††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Tuesday, May 10, 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 Nursing Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to join me in paying tribute to the Yukonís nurses. National Nursing Week provides us with a perfect opportunity to honour the nearly 340 women and men who work as nurses in the Yukon.
They work in various capacities and venues, from providing diabetes information to assisting in the operating room, from watching over a communityís health in a community health centre to dealing with life-and-death situations in emergency rooms or helping care for those individuals at the end of life.
They are teachers; they are mentors as well as caregivers. This yearís national theme is ďPatients first, safety alwaysĒ. It reflects the importance of a healthy care system to ensure the safety of patients, no matter where they work: hospitals, health centres, continuing care facilities, justice facilities, home care. All nurses are committed to providing safe, competent and ethical care.
We must do our part to ensure this shared responsibility and provide a safe health care system for all Yukoners and all Canadians. It is important today that we acknowledge the role our nurses play in keeping patients healthy and safe and also acknowledge the commitment and contribution of Yukon nurses to one of the best health care systems in our country and indeed, Mr. Speaker, to one of the best small hospitals in Canada, right here in Whitehorse.
Iíd like to close by saying that nurses are vital to our well-being and by giving heartfelt thanks to all those nurses here in the Yukon, in all areas of nursing, for their professional wisdom and dedication to providing ethical and competent care to Yukoners.
For all those listening who know others in the nursing field elsewhere who may be seeking an opportunity, the Yukon offers an extremely good package and is, in my opinion, one of the best places in Canada to reside.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to Yukon nurses, certified nursing aides, and licensed practical nurses.
Florence Nightingaleís birthday, May 12, is designated as International Nurses Day, while National Nursing Week in Canada is May 9 to 15. We commemorate these special days in recognition of the many contributions to our health and well-being by the hard-working and valued nursing profession.
The values and traditions in nursing are based on dedication, confidence and compassion. These are values that could be more broadly practised by all of us. Very few of us need to be reminded about the individual support we enjoy from our nurses. The interests of the patient are always the first concern for anyone in the nursing field. At one time or another, each of us has been a patient under their care.
Nurses, certified nursing aides and licensed practical nurses provide services to the public in hospitals, continuing care facilities, patientsí homes, doctorsí clinics and nursing stations. We want to especially acknowledge the tremendous work done by our nurses in the communities.
These health professionals are often challenged by long hours, being on call and sometimes working for months without a reprieve. Community nurses are closely involved in all aspects of primary health care and health education. They also take an active part in the social life of their community.
In 2004, the Yukon Registered Nurses Association had 305 members in the Yukon. The YRNA works diligently to assess and approve nurses for licensing, and it promotes standards of practice. The association also has an advocacy role in researching and publicizing issues in health care. We should all be aware of the shortage of nurses across Canada. Information and ideas about how to deal with this crisis have been a focus of the association. The YRNA emphasizes disease prevention and public awareness to improve the health of Yukoners. It has promoted a more seamless health care system.
Earlier this year, the YRNA pointed out the advantages of a collaborative clinic staffed by nurse practitioners and other staff from across medical disciplines to alleviate the heavy pressures on doctors. We thank everyone in the nursing field for their continued devotion to their calling. Without our nursing professionals, life would be very much more difficult for all of us.
Ms. Duncan: National Nursing Week is May 9 to 15, and I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Yukonís nurses. This yearís theme is ďPatients first, safety alwaysĒ. National Nursing Week began in Canada in recognition of the dedication and the achievements of the nursing profession. The idea of the week is to increase awareness among the public, policymakers and governments of the contributions of nursing to the well-being of Canadians. Itís also important to provide information about public health and the role our nurses play in our public health system.
Yukoners are very well aware of the vital role nurses play throughout community life. Scarcely a birth announcement or a celebration of life notice appears in our local papers without a special thanks to the nurses who provide professional care throughout our lives. The unfailing kindness and discipline of the nursing profession inspire those who come into contact with nurses and young Yukoners to follow in their footsteps.
I would like to take a moment, Mr. Speaker, and draw to the minister and the Houseís attention a Globe and Mail story today regarding nursing schools cutting enrolment. It notes that a federal report says that nursing schools are being forced to cut enrolment despite a shortage of nurses in all health care sectors. The report is described as the most comprehensive ever done in Canadaís nursing workforce. It also says that many nursing schools arenít getting enough money from the provinces to provide adequate training. I would encourage the minister to review the full news story with his colleague the Minister of Education, the Yukon Registered Nurses Association and Yukon College to explore opportunities for the Yukon in this regard.
Appreciating and understanding the role of nurses in Canadaís public health system will only serve to maintain our health care system as one of the worldís finest.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the nursing professionals.
In recognition of World Fair Trade Day
Mr. Hardy: † I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to World Fair Trade Day, which falls on May 14. Fair trade is the trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect. It seeks greater equity in international trade. Fair trade represents the opportunity for the consumer to vote with their dollars on the kind of values they support: cooperation, respect for workers and respect for the environment. Fair trading relationships allow workers in the Third World to get a better wage for their labour and a guaranteed price for their goods in spite of international price fluctuations. It points out to consumers that there is something structurally wrong with our global economic system and is a growing alternative supporting small businesses and farmers across the world.
This yearís theme is ďFair trade is peaceĒ. Peace comes not only from declarations and democratic elections; it comes from each and every person being given work and dignity. The fair trade movement is helping to do this, Mr. Speaker.
Bob Marley sang that a hungry man was an angry man. When multinational corporations further an unfair advantage in setting prices and taking a greater share of the worldís profits than they need, peopleís basic rights are not met and a hungry man becomes a very angry man.
Coffee farmers in the Third World are battered by the lowest prices in a hundred years while four big coffee companies ó Nestle, Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee ó are making huge profits, just as an example. As consumers, we must remind ourselves about the labour and the people behind the product with every purchase. Whether itís a cup of coffee, a shirt or a childrenís toy, we should support fair trade.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Hardy: I have for tabling an open letter addressed to Premier Dennis Fentie, dated May 9, 2005, signed by 64 Yukon citizens, that pertains to P3s not being a value for money, secrecy is inconsistent with democracy, lack of P3 policy for the Yukon and paying for the 30-year P3 lease.
††††† I also have for tabling a report that was prepared for the Government of Yukon Department of Economic Development, entitled Crossing Canadaís Other Border. It is ďA Perspective on Canadian Participation, a joint commission with the United States to address a multi-use corridor through Canada to AlaskaĒ. Thatís dated April 15, 2004.
Speaker: Are there any further documents or returns for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there petitions?
Are there bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) with increasing military action in Alaska and the American war on terrorism, the Yukon is in danger of having nuclear weapons of mass destruction pass through our territory;
(2) many years ago, the Yukon Territory was declared a nuclear weapons-free zone by this Legislature; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to reaffirm the position of the Yukon as a nuclear weapons-free zone and to implement this policy in all of its transportation dealings with Alaska.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the fair trade movement gives support to Third World trading partners by purchasing goods at a guaranteed price without considering fluctuating international prices;
(2) the movement has encouraged the expansion of small businesses and farms across the world; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to support the fair trade movement by directing government departments to purchase food and goods from fair trade companies wherever possible.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) gambling is widespread and becoming more available through the Internet in the Yukon;
(2) gambling in any form sometimes leads to compulsive and addictive behaviour; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to take measures to provide counselling support to Yukoners who are addicted to gambling and to implement a public awareness campaign about the cost to families of this serious addiction.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to conduct a complete public environmental and socio-economic assessment of any Alaska-Yukon railway or pipeline project before the start of construction.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† †††Alaska-Yukon railroad
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. Does the minister agree with the Premierís statement yesterday that military matťriel and hardware is already being trucked through the Yukon en route to Alaska and can he tell us what kind of goods are involved, what kind of trucks are being used and how many truckloads of military matťriel pass through the Yukon every day?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Border crossings involve the federal jurisdiction, both on the U.S. and Canada side. Those agreements are made federally.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, he did not answer the question, nor are people of the territory comfortable with this minister or this Premier passing the buck.
A lot of Yukon people are very concerned about this issue, and they have a right to know whatís on our highways. If U.S. military hardware is passing through the Yukon on a regular basis, that makes Yukon roads, bridges and communities a potential target for people with a grudge against the U.S. When you add a railroad, a natural gas pipeline and a fibre-optic cable network to the mix, the target becomes even more inviting.
As the minister responsible for emergency measures, as well as our transportation and communication systems, what discussions has this minister had with the federal government about the Yukonís increased vulnerability if these projects go ahead?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When weíre dealing in regard to the railway, weíre looking at a feasibility study of building the railway. Itís not for sure that youíre going to get the railway built, so weíre talking in the future ó way in the future, possibly ó if we even build a railway.
Secondly, with regard to other issues concerning emergency measures, we are in contact with the federal authorities on the EMO side to ensure our roads and citizens are as safe as they can be, in conjunction with both the federal department and our territorial department.
Mr. Hardy: Then I have to wonder why they refuse to answer the questions we ask with respect to how many.
Last year, the Department of Economic Development sole sourced a $6,000 study from a Calgary company, named PROLOG Canada Inc., on Canadian participation on a joint commission on a multi-use corridor through Canada to Alaska. I just tabled that report a few moments ago.
On page 6 of that report, under the heading ďAlaska Railway Investment,Ē there is the following statement: ďThere is a renewed impetus for Alaska railroad expansion toward Canada, and it is driven by a military rather than a commercial-based business case.Ē
Can the Premier tell us why he is spending $3 million of Yukon taxpayersí money to support U.S. military objectives? Does he believe that is an appropriate role for the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Yukon is investing in a feasibility study to determine whether a concept like a rail link to Alaska through the Yukon is in fact viable, so we can research the social and economic impacts, the environmental impacts, and what exactly it means for Yukon. Thatís why weíre investing the money to do the feasibility study.
Letís look at how past governments have invested money. The former New Democratic government invested money in a Mayo-Dawson inter-tie, followed up by the former Liberal government. A major audit had to take place, and millions of dollars of taxpayersí money were overexpended.
Look at the situation in Dawson City. They invested in Dawson City in a way that allowed Dawson City to overextend its debt limit by millions of dollars.
They invested in the Energy Solutions Centre. An audit was required, and we had to put controls in place. $4 million more was spent in diesel consumption, instead of using the full licence at Aishihik Lake.
Those are the types of investments those members opposite were making. This government is investing in our infrastructure and our future. The statistics show it. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, and one of the highest increases in GDP. Thatís the evidence.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad feasibility study
Mr. Hardy: Boy, oh, boy, Mr. Speaker. Itís really wonderful listening to the Premier. Now Iíd like to follow up with the Premier on the proposed rail link. Last week, the Minister of Economic Development tabled a $130,000 report on the feasibility of doing a feasibility study. A draft of the report contained nine pages of detail outlining the potential military benefits of a railway to transport matťriel and personnel from Alaska to the Lower 48. In the final report, this section on defence benefits of a railway has shrunk down to just two pages. Will the Premier table any drafts of the report in the governmentís possession, along with any correspondence from the government to the American consulting firm, regarding changes to the draft I just mentioned? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the situation is obvious, Mr. Speaker. If the overall approach of this feasibility study is placing less emphasis on military and more emphasis on the broader possibilities, thatís proof positive on why to do the feasibility study, and thatís exactly what the governmentís undertaking, to do a feasibility study to look into all these matters. Weíre not going to speculate. Weíre investing wisely, and itís all about building Yukonís future ó a more positive, brighter future, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, thatís definitely his opinion that spending $3 million on a feasibility study is investing wisely. Now, I can understand the Premier being a little sensitive on the subject. He is asking Yukon people to spend $3 million ó $3 million ó to study a rail link that promotes U.S. military objectives and private commercial interests, but he wonít let Yukon people see why.
In 2001, Transport Canada was very candid about this railway scheme. It said that the business case is frail. The total benefits for Canada are questionable, and I quote, ďThe Alaska-Canada rail link is not likely to attract much attention from private sector investors.Ē Thatís a report out there already. Now, why did the Premier ignore the advice of Transport Canada and push ahead with an American study designed to cast the scheme in a favourable light? Why did he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Quite the contrary; we havenít ignored any advice at all. Furthermore, the member opposite is implying that we are telling Yukoners something. I would argue that itís Yukoners who have been telling us to get involved in this project. Look at all the examples out there: look at what is happening in Faro, with the ceremonial rail put in place, and all the Yukoners involved in this initiative going back to the 1990s; the rail summits in Anchorage and Prince George; the legislative framework in Washington dealing with this issue; how Alaska is handling the issue; support from Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba; the federal commitment by our MP during the election.
To say that weíre saying this to Yukoners would be ignorant of the facts. Everybody is saying this to us: letís get on-board with the study.
Mr. Hardy: Yes, everybody in a very, very small circle of this Premierís inner group. Did the Premier tell the people about the military use when they were getting on-board? Of course he didnít.
Something is very wrong here, Mr. Speaker. The Premier says U.S. military goods are already moving through the Yukon, but we canít find out what or when. His Boston consultants say a railway could move a lot more military goods and personnel. His Calgary consultants say the push for a railway is more about U.S. military objectives than about a commercial business case. Transport Canada says the business case is frail, and the private sector isnít likely to invest in this scheme.
The only true believers seem to be the Premier and his friend, the Governor of Alaska.
Will the Premier call Juneau this afternoon and tell Governor Murkowski that Yukon people donít want to board this runaway express and that there wonít be any Yukon money for a feasibility study which, if there was going to be one, should have been the federal governmentís responsibility, not that of the Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The official opposition has been alluding to secrecy, and I can tell you there is a secret here. The secret is whatís going on in todayís Yukon and in the country. Itís a secret to the NDP. This isnít an inner circle. This is the federal government in Washington; itís the State of Alaska, the
governments in Ottawa, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Yukoners, First Nations involved. They will be sitting on the steering committee. Thereís no secret here, no inner circle; this is a broad, national and, indeed, international initiative. Itís forward-thinking, itís vision. Thatís something the opposition lacks.
Question re: Whitehorse Copper subdivision
†Ms. Duncan: I have a question today for the Minister of Community Services. During the 2002 election campaign, the Member for Copperbelt, who ran under the Yukon Party banner, and the Yukon Party candidate for Mount Lorne wrote an open letter regarding a Whitehorse Copper subdivision. Their letter cleared stated that the proposal ďshould not proceedĒ. They campaigned on it, went door to door with it in hand. Two and a half years later and the subdivision is being built.
Iíd like to remind the minister of a quote from March 2001 from now Premier Fentie: ďPeople make promises during a campaign. They should be accountable for them.Ē This was a very clear Yukon Party election promise that has been broken. Why is the Yukon Party ignoring this election promise and the residents who are not happy about this development?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When we came into power, this project was well underway in the process. There had been a substantial amount of consultation already completed. We went through that process. We provided that, for example, we made some adjustments in the size. We reduced the number of lots from 156 down to approximately 102.
Mr. Speaker, we did that to ease our concentration of development in and around the existing Wolf Creek subdivision. We also addressed several other indications from those living in the area, and we also put it through the environmental process ó the first project of its kind.
Ms. Duncan: I have to remind the member opposite that their party campaigned, door to door, on a promise to stop this process. One of the things residents are upset about is the proposed entrance to the subdivision across from the Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club. During the election campaign, the Yukon Party had the same concerns. Let me quote from the letter signed by two Yukon Party candidates. The spot where the new road is going in is ďprone to frost and icing, making it unsuitable for safety reasons.Ē
The City of Whitehorse now shares that view. They have approved the subdivision without the road. My question for the minister is very simple: why was the safety of residents important when the Yukon Party wanted their votes, but itís not important now that theyíre in office?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thatís precisely what weíre looking at. That particular area is considered an important access for the safety of those newly proposed lots in that subdivision. We are looking at that access as an important access for ambulance, fire, school bus and all the rest of those items. We believe thatís a very important access. We believe itís very important; we do not want to fall into another Hamilton Boulevard. By not putting the access there, thatís exactly what we would have in that particular place.
We are looking at that process. That is a very important access to that subdivision.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, two Yukon Party candidates, including the MLA for Copperbelt, who ran under the Yukon Party banner, said the access road across from the golf course was unsafe. They said, ďGovernment should not proceed with this development unless the concerns of all Yukoners have been satisfied.Ē Clearly residents are not satisfied. They remained opposed to the access road and they have serious concerns about safety. The Yukon Party wrote an open letter and gave their word to residents, and now the minister is doing the exact opposite. It demonstrates to Yukoners that the promises made by the Yukon Party arenít worth the paper theyíre printed on. Will the minister live up to the campaign commitment made by his colleague, the MLA for Copperbelt, and stop the road from going ahead?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated earlier, we are looking at the options with regard to this subdivision. We consider this particular access a very important access for that development.
I will also remind the member opposite there is a substantial shortage of lots within the City of Whitehorse ó substantial. There are going to be lots of people who are at my door wanting those lots and will be looking at that particular aspect. We need to provide land for people in the Yukon. Thatís the biggest issue we have out there right now ó providing land for people who want it. I believe that, in working with the City of Whitehorse on this particular issue, this is an important aspect. We are building a subdivision in that particular area at their request as a developer in that area.
