certainly contribute to improving the access to a number of communities as well.
I know that the riding of Kluane has certainly appreciated the funding through this, and Iím sure theyíll appreciate the increases to it. I remember driving over that highway a number of years ago ó probably about 1989 or 1990. Iím thinking about a couple of trips along that highway back when my father and sister were running in the Yukon Quest. We were travelling along that road and section, particularly in the vicinity of Beaver Creek, and this side of Beaver Creek was extremely bumpy. It was an absolutely horrible road to drive down. It is certainly vastly improved today. There are still sections that, due to permafrost, keep requiring more repairs, such as one section in my riding in the Ibex Valley area. This is just one example of a success that has been achieved through cooperation with other jurisdictions.
So we believe that by working together with neighbouring jurisdictions, we can share in the successes and rewards. For years there has been a tendency to think on a north-south axis when weíre dealing with many projects, debates, supplies or anything. In the Yukon, we tend to think of more of a connection with British Columbia and Alberta. Certainly those connections are important and we as a government have worked to improve those relationships, but we felt that not enough emphasis was placed on the importance of reaching out across northern latitudes, north of 60, and working together for mutual benefit.
So this motion, specifically, is in reference to cooperation around the Yukonís hosting of the Canada Winter Games in the year 2007. This will be the first time the Canada Winter Games have ever been held north of the 60th parallel, and we believe it is a unique opportunity, not only for the Yukon, but for the north as a region. For years the north has been a region largely forgotten and ignored by the bulk of the Canadian population and certainly by the federal government. Iíve even seen maps of Canada that do not show the northern territories, and I would assume that most members of this House have seen similar maps. Fortunately, we donít seem to see as many of them now, but they are out there.
For years weíve been an afterthought at best for many people in southern Canada.
In southern Ontario, where most of my relatives live, there are many people for whom the phrase ďup northĒ means northern Ontario. The West is an afterthought for them, and the three northern territories are maybe a little more than a vague concept, when they do remember that weíre not part of Alaska. When my family and I moved up here to the Yukon a number of years ago, we even received mail from relatives back home that would be addressed to addresses such as ďWhitehorse, Yukon, Northwest TerritoriesĒ or maybe they would throw Alaska or Yellowknife into the address. There was a real lack of understanding of the connection.
I also remember my mother telling me about a friend of hers who, when she heard that my mother was moving north,† said, ďOh, would you drop a package off to my cousin in Yellowknife,Ē to which my mother responded, ďWell, weíre going to Whitehorse. Theyíre thousands of miles apart. I canít do that.Ē This lady had no comprehension of it, and my mother tells me that she was, in fact, quite annoyed that my mother would not make a quick stop in Yellowknife to deliver a package while she was driving on her way to Whitehorse.
But in the past two years we have seen the north take a more significant place in the national debate than it has for decades, if it ever even has had such a prominence. Cooperation between us and the other two territories has achieved several very significant successes. This begins with the increased health care funding for three northern territories. This is the first time in history that the federal government has acknowledged that per capita funding is inadequate for large, sparsely populated jurisdictions. This came only after our Premier and the premiers of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut walked away from the health care agreement that was presented by the Prime Minister at the time, Mr. Chrťtien.
In fact, they had it well-timed and did so in front of the national television cameras where everyone would note that the premiers had walked out instead of doing so halfway through a conference, and through a back exit. They did so in full view of the Canadian public and made it very clear that our interests were not being addressed.
††††††† So the united-front approach has caught the attention of Canadians, and in fact it has received support of premiers of other provinces. It has been an approach that is very successful. It has been an approach that is certainly one that we see great benefit from. Iíd like to touch on a few of the many areas where we can see benefit from pan-northern cooperation around the Canada Winter Games, particularly with an emphasis on the sports and the cultural side of it there. One thing that cooperation with the Northwest Territories and Nunavut will do for us is enable us to make the games a better experience for everyone. That is the heart of the matter as I see it ó we are trying to make these games very beneficial; weíre trying to make it a wonderful experience for everyone, and the fact ó as I stated in reference to the pipeline ó is that the Yukon is a jurisdiction with limited resources. We do not have the supply of people to handle the demand that will exist from this. So taking advantage of some of the sports and cultural resources and assistance and expertise in the other two jurisdictions will be of great benefit. Their involvement in this will certainly be a benefit to them and will get some profile for their jurisdiction as well, but it will also be of benefit to us, because we will get their travel over here; we will improve our relationships and our cooperation. We can learn from them in many areas. Thereís the possibility, for example, with sporting events that some different groups for the different activities may choose to cooperate in areas such as training with the other two jurisdictions. Thatís certainly a choice that will be theirs and not ours as a government, but they might wish to cooperate in coaching for sporting events prior to the games sort of as pre-games events in preparation for the games and getting the athletes ready. I know that we on this side of the House are certainly very hopeful that Yukon athletes will do very well in the Canada Winter Games and that we can all be proud to see them take home medals to wear proudly around their necks and show the quality of our athletes here.
We have put $320,000, I believe, in the last budget for our decade of sports and culture initiative, which is designed to improve and enhance the capacity in those areas. There is also another program ó which I donít have the money for in front of me and I canít recall the figure ó the Best Ever program, to try and ensure that training for Yukon athletes is improved and enhanced, so they can have a very good games experience and be successful.
The 2007 Canada Winter Games will also result in a lot of media exposure for the Yukon. Certainly those of us who have watched the Olympics, as probably all members of the House have, will recall that after an Olympic Games, there is always the debate about whether the city that put on the Olympics did a good job of hosting the Olympics or whether it was a poor job. There is a lot of debate about that, and it certainly affects the image of that place as a destination.
I would think and hope that all members of this House would like to see the Yukon experience increased visitation and see increased money flowing around in the economy to hotels, bed and breakfasts, many of our retail shops, restaurants, et cetera. All of the many, many businesses across the spectrum that benefit from increased travel and visitation will see benefits from the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
So, when we have this national media spotlight focused on the Yukon and our ability as hosts, we want to be shown to be doing a good job. We want to showcase our culture and our sports ability, and be able to hold our heads up high after the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
To have the national and indeed probably international attention to some extent ó Iím not sure of the degree of coverage it receives outside of Canada, probably not a large extent, but certainly international visitors coming to Canada or who have relatives in Canada are influenced by word of mouth and relationships with them there. The 2007 Canada Winter Games will be a very major event in creating a national public image of what the Yukon is ó what the Yukon is, what we can be ó and the success of it has the potential for great benefits down the road to the Yukon.
