††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, April 11, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Wildlife Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased to rise today to pay tribute to National Wildlife Week. National Wildlife Week has been celebrated in Canada since the 1940s, helping Canadians learn about wildlife and the environment. It is a time to celebrate Canadaís rich natural heritage.
We have been supporting and encouraging National Wildlife Week and associated activities here in the Yukon for many years. Over the last decade, Yukon celebrations have included community displays, public talks, field trips, contests and more. Special educational kits produced by the Canadian Wildlife Federation are sent out to Yukon schools, and teachers are encouraged to do hands-on projects to understand and protect special areas in the neighbourhood.
This yearís National Wildlife Week national radio jingle was written, produced and performed by our very own Remy Rodden, the educator and coordinator at Environment Yukon.
We have incorporated the National Wildlife Week activities as part of our larger Yukon Biodiversity Awareness Month festivities, which I outlined here last week.
The theme of this yearís National Wildlife Week is ďExplore and embrace a special wild place.Ē It is about recognizing the special natural areas in your neighbourhood. It is intended to help all of us focus on Canadaís special wild places, where people connect with nature, whether it is a busy bird feeder in your own backyard or an officially protected area like a national park or territorial park such as our Tombstone Park. These places are of importance to our well-being, as they are to the survival of all the wild plants and animals that live here.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to National Wildlife Week. National Wildlife Week began in recognition of the birthday of a pioneer Canadian conservationist, Jack Miner.
The bill to commemorate National Wildlife Week was passed unanimously in the House of Commons in April 1947, and has been celebrated every year since.
Jack Minerís passion for wildlife and nature led him to establish a bird sanctuary in Kingston, Ontario as early as 1904. It was the first of its kind on the continent to provide food, shelter and protection from hunting for migratory birds. Miner banded 50,000 ducks and geese at the sanctuary from 1909 to 1914, and his research was used by both the Canadian and U.S. governments to create the original Migratory Birds Convention Act placing restrictions on hunting for the first time in the effort to preserve waterfowl populations.
Miner lectured across North America and wrote numerous articles and two books on birdlife and conservation. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Jack Miner was just one of many naturalists who have contributed their energy and ideas to the conservation of our wildlife.
In the Yukon, we have had the benefit of several pioneer naturalists, including John Lammers and Bob Frisch. John was one of the founders of the Yukon Conservation Society, and Bob explored birdlife on the Dempster, discovering the surfbird, which was not considered indigenous to the Yukon.
Both men wrote extensively about their experiences, examples that celebrate this yearís National Wildlife Week theme of exploring and embracing special wild places.
Now more than ever, our special wild places need the full support, recognition and protection of our government. Conservationists have a growing list of concerns for Yukon, including over 50 wetlands, a special interest of Jack Miner so many years ago.
We urge Yukoners to make every effort now to protect the special wild places they embrace, so generations to come will still have reasons to celebrate.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to join my colleagues in tribute to National Wildlife Week. A celebration of wildlife and wild spaces since 1938, National Wildlife Week encourages children and adults throughout Canada to learn about and experience nature, starting in their own communities.
The goal of National Wildlife Week is to educate participants about wildlife conservation issues. By learning about wildlife and conservation efforts in our community, students and adults can all learn how we can become positive influences on the environment and we are reminded of our responsibilities as stewards of the environment.
This yearís theme is ďExplore and embrace a special wild placeĒ. In the Yukon, we are truly blessed with wilderness, special places outside our back doors, no matter where we live. In Carcross there is the unique desert. Old Crow people journey in the spring to the Crow Flats. In Teslin and Marsh Lake, there are the waterways. In the community of Whitehorse, there are rural residential homeowners. As well, Riverdale has Chadburn Lake and Grey Mountain. In Porter Creek, we have Versluce Meadow and the unique green space that has been much discussed of late.
Lest anyone forget about this particular green space, I am certainly reminded daily. As I drive on Mountainview, often there is a coyote that will cross in front of me. There are beaver in the McIntyre Creek area that create a unique challenge for drivers and engineers. My point is that in Yukon, we coexist with our treasured wild spaces and we are reminded daily of our responsibility for stewardship for present and future generations.
Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.
In recognition of Education Week
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise in the House today to recognize Education Week in the Yukon, which runs from April 11 to 15. The theme of Education Week is ďOpening doors to lifelong learningĒ. The purpose of Education Week is to create awareness of education opportunities available to Yukoners and to celebrate the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in education in the territory. During this week, all kinds of organizations will showcase the many excellent educational opportunities available to Yukoners of all ages in all communities. Schools, First Nations, Yukon College campuses and non-profit organizations that provide education services and programs to Yukoners will take place celebrating Education Week. Whether it involves attending an open house or participating in a public event put on by one of these education providers, I urge Yukoners to seek out what interests them, find out more and open doors to lifelong learning.
I would also like to take this time to commend all the teaching professionals ó tutors,† workshop leaders, family members and volunteers ó involved in making lifelong learning possible. Their hard work and dedication bring so much to the lives of others. It is with great respect and thanks that I wish to acknowledge each and every one of our public school teachers, vice-principals and principals for the commitment they bring to their work and the energy they bring to the classroom.
While school-based staff are the public face of education, administrative staff at the Department of Education play a key role in supporting and facilitating the delivery of our fine education system in the Yukon.
School councillors bring a passion for education and a commitment to learning to their school councils, which function in a valuable leadership component in our education system.
The role that Yukon First Nations play in education is a very important one, and I commend the many Yukon First Nation people involved in education, including elders, native language instructors, liaison and support workers, representatives on school councils and other education-related bodies and First Nation leadership. I commend the instructors and support staff at Yukon College for their work both in Whitehorse and in the communities. This government appreciates the excellence in post-secondary education that they provide.
Also, I would like to thank the staff and volunteers at non-profit organizations throughout the Yukon that support a variety of educational opportunities for Yukoners. The pursuit of literacy and healthy lifestyles, among other things, are well-supported throughout such organizations.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I would like to thank everyone who engages in lifelong learning. Thatís because when we all walk down the path of lifelong learning, our communities are healthier and more vibrant places to live. Education involvement helps us participate more effectively in our family, our community and our workplace.
So many Yukoners, whether they are learning to use computers for the first time, learning basic reading skills, researching and assembling complex science projects, finding out about healthy living or acquiring new skills to rejoin the workforce, are embracing the idea of lifelong learning.
I would like to commend all Yukoners who actively seek out opportunities to educate themselves, because the seed of knowledge starts with them.
I am pleased to pay tribute to Yukoners for their dedication to lifelong learning, and I am pleased to recognize this week as Education Week in the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to educators and students in this Education Week, April 11 to 15.
Most of us think of education as centred in public schools. Some of us have children or grandchildren currently attending grade school, and we all have our own memories of elementary and high school. Some of us have been fortunate in that those memories include interest and support of a favourite teacher or the endless fun enjoyed with close friends. Others have darker experiences in school.
We are beginning to recognize the impact of daily schooling on our childrenís lives and to demand changes that will be more supportive of a healthier experience. Because it is so important to our lives, basic education in this country is free and compulsory. It is the backbone of our economy and our society as a whole, and it is the means of transferring competence and value.
Each of us has a strong belief that education is the path to personal success. The importance of education to our future cannot be overestimated, and First Nations have long recognized this. We can become entrenched negatively in the political and social struggles involved in First Nations education, but† it is precisely because of the central importance of education that First Nations focus on the school system as a first priority in their struggle to survive in a dominant culture.
Paulo Freire, the great Brazilian philosopher of adult education and literacy, wrote that all education is a political act, transferring culture to society. The process of education can be empowering or it can be oppressive. The choice is in our hands and we must recognize that responsibility.
Many First Nation people volunteer time and energy to preserve our culture within the present school system.
There are First Nations on school councils working to develop cultural curriculum, recording oral histories, helping in after-school cultural programs, and sharing languages and legends. They do this for all Yukon children. They are committed to helping support our children in obtaining the rewards of the best possible education.
We pay tribute to them and to all educators, parents and volunteers for their commitment and the valuable contributions they make on a daily basis to the future success of our young people.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to join with my colleagues in the Legislature to pay tribute to Education Week.
Education Week is celebrated this year from April 11 to 15, with the theme ďOpening doors to lifelong learningĒ. My colleagues have mentioned that there are many activities and events creating awareness of education and educational opportunities in each and every Yukon community.
Partnership in education is the foundation of our Yukon system. Partnering and that partnership is with students, parents, professional educators, school councils, First Nations and all levels of government, and non-government organizations in the territory. It is these meaningful partnerships that result in the highest quality of education and educational opportunities available in the Yukon.
Education is more than just learning to read and write. Education is developing the whole person, including the intellectual, physical, social, emotional and cultural potential of all students to help them to become and continue to be ó with a commitment to lifelong learning ó productive, responsible and self-reliant members of our Yukon society.
During Education Week, the tribute belongs to our partners who make it happen ó to the students, teachers, parents, volunteers and all citizens throughout the Yukon who contribute to education by their leadership, by example to a commitment to lifelong learning.
On behalf of the Liberal caucus, thank you.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Lang: I have for tabling today the Yukon Mineral Advisory Board annual report for 2004.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House acknowledges that in 1997, the residents of Porter Creek have petitioned the Yukon Legislative Assembly to protect the natural park area bordered by Rabbitís Foot Canyon on the west, Mountainview Drive on the east, and McIntyre Creek in the south; and
THAT this petition was supported by a number of groups, including the Yukon Conservation Society and the Yukon Bird Club; and
THAT this land, as a result of the devolution agreement and the final agreement reached by the Kwanlin Dun and Taían Kwachían First Nations is wholly owned by the Government of Yukon;
THEREFORE be it resolved that the Yukon Legislative Assembly recommends to the Government of Yukon that the land described above in its entire natural state be protected as a park area within the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon government to assign top priority status to the development of an effective, comprehensive, anti-poverty strategy that will, within a decade, eliminate the need for any Yukon person, regardless of age, gender, cultural background or employment status, to live in a condition of poverty.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Oil and gas development, certainty for
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. This minister and this government have hitched their economic wagon to the hope of oil and gas development, particularly in northern Yukon. The minister must have been very, very disappointed to hear the vice-president of Devon Energy say thereís no short-term gain to be had drilling in northern Yukon until thereís a way to get Yukon natural gas to market.
What impact does the minister expect this statement from Devon Energy will have on other industry players who have been looking at pursuing projects in northern Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, that of course is the opinion of one corporation. Weíre looking forward to Hunter Oil. Theyíve got a program hopefully going forward next winter to work on their disposition, so itís the oil and gas industry.
Mr. Hardy: Itís interesting that now this minister downplays the drilling that happened up in the northern Yukon. The member, just a month or so ago, was standing alongside the highway, clapping as the trucks went by. Well, the vice-president of Devon didnít use the word and the minister didnít use the word, but the real issue is the absence of certainty. An Alaska Highway pipeline is far from certain. The Mackenzie Valley pipeline still faces some formidable opposition. The so-called Dempster lateral is by no means a certainty.
Under this Yukon Party government, the environmental and socio-economic work that needs to be done is virtually dormant on all fronts. The only certainty is that this minister and the Premier are certain to keep flying off, at the drop of a 10-gallon hat, to tell the oil and gas industry how great things are here in ďAlberta NorthĒ. What new message is the minister planning to give the industry now that its argument about certainty has been shown to be just a salesmanís hype?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, I would just like to put some facts on the table. Weíve had $35 million spent on oil and gas exploration in the Yukon this year ó the first time in 30 years. It was done under a Yukon Party government. I donít think it would be done under a party led by the member opposite, but we had $35 million spent, with $4 million spent in north Yukon ó 95 percent of that was spent with Yukoners.
Mr. Hardy: I have to remind the minister opposite it was the NDP government that created the Oil and Gas Act. Also, as he always does, the minister didnít answer the question.
Last week we heard the Premier use the ďcĒ word again, boasting about the potential, opportunity and the certainty in todayís Yukon under this governmentís watch. Those were the Premierís actual words, but if you look behind the words, itís like looking behind the curtain in the Land of Oz, Mr. Speaker; there is no certainty. The wizard is up to his old tricks.
Weíve been warning the Premier for two years that it takes more than words to create a climate of certainty, but the Premier hasnít been listening. One of the key elements missing is certainty about land claims, but the Premier doesnít seem overly concerned about the federal mandate to negotiate land claims coming to an end. After all, he has his bilateral agreement ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Yes, Iím getting there, Mr. Speaker. Well, for another month itís going to be around anyway. We donít know whatís happening after that. Iíll put my final question.
Has the Premier had any discussion with the two Kaska First Nations in the Yukon about renewing their bilateral agreement with this government, or does he even know if theyíre interested in renewing it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That was quite a foray into something foreign to the NDP ó certainty for industry.
I think the evidence speaks for itself. There is certainty in the Yukon to a higher degree than there has been in the past. Thatís why we have experienced the level of investment in mining, oil and gas, and other sectors, that weíve experienced to date. I think also the member opposite is conveniently missing the point, that the certainty that the industry wants in north Yukon, when it comes to reserves and natural gas, is access to the marketplace. Under this government weíve gone from one possible option, the Alaska Highway pipeline, to two by intervening in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline process.
There is more certainty in the Yukon today than there was under past governments, like the Liberal government before us, and the NDP government. The reason thereís more certainty, the evidence that shows thereís more certainty, is the level of investment ó and all we have to do is look to the stats. Millions more in oil and gas, millions more is mining. There is more and more interest in Yukonís potential. Thatís why weíre promoting the Yukon at the drop of the hat.
Question re: Medical travel allowance
†Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up with the Health minister about the medical travel allowance. On Thursday he admitted his governmentís record budget failed to increase the travel allowance for Yukoners who must travel Outside for treatment. Worse yet, he was bankrupt for ideas on how to bring the Yukon allowance up to par with the N.W.T.ís allowance. His performance is inexcusable considering that the federal government has provided $75 million to the three territories to assist with the cost of medical travel over the next five years. Why wonít the Health minister share some of that windfall with Yukon outpatients who are forced to spend their own money for accommodation, meals and transportation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The amount of money that has been received from Canada has been directed to a whole series of health care initiatives and programs here in the Yukon to benefit Yukoners who have a need.
That said, the equation that the member opposite is working on, as I said previously, is comparing apples to turnips. Mr. Speaker, there is no comparison as to the health care system that the Yukon has in place vis-ŗ-vis the health care system in place in the Northwest Territories. The Northwest Territories has closed their hospital in Inuvik. They have centred things in Yellowknife and, furthermore, theyíve made arrangements with the health authority in Edmonton. Theyíve actually gone to the extent of leasing apartments and housing people in need of medical care. On the other hand the Yukon has gone the other way. Weíve upgraded our system of specialists here and weíve enhanced our health care delivery right here in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I didnít just fall off the turnip truck. Why should Yukon outpatients not get the same deal as counterparts in the Northwest Territories?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, we canít agree with the member opposite.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The Member for Kluane has the floor.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, that was about the most intelligent thing Iíve ever heard the member say.
Now, why canít we get the same deal as patients in the Northwest Territories? The federal government is providing an extra $75 million to the three territories for that very purpose. Surely the minister can find a few dollars to help our patients with their hotel bills, cab fare or a sandwich. Because the length of a trip taken by Yukon outpatients is usually three days or less, this government contributes nothing toward expenses. Things are much different in the Northwest Territories. At the Health and Social Services department briefing, we learned there is another $9 million or more waiting to be spent within this department. Will the Health and Social Services minister commit to allocating some of that additional federal windfall toward the medical travel allowance?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: All the funds received from the federal government have been earmarked for programs and initiatives to help and assist Yukoners who need assistance. That said, I donít know how much further we can go. There is a difference in the systems and how health care is delivered in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. We are not at a point where we have to send as many people outside of the Yukon for medical attention as the Northwest Territories does.