Question re: Public/private partnerships
Mr. Fairclough: The leader of the official opposition just tabled an open letter to the Premier from citizens concerned about the Yukon Partyís drive toward public/private partnerships. Has the Premier had the opportunity to read that letter and respond to the concern that was raised by the 74 people whose names stand on that letter?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In fact, I did receive a copy of the letter ó date received was May 9, 2005 ó and I will be responding to the proponents in the letter by pointing out that there are ample ways to mitigate those types of concerns.
I want to close on this by saying that there are no P3s in todayís Yukon. We are developing a policy and weíre looking at a pilot project, such as the bridge in Dawson, as a possible P3 project. Now, in listening to the kibitzing going on, I would suggest that the leader of the official opposition raise the bar of his debate.
The P3 process is a mechanism long used in the country to complement government investment and spending with private sector investment. Of course there are the business cases that must be made, but we as a government will deal with the full equation and will ensure that the business case, should we proceed with any P3 project, will be in the best interest of Yukoners and their future.
Mr. Fairclough: P3s are a significant departure for the government, but this Yukon Party has repeatedly put the cart before the horse. They havenít consulted Yukon people and they have no policy. What they have done is to present a totally one-sided case from Partnerships B.C., just as they did with the railway.
Will the government back up and consult with Yukoners before embarking on P3s?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Herein lies the problem. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has just discussed backing up. That is the problem. The official opposition is trying to take the territory backwards. This government is taking the territory forward, as we should. Thatís why we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Thatís why our population is increasing. Thatís why there is finally a sense of optimism in this territory. Thatís why we are conducting the Childrenís Act review, education reform and correctional reform. Thatís why there is more investment in an improved health care system. Thatís why weíre improving our education system. Thatís why weíre strengthening our social fabric.
Weíre taking the territory forward; the NDP wants to take it backwards ó not this government.
Mr. Fairclough: The Yukon Party is putting the cart before the horse. What weíre asking them to do is back up and consult with Yukoners. Whatís wrong with that? P3s thrive on secrecy, just like this Yukon Party government. Itís no surprise that they would hold off on the request for proposals for the Dawson bridge until after the House closes. We asked the minister responsible to table the request for proposals, and we were told that it was privileged and confidential. In their first attempt to develop P3 policies, what happens with Yukoners? They come last. So my question is, after the bids are open and the government realizes that P3s donít provide value for money, will the Premier make the proposals and the evaluations public in their entirety and then announce that YTG, the Yukon government, wonít be proceeding with a P3 policy for the public infrastructure?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me point out that when the member alludes to putting the cart before the horse, itís clear in this case that the government is putting a horse on the cart so we can pull it forward. When it comes to secrecy, the request for qualifications on this very pilot project were a public document. If the members think itís a secret, well I can tell you what the secret is. They know not where to pick these up. Let me help them. Any territorial agent would be more than accommodating to assist the official opposition in this process.
Furthermore, the government has committed to make the business case on any public/private partnership and thatís exactly what weíll do, and weíll do it in the public domain like weíve done everything else during our mandate in the undertakings that this government has proceeded with ó building a better quality of life for Yukoners. Ask ourselves today: is Yukon better off today than we were in November 2002? The evidence is clear. Yes, we are. Weíre going to continue taking this territory forward.
Question re: Kwanlin Dun First Nation, memorandum of understanding
Mr. Cardiff: Over two years ago, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The memorandum of understanding stated that the Yukon government agreed to work with Kwanlin Dun First Nation ďin a spirit of cooperation and partnership with the establishment of a replacement correctional facility to be located within the traditional territory of Kwanlin Dun.Ē
Will the minister update us on the progress of the commitment in this memorandum of understanding?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite knows very well that thereís a correctional consultation process ó correctional reform ó that is presently ongoing. Until that is completed, any agreements with anyone will be on hold.
Mr. Cardiff: Here we go again. Thereís the horse before the cart, obviously ó MOUs that go nowhere, promises of financial resources to engage in consultations that vanish. The agreement has been dropped without any discussion or negotiation.
The commitments made by this government are not worth the paper theyíre printed on. Itís a lot of talk and no action, and itís a slap in the face for Yukon First Nations.
When did the Premier advise Kwanlin Dun First Nation that he would not be honouring the commitments he made in that MOU?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is a significant moment in this Assembly. The member opposite has just alluded to the fact that the land claims agreements are worthless. This government is following the land claim agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, which speaks to ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, Standing Order 19(g) says that a member shall be called to order by the Speaker if the member imputes false or unavowed motives to another member. The Premier clearly said that our position was the land claims agreements are worthless. That is totally incorrect.
Speaker: Honourable government House leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I do not interpret it that way. The Standing Orders have not been called into question here. What it is is a dispute among members, solely on interpretation of the Premier setting out the facts.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that what I heard in the exchange ó and I would invite you to review the Blues ó was that the Member for Mount Lorne indicated that promises such as the memorandum of understanding were not worth the paper they were printed on. The Premier stood up and made reference to land claims and suggested that this member to my right here had ascribed motives to them, saying that they were calling the land claims agreements worthless. That is ascribing motives to something that all members ó itís legislation we uphold. That would be akin to suggesting that the Umbrella Final Agreement or land claims, which are the law of the land ó that someone doesnít support the law of the land is akin to suggesting theyíre breaking the law, Mr. Speaker, ascribing motives. So I would invite you to review the Blues on this particular matter.
Speaker: Hon. Premier, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I am compelled to get involved in this debate. The memorandum of understanding signed with Kwanlin Dun First Nation ó
Speaker: Hon. Premier, this is a point of order, not a debate.
Obviously, there is quite a dispute among members here. So I am going to ask you to allow the Chair to review the Blues, and I will report to you immediately upon that review. Who has the floor now?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Youíve got about 10 seconds left.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím finishing my answer, Mr. Speaker. The land claim obligates us to enter into the memorandum of understanding. The memorandum of understanding speaks to exactly what our obligations are under the claim itself. It speaks to broader consultation with all Yukoners. It speaks to correctional reform, and thatís what this government is undertaking. This government does not believe in putting people with FASD in jail and them being part of the recidivism rate. This government does not believe in a system that has a recidivism rate of over 80 percent. This government has the view that it is time to fix the system because it needs fixing. Thatís what weíre doing.
Mr. Cardiff: The progress to date on the memorandum of understanding is absolutely zilch. The minister admitted it in the House on April 28. Read the Blues.
If this is an example of government-to-government relations that this government is boasting about, itís a sad fact. Maybe the Premier can tell us something more about the memorandum of understanding.
In the press release that was issued along with the memorandum of understanding, he said that they were committed to working with Yukon First Nations to make them full partners in the life of the territory. He also said that it was a concrete example of their commitment to working with First Nations with a view to reducing barriers to social and economic development and providing cost-effective government. Not one commitment made in that memorandum of understanding has been honoured by the government. Will the Premier clarify how scrapping the memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun First Nation helps to make First Nations full partners and reduces their barriers to social and economic development?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Does the member opposite not understand what correctional reform is all about? Hereís the next secret to the NDP. The NDP does not know what correctional reform is or what itís doing. Itís a secret to them. But itís not a secret to the First Nations. Theyíre in partnership with this government right now conducting correctional reform, which will lead to improvements in our corrections system, lead to improvements in our social fabric to address issues upstream instead of when we have to incarcerate people, and it will lead to a new facility. Weíre doing our work in partnership with First Nations, not in isolation like the members opposite who are continuing to work in secrecy.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad feasibility study
†Mr. Hardy: I have another question for the Premier. After the current sitting of the Legislature opened, the Premier revealed his plans to sign an agreement with the Governor of Alaska that will cost Yukon taxpayers approximately $3 million. That money is not in the budget the Premier tabled on March 24. Does the Premier intend to table a supplementary budget for that expenditure before the House adjourns next week?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: What the government will do is follow the Financial Administration Act and all statutes, policies and regulations that we must, including the guidelines of the public service accounting group.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have committed to make an investment. When we have a need to invest the money, whatever it may be, we will follow those guidelines. There is no secret here, nor is there anything untoward here. This is government doing government business, and thatís exactly what we intend to carry out.
We donít need a supplementary here today or in this sitting. We can do this by our own processes that are in place today and have always been there. However, this government has dramatically improved how we use those processes through investment.
Mr. Hardy: $3 million of taxpayersí money ó and did you listen to that answer? Now, the money isnít in the main estimates. The previous response implies that there wonít be a supplementary budget. The only other way the Premier can pay for the deal he negotiated single-handedly and in secret with Governor Murkowski is through a special warrant.
Section 19 of the Financial Administration Act permits the use of a special warrant only when the House isnít sitting and where the money is urgently and immediately required for the public good. Will the Premier explain, so Yukon people can understand it, why this $3-million expenditure is so urgently and immediately required for the public good, yet he refuses to seek legislative authority for it while the House is sitting?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Who said it was urgently required? Nobody said itís urgently required. Weíre investing in Yukonís future. To date, the Alaskans are going to undertake an investment. I know this is foreign to members opposite ó the future. As weíve already alluded to, they want to take the Yukon backward. Weíre not.
Now, Mr. Speaker, letís talk about investment. This is approximately a $3-million investment in Yukonís future vis-ŗ-vis infrastructure. Letís look at what the NDP invested in. They invested $4 million more for diesel instead of using hydro. They invested in the Energy Solutions Centre ó millions more in cost to taxpayers. They invested in the Mayo-Dawson inter-tie ó millions more in cost to taxpayers. They started the financial downward spiral in Dawson City ó millions more in cost to taxpayers.
This government will let Yukoners judge who makes the better investment on their behalf: the Yukon Party government or the members opposite, with the history they have in managing Yukonís finances.
Mr. Hardy: Unbelievable, Mr. Speaker ó he canít defend his actions so what does he do? He points to the past. Thatís the kind of premier we have before us today.
The Premier is also the Minister of Finance. He is personally responsible for making sure all the departments of this government uphold the Financial Administration Act. Itís sad that I have to remind him of that. Iím going to put the Premier on notice right now. If he waits until this sitting ends and uses a special warrant to authorize this unwarranted expenditure, I will personally ask the Auditor General of Canada to look into this matter.
If the Auditor General determines that using a special warrant in these circumstances is against the spirit of the letter of the Financial Administration Act, will the Premier resign his position as Minister of Finance?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, we need not even go there. This government will never contravene the Financial Administration Act. But letís look at this governmentís financial management. Letís look at the fact that the NDP governments were bringing in annual deficits. Our booked year-end shows a year-end surplus. Letís look at the third partyís financial management. In 2002, the Yukon government was borrowing money to deliver programs and services to Yukoners. Not today, Mr. Speaker. We are showing some $64 million in accumulated surplus. Mr. Speaker, we need not say much more on the matter of financial management. Weíll let Yukoners judge our management compared to the members oppositeís management.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to inform the Assembly that in the interest of expediting debate on the budget, I do not wish to call any item standing in the name of the third party for Wednesday, May 11, 2005.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, we have the same position.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 56: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 56, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Hart.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Official opposition House leader, on a question of privilege.
Question of privilege
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I rise pursuant to Standing Order 7(2) of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly on a question of privilege.
For the membersí benefit, I will read the section: ďA member may always raise a question of privilege in the Assembly immediately after the words are spoken or the events occur that give rise to the question.Ē
Mr. Speaker, I respectfully submit that dealing with these bills now is a complete waste of House time.
Standing Order 76 provides the appropriate time to deal with these bills. That time has been designated between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the final day of this sitting. Thatís only next Tuesday. These bills can wait until then. The government House leader this morning indicated they would be calling division on each one of the votes for each of these three bills. This will cause the bells to ring for five minutes in each instance. This will consume about one-half hour of valuable time that would otherwise be used to examine the budget, which is the largest ever in Yukon history and needs a lot of examination. As stated at the outset, this exercise will result in a waste of this Houseís time.
Mr. Speaker, if and when you choose to respond to this question of privilege, I also request you to examine the Standing Orders and indicate whether they are adequate to deal with our concern and, if not, how they might be amended to accommodate such matters.
Finally, I would also ask the government to stand down these bills and letís deal with them next Tuesday and letís get on to the business of the House in the interests of the people this afternoon.
Speaker: Honourable government House leader, on the question of privilege.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the question of privilege that the member opposite is speaking to, a question of privilege doesnít exist on this issue. The Standing Orders of the House are very clear: in the event that bills are not into second reading and have not cleared the House, the guillotine will drop on the final day of the sitting. The number of sitting days is very specific this sitting, given that at House leadersí we could not reach an agreement. It was my position for this sitting and the previous sitting that the sitting be a minimum of 40 days given the amount of time that was needed to debate the largest budget ever. What we have here is an example of the official opposition and the third party not being able to budget their time correctly and not being able to review what has to be done in a forthright manner. What we have here is the third party giving up their motion day tomorrow, as well as the official opposition giving up their motion day tomorrow, so we can expedite the business of the House, which they are completely entitled to do.
That said, the issue before us is third and final reading of three very important pieces of legislation, one being the restoration act for Dawson. The members opposite are saying they donít want to see that debate continue.
Mr. Speaker, we have other amendments and miscellaneous statute amendments as well as a supplementary to close off the fiscal year just passed. Everything is clearly outlined at House leadersí meetings; it wasnít agreed to but thatís usually the case at House leadersí meetings. Itís very difficult to get the official opposition to agree with anything.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the question of privilege.
Ms. Duncan: I do believe I can also address the question of privilege, given that I have been mentioned by the House leader for the Yukon Party.
First of all, there is the question of privilege in that this matter had been raised by the House leader for the NDP as soon as it occurred. The fact is, in our Standing Orders of the House, there is a time when this matter is called: itís the third and final reading of bills. That is done from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the last sitting day.
There is no urgency that this be done today. It will make no difference because, in fact, after third reading, the bill has to be signed and come into force in any event.
So the member of the Yukon Party suggesting that the guillotine clause ó as itís referred to ó would drop is not in fact correct. These bills have passed second reading. They are due to come for third reading. They will come during the normal process of business.
This is an attempt by the Yukon Party to say no, weíre going to do it today. Why? Miscellaneous statute amendments have waited for quite some time.
There are a number of points raised by the Yukon Party with respect to House leadersí meetings. These House leadersí meeting disputes of ďhe said-she saidĒ ó the Member for Klondike insists that he always wanted a longer sitting. As I understand the facts, having been in attendance at those meetings, they are completely different.
The other point is that the task of House leadersí meetings is to reach agreement as to the order of business. The task of House leaders is not to be dictated to by anybody. Itís to reach agreement among House leaders to expedite the business of the House.
So, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker ó if I might have a small bit of latitude from you ó that in considering this question of privilege, you also consider a recommendation concerning House leaders and begin the process of legislative renewal by House leaders seeking to get along with one another. Perhaps we could indeed expedite the business of the House. Itís just that the impossible ó i.e. the House leaders getting along ó takes a little bit longer.
Speaker: As the members well know, the Chair has no jurisdiction in the House leadersí meetings, nor would any Chair in his right mind want any jurisdiction in the House leadersí meetings.
The official opposition House leader has not raised a question of privilege. Also, he has not raised a point of order, as the Standing Orders clearly permit the government to call the business standing in its name in the order it wishes. Also, it is not within the purview of the Speaker to make recommendations respecting the Standing Orders. That is the responsibility of the House.
We will now proceed with the motion for third reading of Bill No. 56.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to speak to Bill No. 56, the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, at third reading, on the issue of governance and accountability in Dawson City, Yukon.
After this government was elected to office and we became more informed about the state of Dawsonís finances, we recognized just how mired in debt the city had become.
Simply stated, the previous governments bungled this file. In concert with the former Liberal candidate, the Mayor of Dawson, and with some other city officials, they ignored Dawsonís financial health and allowed the situation to spiral out of control.
This pattern of mismanagement continued up to and included yesterday when they voted against the bill. At some point the members opposite must recognize the severity of the situation. Their comments, including those in the Chamber yesterday, indicate to me that they do not yet realize just how bad the situation in Dawson is, in large part because previous administrations pumped money into projects with little or no accountability.
The Member for Porter Creek South complained that this government would not find the extra money from our tremendous resources to assist Dawson for forgiving their debt. The previous Liberal administration could have granted this money, but instead loaned the money. They turned on YTGís money geysers to the town with little or no accountability. Many Yukoners have wondered if it is only coincidence, given that the previous mayor had not been a Liberal candidate in the two recent elections. Perhaps just like the cart and the federal Liberal ó
Speaker: Order please. Iím going to ask the honourable minister to retract that statement. That was imputing motives to the leader of the third party. That was inappropriate. Please retract that.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Hart: I retract that statement.
Speaker: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Hart: One of the issues is that the previous administration, as we indicated, put plenty of cash in the municipality basically without proper supervision. Writing another cheque will not solve the problem. The problem is accountability. This act addresses that concern. One of the reasons this act is required is because of the cavalier attitude the municipal government took toward procedural issues.
Members opposite complained that this preamble is unnecessary because it points the finger. The members opposite have indicated that they want to see something that is fair and equitable to other municipalities. This act is specific to Dawson, because they are the ones who have erred. Suggesting that the act is unfair is an insult to the prudent and wise decisions made by other municipalities. Other Yukon communities of a similar size or in a similar region like Mayo have successfully managed their finances without being bailed out by the Yukon government. The careful and considered approach taken by their mayors and councils stands in contrast to the unhealthy approach taken by the previous administration in Dawson. Glossing over the financial numbers and the forensic auditorís words and minimizing the circumstances that bring us to this debate today is, to me, most unfair ó especially to other municipalities who have made sacrifices in order to stay within their budgetary boundaries.