It was mentioned to me by someone, when I was preparing for this debate, how many Americans have this image or this dream that visiting Alaska is one of these things that every American should do before they die. Itís almost a touchstone or a pilgrimage that there are certain things within their country they feel they need to see before they die and that Alaska is one of them. Well, I certainly would like to see a day when, for Canadians, there is an image for those who havenít been there that, well, the Yukon is the true north and we really have to go there at some point in our lives. So, honey, weíd better pack up the kids and travel up to the Yukon for our wonderful vacation there. And when theyíre here, theyíll enjoy all the many cultural experiences that we have in the Yukon, theyíll enjoy our wonderful scenery and natural beauty and create a lot of economic benefit for a great number of Yukoners.
Robert Service spoke of the spell of the Yukon in a poem and he refers to: ďI want to come back and I will.Ē I think that probably most Yukoners have experienced having friends or relatives or acquaintances visit them and have them somewhat fall under the spell of the Yukon ó there are stories throughout the Yukon. Youíll run into someone, ask them how they came up here, and it often originates that they came up here on a road trip or a canoe trip or to a conference or to some event and they thought when they came up that, well, theyíd come to the Yukon just once. They get back home, their feet start itching, and they want to be back in the Yukon. They realize what a wonderful place it is to live, and before you know it a lot of them seem to move up here within a couple years ó certainly not the majority of them, but it is a very significant percentage of people who either move to the Yukon after coming here for the first time or, if they do not pack up their lives and their livelihood and move up here, many of them return to visit on many, many occasions.
I know a number of people who return to the Yukon on a yearly or almost yearly basis. They are from Canada or from Europe or Australia ó a number of countries ó and they travel over here. They keep coming back, because itís such a nice place to live.
I just think that around the Canada Winter Games there are a tremendous number of opportunities. Itís an area that I believe deserves a lot more attention than the official opposition and the third party seem to feel it warrants. We are looking at an estimated benefit to the Yukon economy of somewhere around $80 million to $100 million, depending on which estimate you use. Itís one of those things that are a little hard to predict beforehand. One of the things I did in preparing for debate was look at the Web site for the 2000 Arctic Winter Games. The Web site is www.arcticwintergames.info, which includes the 2000 Arctic Winter Games economic impact statement. It goes through their estimates of what benefit resulted to the Yukon community.
The 2000 Arctic Winter Games were held in Whitehorse and in Haines Junction, Yukon, from March 5 to 11. They did have a considerable impact, and this report ó even the executive summary is quite lengthy, but I would encourage members and other Yukoners who are interested in this to check out the Web site, take a look at this and read this themselves. The report is 26 pages long. Even the executive summary is of significant length, so I will be quoting very much in brief from this report. They say that the analysis of the data suggests that the 2000 Arctic Winter Games resulted in autonomous spending of $4.585 million in the territorial economy, rising from spending in the Yukon by both the host society and various out-of-territory visitors.
The overall impact of this autonomous injection into the economy was an increase in spending in the Yukon of $5.869 million. It goes on further down to say that the government spending multiplier in the Yukon was estimated on top of that as $3.635 million. Further down the page, it says that by extrapolating from the spending GDP, labour income and employment impacts on the Yukon territorial economy, the Arctic Winter Games had an overall estimated economic impact on the Whitehorse economy, as measured by spending, of $6.252 million. That was merely from the Arctic Winter Games involving the few jurisdictions that are involved in that.
Just to give you a bit of a comparison, Mr. Speaker, the Canada Winter Games will actually be a larger event, in terms of the number of athletes and support staff it attracts, than the Olympics itself. I referred to the Arctic Winter Games ó the comparison between the Arctic Winter Games and the Canada Winter Games, the estimated Arctic Winter Games 2000 patron population included 1,092 non-Yukoners as athletes and cultural performers and 44 non-Whitehorse residents who came into Whitehorse on top of that. For simplicity and ease of numbers, Iíll simply refer to the number of non-Yukoners coming in here. Coaches, chaperones and mission staff, 250 non-Yukoners were estimated to have come; officials, 70; spectators, 530 ó again, this is just the non-Yukoners ó media, 94; sponsors and guests, 223.
And on top of that, we have volunteers estimated at ó I believe thatís 57 from outside the territory. So thatís a total estimated influx of support staff related to the Arctic Winter Games in 2000 of 2,316 people.
Now, the 2007 Canada Winter Games are expected to see 2,700 athletes alone, 22 sports, an $18-million budget, 14 days, and 4,500 volunteers. There will be 13 provinces and territories. So weíre talking significantly larger in order of magnitude than the Arctic Winter Games. As I said, in comparison to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler, theyíre only estimating that theyíre expecting 14 sports, 2,500 athletes, which is 200 less than the Yukon is expecting, a $1.2-billion budget ó so significantly more resources invested into that, of course, but thatís related to the fact that they have 72 countries participating over 16 days.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the injection weíre talking about into the Yukon economy is extremely significant in terms of magnitude here. I find it disappointing that the indication from the NDP and from the Liberal Party is that there is very little, if any, appetite to debate an estimated $80 million to $100 million worth of economic injection into the Yukon economy ó $80 million to $100 million of money flowing to the Yukon economy, and they donít want to debate it. Itís disappointing that we seem to see the opposition consistently hung up on any negative area that they can pick away at and perceive problems often based upon, I feel, a lack of research on their part, that furthering their research would have clarified the fact that they are making statements based on a misunderstanding.
They want to talk about all the negative things, and we donít see any debate on possibilities for getting benefit to the Yukon out of an $80 million to $100-million expected injection of cash into the Yukon economy from the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Itís very disappointing ó very disappointing indeed. This will be the biggest event ever north of 60 ó a premiere sporting event. Itís an opportunity for Canadians to explore us as an emerging frontier and to draw them into the Yukon to experience what a wonderful place it is to visit. This also has a significant connection to our governmentís platform commitment to develop the brand Yukon strategy, which has been going very well. There has been a lot of work done on this under the lead of the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Weíve been working hard to develop an image of the Yukon as a positive place to move to, to work, to live, to invest and to raise a family.
Earlier today, we had people in the gallery visiting us, who had come to the Yukon and are applying for refugee status. They were visiting us because of a topic of great personal concern to them ó their very ability to stay here. But they chose the Yukon. Why did they choose the Yukon? Well, obviously, someone told them that it was a good place to move to. If nobody had ever heard of the Yukon, they wouldnít move here ó or, there could be exceptions.
