††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, November 7, 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.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of early childhood educators
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, today I rise on behalf of the House to pay tribute to a group of individuals who do not receive the recognition they deserve. The group to which I refer is the early childhood educators and childcare workers. These are the people who make sure our children have a safe and healthy learning environment and help them develop to their fullest potential in a variety of settings, including day homes and daycare centres.
We know, Mr. Speaker, that the experiences our children have in their early years affect their health, their behaviour and their learning into the future. In Ontario, Saturday, November 5 has been designated Annual Child Care Worker and Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day. So far this day is only recognized and celebrated in Ontario, but I believe it is important to take this opportunity to recognize these individuals who do this important work here in the Yukon.
Our government will be moving to declare November 5, in subsequent years, Early Childhood Educator Day. People who work with our children deserve all the recognition we can give them. We canít ignore the contribution these workers make to our society and the importance of their role in our lives. We recognize the quality care that our childcare workers provide to children in the Yukon and we acknowledge the role that they play in helping us as parents ensure our children turn into fine adults.
In recognition of Hockey Canada Week
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to pay tribute to a game that is synonymous with Canada ó hockey. Hockey is a game deeply entrenched in our Canadian culture. Though our nation plays it, and plays it well, itís still a Canadian game. Iím sure each of us who is old enough can remember where we were when Paul Henderson scored the goal.
Itís a game that unites our diverse nation. Each of us has a favourite memory of a particular play, whether it is our juniors playing over the Christmas break, the Olympics, the World Cup or one of the other international tournaments. With the maple leaf on their sweaters, each of our players represents Canada.
Across the nation, people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, incomes and perspectives stop what they are doing and share in the excitement and joy when the famous theme music starts up on television on Saturday nights on CBC. The same music ó sometimes called Canadaís second national anthem and, in some cases, itís used on phones ó may also cause groans and complaints by some family members who, for a few hours while the game is on, must entertain themselves in another way, quietly.
But hockey is much more to Canada than the NHL. It is kids playing street hockey in our neighbourhood. Itís the moms and dads getting up in the wee hours of the morning to get their kids to the arena for practices. It is the games of pond hockey in the winter. Itís the catalyst for arguments and celebrations. It is the black puck marks on the garage doors at home.
The NHL stars of the game are some of the heroes young hockey players work hard to emulate. Their dreams of one day joining the NHL motivate them to do their best and to strive harder for their goals and successes. Hockey is often the first organized sport many young people play, which helps to establish an early appreciation for exercise and staying in good physical condition.
The demands of playing hockey favour the physically fit. As peewees evolve into bantams and then into senior league players, they learn the value of active living and staying in good shape. This becomes even more apparent for players in the old-timers league ó at least some of the players in the old-timers league. Old-timer games are proof that the spirit and passion of the games do not diminish with age. The players may be a little bit slower, a bit more cautious in the corners ó although some of them arenít ó but they are still lacing on the blades and getting together to share in the game they love.
Womenís hockey teams are taking their rightful place in the arena spotlights. In structured recreation leagues right up to the Olympics, women are playing at a level that demonstrates their passion and skill in our national sport.
Professional hockey is appealing to the Canadian public to come back to the game after the recent players strike, and Canadians are coming back with the same passion and support for their favourite teams. Hockey is an intrinsic part of our culture and one that will endure into the future.
On behalf of my Cabinet colleagues, I encourage Yukoners to celebrate hockey as our national game during Hockey Canada Week.
Ms. Duncan: Itís an honour to rise in tribute to Canadaís national game. Itís one of the fun things we get to do in this place of otherwise very serious business of the people of the Yukon. Itís an honour to rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to recognize this game we are so passionate about.
In offering this tribute, I had to ask myself the question why Iím so passionate about this particular game. I have not played the sport of hockey; Iíve been the little sister, hanging out at the Jim Light Memorial Arena; my father was a very avid hockey fan and we, too, listened to the other national anthem on Saturday night on a regular basis. My husband plays and is equally an avid fan, and I am a hockey mom.
The reason Iím passionate about the game is because of the game itself. Canadians learn important values and life lessons on the ice playing this game. Hockey is the only sport that comes to mind that truly reinforces the values and concepts of team play.
Think about it. Everybody arrives at the arena; everybody is in the same dressing room, dressing together in all that hockey gear; every member of the team has to play in the short shifts of the hockey game; and everybody on the ice is equally important. Itís not just the goal scorer ó they needed the assist ó and the goal keeper at the other end is very important.
Thereís no team sport quite like it. These are life skills we learn playing on the team, and we use them all our lives.
Hockey is also an opportunity for children and adults to not only learn these life skills; hockey is also used as well to entice a youngster to read books like the The Moccasin Goalie. Thereís also broadening your horizons and the opportunity for travel for young people and old ó who play in old-timers. Thereís also the math skills we learn from peewees and tykes on up.
Mr. Speaker, as I said, itís an honour to rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to recognize Canadaís national game that we are so passionate about. Iíd like to express my thanks to fellow politicians and governments that work hard to provide support in building the arenas and in providing the operation and maintenance, and operating the arenas in every small town in Canada, the businesses that support our teams and the sponsorship of the teams, the support crews. There are grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles who come out to support their hockey players and, of course, the officials and the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association.
Thank you to the hard-working executive, the convenors, the referees, and most of all, of course, those who are out on the ice playing Canadaís national game. Good on you. Thank you for making Canadaís national game so important to us.
Mr. Hardy: I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. Sheís from France and has been here for quite awhile, but she was really puzzled with this obsession with the game of hockey. She has tried to watch it. She has even gone out to the some of the local games with other people but canít grasp it, just canít get her head around it and canít see what the big deal is about the game. You could say that about a lot of games out there. Each country seems to adopt certain games that they rally around as a country. In Canada it seems to be hockey. I didnít even try to explain the magic or the attraction of hockey to her. I think itís something that a person needs to immerse themselves in to understand. But most of all, what it really is, from my perspective, is a northern game. Itís played on ice; itís played in the snow; itís played outdoors. It used to be played outdoors, predominantly. It really epitomizes living in the north and being in contact with the elements. At one time it used to be played by a very large group of people in Canada, and that changed, unfortunately, because hockey is not the most popular game in Canada as an activity any more. There are many reasons for that.
The two speakers before me have talked about all the benefits of hockey, and I donít contest that. I have been involved in hockey since I was a little child. I have been involved right up to coaching, even at the Canada Winter Games the last two times. I am obviously a person who is supportive of the game, but I also have some reservations about it. I do not think of hockey as the NHL, nor do I think of the NHL as whatís good about the game. When I think about hockey, I think about street hockey. I think about the kids playing with just a stick and a ball or puck. I think about floor hockey in our gyms. I think about kids getting together at a momentís notice, or adults getting together and doing some shinny. I think about pond hockey ó I learned to skate and play hockey on a pond in Porter Creek. I think about the outdoor rinks that are all over this territory and are so well-used. That is the hockey I think about, and the joy I think about ó not the organized hockey, which has its place and is relatively good ó when the game is just turned over to the kids or the adults, and the rules fall aside, and they just play for the pure love of the game with some basic rules and where it originally came from. That is the beauty of that game.
We are very fortunate in Canada: old and young play, male and female are very much involved, and we have phenomenal facilities to play in. It is truly a northern game, and a lot of people around the world donít even know the game and donít understand it. It is ours; it is unique to Canada. We are always contesting ourselves against other countries to see who has the right to say they are the best. Interestingly enough it is almost always northern countries that have come out on top, and Canada has been fortunate enough to be there as well.
I would like to close very quickly here.