I also think itís unfair to other Yukon municipalities, mayors, councillors and taxpayers to minimize the enormity of the errors that happened in Dawson City. I also feel that it is unfair to paint all Dawson municipal officials with the same brush. In 1998, Dawson had $2.2 million in reserves, $2 million in cash in the bank, and a debt of just approximately $1 million. Since then, the town has spent in excess of $20 million on projects and initiatives, including the relocation of the fire hall, improvements to the swimming pool, recreation centre, and secondary sewage treatment, which never really basically got off the ground.
The town had already exceeded its lending limits for borrowing under the Municipal Act, a limit that was twice extended ó once for $1.2 million to install cable TV and the second time in October 2000 when the former government authorized the city to borrow $4.46 million to refinance an earlier debt owed to the Yukon government and to construct the recreation centre.
I might add that the CFA was approved for an amount that was a little less than $2 million of the actual bid to build that recreation centre. The Yukon government had already financed and assisted the City of Dawson with $10.4 million in a capital funding agreement, which included $5.6 million toward the recreation centre and $4.8 million toward sewage treatment.
Acting on recommendations of the second supervisor and taking action to address the financial crisis that faced Dawson in April 2004, I appointed a trustee replacing the Dawson City council to take control of the situation before it could get any worse. We wanted to assure the residents that the day-to-day operations and the business of the city would continue under a trustee and to inform them that the City of Dawson was essentially bankrupt. A trustee was appointed to find a way to turn the financial situation around and to get a handle on the cityís spending for the benefit of all Yukon taxpayers.
With a trustee in place over the last year, and the forensic audit now complete, we are now in a better position to make decisions on how we proceed from here. Mr. Speaker, future candidates for city council in Dawson and the citizens of Dawson need the assurance that measures are in place to ensure long-term financial stability and to establish a solid foundation for good governance in that municipality.
This legislation is one of the tools that give the people of Dawson the things they need to help rebuild the financial situation and stability for their community. We have installed a seasoned, highly experienced, well-respected trustee to manage their affairs while we sort out the situation. We have put in place a procedure that ensures Dawsonís finances are open and accountable.
Weíre working with the trustee to develop a long-term financial plan. Weíre working with the people of Dawson to consolidate their debt to improve their ability to service it.
The finding of the forensic audit, the financial plan for the municipality and this piece of legislation will help to reinforce accountability and good governance in the municipality.
Our actions demonstrate our commitment to working with Dawson to restore the town to a place where they can hold elections. Our goal is a municipal election this fall.
Mr. Cardiff: We put our position about Bill No. 56 on the record yesterday. Iíd just like to say a few words. I still have to point out that weíre uncomfortable with the preamble. Itís pretty hard-hitting. It definitely points the finger at individuals in the community of Dawson, and I donít feel that itís necessary to do that. The legislation is designed to enable the municipality of Dawson to get on with municipal elections and to get back to a duly elected democratic government to govern the municipal affairs.
The bill also provides for quite a bit of oversight by the minister in the affairs of the community. Iíd like to point out as well that this government has had two and a half years to put this right, and it has taken them that long ó two and a half years ó to come this far.
When they came to power, there was a supervisor in place, and they could have expanded or changed the terms of reference for that supervisor and gotten to the bottom of this a lot sooner. They were also working on financial plans at that point in time. What happened to those financial plans? The minister could have moved to correct things in Dawson City a lot sooner.
They were also working on financial plans at that point in time. What happened to those financial plans? The minister could have moved to correct things in Dawson City a lot sooner.
That being said, weíre still not in support of the bill for the reasons stated yesterday, and we wonít be voting for it.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to address the bill at third reading ó Bill No. 56. Interesting comments from the minister: I note that all the members of the Yukon Party thoroughly enjoyed them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. The leader of the third party has the floor.
Ms. Duncan: So much for legislative renewal. The Yukon Party has sunk to new lows today.
The legislation has a new low in it as well, in the preamble. Preambles are not required in legislation. To viciously attack individuals and to put it in law is wrong. The heavy hand of this legislation is remarkable. I just point to one instance: the City of Dawson, as a municipality, came to the Yukon government. They came with an agreement in hand. They came with their rec centre torn down, a number of other issues on the go, projects undertaken, and an existing capital financing agreement ó issues long-standing for many years. They came to the then government. They were treated with respect. The question that was before us as a government was: tell them to wait, give them the money, or seek ways to find money.
We did not have the financial options to simply outright give them the money. We increased the loan, despite the Member for Klondike going on ad nauseam, insisting that we should ride in with a heavy hand and immediately seize the keys without the evidence being there.
Letís fast-forward to the Yukon Party government being in place, and the City of Whitehorse comes to them with a rec centre half-built, huge financial resources at their disposal ó what do they do? They found the money, just like that. They had the money and they found it: different treatments for different people and different municipalities. To single out a municipality such as this legislation does ó because the government couldnít or wouldnít take the time to consult with the balance of the municipalities, has abundant financial resources to embark upon projects of the Premier that havenít even been to Cabinet yet to seek financing, yet canít work with other municipalities and other governments ó is not strong government-to-government relationships and itís not strong leadership.
Then to not only write legislation and insist upon its passage ó and the legislation is a heavy hand, a debtorsí prison, and it is shackles for anyone who seeks office ó and then to insist upon its third reading in the manner that was presented by the minister, the best description is malicious, Mr. Speaker, and I find that truly unfortunate.
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Thereís no need for a point of order. The terminology the leader of the third party is using is out of order, and Iíd ask the member not to use that, please.
Ms. Duncan: Fine, Mr. Speaker, I will not use it.
I do not support the legislation, and I do not support the manner in which the legislation has been done or presented.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † Iím very uncomfortable with the position taken by the official opposition and the third party with respect to this bill.
This bill is specific to Dawson City, the community that I have represented one way or the other for almost 25 years. Mr. Speaker, I do have an understanding, I do have a background in municipal finance, and let us just take some of the information that we have been provided with and contrast it to what happened in, letís say, Whitehorse and Dawson with respect to a recreational facility.
Whitehorse, the multiplex: they were over budget when it went to tender. Before the award, Whitehorse came to the Government of Yukon. It was $4 million over; Whitehorse agreed to find $2 million and the Government of Yukon provided $2 million ó before the contract was awarded to construct the building. Letís contrast that to Dawson.
The contract is awarded, and they donít have enough money. They come to the Yukon government, and what are we going to do? The Government of Yukon of the day had two choices: they could do nothing or they could loan or grant them the money. The Government of Yukon had the financial resources at the time, given that the accumulated surplus was some $76 million, and they chose to loan the community the money.
We contrast that to Whitehorse, which has a 20,000 population; Dawson has less than 2,000 ó 10 times the population base, with the need for capital in Dawson almost twice that of Whitehorse. You know, that shows a complete lack of understanding of the financial capabilities of the respective communities to debt-service an obligation.
The obligation of the community to debt-service is of critical importance. Once you exceed three percent of your total assessment, youíre into difficulties, youíre into problems, because you canít do it.
Now, virtually everyone in this room, at one time or another, has gone to the bank for a loan, either to buy a vehicle or to buy a home. You look at it, and the bank has a net worth. They take into consideration your assets and your income. They have a factor in there for how much they will loan you, based on your ability to debt-service, so that amount doesnít exceed 30 percent of your income ó if you want to use the example of a home ó for the acquisition of that home. A home is usually the largest single acquisition that anyone makes in their lifetime, and itís the largest debt load that anyone carries.
Weíre fortunate here in the Yukon that the economy is returning under our watch to the vibrant position it used to be in. Weíre fortunate that the Yukon government has a handle on the finances of the Yukon, and weíre fortunate that weíve restored investor confidence. Weíre seeing a resurgence in our mining, forestry and construction sectors. Weíre also seeing an increase in the population ó approximately 1,200 since we came to power. Weíve created approximately 2,000 new jobs ó the Yukon Party government. Weíre seeing the second lowest unemployment rate in Canada here in the Yukon. Thatís never happened before on anyoneís watch.
That clearly demonstrates that this government knows what itís doing. It has put in place the proper procedures and has the resources at hand to move this economy forward. But then we focus on Dawson.
It went into a debt spiral that was unprecedented in any other community in the Yukon ó totally unprecedented. You only have to look at the budget of the municipal government, which is about $4.5 million, and it hasnít really changed significantly over the years. What has changed is the amount of the budget that is spent on administration and overhead and costs incurred by the duly elected council on things like travel, entertainment and the like. That has gone through the roof.
Under the Liberal governmentís watch, it went completely out of control. What it demonstrates is that the government of the day, the Liberal government of the day, failed to recognize the signs and understand the issues and made a political decision to supply money by way of a loan when they could have provided that money by way of a grant.
Now, the suggestion coming from the leader of the third party is that we should forgive that loan or we should turn it into a grant. Weíre hearing that from the official opposition. One only has to look at the entire Yukon ó there are quite a number of duly elected councils here in the Yukon and they have to be appropriately recognized for doing their homework, working within their budgets, working within their bylaws, not spending beyond their means and addressing their responsibilities as duly elected officials.
If Dawson were to be singled out for an outright grant to forgive all their indebtedness, what message would that send to all the other Yukon municipalities? Mr. Speaker, I share it with you: the message that would be sent to all other Yukon municipalities would be that you really donít have to control your spending, you really donít have to watch your projects, you really donít have to do anything other than spend money because, if you overspend, the Government of Yukon will come to your rescue, bail you out and give you whatever money is needed to bail you out. Thatís a heck of a fine message. Itís not a message that I would at all be comfortable sending to anyone.
The issue is effective, proper government at the municipal level. What this bill does is allow Dawson to be restored to a self-governing municipality within the confines of three parameters, one being a procedural bylaw as to how council meetings can operate and how they conduct themselves, minutes have to be taken, and accounts payable have to be brought forward for consideration of all members of council, which wasnít being done. The other one ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, the Member for Klondike made all these points yesterday. It is a waste of time listening to them all again today. As mentioned in my question of privilege, there are more pressing matters to deal with, and the government House leader apparently has no compunction about getting on with the publicís business. He wants to stand up and wile away the time, talking about the good old days in Dawson City and how it should pay back its loans while he doesnít pay back his.
Speaker: † Obviously, there is no point of order. You have the floor, Minister of Environment.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Now, Mr. Speaker, before I was rudely interrupted, ó
Speaker: Order please. That is a characterization ó will the honourable minister please sit down. That characterization has been ruled out of order before. We all understand that, and I would ask the member not to use it. You have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, before I was interrupted, I was addressing the issue of the third reading of the bill that will restore elected governance to my community, Dawson City. The second area that the minister will also be addressing is an indemnity bylaw that spells out how travel can be controlled, remunerations, and the fact that these all have to be documented and approved and budgeted for by council ó the same as is done in any other Yukon municipality ó and those rules have to be adhered to and followed.
Further to that, Mr. Speaker, the issue of debt restructuring, possible debt interest elimination or reduction, is an issue that the minister can address. Well, when you couple all these areas together, you look at the government having to hire another firm of accountants to go in and put the financial house back in order ó and probably a lot of prior period adjustments will be necessitated ó because the financial statements currently in place for the last fiscal year, which was the 2003-04 fiscal year, do not accurately reflect what has transpired within the municipality.
So there is going to have to be a lot of prior period adjustments, and then a projection has to be put together as to the forecasting of the cityís revenues, expenditures and undertakings, and thatís going to take an effort. The minister has also addressed this with the appointment of a very capable and trusted trustee who has the respect of the community. In fact, the message that has been conveyed to me by a great number of my constituents is: ďYou know, itís working pretty good with the trustee in place. Why not just leave the trustee? We trust him. We didnít trust our previous elected council.Ē Well, Mr. Speaker, there is a lot to be said for credibility, and the credibility has to be re-established. Thatís going to take time.
The trustee is respected for his understanding of the issues, his openness at meetings to convey to the general population of the community what is transpiring. This bill will ensure a smooth transition back to an elected council. Iím sure, on reflection ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, a moment ago, I heard the Member for Klondike relate something someone told him, where he said that that person did not trust the elected council in Dawson City. Now, I canít locate it in the House rules, but I seem to recall ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: If the Member for Lake Laberge thinks itís funny, he can get up and respond, but please allow me to have the floor.
I seem to recall that there are rules preventing us from slandering people in the public who arenít able to be in this Assembly to defend themselves. The Member for Klondike identified the previous council. We all know who the mayor and councillors were, so I would suggest that the Member for Klondike has slandered those people who are not here to defend themselves. He should be called to order for doing that.
Speaker: The Member for Lake Laberge, on the point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Since the Member for Kluane seemed to request that I get up on a point of order, there is no point of order. The Member for Klondike was not stating a fact; he was merely expressing the views brought forward to him by a constituent, which is his duty as an MLA. There is no point of order; there is merely a dispute among members.
Speaker: I presume you will allow me to consult with my Table Officers.
After consulting with the Table Officers, the conclusion is that there is no point of order; however, having said that, every member in this House should be very cognizant of the fact that when you mention others who are not here, you should do so very carefully. You have the floor, Minister of the Environment.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would encourage the member opposite, and the members in the official opposition, to caucus surrounding this issue. After theyíve analyzed what this bill does and what its purpose is and what effect it will have, I think they will do nothing but agree with it. I guess the question that has to be answered, which has yet to be answered, is by the third party as to why, given the severe financial situation that Dawson was in, they chose to loan them the money instead of granting them the money. Now at this juncture, under the Yukon Party watch, the leader of the third party is now suggesting that the debt be written off or forgiven. That opportunity was presented to the previous Liberal government. They didnít take that course of action.
But it is just another in a litany of errors and areas that the Liberal government failed to address, whether it be the cost overruns on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, the Energy Solutions Centre, the issue surrounding the financing of Dawson and the failure to recognize the situation that was arising in the community and not addressing them, Mr. Speaker.
This government has had to undertake a lot of initiatives, quite a number of audits, to clean up a number of very poor financial decisions and very poor decisions made by the previous Liberal administration. I can understand that. Their focus was on government renewal, whatever that meant. It was under our watch that we had to restore the Department of Economic Development; the Womenís Directorate; a stand-alone Department of Tourism, a department that was hidden; and a stand-alone Department of Highways and Public Works. That is just some of the very good work that our government has undertaken, where it has come right up to the plate and addressed our responsibilities, and we have moved forward.
Mr. Speaker, I could probably go on for the rest of the day on what has happened in Dawson City and what it is going to take to restore democracy and elected council to that community. There is not a complete appetite, as I have said earlier, for a full elected council yet. In fact, the residents in my community are very satisfied with the work being undertaken by the trustee and his committee.
Mr. Speaker, this bill was dealt with extensively by our caucus, and the Minister of Community Services spent an inordinate amount of time wrestling with the implications of how best to restore an elected council to the community and encumber it with the least restrictions.
This is the way it was done. This is the way it has moved forward. I would encourage the members opposite to analyze this piece of legislation because theyíll find it specific to Dawson. It addresses the issues in a forthright, simplistic manner so that it will see an elected council formed in the not-too-distant future. It has a sunset clause. In five years this act will no longer be in place.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would just like to add a few comments with regard to this bill. As a newly elected MLA a couple of years ago, I had no previous knowledge of anything that was going on in Dawson. As I said, I was a newly elected person, and all of these unfinished issues started to surface. A lot of them had to do with Dawson, and they were very difficult issues to resolve. There were a number of third parties requesting payment for monies owed to them, pressuring the government for payment. There were looming threats of court challenges for monies unpaid and jobs incomplete. It was like there was real chaos with regard to a number of projects in Dawson. As a newly elected person, I looked at all of these and couldnít help but question how anything could have gotten into such a financial state.
Today, with the knowledge I do have of the issues, I do support some of the statements made today with regard to the previous government maybe not watching these different projects as closely as they should have and ensuring that the projects were being completed on budget, on time.†
It appears there was a lack of supervision over that portion of the projects that were being done in Dawson. I believe in going forward. I think this is all history. Itís all history that has happened in Dawson. I can sympathize with all the elected officials who were involved with it.
However, I think what is most important here is to move forward. I believe that the Minister of Community Services and his staff worked very, very long and hard hours to come to the point of dealing with this issue in the best possible way. I commend them on all the work they have done and the respect they had for everyone that was involved with this whole issue in Dawson.
In my opinion, I believe that if either of the opposition parties were in government today, they would have to mirror something like this bill is offering today because it wouldnít be good government just to walk away from everything and not put something in place to prevent it from happening again.
So I encourage the opposition parties to really reconsider and support this bill.
Speaker: If the honourable member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I thank all members for their comments with respect to this act. I would like to follow up on a couple of issues that were brought forward by members opposite.
I would like to stress that we followed the process under the Municipal Act with respect to the supervisor. In fact, we enhanced the supervisorís authority that was in place from 2001 to try to get a better handle on the situation and try to assist the town in this process.