I recall a friend of mine who moved here from Czechoslovakia many years ago. At the time, he was a dissident under the Communist regime. He had made the mistake of ó as he put it, he was a young newspaper reporter and ó in his own words ó was fairly cocky. He came out with some criticisms of the Communist regime that they didnít seem to appreciate too much. Under that totalitarian government, he found himself first imprisoned and then, during the flip and change over between the Communist government of Hungary and when the Russians came in and took control themselves, he found himself briefly free from prison and fled to ó I canít recall which European country he briefly escaped to.
At that point, they asked him where he wanted to go, and he said, ďWhereís the furthest place away from here that you can send me?Ē They said, ďHow about Canada?Ē
There can be the off chance that somebody will stumble on us by accident, but I think the fact that weíve seen an increase in the number of immigrants trying to come into the Yukon, an increase in the number of these refugee claimants, is probably evidence of the Yukonís profile being raised nationally as a good place to work, to live, to invest and to prosper. I think it gives great credit to members of this government, in particular the Minister of Tourism and Culture, and to the Premier for their hard work in promoting the brand Yukon and our image as a jurisdiction and the fact that this government has succeeded in seeing the economy turn out of its nosedive and actually be heading up for the first time in over six years. Itís a very positive sign. Certainly I could list every minister on this side. Certainly the work by Energy, Mines and Resources, the minister, in removing regulatory impediments, in getting Yukon ready for the pipeline, in making it quicker for people to get through the regulatory process, and providing guiding lights, so to speak, through the process has been beneficial in enhancing industryís image of the Yukon.
Again, this is all very beneficial to the territory if we can see the 2007 Canada Winter Games be a big success. Again, weíre expecting 13 teams, 120 to 150 mission staff, 400 major officials, 200 media plus, 150 and a host broadcast staff, 600 to 800 VIPs and corporate sponsors, 100,000 day visits to venues.
While itís not directly related to economic impact, itís a somewhat humorous note I have here in the briefing. They expect 14,000 pounds of pasta to be served and 1,530 kilograms of bananas. Anyway, on that note of levity there, weíll move on to a different area of the economic benefits from this. Certainly I think that points out that, even in small part, it can have a very dramatic effect in certain areas.
Again, just recapping briefly, cooperation has already resulted for this government in a commitment of $18.7 million for the continuation of the Shakwak project. There is an accord signed by the Minister of Tourism and Culture with the B.C. minister regarding the Canada Winter Games and the Olympics in Whistler for cooperation regarding that and which extends our cooperation with the other two territories. We have a bilateral agreement between our Premier and the Premier of the Northwest Territories on economic and educational issues.
We have, of course, the $20 million in health care funding, the first funding of health care or any other social program for the Yukon, the first recognition that it needs to be funded on other than a per capita basis, because per capita funding does not work in our sparsely populated jurisdiction.
The Canada Senior Games, which we saw this fall in September, were a lead-up event to the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and the Senior Games resulted in ó I believe the estimate is over $1.5 million into the economy. The Yukon government put $290,000 into the Canada Senior Games. There were over 1,100 participants and over 600 volunteers, and I was pleased to do a small part myself in assisting for a couple days at the big tent down at Rotary Park. It was a wonderful event. It was a very positive experience. I heard a lot of wonderful feedback from the athletes and from others coming with them, and many of them were clearly falling under the spell of the Yukon, because they made it clear that they wanted to come back and that they would.
Iíd like to just touch briefly on some of the areas we might look at toward seeing benefit from the Canada Senior Games, and I hope that weíll see some input from members of the opposition on this. I notice that the Member for Mount Lorne seems to at least be listening, which Iím not sure is true of the other members of his caucus.
Some of these ideas include looking at the purchasing policy as far as including Northwest Territories and Nunavut and giving them a regional preference. If we work together with them, we might look at developing and presenting culture and events leading up to and including the games. There are areas of benefit perhaps around maximizing broadcast opportunities to showcase ourselves as a jurisdiction and the north as a region. There are potential spinoff benefits from sponsorship that may extend to festivals such as Rendezvous, or sporting events such as the Yukon Quest, or some of the local events ó Percy deWolfe, some of the other events that take place in the Yukon. Maybe even something like the Farrago Music Festival could perhaps see sponsorship benefits from having its national profile raised and see ó sorry, I just lost my train of thought there ó the benefit of the increased visibility on the national stage. Also, in working together with jurisdictions, we can perhaps see the opportunity from not only deriving benefit from the 2007 Canada Winter Games and the spinoff benefits of it, but we may indeed, by raising our national profile, attract more visitors from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver-Whistler, and see a kickoff benefit from that as well.
There are many, many areas. I think I will draw this to a close, because Iím very eager to hear from members of the opposition on this. I have several other pages of notes, which perhaps I will raise in closing debate if we ever get to that point. Perhaps members opposite will have raised the points by then, but there doesnít seem to be a lot of enthusiasm so I think we can be very suspicious that perhaps it may not come from members opposite. I hope to hear from the opposition side, and I thank members for their attention today ó those who were being attentive ó and I look forward to hearing from other members on this.
Mr. Cardiff: I have anticipated this moment for two weeks.
Itís always a great pleasure to follow the Member for Lake Laberge on motion debate, because the one thing that can be certain is that the eyes are snapping wide open.
Itís interesting to note that he talked about the willingness to debate this motion that was before us two weeks ago, and the fact that he felt robbed. Iíd like to point out that I was sitting here. I was ready to debate the motion and it wasnít this member who called quorum. I was ready to go and here I am, ready to go. My remarks will follow very similarly to the remarks that I would have made two weeks ago, with maybe a few added things thrown in.
The motion talks about a pan-northern approach and sharing the unique northern sports and cultures when the Canada Winter Games come north of 60 for the first time. Well, it may be the first time that the Canada Winter Games come north, but it definitely would not be the first time that a government or an organization in this territory has taken a pan-northern approach. The Member for Lake Laberge himself mentioned the Arctic Winter Games, which is a total pan-northern approach. It even includes more than the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It includes Alaska, it includes Greenland, and it includes our northern colleagues and sports athletes from Russia. So itís not the first time; this is not a new idea about taking a pan-northern approach.
Iíd also like to point out to the member that one of the most successful, well-attended and, I might add, best reviewed Association of Canadian Community Colleges conferences was held here in the year 2000.
That was a true pan-northern approach as well. The post-secondary institutions from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories participated with Yukon College here to create a very, very successful event.