Also, the comparison with Nunavut ó its population is just shy of 30,000 people. There are nine doctors resident in Nunavut. They send a great deal of their population south for medical attention. They have a different system in place, as does the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Itís telling to see where this governmentís priorities are. The Yukon Party wonít provide anything for Yukon outpatients whose Outside trips are three days or less, and it only contributes a paltry $30 per day for longer trips. Yet, the Yukon Party government paid thousands of dollars toward travel expenses for miners attending the Cordilleran Roundup, even when the purpose for the attendance of some miners was to sell their mining claims. What does a Yukon outpatient have to do to get recognized by this government? Buy a mining claim?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Again, the member opposite is not comparing apples to turnips; he has some other fruit or vegetable there in the equation. The issue is that the Yukon has a different way of addressing the health care needs of Yukoners than the Northwest Territories or Nunavut does. We stand on our record. We have directed more funds into the health care system than ever before, and we have addressed the demonstrated needs where those demonstrated needs exist.
At the same time, we have enhanced those services and procedures that we can provide right here in the Yukon, and we continue to work toward that end.
Question re: Thomson Centre, future use
Ms. Duncan: On Wednesday, April 6, of last week, when the Minister of Health and Social Services was asked about public consultation on the Thomson Centre, he stated, ďCurrently underway is a mental health/medical detox unit that will be established in the existing Thomson Centre. Also contained in there will be a palliative care unitÖĒ
On Thursday, April 7, when I asked about the public consultation on the Thomson Centre services, the Minister of Health and Social Services stated, ďPalliative care is being provided and will continue to be provided at Copper Ridge Place. Mental health and medical detox will be provided by the Yukon Hospital Board via the Whitehorse Hospital.Ē
Mr. Speaker, the minister did not answer the original question about public consultation and the minister gave two different answers on two different days. Can the minister tell concerned people in the Yukon if palliative care ó people with life-ending illnesses ó will be provided in the Thomson Centre alongside medical detox? And with whom did the minister consult on this plan?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Palliative care is provided at Copper Ridge Place and will continue to be provided there.
Ms. Duncan: Once again, the minister did not answer the question. Is he standing by his statement on April 6 that palliative care will also be provided at the Thomson Centre, alongside medical detox, and would he please indicate with whom he has had consultations about the uses of Thomson Centre ó this combination of palliative care and medical detox in one facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Also for the memberís information, Iím sure it will come as no surprise that palliative care is occasionally provided at the Whitehorse Hospital.
Ms. Duncan: While I thank the minister for his patience with these questions, Iíd appreciate some answers that outline for the public consultation and the future uses of the Thomson Centre.
Letís try this another way. Iíd like to ask: is the minister planning on transferring the Thomson Centre to the Yukon Hospital Corporation in the same minister-knows-best fashion as he transferred the ambulance services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím sure it may come as a surprise, but the Thomson Centre has been owned by the Yukon Hospital Corporation since it was built. The member opposite has only to check the land titles record to find out whose name is on the title for this property.
Question re: Whitehorse Housing Cooperative
†Mr. Cardiff: Last week, I asked the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation some questions about the Yukon Housing Corporationís involvement with the Whitehorse Housing Cooperative. Iíd like to thank the minister. Apparently a log-jam has been broken and things are moving along. But I have some follow-up questions. He didnít answer all the questions I had.
There was supposed to be an internal investigation into what caused the housing cooperative to go into receivership and into some missing funds. The minister didnít have any details about that. He has now had an opportunity to review the file and Iíd like him to let us know where theyíre at with the internal investigation.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I thank the member opposite for the question. In review of the questions from last week, the member opposite stated that there is a business plan. Again I invited that the member opposite provide me with that plan, since no one else has, and to date weíve not heard.
In August 2003, problems developed at the condominium corporation, and in December 2003 the Yukon Housing Corporation became the receiver. We did repairs, we brought it up to code, and we started to work with an investigation on it at that point in time. The corporation was on its own since 1998, when the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation pulled out of the thing. There was basically no one overseeing the corporation at that point in time. And the member opposite is quite correct ó there were some questions relating to that.
A study was done and it was turned over to the RCMP. It is a police matter, which means I canít comment on that. Itís in the hands of the RCMP.
Mr. Cardiff: So he answered the second question first. He didnít really tell us about the investigation and what the outcome of that was. The minister needs to get his facts straight. Number one, itís a housing co-op; itís not a housing corporation. Thatís the Yukon Housing Corporation. He keeps referring to the co-op as a corporation. The fact of the matter is the corporation is in possession of 14 boxes of Whitehorse Housing Co-op ó not corporation ó files. The minister canít blame CMHC, and he canít blame the federal government, which is what we see all the time.
Can the minister tell me if the 14 boxes of information have been turned over to the RCMP as well?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For the member oppositeís information, the cooperative was put into receivership with the Yukon Housing Corporation as the receiver, so hopefully heíll get that straight.
The matter is in RCMP hands, and because it is in RCMP hands Iím not permitted to comment further on that. There is a federal association, the Cooperative Housing Federation, that has been working with this group, as well as the cooperative stabilization fund. Both have been working on the files on this and have been working up to as late as yesterday afternoon with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
There is a degree of funds available for that; however, it does require a business plan and, again, to date no business plan has been put forward. We have no way of knowing the stability of this organization as it would continue, and until we see that business plan, itís very difficult to even comment on it.
Question re: Dental services in rural communities
†Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
This government provides minimal incentives for private dentists to travel to outlying communities. The result is that Old Crow has very limited services. Weíre lucky to get dental services once a year. A year ago, the minister responded to my letter outlining the dental services the territorial government is responsible for. In that letter, the minister said that preliminary discussions were going on with Health Canada to determine the responsibilities of each government to respond to the dental needs of my constituents in Old Crow. Will the minister now give us an update on these discussions regarding dental services for communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Dental services provided by the Yukon government for the member oppositeís community include the school dental program. It is provided free of charge in the school to all the children.
The department also pays for a dentist and a dental technician or hygienist to travel to Old Crow up to three times a year. The problem is not what the Government of Yukon provides. The problem is between the uninsured benefit program provided to the First Nation population by Canada and the dentists. The dentists want to be assured of getting paid for the services they provide. There is difficulty between the dentists and the Government of Canada. Weíve attempted to mediate or assist in coming to a solution. Our government has gone the extra yard, and when the dentists travel to Old Crow, the Minister of Education and I have agreed, if it doesnít impede an existing program, they can use the dental chair and the dental facilities in the school for the general population.
Weíve done our level best in this area, but the problem is not of our making, and itís not something that we can solve alone.
Mrs. Peter: This is a very serious problem for many people in my community. Recently, a person from Old Crow was suffering severely from a toothache, and a dentist was not available. After receiving as much help as possible from the nursing station, the personís pain and infection increased to the point where this person had to travel at their own expense to Whitehorse. This was clearly an emergency situation affecting this personís overall health.
We all recently paid tribute to Dental Health Month and emphasized that dental problems affect general health. We stressed the importance of taking care of a personís overall health.
Speaker: Would the member ask the question, please?
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I will.
The problem here was confusion over a dental problem and health problem. What is the responsibility of the territorial government for dental problems when they affect a personís general health to the point of an emergency?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In the event of an emergency, the nurse practitioners and the doctors can and do assist in rural communities, and they do so everywhere across the territory. But I point out that the problem here is one of the dentists who visit the communities not having a workable arrangement with Indian and Northern Affairs for the payment of their invoices.
That has lead to Indian and Northern Affairs setting up and hiring their own dentists and operating a dental service out of downtown Whitehorse for that purpose, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, public consultation
Mr. Cardiff: The Minister of Justice has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars propping up the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and itís still falling apart. Itís a danger to inmates, itís a danger to employees and itís a danger to the public.
Last fall he launched a corrections consultation to the tune of three-quarters of a million dollars and now, finally, three and a half months later, itís finally getting started.
One panel member on the consultation is quoted as saying, ďWeíre several years away from a new facility.Ē So to all the other delays, we can add this 15-month consultation with the escalating cost and no action on a new jail until after the next election, which is very convenient for this minister and the government.
Whatís the ministerís real agenda behind this delay? Is it simply another stalling tactic while he finds another P3 business partner to build the facility?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Itís a very interesting analogy from the member opposite, but it must have taken some time to come to that conclusion. However, Mr. Speaker, the corrections consultation is going very well, as a matter of fact. Iíve heard nothing but good about the process, not only from the public at large but also from some of the staff within the corrections system. Apparently it has turned out to be a worthwhile endeavour and probably a very necessary one.
Mr. Speaker, while the consultation is going on, this government is taking action to make sure things happen at Whitehorse Correctional Centre ó in fact, even more so than has happened in the past. For example, this year alone we have a number of programs that are happening at the Correctional Centre. For example, we have computer fundamentals, the GED testing twice a year, welding, small-engine repair, initial fire attack firefighting, GPS mapping and compass work, chainsaw safety, flagging, traffic control. So things are really moving very nicely at Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for reading his budget briefing notes. We look forward to doing that in line-by-line, as the Premier would say.
The consultation panel is planning to visit each Yukon community twice and it is also planning to look at correctional facilities outside the Yukon, but the first schedule of community meetings is about as minimal as you can get. Some of these meetings in communities are only two hours long and others are going to be starting over suppertime. Thatís simply not enough time for community members at large to discuss such wide-ranging and serious concerns as corrections and correctional reform. It costs just as much to have a two-hour meeting in a community as it does to stay a little while longer and actually listen to what the communities have to contribute.
Does the minister really believe that the breadth of the subjects in the consultation can be seriously addressed in the brief time frame thatís being offered?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The short answer would be: of course. I believe that this is not a new issue. This issue has been around for generations. Itís not something where the individual is all of a sudden going to sit down and say, ďOh, yeah, Iíd better think about corrections.Ē I mean, this has been on the minds of Yukoners for years. Itís just unfortunate that the previous government didnít capitalize on the consultation process and work from the outside in. Instead, the choice was to work from the administrative side out.
Well, this government really does want to hear from the people, and thatís the process and the direction that it has taken. The purpose of the consultation to start with is to develop a corrections action plan for delivering corrections programs and services in the Correctional Centre and communities that meet offender, victim, family and community needs. As an individual who has had hands-on experience in this field for many years, I really welcome this process, and I believe all Yukoners are going to benefit from this consultation process.
Mr. Cardiff: That was pretty poor, Mr. Speaker. The minister is ignoring consultations that have gone on previously. There were consultations on restorative justice. There were consultations with elders about what was needed in the correctional facility. Now thereís a little bit of confusion over the scope of the consultation that the minister has undertaken.
On page 4 of the discussion document that has been released, it says the scope of the consultation includes the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. However, one of the co-chairs on the consultation panel has stated publicly that the consultations are focused only on programming and not around building a new jail. Perhaps the minister envisions another lengthy consultation process after this one that weíre going through now, one that will just deal with the design of a new facility. Will the minister clarify the scope and objectives of the current consultation? Is it about correctional philosophy and programs, or does it also include options for a new building?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, all of the above mentioned by the member opposite. Mr. Speaker, again, Iíll state for the record that this process is very different from what was done previously, and that has been stated by several people who were contacted previously. This whole process is one that will best fit the analogy of justice right. This is the correct process to go. All Yukoners are invited to participate in this consultation. Meetings will be held with First Nation communities, non-government organizations, front-line staff in governments, the legal community, current and former offenders, victims and anyone who wants to express views on improving the correctional system in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very necessary process, and at the end of the day and at the end of all the consultation, when there is a facility built, this will dictate what should be in place.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: † I think we wrapped up last week on a constructive note advancing general debate on the budget. Thereís a lot of detail in this budget that each department has at its fingertips, and I think itís important that we recognize that with the 30-day timeline now on this sitting, considering the size of the budget, the government side wants to ensure that we donít have a situation ó as we did in the last budget for the fiscal year 2004-05 ó where literally hundreds of millions of dollars pass this House without any discussion whatsoever. Thatís not why we are here. I think itís fair to say that the reason that situation arose is because we spent an inordinate amount of time on general debate. I think the pages of Hansard will bear out the fact that there was endless discourse on things that could have easily been dealt with in the department-by-department, line-by-line, debate and thatís what weíd like to see accomplished.
Weíre more than willing, as we showed on Thursday, to discuss relevant issues in a general manner of the budget overall, but when we get into specifics of a department, then the government side will inform the opposition that the more appropriate approach to that will be to get into department debate.
Furthermore, contrary to the Member for Kluaneís assertion and implications that are inappropriate in this House, general debate of this nature is for all members of this Assembly. We are not in a specific department debate; we are in a broad ranging discussion in Committee of the Whole that allows all members to participate. This government ó this side of the House ó will always ensure that every member on this side of the House who wishes to engage in the discussion and debate of this nature has an opportunity to do so. Although the opposition may not like that, that is what the government will continue to commit to.
I think itís important that the opposition benches recognize that that element of Committee is very much a part of the fabric of this Assembly. Itís something that has been traditional and historical. However, when we get into department debate, itís understood that the ministers responsible should be the ones debating their departments, their budgets, their expenditures, their initiatives, their priorities, and thatís something that is a natural course of events for this House when it comes to the budget.
So with that, Mr. Chair, Iím not sure what else the members may have in general debate overall on the budget, but I think it warrants us at now getting departments involved. We will be providing departmental briefings. Iím sure the Department of Finance and others have already engaged in that schedule, further trying to help the opposition by providing them detail and information that allows them to conduct a much more constructive debate. Iím looking forward to the areas they may find pertinent to the Yukon publicís concerns and the building of the future of this territory.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to continue the debate from where we left off last week. I was asking the Premier about the federal funding sources and recoveries from Canada. The Premier did make some interesting remarks. I think one of them would be of much interest to the people in Mayo. With respect to the community recreation centre, the Premier mentioned, first of all, that Mayo was going to get a community recreation centre. Iíve heard it several times in the House, but I did not see it listed in the capital projects broken down by community that the Premier handed out to everyone in this House.
The question I asked was: is it going to fall under the municipal rural infrastructure fund? The Premier said this ó Iíll take straight out of Hansard here: ďWhether the MRIF funds Mayo or not, weíre going to build them a community centre. Period.Ē That was the comment from the Premier. I would suggest, then, that if this doesnít go through the MRIF, the Yukon government will be funding this. I havenít seen it listed in the capital projects. I believe the community is very interested in where and when we expect the money to come out of the Yukon government if, in fact, this is not passed through the MRIF.
I believe April 15 is the deadline for applications to MRIF. This project has been on the table for awhile. It has been identified to go through the MRIF, so Iím wondering about other projects that have been listed and talked about by government and communities that are not in the capital projects broken down by community.
There are two of them, I guess for Pelly and Carmacks. It is in regard to the water distribution system. I would say itís over $5 million. I think itís around $7 million for the project, and I believe itís part of the Canadian strategic infrastructure. Iím hoping to get some breakdown from the Premier on where the money is going. I believe thereís about $80 million; half of that is from the federal government and half is from the Yukon government.
I know the Premier said ó and I think he got it wrong ó the 50/50 was the municipal rural infrastructure fund. I believe itís the Canadian strategic infrastructure thatís 50/50, and the other is one-third/one-third/one-third.
For community buildings and so on the government is funding, whether itís a recreation centre or whatnot, the Yukon government normally puts in 90 percent of the funding and the municipality or the First Nation puts up the rest.
What has been proposed here is something a bit different. Itís one-third/one-third/one-third, which means the municipality will be putting in a third, along with the federal and territorial governments. The fallback is that YTG will fund this. Theyíve already committed to that. Thatís great, and I think people in Mayo would be glad to see that. What they want to see is construction, Mr. Chair, this building season.