We worked with the mayor and council, along with the supervisor, trying to work around the situation with the City of Dawson. I made several trips to Dawson. I met with council and the public on several issues on that particular side. In the end, I had to appoint a trustee ó again, under the process provided in the Municipal Act.
I donít believe that I would have done it under any other condition other than the fact they were bankrupt. We could not go in there any sooner than we did. We had to wait until the situation was something that we could deal with in the appropriate manner under the Municipal Act, and weíre doing that. I would also like to say that we want to go forward with Dawson City. We believe this act is important to assist them in going forward, along with the development of their financial plan. I would like to move forward to assist them to help elect a new council in Dawson City.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
†Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, 6 nay.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 56 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 56 has passed this House.
Bill No. 55: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 55, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 55, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 55, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act that corrects a number of minor areas in various statutes. The amendments correct problems that occurred after some of the acts were revised in 2002. One amendment corrects an inconsistency in working between one section of an act and another. Another amendment deals with the revision of an act that occurred during devolution. All the amendments are minor and do not reflect policy changes.
Mr. Speaker, as I am sure this House realizes that acts like this one are occasionally necessary in order to correct certain problems that were overlooked at the time of drafting. I would like the support of this House to make these corrections. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, this is just housekeeping, and we recognize that they are minor changes, and there is no reason to belabour this.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, we have 16 yea, nil nay.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 55 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 55 has passed this House.
Bill No. 13: Third Reading
Clerk: Bill No. 13, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 13, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 13, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now read a third time and do pass. Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, six nay.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 13 agreed to
††††††† Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 13 has passed this House.
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 this afternoon is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. I understand that we are going to continue with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: There has been disagreement expressed about having a recess. There is no provision in our Standing Orders to take a recess; therefore, we require unanimous consent of the Committee to take a recess.
There is not unanimous consent; therefore, we are unable to recess.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó continued
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures ó continued
On Sustainable Resources ó continued
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to re-engage with the minister. When we left debate yesterday, we were discussing land and land availability, the combination of the ministries involved, and the issues before Yukoners. Of course, the issues are residential land inside and outside of municipalities, hamlets and unincorporated communities, and also the availability of land for cottage lots.
Now Iím pleased to note that in the past I had suggested to the minister that he have a mediator in cases of dispute, and he advised me that he had followed up on that suggestion and a mediator had been employed, that suggestion was working, and I thank the minister for following up on that.
Iím very concerned about this issue. Weíre in the lands line on page 8-9, as I understand it. Itís a $2-million expenditure by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Weíre not talking about land disposition for resources; that will come later in the mining and the oil and gas sections. Weíre talking about land for Yukoners. The issue with land development ó in municipalities, itís a different minister responsible. However, with the land availability or not in municipalities, the problem becomes that the pressure increases on the areas outside of Whitehorse in particular. Of course, there is also that long-held dream by many Yukoners to some day be able to own a piece of land by one of our beautiful Yukon lakes, be it in the Southern Lakes area or anywhere else, but by one of our Yukon lakes.
Devolution enabled the government to have the three levels of governments involved. To a large degree, we are able to dispense with going to Ottawa as we used to, cap in hand for our money, cap in hand for land. Now Yukon has the responsibility. Itís incumbent upon the Yukon government to not only seize the opportunity but the responsibility and ensure that processes are fair, open and that Yukoners are aware of them, that itís not just a ďI happened to be by the land office because I have been waiting to get a lot forever and three daysĒ, but that everybody has an equal and fair opportunity and that weíre cognizant, of course, of land claims and the land that has been selected by the self-governing First Nations and those still in negotiation.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Mount Lorne and I were just discussing it prior to this. This is the turnabout of the protected areas strategy argument. That was all about Yukoners rolling up their sleeves and saying, ďWhat land in this territory do we protect for future generations?Ē This issue is all about Yukoners rolling up their sleeves and saying, ďWhat kind of Yukon are we going to live in? Whatís it going to look like? Where are we going to live? Where are we going to work? Where are we going to play?Ē So the answer Iím seeking from the minister is: Iím concerned about the spot land applications while theyíre working on this policy; Iím concerned about what cottage lots might be made available in the coming year, as there was nothing about them in the budget that I can recall; and how we are going to get land available for all Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to clarify a few points on some of the issues around land. The leader of the third party in her preamble on the questions ó I find it interesting that in the other debates we were having with the other minister, she was requesting us to shut down the expansion of the lots south of Whitehorse that the minister, in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse, is opening up, the 105 lots. So that is the argument.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister said that I was, during debate earlier ó and I believe he means Question Period ó arguing that the government shut down expansion of 110 lots. Thatís ascribing motives to me, and in fact that is outside of our Standing Orders.
The point in Question Period was the accountability for election promises on that particular development, not shutting it down.
Chair: There is no point of order. Thereís a dispute between members.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I bring that up because of the question about land in the Yukon. We have opportunities out there for land and we have parties who are averse to having land development in their area. That is how these discussions get going on how we manage the land for all Yukoners.
Of course, we in Energy, Mines and Resources are working vigorously to support planned land development that will make residential, agricultural and recreational lands available, understanding weíve only had this responsibility for the last 30 months. We are working on this issue and we are working in conjunction with Community Services, which is responsible for planned land development in Yukon.
I want to clarify that there are different processes in place for planned land development versus spot land applications. For planned lot development, Energy, Mines and Resources works closely with the Department of Community Services to provide planned land for residential, agricultural and recreational purposes. Itís worth noting that there are planned country residential lots available throughout the Yukon ó in Carmacks, Dawson City, Faro, Mayo and Watson Lake. There is a shortage of rural residential lots in the Whitehorse periphery and we are working to address this demand. These planned land development processes are designed to ensure that there is ample opportunity for the public to participate and make their views known.
On spot land policy, in the two years since devolution, Energy, Mines and Resources has been working to improve the spot land policy that was in place under DIAND. These spot land applications occurred when an individual makes an application for land. These applications are generally site-specific, stand-alone proposals for land in undeveloped or hinterland areas.
Now the public review process through LARC, the Land Application Review Committee, considers spot applications as well as other land applications to ensure the interests of the applicants are properly balanced with the interests of other governments and area residents. The LARC process is open and transparent. All the applications that come before LARC are advertised publicly, along with the date on which LARC will consider them. The public has an opportunity to make their views known through the LARC process.
As far as recreational lots are concerned, we also appreciate that Yukoners want opportunity to acquire land for recreational purposes. We are also working with our colleagues in Community Services, and with First Nation governments, to identify opportunities for Yukoners to acquire land for recreational purposes.
In closing, Energy, Mines and Resources works closely with Community Services to find land available for planning outside the city limits. Community Services works closely with community groups to undertake planning, manage zoning regulations in rural Yukon, and administrate subdivisions outside Whitehorse and Dawson City.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the ministerís response read into the record and thank the officials for preparing it. My concern is that thereís opportunity for the public to have input at the LARC phase, the Land Application Review Committee. And ALARC, the Agricultural Land Application Review Committee, was mentioned yesterday.
My concern is: where does the public fit at the initial stages of this process? The minister said that they are working vigorously on making land available. Well, how does the Yukoner who lives in Porter Creek Centre have a say about what the periphery of Whitehorse is going to look like, or anywhere else in the Yukon?
Where is their input as this policy is being developed? Yes, we have an opportunity to vote in municipal elections, but we donít vote for the individuals who serve in the Ibex Valley or Mount Lorne. Yukoners wanted to have their say in what areas are protected as parks and what areas are not. Yukoners want a say in how land is developed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: It seems that the Member for Lake Laberge would like to enter into the debate about parks. The issue is that there are areas that people want to see protected as parks. There are areas they want to be able to have a cottage lot, they want to be able to see residences, and people want land.
My concern is: how do they have their say? Where is the public in all of this? Yesterday, the minister said we decide, we do this and we talk, and I didnít hear the word ďlistenĒ. So my question is: is post-LARC the only place where the public can have their say?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly LARC is part of the open process we have. When you mention an individual from Porter Creek Centre who has some questions about land development in a certain area ó any planned land development is an open process; itís transparent. Anybody in the Yukon can participate in those public meetings and certainly voice their concerns.
So I think the way the process is set up, when we have any lots or proposed development there is an open process for that. At the end of the day, it goes through LARC and, again, it addresses issues that are open to the public. So, if the public has some concerns, Iím very confident in the Community Services department and in ourselves to make sure they have a process that they can be involved with.
†At the end of the day, outside of Whitehorse, we deal with hamlets like Mount Lorne, Ibex, Grizzly Valley, Deep Creek ó all these are outside the periphery of Whitehorse, and they certainly are part of the program or the openness of the process because they are going to be directly affected.
Again, in dealing with land, I think we have steps in place that make sure that at the end of the day the general public maximizes their input. Of course, we have to work on a government-to-government relationship with First Nations to build up that kind of a rapport between the two governments to make sure that, for anything that we do in their traditional territory, they have input on it. Certainly, as we grow into this relationship with First Nations, Iím looking forward to them being part and parcel of that conversation.
As far as us giving direction, that statement was made ó Iím talking about the department. Certainly, the department has the mechanism to go out and look to assess land, in conjunction with Community Services, to maximize what we do so that when we have land out there, the general public can comment on it and that the process is there for the general public to participate.
For us to assume that the general public is going to tell us where they want the lots ó thatís a comment where I say that certainly they have a job out there to participate. Information and communication doesnít hurt any government; but as far as the communities saying to us to put lots over there or whatever, we have to lead the process and then at that point get the information together so the general public has input and we donít take the process down to where weíre at a process ó eight years, for example: the Copper Ridge subdivision was eight years in the process.
It was eight years in the process today and we donít have a lot out. In turn, at the end of this situation, we end up with people butting their heads, where I would feel more comfortable with all those issues being addressed at the front end. But, of course, weíre not the City of Whitehorse; all weíre doing is following and working with the city. The city is giving us directions on where they would like a subdivision. Community Services does the servicing; theyíre the developer. So we take direction from the city. At the end of the day, the city and the territorial government point fingers at each other and itís not productive.
I want to see this department working with Community Services as this land policy unfolds so as to be more up front with the participation of the general public and so, at the end of the day, we can solve some of these issues up front so that we have these rural residential lots in a place thatís compatible for that kind of lifestyle, where we and First Nations work together.
Understand that the First Nations have selected land. They have potential out there to develop their land to maximize the return on their investment, which is land, at the end of the day. So weíre working with First Nations and weíre working with our government to make this policy and to make LARC more streamlined, to redefine it to make sure we maximize the work thatís done there in a timely fashion, so weíre not duplicating and are working with what we inherited to try to maximize the lots out there to make sure we answer some of the questions. We canít answer 100 percent of them, but weíre trying to get to an 80-percent score so that, at the end of the day, we can supply those residential lots, supply the demand for agriculture and rural residential lots and all those things weíve talked about in the House ó but we have to do it in a very constructive way.
We have to move forward so that itís a positive thing so that at the end of the day when we do all the work and spend all the resources of the government to enhance this thing, we have buy-in from the general public and the First Nations.
Itís a management thing for Energy, Mines and Resources and Community Services and working with the City of Whitehorse and working with ó as the member opposite commented yesterday: how do you address the future development of infrastructure? Do we create another situation where we need five more fire halls? Do we do these things? Do we find out that Marsh Lake had become recreational and now itís a community, in essence. Itís the second largest community outside of Whitehorse in the Yukon.
So all those things mature and the landowners mature and decide to live there on a full-time basis, and we have to be conscious of this. Those are issues that we can address as we move down the road in years to come. What we have to do is get some recreational land out there so that Yukoners can be comfortable with what weíre doing in the land department.
As far as the concerns about whatís going to happen in the future about people retiring or doing whatever on the recreational land, those are questions that will be answered long past when Iíve left this House. My job here as the minister is to work with Community Services, maximize the land, get the land flowing so that people can get access to land. Thereís a lot of demand out there for agricultural land. People are knocking on the door for agricultural land. How do we do that? There are people knocking on the door for rural residential land. We want to get that out. There are people wanting to build a cabin at the lake. How do we address that issue? There are remote lakes that people want access to for recreational purposes, which are fly-in situations where people own an airplane and want to have the security of remoteness for their cabins, their investment, and at the end of the day have that privacy.
So those are all questions that we as government have to address, and weíre working toward that. Weíve been at this for 30 months. I donít think in government thatís a very long time. It doesnít seem like a long time for us to get all these issues addressed. I am very conscious of the demand out there. Yukoners want land. How do we get it out to them in a very productive way, working in partnership with the governments in the Yukon, whether itís First Nation governments, municipal governments, hamlets or concerned public? How does the public get involved? As the member opposite asks, ďHow do they get involved up front?Ē Well, when we put these proposals forward, the public is going to have a say in it. They will be able to voice their concerns, and we will work with the public to make sure ó again, I remind the member opposite, we maximize our buy-in, that the general public agrees with those decisions.
Now, again, weíre not going to have 100-percent buy-in, but I want to address the issues up front instead of down the road, after we have spent $7 million or $8 million and then discover that the community around it doesnít accept the proposal. Again, I go back to the issue south of Whitehorse where we have lots, and thereís a huge demand for those lots. Community Services has been working with the city to try to answer some of the issues that were around that decision ó which, by the way, was made long before we got into office, because it started eight years ago. What amazes me is that we were at this point eight years ago, and we still havenít addressed the issue of the neighbourhood and the impact it was going to have on the individuals who live in that area. As a Yukoner, it amazed me that we had gone so far. The argument is, ďWell, you have so much money into it, you canít back up.Ē
Well, where are we? Guess what? We have to have the subdivision, and we worked with the city to downsize it, so we could address some of the issues about neighbourhood access and the argument about access to the subdivision, which is another issue. Do you want a subdivision that only has one access? Thatís Hamilton Boulevard, where 4,000 to 5,000 people are living in an area. With the infrastructure we have, there would be only one way for ambulances and all the things to get into the community in the event of a disaster.
I want to work with all the components. I commit that weíre working on getting land out to the general public. Hopefully, by the end of our term here in office, that will be unfolding the way it should.
Ms. Duncan: Will there be any cottage lots available, or the announcement of cottage lots being available, as a result of the work thatís being done in this line item? There wasnít anything in the budget. Weíve had announcements outside of the House. Weíve had spending decisions announced out of the blue that arenít in the budget. Is there any potential of an announcement from the minister of some cottage lots being made available for this summer?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering that question, as a commitment, we are working at this moment on rural residential lots, and trying to get some of them out and, of course, agricultural, which we have a real demand for. We are working on recreational lots, but at the moment ó to prioritize the three: rural residential, we will try to get that out and put that to bed; get some agricultural land out there to answer the demands. Of course, recreational is one of those things, but again, itís work in progress. I donít want to commit to saying that weíre going to have recreational land out there in six months.
What Iím going to commit to is weíve got to get rural residential under control and get some lots out there because ó† guess what? ó thereís a big demand for that and, of course, agriculture. If we can see our way clear, I would like to see some recreational land out there too. We are working on the whole package, and the priorities right now are rural residential and agriculture. Recreation is there, but Iíd like to see us move along and address those two issues and then move on to recreational.†
Ms. Duncan: What areas of rural residential is the minister addressing? I have to go back and read the Blues. There were a number of areas where the minister said rural residential lots were already available. Where is the next group of rural residential lots anticipated to be made available?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre working with a couple of hamlets to answer that question, but I donít want to mention anything because itís not a done deal at the moment. Weíre trying to get these rural residential lots geographically as close as we can to Whitehorse, to the periphery of Whitehorse, so we are working actively with the First Nations and weíre working with two or three hamlets to address that issue. Until we have some success there, I donít feel that I should mention it.
Ms. Duncan: †Fair enough. So the spot land applications are still being accepted while the minister works on the policy development. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It is according to the policy that is a carry-over from devolution, and as we move forward the spot land policy is being followed.
Ms. Duncan: Have the hamlets or the City of Whitehorse or any of the municipalities recommended that the spot land application policy be held in suspension while this land availability policy process is being worked on? Has that been a recommendation that has come forward to the minister?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, we have some questions about the spot land policy, but there has been no formal complaint or no formal request that we stop the spot process. They certainly, obviously, would rather work with a plan. But as far as communication that they would like to suspend the process, no, we havenít got that.
Lands in the amount of $2,035,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Lang: There are 21 full-time employees. That includes the directorís office with four employees; the forestry operation with eight full-time employees; forestry planning and development with nine. So that is a total of 21. Other includes the directorís office, contracts, travel, corporate membership for $155,000; forest operations, contracts travel and other amounts to $164,000; forest planning and development, contracts, travel and others for $168,000. That totals $487,000. Contributions: forest sector trust fund, per devolution transfer agreement, $1 million; Yukon Forest Industry Association, $10,000; Canadian Forest Service, $15,000, which is $25,000. So that total is $1,025,000.
Total in forestry O&M is $3,105,000.
Mr. McRobb: For the second from last item, the $1.025 million ó can the minister give us the breakdown on that again? I didnít quite follow. Maybe he could give a more detailed breakdown.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The forest sector, the $1 million, was a transfer through the devolution transfer agreement from the federal government. The Yukon Forest Industry Association was $10,000 and the Canadian Forest Service was $15,000. Thatís where you got your $1.025 million.