I have to admit that the Member for Lake Laberge did include Alaska and an international component in his remarks. He talked about the Alaska Highway pipeline. He talked about the railway. And he talked about the highways. One thing that particularly stuck out in my mind was the memberís reference to the Yukon Quest and the fact that he had actually travelled the Alaska Highway during the Yukon Quest, when his father and sister were involved in the Quest. He talked about the bumpy section of the highway, out by Beaver Creek. Well, I know that all Canadian athletes are going to be very relieved about the fact that the Shakwak project has taken care of that. Any Canadian athletes who are arriving in Whitehorse via Fairbanks or Anchorage are going to be just thrilled that the highway has been repaired and that when they arrive in Whitehorse the trip will be great.
Mr. Speaker, we put most of our points out ó actually, even prior to debating this motion. The Member for Lake Laberge seems to think that we werenít interested in debating a motion about pan-northern cooperation in relation to the Canada Winter Games. Well, the fact of the matter is that ó weíll go back to the press release we talked about two weeks ago, the press release that was issued on October 19. Iíll just read briefly from it. Iím sure the Member for Lake Laberge has read this press release. He probably even keeps it under his pillow.
It says that the territorial premiers and the 2007 Canada Winter Games Host Society have appointed Jim Antoine as the pan-northern ambassador for the 2007 Canada Winter Games. It goes on to describe when those games will be happening, between February 24 and March 10, in Whitehorse, Yukon; and then it says all three northern territories are partnering to deliver a pan-northern approach to hosting the event.
So basically what the Member for Lake Laberge is asking us to debate is something that is an initiative of the government. Iím not saying we donít support the initiative of a pan-northern approach, that we donít support the economic activity ó we donít dispute that. What we would dispute is the fact that the government has already taken the initiative to do this, and what is there to debate?
He seems to think thereís an unwillingness on this side to debate something of substance when, in fact, it was actually members on that side of the House, only a week ago, who were unwilling to debate changes to the way that we elect people in the Yukon, to the way that we conduct ourselves here in the Legislative Assembly, about the rights of an elected official to sit in Cabinet and make decisions about millions of dollars ó more than the $80 million to $100 million that the member is talking about in relation to the Canada Winter Games ó Cabinet ministers who can make decisions and their right to sit here in Cabinet and still owe money to the Yukon, to the taxpayers of the Yukon.
Now, there was no willingness on that side of the House to debate that. They wanted to shut down debate. They didnít want to debate it. And itís truly wonderful to see all the smiling faces of people lining up on the other side of the Legislature to speak to this. I know that they have lots to say about it; they have put out a press release about it.
Itís too bad that weíre spending our time on an initiative that is already well underway. Itís a done deal. Itís something that we on this side of the House can support. Instead of spending needless time debating something that most people in this Legislature understand and support, we could be debating more useful things, like how we are elected here ó MLAs in the Legislature. We could debate something that would allow us to go out and have that discussion with Yukoners. We could debate a piece of legislation that would allow Yukoners to participate in the discussion that would set rules for how we conduct ourselves here in the Legislature. But there was no appetite on that side of the House to do that.
I really donít have a whole bunch more to say with regard to this motion. We will support the motion.
I guess, in closing, one of the other things the Member for Lake Laberge mentioned was the spell of the Yukon. The only thing that members on that side of the House are probably under more than the spell of the Yukon is the spell of the Member for Lake Labergeís voice.
We are on record as supporting the motion. We know that it is an initiative that is well underway, so we donít need to ó there is an hour and three-quarters left; we could pass this motion and we could get on to talking about issues of more substance that are more important because, quite frankly, this is already happening; we support it. Iím not sure what the Member for Lake Laberge would like to hear.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †It has been really interesting listening to the member of the official opposition talk at great length about everything under the sun except for this great initiative here before us ó the 2007 Canada Winter Games. I donít know what is wrong with all the members opposite, because I happen to think ó and so does the rest of the territory ó that this is probably the greatest thing since sliced bread. 2007 Canada Winter Games is coming to Whitehorse for the first time in Yukonís history, for the first time in the history of any of our northern territories ó Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon. We have never had the opportunity to actually host such a significant event ó an event that will give us the opportunity to showcase the Yukon in such a wonderful way, that will give us the opportunity to showcase the Yukon to not just the rest of the country but to the rest of the world. So forgive me if I take issue with members opposite and their inability to talk about some great things that we can all work on together as members of this Legislature.
Itís funny because not long ago we had a meeting with the chair of the Canada Winter Games Host Society and he was actually elated; he was thrilled that we had the opportunity to talk about this great initiative, to talk about the pan-northern approach, to talk about all the work that we as a government have been doing in working collectively with the host society and working with the community organizations. So contrary to what the members opposite are saying ó and of course I wonít even speak about their presence ó but I think actions speak louder than words. I am completely overwhelmed by the unwillingness of the members of the official opposition ó or the leader of the third party for that matter ó to speak to such a great positive initiative, to talk about how we can all better work together in collectively presenting this great opportunity for our country, for Yukon.
So, forgive me, Mr. Speaker, if I get a little excited about this initiative. I am really excited about it, and Iím really proud to be part of the government that has really risen to the challenge and is taking the initiative to work with the host society on so many fronts. We have so many different government employees who are also integrally involved in this initiative and will continue to be involved, not to mention all the community members in the whole territory.
These games will benefit the entire territory, not just the City of Whitehorse ó they will benefit the entire territory. Again, through Tourism and Culture, it gives us an opportunity to showcase the Yukon. It gives us the opportunity to build brand awareness. I know something that members opposite really do not like to talk about is brand Yukon. The leader of the official opposition unfortunately goes on at great length about how brand Yukon is not a good thing and how we shouldnít be branding Yukon. Unfortunately, it happens to be the number one priority of industry these days, building brand Yukon. Perhaps members opposite could get with the picture of Yukon tourism these days.
These games talk about pride of place. They talk about the pride of being Yukoners and give us an opportunity to tell our story about who we are today, where weíve come from, and where weíre going. They give us an opportunity to portray to the rest of Canada that we are emerging as a real force in this nation on all different fronts ó when it comes to tourism, mining, resource extraction, oil and gas, IT. There are so many different sectors.
When we look at the cultural industries, per capita, we have perhaps the most cultural performers, literary artists. We have so many different performers and artists right here in our backyard. We are very proud to be able to showcase them. Again, the Canada Winter Games will give us that very opportunity, not just to show off our beautiful, majestic mountains and our abundance of wildlife, but it gives us an opportunity to show off our athletes, our infrastructure and our cultural ability ó our past, and all our performances that we will have the opportunity to showcase from here on out.