I would like the Premier to answer a couple of things. One is that the two communities that are listed, Selkirk First Nation and Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, have jointly planned this water distribution system, which is a low pressure system. The place theyíve been directed to go to was the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund. I believe that the territorial government is, of course, looking to the federal government and maybe more so to Indian and Northern Affairs for the partial funding of the territoryís 50 percent. So Iím interested in what the Premier has to say to that, because thatís definitely a big money item, one that the two communities have been looking at for a long time, and does not involve the municipality at this point.
Also, could he give us a breakdown of the $80 million that is in the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund? Maybe he could correct me if my numbers are wrong. I think there is $32 million going to the Department of Highways and Public Works and $26 million to water and sewer and $22 million to the development of the waterfront here in Whitehorse and Carcross.
The criterion for accessing this money is that no application under $10 million will be accepted. So what the territorial government is doing is bundling the projects together that are $10 million or more, and that would be acceptable. Maybe the Premier could elaborate on that a bit so I can take this information back to my community.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, this is another example of detailed debate and discussion that should be housed in the Department of Community Services. The Department of Finance does not have the list of projects and, in fact, in some cases, projects are not even approved. There are processes here that the Minister of Community Services can delve into with the members opposite on how the approval works.
When it comes to Mayo though, the government, in a meeting in Mayo a year ago while considering the state of the Mayo community centre and the fact that there was a demonstrated need expressed by the community, the mayor and council, said that we would, regardless of what happened with these infrastructure projects. I think the most recent one that we just signed off wasnít until January, even though the federal government announced the projects, in some cases, well over a year ago. The first agreement signed was in January of 2005.
We expressed to the community of Mayo that considering the demonstrated need, regardless of what transpired under infrastructure funding and arrangements, the government would work with the Village of Mayo to address their issue and need of a new community centre.
I can tell the member that, to the best of my knowledge, the community centre of Mayo is one of the projects that would have been applied for under MRIF to reach the total, which is a total of $32 million of funding over four years. Under the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, Canada and Yukon are jointly investing $80 million under the CSIF, and out of that there is $30 million for the Alaska Highway construction and bridge repair; $22 million for waterfronts in Carcross and Whitehorse, and there is a further anticipated amount of some $28 million for sewage treatment in Dawson and water and sewer in Carmacks.
These are all projects that, at some point, will have to be finalized through the processes that the Minister of Community Services is involved in. So that kind of detail is frankly not something that we can do here with the Department of Finance in general debate. Thatís why we have departments that are in charge of, deal with, manage and administer these areas, and thatís why a minister has been appointed to be in charge of those respective departments.
Thatís the best information I can give the member. I think the most critical part of it is what we informed the community of Mayo over a year ago ó that as these processes develop, we recognize the need here and would work with the village to ensure that their need is addressed and that it would result in a new community centre.
Mr. Fairclough: I wasnít expecting to go into any detail on this at all. I was looking for general information about these two funds that impact communities.
So the one thing that the minister said was that the community of Mayo will get a community centre. It has been on the books for awhile. I notice that in the MRIF in last yearís budget ó I believe an amount of $5 million was booked for that and it was not used. So this project could probably have fit into that quite easily. I know that the member may bring up some timelines.
I would like to ask the Premier then, when it comes to other infrastructure ó say, in the community of Pelly Crossing through the Selkirk First Nation. They are doing this project jointly with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation ó a water distribution system. Itís a low pressure system. Has the Premier made any commitment to have this committed to ó I guess ensuring that this infrastructure is built in the same manner as they did with Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member has to recognize that the Yukon government, upon getting the commitment from the federal government that these infrastructure funds were actually in place, booked our portion of the money in last yearís budget. The unfortunate part is the federal government money didnít materialize, and the first agreement was finally reached and finalized July of 2005.
So there should be some questions directed toward the federal government and the MP on why it took Canada so long to actually commit their portion of the funds. The Yukon governmentís portion was in the budget, duly booked.
The only comment I can make is that after the meeting I was at in Mayo, where we toured the community centre, we recognized the condition of the centre and the fact that there was a demonstrated need. Iíve relayed to the member opposite our discussions with the Village of Mayo.
Any detail of projects and other matters with regard to these funds is within the purview of the minister responsible for Highways and Public Works and Community Services. Thatís the minister who would be able to get into great detail with the member.
Mr. Fairclough: I told the minister I wouldnít be getting into detail. Iíll go into detail with the minister on this, if need be.
I would like to get an overall picture of what I can expect in the communities I hold ó Pelly, Carmacks and Mayo, as well as Keno City.
With the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, thereís $80 million, and itís split between the Yukon and the feds. What portion of that has already been used?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think itís time to get something straight with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. There is detail that is reflected in all the information that has been provided the member, that reflects every community in the Yukon. Any project under these funds is not under the direct control and decision of the Yukon government. There are processes involved here that the minister responsible for Community Services can delve into. In fact, the Department of Finance doesnít have a list of possible projects or applications that have been brought forward to committees and other groups that are involved in these funds. So the member has been given a great amount of detail that reflects the areas of control and responsibility of the Yukon, including the community breakdown. Iíve informed the member of what we said in Mayo because that was a meeting I was at personally, and any other applications and possible projects are within the ministerís purview, certainly not the Finance departmentís or my own. All the Department of Finance is dealing with is the total values that have to be booked according to accounting practices.
As far as the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, again this is a fund that will be flowing this year. Iíve already relayed to the member opposite the amounts that are to be invested. Let me repeat for the memberís benefit: $30 million for Alaska Highway construction and bridge repair; $22 million for waterfront in Carcross and Whitehorse; and we anticipate there will be another $28 million for sewage treatment in Dawson, and water and sewage in Carmacks. Thatís the information that I have in general debate. Any further detail or information the member may want or seek or require has to be done with the minister responsible for the departments involved in these projects.
Mr. Fairclough: This obviously is bothering the Premier. What does the Premier say when he goes into communities and he is asked or confronted about these funds? The Premier has to know. Itís not just a direction to the departments again and again. I had the understanding, though, that Department of Highways and Public Works had $32 million and that water and sewer was $26 million, but I guess the numbers have changed over the last couple of hours. We will have plenty of time to debate different departments in this House. Thereís lots of time. Itís not like weíre on the last day of debate in here at all.
Mr. Chair, I understand we have the land claims implementation dollars, and of course the Premier is probably going to direct me again to the Executive Council Office on this one, but he is the minister responsible for it. We have recoveries from Canada of $4,790,000 in regard to land claims implementation. Is this overall? Is this focused in just a number of different areas, or is this a blanket?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As the budget document shows, the land claims and implementation secretariat receives an estimated recovery from Canada of $4.79 million. If the member would go to the budget document to O&M and other expenditures that relate to this area, we could talk about what areas of implementation investment this includes. The total activities and expenditures, however, are $7.9 million. We can look at the breakdown in terms of possible First Nation relations, aboriginal language, and land claims and implementation, which vary because the Yukon has responsibility and so does the federal government. Again, intergovernmental relations could be a part of that, and the list goes on. It could even involve some stuff in YESAA, areas where the Executive Council Office is involved with the Umbrella Final Agreement and land claims.
So I will just go over the list: there is some investment for implementation initiatives for various First Nations; community language initiatives. I think that if you total it all up, there is also intergovernmental relations ó Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has an investment. Thatís all I can see here.
There is another $5,000 for First Nation organizations in terms of grants. I hope that helps the member, but itís all in the budget document.
Mr. Fairclough: I just wanted some general information on this. The monies that are recovered from Canada are all on conditions associated with the program delivery and agreements.
Iíll move away from that right now, and Iíll allow others to ask questions with respect to recoveries from Canada.
I would like to ask another question regarding my riding. Itís with respect to Stewart Crossing. Now, I know the member has not been to Keno, and we have $55,000, out of a $207 million capital budget, to Keno. But I know the Premier is also passing through the community of Stewart Crossing. I would like to know if a meeting is taking place there, or if the Premier has had any discussions with community members there. If so, what capital projects have they listed for that community? There are about 45 or 50 people in Stewart Crossing and a number of children who go to school in Mayo.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: To the best of my knowledge, the investment for Stewart Crossing, for the most part, results in O&M. There are some other expenditures there. I donít know of any capital projects that theyíve brought forward directly. We do try and incorporate some meetings. In this case, I did not have a scheduled public meeting in Stewart Crossing, but certainly stopped there. I think we even got gas there.
At the end of the day, Stewart Crossing has received some investment as part and parcel of our overall attempt to fairly distribute the finances of the territory to all areas possible, based on demonstrated need and other factors.
But we would always entertain any input from Stewart Crossing, should they wish to bring some forward. Itís just a simple phone call, for example. At the end of the day, one of the most important elements that resulted from our discussions was through the RRC and the issue of a habitat protection area in the near vicinity of Stewart.
Beyond that, the investment in Stewart Crossing is as the member sees in all the detail he has been provided.
Mr. Fairclough: I would then ask the Premier to think about these projects for that community. Iíve raised it every year before the budget comes out in the fall; Iíve also raised it with the Liberal Party. Theyíre really simple ones. Theyíre concentrating on the students who are there ó the two projects, anyway. One was a very simple one: if government could invest some money into a slide hill near Stewart Crossing that is lit up. The other is to put some money into a centre they can go to, not so much a youth centre but a community centre. Thereís an old building that was used for that in the past, and I donít think it would take all that much money to upgrade that and it would go a long way for that community.
The other one I identified with the Minister of Highways and Public Works is to look at the safety aspect of the highway and, if the Premier found additional dollars in the budget, to ensure thereís lighting down the hill toward the community. Theyíve identified this as an issue; Iíve raised it here several times. I donít need a response from the Premier on this. I just want the Premier to keep that in mind.
Iíd like to turn it over to my colleague from Mount Lorne.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think itís important that we recognize that thereís a very important initiative within government to help small communities, like Stewart Crossing, and thatís the community development fund. So I would urge the member to work with the citizens of Stewart Crossing to access the community development fund, for example.
On the issue of lighting down the hill, Iím sure the minister responsible for Highways and Public Works and for Community Services would be more than willing to listen to the memberís overtures. Itís important to understand that Stewart Crossing, considering the size of the community, also beyond capital receives $1.8 million in operation and maintenance, which flows into that community for various areas of need. So thatís the total amount for Stewart Crossing.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís a highways camp and a community that has developed there over a number of years and people who are committed to that.
The reason I raise the smaller projects there is because thereís not an organization in the community of Stewart Crossing that can apply for the community development fund. Thereís not a society, and so far Iíve tried to go the route of having Mayo, for example, bring some of these projects forward, and they have not applied to the community development fund. So Iím just raising it for the Premier because it should go, I guess, to the community whether or not they apply to the community development fund because there is no organization that can deal with that.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I just wanted to have a chance to point out to the member opposite that under the community development fund regulations, non-profit organizations and such can indeed apply for that, and it just takes a small number of people to form under the Societies Act as a residents association. I believe actually more than one ó I think we need two people to sign the document. Surely, with numbers like that, if people were interested in developing a project, weíre more than willing to work with them. If the member opposite canít find two people, then we have to make the quantum leap that there isnít much interest in the community for that individual project. But weíll work with the community in any way that we can.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, itís not up to me to find the two people. Why canít government work with the community and do this and make a suggestion? We have flowed and sent the necessary paperwork to the people we thought could get involved and to those who have been involved in the past to form a society to try to access this money. Weíve done other things. Iíve talked to the community of Mayo in the past to see if they can take care of some of the projects that Stewart Crossing has raised in the past. Iíve raised it in this House, and I know the member opposite is going to get up and say Iím the MLA for the area. I do keep in touch with some of the people who are there, and lots of the concerns that I raised in this House do come from people in Stewart Crossing.
Now, weíve had societies in that community in the past, and those who have volunteered their time are not willing to do it any more. The volunteers are not wanting to do it any more, and weíre experiencing that in a number of different communities. Itís not just Stewart Crossing. So I bring this forward in the interests of the people there and it is my duty to do so. I am asking government to look into this and not say, okay, if there are no people to form a society, then there must be no interest there. Thatís the wrong approach to take, and I think the member opposite knows that.
Chair: Order please. Before debate continues, the Chair recognizes and appreciates that members are very anxious and eager to contribute to the debate. But in order that all comments are recorded in Hansard, I would please encourage members to wait until they are recognized before they participate in the debate.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I recognize that the member opposite realizes that as the representative of the people, but I am still curious ó I donít think that any government should think they are going to come in and drop a project on a community. If no more than two people were interested in it and the properly elected MLA is not able to generate the interest, then perhaps other parties may.
Mr. Fairclough: Here we go again. Is this an improvement of decorum in this House from the minister opposite? I am doing my job. I am asking the questions here. I donít think that the member opposite needs to get so defensive about it just because there is no money flowing into that community for projects.
Why arenít the Premier and the minister able to talk to people there? Itís not right that the fingers get pointed back to the opposition because of perhaps a small error on the government side for not recognizing the people there. Those who choose to be in that community, choose the area for what it is. There are not big organizations to get involved in. There are those who work in the community of Mayo, for example, who do this on a daily basis. They are bused or trucked or driven in; some use their motorcycles. The community of Mayo is partly where some of the people work. Of course, the rest are on the highways and at the gas station there.
I brought this forward as a suggestion for the Premier and government to look at ó not for the government to say, no, there werenít more than two people willing to sign their names and do the work of a society or organization that could apply to the community development fund. Doesnít government have a responsibility here too? I believe they do. If so, the suggestion made by the opposition should be taken more seriously than they have been in the past. I guess thatís what Iím trying to stress to the member opposite ó take those suggestions seriously, talk to somebody there at the gas station on your way through. If the member opposite has been through there lately, he will note that a younger person is working there who can probably give the Premier a little bit of an update as to what the community has been asking. If the member would like, I could direct a person to telephone them, and if they want to hear from somebody in the community how they would like to see things done in the community, then I will do that.
Iíve raised issues in the past and government has responded. There was a simple thing like putting a street light at school bus stops instead of having the children stand in total darkness. Guess what? The government did respond. So it didnít take a society to apply to the community development fund for that at all. I know thatís an avenue, they know that too, and so do the communities.
I would just like the members opposite to not treat this as an insignificant issue. Even though itís small, it is big to that community.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: On this side of the House we realize, as I think all of us do, the difference between safety issues and projects such as a street light ó thatís not a problem. In terms of CDF, the community development fund can only react to applications from qualified groups. This is why we have detailed directions and documents as to how to do it, and application forms, which are very straightforward and very simple. We have an excellent staff who are very happy to work with any proponent who comes forward to us.
But to criticize the community development fund for not going out and drumming up business, I suggest if the elected member ó who was duly elected and Iím sure does very good work representing his constituents ó is unable to get two people to want something, that may be reality. I have no problem with that, but thatís not something to criticize the good work of the community development fund on, which simply canít react until at least two people come forward.
Mr. Fairclough: It is not just two people who want these projects; there are a number of people there. They have raised this and are surprised it hasnít reached the ears of the government already. Iím not asking that the government direct these projects to the CDF; not everything gets funded.
I know the members opposite have done this in the past, and Iíll give an example where theyíve directed an organization to go to the CDF. It is with the treatment centre at Tatlmain Lake. There was a request for funds to this Yukon Party government and they were directed to go to the CDF. So they missed out on the budgeting year and they went to the CDF and were rejected.
I donít see this happening to these small projects in the community of Stewart Crossing, but Iím asking government to consider these projects perhaps outside of the CDF. We have a huge capital budget here that may or may not all be spent in this year. We can perhaps expect some lapses.