Mr. McRobb: Did those numbers all add up to the $3,105,000, because it didnít quite seem so?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, when you take your full-time employees at $1.593 million and you take your $487,000 and you add it to your $1.025 million, you come up with a grand total of $3,105,000.
Mr. McRobb: All right. The minister just delivered the missing piece of the puzzle, and I thank him for that. I do have a few questions. I would like to ask the minister if he has subsidized any forestry operations in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, we havenít.
Mr. McRobb: Is that true since this government was elected?
Hon. Mr. Lang: You mean, since we were elected, have we subsidized any individual or company in the forest business? No.
Mr. McRobb: The minister has a bit of a mysterious approach there. These are plain and simple questions. I would like to ask the minister if that also includes secondary-type subsidies; for instance, improvements on a road to a sawmill or somebodyís property who is timber harvesting through such programs as the rural roads upgrading program. Is the answer still the same?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As far as Energy, Mines and Resources is concerned, itís the same: no.
Mr. McRobb: What the minister is saying is that there are no programs within his department that do that. There could be programs in other departments.
I would expect the minister to be better informed about whatís happening across the government with respect to the forest industry, which he has responsibility for. He should have these types of numbers at his fingertips, but he doesnít.
I would like to know whatís in this budget to help Joe Yukoner to get access to timber.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd remind the member opposite that weíre talking about the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. As far as me knowing what goes on across the government, I have my hands full with Energy, Mines and Resources. I keep abreast of whatís happening in my department. If we as a department have working relationships with other departments, like Community Services, I keep abreast of those kinds of overlapping grey areas that the government has.
But as far as knowing what goes on exclusively in all the departments and having access to those kinds of figures, it would be an unrealistic request, considering weíre talking about a $784-million budget. My job is Energy, Mines and Resources and thatís what weíre debating.
In forestry, we work with the forest industry to get timber out in an appropriate way and we are moving in that direction. Weíre doing a lot of work on finalizing the inventory of timber and the opportunities that are out there. Itís an ongoing issue.
We have timber out in southeast Yukon ó understanding that we have the economic times. I mean, as the member opposite knows, the price of timber has a direct relationship to the world market. But people have access to timber now. We put out timber in Dawson City, we have timber going out in the Whitehorse area, and Watson Lake has timber out there. In answering the memberís question about Joe Blow ó whoever that is ó he can come into the office and request timber, and weíll work with him. We commit to work with Joe Blow.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously this minister, who is supposed to be responsible for the forest industry, isnít aware of what his own government is doing with respect to providing financial assistance for people within this industry. This is another case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. These types of figures should be at the fingertips of the minister. I would suggest that he could probably brush up on doing his job.
Now, he also didnít really respond to the question about what this budget has for Joe Yukoner wanting to get access to timber. Instead, the minister said, ďWeíre willing to talk with anybody.Ē That does not answer the question. So I want to ask him: what specifically is in the budget to help any Yukoner get access to timber? What is in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the issue from the member opposite, Energy, Mines and Resources forestry has a mandate to get timber out to Joe Blow and to anyone else in the Yukon who makes a request.
Iíd like to go over a couple of points here. The interim wood supply and timber salvage plans provided over 600,000 cubic metres of wood for industry development purposes. Energy, Mines and Resources is proactively seeking industry investment in this significant timber resource. Harvesting planning is underway. In southwest Yukon, it is focused on commercial opportunities arising from the spruce bark beetle infestation that now comprises almost 400,000 hectares of forest. Weíre working in partnership with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to implement the strategic forest management plan for this region, including the identification of an annual harvest level. Weíre also working to ensure a continuous supply of wood from planned area 1 and 2 near Haines Junction in order to meet the industryís needs.
We are working with operators in this region to provide higher volume three-year permits. The Yukon government is working with First Nations and other governments in order to make additional wood supplies available in Teslin and Whitehorse and has identified additional small-volume opportunities in Dawson, Ross River and, of course, Watson Lake.
The Yukon government is continuing its effort to restore an exemption from duties or other levies for Yukon wood products that are sold to the United States, the Alaska market. Throughout the coming year, we will continue to identify and explore opportunities for expansion of new investment within the forest and wood product industry, with an emphasis on both southeast and southwest Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: The minister identified some areas in the Yukon. Iím most interested in getting a breakdown per region of what this government is investing in terms of forest management planning and preparation for access to timber. Can he give us an overview of that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the memberís question, to look at what weíre doing per region ó Iím sure heís interested in what weíre doing in the Champagne and Aishihik traditional territory. We actually signed the first forest management plan in the Yukon authorized under chapter 17 of the Umbrella Final Agreement on public or settlement land. We did that as a government. We also moved and are prepared to do that in the Teslin Tlingit territory, and weíre working in the Watson Lake area.
So we are answering the questions of the general public or, as the member opposite calls them, Joe Blows. We want timber out there, and we want to work with the associated governments to make sure that, again, when we put that timber out that itís properly processed and that, at the end of the day, the locals will benefit. We certainly have resourced the Champagne-Aishihik group. Again, we have the issue ó I know the member opposite will be very aware ó of the beetle kill.
We have an ongoing relationship with the Province of British Columbia. We understand they got $100 million to address their pine beetle kill. Iíd like to tell the House that the spruce beetle kill is the largest beetle kill in North America ó 400,000 hectares of beetle kill affecting the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.
We are working very actively with the First Nations to address that issue. Weíre working with the federal government to bring some resources to the table. They have funded, again, B.C. for $100 million. One of the issues missed through devolution was the beetle kill, and weíre trying to readdress that and get the urgency of it up and running.
In answering the question, like the member opposite says, my preamble is ó what are we doing? In answering the question, the forest management and harvest planning is underway across the Yukon with participation of First Nation governments and local renewable resource councils. Three strategic regional forest management plans and six interim and community harvest plans are currently underway. This planning is essential in order to provide a secure and assured timber supply and to ensure sound, integrated resource management. The three strategy planning processes include the Teslin forest management plan. The forest management plan is currently under review by the RRC, the Teslin Tlingit Council and the forest management branch. The recommendation of a final plan to the Yukon government and TTC is expected by the end of May 2005.
The Champagne and Aishihik forest management plan: the final strategic forest management plan has been approved by the Yukon government and Champagne-Aishihik First Nations. Work is now underway with support from many different agencies on the implementation of the strategic forest management plan that will include fuel abatement, timber harvesting, and an approach to the spruce bark beetle infestation.
Kaska traditional territory forest management plan: the Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council is producing the regional plan and is scheduled to complete this plan by July 2005.
Now, the six interim and community harvest plans are: the Dawson City area, harvest area identification from Dawson Renewable Resource Council recommendations; Strawberry Creek, harvest in place as per Teslin forest management planning process; Haines Junction, salvage harvest in place as per Champagne and Aishihik traditional territory forest management plan implementation planning process; Kaska traditional territory, three interim harvest supply plans in development; Cosh Creek, Watson Lake, Ross River, two fire salvage plans will be well underway by May 2005; Southern Lakes, initiating resource analyzed to accommodate harvest interest ó in other words, inventory; City of Whitehorse, assessment of historic harvest areas in option. So weíre working on forest harvesting and weíre also working on forest plans. So I think forestry is doing a fairly positive job in the department.
Mr. McRobb: Unfortunately, Mr. Chair, the minister read the wrong briefing note. I didnít ask what the department is doing with respect to forest operations across the Yukon; I asked him to identify how much money is being applied by region. He doesnít have to waste the time of the House by reading extensively from briefing notes. If he doesnít have the cost figures at hand, will he undertake to get back to us with those numbers?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question, we certainly depend on our briefing notes to give pertinent information to the members in the House here to make sure itís accurate so, at the end of the day, theyíre informed when they leave the House. But as far as what the breakdown of the resources are, we could commit to send a note over to the member opposite to clarify the monetary issues that he is addressing.
Mr. McRobb: All right, we would expect that information to address the full scope of the question. If not, I would invite the minister to stand up and clarify. He mentioned Y-06 and the number of activities going on in the Haines Junction area with respect to the beetle kill. I know this government has talked about harvesting wood out there for quite awhile now.
I think I recall two years ago there was something about a $250,000 investment to fight the spruce beetle, yet nothing has ever really been done about it. Iím hearing complaints about people who want access to beetle-killed timber who are being denied permits. This is two years after the fact. Now I appreciate that there is a planning process in place, and I appreciate the Champagne and Aishihik First Nationsí involvement in that process, but what gets me is how the minister said something two years ago ó or even one year ago ó that in fact raised the hopes of Yukoners, and theyíre not panning out. People are being denied the opportunity, so can he, point-blank, tell Yukoners when they can expect to have permits approved in that particular area and which block those permits would apply to?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to remind the members opposite that this beetle kill didnít arrive last week. This beetle kill has been a liability for about 10 years. If this liability had been looked at when the member opposite was in government, this beetle kill wouldnít have expanded to where it is today.
So weíre managing a situation that is growing, and growing by the day, I guess. Not being a beetle expert, Iím told that, without a cold winter or a cold spell at a certain point of the winter, these beetles hibernate and come back. So this is Mother Nature going through a process that is devastating the forest in the Haines Junction area.
The member opposite said weíre not putting permits out. Iíd like to correct the member opposite: we are working with the harvesters in that area in a very positive way. As they go forward and we work with, first of all, the community and the First Nation ó as far as the resources that we put into the overview of the beetle kill, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations have a lead on that and are working with us and themselves to address this issue.
As a government, it has been 30 months since we got management of the forest through devolution, and our relationship with the local First Nations of Champagne and Aishihik is very positive. We are going to maximize our relationship to minimize the impact of the beetle kill on that area. It is a huge issue, Mr. Chair. Itís a huge liability for us as a territory. We have the attention of the federal government and we as a government have been working with the federal government. I see no reason why the pine beetle kill in B.C. is any more of a liability than our spruce beetle kill. The pine beetle kill has now expanded ó this is a conversation ó potentially into our parks in Alberta.
These beetles have no borders. We have a forest that is being killed by beetles. We have communities in this beetle kill. Again, I remind the member opposite that most of those communities are in the Kluane riding. These communities have an issue. They have fire load on the communities, whether itís Canyon Creek or Haines Junction, and to say that our government isnít aware of that or not working in a positive way, I think the member opposite is wrong. We are working with the local First Nations, and we are working with industry to try to minimize that impact on the community. Itís a liability that we acquired, and itís a liability that is going to affect the Yukon. It could be very, very deadly for the communities in that area.
You understand, Mr. Speaker, that eventually the concern will be whether or not you will be able to get insurance if you live in a certain area? Those are all issues that are going to come out of the fact that weíve got to go to work, and we are working on that. That forest is being killed, and people are living in that forest. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations are very concerned about their traditional territory. The chief and council, together with us as a government, are knocking on the federal governmentís door saying, ďWe need help. We donít want any more or any less than youíve given B.C., but we donít want to be ignored.Ē This beetle kill is a big issue.
If you were to go back and look at what Mother Nature is doing on the west coast, the fires in southern California ó they have a beetle kill issue down there. You can move up the coast and see a pine beetle situation in B.C. that is devastating the pine forest, and then you come up to where we are, which also encompasses the southeast coast of Alaska, which is where the beetle kill came from. The beetle kill came in through the Dalton Trail area and got a hold on the forest in the Haines Junction area.
Do you understand all the issues of moving that forest? If we cut the forest down, do the beetles move with the forest? If we cut down logs and ship them to a sawmill in Watson Lake or to Ross River, would that affect the forest there? So there is all sorts of background work we have to do and we have to address the issue. I appreciate the member oppositeís concern. We are very positively working with the community and also the First Nation to maximize the wood that we cut in the area to minimize the impact the community suffer. If in fact we have a hot summer and we have an issue like last summer, it could be very devastating for us as a community.
Mr. McRobb: I see the memberís understanding has finally progressed from the point where he was at a couple of years ago when he declared that he was going to stay ahead of the beetle. Now he understands that even transport of fire logs to other communities actually would spread the beetle throughout the Yukon. So at least his understanding has progressed.
He attacked the previous NDP government for not dealing with this matter, and I want to respond to that. That government did deal with this matter through the deployment of local boards and committees to analyze the situation. I would invite this member to consult with the Yukon Partyís last candidate in the Kluane riding who headed up the Alsek Renewable Resources Council at the time. Maybe he can learn from his own party brethren more of the history related to this matter. There was lots of process in those days, some would argue too much, but we also have to recognize that we were dealing with the federal government and DIAND was especially difficult to deal with in those days. I suppose we have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight at this stage.
So the minister did not take part in any of those processes and probably understands very little about them, yet he is quick on the draw to recount to this House his version of history, which is extremely lacking. Now, the minister still hasnít identified in which area and when and where people can get a permit. If he is not prepared to answer, Mr. Chair, is he at least prepared to come back to us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess the beetle kill wonít be solved by pointing fingers at each other, and we do have an issue, a challenge, with the beetle kill. Iím just saying to the member opposite, this beetle didnít arrive yesterday.
I would like to correct one of the statements he made about firewood. I know enough about the beetle kill. Once the wood is standing dead, the beetles have moved on to greener pastures. So the issue of moving dead timber around is not as big an issue as the member opposite might think.
So I have answered most of the member oppositeís questions, Mr. Chair. To clarify, my learned friend has brought some more information forward. Because of the size of the department and the work we do, I have to depend on these notes because, again, I have a very large department. Of course, with my learned friend at the helm, the two of us do the best job we can in accessing the information so that we get the information out here in the House in a very pertinent and correct form. I know the member opposite will appreciate that. I can see that look of confidence on his face, and I appreciate the working harmony that the member offers us in representing his riding, Kluane.
So one of the questions was: where are we cutting the wood? I imagine that has to do with his riding, so hereís where weíre cutting the wood. Weíre continuing the supply of wood from planned area 1 and 2 near Haines Junction in order to meet industryís needs.
Again, in correcting the member opposite, we are meeting those demands and we are working with industry to answer their questions and get some product out there to make sure ó as I would again remind the member opposite ó that we minimize the fire load on those communities, which is crucial.
Weíre working with arborists to provide higher volumes and weíre trying to get three-year permits out so people can plan ahead, go to a bank, and get the resources when they need the equipment so they know what theyíre going to be cutting in a 36-month period. Weíre working with industry, weíre answering their requests on a daily basis and, at the end of the day our department is doing a very positive job. It took over the responsibility ó again I remind the member opposite ó 30 months ago, and to expect us as a government to have the beetle kill situation solved is unrealistic.
We are working on that issue. Iím first of all partnering with Champagne and Aishihik very positively and knocking on the federal governmentís door, asking how theyíre going to pony up, how theyíre going to be a partner and get some resources in here to minimize this impact.
Weíve had a great working relationship with NRCan. I have to compliment the minister; his door is always open for us. He has talked to us and knows we have a concern. He has directed his office in Victoria to work with us. Another positive move was that the chief and some of the council members and I met with the Minister of DIAND and his staff.
We are getting the word out there. What Iím saying to the member opposite is that the concern is here on this side of the table and the concern is with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and we are going to address the issue by getting wood out, making it available and getting people to cut firewood in that area ó and weíre doing just that.
Mr. McRobb: Iím sure the deputy is a very capable person, and heís probably very used to apologizing for his minister at that. I would remind the minister that I didnít ask him when theyíre going to resolve the beetle kill issue. I just asked him when people might expect to be able to get permits. Did he answer that simple question? No, he gave a long, drawn-out speech reading another briefing note. So now he has got that question to respond to plus another one I would like to ask him about the Kaska forestry agreement in principle. Could he give us an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, we are getting permits out in the beetle kill areas now and in the future. To have the member opposite insinuate that there are no permits and no process for getting wood out is incorrect. It is happening on a daily basis. Weíre working with industry to maximize the wood availability in the Haines Junction area. We are working at it. How can the member opposite think that we can cure all the problems of the beetle kill and that I should be able to give him a date when the issue has been going on for 10 years?
Again, I donít want to point fingers at the member opposite or his government of the day, but for him to stand up in the House and insinuate that I could give a date on when all the beetles in that area will die or I will harvest all the wood is very unrealistic for any man to do. I am only human. My learned friend and I are both working very hard on that issue. So he can rest easy. He can sleep easy knowing that my learned friend and I are working on the beetle kill, and we will keep him updated as we go through the process on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis so that he will know and get at least a three-day headstart on when all the beetles die. At the end of the day we will answer that question by going to work and addressing the issue. The issue is the beetle kill. The issue is the health of the forest, and we are addressing both of those by putting wood out on the market, addressing industryís request, putting three-year packages together so people can go down and resource themselves so they can do the job properly. Weíre doing our job.
Weíre getting wood out, and weíre doing our job. So the member opposite is not doing his homework because he would know that if he actually went back to his riding to look at the issues that weíre addressing, talk to the First Nation, see where those resources are, see where theyíre coming from on the beetle kill, ask questions of the chief and council, in fact, ask if we are working with them in a positive way. And at the end of the day weíre doing what we can with the beetle kill, with our limited resources.