But it is still a game. We must keep in mind that we are playing a game. It has got to be fun; it has got to be an expression of yourself and played for the love of the game itself. We also have to remind ourselves that we are fortunate enough to play a game like this. This is a wonderful country and we have these wonderful games we can play. Many places in the world do not have that opportunity.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: † Mr. Speaker, Iíd like all members in the House to join me in welcoming Marlene Dunsten, a parent, and other concerned parents who are here today in the gallery. Welcome.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 3(2) of the First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, I have for tabling Order-in-Council 2005/155 regarding amendments to several Yukon First Nation self-government agreements.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 10
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a petition to the Yukon Legislative Assembly, and it reads as follows: ďThis petition of the undersigned shows:
THAT it is legislated that day home and daycare employees have basic first-aid certification; and
THAT school bus drivers must have basic first aid and level B CPR; and
THAT Ontario school teachers must be trained to recognize and treat allergic reactions; and
THAT the Manitoba Association of School Trustees has a policy that calls for mandatory first-aid training for all school employees charged with the care and supervision of students; and
THAT all Yukon native teacher education program graduates have basic first-aid training; and
THAT currently, Yukon teachers follow the Yukon Workersí Compensation Act, stating that only one in 10 employees have basic first-aid training; and
THEREFORE, the undersigned call upon the Yukon Legislative Assembly to urge to Government of Yukon to adopt a policy that is mandatory for all school employees in the Yukon Territory charged with the care and supervision of students to have basic first-aid and level B CPR training.Ē
Speaker: Are there any other petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: †I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to provide ethical leadership that will help restore the confidence of Yukon people in their government by not abusing the spirit or intent of the sole-source provisions in the governmentís contract regulation.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, in recognition of its recent record of huge budget surpluses, to assist all Canadians who face a drastic increase in the cost of heating their homes this winter by immediately eliminating the good and services tax on all forms of home heating fuel.
Mr. McRobb: †I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Finance to direct his officials to accelerate their efforts to develop a program to provide relief to Yukon people who face a drastic increase in the cost of heating their homes so that the proposed program can be introduced for the consideration of this House during the current sitting and begin providing relief to Yukoners this winter.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) most professionals dealing with children are required to have first-aid training as a condition of employment;
(2) not all teachers and caregivers in Yukon schools are required to have first aid; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to develop a plan in conjunction with the Yukon Teachers Association to ensure that over a reasonable time all school employees who are charged with the care and supervision of children have basic first aid and level B CPR training.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† School enrolment
Mr. Fairclough: Last Thursday, the Acting Minister of Education told a local radio station that a new school will be built in Copper Ridge-Granger area of Whitehorse. Why did the Premier keep the Minister of Education out of the loop on this multi-million dollar decision?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, certainly the Minister of Education has always been in the loop. The Minister of Education is charged with overseeing the Department of Education for the Government of Yukon. As the Minister of Education stated quite clearly in the Legislature last week, our government is committed to building a school in the Copper Ridge area.
Mr. Fairclough: We believe differently. Now, Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday the Minister of Education told the House his department was monitoring school enrolment and educational needs in this area. At the time ó this is straight from Hansard ó this is what the minister had to say, and I quote, ďWe will engage all stakeholders in a process that is inclusive so that decisions are made that will be in the best interests of everyone.Ē
So this is a question to the Premier again: why did the Premier allow his minister to say that when he and his government had no intention of living up to that promise?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, quite the contrary. In addition to seeing a demonstrated need for a new school in the Copper Ridge area, our government has also made the commitment to undertake a Yukon-wide review of existing schools to determine which schools are in need of replacement and to see which schools are in need of repair to the existing structure. So certainly we are very much committed to working with our stakeholders, our partners in education, to review this very important initiative.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís too late for that; the decision has already been made.
Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, who is also the Finance minister: was this new school in the main estimates last spring? No. Is it in the supplementary budget that weíre debating today? No. Itís another snap decision by this big-spending Premier to commit millions of dollars without any planning, without any consultation, without any sense of fiscal responsibility.
Yukon people recognize this for what it is: an act of desperation by a Yukon government that knows that theyíve lost the confidence of Yukon people.
So to the Premier again, what other impulse expenditures can we expect from this Premier between now and November 21?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Contrary to the members opposite, who may not see a dire need for a school in the Copper Ridge area, we on this side of the House do. We on this side of the House do see a demonstrated need for a new school in the Copper Ridge area.
There has been significant growth in the population over the last number of years, Mr. Speaker ó unprecedented growth. There has been, I believe, a 22-percent increase in the student population in the Elijah Smith Elementary School. They are busing students out of that area. There is a need; there has been substantial growth in residential home building taking place within the Logan and within the Arkell-Copper Ridge areas.
So certainly we see the need and we are willing to put the dollars toward a new school in the Copper Ridge area. As well, we are also very much committed to undertaking a comprehensive review with our partners in education to assess the existing school structures to see where replacements are needed and also to see where improvements are needed.
We are very much committed toward the well-being of our student population. One only has to look over the last three years at a 17-percent increase in the Department of Educationís budget.
Question re: Doctor shortage
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, itís time to follow up with the Health minister on what heís doing to resolve the Yukonís doctor shortage. Since this matter was last raised with the minister it has gotten worse, not better. More clinics have closed. Our population has increased. Under this ministerís watch, more families are being forced to do without a doctor. In the south, the length of the waiting time before a person sees a doctor is relatively short. Here in the Yukon, people have been waiting several months, to no avail. According to our campaigners, Copper Belt residents call it a crisis. Whatís the ministerís plan to resolve this crisis?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This minister and this government have a number of initiatives underway that are going to assist in this area. The issue is not access to doctors; the issue is access to a family doctor, and that we do have a problem with. There is a shortage of family doctors here in the Yukon. But we have access to the territorial health access fund, and weíre expanding and working cooperatively with the Yukon Medical Association to recruit new doctors here. We are expanding the roles of the walk-in clinics. That is not the end-all or the final solution, but we are encouraging doctors to locate here in the Yukon, and weíre being successful in a lot of ways.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Yukoners were expecting more results by now. Obviously, the minister hasnít read the letters sent to him on this issue; maybe he should take them more seriously. Now, the Health minister has repeatedly said that we have a high doctor-patient ratio. Although the numbers sound good, the minister is ignoring the reality that many of our doctors are working only part-time. Furthermore, the lack of specialists here makes the work of family doctors even harder. The minister has said he meets with the Yukon Medical Association on a regular basis to help find solutions to this problem. Can he tell us exactly what solutions he has found to resolve the family doctor shortage?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to. Our government has worked with the Yukon Medical Association and developed an agreement where they have in place a four-year agreement with the Yukon ó their fee-for-service schedule. We have a recruitment and retention bonus. For the first year, doctors who practise here for the full year receive the $16,000 just for practising here in the Yukon. In addition to that, for the next year ó but the following year after that ó there are two years ó they receive a $32,000 retention bonus for practising here in the Yukon.
We are moving forward in lockstep with the Yukon Medical Association with a wage and benefits package that is commensurate with what the rest of Canada has in place, and indeed we have improved upon it. At the same time we are offering a quality of life here that is second to none in Canada.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously, that isnít good enough; otherwise people would have family doctors by now.
The minister mentions the YMA agreement, but we see very little in the way of transparency from this government. Perhaps the minister would undertake to table that document.
The cost of sending patients Outside, rather than treating them locally, is increasing. We have witnessed many doctors who only stay long enough to attain higher qualifications, then they leave. This is not a Yukon solution. When can all Yukoners expect to get family doctors?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon sends people Outside. They are referred Outside by the local doctors for levels of treatment that cannot be provided here. In fact, it is major centres in Canada that provide those levels of care. We are very, very fortunate to have access to the medical system in not only British Columbia, but Edmonton and Calgary. It is probably a long time away before the Yukon will be able to provide such things as a major heart operation, but we have made tremendous strides in wait time for things like knee replacement surgery. There is a backlog in Canada for knee and hip replacement surgery. The Yukon, by way of a pilot project, has a team that does knee replacements that comes to the Yukon, and we have a number of Yukoners who are available for this knee replacement surgery. That is working very well, and we will be moving forward on that.