Itís a small request. Itís nothing to get overly worked up about except when it comes to the people in my riding and how the member feels that two people cannot get together. Theyíve gotten together and done a lot of volunteer work in the past. They do volunteer. They sit on boards and committees and that type of thing, so the member opposite should not say that two people in that community could not get together. Iím saying that this is what theyíve said to me, and Iím relaying the message to the government side. Itís as simple as that.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I just wanted to correct one thing here. The member seems a bit confused about how the community development fund is tied to the budget year. There are a number of different intake times for level 1 or tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3. If a project is turned down for whatever reason, and this is done by a committee ó not done by any political arm ó weíre more than happy to work with that group and try to see where it can fit into the overall scheme of things. But again, the community development fund does not deal with some of the things the member opposite is referring to; it deals with specific items. Again, I am not prepared to simply take criticism of the community development fund because the member opposite canít find two people to apply to it.
Mr. Cardiff: I have just one or two questions in general debate for the Premier. The first question is pretty straightforward. Hopefully the Premier can supply a simple explanation. He provided this document. It was interesting that the debate last Wednesday took so long and on Thursday he produced this document with a list of capital distribution ó a summary of community distribution of the capital budget.
I was excited to get it, until I looked at it and went through it. There is nothing for the Hamlet of Mount Lorne contained in this summary of community distribution.
The minister went on an extensive budget tour, and obviously he managed to stop in all kinds of places. We know he stopped for gas in Stewart Crossing. He didnít talk to anybody in Stewart Crossing, but he did stop there. I guess the unfortunate part for Mount Lorne is that there is no gas station there, but they do have a community centre. Iím just wondering why the Premier didnít go to Mount Lorne on his community budget tour, and how come there is nothing in the capital budget for Mount Lorne?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I think itís important to note that Mount Lorne is mere minutes from the centre of Whitehorse. On the budget tour, we incorporated hopefully enough information out there in the public domain that people from Mount Lorne come and meet us. I think we had two budget meetings in Whitehorse. So Mount Lorne and Whitehorse itself, in total, have received some $49.5 million in capital. The citizens of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, the citizens of Whitehorse, the citizens of Marsh Lake, the citizens of Lake Laberge, the citizens of every possible place within Whitehorse and the periphery of Whitehorse will be benefiting from that almost $50 million of capital investment.
Listening to the debate with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and now the Member for Mount Lorne, I havenít heard either member state that they have case files opened up on specific needs and demands from their riding and their citizens. There are ways for this to be done. If there is a demonstrated need in a community, the government has committed to look into that demonstrated need. I would ask the member opposite: does he have any correspondence on file for specific issues in Mount Lorne? Does he have any case files open on specific issues for Mount Lorne that would be connected to whatever related department on the government benches so that minister can deal with it? If he would provide all that information, we would have the relevant minister go to work on that immediately. But we canít speculate what Mount Lorne might want.
Besides, Mr. Chair, when it comes to engaging with the Yukon public, letís look at how the opposition wants it both ways. Last week there was a constant harangue of the government that we werenít consulting. Today we were consulting too much on correctional reform because it was going to take too long. The members opposite had quite an issue over the government engaging with the public in announcing projects from the budget, but today we are not engaged with the public enough. In fact, the members opposite went on to say that we had circumvented the democratic process, which has proven not to be the case at all. In fact we have listened to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun talk about some funds that the federal government announced on numerous occasions and that are yet to pass the federal Parliament.
So, there is a lot of confusion ó at least, there appears to be a lot of confusion ó in the ranks of the members opposite. But if the member has projects, issues and situations in his riding that require the attention of a minister in the government, talking about it here is not necessarily the route to take. Talking about it with the relevant minister is a good step in the right direction, and opening up case files is another appropriate measure; corresponding with ministers, so that there is a chronological history of the issue and what the response of government was and, if there is a problem with how the response has evolved, then that information can be brought to the minister.
Those are constructive measures. Iím not saying that the member opposite hasnít done that, but Iím suggesting to the member opposite that if he were to bring examples of those forward to the minister responsible, I would ensure that the minister looked into the memberís case files.
Mr. Cardiff: You know, itís unfortunate ó I guess it depends on how important specific communities are to the Premier. I know he had budget meetings in Marsh Lake, and itís evidenced in the summary, and he must have had meetings in Laberge because itís evidenced in the summary. I saw the meeting schedule, and he did have meetings out there.
But to lump the Hamlet of Mount Lorne in with the City of Whitehorse is not really ó I donít see the rationale.
The Hamlet of Mount Lorne consists of around 350 or 400 residents, maybe even a few more. Even when I requested that the Wildland Fire Review Committee come out and have a meeting, they came out and had a better turnout in Mount Lorne than they did in Whitehorse. I did that for a specific reason and I actually asked them to also hold meetings in other communities on the periphery of Whitehorse.
The Premier should talk to some of his backbench colleagues, or even some of his ministers who live a little ways out of town. Itís not that easy for people who have families and live out in those areas to go home, make sure the kids are fed, get all the stuff done, and then come back for a meeting with the Premier to discuss their priorities. There are a lot of people who live out in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, and if the minister had taken the time to organize a meeting in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne ó and itís not just about the capital budget. There are lots of other concerns that residents have.
If the Premier paid attention to some of the questions I ask in the House and some of the questions we ask when we do get into departments and into line-by-line debate or in general debate in departments, heíd know what some of the issues are and he could go and listen to some of my constituents and hear them from them first-hand and validate what it is Iím saying and the concerns Iím raising.
The minister wanted a list. It seems like he says, on one hand, weíre too engaged with the public and, on the other hand, weíre not engaged enough. There needs to be a balance between who you engage, I guess. You canít just engage in the areas you want to engage in. I have to remind the Premier that we were all elected to represent all Yukoners.
It is up to him to represent all Yukoners, as well. If he remembers back two and a half years ó I canít remember the exact figures, but I think it was 52 percent of the people didnít vote for the Yukon Party, so he should think hard about that. But if he would have come out to a community meeting in Mount Lorne, the constituents who live in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne would have been interested in talking to him about a variety of issues. There are great recreation facilities in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. There is a community centre. There are tennis courts. There is a skateboard park. There is an arena. There are ski trails, and they have been there for some time, but they have to turn people away from some of the events they are having now as there is not enough room.
I think there has been some talk, and I think it would be advantageous for the Premier to come and listen to what people have to say and what their needs are around recreation facilities and maybe the need to expand them. This past winter ó I canít remember the exact date ó after talking to the minister for two years, the sport and recreation regulations were finally put through, and Mount Lorne now is actually going to have some more money for sport and recreation programming. I know that that is there. It is not in the capital. It is an operation and maintenance thing, and the people are very appreciative of that. It is unfortunate that they had to wait the two years. So on recreation facilities, they are looking forward to more activities through the funding that is being provided and the increases, but at the same time, theyíre finding that they need to do some work on the facilities and maybe provide some extensions or increase capacity as far as the building and other equipment goes.
The Premier would have also heard things like land use regulations. Land use regulations have been sitting on one of his ministerís desks for some time now. His minister keeps promising them, ďWeíll try and get them in the fallĒ or ďNo, next spring.Ē The latest promise was that they would be done this spring. Spring is here now and there are still no land use regulations.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Youíre talking to the wrong minister.
The next topic would concern that member, and thatís spot land applications. So because there are no land use regulations, we have this rash of spot land applications, but if youíd have come out and talked to constituents and people in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, you would have heard that their desire is planned, responsible development. Thatís something that the Premier needs to hear.
On the capital side, he probably would have heard about concerns with the bridge approach over the Watson River. Years ago when the Annie Lake Road was upgraded, I believe that the bridge construction and the bridgehead was done by the Yukon government, but thereís an issue with permafrost there. That would be a good capital project for the Hamlet of Mount Lorne and it would improve highway safety. As well, this government is kind of pinning its hopes on mineral exploration and mineral development, and one of those properties is at the end of the Annie Lake Road, which means that thereís going to be increased traffic. The condition of the Annie Lake Road is such that it needs to be improved, especially if thereís going to be a lot more traffic on it, whether itís due to exploration or if thereís actually development.
The Annie Lake Road is a capital project. The bridge over the Watson River would be another concern that the Premier would have heard if he would have come out to Mount Lorne and listened to what residents in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne had to say.
There are issues around highway safety. I am sure they would have been interested in talking about the community development fund and FireSmart funds. Given the fire season last year, there was a good turnout for the wildfire meeting that was held to review the wildfire season, and there were lots of concerns raised at that meeting. The minister was there at that meeting. The Premier would do well to listen to the concerns that residents in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne have about Fire-Smart and wildfire, and emergency preparedness plans.
I guess another topic that the Premier and his ministers have been involved in and that they keep talking about as something good for the future of the Yukon is the extension of rail service from Skagway to Whitehorse. They have had discussions with Carcross and Whitehorse about extending the rail service through to Whitehorse eventually. We know that the train is going to go to Carcross, but was there any discussion with the people in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne about reopening the railroad? There is a lot of activity out there now, and it would be good to go talk to the hamlet and the community association about the activities that take place in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne and that general vicinity with regard to recreation.
Back to Whitehorse, there are lots of recreational activities and there is a desire to be involved in some of these decisions.
So there is a list for the Premier. Those are just some of the things that he could possibly have heard, had he come and had a meeting and listened to some of the 350 to 400 people who live out there in Mount Lorne.
So, hopefully, this serves as notice that maybe next year the Premier will recognize the fact that there are people and they have lives to live, that their lives donít all centre around Whitehorse ó they have a community as well ó and they would like to be listened to by the Premier next year when he conducts his budget tour.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me inform the Member for Mount Lorne that if the list of projects the member has just put on the floor of this Legislature is dependent upon my visiting the Hamlet of Mount Lorne for any action to take place, I would say to the member opposite that heís not doing his job. If these projects are important to his constituents, the member opposite should have correspondence in the hands of the appropriate departments ó correspondence on file, case files opened. He should be pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, and burning the phone lines up to represent his constituents on these projects.
The member has just stood on the floor and said heís going to wait until next year and I do a budget tour. Well, I say to the member opposite that the people of Mount Lorne deserve better representation than that.
Chair: † Order please. The Chair is very uncomfortable with the memberís last statement. It was disrespectful to the member and unparliamentary.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I was insulted too.
Given the record of the Yukon Party in ignoring concerns raised by the official opposition, what do you expect me to do? I have brought a lot of these issues and many more issues to the floor of this Legislature, raised them with the ministers ó the appropriate ministers ó about land development, both in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne and within the City of Whitehorse, which this government is basically ramming down the throats of my constituents.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. If the member wishes to raise a point of order, the member knows full well how to do it. Mr. Cardiff, you have the floor.
Mr. Cardiff: The Premier promised to ensure that the residentsí concerns in Wolf Creek, Mary Lake, and Pineridge would all be taken into consideration with the Whitehorse Copper development, and this government ignored all of them. So now weíre not out in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, weíre back here in the City of Whitehorse.
Those people have met with ministers and theyíve been ignored. They met with the Minister of Environment, they met with the Minister of Community Services, and those concerns were flat out ignored.
The Premier says Iím not doing my job, and I disagree with him. Iím burning up the postage going upstairs with letters. Itís unfortunate that it takes like two months to get a response. Iíve raised concerns about water quality and Iíve raised concerns about highway safety, which get ignored.
The Premier wants me not to wait. Well, I hope the Premier takes this into consideration and actually has a meeting and comes out and listens to my constituents. I will continue to represent my constituents, and I will continue to bring issues to the floor of this Legislature, and I will continue to write ministers, and I will continue to wait for their answers for however long it takes. If I have to wait until the next decade, I guess thatís what Iíll have to do, because the answers that come from the ministers take an awful lot of time. They take way more time.
There are letters Iíve written that have never been responded to. I donít know what you need to do to follow up to get a response. Then some of the responses are definitely not adequate. You can follow up, and send letters back and forth, and again you play the waiting game, trying to get those answers back for your constituents. Itís not very satisfactory and itís not very satisfactory to my constituents. Thatís what they tell me.
I canít believe that you have to put up with that, that you have to wait that long to get such a lame response to what should be an easy concern to address. It doesnít matter whether itís issues around highway safety, land development, medical travel or water concerns.
Thereís still no resolution to the high cost of water delivery. Itís another consultation that this government is going out on, but it excludes my constituents, the residents within the City of Whitehorse, and it ignores the Member for Lake Labergeís constituents who live within the City of Whitehorse as well. It ignores other people who live within the City of Whitehorse who are also on water delivery. They consult, consult, consult, but we want to see some product. Thatís what this government seems to be short of ó product. You can consult all you want, but what we want to see and what my constituents would like to see is some product, and weíre not seeing it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me point out that the member opposite is making representations on things like Wolf Creek, conveniently ignoring the fact that it was this government that forced an environmental screening of that property to address citizensí concerns so that citizens had input, but letís understand something. By the same token, weíre merely hired to do property development based on the City of Whitehorseís plan, and at the end of the day the City of Whitehorse is the government of jurisdiction within these municipal boundaries.
The member talks about water. This is the government that moved on the water issue. Past governments never did a thing in this area. Does the member opposite not recognize that the water issues and the challenges that go with them have been in this territory long before this government took office? This is the government that actually brought forward action such as the well-drilling program that the members opposite voted against.
What difference would it make on the projects we would bring forward for Mount Lorne? The members opposite have voted against every expenditure that this Yukon Party government has tabled in this House. In many cases, like the $114 million of territory-wide small capital projects, they may very well be projects that are important to the memberís riding.
There is a lot more to this than standing on the floor of this House espousing all kinds of positions. There has to be some backup. The Member for Mount Lorne has only one backup going, and that is the reverse gear.
Let us look at some of the areas that the member is talking about with no product. Letís list them off. Has the member opposite forgotten about the Yukon Forum formalizing our government-to-government relationship? Has the member opposite forgotten about the Childrenís Act review, educational reform, correctional reform? Has the member opposite forgotten about the fact that in December 2002, upon taking office, this territory was debt-servicing cash flow requirements? Todayís finances as laid out in the budget document that the member opposite obviously doesnít look into often show clearly that our finances have turned around and we are now heading in the right direction.
Does the member opposite want to talk about the increase in population, the second lowest unemployment rate in the country, more jobs for Yukoners? The trends since we took office are very clear. Weíre heading in the right direction, but all the things that were done that resulted in the product important to Yukoners ó the strengthening of our social fabric, the increased investment in our health care system, the improvement of our education system, the improvement in our economy, the investments made by the government ó were opposed by the members opposite. The Member for Mount Lorne chastises the government for not doing anything.
The members opposite have done a great deal, and that is to portray the Yukon in a very negative light. Itís a good thing that those members are not on this side of the House, because weíd have none of the product that has been delivered in two and a half short years that Yukoners are benefiting from today. So the Member for Mount Lorne has a lot to do in terms of showing Yukoners what product the member opposite would be bringing forward to create a better quality of life for the citizens of this territory.
The member insinuates or implies that we ignore the people of Mount Lorne, and that is not the case, Mr. Chair ó not the case whatsoever. The member uses an example of writing letters and not getting any responses. Well, let me point out that this government is now solving problems that were problems for Yukon citizens under the former NDP government from 1996 to 2000 and problems for Yukon citizens under the former Liberal government from 2000 to 2002. We are now solving those problems.
I would suggest that the member opposite take a little lesson in history ó there is a big difference between talking about problems and finding solutions to the problems and implementing those solutions. Thatís what this government does. Itís not talking about problems; itís delivering solutions to resolve problems.
Mr. Cardiff: The problem is that itís the government thatís the problem. The Premier wants to talk about negativity and us being negative ó how about all the negative national headlines that the Premier has created over the last two and a half years?
The Premier wants to talk about product. I know this is a budget sitting, but if you look at the legislative agenda of this government, whereís the product? I know for a fact that there were other pieces of legislation that could have come forward in this sitting.