We need the federal government. We need more resources to address that issue, that challenge. But at the end of the day, we are working with the federal government, and the federal government is very positive. So as we move forward and as we keep knocking on doors, we will get some questions answered and hopefully some resources and the expertise, by the way, Mr. Chair. At the end of the day, we need some expertise, and that could come from NRCan, the department that is responsible for the forest. And they have offered that expertise. So I think that weíre doing as much as we can with our limited resources, so at the end of the day we can answer those questions. The beetles will die, the trees will come back to life, and life will go on.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister went on another stroll through the woods. He beetled around in the beetle-killed forest but didnít really accomplish too much during that time. Now, Iím not going to re-engage about the previous discussion. I want to move on to another area, which I asked him about and which he totally ignored. Can he give us an update on the Kaska forestry agreement in principle?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, in answering the question of where weíre at with the forest plan in southeast Yukon, we are still working with the memorandum of understanding that was signed by a previous government in partnership with the federal government, us, and the Kaska First Nation. This is the last year of that memorandum of understanding, so we are very positive about that.
We are very positive about that. The Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council was set up. That was the umbrella of the management team that is, at this point, working on managing the forest. They have some timber potential out there and we are looking forward to the master plan, which should be here no later than July.
That, again, is another positive thing and another success story for this government. Iím sure the member opposite will appreciate that.
Mr. McRobb: When does the memorandum of understanding expire?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think, to answer that question, it expires in 2005, so probably July 2005. However, it did give us a template on how we can work in partnership with the First Nation and how the management of the forest in their traditional territory would go. Itís irrelevant as to when it ends, because we are going to proceed and work with the First Nations to have wood brought out and work with them on management. The memorandum of understanding, whether itís July or August, will be a work in progress. We are very positive. The stewardship council has done a lot of good work. We have a lot of expertise there, brought in by not only our government, but also by the Kaska First Nation. It has been a very positive relationship. As far as the memorandum of understanding is concerned, itís irrelevant. We are moving forward on managing the forests in the southeast Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, there are definitely questions around the memorandum of understanding, but in the interests of expediting debate, I will move on.
Can the minister indicate how much is being sought from NRCan to deal with the beetle issue and what the response of the federal government to date has been?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre back to the beetles? I thought we were off the beetles.
I understand the member oppositeís concern and appreciate that heís working on issues that affect his riding of Kluane. Itís very positive for the constituents in the Haines Junction area.
NRCan ó how much money has been requested? We are certainly working with NRCan at the moment. The Victoria office is carrying the ball on that. I really have to say to the member that itís going to take ó not that my learned friend and I are going to be left out of the loop, but thereís going to have to be some expertise, some inventory taken and an appraisal of the situation to come up with a realistic figure as far as how much money weíre requesting. We are working on an appraisal of the costs, and then we will work with NRCan on how that money would flow, if in fact NRCan comes around and the money is available. They certainly have been positive. The Victoria office is very interested in this beetle kill.
Itís a huge issue for us in the Yukon because itís spruce beetle kill. If it got into southeast Yukon, or any other part of the Yukon where itís moving around in, it could be devastating. So, as far as how much money, we will keep the House informed when we find out what that request is going to be. At the moment, we are working on those amounts and looking at a master plan to see what it would cost us as a government and the First Nations to address this issue. So itís work in progress.
Mr. McRobb: It seems the Yukon Partyís master plan is secret to the minister responsible for forestry. That really is puzzling.
Now, there are a few problems with what I just heard. One of them is that the minister didnít indicate how much they are requesting from NRCan. This minister ought to tell the House what that request is. He also didnít tell us what the federal response to that request was.
Instead he beetled on down the path through the forest to tell us that thereís a need to assess the situation. Well, I can tell the minister the beetle kill situation has been thoroughly assessed. There has been a federal beetle scientist studying the issue for several years now. Last July I had the occasion to fly with this gentleman for four hours in an aircraft, and I videotaped a very large region in the Y-06 region that was beetle infested and had discussions with him and other personnel from the department. If the minister believes this beetle kill is only in the Haines Junction area, when it has really spread through a lot of areas in the Yukon and is about to continue its spread into probably all areas of the territory, itís no wonder he has been unsuccessful in trying to obtain federal funding. Why does he argue that it is only affecting one community in the Yukon when this is a threat to the whole territory?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite insinuates there is some secret about the beetle kill or my management of the beetle kill. We certainly are working with NRCan. The Minister of NRCan has directed the Victoria office to work with us on a work plan to get the resources put together to manage the beetle kill. To insinuate that I, as minister, do not understand the fact that these beetles are spreading throughout the Yukon again is not correct. At the end of the day, weíre going to have this as an issue. This has been an issue for 10 years, and the member opposite is pointing at me, blaming this side of the House for the beetle kill. We did not bring the beetle kill to the table. The beetle kill was here for us to manage. The previous government had not put that into our devolution agreement. That beetle kill could become more of a liability than some of our type II mine sites.
So again, Iím not going to blame the member opposite for doing it. Itís something that fell off the table in their busy day, and obviously the Member for Kluane did not, in his responsible job, bring it forward to make sure that it was highlighted on the agenda for devolution.
We are going to manage it. Weíre working with NRCan to put a work plan together so that at the end of the day we will get resourced and move forward. The federal government has other avenues of resources that weíre going to look at. Northern strategy is one resource that we might be able to use. But Iíll report to the member opposite that NRCan is working very positively on a work plan with us. Weíre working with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, ourselves as the territorial government, and the Victoria office. The minister himself made a phone call to the Victoria office to make sure that the office stayed on track and that they answered our questions.
Weíve had a very positive relationship with that office. When the member opposite talks about the beetle-kill individual, I imagine it comes out of the Victoria office. NRCan has a research centre in New Brunswick that works on different beetles, like the pine beetle and the spruce beetle. So NRCan is keeping abreast of whatís happening. Theyíre very concerned about it as a federal government. I would say that weíre working in a very positive way and, as this work plan unfolds, we will keep the member opposite abreast of whatís happening.
Iím sure that the First Nation will be talking to the member opposite and informing him on how theyíre proceeding with this thing. So I think the partnership is working. I think that we donít want to belabour the beetle thing, but I understand the member oppositeís riding situation. I understand that beetles spread and that they are spreading throughout our spruce forest. Remember, most of our forest is black spruce and the beetles are attracted to black spruce. So until we get a hold of that issue, weíre going to have the beetles spread throughout the Yukon.
But we as a government are going to work to have that minimized, and we have to get the federal government onside, because at the end of the day this is a huge responsibility financially. Our small jurisdiction cannot handle that kind of impact.
When you compare the pine beetle kill in British Columbia ó and I understand that the figure is five times as big ó the federal government ponied up $100 million to get some kind of control on that pine beetle situation. We also have the Alberta government coming in with resources because of Banff National Park. They are trying to protect their investments on the Alberta-B.C. border.
For our jurisdiction to think that we can go this alone and that we have the resources or even the expertise in our forestry department is folly, because at the end of the day, we are going to have to have the federal government, they are going to have to resource us and they are going to have to bring some expertise to the table, because we have a forestry department. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations have forestry-affiliated people, but itís going to take more than what we can produce in expertise to answer the questions about how we harvest the timber or how we kill the beetles, and all the issues that surround a beetle kill.
I agree with the member opposite; the beetles are spreading. I didnít insinuate that Haines Junction is the only community that, at the moment, has that challenge. As minister, I have flown around the forest around Haines Junction. Itís blight on the landscape. I understand it came in through the west coast, through the Kluane National Park, and came down into the valley. The wind brought them in. Itís Mother Nature at her worst. This blight came in through southeast Alaska and at the end of the day we have an issue. I would say to the House today that the national park system has some obligation too. Resources are needed to ensure that this kind of thing doesnít devastate our national parks, because it would be devastating if it consumed the whole of Kluane National Park.
So, in other words, again, pointing fingers at who did what, when, and how ó I say youíre better off to move forward. Instead of looking in the rear-view mirror, letís look forward. Letís work with the First Nation; the national parks system, which has the responsibility for Kluane National Park; and NRCan, which has the responsibility for the forests in Canada.
This is a disaster. At the end of the day, this is a disaster for Yukon. Itís as if a forest fire went through and killed all of the trees. I guess when you weigh the difference between a devastating thing like an earthquake, forest fire or whatever ó what we created here by looking at this situation 10 years after the fact is that, at the end of the day, we have a huge fire load on that part of the Yukon. At the end of the day, it is a disaster. If we donít team up with other agencies and other governments to address this issue, we canít do it.
Now, if in fact we have a fire issue down the road, then again we have other obligations that are going to be costly. So, it is an issue. We are addressing it, and we are concerned about it. We are concerned about the member oppositeís riding and trying to minimize that fire load. We are getting permits out for cutting wood. We are working at getting some three-year permits out because itís a 10- or 20-year project, if we were going to cut it up for firewood.
Anyway, at the end of the day, I think our department is doing a fairly good job of moving ahead. Itís not a perfect job, but then again, we have to do this in unison with other governments. At the end of the day, we want to address the issue of the beetle kill in that area.
As far as NRCan, they are very positive. We have the work plan, and we are working on it to try to see what resources we need to do this thing in an appropriate way.
Mr. McRobb: Well, let me start by agreeing with the minister. I do believe the department is doing a good job and, Iíll add, despite the minister they have.
Chair: Order please. As members are well aware of our Standing Orders, specifically 19(i), the use of abusive or insulting language, including sexist or violent language, in a context likely to create disorder is out of order. Making an insulting comment, as the member just did, is out of order and Iíd ask the members on both sides of the Assembly not to make insulting comments about each other.
Mr. McRobb: I apologize. I didnít recognize it as being violent or sexist, and I guess Iíll have to re-examine the rules.
Iím not sure if anybody takes this minister seriously any more, otherwise that big rambling response would be really sad because it didnít pertain to the question asked. It was all over the map. Now the minister didnít indicate how much money is being requested out of NRCan. He didnít indicate the NRCanís response. Instead he focused on only a small part of the Yukon in the Haines Junction area. I would invite him to expand the boundaries in his mind to include all of the Yukon because thatís what is at stake here.
Now, apparently the Premier was at a meeting where the Yukon was declared a disaster area. This minister has some explaining to do. Why is the Yukon declared a disaster area and what are we going to get out of it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, in answering the question of the member opposite, I think the member opposite in his rebuttal sometimes doesnít like the answer and so then itís no answer. But we are working with NRCan for a work plan. How would I as minister be able to stand up ó without a work plan and without a process in place on funding ó and tell the member opposite to the cent what we requested if we donít have a work plan done? We are working on the work plan and at the end of the day we will have a work plan together that is going to work.
This is a large issue, and we cannot go back to the federal government two or three times. The work plan has to be, hopefully, the final plan on how weíre going to address the beetle kill. Good business dictates you donít go back two or three times, requesting more funds, when we could do our homework, get the work plan together, go down and request the funds, go through the Victoria office, work with the minister of NRCan and get funding and then, at that point, how is the funding going to unfold? Iím sure that theyíre not going to give us a suitcase full of cash to come back to the Yukon with to address the beetle kill.
So we have to have a work plan. When are the resources going to be needed? In our partnership, how much are we going to pony up to the mark? How can you have a partnership if we donít contribute any resources? Weíre committed to work with the federal government on this issue. At the end of the day, we want the issue to be resolved.
For the member opposite to think that I can sit here, without a work plan in front of me, and say to him that we need $800 million ó thatís folly. We want to do this job properly. We have a door open with NRCan, they have requested a work plan, they are working with us, and they have looked at the forest and assessed it. They are working very actively with us and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to get this work plan together as fast as possible and move forward to manage that forest problem.
Mr. McRobb: What about declaring the Yukon a disaster zone? The minister avoided that question. Can he give us an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, I am at no point going to stand up here and declare the Yukon a total disaster area. It isnít. We are managing the issue. We are working with the First Nations. We are working with the federal government. At the end of the day, we are going to meet the challenge. The challenge is how we will financially, physically and mentally address the beetle kill in Yukon. We have the door open with NRCan. They are very positive. They are in partnership with us on the work plan. They have committed to go to Ottawa and request the funds once the work plan is in place.
This isnít a disaster. This is a partnership to try to resolve a disaster that has being going on for 10 years. We are a mature government that works in partnership with other governments to solve these issues.
At the end of the day, for the member opposite to even insinuate that we declare the Yukon a total disaster area is unrealistic. Think of all the work we have in the budget, and we are tying up all this valuable time discussing something thatís completely under control. I have told the member opposite the steps weíre taking as a government. At the end of the day, we are going to have a plan in place with our partners to address exactly what the member is talking about.
At the end of the day, weíve got a very large budget here. Weíve got $784 million in this yearís budget. The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is here to answer questions, but answering these questions over and over again is not being productive in the House. I question the sincerity of the member opposite ó
Chair: Itís inappropriate to question the sincerity of any member and I would ask the member not to do that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have to apologize. My learned friend corrected me on crossing the line. I crossed the line just a touch. But in a moment of frustration I crossed the line. I want to get on with my budget. I want to work forward with the opposition to get it out and get the thing explained as well as we can in the limited time we have left. You understand, Mr. Chair, that weíve only got five more days. That reverts into seven sleeps that we have at our disposal to discuss this budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, how do you follow that? I guess the seven sleeps donít include the mental naps one may have listening to the minister.
I understand that he had a moment of frustration. I can accept that. We all heard it. We all heard his frustration, but he didnít answer the question about the Premier apparently arguing that the Yukon should be declared a disaster zone.
The minister didnít respond to that. Instead he says, ďWeíve got the situation under control.Ē Is he talking about the spread of the spruce bark beetle? Is the minister saying he has that under control, or does he even know what heís talking about?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím not going to speak for the Premier. Iím sure that when the Premier is here, he can answer those kinds of questions. I donít know what text the member opposite took that statement out of. It is certainly not a positive thing. Itís not a disaster per se for the whole Yukon. Iím telling the member opposite that we as a government are very concerned about the beetle kill. We are working with the other three governments ó NRCan, the federal government and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations ó to resolve this issue. So, at the end of the day, I can tell the member opposite that the forest is in good hands.
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously the minister is a hands-off type of guy, and maybe thatís why the forest is in good hands.
Now, we didnít get an answer to that, and Iím somewhat surprised this minister doesnít know what the Premier is doing with respect to managing his department when dealing with other governments. Iíd like to remind the minister that under our rules of debate, one cannot ask forestry questions to the Premier once this department has been cleared. So the minister really gave us a suggestion that leads nowhere.
Now, I want to ask him about a new issue. Today it became news that the smoke in the air over the Yukon is coming from prescribed burns south of the border in the Province of British Columbia. These are intentionally set fires. Is the minister also considering this same device for forest renewal in the Yukon and, if so, where?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Chair, to correct the member opposite, I was told that the smoke in the Whitehorse area actually is from the Wheaton River situation. So I think the member opposite is incorrect in saying itís from some sort of burn in the British Columbia jurisdiction. I have to remind the member opposite that B.C. manages their forest and we manage our forest. We are not contemplating burning down the forest where the beetle kill is, and I donít know what B.C. is doing. All I know is that theyíve released a lot of timber on the market. They are actively harvesting it, and they are working with their pine beetle issue. But as far as burning, I donít know what that process is, and under no circumstances are we looking at a burn program for our forest, to manage our forest issues in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: The minister did answer the question in a roundabout way. Iíll give him some credit for that. Now, I havenít listened to a radio for several hours now, so Iím going on what I heard at the noon hour. Certainly, at that time there were indications the smoke was coming from prescribed burns from British Columbia.
I would like to ask the minister what assurances the Yukon has that those prescribed burns will be fully controlled and wonít enter the Yukon and destroy forest resources within our boundaries.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, in answering that question to the member opposite, the government canít run on conversations that they heard downtown at lunch. We have to deal with facts. The facts are the smoke is reported to be coming in from the Wheaton River fire. Thatís a fact. The fact about the fire burn ó obviously the member opposite heard that at Tim Hortons. In fact, I imagine it is not a factual thing, as far as this department is concerned.
As far as B.C. being responsible for anything they do in their jurisdiction, I think itís very important to realize ó I hope and would certainly recommend that there is communication with our department on any issues about a fire process that would affect our forest in southeast Yukon or on the B.C. border.
Chair: Weíve reached our normal time for a recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: It has been suggested that we take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 15 and Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Ms. Duncan: I have a few questions in the forestry line item for the minister. Before I enter into those, I have listened with a great deal of interest this afternoon to the exchange between the minister and the Member for Kluane. The minister made some comments about devolution. I would like to make a small comment to the minister if I might in that respect. There is a little bit of history I want to share with him.
There were three governments involved in the negotiation for devolution. It started with the Ostashek government, the ministerís former party leader. It carried on with Minister McDonald and thatís where I entered the Legislature. Minister McDonald, knowing the importance of devolution, invited all three party leaders not only to Ottawa to sell them on the devolution and to continue all-party support there, but also regularly invited all party leaders to the briefings about devolution as it progressed.
When we came into government, I continued that practice. I have to add that the Member for Klondike, as the leader of the Yukon Party, never accepted an invitation to a briefing. The minister has made several references to his learned friend. His learned friend, a very capable and professional public servant ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: No, Iím giving him kudos. The minister said off-microphone that he canít defend himself. No, and that is why Iím refreshing the ministerís memory.
The devolution deal was a good one.