Mr Speaker, overall, the Yukon health care is in a very, very good position.† There is always room for improvements, and we will continue to work on those improvements.
Question re: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Premier on the governmentís lack of leadership on the ANWR issue. For three years the Premier has been a bystander in this debate. Calls for leadership have gone unheeded and unanswered. It has now come to crunch time.
The U.S. government is as close as theyíve ever been to opening up ANWR to drilling. The Government of Canada has made its position clear in repeated visits to Washington. Our Member of Parliament has done the same. The NDP has done the same. The leader of the Liberal Party has also travelled to Washington to stand up for what Yukoners believe in; namely, protecting the refuge.
The only one who wonít go is the Yukonís Premier. Itís a simple request and it comes at a most critical time: will the Premier travel to Washington this week to show his support for ANWR?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Once again, itís very encouraging to see that this Assembly and all its parties are unanimous in our position for protecting the Porcupine caribou herd and its critical habitat.
The memberís assertion, though, that this government has done nothing, flies in the face of the evidence. In fact we have on every occasion possible voiced our opposition and our concern and our position to the Governor of Alaska, to the Prime Minister of Canada, in a face-to-face discussion with the President of the United States and, Mr. Speaker, we went further to state that position at the press gallery in Washington.
So weíre doing our part, along with the other parties, along with Canada, along with Yukoners, to ensure we support the Vuntut Gwitchinís position. We continue to resource the Vuntut Gwitchin government in their efforts.
Ms. Duncan: † Itís obvious to everyone that the Premier is not prepared to do what it takes to stop drilling in ANWR. If this were an oil and gas conference, the Premier would be attending in a heartbeat. Itís an environmental issue and the Premier is not interested.
The leader of the Liberal Party recently attended a rally in Washington to show his support. The Prime Minister of our country gave a speech at the Economic Club of New York, probably one of the most prestigious venues in the world, and used it to highlight the ANWR issue. Iím asking the Premier to do the same thing: show some leadership. Use the office of Premier as it was intended, to speak up for Yukoners.
Will the Premier travel to Washington in this most critical of weeks to raise this issue on behalf of all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Once again, Mr. Speaker, the government side ó myself and others ó continues to raise this issue. The government continues to support the Vuntut Gwitchin government, and by their request the Vuntut Gwitchin government has made it clear that they want to take the lead in this matter. So, if the Government of Vuntut Gwitchin makes a request of me or the government, we will certainly assess that request and continue to support the Government of Vuntut Gwitchin in their efforts to protect the Porcupine caribou herd.
Again I repeat: I, too, have been in Washington relaying these messages, through the press gallery, the press club in Washington, with the Canadian ambassador, with the Secretary for Energy, Secretary Bodman. In a meeting in Ottawa with the President of the United States we voiced our position and our concern ó and the list goes on, Mr. Speaker.
I think itís important, though, that we recognize that if we want to try to stake political ground out here, weíre doing a disservice, not only to the Vuntut Gwitchin but to the fact that weíre creating a perception that weíre not unanimous in protecting the herd, which is not the case at all, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: The Premier says he raised this with the President. Standing in a receiving line with 500 other people who are at the same dinner and shaking hands with the President is not raising this issue. The Premier needs to go to Washington on behalf of all Yukoners and demonstrate some leadership on this issue. Time is running out. Why is the Premier so reluctant to speak out on this issue on behalf of Yukoners? Is he reluctant to oppose this issue because his mentor, the Governor of Alaska, supports drilling?
The leader of the Liberal Party can travel to Washington to speak out; the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin has attended, as well. Members of this House, as representatives of Yukoners, have asked the Premier to speak on behalf of all Yukoners.
Will the Premier use the influence that comes with the office he holds to speak on behalf of all Yukoners and travel to Washington during this most critical of weeks?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Once again, the third party has their facts wrong. In fact, the meeting with the President was hardly a 500-person receiving line. It consisted of the premiers only, the former prime minister and the leaders of the official opposition parties in the House of Commons ó hardly a 500-person receiving line.
Furthermore, we continue to do our part, but the difference between us and the Liberals ó as admitted by the now Liberal leader ó is this government continues to talk to those who support drilling. The Liberal leader, by his own admission, said they talked in Washington to the converted, to those who already oppose drilling.
Let Yukoners choose whoís doing the best to represent Yukon and the Vuntut Gwitchin with respect to protecting the Porcupine caribou herd.
Question re: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Mrs. Peter: For three years, I have repeatedly begged this Premier to help the Gwichíin First Nation save the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd from oil development. A final decision on the fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could be made within days, with the outcome hinging on a handful of votes. The leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party are willing to go to Washington to help save the refuge. Will the Premier tell this House and the people of Old Crow whether he is willing to do the same?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our government has been supporting the Vuntut Gwitchin since we have attained office. They have asked to lead in this initiative. The subject matter has been debated here in this House and has been unanimously passed ó to protect the critical habitat area of the Porcupine caribou herd. To that end, our government is constantly on the telephone and dealing with the Vuntut Gwitchin on this matter. Theyíve asked for the lead, weíve given them the lead, weíve resourced their initiatives, and we will continue to do so.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this is a good example of the disrespect that this government has for the Vuntut Gwitchin in this matter. The Premier refused to sign a letter objecting to developing the refuge. He repeatedly refused to use the influence of his office to persuade U.S. politicians in Washington that they are making a terrible mistake.
I now understand that Chief Joe Linklater will be inviting the Premier to join the Old Crow delegation heading to the United States for the final budget bill vote this week in the House of Representatives. Though the Premier has ignored every one of my appeals over the past three years, will he now fly to Washington and remind his good pal, the President, and other U.S. decision-makers, why this herd is so important to the people of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this side ó in fact the entire House ó is well aware of the role the Porcupine caribou herd plays in the life of the Gwichíin people. That is an irrefutable fact. It has been the subject of many motions debated in this House and passed unanimously under successive levels of governments. Our Premier has gone the extra mile on this issue. Our Premier has been the first Premier in the history of the Yukon to meet with the President of the United States of America and bring this matter to his attention. You canít go to any higher level.
There is a whole series of initiatives the Vuntut Gwitchin have asked our government for assistance in resourcing and we have resourced them. They have asked for the lead on this initiative and we have agreed with the direction that they have wanted to take. We have resourced the initiatives, we will continue to resource the initiatives, and we will work with the Vuntut Gwitchin on this matter and move forward on this file. It is a very important file to all Yukoners and we have made considerable inroads and progress on it.
Question re: First aid training for teachers
Mr. Fairclough: This governmentís mantra is that if there is a demonstrated need they will meet that need, and I heard the Acting Minister of Education say that again today. Well, only a few minutes ago I tabled in this House a petition that clearly shows a demonstrated need. Over 2,000 people have signed this petition. Concerned parentsí signatures ó they want teachers to be trained in first aid so that children are safe while they are at school. Will the acting minister meet the concerns of these parents?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The safety of our teaching professionals, student population, staff and administration is of paramount importance to our government ó it has been and will continue to be. As members opposite know, all schools have school-wide plans that set forth a process to deal with various emergencies.
With respect to first-aid training for teachers, at present there is no requirement for teachers to have first-aid training, except in specialized situations. However, a number of schools have several staff members trained in first aid and, as well, many schools also use professional development funds to train and maintain certification staff in first aid.