I just want to touch on one thing that the Premier talked about ó ďWe were the government that forced the Whitehorse copper project to go through an environmental assessment.Ē It went through an environmental assessment all right, and it went through an environmental assessment of the governmentís design and with the government carrying out the environmental assessment. There was no independent look at that project.
The environmental assessment was carried out by the proponent or contractors that were engaged by the proponent of the project, which was the Department of Community Services. The Minister of Community Services is ultimately responsible for that.
The City of Whitehorse has proposed that there be some discussions about making some changes to the design of the subdivision, and my understanding is that the government is not willing to engage in that discussion and make changes that would address some of the environmental concerns, the safety concerns of residents. This government is not prepared to work with the City of Whitehorse and try to work out some solutions to the problems and concerns of residents. So itís another area where actually the the city council here in Whitehorse came out, looked at the development, recognized that there were some concerns, understood what those concerns were and was prepared to make changes. City council came back to the government and my understanding is that itís off the table. In fact, theyíre going to pay attention to the part they really want to pay attention to, which is to basically take advantage of the option to create more lots, but not take away the part that is really a concern to some of the residents in my riding and in the neighbouring riding of Copperbelt.
The minister can stand up and trumpet, ďYes, weíre the ones who forced it to go to an environmental assessment,Ē but it was an environmental assessment of the governmentís own design, and it was designed to achieve the outcomes that the government wanted. So thereís a product for you. But look at the other things the Premier talked about: correctional reform, education reform, the Childrenís Act review. He wouldnít have wanted to mention the Workersí Compensation Act review, because we know how far behind that is. Theyíre so far behind, they think theyíre first.
We may actually ó eventually, sometime in this decade ó see changes to the Workersí Compensation Act, but whereís the product on all the other things the Premier talked about? Where are the legislative changes? The Education Act review was started in 1999, continued on through 2000, 2001 and 2002. Itís now 2005, and now theyíve changed it. Now itís education reform. Whereís the product? Thereís nothing there; there are no changes to the Education Act, and weíre not seeing a lot of product in that respect.
Does the minister or the Premier plan to improve on that record?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíre certainly not going to bring forward legislation that has a negative impact on the citizens of this territory. Thatís something the New Democrats are well known for: miring the Yukon in a spiderweb of regulatory quagmire and legislative statutes that are absolutely useless and have set this territory back decades.
Weíre not going to bring forward legislation that does not serve a positive, practical purpose for this territory and its future. This is not about a contest to see who brings forward the most legislation; this is about addressing the problems of this territory.
The member talks about the Education Act amendments. Yes, once we have gone through a process to enhance and improve our education system ó and the member asks where the product is.
Letís start listing it off: a $1 million needs assessment that resulted in small investments across this territory in schools where there were demonstrated needs; $1 million more for Yukon College ó the grant was ignored for years under past governments ó and $500,000 toward trades training, which is a much-needed initiative in this territory; hundreds of thousands more for curriculum changes; money invested in aboriginal language initiatives such as First Voices. That is specific to education. Those are changes. Those are investments improving the education system. Did they require going through legislation? No. It required some commonsense approaches to dealing with problems and issues important to Yukoners.
It may be fundamental to the members opposite that we canít do anything unless we amend the Education Act. This side of the House says that we can improve our education system, reform our education system, thereby setting up the necessary amendments to the act that finish off the overall initiative and provide an education system for Yukoners so that they will have the tools necessary to help us build a better and brighter future.
Letís look at more. The member talks about product. Itís about commitment. We committed to re-establishing the level of the community training trust funds ó $1.5 million. Commitment made, commitment delivered.
Education improvements at WCC ó commitment made, commitment delivered, $95,000.
Youth employment strategy, taking care of our youth ó commitment made, commitment delivered, $200,000.
Expanding course options for high school students, improving education ó it didnít need legislation, but students are taking part in this. Commitment made, commitment delivered.
For the literacy strategy, there was a $100,000 investment. Did we require legislative amendments for that? No, but itís an issue, Mr. Chair, and we delivered. Commitment made, commitment delivered.
Yukon excellence awards ó commitment made, commitment delivered. Did we require a great big statute or piece of legislation for that? No. It was a problem; it was an issue. We addressed it ó done deal.
Student training and employment program and increased wages ó did we need legislation for that? Absolutely not. We just rolled up our sleeves and went to work ó commitment made, commitment delivered.
Student grant indexing ó did we need legislation for that? Uh-uh. We rolled up our sleeves, delivered on the commitment.
FASD school-based, on-site training and support for teachers was a big challenge and an area of importance to Yukoners and our education system. Did we have to develop legislation for that? No way. We invested $117,000 into that initiative to help in our schools ó commitment made, commitment delivered, without legislation.
Yukon College training for FASD students ó same thing, Mr. Chair.
Full-day kindergarten ó and I sat with great interest, listening to the member for the third party go on and on and on about whom we talked to.† Well, Mr. Chair, we have now a system in place through our efforts ó without developing legislation ó that allows parents to make three choices. They can choose from three options: not send their children to kindergarten; send their children to half-day kindergarten; send their children to full-day kindergarten. So weíve gone from no options to three options without developing legislation, simply by going to work. Weíre not talking about it; weíre actually delivering. Weíre doing it.
The Individual Learning Centre ó $480,000. This is to bring students who have dropped out of the education system back into the education system so they can acquire the tools necessary to help us build a future and provide themselves with a better quality of life. Did we need legislation to do that? No, but we needed a minister who had a vision, who had an idea, who understood a problem, and he went to work and addressed it. Mr. Chair, weíre doing it, not talking about legislation. Weíre delivering.
Aboriginal languages and more instructors, development of First Nation curriculum ó $500,000 to make our school system more sensitive to our aboriginal culture. It goes on and on and on.
Did we need legislation? Absolutely not. We needed vision, a plan, some effort, and thatís what it took, and thatís just a short list of the product to date.
Mr. McRobb: It gives me pleasure to enter the debate at this time. I hope the Premier is able to respond to my questions this time and doesnít put up a backbencher to respond for him.
Listening to his bravado sounds like a skipping record. I would have thought he had his fill during his two-and-a-quarter-hour budget speech, but obviously not. He uses every opportunity available to rant on and on about his wondrous budget.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I believe the term ďrantĒ has been ruled out of order as contrary to Standing Order 19(i) as insulting language likely to create discord. I would ask the member to retract it.
Deputy Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, I think at times the word ďrantĒ is ruled out of order; however, if the context is accurate, it should be allowed.
Deputy Chairís ruling
Deputy Chair: There is a point of order. The member knows full well that that comment has been ruled out of order.
Mr. McRobb: Where was I?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Yes, there are still lots of turnips on the truck, as the Member for Klondike is well aware.
I heard the Premier chastise the Member for Mount Lorne about him not doing his job. In the course of the Premierís argument, he went on to say that the member should be burning up the phone lines, he should be pounding the pavement, and so on and so forth.
Well, Iíve got a good example to throw back to the Premier, and it basically proves this government does not listen to members from the opposition parties. There are plenty of examples on the record. I have stood here in just about every sitting under this Yukon Party government and argued the point how it doesnít listen, so there might be virtue in not telling the Yukon Party anything for fear of jinxing a project. Thatís about how some of us feel at times, because this government spends money on a political favouritism basis.
Now the project I have as an example ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to our party and to the government with respect to our political motives.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: The allegations are not false.
Chair: Order please. I will remind the member of Standing Order 19(g), which prohibits members from imputing false or unavowed motives to other members.
Mr. McRobb: We should all be mindful of the House rules in here. Thatís a definite requirement.
Mr. Chair, if the Member for Klondike wants to speak, perhaps he should stand up and be recognized.
One example I want to give to the Premier is the seniors facility in the Kluane riding. Weíll get into this a little bit later in this sitting. Itís something I communicated to him as a top priority for my riding about three days after the last election. I have reminded him about it at every possible opportunity, and where are we now? A study was done for about $10,000 ó big deal ó and the Minister of Health wonít even release the study.
My constituents are left guessing at the status of their top priority. There have been communications on this issue. You may as well say the pavement has been pounded and the phone lines have been burned up, and there has been nothing from this government of any substance toward the priority of this entire riding. Thatís a shame; shame on this government for that.
Yet the Premier will stand up and chastise somebody for not communicating the priorities. Well, we know how that works, and it doesnít work very well with this government, because it doesnít listen.
Mr. Chair, letís look at the spending and the breakdowns for all the communities. I touched on this last week. Thereís one issue I have out of the communities in my riding that stands out rather clearly, and that is a paltry $233,000 for Haines Junction.
There are 800 people living in the vicinity of Haines Junction and $233,000 amounts to about $340 each.
Compare that to per capita spending in Watson Lake and there is a 30-times factor in Watson Lake, the Premierís home riding. Compared to Dawson City, there is a 50-times spending ratio for Dawson City. This is not fair. This is spending on a political basis. The people of Haines Junction deserve a lot more than what theyíre getting out of this government. We can go back last year and the year before; itís virtually the same kind of numbers. There has been nothing of any significance spent in Haines Junction by this government.†
The Premier stood up and talked about the $250,000 lot development, but he forgot a very important point: that expenditure is recoverable from the people who purchase the lots. It shows it as a recoverable item in the community breakdown. The gross spending, once again, is $483,000, less the recovery of $250,000, which leaves a net of $233,000. Well, this government ought to be ashamed.
The Premier stood up and tried to lump highway spending in with the community of Haines Junction. That argument does not stand up. As the former leader of the Yukon Party called him on some years ago, highway spending should not be lumped in with community spending. It should not displace money that should otherwise go toward community projects. When the Premier was a backbencher in Watson Lake not so long ago, there was highway spending in the vicinity of that community, which did not come out of the community breakdowns. He still got a lot of expenditures for that town.
Improvements on the highway west of Whitehorse should not be charged exclusively to the people of Haines Junction. That highway is used by people from all over the territory, especially Whitehorse and other communities up the road, as well as Alaskans. If you measure the traffic on the Alaska Highway, Mr. Chair, about 80 percent of it is American, anyway.
As I mentioned last week, we have the highway devolution accord with Canada that puts out about $23 million a year in capital spending for upgrading the Alaska Highway as a priority, and these sections are the last sections on the highway. This government pretty well had to upgrade those sections, but itís making the people of Haines Junction pay, because itís not getting any facilities like some of the other communities are. Itís not getting the expensive upgrade to its recreation facility like Teslin is, so it can maybe host events for the Canada Winter Games 2007.
Mr. Chair, itís not getting cultural facilities like some of the other communities are getting money for cultural facilities. I could probably go through projects from community halls, right down the line. The Premier knows what Iím talking about, and his position is rather indefensible. I attended his budget meeting in Haines Junction. Iím aware of some of the things he was asked about, and one of them was decentralization of government services. Haines Junction would love to have even two employees shifted to that community out of this bureaucracy in Whitehorse that employs thousands.
It may be one or two per year thereafter. These could be people who handle paperwork, who are able to do their jobs via the Internet, also known as telecommuting. That would mean a lot to that community. Yet we see nothing from the government in terms of that type of O&M allocation. Thereís nothing in terms of capital allocation. This government is basically bankrupt when it comes to assisting that community with just about anything. I see the Premier has received some notes. Iím anxious to hear what he has to say in his own defence because Iíve been through the paltry list of expenditures for that community and thereís nothing he can hang his hat on at all.
Now thereís a new dock for the liquor store for $10,000. Well, big deal; big deal ó as if thatís going to help anybody. He should know, from reading the last census figures, that the population is actually decreasing. He has been warned about that for years now. The government is doing nothing to bring any kind of an economy to Haines Junction or the region.
That brings us to another major issue. Whatís going to happen with the expiration of the Shakwak reconstruction project? This is an entirely predictable event. We know about when itís going to expire, we know what the consequences are, yet the government is doing nothing to help those dozens of families who may have to move away.
Nothing ó but thereís lots for Watson Lake in here and thereís lots for Dawson City in here. The budget is just flowing. Dawson City, $11.4 million ó Mr. Chair, whatís that number going to be once the bridge construction starts? Think about that. If itís a $35-million bridge and if construction is in one year, that will be at least a $30-million allocation for Dawson for that one project. If itís two years, itíll be approximately $15 million a year. Thatís just for that one project. Thereís still the seniors facility that was reported to be of some $14 million in value. Thereís $5.2 million this year ó thatís another $9 million.
Mr. Chair, thereís potential for spending in Dawson City to hit some $30 million next year. That would be really interesting, yet Haines Junction receives $233,000. Thatís shameful. Dawson City has lots of highway construction around it too, but did that displace some of the community projects ó the sewage treatment plant, the upgrading of tourism-type buildings? No, there are all kinds of those projects in there. Thereís a whole page of expenditures for Dawson City.
Now, Iím not saying the town doesnít deserve it; Iím just saying the government wasnít very fair in its allocation. Compare it to Haines Junction. Haines Junction is a central community in the Kluane riding. There are approximately 800 people in that community and they donít have much to look forward to, not from this government.
So I want to ask the Premier: is there anything he can do to correct this oversight in this budget? After all, we on the opposition side cannot reallocate spending. We can only cut spending and, when it comes to a vote, quite often it fails because the government uses its majority.
So Iím going to appeal to the Premier. As he invited my colleague from Mount Lorne to do, I want to ask him: what can be done to change this budget to make it more fair to the people in Haines Junction?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There is something very indefensible here in the memberís attempt at making the case that this government has not been fair in its distribution of the territoryís wealth. Letís go over that.
First and foremost, the riding of Kluane has received some significant investment: Beaver Creek, $341,000; Burwash Landing, $1.2 million; the community of Haines Junction, $483,000. I point out to the member opposite, who has tried to make the case that $483,000, less the recoveries, is insignificant and irrelevant ó but I want to mention to the member ó
Chair: The Chair is having a challenge listening to the person who has the floor due to the extraneous chatter. I would again ask members to hold their comments until they are recognized.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member is trying to make the point that it doesnít count. Well, itís a total of $483,000 thatís going to be expended in Haines Junction, regardless of whether the money is recovered or not.
It is going to be invested in Haines Junction, and millions more in upgrading the Alaska Highway en route to Haines Junction. I would point out that the Member for Kluane took up a great deal of time in the public meeting wanting to know and demanding from the government when we were going to finish the Alaska Highway project. Well, we listened, and in a very fair investment we are concluding the project on the Alaska Highway.
The member goes on to say that weíre doing nothing, because the Shakwak is ending in the very near future, and we are doing nothing about it. The member, on one hand, is trying to say that we should ignore highway investment because it should not be attributed to any community. By the same token, the member is saying that the cessation of the Shakwak project is going to have a very negative impact on his riding. How can the government side do anything to help the member when the member canít help himself?
Itís important to recognize that a great deal of discussion transpired during the public meetings in Haines Junction. We offered many suggestions. The member talks about a community centre. Well, what would the member want to do with the existing community centre? Is there another plan for that? I would say that that is a very acceptable facility for the community of Haines Junction. The community of Haines Junction got a community centre before Ross River, before Mayo, before other communities, and the Yukon taxpayers helped with that.
The member talks about Teslin and investment in its arena. Well, itís for an ice plant ó artificial ice. The Haines Junction arena has artificial ice.
By the way, there is no commitment to the community of Teslin on any events for the Canada Winter Games. The host society deals with that.
The member conveniently ignores the fact that within Haines Junction, the Yukon taxpayer is expending $9.7 million through operation and maintenance, creating jobs, creating cash flow, creating a positive aspect in the community of Haines Junction. So in total, Mr. Chair, the community of Haines Junction, factoring in the investment in the reconstruction of the Alaska Highway that the Member for Kluane demanded be done in a public meeting in front of his constituents ó accounting operation and maintenance, weíre looking at $20 million for the riding of Kluane in total, with a good portion of that going into the community of Haines Junction. So the memberís argument is indefensible.