The 2007 Canada Winter Games is not just going to be a two-week event, Mr. Speaker. Rather, it is going to be spread out over a course of the next few years, and weíre beginning that initiative now. And itís not just me; itís my colleague, the Minister of Community Services; itís a whole host of individuals, not to mention all the volunteers who will be very much involved in strengthening the games and ensuring that these games come off as successfully as I know they will. It has often been termed that the north has come of age and that we have evolved as a territory over the last number of years. I think if you look at the Yukon and you look at what has occurred here over the last few years: settlement of land claims, significant progress on the land claim front ó significant. The ratification of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation claim speaks volumes about the progress that we are making here in the Yukon, how we are developing and coming of age. It was just a couple years ago that the responsibility for lands, minerals and resources was devolved to the Yukon government from the federal government ó again, a significant event in Yukonís history and also an opportunity for us to take control of our destiny.
Letís look at growth. Finally, just two short years after our government took office we actually see the economy turning around for the better. There is actually hope and pride instilled in all of us as Yukoners as we continue to grow. The population has grown.
The labour force has grown. There are more jobs in the Yukon than there have been in the last several years. Tourism is growing with a six-percent increase this year between May and September. Thatís quite a lot of growth, especially when one views all the challenges we have faced over the last few years. Oil and gas exploration is growing. Weíre doing fairly well on this front. Iím very proud to be a part of a government that is very proactive on this front. We were elected to get this economy started and that is exactly what we are doing, and weíre actually seeing results. So I think that when we look at the Canada Winter Games, again this is an opportunity to showcase the Yukon and all that we have to offer, not just as a destination for visitors, but really as a place to do business, a place to attract investment, a place to raise your family, and a place to be proud to be from ó and I certainly am.
There are so many opportunities that will result from the games, leading up to the games, during the games and after the games. I think that when we look at the potential that we have in marketing, not just for the games, but marketing what we have as a destination of travel, a destination to do business, as I mentioned, and a destination of all choices for all Canadians and to people beyond our Canadian borders as well, there is significant potential to market the Yukon.
I refer to the B.C. campaign and the efforts that the B.C. government has undertaken over the last several months and I commend them for that. B.C. is a great place to visit, thereís no question about it, but I think that Yukon is very unique in that we are one of the three territories of the north. We have so much more potential to grow, to expand, more potential to do business and we just have so much more potential to grow our visitor industry.
So I think that these games will be a wonderful opportunity for all of us, and we should all rise to the challenge and take part. And I know that we will all be involved. It will require the collective efforts of about 4,000 to 6,000 volunteers alone to participate and ensure that these games come off.
So I very much commend the host society for what theyíve been able to do to date. There is quite a lot of work ahead of all of us, but I know that we have the expertise here in-house, and we have a lot of experience behind all of us as well.
I think that the games will also give us an opportunity to leverage additional attention to the territory ó not just to the Yukon, but to the north. And I think if you look at Nunavut and the opportunity to showcase their history and their culture; the opportunity to showcase the Northwest Territories and their history, their business, and their ability to attract world-class producers of gems, diamonds; and of the Yukon, of our history, our First Nations culture and our gold rush history, and all that we have to offer here today, whether it be wilderness tourism or sustainable ecotourism ó we have some very unique products here that attract visitors from all over the world, not just a particular market.
I also happen to think that a lot of eyes are on the Yukon, Alaska included. When we look at the pipeline, whether it be an Alaska Highway or Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline, again there are a lot of individuals who are looking to the north for future opportunities.
As I mentioned, Nunavut is very rich in First Nation history and culture. I think that, between all three jurisdictions, we will be able to maintain and provide great opportunities for all involved.
I also happen to think that the 2007 Canada Winter Games is a great stepping stone to the 2010 Winter Olympics. These Canada Winter Games will be the last Winter Games before the actual Winter Olympics, so there will be a number of athletes among us here in Whitehorse who could potentially, and very much will be, future Olympians in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
So Iím very proud to be part of this initiative. Not only have I met with the culture ministers from the N.W.T. and Nunavut to talk about these pan-northern opportunities for all of us ó on sport development, training opportunities, cultural performances, showcasing our cultural industries and marketing the Yukon ó Iíve also taken it upon myself, as I know our Minister of Community Services, Minister Hart, has as well, to talk about opportunities to partner with British Columbia in showcasing the 2010 Winter Olympics.
As members opposite are probably fully aware, we actually signed an intergovernmental accord earlier this fall in Dawson Creek to talk about opportunities that our two jurisdictions can also share in, in preparation for both sets of games, in terms of the fam media tours, sharing sponsorship opportunities, training venues, and building capacity in our sport community. There are a whole host of things, and we signed an accord. We have designated officials to look at the accord and to work toward those particular initiatives we signed off on.
So Iím very pleased to be able to work with my counterpart in British Columbia, the minister responsible for economic development, inclusive of tourism, and we are working in that regard.
One initiative that I did want to talk about was the Culture Quest initiative. We have deemed this decade as the decade of sports and culture, and it really has been an opportunity to assist in helping host some of these great events that have been taking place, like the Canada Senior Games that were held here not long ago. We have a whole host of other conventions and meetings happening here, many of which will be associated with the Canada Winter Games. In these national-level test events, they will all be held here in the territory ó another great opportunity not only to put more money into some of our business ownersí shops, but also an opportunity to showcase what we do and what we have to offer.
Culture Quest is part of the decade of sports and culture initiative. The Department of Tourism and Culture has been working with the Yukon Arts Centre, and they have been very excited to assist the department in showcasing this program. Itís an ability of the Yukon to spread the benefits of cultural programs of the Canada Winter Games throughout the Yukon, not just in the City of Whitehorse, to also support Yukon communities and First Nations to express themselves culturally and thereby enrich the lives of Yukoners, to increase capacity in the cultural sector, to provide lasting legacies to our artists and cultural organizations beyond games years, as well as to strengthen ties between contemporary artistic expression and other cultural heritage.
I have to say that the Arts Centre has been very busy over the last few months working on a number of projects, which Iím sure youíre probably familiar with hearing about, including photography competitions, story-writing competitions, radio documentaries, and a First Nation music tour. There was an initiative that was recently held in the community of Teslin, and it goes on ó and there are a whole host of other initiatives that are being planned right now as we speak for the upcoming year.
Mr. Speaker, I realize Iím running out of time, and thatís really unfortunate, because I could go on at great length about all the good work that we are doing on this side of the House. I think itís important for all members to show their full support toward this initiative, toward these games. All governments ó not just our government, but the previous Liberal Party, the previous NDP government ó we have all had a great role in expressing support for the Canada Winter Games. I think itís an opportunity of a lifetime. So I think itís incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we do our best, our very best, to showcase Yukon as best we can.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Iím very pleased to rise in support of the Yukon hosting the 2007 Canada Winter Games. The first proposal came to the government before us. There was some initial money contained in that budget, and then our government was pleased to put in the additional funding required and to formally secure the bid. That was an initiative and cooperative work between our government and the Member of Parliament.