I should also add that the Yukon Teachers Association has stated publicly that they also do not want first aid as a mandatory requirement for employment.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís part of the problem the public has with this Yukon Party government: they skirt around the questions and concerns raised out there by the public and the ministers are not clear in the answers they give. Iíve said it before and I think it needs to be said again that daycare and day home employees are all required to have basic first aid, school bus drivers must have first aid, some provinces have even made it mandatory for teachers to have first aid. YNTEP students take that training, educational aides have first aid, and at school our children are faced, of course, with many dangers, including allergies and so on. Thereís much concern out there.
The Minister of Education has been saying that we have one teacher in 10 who is qualified for first aid and thatís enough. Will the acting minister commit to working with YTA to implement first-aid training for our teachers and school employees? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, just for the member oppositeís information, again, as I understand, Yukon Teachers Association has put on the public record that they do not want to see first aid as a mandatory requirement for employment. Should this change, that would be reviewed. As for now, they have stated that they do not wish to see this as a mandatory requirement, and we respect that.
Question re: Dawson City recreation centre
†Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, when did the Minister of Community Services become aware that the Member for Klondike had promised the people of Dawson City a new recreation centre?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, Iím unaware of the situation he is talking about.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, there you go, Mr. Speaker. The minister should read the newspaper, because a former MLA for Dawson City, for the Klondike, announced at a public meeting that he had been talking with the Member for Klondike, and the Member for Klondike had told him they were going to build a new recreation centre on the old place where the heavy equipment government workshop was.
Now, the people of Dawson have been without a municipal government for 18 months, and theyíve been waiting for this minister to provide the necessary resources to get the town back on its feet financially. The Member for Klondike hasnít been able to deliver on his promise of a bridge for that community. He has his fingers all over the multi-care facility, and he canít deliver on that. Now heís offering his constituents a multi-million dollar plum. If his latest political promise does go ahead without any real input from the people of Dawson, will the minister at least give us the assurance that it wonít be sole-sourced to a friend of the Yukon Party government, as we have seen happening elsewhere?
Speaker: Before the minister answers the question, Member for Mount Lorne, that implication is clearly out of order, and I would ask that you not do that in the future.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I think he is just trying to make a point with regard to the paper, and I can assure him that I am working closely with the CAO for Dawson City in trying to ensure that the city is getting on its feet financially. As far as the rec centre goes, that is something that is a little further down the line. Right now we are just trying to get the financial matters of the municipality underway in a manner in which we can look toward an election.
Question re: Government contracting
†Mr. Hardy: Here we are, only six days into the sitting and already we are hearing serious concerns about how this government is conducting the public business. We have seen one acting minister announce a multi-million dollar school project that isnít even in the budget. It wasnít even on the radar, but guess what? Thereís a by-election happening.
We have seen another minister tell Yukon Party friends in his riding that the community will get a multi-million dollar recreation centre that isnít even in the budget, Mr. Speaker. At the end of this last sitting, we saw the Premier announce millions of dollarsí worth of pet projects without any consultation with the Yukon people, and without any discussion in this House.
Why does the Premier continue to treat the territoryís finances as if they belong to him and his Cabinet colleagues, not to the hard-working men and women who pay for government services through their taxes?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The question is simply not realistic, Mr. Speaker. There is no way any government can treat the finances of this territory in any other way than following the law and with this Assembly providing spending authority. Everything that is in the budget for this fiscal year passed this Assembly.
The member said that a school in the riding of Copperbelt isnít even on the radar screen. I thought the member had just accused this government of not listening. If the member had been listening, if the opposite benches had been listening, they would have found out that one of the most important issues to the citizens and residents of the riding of Copperbelt is the fact that this growth they are experiencing is starting to dictate that they need a new school. The other schools are full; they are busing students. Of course we have been listening, and that is why are looking at what is clearly a demonstrated need ó a school in that riding.
We are also doing the process necessary, under the leadership of the Minister of Education, to assess the whole Yukon to determine where schools are needed. That is how the Tantalus School became a high priority and is now underway. Iím sure that more schools will have to be built in this territory as we go forward in the coming years.
Mr. Hardy: I agree with one word the Premier said, and thatís ďdictateĒ, because thatís what weíre witnessing. To use the Tantalus School as an example of good management ó I donít think so. We have chaos happening up there and Iíll tell you right now that we have serious problems about how this came about ó the school announcement when thereís a by-election happening. Yukon people can see through this.
Theyíre also getting very concerned about the ethics in government. They donít like what theyíre seeing from the Liberals in Ottawa and they donít like what theyíre seeing from the Yukon Party government. This is coming up day after day on the doorsteps in Copperbelt, but Iím also hearing it from all across the territory.
What role did the Premier play ó and this is an example of following the rules ó in a decision to issue sole-source contracts in excess of a quarter million dollars in the Premierís riding to a contractor who happens to be a family member of one of the Premierís Cabinet colleagues?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The whole issue here is one of maximizing the benefits for Yukon and maximizing the benefits for the community of Watson Lake. Our government committed to the construction of a multi-level facility in Watson Lake and in Dawson City. Through the appropriate processes, we came up with a conceptual design.
There were quite a number of meetings with the residents of Watson Lake as to how we could best proceed. We proceeded in a manner the community requested of us, through the Contractors Association and through the Chamber of Commerce, to hire a project manager in that community and move forward, exactly as was done by the previous NDP government when they built the rec-plex in Dawson City, by the same group of people who have a demonstrated capacity to bring projects of this nature to fruition, on time and on budget.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, that is so incorrect itís unbelievable. I donít remember family members getting contracts from the NDP like this. Also, I donít remember, after a project management contract being awarded, that project manager awarding himself another contract of $270,000. So maybe this minister should go back and check the facts.
This deputy minister has also acknowledged that the optics were of concern. We do agree with that. The contractor in question may be perfectly competent, but the process used to award these contracts have many, many people very upset, and weíve read the paper last week about the Contractors Association and many of the contractors stating that.
The government wants us to believe it was following the wishes of the people of Watson Lake, as well, as he just stated, by doing it this way. But it really hasnít provided any convincing evidence.
I know many people in Watson Lake. They werenít consulted. And the project in question has a value of $5.2 million in this yearís budget, Mr. Speaker. Will the Premier give his assurance right now that all their future procurements on this project will be contracted in a manner that is both transparent to taxpayers and fair to all Yukon contractors who might be interested in participating in this project? Would he give that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, that is already happening. In fact, all through the process, that is exactly what the government has followed.
When we say we want to maximize benefits in Yukon communities, let us for a moment look at the facts. Itís this government that has, in a fair and balanced manner, distributed the capital investment by government across this territory, community by community, ensuring that we leave benefits in those communities on behalf of those respective citizens. To say that we are doing anything outside of policy, the law, regulation or all that is required by government is, frankly, nonsense, Mr. Speaker. Furthermore, the contracting community in this territory is very busy ó very busy, because this government in successive budgets has brought in the largest capital budget in the history of this territory. Nobody is losing out in any way, shape or form, other than the opposition, who have yet to figure out exactly whatís going on in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, our growth is evident population-wise ó under the members oppositeís watch, an exodus of our population. Our economics are growing. Our social fabric is strengthening. There is optimism in this territory. That is because of the way we are investing taxpayersí dollars throughout the Yukon. Itís to the benefit of Yukoners and their future.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Bill No. 60: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 60, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Taylor.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I move that Bill No. 60, entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 60, entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise here today in the Legislature to introduce amendments to the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act. I would first like to provide some background on why these amendments are being introduced at this particular time.
In June of 2004, the Yukon government appointed three members to sit as members of the 2004 Judicial Compensation Commission. For members opposite, the Judicial Compensation Commission is an independent commission established every three years under the Territorial Court Act to make recommendations regarding salaries, pensions, allowances, benefits and other matters pertaining to the remuneration of the Yukon Territorial Court judiciary. In the Yukon our Territorial Court judiciary consists of three judges, one full-time and salaried justice of the peace as well as 49 justices of the peace.