The government has no problem defending its investments and expenditures. Look at the increases. Mr. Chair, we have increased highway reconstruction and highway maintenance through the Highways and Public Works budget by some 30 percent. This government in three budgets has doubled the capital investment in this territory.
Now, with all that, the member says itís all going to government membersí ridings. Then how is it, Mr. Chair, that Carmacks is getting more money than Watson Lake? How is it that Mayo is getting an investment? How is it that Old Crow gets $4.6 million of capital? Mr. Chair, the list goes on. How could the member stand on his feet in this House and imply that the government is not treating Yukon communities fairly? We are, wherever possible, addressing the demonstrated needs of Yukoners and Yukon communities and weíre doing it successfully by doubling the capital investment in this territory in three budgets.†
What was once a constructive debate with the third party last Thursday changed considerably once the Member for Kluane got involved. Thatís unfortunate, because the Member for Kluane could contribute positively and constructively to the debate, could offer suggestions on building Yukonís future instead of trying to dismantle Yukonís future. We as a government cannot do all things. We canít invest and resolve all problems at once, but I can tell you one thing: weíve resolved a lot more problems in two and a half short years than past governments have done in full mandates. Itís also important to recognize that not only have we resolved problems, we have significantly increased the options of this territory and its economic development diversification.
The member talks about what can go on in the riding of Haines Junction. Well, one of the things we offered was doing a regional economic assessment considering the fact that Haines Junction, for the most part, is focused on tourism. Now the member opposite may want to make a suggestion to those who are involved in his riding to support the governmentís efforts to get more access into the Kluane National Park, which would enhance tourism. The member opposite may want to suggest to members in his riding who work for Parks Canada that maybe we shouldnít have ignored that film that went to Atlin, B.C., and allowed that film to be shot in Kluane National Park, thereby providing benefits to the citizens of Haines Junction.
One would wonder why the member doesnít do that, other than the fact that the New Democrats oppose responsible development in the territory, have no desire to promote development in the territory ó none whatsoever. In fact they would go to great length to shut it all down, whether it be access to property and land, access to resources, access to parks, building bridges and infrastructure, development of the oil and gas sector ó no matter what it is, the members opposite from the New Democrats appear to have an aversion to development, profit, the private sector and business.
However, we will forge ahead in trying to address the needs of Haines Junction, as we have in this budget.
Mr. McRobb: Members of this Assembly have just been treated to another one of the Premierís political speeches. I might suggest, judging by the tone of his speech, that he has already broken his New Yearís resolution to be a kinder and gentler Premier. Heís not adopting the tone to really work with us on this side; itís basically the tone ďitís my way or the highwayĒ, and thatís how the Premier comes across.
He raised a number of issues that I want to respond to because, if I donít, it might leave an impression on the record that needs some correcting.
First of all, on his last point about the film in Kluane Park that went to Atlin, B.C., I followed up on that matter with a high official in Kluane National Park, and I was told there was no such film that went to Atlin, B.C. I double-checked; I asked the person, ďAre you sure there was no film?Ē Nobody knew anything about this film the Premier had in his head, which he mentioned at a meeting while out in Haines Junction. Thatís how I found out about it.
So the Premier had better check his facts on that film, or I invite him to forward to me some information proving that in fact there was a film lost to Atlin, B.C. But certainly the Parks Canada officials arenít aware of what the Premier speaks.
Now, he talks about how some communities are getting some spending. He mentions Carmacks and Old Crow and asks, ďHow can that be?Ē Well, there is a lot of federal money going into the Old Crow Airport. Thatís not entirely Yukon government money. Most of that is from the federal government. Thatís why itís being spent there. That facility has been a priority for the people of Old Crow for a number of years, and this government delayed that project for a number of years. Now itís trying to hold it up as an example of how itís being fair in distributing the spending. Well, thatís quite ludicrous.
It also mentioned Carmacks. Well, Iím aware that not too long ago there was a letter from the Chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation opposing the construction of the school, yet this Yukon Party government pushed ahead. They basically said, ďYouíre getting a school whether you want one or not.Ē And thatís the way it was.
Yet the Premier stands up and holds that up as a shining example of how theyíre fair in spending in opposition ridings. Well, what a joke that is. What an absolute joke that is.
The Premier went on to say that my logic was faulty about the road construction. Letís just revisit that for a minute. The argument I made was that road construction between Whitehorse and Haines Junction should not be included within the total for Haines Junction, and therefore displace other projects a community has on its priority list.
When I asked what the government has in mind to replace the Shakwak workers within a couple of years, that also was a legitimate question. We are talking about the regional economy. But the Premier tried to hold it up as a contradiction. Well, think about it. How can there possibly be a contradiction in my concern about highway jobs displacing community projects, which basically is a number exercise this government does to make it look like a community is getting something when in fact, if you look where that spending is, it is miles down the road? That community is not the only community benefiting from some road construction that the federal government demands with its $23 million a year ó so much for that argument. I would suggest the Premierís logic is fuzzy.†
He also talked about some projects in the Kluane riding to make it sound like the riding is getting its priorities dealt with. He mentioned the Burwash sewage lagoon. Letís look at that issue. Number one, this issue has been delayed for years. It should have been completed at least five years ago. I remember that it was in the last NDP budget, the one the Liberals took over. What has happened to it since then is anybodyís guess. But I remember each year when I was Community Services critic, I would ask in the briefing for an account of what was spent on the Burwash lagoon, and so on and so forth. This is the third budget under the Yukon Party, and finally that project comes back and has a large allocation in it that should pretty well complete the project, although there are some questions about it actually being completed this year.
Mr. Chair, half of that money is paid for by the federal government, so itís not entirely Yukon government money. And they pretty well had to build it there because the federal program required it. Otherwise, who knows? It could have been delayed a couple more years. Yet the Premier finds itís something he holds up as a shining example of how theyíre spending fairly in the ridings. Well, I think his argument has been sensibly refuted again.
My question to him was: what can be done to make spending a bit more fair for the people of Haines Junction? He offered nothing. He was bankrupt of any suggestions at all. He launched into his basic attack on the questioner. I have reviewed the points he made and, I would suggest, refuted every one of the points he made. That leaves us with nothing. The government side had nothing of any substance in response to the question I asked on behalf of constituents. Well, why is that? Well, I think I know the answer. Itís because this government doesnít care; it really doesnít care. It has other things on its agenda, and trying to make spending fair for the people of Haines Junction is far from that list.
It wants to focus on its big ticket projects like the elaborate seniors facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City, even though the Kluane region has more seniors age 65 and up than either one of those communities. It wants to focus on the grandiose, expensive bridge at Dawson City ó the final price, nobody knows. Mr. Chair, it wants to focus on a few other pet projects ó the final price, who knows. And you know what? Future political historians will look back on this government and see what they did. They will load up spending in their final year, a year with an election in the territory, a year with a very good chance this government will not be returned to power, and it will be up to future governments to complete those expensive projects like the Dawson bridge and perhaps the seniors facilities.
Who knows? What about other P3 projects the government is investigating ó without a P3 policy, I might add? So itís rather scary and unfair to realize where this government is at.
I see one other point made by the Premier. He mentioned the amount of O&M spent in Haines Junction. Well, I would like to ask him if he can send over a list of every community in the territory with the O&M spending in each one of those communities, because I would like to compare. I have a feeling that there will be several other communities where that figure is higher.
Look at Watson Lake. It has some facilities that other communities donít, including Haines Junction, which no longer has a weigh station even though, as it stands now, the favoured entry port for pipe for the Alaska Highway pipeline is through Haines, Alaska, on the Haines Road into Haines Junction. Yet we donít have a weigh station. Watson Lake does and Iíll bet you that it employs three or four people. Thatís O&M. That will add up. Letís see how the communities compare to O&M spending.
I would like him to answer this question ó enough of the games we experienced last week when he would not respond to the question. Iíd like to ask the Premier: would he provide us with a list of O&M spending in each Yukon community?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iíve been listening for some time now to all the statements coming across the floor and I have to admit some confusion on a lot of these things. The member opposite now says that weíre derelict for not having a weigh station in Haines Junction because itís the entry point for pipe for the gas pipeline. Maybe he hasnít actually noticed that there is no gas pipeline right now, but that is some ways down the road and maybe thatís something to consider at the time. But to build a facility for something that far in the future is certainly a lack of foresight, at best.
He has finally admitted, however, that the bridge in Dawson ó final price, who knows? Exactly, Mr. Chair, until the request for proposals is in, we wonít know.
Now, Iíve sat on the side for some time now and Iíve listened to criticism of this bridge, anywhere from $20 million to ó I think the leader of the third party had it up to $80 million at one point. Then later in the day, the Member for Kluane had dropped the price back to $20 million. Itís nice that he finally recognizes that we wonít know until that happens.
The same thing is to be criticizing elaborate facilities in Dawson or Watson Lake, facilities that havenít been built yet, facilities that havenít been designed yet. I guess elaborate is anything better than a wall tent to this member. I think Iíd like to see what it is heís criticizing before he starts criticizing them.
Consultation is another thing. Weíve listened today and, if you lengthen that out into other days, this government has been criticized for consulting too much. In the same Question Period, weíve been criticized for consulting too little. I believe later in the same Question Period we were criticized for consulting too much again. This goes back and forth and back and forth. Itís like watching a tennis tournament after awhile in here. Itís really difficult to follow any of this because none of it tends to make any sense.
Weíre criticized for putting forward no legislation. The member opposite would like us to make all sorts of things illegal in the Yukon, but every time we do put a piece of legislation in front of us, almost without fail the members on the opposite side ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Member for Whitehorse Centre is saying, ďShow us.Ē One only has to look at Hansard. They vote against it whether itís good or not.
So why criticize us for not putting something forward when theyíre going to vote it down anyway? I mean, this makes so little sense. Itís sort of interesting to see this going by. He criticizes us for sounding like a skipping record. A skipping record puts us at 4.8 percent unemployment, the second best in Canada. It was closer to 10 percent ó it was in the double digits ó just before the election.
Promises made, promises kept. What I heard at the door was to produce jobs, to deal with the economy ó 4.8 percent unemployment. Thatís the lowest on record in the history of Yukon since weíve been keeping tabs on that. Itís an amazing record. And we did that with 1,600 more jobs. We didnít just put the people who were here and looking for work to work; we brought in 1,600 more and put them to work.
Now, the leader of the official opposition is sitting there and talking as much now as he did before. Iím kind of assuming that I have the floor here. I see a bit of a nod, so perhaps the Member for Whitehorse Centre will sit back and listen. It would be a rather unique opportunity for him to do so.
The Member for Mount Lorne talks about his extensive work with the government ó his extensive consultation, if I can use that word ó and the postage he spent. I hope he takes a look at that statement, because postage isnít required from downstairs to upstairs. If heís paying postage, maybe heíd better do his homework a little bit better. I do apologize for the amount of time heís spending on this. I think Iíve received two letters from him in two and a half years, so I do apologize for that heavy workload.
We look at some of these things that are going through. I do sympathize with the Member for Mount Lorne, however, in terms of some degrees of consultation. I donít believe there were meetings in Mount Lorne. There werenít meetings in Porter Creek North. There werenít meetings in Riverdale South or Riverdale North. There wasnít a meeting in Copperbelt. There wasnít a meeting in Swift River. There wasnít a meeting in any of these places. I think Braeburn was missed, but at some point, reality has to come back into play on this.
Reality is a foreign concept to many people. But you have to look at what the point is where consultation is reasonable. One of the more humorous parts of this was some criticism that I took last year about dealing with wolves. The very Member for Mount Lorne had had some discussions about wildlife corridors. You have to think ó we do have a committee on naming and a lot of names and such here are somewhat historical, but you might think that Swan Haven has something to do with swans; Bear Creek might involve a bear or two, and Wolf Creek might have something to do with wolves. I can understand the memberís concern for wildlife corridors; I really can, Mr. Chair. But I canít understand it when he gets upset that the wildlife has the audacity to use the corridors.
So, letís come back to reality. Letís come back to where we can actually do reasonable consultation, make reasonable decisions and letís come back to a point where the opposition holds us accountable ó thatís their job and we understand that ó and come up with reasonable solutions. But when I look at the depth and breadth of criticism that this government has received during this past mandate for things that the Yukon Party government has done, when I look at the level of those criticisms, I feel very complimented because they canít attack us on what we are doing: 4.8 percent unemployment, 1,600 more jobs, millions more for education, millions more for childcare. If they can only come up with some of the criticisms that they do, I take that as a very high compliment, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, this is rather pathetic. Weíre in general debate on the mains budget. Our questions are posed to the Finance minister, yet he wonít stand up and answer the questions. He puts other people up to answer for him. Who is going to be next in this Yukon Party merry-go-round of speakers, Mr. Chair? We need to get the Premier to answer our questions on the record. This is disrespectful to the Legislature. Had I more time, I would prepare some kind of a point of order or question of privilege or something to contend with this slight to democracy, because it shouldnít be allowed to continue.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
†Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Pursuant to Standing Orders ó I wonít even bother to select my favourite phrases on that last speech that would impute motive and are certainly inciting discord. This government has every bit of respect for the constituents that we represent and the people of the Yukon. It is insulting to say otherwise.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, there is no point of order. There is no section from the House rules cited, and based on my knowledge of the House rules, I ó
Chair: Thank you. There is no point of order.
Seeing it has come to our normal time for adjournment, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will adjourn for a recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Mr. McRobb: Itís rather disappointing that no matter what pertinent questions we ask about the budget, the Premier fails to get on his feet and respond to the question. I asked for a list of O&M by community. Another stand-in got up, and he did not answer the question.
I asked a previous question: what can be done to make the budget a little fairer for the community of Haines Junction, and the Premier went on the attack and failed to answer the question. So itís rather pointless to try to deal with a government that doesnít take its responsibilities seriously enough to answer questions posed in this Legislature by the members of the official opposition on behalf of their constituents.
Before concluding, Mr. Chair, there was one other matter, and I hope that the Premier can find it within himself to provide a response to this question. When he was holding his budget meeting in Burwash Landing last fall, there was an issue about the community aerodrome radio station operators. The Premier made an undertaking to write a letter on their behalf. Can he update this House on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That is an issue of detail. It was all passed on to the appropriate department and minister. Whenever the member wants to move on and debate the department that the CARS program falls under, then he can have a good discussion with the minister responsible.
Mr. McRobb: The Premier indicates thereís a paper trail on this matter. Is that something we can get a copy of ó the correspondence from his office on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That would be a great question for the minister responsible.
Mr. McRobb: Weíve been around this bush before, and in past experiences when the minister is asked a question, the typical response is that we cannot be provided with information from the Premierís office ó from the ministerís office, yes, but not from the Premierís office. ďYou should have asked that question in general debate.Ē
We are still in general debate so I would like to ask the Premier for his indulgence to provide us with a copy of correspondence from his office on this matter. Would he do that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, let the record show that the Premier would not stand on his feet and answer this question. Again, how can this government possibly expect anybody to believe its statements with respect to being publicly accountable after plenty of examples this afternoon when clearly this government is not accountable? It does not answer questions in the Legislature. Itís the old shell game all over again. Itís rather disappointing. For that reason, Iím rather dispirited and have no more questions to ask in general debate.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister explain a few of the items in the financial summary on page S-3? Iíd just like an explanation for my own information. Under ďEffect of change in tangible capital assetsĒ thereís a deficit for the estimate of $42,675,000, which shows a 70-percent increase. Could I get an explanation for that, please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Once again, the government has provided a great deal of detail for the members opposite to be able to debate the budget. Page S-3, line item ďEffect of change in tangible capital assetsĒ of $42,675,000 is actually broken down on page S-2, with the very bold print, ďEffect of change in tangible capital assetsĒ. It lays it all out: the tangible capital asset acquisition cost, less deferred capital contributions, plus amortization of deferred capital contributions, less amortization expense, less write-downs and disposals at zero, for a total of $42,675,000. The definitions are all explained in the front of the budget to help the member opposite with those particular areas.