Itís interesting now to hear the tremendous support for the Canada Winter Games and at the same time, over the previous 20 some days of this session, hear members opposite stand and say, ďWell, weíve done XYZ, great initiative, and the members opposite voted against it in the budget.Ē
Well, hereís a surprise: the Member for Klondike voted against the Canada Winter Games when it was in the budget. Now theyíre very pleased to support it. So, Mr. Speaker, perhaps we should be a little more judicious with those comments about what members support and donít support when they are on various sides of the House. Consistency ó we are on record, clearly, both as members in opposition and members in government, of supporting the Yukon hosting the Canada Winter Games.
The Minister of Tourism is absolutely correct. Itís a tremendous opportunity to showcase the Yukon. I certainly appreciate that the other northern territories wish to also be in the games, as a showcase for the entire North, and I welcome their participation and involvement. I noted and listened with great attentiveness ó although he may not have realized it ó to the Member for Lake Laberge and his comments about pipelines.
I would strongly recommend to the member, who is very fond of being thorough in his approach to doing his homework, that if he takes the time and opportunity to examine every single volume of the speeches and then nine or so binders of press clippings, the member would perhaps be interested to know that not once, but on every single occasion in addressing the pipeline issues I, as then Minister of Economic Development and as Premier, noted that the two territories are not in competition ó that this is about northern development and a window on northern gas.
It may be a surprise to the member ó if he does take the time to read the treaty ó that the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act guarantees Yukoners access to gas and transportation of our gas. Perhaps the member, in doing his homework, will be a little more thorough and recognize that the facts of the matter are that our government ó the Liberal government ó supported both pipelines. We will continue to argue that someone ó right now ó should be out supporting the Yukon, and itís incumbent upon the government to do that, and calling upon Canada to live up to the treaty. And decisions will not be made in Ottawa, as the minister responsible noted in Question Period today; they will be made by pipeliners and producers. Just as weíre going to showcase the Yukon in 2007, itís important that someone be speaking for the Yukon on that particular issue, because the silence is deafening right now.
Mr. Speaker, as I said, Iím pleased to support the Canada Winter Games and Yukon hosting the Canada Winter Games in 2007. Itís a tremendous initiative; itís a wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to being a volunteer and working with the individuals on the committee ó however I might be of assistance. I have followed their progress with interest. They have done an excellent job in ensuring that all members are aware of their activities. They have certainly kept in touch, and I appreciate that and commend them for their efforts. Itís not always easy to work so diligently and hard on a project that is some years hence; however, it is to their credit that they have maintained the momentum and support.
I certainly commend their efforts, thank them for their efforts and look forward to a successful event.
I cannot let the occasion go by without also expressing my congratulations to the City of Whitehorse for being awarded the Canadian mixed curling championships. The TSN event that we hosted some years ago was very successful and it was successful again in large part due to Yukon volunteers. Many of the curlers who attended made note to Yukoners that the Mount McIntyre facility is the finest curling facility, bar none, in this country. It will again not only serve as a wonderful host in, I believe, March 2006 ó Iím not certain of that and I stand to be corrected on that particular date, but it is 2006 ó I believe it may be January, too; Iím not certain of the date of the mixed curling championships. March would be the Briar and weíre not hosting that yet, but Iím sure we will one day. I look forward to us also hosting the juniors at some point in time.
Speaking of the juniors, with these hockey facilities as well, thereís a look to the north for future events because the 2007 Canada Winter Games isnít just about 2007 ó itís building for the future and itís showcasing Yukon to Canada and to the world, and I look forward to being part of that. As I said earlier this afternoon, I supported it originally in opposition, very much so in government and Iím pleased to support it from this side of the House again.
Mr. Arntzen: I am pleased to make a short speech to this motion in regard to developing a pan-northern approach to sharing unique northern sports and culture opportunities, not only when the Canada Winter Games come north for the first time in history, but perhaps for the future.†
I am going to take a little different approach and not talk about all the dollars and cents but take it back a bit in history and what we used to do and the exchanges that took place between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and Alaska. I will give you a couple of examples of what we used to do.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was involved in the cross-country ski community at the time and the national ski team consisted of about 70 percent of skiers from the Northwest Territories. Of course, when they were training for competition such as the Olympics in Sapporo, Japan and Grenoble, France, the teams would come to the Yukon to practice in November or December, as our temperatures were way more hospitable to train under than they were in the Northwest Territories, and probably still today. Not only that, but the teams used to come to the Yukon in the summertime, staying at Carcross or Whitehorse, as they skied on Montana Mountainís snowfields. I am sure that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources remembers that, since at that time he was running a hotel in Carcross.
Of course, this added to our Yukon economy, and friendships were formed between the territories at that time.
Also, in late April, the snow conditions in and around Inuvik were the best in the world. The Yukon ski team used to go to Inuvik and take part in what was called the Top of the World ski championships, along with skiers from all over the world. We had participants from Norway, Sweden, Finland, East and West Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Japan, as well as skiers from the rest of Canada and the United States. It was a tremendous boost for the economy of the Northwest Territories. But what happened, also, Mr. Speaker, is that many of these athletes ended up returning, coming to the Yukon on their flight or ride back, and a lot of them fell in love with the Yukon and then returned in the summertime and spent time paddling the Yukon rivers ó and some of those athletes are still doing that today.
I guess what Iím saying is that these exchanges had tremendous economic benefit aside from the friendships that were formed.
I also recall having skiers calling from Juneau in January or February, asking what the weather was like. Of course, at that time of the year, the answer was fairly easy: ďSunny and dry, good snow, and about -20 or -25 degrees.Ē And the answer would be, ďWell, weíll be up there on the weekend.Ē So we had a lot of people visiting us from Alaska because, at that time of the year, they would be drowning in rain along the coast of Alaska. So the opportunity to come to the Yukon and enjoy the cold and dry weather was a treat.
I donít know how many times that happened over the years, but I also remember one of the airlines putting on a flight between Whitehorse and Juneau, leaving Fridays and returning Sundays, and the downhill skiers from Whitehorse would get on the plane and go to Juneau and use the downhill ski hill there and on the flight back to Whitehorse, the cross-country skiers would come up and enjoy our ski trails in Whitehorse ó which, by the way, are known to be among the best, if not the best, set of ski trails in North America. I can attest to that; Iíve skied on a lot of them.