In the early part of 2005 the Judicial Compensation Commission issued its report recommending, among other things, that Territorial Court judges and the full-time salaried justice of the peace continue to have the same benefits that members of the management group of the Yukon Public Service have under section M.
Section M governs the terms and conditions of employment for public servants appointed to the managerial, legal, officer, as well as deputy minister groups. Included in these benefits under section M is group insurance for such things as long-term disability, health and dental care and various types of life insurance.
The government enters into the group insurance contracts pursuant to the provisions of the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act.
†Our government recognizes the work of the Yukon judiciary and is committed to fully implementing the recommendations of the independent Judicial Compensation Commission.
Small amendments that we are bringing forward today simply clarify that the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act and the insurance contracts made under it apply to the Territorial Court judges and the full-time salaried justice of the peace.
These amendments are supported by the Joint Management Committee, and this committee is established under the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act. Itís comprised of a number of representatives, from the employer, union, Teachers Association and management. It is responsible for the administration of group insurance benefit plans under the act.
Agreement to these amendments will allow for full implementation of the recommendations put forth by the independent Judicial Compensation Commission.
I look forward to members oppositeís support for this particular bill. Again, the amendments to this act are keeping in compliance with recommendations brought forward from the Judicial Compensation Commission.
Mr. Fairclough: We on this side of the House do not have problems with Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Insurance Benefit Plan Act. It is very short, Mr. Speaker. It goes to show how much work the Yukon Party has done to bring forward legislation in this House.
It is housekeeping. There is an explanatory note inside the cover page, and the main part of the amendments to the bill only takes up a couple of lines on the page. What else could be said about that?
I was hoping the government side would come forward with recognition of and respect for some of its employees, instead of the way they have gone about the computer-use investigation and so on. That, to me, would say a lot about how government respects their employees, if they could come out and show that.
For example, why didnít they bring forward whistle-blower legislation that we could debate in this House? We have been asking for it for three years now. They only have less than a year left in their mandate. Bring forward that legislation and give the respect back to the government employees. We have been debating this in the House; we have asked questions many times during Question Period in regard to whistle-blower legislation, and nothing has come forward so far.
Weíre hoping the government side will roll up their sleeves, do the hard work and bring to the floor of this Legislature some legislation that protects employees who want to talk about government efficiency in the different departments. That is what we want to see, Mr. Speaker.
We want the government to do some damage control. The computer-use investigation had a big effect on people ó the employees. Not only that, but information was gathered beyond government employees. Iím concerned about that information, Mr. Speaker. For example, when the computers were being investigated, anyone who sent an e-mail to a government employee ó that information was looked at by the government side. In other words, if confidential information was sent from a First Nation to the government, what happened to all that information? It is supposed to be destroyed, but from what I hear, a lot of that information is still out there.
Iím concerned about that. We havenít heard anything from the government side on what happened to that information. We havenít heard about how this government is looking at trying to bring respect back to the employees. We havenít heard any of that. We on this side of the House will be supporting this bill and I urge the government side to really look closer at showing that respect to the employees of the government.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to express my support for Bill No. 60. It is very short, as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun pointed out; however, itís very important that, when we receive recommendations from a commission such as the Judicial Compensation Commission, that require amendment to legislation, we move forward on them and deal with the recommendations.
This bill simply provides for the Judge of the Territorial Court and the senior presiding justice of the peace to be covered as are other employees with the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act benefits. I support that and appreciate moving forward with expeditious passage of this piece of legislation.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I, too, of course support the bill. Itís very straight forward.
I just wanted to comment on one thing from the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who I still think should get out more. His suggestion that ministers or MLAs should interject themselves between the Public Service Commission and its employees, I find distressing. Government, in the form of elected representatives, may not inject themselves in any way, shape or form between the Public Service Commission and employees.
Perhaps the member opposite would like to think upon that and review the appropriate legislation and guidelines.
That being said, I certainly support it.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I noted two points. Number one, that the Member for Porter Creek North is casting aspersions upon the character of the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, suggesting he needs to ó I believe the term he used was ďget out moreĒ. I note also that with respect to our Standing Orders ó if you permit me for just a moment, Mr. Speaker, I am just getting the precise reference. It is 19(i) for casting aspersions. With respect to the rules of debate for discussion on second reading of the bill, the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly urge us to focus our comments on the merits of the bill, the title and the substance of the act.
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, there were many occasions during the Member for Mayo-Tatchunís discussion on the bill that I could have risen on a point of order and pointed out that he was contravening the Standing Order. In the interest of the flow of information and letting members opposite raise their points of view, even though we disagree with them, even though they may not conform to the Standing Orders, itís in the best interest that this just be classified as a dispute between members and that we move forward.
Speaker: Opposition House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I agree there is a point of order. Clause 19(i) of the Standing Orders suggests the member should be called to order if he uses abusive or insulting language in a context likely to create disorder. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have seen disorder created. We believe the language was insulting in the context of its use, so therefore there is a point of order.
Speaker: On the point of order, Member for Porter Creek North.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, two things to consider in this is that the information and ideas were already interjected into debate, which would certainly allow a member on either side of the House to comment on that.
I also bring to the Speakerís attention his ruling of April 26, 2005: ďÖthe Chair would also remind the House that asking questions and providing answers ÖĒ and I would suggest debate is certainly part of that ďÖare integral to the role of members of this Assembly and they should be free to do so without being accused of attacking anyone ÖĒ
Iím simply answering comments made by the member opposite. He suggests that someone should have done something in the case; we suggest that nothing can be done in the case. Itís a dispute among members.
Speaker: I thank the members for their eloquent points. I would ask that you allow me to review the Blues and, rather than holding up debate today and consulting with my Table Officers, I be allowed to review the Blues and report back to the House.
If the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank members opposite for their support for this legislation. I would like to put on the record, though, that we on this side of the House do respect our employees. In fact, we have the utmost respect for our employees. They do a wonderful job for Yukoners, day in and day out, and we appreciate the service delivery and the programs they offer on our governmentís behalf for the Yukon people.
I would also like to remind members opposite that it was our government that actually initiated and is implementing the investing in public service initiative, an initiative that I brought into this House just a few short months ago this spring, during this past fiscal yearís budget.
That is an initiative that is worth, I believe, almost $1.2 million, and it incorporates a number of initiatives from internships called GradCorps, of which we were very pleased to be able to be able to, through the Public Service Commission, hire a number of students who are now employed within the Government of Yukon to provide services as interns, you could say, over the next year. We are also continuing with Yukon government leadership forum, the Yukon government coach program.
Again, these are all tools in our toolbox, as you would say, to enhance our training and skill developments for each of our employees, as well as providing safe and healthy workplaces through various initiatives, whether that be through Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, through the Department of Health or through the Public Service Commission.
Our government is very much committed to being able to assist employees with a number of initiatives to enhance their training in order to be able to plan for the future.
With respect to the whistle-blower legislation, I would just like to say to the members of the official opposition that I am still waiting for a response to my letter of September 12, 2005, for which I have received nothing by way of a response. So we certainly have responded to their earlier letter, and we are very much committed to proceeding with a select committee on whistle-blower legislation. Unfortunately, we just havenít heard from members of the official opposition ó and I have heard from the leader of the third party, in all fairness.
So I just wanted to put that on the record, that, in fact, we are certainly committed toward the establishment of a select committee of all parties to proceed with this important legislation, which we committed to do within our election platform, but we have yet to hear from the official opposition.
So perhaps they would want to pen a letter and present it to our offices. We would certainly welcome any feedback that they do have.
Again I would like to thank members opposite for their support of the bill that is before us and look forward to further debate.
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. 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, the results are 15 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 60 agreed to
Bill No. 17: Second Reading ó adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie; adjourned debate, Mr. Hardy.