It was negotiated and worked on by all parties, with the very capable assistance of professional public servants, and their work should not be denigrated by any government that comes in. The minister said, ďWell, perhaps the spruce beetle fell off the table in our busy day.Ē No, it didnít. There is a safeguard in the devolution agreement about disasters. Iím not calling the spruce beetle kill a disaster. For the ministerís reference, it was the Premier who did it at the western premiers conference. Thatís what the opposition was going on about. So perhaps heíd check that reference.
My point is that the minister stood on his feet several times and said, ďLook, weíre just trying to do the best we can with the information we have.Ē So was every other government. For the record, a little bit of history to share with the minister ó before he criticizes the devolution deal, it was a lot of parties and a lot of individuals in the making, and it was the best deal that could be done at the time for the Government of Yukon, and itís a good deal.
That being said, I do have one other point Iíd like to ask the minister about. The spruce beetle ó I know weíve discussed it a lot. Itís just one question for the minister. There was a whole lot of information the minister gave, and he talked about partnering with NRCan and the office in Victoria. Thatís the federal governmentís office and not the B.C. governmentís office? The minister is nodding. I just wanted to clear that up for that record. I appreciate working with the federal government. It sounds like weíve got an expert coming up to help us out with that.
Iím not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert on spruce beetle kill. I am a Yukoner, and I spend as much time as we all do outside in the summer. What I heard the minister say is that itís very easy for this particular disease or pest to spread.
Yukoners do transport firewood around the territory. They think nothing of throwing something in the back of the boat or the camper and going on to the next campground. I think we could all use a little education about the spruce beetle kill. I appreciate the minister is getting this under control and has a master plan. Would the minister consider working with his colleague, the Minister of Environment, and doing some kind of an educational campaign? I know the Northern Science Institute has done something about it, but Iím thinking in our campgrounds, because we do throw that piece of firewood in the back of the boat or the back of the camper, and this beetle is getting everywhere. It is just a suggestion, in listening to the debate about it. If the minister wants to just review what steps are being taken this summer for the Legislature, for the public, we have an expert on loan to us from NRCan, weíre developing a master plan, and when we get that weíre going to go and say to the feds, ďHere, this is how much we need you to pony up to deal with this.Ē Is that the gist of this afternoonís debate?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, I appreciate the work that went into devolution. I certainly understand that it was a work over a long period of time. Itís not something that happened overnight. Certainly other governments were involved. In the process, at the end of the day, we had devolution.† Again, I donít think itís productive to point fingers back, but I just want to bring it to everybodyís attention that it was an issue that wasnít addressed through devolution. Iím not going to blame any individual or party or government for not doing it. It happens. At the end of the day, we have things in devolution and thatís why we got devolution, so that we could get control of issues locally so that we could solve them locally.
As far as whose fault it is, thatís not going to help the beetle kill. I say to the member opposite that I agree with her. We should work with Environment and we should get the information out because, as minister, Iím bringing myself up to the mark, per se, as quickly as possible. When is the wood safe from beetles? I am told, in the evolution of the beetle, that the beetle goes from green wood to green wood. So when you see a dead standing tree, beetles have left that tree and moved on to another one.
In their travels, they usually try to target younger trees, but as the younger trees are killed off, they move into more mature timber. There are steps the beetle takes to move through a forest. At the end of the day, I think your suggestion of working with Environment is a good one. We should have a bit of a workshop for people in these affected areas as well as in Whitehorse, because we all go out and chop wood and we all have concerns about the spread of the beetle kill. Iím sure every Yukoner, in looking at the forest, would have some concern about that forest.
I agree with the member opposite. I will go to work on that. Iíll work with the Minister of Environment. It happens that in our department we have some individuals with expertise and backgrounds in how these beetles travel and what the public should be concerned about.
The beetles travel in logging processes. They say it was brought in with the wind and that Mother Nature brought it through, but it will move. If you were to harvest a green tree that wasnít standing dead but had beetles in it, why wouldnít the beetles go with the tree? Theyíre not going to vacate it because you put it on a truck.
Theyíre going to move through the community and affect other areas. So, in fact, I agree with the member opposite. We try to work in partnership with the opposition. This is a very good point and I appreciate it.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister taking it in good faith, but it wasnít just about workshops. I am thinking about the campgrounds. Yukoners visit our campgrounds the most. Thatís when we are out in the woods. I liken this to walking into the hospital today. One goes in the elevator, walks through the halls and if one is going to the maternity ward, only healthy adults and healthy siblings can go. Thereís a risk of SARS ó severe acute respiratory syndrome ó so wash your hands. We are able to educate the public with these campaigns about where to go. Yukoners visit our campgrounds most often and thatís when theyíre looking at the trees and the bugs, so letís put some kind of public education in our campgrounds. Thatís the suggestion. I agree with the workshop too, but that was the real concrete suggestion.
There are terrific campaigns run from the hospital for public education. Those kinds of campaigns could work for our environment. I thank the minister very much for taking that suggestion.
Speaking of logging and trucks, the minister made reference to the softwood lumber dispute. That did affect the Yukon, of course, because of our border with Alaska. I saw in todayís news that there have been some offers made to B.C. companies regarding softwood lumber. I didnít delve into the whole story. Do we still have a point person in the department assigned to the softwood lumber dispute? How are we interacting with the federal government on that and what is the latest on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To clarify for the member opposite, I was involved in a conference call this morning with Minister Peterson of Industry and the other ministers. The B.C. Minister of Forestry was not available because, of course, theyíre in the middle of an election.
The issue is an ongoing one with the United States. As a country, we have taken it one more step, trying to resolve the issue. In answering the question about a point person in our department, we certainly have that in place. Understanding that the Yukon is the small jurisdiction that it is, and having the volumes as low as they are ó and really to direct our market toward the Alaska market ó weíre also working with Alaska, and they have agreed that they would work with us to get us exonerated from the softwood issue.
Through the process over the last couple of years, we have been verbally exonerated from it because of the volumes, but itís not concrete. So, we are working with Alaska at this point. I can report to the House that if I were a betting man, Iíd say we were a long way from resolving the softwood issue with the United States. They obviously havenít followed the free trade issue. Weíve taken it to many different levels of jurisdictional court and everything else, and we havenít had a positive response. As a country, weíve never lost the issue. Weíve always come out on top, but at the end of the day, another issue is always brought up.
The two biggest exporters to the United States are B.C. and Ontario. Those two jurisdictions are the largest exporters of softwood to the American market.
So, in answering the question, we have a point person in place. We do monitor it, but as of today, we are very actively working with the Alaska government to get a blessing from them to open up their markets and get exempt from the softwood issue.
When you look farther east, the Maritime provinces, through the help of the State of Maine, have got themselves a separate deal to answer the demands of the State of Maine. So weíre just ponying up with Alaska, partnering with them to move forward and try to fill a bit of the void they have on timber. Up until now, I think, to report to the House, it has been a positive response. We just want something in writing. We want it done. I think if we were going to wait for this softwood issue to be resolved between Ottawa and Washington, it seems to me we have gone back three years now, four years, and it just seems to be a continual never-ending story of court cases, of appeals and all the issues that we face as a country, and we canít seem to resolve it. But we are going to work with Alaska, weíre going to move forward, and weíre going to be more aggressive on that, understanding that we considered two years ago that this thing was addressed, that the American government was coming on-line. In fact, the President of the United States was very positive that they were going to resolve the softwood issue and also the cattle issue. Both of those are still tied up in litigation. I donít know when itís going to end, and certainly Alaska has been very positive on our request to go to bat for our jurisdiction to open up that Alaska market.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, speaking of cooperation with Alaska, do we have an intergovernmental working group with Alaska and with B.C. on these beetles?
Are we working interprovincially and with Alaska on this? Because they spread.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering about Alaska, no, but we have worked with the Province of British Columbia and had a commitment from the minister that we would work with the federal government in unison to address the pine beetle kill and the spruce beetle kill. In the middle of the election thatís going on, of course, that has been nipped in the bud, but at the end of the day weíve been very positive with the B.C. government. They have been resourced to the tune of $100 million.
Iím not insinuating that weíre after $100 million. Weíre after a work plan and something that will alleviate the beetle kill in our jurisdiction.
As far as Alaska is concerned, theyíre aware of our beetle kill because they have a real issue with their beetle kill in southeast Alaska thatís quite devastating for their forest industry, but we and B.C. have ponied up. The forestry department is in constant contact with them in trying to work out how this business plan or process will work and how they address some of these issues.
I donít know the difference between a pine beetle and a spruce beetle, but there are obviously some similarities and, at the end of the day, we can work with them to work with the federal government to get the issue resolved.
I guess beetle kill is an issue in Alaska and I could certainly take that under advisement. I guess the more people and the more jurisdictions we have involved, the more we can learn about how those jurisdictions address the issue. Itís something I could take under advisement ó for Alaska.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair, I appreciate that from the minister. It seems to me that it would make sense to discuss the concern in the southeast with our neighbours.
How is the forestry legislation coming along?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, the policy discussions are going very positively. Of course, with the renewable resource councils and the other governments and, of course, working toward some legislation drafting ó itís moving along and weíre addressing the challenges that it takes to get it out. It has been positive. Donít get me wrong. It is a work in progress. It has been very positive, but again weíre trying to get something out that has to address and work for industry, renewable resource councils, First Nations and us as the territorial government. So we want to make sure that we can get it out properly and that we can all live with it. So we are working on it.
Ms. Duncan: My understanding from the minister is that itís policy discussions at this point. So there would be what we used to call probably a white paper or a booklet of some kind that is under discussion. I would assume ó perhaps the minister could correct that.
Mr. Chair, I would just draw the ministerís attention to one point in particular. The renewable resource councils that I have heard from, and I have heard from a number of them, find it very difficult to work on these key issues when they have some 17-odd vacancies in the renewable resource councils. The government has to move forward on those appointments. There has been a lot of foot dragging. So perhaps when heís talking to his colleague, the Minister of Environment, about educating the public in a number of areas, perhaps he could suggest that forestry legislation could proceed more quickly if the renewable resource councils were fully appointed, because those vacancies are causing a problem.
Could the minister just outline then what exactly is under discussion with the RRCs and industry? Is it some kind of booklet about forestry legislation? Is it a white paper or a green paper? What is the time frame for those discussions?
Hon. Mr. Lang: With regard to the membership with the RRCs and the vacancies, I can certainly talk to the minister who is responsible for that and see what is in fact going on to cause these vacancies. Itís never appropriate to have these boards set up and see huge gaps in the membership. How do we get a consistent flow of information and input if there are gaps and things arenít being done in an appropriate way?
In the Yukon, I guess, itís a working thing. We are such a small jurisdiction, sometimes it is hard to get people to sit on these committees and boards, because a lot of these communities ó a lot of these RRCs in these areas ó donít have the membership or the capacity to sit on all these boards that we as a government have set up. Iím not defending the minister; Iím just saying that there is a question out there and sometimes the membership falls off because of the lack of head count in our communities to make sure that our RRCs are fully working. Those are some of the things that we have to manage as a government.
With regard to the policy, we have the booklets out. They are not white; theyíre green. They are out there for the public to peruse and to get feedback from the public.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister could send one over. I think both opposition parties would appreciate having a perusal of it. Could I ask the minister to give the time frame of when weíre expecting comments back on this booklet?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre certainly open to sending over whatever is requested by the opposition to make sure that we keep them abreast of what is going on. On the issue of timing, weíre looking at the fall calendar. Again, I donít want to commit myself to that. Weíre working on it very actively to get the issues resolved and move forward and get the management of the forests out there as we grow into it as a government and as a jurisdiction.
Ms. Duncan: There has been a great deal of discussion about resource revenues with respect to the transboundary agreements and the agreements with the Kaska, the out-of-the-box agreements as struck by the Premier. With relationship to forestry, are forestry resource revenues on the table in any of these discussions with unsettled First Nations or the transboundary?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The answer is no to transboundary revenues. We are following what the previous government put together with the memorandum of understanding on forest management for the Kaska First Nation. Part of that stipulated that they would share in the resource, they would share in the management and also in the rewards of managing that resource. As far as transboundary is concerned, thatís not an issue. We just deal with what is within our borders, understanding the Kaska First Nation is not a settled land claim. Again, theyíre a big part of the southeast Yukon.
They are part of our society and community. Itís very important that we work with all of Yukon and all Yukoners to answer the questions and partner with all Yukoners to make sure that the resource sharing benefits First Nations and all Yukoners. So, at the end of the day, in the last two and a half years weíve worked with very positively with the Kaska.
We took the R block, worked with the federal government, and got the Ross River Dena in a situation where we have 60 people working out there. Thatís direct revenue into Ross River. Weíve moved ahead with the Kaska, and theyíve moved very positively on working with the Cantung mine. Now, thatís a mine thatís not in our jurisdiction, but the Kaska have been very positive about that. Theyíve been working with the Macmillan Pass situation with Cantung.
As our communities can see light at the end of the tunnel, itís very important for us as Yukoners to have success stories. Success stories include putting people to work, and the Ross River Dena are doing that today.
Yukon Zinc has been working with the Ross River Dena. Again, people are going to work in that area. It has been very much of a drought in that area for many, many years.
Iíll leave it at that, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister focusing his answers on forestry.
I have one last question. An agreement was signed ó I donít have the agreement in front of me nor the exact title. The agreement was with respect to developing the forest industry in the Teslin-Tagish-Carcross area ó southwest Yukon, I think, is the best description. In that agreement, raw logs were to go to British Columbia, with the possibility of raw logs to come north.
What is the current status of that particular agreement? What activity has happened as a result of that agreement? When will raw logs come north?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís another positive thing that this government has done with the B.C. government. Weíve entered into a working relationship with B.C. on how the Yukon and B.C. could get together and maximize the management of the forest in south Yukon on the border with B.C., understanding that there is a lot of forest in northern B.C. that isnít accessible to market and vice versa in the Yukon. So it is work in progress. We have to certainly do our homework on this and move forward, but it is a very constructive tool on how we could manage, in partnership with B.C., the forest near our southern borders. It would affect areas like Teslin. It would affect, of course, southeast Yukon, and it would affect Carcross. Of course, weíre looking at Atlin on the other side of the border. Weíre looking at the market. Y-01 is our most eastern part of the Yukon, which is not accessible to the Yukon from a harvest point of view. Like any partnership, it has to benefit both of us, and this is a very positive thing. The B.C. government is very interested in this. I appreciate their interest, and we are working with them to bring it to some point where we can look at numbers, make sure that all Yukoners are involved and that it is a positive relationship, but I think weíre on the right track, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Weíve been through the essence of the agreement once before. My question is: what happened with it? What product have we seen as a result of the agreement? What has happened?
Hon. Mr. Lang: There has been no cross-border exchange of logs, per se, but we are working on that, on how this thing would unfold. So thereís no production. Weíre just in the process of how itís going to work.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to go back to the spruce bark beetle question. I know that a lot of information came forward from the member opposite. I guess I just want to draw the ministerís attention to my riding and the attempts of the RRCs and the First Nations to address this matter too. For example, the FireSmart program, the money that was given to the community of Pelly Crossing one year, was addressing the spruce bark beetle infestation right in the community. There was an attempt to get rid of them and it was very difficult in the community unless youíre going to be cutting down a lot of trees. Thatís what they did. They cut down a lot of trees. If the member has gone to Minto Landing where the First Nation has their gathering, you could see the impact of spruce bark beetle right away. They again tried to address this matter and it has been very difficult. So, in dealing with communities around the territory, the communities of Pelly Crossing and Carmacks have really been impacted by this also. The concern they have with this is that whatís left of their forest is being impacted by natural things, like spruce bark beetles.
If you take, for example, the forest fires we had in 1995 around Minto and the Pelly area, I believe it burned up about 25 percent of the land selection that the Selkirk First Nation had. So they are very interested in trying to address this problem.
I was approached about two or three weeks ago by a member from Pelly Crossing who asked me to raise this issue because the impact of the spruce bark beetle is noticeable now when you drive down the highway. They have done work. I think that the minister is wrong about the trees that the beetles attack first. I think that they attack the mature ones and normally leave the young ones alone. What is happening in the territory is that they are hitting all the trees, the young ones included. Perhaps itís because of the dry weather and there isnít as much sap in the young trees. Thatís the big difference between here and other jurisdictions. It is that the beetles are hitting every tree.
We donít have reforestation by our young trees when the spruce bark beetles kill everything. I want to draw the ministerís attention to this and I hope that he will work with the First Nation on this matter. Itís huge. I know about the impact it had in the Kluane area. Itís moving toward the Braeburn area and the Minto area. Compounded with the fires we have had, itís having a huge impact. It can be addressed somehow and I think the Yukon government can address it.
It was brought to my attention that if you see a tree that has been impacted or killed by the spruce bark beetles, the spread is normally about a one-mile radius around the tree. So itís quite a job to control this problem, but it certainly can be done.
I donít have a question for the member opposite, but I want to draw his attention to that, so that he doesnít forget those communities. The RRCs have wanted to work on this. I donít want to go into the funding thing with the RRCs at this point, but itís an issue they have been working on for quite awhile.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the member opposite, Iíll commit, as the minister, to make sure that we involve the Selkirk First Nation and Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and make sure weíre aware of this. Iím sure my department is.