These are some of the exchanges that used to take place back then. There are many more exchanges I could talk about, but I donít want to bore you. What Iíd like to say is that we kind of lost that relationship between the territories and Alaska for some years. If this motion will bring back some of what was lost over the last few years ó and Iím sure it will ó I will support this motion. Iím supporting the Canada Games.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of this motion to work in cooperation with counterparts from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and the 2007 Canada Winter Games Host Society to develop a pan-northern approach to sharing unique northern sports and cultures.
Itís quite an event for the north, and itís a great opportunity. Itís one Iím very enthusiastic about. We go back a number of years in the House, and it was a Yukon Party government that initiated the first savings account for this initiative, knowing that it could materialize. All indications were that this event would come to pass; it would be hosted in Whitehorse the first time ever north of 60, and we would have an opportunity as Yukoners, as residents of Whitehorse and as northerners, to display what has come to be recognized ó both nationally and internationally ó as northern hospitality.
Mr. Speaker, the purchasing policy that is being developed will include N.W.T. and Nunavut and regional preference before our southern jurisdictions are considered. We have an opportunity to capture a lot of the initiatives and, in fact, a lot of the new structures being constructed here to host this event are being built by local contractors in partnership with other firms from southern jurisdictions.
We have an opportunity to present our culture, not just during the games but in the events leading up to the games, and of course we will have that wonderful institution that is actually the opposition here to any government in the Yukon, the press. They will be able to display the north and put us on the map during this event. The Yukonís birth was as a result of the gold rush of 1898. Now, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon, Dawson City and the gold rush are synonymous today around the world. The worldís greatest gold rush created the Yukon. Weíve just recently gone through a decade of events, and now we are at an impasse as to how we can best move forward with new initiatives.
Hosting events like the Canada Winter Games, and our recent hosting of the Senior Games, allows us to showcase what we have to offer and what we are providing to our citizens. Hopefully the media will do what it does best and report fairly and accurately on the comings and goings of people and this event. There will also be a lot of pre- and post-opportunities for those attending the Canada Winter Games to travel extensively in and around the Yukon. Although it will be winter, there will still be opportunities to get out there and see what the north has to offer, and it will probably encourage a great deal of those individuals coming up for the games to return ó return with their partners and families and explore further the Yukon, and indeed the north.
Iíve had the opportunity to attend a number of trade shows. The main one in Canada is Rendezvous Canada; in Europe, itís ITB in Berlin. Iíve had an opportunity to attend quite a number of these. Once itís known that youíre from the Yukon, youíre sought out and questioned because itís a destination that people ultimately want to visit. Even at trade shows in Toronto, the attendance at the Yukon booth is very, very high numbers. Unfortunately, Canadians do not convert in the numbers we would like them to convert to. But there is indeed an opportunity to showcase what we have to offer and ultimately encourage people to return after they have participated or been involved, in one form or other, in the Canada Winter Games here in Whitehorse in 2007. Itís also an opportunity to hype the area and move forward on a number of fronts.
If we are successful in demonstrating that we can host the event ó which I am sure we will be ó we can move forward to other events and other games. Mr. Speaker, thatís part of the visitor industry and that is one of our main drawing cards and main economic drivers. Our partyís commitment was to restore investor confidence in the Yukon and to rebuild the economy, and this is one of the areas that we are proud we are able to expand on.
The minister responsible for the area of tourism has been very dedicated and very devoted to moving forward on a number of fronts, and that is resulting in an increase in the visitor industry this last year ó yes, Mr. Speaker, an increase. For a number of years after the decade of centennials and celebrations, we slid down. We slid downhill as far as our numbers. But last year we saw an increase. That clearly demonstrates the enthusiasm and the optimism that is being restored to the Yukon economy and the opportunities not just for ourselves but for our children. Because after all, at the end of this exercise, what are we attempting to do? We are attempting to provide a very high standard of living and opportunities for the next generation.
We can do just that very well, and this is an opportunity and Iíd encourage all members to support this motion. Itís a very positive and definitive motion and it will go a long way to showcasing Yukon on not just the Canadian stage, but on the world stage.
As northerners, we have to deal with a transportation system that is lengthy; in fact, any arrivals internationally, save for a brief window in the summertime when we have direct flights from Frankfurt into Whitehorse, are through a long and tedious route down south, and the gateway cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, are usually the initially port of entry. Then we are a vast country and you only have to fly around and attend meetings that are called at the drop of a hat by some of our federal ministers ó ďAnd oh yes, weíll be meeting in a couple of days in Halifax, or Toronto, or OttawaĒ ó and the task of getting from here to there is equally as daunting sometimes as getting from there to here, so we recognize the issues surrounding transportation to north of 60 and the task that it is.
But Yukoners have come together and, with the advent of a new carrier on the north-south route, coupled with our main-line Canadian carrier ó Air Canada ó there are now options. Between Air North and Air Canada, we now are serviced by two carriers in direct competition and both of them are maintaining a very high standard of service to Yukoners today.
The toughest thing to do is go down to one carrier with a monopoly situation that ultimately results in either higher prices or a lessening of the level of service. Well that certainly has not been the case today and kudos have to go to both our carriers for the level of service that is being provided to the Yukon out of primarily Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
†Much can be said about the communications system, but with the increase in the bandwidth recently and the ability to uplink signals, television coverage will not be a problem for the rest of Canada.
We start looking at what itís going to take to house all these individuals, and that daunting task is going to be met very quickly. Thereís a very dedicated group working on the issue of housing. Some of the interesting travels that Iíve had are to similar events in very remote areas of countries, and I recall travels to the northern part of Finland for the World Goldpanning Championships. Theyíre hosted all over the world. A country bids on them several years in advance, and some of the areas where these are hosted are often very remote ó and the one that comes to mind is Tankavaara in northern Finland. This is an opportunity there for a very small community to host hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the world. That was done with temporary housing ó temporary shelter ó and it was accomplished and accomplished quite well.
Even in the remote areas of western Austria there was a tremendous opportunity for Heilegenblut to host the World Goldpanning Championships. They did have much more elaborate transportation systems, primarily with rail, but the bottom line is that these small communities hosted a world-class event.
Now, this event, the Canada Winter Games, is a Canadian event. It will attract the same order of magnitude of people to Whitehorse as some of these events did to remote areas in other parts of the world. The issue before us is to pull this off, so that we are recognized as a destination for other such events. Given the group that has been assembled, I am sure this is something that will be realized.
As a legacy, we will be left with a number of world-class venues for us to partake in the various sports and events that the north ó indeed Canada ó has always been known for, such as hockey and curling, to name two. As we watch the building under construction, itís coming into shape very quickly.