The detail is all in the budget document.
Mr. Hardy: As my colleague says, the devil is in the details. I understand that itís on page S-2, under ďEffect of change in tangible capital assetsĒ. My question was more about what brought about a substantial change of this nature. The 2003-04 actual indicates that it was $3,069,000. The 2004-05 forecast indicates $25,111,000. Then, of course, the 2005-06 estimate indicates that we are up to $42,675,000 as a continuing deficit in this area. I am just looking for what is driving that change. If the minister would be so kind as to explain that, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is in the budget document and the detail is there. The reconciliation for the total value of $42 million is listed on page S-2. It says that we estimate tangible capital asset acquisitions totalling $85 million for 2005-06. In 2004-05, our forecast was $66 million. In 2003-04, the actual ó because of the conclusion of our year-end as done by the Auditor General ó shows a tangible capital asset acquisition of $38 million.
Now, in the next line we are subtracting deferred capital contributions. Deferred capital contributions as defined in our glossary are: a contribution or funding received from a third party for the acquisition, development, construction or betterment of a tangible capital asset.†
A contribution includes tangible capital assets transferred from a third party to the Government of Yukon. So, less deferred capital contributions, as defined in the glossary, is $26.7 million: estimate for 2005-06. In 2004-05, the forecast is $25.9 million and the 2003-04 actual is $18,724,000. Then, once that calculation is done, further reconciling the effect of change for tangible capital assets, we add in the amortization of deferred capital contributions. If we go to the glossary, amortization is defined. Factor that in with a deferred capital contribution, and I think the answer is readily available.
Anyway, for 2005-06, our amortization of deferred capital contributions is $14,222,000. Our 2004-05 forecast was $13,966,000. Our actual for 2003-04 was $14,049,000.
Amortization expense ó amortization definition in the glossary ó a total of ó and we subtract that: $30,098,000 and our write-downs and disposals is zero. The total value is $42,675,000, carried forward to page S-3, under the line item ďEffect of change in tangible capital assets.Ē There it is.
There is not much more we could explain. Itís laid out pretty clearly in the budget document what that number is and why the differences. The critical issue here is that we purchased a lot more capital assets in our estimate for 2005-06 by virtue of the fact that, in three budgets, we have doubled the capital investment in this territory from the Yukon government. That is the explanation, in terms of the effect of change.
Mr. Hardy: It was the last sentence that actually finally got to my question instead of just reading what is written there ó what was bringing this about and what was being purchased. The minister has indicated that they doubled what theyíve anticipated ó maybe not anticipated ó in their purchasing and that.
I think what I was driving at is this: where is this government going with this, what are they purchasing and what is driving it? What have been the purchases to bring the figure up this amount? We see a 70-percent increase. Iím not sure if whatís in this budget indicates that. If the minister wants to explain that, itís fine. If he doesnít want to explain it, thatís fine too. I also have a follow-up question, and that is: had the minister considered any tax breaks in this budget, other than the ones to the small business?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: To date, Mr. Chair, we have extended the mineral exploration tax credit. That will be in this budget. Weíve given a tax break to the small business community. That will be in this budget. That is essentially where weíre at with the tax issue.
Now, the member said: what are these projects? Well, again, theyíre all listed in the budget document. The blue pages have the list of tangible capital assets that we are purchasing. Theyíre all in the blue pages of the budget document, department by department.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for that answer, but Iíll continue with the second part of my question. What the minister has indicated to me is that there was just an extension of the mineral tax break, and then thereís the small business reduction. I think that was from six percent to four percent. So in other words, the only tax considerations that this minister has considered are ones for business. Has he had any discussions or given consideration to tax breaks for individuals?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The tax breaks that are being provided in the territory are quite significant. No, there are no tax breaks right now on personal income tax; however, we certainly donít rank the highest in the country when it comes to personal income tax. Weíre very competitive with other jurisdictions. The Yukonís lowest personal income tax bracket has a tax rate of 7.04 percent. The highest is only 12.76 percent. Across Canada, the lowest personal tax ranges from four to 16, so weíre well within the range of competitiveness with other jurisdictions. Itís not to say we rule out future possibilities. To date, thatís the extent of where weíve gone with the tax regime in the Yukon to put more money back into the economy. Overall, I think weíre doing quite well in that area. Our focus in this budget was to continue the stimulus through capital investment creating a capital investment in this budget ó our third budget ó of double the area of capital, the level of capital, when we first came into office.
Mr. Hardy: Is that information regarding the tax rates in the budget itself, or is it something the minister can direct me toward so I can find it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Under ďFinancial informationĒ thereís a page marked X in brackets ó Roman numeral 10. The whole breakdown across the country is listed there.
Mr. Hardy: Why did the minister not feel it necessary to look at individual tax rates, yet he looked at business tax rates?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think there are a couple of reasons that are very important here. First off, we are well within the range when it comes to national averages and, secondly, after due consideration, the evidence out there shows that the quickest way to put money back into the economy is to reduce corporate tax rates. That is the shortest route to maximize the benefit of a tax break, and thatís to do it through small business or the corporate route.
So weíve done that, and now we want to press on with the job creation levels and the stimulus in the territory, with the added factor now that the small business tax credit will soon be finding its way back into the Yukon economy, and that will help further stimulate and complement what government is spending by coming out of the private sector with extra money to reinvest back into their businesses, creating more jobs and opportunity for Yukoners.
Mr. Hardy: Well, it sounds like the minister is a proponent of trickle-down economics. Could the minister tell me what studies he looked at that indicated that the quickest way to stimulate the economy is through giving a tax break to small business?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We did have a debate here on the tax measures where a lot of details were read into the record. I donít have the names of all the studies off the top of my head, but theyíre all certainly in the pages of Hansard, and they were done by a very competent group of people in the Department of Finance who went into this in great detail and provided those recommendations and information to us, the elected arm of government. I donít know what else I can say on the matter.
We made the choice. We made the decision, based on all the available information and the input of some very competent Finance officials working for the Yukon government. I might add that we are fortunate because our officials are at a level of competence where the other territories even access our Finance officials to assist them with the finances of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Mr. Hardy: So am I to understand that the minister did not base his decision to only target small business as a recipient of a tax reduction on any kind of pertinent or current information that is available to the Finance department? Is that the message Iím getting from the minister, that he is not basing it on anything current? Heís just running with some old studies or some old philosophies or Reaganomics or whatever?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If I may be somewhat mischievous, we got it from the Magna Carta. No, to be serious, our officials, the Yukon governmentís officials, the Yukonís Finance officials, did the research and got all the available updated information that allowed us to make an informed decision, and we thank them very much. So itís very updated, very consistent with approaches that are utilized today with tax regimes to help stimulate economic growth.
Mr. Hardy: Would the minister make that ó all the latest, not the old stuff, but the latest information he obviously based his decision on ó available to the opposition?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I could provide him a copy of my Hansard, but the members opposite have copies of Hansard where all that information was read into the record.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís totally incorrect. Itís not all read into the record. I would assume that the financial information that was gathered by the Finance department wasnít all read into the record. I think the minister is presenting a position that is incorrect in this matter.
If the Finance department was directed to look at how you can get your best return or stimulate the economy, Iím sure that they put together some kind of briefing or report, or they pulled it from somewhere. Iím asking the minister if he will share that information with this side of the House, or else direct us to the area where the Finance department would have gotten this type of information. I donít think Iím asking too much.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We can provide the member opposite with all the reports that the officials in the Finance department critique so they can come to their informed recommendation. We will make sure that the Department of Finance dedicates somebody to look for those reports, put them together and lease a truck to deliver them to the member opposite.
Mr. Hardy: I appreciate that answer from the minister. Historically, other Finance ministers used a tax round table of a group of businesses and other individuals who advised and gave direction to the Finance minister and the government of the day. I know that when the NDP was in government, a tax round table was created, which contributed a lot to the discussion on what direction government should go in regard to tax incentives, tax breaks and changes within the tax structure. Has this Finance minister had a tax round table since he has been Finance minister?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: No, but Iím sure, as the former Liberal government did, we certainly accepted a great deal of the information that came out of the tax round table and incorporated it into our deliberations. But we as a government have had no occasion to convene a tax round table. We have been much too focused on rebuilding the Yukon economy, which, essentially, is why the tax round table was created. Under the NDP with the tax round table, there was double-digit unemployment. Under this government, Yukon is now, as of last monthís stats, second only to Alberta in the unemployment factor.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís interesting that the minister is blaming the tax round table on the double digits of unemployment. I didnít realize that a small group of very concerned Yukoners could have that kind of impact on the unemployment levels. I think anybody in this territory knows why the unemployment levels are lower today and that a lot of factors have contributed to that.
I canít, and would not, say on this side of the House that the tax round table group caused double digit unemployment figures in this territory. I think they were working to benefit the territory, and I think the work that they did when they were being utilized has contributed to our state today.
I really have to wonder why this Minister of Finance seems to believe that there is no purpose whatsoever to engage the people of this territory in the tax round table. Now, is the minister planning, at some point down the road, to engage or involve the people, through a tax round table, to look at the tax structure of the territory or not?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The first thing weíre going to do is correct the record. If the member had listened, the member would have heard me respond by saying that we incorporated much of the tax round tableís work as we went forward, as Iím sure the former Liberal government did.
And no, we have not convened a tax round table. Under our watch, we know what the unemployment factor is. Under the NDP watch, we know what the unemployment factor was. Nobody made any inference that it was the tax round table that contributed to the unemployment factor. In fact, the inference was that the NDP government was contributing to the unemployment factor, contributing to the exodus of population, contributing to the exodus of investment, contributing to creating impediments to investment, contributing to creating uncertainty in the territory ó I know that; I was there.
I think itís fair to say that the representatives on the tax round table did a great deal of work and brought forward some very good ideas, some of which are in place in todayís Yukon.
Now weíre moving on. And Iím not sure if the corporate tax reduction that we have implemented ó Iím not sure if it was discussed at the tax round table but, given the tremendous amount of information out there, not only in the reports weíll provide the member opposite but on the Web sites alone, you will see a great deal of information around why small business tax credits are the most beneficial when dealing with trying to further stimulate an economy, because youíre putting more disposable revenue and more disposable capital in the hands of small business, which tends to reinvest it back into their businesses, creating growth, jobs and opportunity for Yukoners.
So the decision was made cumulatively with all those factors being brought to bear and the assessment done by, as I said, very competent Finance officials who made the recommendations that this is where we should go, and thatís what the government has done. Now we look forward to the benefits that will accrue from seeing our small business community being provided some tax breaks that will put more capital into their hands, thereby further stimulating the Yukon economy and, as I said, complementing what government is investing with further increased investment from the private sector.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd just like to follow up on this issue of the tax round table and the small business tax credit. Absolutely, I can agree with the Finance minister that there are a variety of tax initiatives out there that have to be examined, and they have to be examined in light of the following: are they fair, will they help, will they address an issue such as stimulating the economy, and are they feasible within the territorial formula financing arrangement, as well as can we afford them as a government?
And certainly the hard work and research went into the small business tax credit. Thatís why it was part of the Liberal Partyís platform in the last election and why I was pleased to support it and introduce it as a motion in the Legislature. I am pleased to see that weíre seeing the effects of the small business tax credit. It brought us into line with the rest of the country. Thatís one tax initiative.
We still have the lowest manufacturing tax in the country, as best I understand it. I donít have all the budget documents in front of me. There was an R&D tax credit brought in by, I believe, the NDP government. There was a reduction of the fuel tax to wilderness tourism operators by our government. The current government extended that fuel tax credit to golf courses. My question is: of all of these tax initiatives, the minister has said that he has not recently convened the tax round table. There are some other innovative initiatives out there. Perhaps the Finance minister would like to share them with us. Given that the tax round table hasnít been convened, is the minister looking at any other tax initiatives in the country ó other than lowering personal income tax? Are there other initiatives the minister is examining and where is he getting the information in light of the fact that the tax round table hasnít been convened? Has there been a recent finance ministersí meeting that has examined this issue? Is there any other information that we could examine?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, I think itís fair to say that finance ministers, not only nationally but provincially and territorially, have been focused on deficits. There has been zero to very little discussion on tax measures. As I pointed out to the leader of the official opposition, on average, considering the standards of taxation in Canada, the Yukon is doing quite well. We are among the lower echelon of taxation, and we donít have a territorial sales tax, which is another issue.
Our fuel taxes are some of the lowest in the country; weíve reduced our personal tax ó in 1982, it was at 43 percent, it rose as high in 1994 as 50 percent, and itís back down now to a 44-percent tax rate. I think weíre doing quite well in this area. Our focus is job creation. Taxation is, of course, a form of own-source revenues and, in looking forward, at this juncture there is no initiative that has begun to re-engage a tax round table. A great deal of work was done by the round table and the representatives on it. The Department of Finance has taken that and incorporated it into much of what it has done, including doing all the research on a national level, and the result is that we have moved forward with a number of things such as the small business tax credit and extending the mineral exploration tax credit, and now weíre focused on other areas.
Unless there are some dramatic changes that would dictate that we reconvene a tax round table, at this point in time weíre focused on creating initiatives that create taxation for government by job creation, investment, more exploration and resource involvement, diversifying our economy ó all these things. Those are the focuses the government is bringing to bear today.
Back in the mid-1990s, the issue of convening the tax round table was because our economy was going in a different direction and there was a desire to try to find ways to engage the private sector to provide input into where we were going.
In the case of economic development, we already have an initiative through the Department of Economic Development that covers a number of bases in making sure that the private sector is very much involved in our economic development. Of course, stimulating the economy has a great impact on our private sector because itís giving them more and more access to capital that allows their businesses to grow and become an integral part of economic growth for Yukonís future.
Ms. Duncan: There are a couple of points that Iíd like to make with the Finance minister and a couple of questions Iíd like to ask him to address when he returns to his feet. In listening to the structure of the territoryís taxes and the tax rate going back to the 1990s, the other point that has to be made is that during 2000-02 we changed our tax structure as well. We went from tax on tax to tax on income. Revenue Canada previously treated the three territories differently. To come into line with the rest of the country, we were the first territory to do so, and Canada Customs and Revenue Agency paid for the development of our legislation. Again, we went first, and that was to the credit of the Finance officials at the time and still today, as well as to the Government of Canada. I just want to make sure that point is on the record as well.
What I heard the Finance minister say was that there has been no initiative to reengage the tax round table. What I would just like him to clearly state for the record is that there is no intention by the government to reengage the tax round table ó if that point could just clearly be made.
The other point that was made often by the Member for Klondike when he was standing on this side of the House was that the territory should basically cease and desist on the fuel tax. I appreciated then, as I do now, that the Yukon has the lowest fuel tax in the country.
However, the commitment and suggestion that we should do away with it came from the former Member for Klondike. So is it the Yukon Partyís intention? That was the memberís commitment.
A final question, if I could have it addressed ó a panel is going to be assembled to discuss the territoryís formula financing arrangement with Canada. Previously, part of the complex nature of the formula included an examination of where our tax structure was in comparison with the rest of the country. For example, was our personal tax rate about the same as the rest of the country, or was it lower? Thatís just sort of failsafing. I donít think it was to make our formula more complicated, but it was definitely part of the formula.
In this panel thatís being convened and the work thatís being done on renegotiating the formula, is the whole tax structure of the territory still included as part of that discussion? And does that tax structure include the fuel tax?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The panel will be looking at the broad gambit of the TFF, including equalization. Of course, part of that will be the representative tax system. So Iím sure the panel will be doing a very thorough assessment of the TFF and all of its elements.