For the House, an important statistic is that 60 percent of the forest fire land mass in all of Canada last year was in the Yukon. Sixty percent of all the forest fires, in land area, was in the Yukon. So, this forest fire thing is a huge issue. Like the member opposite was saying, when the bugs go through a mile or whatever that radius is ó Iím not quite sure if the immature trees are hit first; but there is a step in the process ó they leave the tree before you see that itís dead. They have devastated the tree. The tree is standing up, looking like itís a healthy tree but, in fact, they have killed that tree and have moved on.
So, the minute you see a dead tree, like you do in the Kluane area, or in Minto, like the member was saying, that devastation happened maybe two years ago. So, we do need the expertise to digest this issue and resolve it. So, as the minister, I will commit to working with those two First Nations, as we work with all First Nations, to bring this to the forefront and try to get a team plan together that will work for all Yukoners.
Forestry in the amount of $3,105,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Lang: The good news part of my department.
Mr. Chair, the number of personnel is 8.2 full-time employees. Thatís $624,000. There is: branch operations, travel, contracts, communications and other, $80,000; agricultural policy framework project, $310,000. Those total $390,000. Contributions, Yukon Agricultural Association operating funds, $25,000; agricultural policy framework agreement, transitional funding $81,000; agricultural policy framework projects, $50,000. Those total $156,000. So if you add the $624,000, $390,000 and you add on to the bottom $156,000, you come up with $1,170,000.
Mr. McRobb: And what was the $624,000 for?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Personnel.
Mr. McRobb: I would invite the minister to be a little more descriptive at the initial stage of providing a breakdown. Can he tell us what he is doing to enforce agricultural leases?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, I was very clear on the personnel: 8.2 full-time employees. The member opposite has to be aware of whatís going on in the House, Mr. Chair.
Part of that is listening intently when I give my budget so we donít have to repeat this all the time. Itís a learning process.
As far as what weíre doing as a department to inspect the agricultural leases, can he clarify that point for me?
Mr. McRobb: I thought the minister said he knew his job. If he knew his job he would know that, on any agricultural lease, there are conditions for land use and so on attached to the lease. What is the department doing to enforce this?
Now that he has been briefed by the Member for Klondike, I expect a full answer.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To insinuate, first of all, that this minister doesnít know what his ministry covers is incorrect. Iím surprised the member opposite would insinuate that.
The question is that we have a department and a process, and these leases follow the process. At the end of the day, they have a process. We have an inspection; we have a policy on what they do with fencing, whether the gate is left open or is closed. Iíll go back to the 8.2 full-time employees, and part of their job is to follow policy. That costs $624,000 a year, so weíre not skimping on that.
Weíre resourcing the department to follow through and work with the policies that are in place to answer exactly that question.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that was a skimpy answer, Mr. Chair. Iím looking for something with a little more meat on it.
We know the agricultural leases require land to be used for agricultural purposes. There are restrictions on it. There are all kinds of leases now in the Yukon that arenít being used for those purposes on land that was obtained for those purposes. The minister has acknowledged he has an enforcement branch in this department and we on this side of the House are pleased he knows that. Now if he could just connect all the dots, the question is: are the enforcement people enforcing the ag leases with respect to the use of the land and, if so, can the minister apprise us of the situation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: His insinuation about having some meat on whatever is a question, Iím not going to debate. On the issue about agricultural policies, theyíre in place. Again, I want to talk to you about 8.2 full-time employees. To remind the member opposite, because of his short memory span, we spent $624,000 doing exactly what that member is insinuating weíre not doing. Weíre working very positively with the agricultural industry, the Yukon and also the government. We have checks and balances in place. Weíre doing exactly what the member opposite is insinuating weíre not doing.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís a matter of great debate, and so is the matter of this governmentís interference in the Yukon Agricultural Associationís bid for the exhibition grounds, as stated in the minutes from that associationís meeting. Letís check on the ministerís memory span. Did he or did he not direct them to the forestry reserve?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It must be getting close to closing time. The member oppositeís questions are not working in harness with the whole House. Iím not going to debate that fact, but Iíll remind the member opposite that the Agricultural Association represents the Agricultural Association. What they do at their meetings and what they say in their meetings is up to the Agricultural Association. I can tell the member opposite that Iíve never sat through an agricultural meeting in my life. Iíve made introduction speeches and left the room.
To insinuate that I was part and parcel of a meeting with the Agricultural Association is again dead wrong. With regard to the Agricultural Associationís request to apply for some land in the forest reserve, that was their decision. We have a process on how that application would be handled and the application was handled through that process. That process, at the end of the day, produced a negative response. There was no jerry-rigging or anything to do with the Agricultural Association except to give them the right to be heard. The right to be heard was at a LARC meeting. LARC made the decision. We as a government live with those decisions on a daily basis. In the end, the Agricultural Association lived with that decision.
I would remind the member opposite that when we talk about associations like the Agricultural Association, they are volunteer groups. They are a small, important part of our society. All those individuals are on a volunteer basis. They represent their constituents, which is the Agricultural Association. They do it in a very honest, up front way. There was no reason to do anything with the Agricultural Association but follow the process. They followed the process, LARC made a decision and everyone moved on. The system worked, Mr. Chair.
Did the Agricultural Association get land in the forest reserve? No, but we canít fault them for trying. They followed the process, step by step. They represented themselves very well but, at the end of the day, they were not successful. They moved on and we moved on. Thatís why we have LARC in place; it is exactly that: to get consultation and public input. They then make a decision.
As far as the fairground or whatever they were going to call that, at the end of the day it wasnít successful.
Mr. McRobb: So in his speech to the Agricultural Association, as the minutes indicate, did he direct the association to the tree farm?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís interesting, Mr. Chair. I hope the ministerís memory is up to cue.
Now, did the minister advise the group it could apply for more land than what it originally sought ó yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No.
Mr. McRobb: Well, isnít that interesting? We have a contradiction, Mr. Chair. The minutes from the meetings clearly indicate otherwise on both of those counts. I would like to put my understanding on the record. The secretariat for this association is a paid position, Mr. Chair. Not everybody there is there on a volunteer basis. We see a line item before us for $25,000 to this association. Certainly, Mr. Chair, those funds probably provide secretarial support services to this association. The number is right before the minister, yet he ignores this amount of public money. Heís the minister. He should pay attention to these line items in his department. He ignores them and stands up and says something completely contrary to the information in front of him.
Now, there are lots of questions on agriculture, Mr. Chair. Iíll move to another area. We talked about organic farming last year. The minister came up short in his answers. He obviously was not too much in favour of organic farming and assisting in the marketing and distribution and promotion of this particular aspect of the agricultural community. Has he come around to seeing the error of his ways, and if so, what is he doing this year that he wasnít doing last year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, I was not at any meeting that the Agricultural Association had, so whatever was in the minutes of the meeting, I was not involved with. So, for the member opposite to insinuate that I sat down at a meeting and directed the Agricultural Association to do anything, I would tell the member opposite that is wrong.
Now, as far as the organic farmers are concerned, they are a very active part of the Agricultural Association, and they, like all farmers, are heard by this government, and we work very positively with them. As far as the secretariat, I certainly recognize the fact that the Agricultural Association has a paid secretariat to do the work. But I would remind the member opposite that the board of directors are volunteers. Now, the money they receive ó a sum of $25,000 ó I would imagine partially covers the cost of having a secretariat. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in these associations.
This government understands associations and the costs, and weíve levelled off the playing field so that they all get $25,000 to do the business of running their associations. So, weíve stepped up to the plate and resourced these associations so they can do exactly what that member asked ó to hire the secretariat and to hire the expertise at the end of the day so that all the work of the association doesnít fall on these volunteers.
I appreciate the fact there are a lot of volunteers in the Yukon doing jobs with their associations. We recognize that, and recognize that they need to be resourced in a proper fashion so they can answer the questions their association needs them to answer, and they need the input from individuals who are paid to flesh out and answer these questions.
So, as far as the member opposite saying that the Agricultural Association did anything but what their mandate is, the mandate was to look for some land so they could resource their department. They had a dream and, as an association, they moved on it. At the end of the day, they werenít successful.
You donít hear the association complaining about the process. They went through it. They took their lumps and they went home and theyíre moving on with their association. So when the member opposite digs up the past on what happened, what happened was they made an application, it went through the process and it failed. Letís move on.
This department is quite large. I again remind the member opposite of how many more sleeps we have, and at the end of the day we have to get through a $784-million budget in a very productive way. To debate in this House, on a continual basis, what happened six months ago or who said what to whom and when is not productive. Our job as government is to answer questions and move forward with this budget, but the member opposite wants to put us in a situation where weíre addressing issues that happened six months ago. I explained to the member opposite the process, the association. I explained to the member opposite that I was never at a meeting that the Yukon Agricultural Association held. So as far as what they put in their minutes, I wasnít there to defend myself. I wasnít there at any point of this application. As minister, I wished them all the luck in the world on that application. I would work with them on any application they put forward, but again we have a process and the process is there to give the sober second thought at the end of the day on whether that was an appropriate application. It failed. The association has moved on, Iíve moved on and I hope that I can drag the opposition with me as we move into managing the agriculture branch in the future.
Mr. McRobb: Well, maybe the minister could drag himself up to the present question on the floor of this House. I asked him about what heís doing new for organic farmers. Did he answer the question? No, he did not. Instead, he delved into the past. Then he capped it off by preaching to everyone about how we shouldnít talk about the past. Another contradiction and case in point, Mr. Chair, and Iíve noticed several of them, especially this afternoon from this minister.
He says that his job is to answer questions. Did he answer the question? No. It was another case in point where heíll get up and contradict exactly what heís preaching to the House.
The minister should get a grip. This is the forum of accountability. Itís up to us to test the actions of the government and the ministers and itís up to the ministers to meet the test. Heís not doing that. Obviously, the minister has done nothing new for organic farming in the territory.
Let me ask him what new land he is developing for agricultural purposes in the course of this budget for the current fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Chair, I would like to address the situation of organic farmers. Organic farmers are very positive partners with the Agricultural Association. I deal with the Agricultural Association as a unit and I am certainly aware of organic farming in the Yukon. We are there to help the Agricultural Association address some of the issues ó those that we can as a government. We are doing that on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.
The member is insinuating that Iím not doing anything for organic farmers and, again, he is misinformed. They are part and parcel of the Agricultural Association. They have a voice in the Agricultural Association. When issues come up, I work with the Agricultural Association to address agricultural questions.
The organic farmers are part of the Agricultural Association. At the end of the day, they have a voice. Thatís why, again, we have an Agricultural Association that works with the agricultural industry. For the member opposite to insinuate organic farming is not part of the agricultural industry, again, the member is wrong. So we have the association set up. We have resourced it. We took it from $15,000 a year to $25,000 a year to give them the flexibility of managing that association and make it so that we could work with them on their questions. So the organic farmers ó again, I remind the member opposite ó have a place. They have a seat with the Agricultural Association. Weíre actively working with them and the other farmers. We have game farmers.
An interesting scenario was the potato harvest at Lake Laberge. On 22 acres, this farmer produced something like 600 tons of spuds. It was mind-boggling the number of spuds that came off that land. Now, when I go into Super A and I go into the other stores in town, I see Yukon spuds, Yukon Gold potatoes grown in the Yukon, sold in the Yukon. There is a success story. There is an individual farmer who took 22 acres of land, turned it into a mountain of potatoes that you would have to see to appreciate the number. It took them three months to build the boxes, Mr. Speaker, to handle the potatoes they got off 22 acres. I was amazed as the minister responsible for agriculture to go out and see the production, the cleaning, the harvesting, the storage of the potatoes. Theyíre in a building as big as a hangar. You cannot believe the number of potatoes that were produced off that little acreage. There is a success story for the member opposite. There is organic farming. There is a guy who took it because he wanted to revitalize the soil, so he decided potatoes would be the thing to grow as he rotated his crops.
So at the end of the day, Yukon Grain Farm produced all these potatoes, another success story in the Yukon in the agricultural arena. Again, weíre working with very positive people out there. There is no individual in Canada ó no bigger gambler than a farmer and they gamble every day with weather, rain. All the things they have to have to be successful is a huge gamble.
Okay, hereís a correction. The growers of organic food also have their own organization, so they do have their own organization, but they work with the Agricultural Association. Itís a buddy system. They do have concerns. Organic farmers are agriculture. We have our meat-raising farmers in the Yukon, we have our game farmers who harvest meat. Itís an organization called GOOFY ó Growers of Organic Food Yukon ó and they do work with organic farmers. By the way, itís an expanding industry and we certainly look forward to the future with the organic farmers. As Yukoners and as Canadians, and as the world becomes more conscious of what we eat, at the end of the day organic farming is becoming more and more a part of our life.
Mr. McRobb: I canít help but wonder, as the minister was looking at that stack of potatoes, how many eyes were looking back at the minister. Maybe he should open up a fan club of spuds. Maybe heíll be in some company.
Anyway, the minister got a bit flustered in his response and he didnít answer the question about the new agricultural land being developed. It seems obvious heís running a question behind here this afternoon, so I would invite him to play a little catch-up. Maybe he can get back up to speed and not lag one question behind. Iíll lob him a soft, new question this time, which is: if there is new ag land being developed, where is it located?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The reason I brought up the Yukon Grain Farm scenario was an example of how successful farming can be in the Yukon. I certainly appreciate the work that individuals did at Yukon Grain Farm to produce that crop. I donít make light of that work because itís very intense, and the product, packaging and presentation are excellent. Thatís very important when youíre dealing in the food industry anywhere, Mr. Speaker.
So, for the member opposite to make light of the fact that the individual went to work and did this ó you know, how many eyes are looking back at you and all of those Bob Hope statements are not appropriate in the House, and I bring him to task.
Anyway, as we move along, we are certainly aware of the demand for agricultural land in Yukon. To answer the member opposite, Iím sure heís looking forward to his next career as a potato farmer in the Haines Junction area. Iíd like to announce some good news for the potential farmer in the opposition. He has an opportunity, and I hope he takes advantage of it, in his own riding. We have a potential for ó itís undergoing an environmental assessment at the moment ó a total of 1,500 hectares in the Haines Junction area.
So, in answering the question ó and I know heís concerned about his own riding, and I appreciate that because thatís what his community expects ó there will be agricultural opportunities in his riding in the near future as we go through the environmental overview and as it unfolds. Itís underway now, so hopefully it will be ready to go in the summer ó the Haines Junction land.
Mr. McRobb: Well, at the risk of this debate becoming known as the famous spud debate in the Yukon Legislature, I will follow up by saying that if I ever do go farming, Iíll know where to go to find the fertilizer. Maybe the minister and I can meet up again and discuss old times when I do.
The minister seems to focus these questions on my riding. I am not asking riding-related questions here. He did that with forestry and lands. Now he is doing that with agriculture. I would invite him to look beyond the specific region that I represent. These are Yukon-wide questions Iím asking. So, if the minister can indicate any other agricultural land that is being developed in the Yukon, I will give him a chance to get up and complete the answer we should have had last time.
Can he indicate for us where that land is located and what size itís going to be and so on?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the issue from the member opposite and going back to it, the process in the House here is hopefully to pay attention to what goes on. Thatís very important. I understand that my responsibility is to be direct and give as correct an answer as I possibly can with the information my learned friend brings along with him and from what I know.
Obviously, he missed part of this afternoon. I did make it very clear that we are making rural residential lots and agricultural land priorities, and that we are working with ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair.
Chair: Mr. Lang, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Well, I appreciate the humour from the member opposite.
I will try to get to the end of this discussion. It is about how we are working on rural residential land, agricultural land and recreational land.
Now, as far as where weíre looking, again I remind the member opposite about his own riding in the Haines Junction area, and he makes light of that. I think itís very important for his constituents to hear that we are working very positively at getting that land out. And, of course, it is going through the environmental review as we speak. We have parcels near the Carcross Cutoff that are being surveyed and will be ready for sale in 2005. Hopefully, weíre moving that ahead in a speedy fashion.
We have had agricultural applications in the Stewart River Valley north of Stewart Crossing. Thatís a very positive thing. I would remind the House that during the gold rush in Dawson City, a lot of what Dawson City consumed, whether it was in hay or grain or food for individuals, a lot of that came from the Stewart Valley area. Now that we have the famous Mayo-Dawson power line that is tying the town of Mayo and Dawson, these individuals have access to power. So weíre looking actively at that area to expand our agricultural opportunities. Weíve been working with the First Nation.
Again, itís a partnership to make sure that we address all of the issues that are out there pertaining to land and we look forward to moving forward on agricultural leases throughout the Yukon. So seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. A motion has been put forward.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: † Thank you, Mr. Chair. For the sake of grounds of reasonableness, we must address this issue and not vote on the motion, because weíll just get outnumbered. It is 12 minutes to 6:00. The minister canít move that we report progress now. We have 12 minutes to go.
Chair: There is no point of order. The motion is in order.
It has been moved by Mr. Lang that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of 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 Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:53 p.m.
The following documents were filed May 10, 2005:
Public/Private Partnerships, open letter (dated May 9, 2005) to Hon. Dennis Fentie, Premier of Yukon, signed by 64 Yukon citizens and 10 citizens from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut† (Hardy)
Crossing Canada's Other Border: report prepared by PROLOG Canada Inc, (dated April 15, 2004)† (Hardy)