Mr. Hardy: Itís nice once again to rise up and speak about the bill before us today and talk about the many issues that arise from it, and how we come about it.
When we last spoke about it, I was talking about education. I spent a fair amount of time on education, Mr. Speaker, because there have been a lot of serious concerns raised by the people of this territory about how this government goes about trying to address some of the concerns in education. One of the easiest things to do in education is to build a new building ó or supposed to be.
But this government has set new standards on how not to do it.
Now we have another example, of course. We have the promises of a school in the riding of Copperbelt. There is a by-election happening there, and it was made without any consultation with the people in that riding. It was made without any consultation with the people of the territory, and yet that was announced with very little fanfare, with very little preparation by the candidate running for the Yukon Party, and then quickly followed up by the Acting Minister of Education who made the announcement in the Legislative Assembly when the Education minister was not here, which raises some serious questions on this side of the House as to whether he was part of that decision or not.
We believe that when you are named as minister, you do have some responsibilities. An announcement like this did not have to be rushed. The minister was in his chair, back in the Legislative Assembly, the next day. He could quite easily have made that announcement, but obviously the acting minister felt that she wanted to make that announcement for some reasons of her own. We donít know what the reason is behind that, but Iím sure we are going to find out.
Tantalus School and the Carmacks issue ó there are very serious problems around that. From the way the Yukon Party has handled that school, how they bypassed the community involvement to put forward their own perspective, attaching a space that obviously the community never asked for or never wanted, has caused some serious problems to the point where the First Nations in that area have now indicated that they want to draw down education. So you are going to build a school and there is a possibility that they might not even be part of it. They might not even be in there.
How do you describe that kind of action by a government? On top of that, how they can stand and say they are doing a good job baffles the minds of the people in this territory, because itís not happening.
Another example is whistle-blower legislation, of course. We have been waiting for three years for that election promise to be fulfilled. Three years have gone by and all we get from the minister is that there were some letters sent and there are 10 months left in their mandate and sheís going to sit around and wait for another letter.
Interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister is not aware of this ó maybe the minister needs to talk to some of the staff upstairs ó but the principal staff member up there has been down in our office, talking to us to advance whistle-blower legislation, or at least the formation of a committee to take a look at whistle-blower legislation thatís so desperately needed and has been promised for three years but hasnít been delivered. He has been in our office, working with us on it, and we had assumed that he had authorization to talk on behalf of that minister and convey what we said back to that minister.
In the Yukon, we do occasionally work like that. We would like to work like that more often, where you can sit down and talk about it.
Now the minister got up earlier and said that nothing is moving forward because sheís waiting for a letter in response to her September letter, but since September, the staff member has been working with us closely to finalize this. That was omitted in her comments, interestingly enough, and I really wonder now whether that staff member has any authority whatsoever to be doing this. I guess weíre just going to have to pull back on discussing where weíre going with this whistle-blower legislation because we really donít believe thereís any communication happening upstairs. Itís a sad statement. Unfortunately, three years have gone by and nothing has been done.
The minister is trying to point it at us, although weíre talking to their staff member. Whatís going on over there? Thatís what we have to ask. Whatís going on? Obviously, there is a big problem with communications.
So everything that has been said to the staff member who said they were speaking on behalf of the people upstairs now has to be considered null and void, and we canít move forward on our agreements.
Speaker: Order please. I understand the honourable member is very passionate about these issues, but weíre speaking to the supplementary budget. I would ask the member to please focus on that. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will definitely focus on that.
We are very, very disappointed not to see any kind of budgetary item in regard to whistle-blower legislation being brought forward along that line. Every year we have waited to see that, and nothing has been brought forward. I guess from our perspective, as we get closer to the end of the mandate of the Yukon Party government, we have to start to assume that some things will just not make it because there is only one more budget left in the cycle. So when we look at the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, that does raise concerns for us.
Now, education, like I say, has become a very volatile subject in this territory, and that has been brought about by the handling of the Yukon Party government and their approach to it. There was a huge announcement ó and it could be a $10-million school ó that is nowhere identified in any of the budgets leading up to this. Normally, Mr. Speaker, in something like this, possibly if we felt that a school was going to be built up in the Copperbelt area, we would see some item in the budget that would indicate planning, or hiring of engineers or architects and planning.
Thatís pretty common within all budgets ó but thereís nothing, thereís zero. So this announcement came as a huge surprise. Iíve gone through the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 and looked, and Iíve looked at the other budgets, and I havenít seen that kind of allocation of money leading up to where it would go out to tender or be put into the main budget and we would see the amount of money set aside to build a school.
None of that has happened, so it is really out of the ordinary. That raises serious concerns about how decisions are being made in regard to spending taxpayersí money ó and a substantial amount of money. It kind of reminds me of when the previous Liberal government was sitting on the other side and the problems they got into around the Grey Mountain Primary School. I think I may stand to be corrected, but I think thatís in your riding, Mr. Speaker. If itís not in your riding, itís next door to your riding.
Iím sure, Mr. Speaker, you would have heard a fair amount on the doorstep around that in the last campaign, because I do know it was one of the major issues discussed by the public, and concerns about how decisions could be made for spending the taxpayersí money and the serious concern that you have to prove your case to spend that amount of money, and you have to have a good reason to build another school or to make changes to a school. People want to be involved.
Previously, the NDP had a system in which representatives from school councils worked out a schedule for school replacement and needs. We found that worked very well and didnít cause us ó in the 14 or 15 years the NDP has been a government in the territory, they have built many schools and have never had the problems that the Yukon Party government is facing on all their schools. There are two initiatives now; there used to be one but, last week, there was an announcement so I guess weíre looking at another one.
It wonít be built before the mandate is finished, so it is a promise being made for the next government that comes in. So we are concerned about that when we donít see anything in the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
But there are other areas to look at as well. I will give you an example. In the Budget Address, there is talk about the northern strategy, which will contain both a Yukon chapter and a pan-northern chapter. We have heard a lot about it; we know the sums of money that are involved. It goes on to say in the previous yearís Budget Address in the springtime that each chapter will have a short-, medium- and long-term goal and objectives toward achieving northern vision for the next 20 years. Usually when you work toward a northern vision, that means you consult the people of the territory around this kind of funding. You try to get the vision of the north.
It goes on to say that this government will consult with Yukoners and partner with First Nation governments to establish goals and objectives to achieve this vision. That is legitimate, but the problem is that Yukoners havenít been consulted about this yet. We do know that there has been some consultation with Council of Yukon First Nations, and on that side of it, it seems that the Premier has been working, but he has omitted the consultation with Yukoners. This is a substantial amount of money. We are talking a total of, I think, about $70 million, and of course it is broken down over a few years.
But there has been no consultation with Yukoners, and yet already there is a position that is going to be put forward to the Prime Minister, I believe, in the near future, on where a portion of that money should go. But there is that one piece missing, and it is substantial ó that is, the Yukon public. I am very concerned about that.
When I hear the Premier discuss putting forward what that money should go toward and where it should go, because there is that big gap, I donít know what goals have been established. I am a Yukoner; I donít know what goals have been established. Iím not sure what the northern vision is, coming from the Premier. I havenít been consulted on this, and I definitely know my constituents have not been part of any consultation in this regard.
There has been very little that has been put out about this amount of money and what the northern vision would be for the next 20 years. There have been no round tables, there have been no consultations, there have been no panel discussions, there have been no radio shows. There has been no outreach in a broad context to create or identify northern vision.
So weíre very concerned about that, because in looking at the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, a lot of times, it goes back to how are you spending the money and what are your priorities? And the best way to spend the money, the best way to identify priorities is with the Yukon people involved ó all people. That is the absolute best.