There is a panel Web site that has now been structured. Itís on the Web right now. Members have been appointed. Terms of reference are on the Web site. Itís on the federal Web site that youíll find the TFF panel and its terms of reference.
Just so the member and I are on the same page, itís not a question of no intention of reconvening a tax round table because we have said on a number of occasions that we will look at tax measures and tax regimes to help stimulate the economy.††††
Weíve gone to this point to date and weíll see what happens beyond. Part of what the member was alluding to is the tax on net income ó TONI. This is the process thatís used now all across Canada. Every jurisdiction is using TONI in their calculations.
Now the fuel tax issue: if the Member for Klondike stood on that side of the House and asked the government if we were going to do away with the fuel tax, that was then but this is now, and we have no intention of doing away with the fuel tax. Furthermore, before the Member for Kluane tries to engage this side in a question during Question Period, I want to take the member back to a discussion that already transpired here. There are absolutely no guarantees that, if the Yukon government abolished its fuel tax, it would have any downward pressure on the price of fuel at the pumps. We know that. We also boast the lowest fuel tax rate in the country and we all understand that the revenues that we glean from fuel tax are reinvested back into our infrastructure. Thatís the whole idea.
Now what we did talk about was the need for Canada to convene a commission or a review of fuel pricing from wellhead to consumer, incorporating all the facets in the oil and gas sector that determine what the end user or consumerís price will be.
Thatís all-inclusive of the price per barrel of crude, whether it be on-the-spot marketing or long-term projected pricing. It includes rack pricing at the refinery gate. It includes wholesale buying versus retail buying. It includes all the elements that generate what is on the pumps, and that is also the cartage. So if we talk specifically to Yukon, the assessment has to include where our source of fuel is and what the factor of cartage is to bring it from refinery gate to the storage tank and eventually to the consumer.
So the whole idea of reducing fuel costs in the Yukon by abolishing the fuel tax is not one that has any guarantees that we would experience a downward pressure from the overall cost of fuel at the pumps. What would make more sense is an overall review of wellhead to customer on the whole process of what determines the end-use cost of gasoline and diesel.
Ms. Duncan: I donít want to spend a lot of time on this part of the debate. I just want to ask the Finance minister, given that fuel tax is separate from the other taxes in terms of that it is dealt with differently ó there are different rates in the provinces, and the federal government has now made initiatives to have a portion of the fuel tax go back to municipalities, and there are more complicated funding arrangements.
Is there an argument to be made ó and I donít want a long debate on this. Is there an argument to be made that the fuel tax shouldnít be considered in the TFF arguments? Is that a possibility, given that there have been some innovative treatments of it lately and so on? Is that an option?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I believe that discussion will take place at the panel, because it is defined as an own-source revenue for us, the Yukon, as it would be for any other jurisdiction. So, own-source revenues, in their entirety, are going to be assessed through the TFF panel review, so I see that this will be an item of discussion.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, and just clearly for the record, we are talking about all types of fuel. We are not just talking about diesel and gasoline, but this also includes propane. Is that correct?
That is a specific question. I am asking because the Finance minister was talking about how we need a federal review of the whole issue of fuel and the price from wellhead to what we pay at the pumps. One of the issues that I get a number of calls from constituents on and Iíve noticed is that there is a huge difference in propane from Whitehorse to southern Alberta, for example ó a huge difference. So, I just want the minister to clarify. I apologize if this is not the most intelligent question asked all afternoon, but where does propane fit into all of that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Any fuel that is used for the purpose of heating or, for instance, producing electricity, is not taxed in the Yukon. We donít charge a tax on it. But I will point out that there is good reason why the Yukon intervened in the federal process when Superior Propane was buying out ICG. The intervention made by the Yukon made the case that, if the consolidation, if you will, of the two companies was to be allowed, it would leave the Yukon with only one propane supplier. Part of that presentation was that would result in upward pressure on the price of propane, which we are now all living with.
Ms. Duncan: Right, absolutely, and as MLAs weíre all getting constituent phone calls. There are some vehicles that are powered by propane, though, so those would be covered by the fuel tax ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Honourable members, I must remind you that we need to have you recognized so that your comments can be recorded in Hansard. Ms. Duncan, you have the floor.
Ms. Duncan: Right, and the question is, there are certain vehicles that are driven on the road that are powered by propane, so Iím sure Finance officials must have that easily separated out in fuel tax revenues. So maybe we could get a sense of what that is just by legislative return or a letter is fine ó if we could get a sense of how much of the fuel tax is obtained by vehicles using propane as a fuel source.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíll look into that and provide the member that information, although at this juncture I would say tentatively that I donít think we tax propane regardless of its use, but weíll look into that issue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís taxed? So itís taxed at the pump. So we donít have the factor in the book. As youíll see, it lists unleaded and diesel fuel only by the litre, no propane. So I guess itís probably a very small amount regardless.
Ms. Duncan: It would be interesting to look at in terms of environmental perspective and so on.
I have just a couple of other quick questions before I hand the floor back to my colleagues. Earlier this afternoon there was a discussion about the capitalization of assets and all the capital assets are listed in the Finance book. Maybe the minister wishes to defer this to general debate on Finance. Weíve done a good job capitalizing our assets. How are we making out of the assessments of our liabilities, which was also part of the CICA ó the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants recommended that we capitalize our assets. Weíve changed over our accounting system. Weíre doing a fine job working on our assets. What about the listing of liabilities? This is more than just environmental liabilities, I would think.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, first off, there are some liabilities in the Yukon that are not the responsibility of Yukon itself ó for instance, type II mine sites. We have under devolution some liabilities that were transferred under a $20-million arrangement under the devolution transfer agreement. All other liabilities, save and except environmental for Yukon, are booked now, because weíve even removed the cap on the leave liability for employees. We have sent information, at least, to the Auditor Generalís office on environmental liabilities that we intend to book. So I think weíre covering all the bases.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has said that there has been information sent to the Auditor Generalís office on the Yukonís view to date of the environmental liabilities. Could the minister point to where that information is to all of us so that we can also examine it, or could he forward a copy to us?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the government has been dealing with the Auditor Generalís office based on 2003-04 public accounts direction, notes to consolidated financial statements on environmental liabilities. There is an overall process, if you will, here. Weíre working with the Auditor Generalís office. In the very near future Management Board will be receiving some final product on amounts to be booked, which we will make available to the House.
Ms. Duncan: So, what Iím hearing the Finance minister say is that additional information is going to Management Board ó some final numbers, which he will make available.
Would we see that before the end of this session, or are we looking at seeing that tabled in the fall session?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíre also dealing with another challenge. The CICA has not completely finalized its overall guidelines in this area. So, we hope to have this done on the year-end financial statements. But that doesnít preclude us from getting to the point where, if Management Board makes a decision on the number that we will book as an environmental liability that is ours, then we would bring that forward.
Ms. Duncan: Did I hear the Finance minister say that weíd look at getting that in the fall, or was that off-microphone?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It will be dealt with, with the financial statements for 2004-05.
Ms. Duncan: If memory serves me correctly, we get those in October. Yes, we get those at the end of October, so we will see what the environmental liabilities will tentatively look like in October.
I have just one last question, and I did ask this question of an individual who was acting for the Finance minister. Iíd prefer to ask the Finance minister directly.
The issue around the ports ó weíve had many famous and infamous discussions about the ports. The Finance minister has recently said that the Government of Yukon is working with the State of Alaska to look at port access. Itís highlighted in the Yukon Minerals Advisory Board report as well, which I note the media seemed to receive before it was tabled in the Legislature.
The issue is: how are we going to pay for them? Is the Finance minister looking at buying these two ports or one of these two ports? If so, with what ó out of what department or Crown corporation does he intend to purchase them?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This issue is one that does not necessarily require the purchase of a port. It could, in fact, be an arrangement between the State of Alaska and Yukon that allows us access to existing ports, or the possibility of jointly looking at upgrades of an existing port. Right now, the Department of Economic Development is the lead department on the initiative. What we are trying to do is be proactive here.
I would just take us back to when Curragh Resources became an issue, when it looked like the Faro mine was going to go back into production and the need to ship concentrate from Faro through the Skagway port was going to be the preferred option. Yukon went through a very difficult negotiation with the State of Alaska on allowing us that access. It was difficult for anybody who was around at that time and involved in any sort of way, even peripherally, on the issue of Curraghís concentrate being shipped to market.
So, we have an arrangement through protocols and cooperation with Alaska. We have agreement from the Governor and the Government of the State of Alaska that we would cooperate in this area, and now we are pursuing that to see how that will all flesh out. The objective, obviously, is to guarantee that Yukon has tidewater access through the State of Alaska. But it also does not preclude the option of staying in Canada and utilizing the port of Stewart, for example, considering the road network in place today, depending on from where in the Yukon any particular product or concentrate would be shipped.
Ms. Duncan: There are several points about this discussion that I recall, and a couple Iíd like to follow up specifically on. Certainly, the protocol has been negotiated and in place for some time for the continued use by Yukoners of the port facilities and industrial facilities at Skagway. That has been around for awhile. The Haines port was owned privately and there was an option on it. Now, what Iím interested in is this: how does a Yukoner follow this discussion and determine what the governmentís intentions are? I mean, the minister has stated publicly, and there has been discussion in the public that, yes, the Yukon would like to ensure we continue to have port access. Well, we already do, to a certain degree, with Skagway. Is the minister pursuing with Alaska something else? Are we optioning the port in Haines?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, there has been no decision to option a port at Haines. What we are going to do is go through the exercise of looking at all options, including the factor that we do have some limited access, dependent on a number of factors, which include cruise ship issues and so on and so forth. Weíre just merely being proactive. We are encouraged and pleased that the State of Alaska appears to be a lot more receptive to allowing this access than the example I cited in the 1980s when Curragh Resources came on stream.
Mr. Fairclough: I do not want to get into any detail on this matter, but in regard to taxes again, itís a revenue for government. I notice that over the years there hasnít really been an increase in grant-in-lieu of property taxes. Weíve only gone up, I think, $12,000 since 2003-04. I would like to know where this revenue is coming from. Is the majority of it from First Nations settled land claims agreement and property taxes being paid?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If the member is talking about revenue, it would be specific to the federal government, grant-in-lieu of taxes with the feds on property they have here in the Yukon. So Iím not sure exactly what the member is alluding to. Is the amount $200,000 that the member is alluding to, as far as an estimate? Page S-6 in the budget document: thatís the federal government. They donít pay taxes on it and they have land here; that gives us a grant-in-lieu thatís booked as a revenue.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to know where we can see clearly the taxes First Nations pay on their lands.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That debate has to be done with Community Services because, for that kind of detail, the department would have to break it down and, in many cases, it could be taxation that goes through municipalities. So the only way is to have a Community Services official here who can access that kind of detail. The Department of Finance merely has a total, which is all unincorporated lands. Nothing here relates to municipal lands and those things, so thatís a detailed question that has to go to the Community Services department. Whenever that department is up for debate, I would urge the member to bring that question forward because it will probably take some time to do the calculation and figure it out.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked this question because I believe that the grants-in-lieu of property taxes are paid directly to the Yukon government and not through the municipalities. Weíve had a First Nation with land claims agreements in place, and Iím just wondering why that amount did not go up. I believe thatís what it was ó unless itís somewhere else. I know that in the final agreements that are the kind of property taxes they pay on community properties within municipalities, and they are called grant-in-lieu of property taxes.
I just donít see it clearly listed, and Iím wondering if, because of the land claims agreements being finalized, we would see that clearly written in any government line item.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The issue is that the First Nations arenít a grant-in-lieu like the federal government. They are actually paying taxes now, and in many cases those taxes are payable to a municipality. There is a total line item of property tax shown in the budget document. To break that down, the member will have to engage with the Department of Community Services for them to do the research and see what portion could be First Nation taxation, and that does not reflect the municipal areas of taxation that First Nations pay to municipalities. So itís not a grant-in-lieu. In this case the federal government pays us a grant-in-lieu because theyíre not paying us property tax. First Nations are paying taxes.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand that they are paying property taxes. I thought that perhaps we could see a little clearer in the line items of government how that money and how much money is coming from First Nations. I know for a fact that that is exactly what they are called in one particular final agreement. The one that Iím most familiar with is the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation Final Agreement, which has it written in that way. It is probably the lowest form of taxes and they are grant-in-lieu of property taxes. I am not exactly sure where the Premier ó I would have to go back and look at it. But any information, I guess, that the Premier has on this matter, on the question of grant-in-lieu of property taxes ó I would appreciate it, if the department comes up with anything new, they would have it forwarded to me.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: What the Premier and the Department of Finance have is property tax showing an estimate for 2005-06 of $2.190 million, a forecast for 2004-05 of $2.290 million, and an actual for 2003-04 of $2.196 million. The grant-in-lieu issue, federal-specific, shows a $200,000 estimate for 2005-06, 2004-05 shows a $200,000 forecast, and actual for 2003-04 is $188,000. Thatís what we have.
If the member needs to delve into this in more detail, he has to bring it up with the Department of Community Services. But I would also point out that, in many cases, First Nations are now paying taxes directly to a municipality, not the government.
Furthermore, itís not something normally thatís broken down. We donít break down who pays tobacco taxes. We donít break down who pays fuel taxes ó First Nation versus other nationalities or other groups. We donít break those things down. I would wonder if itís something that is productive for Finance officials to spend their time on versus all the other important things they do. It would probably be virtually an impossible exercise to conduct with all the variables involved.
So Iím not sure where the member is going with this point, but he certainly could deal with Community Services on it. They may have further information that they could provide the member. Itís not something the Department of Finance has at its disposal.
If the member is suggesting that we may want to change our system here, I would advise the member to send some correspondence to me and to the minister responsible for community services outlining the position the member is taking. As I understand it, the issue of taxation with respect to First Nations is defined clearly through the land claim on what has to transpire. There was a tax moratorium until a certain period in time. Iím not sure of the exact date. I think the moratorium ended in 2002. So there are now taxes accruing to municipalities and other governments from First Nations.
We also, though, for the memberís benefit, have entered into an agreement with First Nations on personal tax, where we share tax room with First Nations. First Nations are given 95 percent of personal income tax from the government, but itís backstopped by the federal government. So thatís a significant initiative, where any personal income tax that a First Nation member pays, 95 percent of that goes back to the First Nation as a form of own-source revenue for that particular First Nation. So the Yukon government is not keeping 95 percent of it, nor is the federal government. Itís being reverted to the First Nation itself.
So thatís just another area of taxation that is part of what we have accomplished through the land claims issue. But overall, I think itís important to reiterate the fact that taxation, being an area of own-source revenue, is important. Weíve looked at some measures in the tax regime that have resulted in an extension of the mineral exploration tax credit, which has resulted in the reduction in the small business corporate tax assessments, putting more capital into businesses.
Weíve also made a commitment not to raise taxes, so we will be conscious of that commitment. The raising of taxes is not something we want to see happen here. There are so many other areas of the budget that require discussion; I would suggest that we can move on at some point to some of these elements in general debate. If not, then we could get into the Department of Finance in detail as the deputy minister would be providing some input in that regard.
But at the end of the day, we can only talk about things for so long in general debate. The time comes when we must, on behalf of the Yukon taxpayer and the Yukon in general, expedite our discussions because we have a responsibility and a duty to get into this detail.
This is a huge budget. There are 784 million reasons in this budget why the members opposite should endeavour now to move on, and letís get into the departments and flesh out a lot of the detail.
Considering the time, I move you report progress, Mr. Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: Iíll now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 11, 2005:
Yukon Mining Advisory Board 2004 Annual Report †(Lang)