Iíd encourage all my colleagues to get on board with this opportunity. It is a development opportunity for northern athletes, second to none, and itís not going to come our way for another period of time.
So, Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, letís support this motion, letís get on board, and letís do the best job we can possibly do as northerners and as Yukoners to ensure that this event is maximized for the benefit of all of us.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Hassard: Itís a pleasure to speak in support of this motion. The 2007 Canada Winter Games promise to be one of the most exciting events that, in my mind, the Yukon has ever seen. I think all Yukoners are proud to see Whitehorse selected as the first city north of 60 to host these games.
Now, coming from rural Yukon, I know that some communities feel that Whitehorse maybe gets too much, if I can say that. I know Iíve said that in the past. Living in Teslin, you look at the bigger centres and sometimes you question why certain communities get certain things. But I think itís obvious why the Canada Winter Games would be coming to Whitehorse and not one of the other communities, and I think that this time the territory as a whole will benefit.
I have had an opportunity to sit down with members of the host society and discuss some of the opportunities for rural Yukon, and my riding specifically. I have not had the good fortune to attend any of the previous Winter Games, but many friends have and they have conveyed to me that, while the sporting events are the main focus, there is a very large social event going on at the same time. I have to wonder if thatís perhaps where rural Yukon could play a large role in these games.
We will obviously have an opportunity to show the rest of Canada the unique aspects of Yukonís culture, and I know from talking to people in Teslin, Faro, and Ross River, that there is a great interest in being involved in these games, pretty much in any way they can. I believe these communities, especially, have a lot to offer.
Something that came to my mind while putting together some notes was that I wondered how many Canadians know what stick gambling is. That question could probably be: how many Yukoners actually know what it is? Maybe this is a cultural event that could be showcased at these games ó something very Yukon. The Teslin Tlingit dancers or the Ross River drummers are also cultural performers who come to mind.
In my discussions throughout the territory, I have also heard ó well, itís actually not ďheardĒ; itís discussions that Iíve been involved in, most specifically in Teslin ó that there may be an opportunity to have participants of the games travel to the rural communities for events. When I think of Teslin, I think of the Teslin Heritage Centre, and I think it would be an ideal venue for holding an event such as stick-gambling or other cultural events. There are other cultural centres in the Yukon that would fit the bill as well.
I know the Town of Faro is prepared to entertain any interested groups that wish or have the chance to travel to Faro. They see it as a huge opportunity to showcase their fine community. Faro also has the infrastructure to be a sporting venue.
I know from my time on the municipal council in Teslin that we had a great desire to have some aspect of the games take place in Teslin ó the sporting events, specifically. We hoped to have hockey ó that was the original discussion. That kind of dwindled down to perhaps being a practice at the arena. We still hope that can happen. The host society appears to have the feeling that the logistics of having hockey teams travel back and forth to other communities could be a little tough. One of the things that I was told is that there is a need for all participants in any one event to have the same opportunity.
They have to have the same practice time in each arena, they have to have the same playing time in whichever facility theyíre a part of, and that really makes it difficult because of the number of people involved. I know, though, that rural communities are still hoping for some opportunity to do that and I think other communities are interested ó Watson Lake with the ski hill, perhaps Dawson City with boxing. I know Haines Junction had expressed an interest in using their arena for one of the events. One of the other ones talked about for Teslin was archery. So I certainly hope that somehow we can get the communities more involved.
One of the things that has come up in the communities is the commitment by people to volunteer, and they really want to have that chance to show what they can do. I certainly have the confidence in all volunteers, rural or otherwise, to do a great job. Again, with these rural communities the financial benefit of having some of these events take place ó I know the hotel owners and gas station owners, restaurateurs, would be substantially impacted by having a large number of people in town to either participate, volunteer or just to watch. So itís something that certainly interests me.
Thereís also the personal satisfaction of volunteering. I know I was talking to many of the people who volunteered for the Arctic Winter Games or the Klondike Road Relay and they talk about the satisfaction of being involved with it, and of course the satisfaction of participating. Many people ó Iím sure some of the people here have family or relatives who are going to be participating in the events and certainly look forward to watching their children or family members participating and hopefully winning some medals.
One of the other discussions that I was involved in was looking at what the possibilities would be of having people come here and train for the winter Olympics in Vancouver. That would be a fantastic opportunity, in my mind. I know there are a lot of avid hockey fans in the room today and to have some of these Olympic hockey teams travelling to Whitehorse ó weíre on the same time zone as Vancouver ó I think would be very exciting to have something like that happen here.
Beyond that, perhaps even the world junior hockey championships, which are coming up very soon ó wouldnít it be great to have them here?
I have every confidence in the volunteers in Yukon to do a great job, and Iím sure this will be a successful event.
Given the time, Iíll probably wrap up to give others an opportunity to say their piece.
Speaker: If the Member for Lake Laberge now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Cathers: I thank those members in this House who chose to participate in this debate for their input. Again, it is a little disappointing to see the lack of interest from the NDP in debating a $100-million investment in the Yukon economy, but we have seen that with the budget and with other areas. There seems to be little appetite for debating substance and a lot of appetite for seeing only the problems and not talking about the solutions.
One issue I failed to mention in my initial comments is that, in infrastructure money alone, thereís about $40 million being invested to build infrastructure for the Canada Winter Games in 2007.
Again, with this debate it was our intention to engage the opposition in developing this approach and moving forward. We get complaints constantly from the opposition that we donít involve them in discussions and that we make the decisions on our own, but when we do try to involve them in these discussions, they donít take part in the debate, so itís a little bit frustrating. Itís very hard to have a discussion with somebody who is neither listening nor talking.
A number of members on this side have brought up quite a few issues and benefits. The Member for Klondike mentioned the possibility of future sporting events if weíre successful on this. There have been a number of suggestions and valuable debate coming forward from members on this side. I would just like to refer to a comment the Member for Mount Lorne made, where he felt I was criticizing him for a lack of interest. I would like to point out that the Member for Mount Lorne seems to be the only member of the NDP interested in this debate.
I will try to put those frustrations aside. Iím hoping that members opposite will choose to vote in favour of this. Hopefully, at some point in the future, we can engage in working together on making the Canada Winter Games, and its expected $80 million to $100 million of investment in the Yukon economy, a successful experience for the Yukon and an experience that has lasting benefit for all Yukoners.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 13 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 322 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. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:25 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 8, 2004:
Annual Report of the Ombudsman and Information and Privacy Commissioner for calendar year 2003 (Speaker)
Yukon Liquor Corporation Annual Report, 2003-04 (Kenyon)
Yukon Housing Corporation Annual Report dated March 31, 2004 (Kenyon)