It raises questions around the trajectory, and we all know, when the Yukon Party government was elected, the statements made by the Premier, in which he, even in his Budget Address in 2003-04, the title of it, first page, is ďControlling the trajectory of spending,Ē and we all know what has happened since that Budget Address. The spending has just gone completely off trajectory ó because Iím assuming in that statement that the idea was to get a handle on and control the type of spending that he had indicated was unsustainable from previous governments.
However, he has exceeded any other government in our history in spending, and we have to question the fact: is this sustainable? We did question the Premier. He admitted in this Legislature that the spending the Yukon Party government was on was not sustainable.
So what does that say about your future? What does that say about where weíre going? Well, I know there are some business people in here, and I know that if they were looking at their bank accounts, their costs and income, and realized that thereís no way in the world their outlay would cover what was coming in, down the road, they would make adjustments; they would deal with it. Thatís what I understood as controlling the trajectory of spending ó the title and statement of the Premier ó common economics, not hard at all.
But guess what? Weíve gone in the opposite direction. We canít sustain this so weíre going to spend more and then see where everything falls. Maybe something will fall out of the sky. Itís a wing-and-a-prayer type of economics and very dangerous. I donít think the Yukon people need to be subject to that kind of careless and inappropriate action from a Finance minister.
We also have to recognize what has been the biggest growth in the economy. This is a Premier and a Yukon Party government thatís on record ó not just for their three years. Many of them told me this when they were first elected. Many former Yukon Party members and many conservatives have always talked about one key point: it is the private sector they have to stimulate, so the private sector is the one that carries the load for the economy, and the costs and the taxes and the spending for creating the jobs ó that is the philosophy of the Yukon Party government. At least I thought it was.
I have seen in other parts of Canada that same philosophy being brought forward time and time again. But when you take a look at the spending habits since this government has come in, you recognize that we are one of the only jurisdictions in Canada where the public spending as a percentage of the GDP is going up. So there seems to be something wrong with this picture. We are looking at a conservative ó or at least they think that they are conservative in their habits ó government spend more money than any other government in the past. We are looking at a conservative-minded group of people who recognize that they canít keep this spending up but they are going to spend anyway ó which is a contradiction to being conservative.
Also we look at the results ó the fact that the growth industry in the Yukon under this government is public spending, not private sector spending. So as a percentage of the GDP, they continue to grow. Now, this is in contradiction to what I thought was their philosophy. You have to look at the figures and really wonder what the heck is going on. But if you look a little broader, around Canada, you recognize that conservative governments in Canada have historically done this. They have often said that they control the spending, they get the financial house in order, and yet the facts are out there, Mr. Speaker. There was a report that was published only recently ó I think within the last month ó that demonstrates very clearly that the Conservative government is only second to the Liberals in Canada ó and they looked at territories in Canada, my understanding is ó in running deficits. They are the worst people in control of money.†
This is a report that was not put out by the NDP, just in case anybody thinks so. As a matter of fact, they found the most fiscally conservative of all parties in government in Canada, historically, has been the NDP. Fascinating. That was a fascinating study.
The member across the way is laughing. I would love to have a debate with the member across the way on their type of spending right now, because this is just proof of what I am saying ó especially when they say it is not sustainable. Especially when you look at the GDP, and whose percentage has been rising. It is the public spending.
This report that came out ó and Iím quite happy to share this 75-page report ó was commissioned by the Liberal Government of Canada. I think the Liberal Government of Canada thought they would come out looking really good. They commissioned this report to look at all governments in Canada ó provincial and federal governments ó to see the spending and deficit spending. Unfortunately for the Liberal government ó not the Conservatives ó Liberal governments were the worst. They are the worst people for handling money, and handling it in a conservative manner. We only have to think of the Gomery inquiry and what is happening there. We only have to think about how fast the debt rose in Canada during the Trudeau era. We only have to look at the Mulroney government and how much more it continued to rise. There were massive increases ó some like we have never seen before.
Then look across the country. We only have to remember the Devine government ó a Conservative government ó and what they did to the economics of Saskatchewan. How many billions of dollars in debt did they run that province into in nine years? I think they were in power for nine years, and they almost bankrupted the province. Now that was a Conservative government.
And since then, how the NDP has come in and brought that debt down, wrestled it to the ground, and turned it around, and is still trying to, because itís not an easy thing when you run up almost $11 billion in debt for a small province. There is your comparison again. British Columbia ó well, when you look at the books itís fascinating to look at the books. Again, that was studied as well.
Mr. Speaker, Iím not talking about the spin. Iím not talking about a spin; Iím talking about facts. When the Auditor General goes in and takes a look at the books: an independent analysis of spending. Well, the difference between the conservative Liberals that have run deficit financing when theyíve been in government is very, very high. And you look at the NDP ó I think there is a spread of 20 or 30 percent in comparison between ó who actually looks after your finances better?
Well, the only reason I mentioned that was to point out, here we are with a government or ó Iím not sure; Yukon Party government. Iím not sure if that means conservative or libertarian or what. Iím not exactly where it is on the political spectrum, but I would assume that, knowing the people who formed it, it is from the conservative background ó but to show that they are duplicating the type of spending of their colleagues have across the country that has given them such a bad reputation. So Iím concerned about that.
How about the athletes village? Decisions were made very quickly only because there was a panic. This is a government that seems to panic and spend. It is a big concern of mine. The school announcement last week was a panic-and-spend reaction, knee-jerk reaction, for the wrong reasons.
The right reasons are that thereís a possible need for a school to be built there. That case could have been made. The wrong reason was to announce it with no planning whatsoever because thereís a by-election and they were under heat for it.
The athletes village is a very serious concern. Iím going to get the figures for this, but in looking at it, it looks like each unit is costing over $400,000. I stand to be corrected because I havenít had a chance to sit down, but in the next couple of days I will take a look at that. If you have something costing $30 million and you have 78 units in it ó if I had a calculator, Iíd do the math right here. When you figure that out, you end up with a pretty pricey one-bedroom apartment. Now, there are two- and three-bedroom apartments as well but, on average ó
If youíre saying itís around $400,000 or even more ó and as I say, Iím just ballparking the figure ó thatís a couple of houses, easily. Thatís possibly even three houses with property bought and three houses that are three-bedroom, with their own kitchens, driveways and landscaping. Weíre talking about an apartment complex, which is supposed to save money: shared walls, shared plumbing, things kept at a controlled cost because you can build it as this one is being built, as a modular.
Iím going to look into that and into those figures, because it looks to me like itís awfully pricey for the number of units youíre receiving.
Again, thatís a big concern. Again, that was a decision that was made very quickly ó for the last couple of years, this government knew it was facing that, that it was coming to that ó and it was a decision that cost a substantial number of jobs in the territory because now we have a large portion of that ó at least one-third of that cost ó being built Outside by carpenters, plumbers, electricians, sheet-metal workers, drywallers, finish carpenters, floor layers, and lots of trades ó I believe itís in Alberta. The benefit will be shipping it up the highway, and these modulars will be stuck together up here.
Thatís one-third of the cost; thatís over a $10-million contract being done Outside when we could have had many of the apprentices working up here and more tradespeople working up here all through the winter doing this. We could have possibly had a pre-fab factory set up. I do know there were proposals brought forward on the athletes village. I know my colleague from Mount Lorne raised this question last year and the government didnít respond.
Proposals were brought forward and, in the end, the easy way was to give it to the Outside company that was already set up. We could have created an industry here and we lost that opportunity. We also lost jobs for local people and we lost supplies being bought from local businesses ó all major impacts.
Again, I see it as incompetence. I see it as not working with the people of this territory, not being visionary, not looking down the road at whatís coming and starting to work on it early enough so you donít have to rush and make poor decisions. But the Yukon Party government did it and we lost jobs.
We lost money for our businesses, and we lost training, and thatís a shame. There are other projects we can point at. Look at the bridge, the wonderful bridge over Dawson City, the one the MLA ó the member opposite said something about the bridge over Dawson City.
In Dawson City, thatís what they call it, actually. They get a laugh out of it. Itís such a massive project, and if you ever look at the video and the Web page of it, itís huge ó it truly is. I actually went to Dawson and walked the route, to get an understanding of the proposal and the embankment that would have to be built ó the build-up. It starts so far deep into the town and a long ramp would come up, and it cut off so many houses they would not be able to even see the river any more. As you come along Front Street, you come up and you curl, it was knocking off, I think, two or three streets and the banks were rising. It was getting higher to finally get the clearance over the water. So a lot of people called it the bridge over Dawson City.
Fortunately, for us on this side, we had predicted a cost, and I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you remember this cost. It was my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun who stood up and said, ďThis bridge is going to cost $50 million.Ē I remember the Yukon Party members on the other side laughing about that ó absolutely not, couldnít cost $50 million ó $25 million is how much the bridge is going to cost. Again, this is Yukon Party number crunching. I just talked earlier about their number crunching and deficit economics.
Anyway, Mr. Deputy Speaker, here we are ó $25 million. About two or three months later, four months later, my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun said this bridge is going to cost $45 million or $50 million. Costs kept getting ridiculed by members opposite but we noticed their costs had gone up to $30 million. Then the Yukon Party said $35 million. So now there was a $10 million spread already in just a few months ó interesting economics, interesting budgeting.
Guess what, Mr. Speaker? When the final costs came out, my colleague was pretty accurate. I think the cost we heard was something like $49.5 million for the bridge. Now, that is pretty darn accurate without having any access to the structure and how it would be built and all that. These were the costs that came forward from the two companies that were selected by this government to be allowed to put in a price through a P3 model.
Now, we had issues around the P3 model, of course. We believed that the P3 model was going to raise the cost and it did. The members opposite, I believe, recognized at some point that they had hooked themselves on to a method and a plan that they were not going to be able to afford to deliver on, and itís an election promise. As a matter of fact, the Premier in his Budget Address, made it very clear that that bridge was going to be built. So, here we are: a $50-million project, approximately $25 million more that what the Yukon Party initially predicted. You really have to wonder who is out of touch when it comes to looking at budgets and costs of projects and spending.†††
We found that when we looked at the lapses, there were $60 million in lapses. Contrary to what the Premier says, that is not common. That is a substantial amount of lapses. Again, we asked the questions: why and how are we seeing such a large amount of lapses? What is going on? It doesnít instil in us on this side any great deal of confidence in the people on that side in how they budget, because it is one project after another that is over budget. The Carmacks school came in overbudget ó substantially over budget.
That is the only project we can point at that this Yukon Party government is trying to do. It isnít even done yet, and there are a lot of problems. There is your $9 million plus, and it could be even more. We are very concerned about that. Again, another overbudgeted item, and we are talking millions. We are not talking hundreds of thousands; we are talking millions of dollars.
I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you were running overbudget like that ó and I know you just recently built a house ó Iím sure you donít have access to a great amount of capital that you could just say that it is going to cost 20 to 30 percent more ó no problem. I donít think you would want to do it. You would make changes.
Unfortunately the government had an opportunity to make a change. They had an opportunity to actually save themselves $800,000 or $900,000 on that project and do what the community wanted, and that is drop the extra space that they wanted attached to that school. There was a choice there. Instead of doing what the community has asked for, instead of doing what the First Nation has asked for, they decided that they will go over budget and shove on that extra space. What is really shocking about that is that they donít even know what it is going to be used for.
Thereís no plan. Originally they were going to put Yukon College in it. Obviously the community did not want that. After demonstrations out on the street, after shutting the Premier out of their office, after meetings, after meetings, after meetings, the Yukon Party government finally listened. They said they would not put Yukon College in there but, when they had a chance to save over approximately $800,000 on a project that came in overbudget, they chose to spend the money, though there was no need for it.
Well, itís interesting, isnít it? Itís a different perspective, a very different perspective. Itís waste; itís absolute waste, and thatís what happens when you donít recognize that the money you have is not yours. Itís the taxpayersí money that you have the responsibility to spend properly. You have the responsibility to be accountable for every single dime you spend. Itís a lot different than in the private sector. Youíll be questioned on that spending ó a lot different than in the private sector.
So here we have a government building things that are not wanted, even though the project is overbudget, spending ó it must be a couple of million dollars on the bridge project by now. And there will be no bridge. Yet, thereís a couple of million dollars gone. Add the Carmacks school piece, $800,000 plus another million dollars overbudget, or even a couple million dollars. Start adding it up.
How about the rail study? Iím still waiting to see some proof that the private sector is behind this project. That case hasnít been made. Iím still waiting to see a business case. Before you would spend $3 million on a feasibility study ó that case wasnít and hasnít been made.
Iím still waiting to see the commitment that was told to us by the Premier and by the Member of Parliament that the federal government was going to pay for that, to reimburse the Yukon that $3 million. Itís not there. So why spend the $3 million on this rail feasibility study? Why? When there were already some studies done, why throw another $3 million of our own money plus another $3 million of state ó pardon me, itís not state. Now the Alaskans ó Mr. Murkowski negotiated for somebody else to pay for it, something that our Premier couldnít do. Itís the federal government paying for it, not the Alaskans. So itís easier to spend that money. Itís the federal government. Mr. Murkowski can pledge that money. But our Premier was incapable of negotiating the money for that feasibility study, so what did he do? He charged again so he could be a player at the table.
And there is no private sector involvement there, unless there is something out there that hasnít been shown to the public yet. There is no federal commitment ó zero ó although we were told that announcement was going to be made immediately ó $3 million, not chicken feed. So here we are, $3 million, $2 million, a couple million on the school, another $800,000 on space that has no use whatsoever, and weíre just touching the tip of the iceberg on the type of spending that weíre witnessing with this government.
So, yes, we do have concerns. Yes, we had a problem voting for a budget when we see such unbelievable waste and lack of accountability and no long-term visioning, and a Premier who stands and says itís not sustainable. Weíre not going to support somebody who spends knowing full well itís not sustainable. Weíre not going to encourage any more spending of that nature.
†We have a Premier who states in his first Budget Address after being elected that one area of concern was the Health and Social Services area. He had to get that spending under control. Well, a $32-million increase later in less than three years ó in three years, a $32-million increase ó is that getting it under control? Those are the questions weíre asking on this side of the House.
Never mind even the priorities and where that money should go. Thereís just absolutely no control whatsoever ó a $32-million increase.
One good thing about the Legislative Assembly is that you have an opportunity to look at the books and ask the questions. That doesnít mean the Finance minister has to answer; it doesnít mean any of the ministers have to answer; and this Yukon Party government has taken not answering to a new height. But at least we have an opportunity to ask questions that the public asks and try to hold them accountable for the reckless spending weíre witnessing.
You know, I can think of a lot of uses, just some of the things Iíve touched on already ó $6 million or $7 million. I know a lot of places that money could be put that would improve the quality of life for people in this territory. Itís amazing, when you go through it.
Interestingly enough, there are still poor people on our streets. Interestingly enough, the minimum wage hasnít been touched. My colleague from Mount Lorne brought in a minimum wage motion. Why did he have to bring in a minimum wage motion? Because this government does not care. Theyíve had three years. They brag about the economy but, guess what? The minimum wage has not been touched. Why? Itís obviously not a priority. Let the poor stay poor.
How about all those jobs out there? Well, we know where a lot of those jobs are. A lot of them are part-time, service jobs. Do you want to have a really powerful impact on peopleís lives You have an economy that supposedly is doing well because obviously the Yukon Party government is spending money and it doesnít matter if it is a good project or not, just spend ó why donít you raise the minimum wage? Why doesnít the Finance minister take a look at the minimum wage? Why not? That would have a positive impact for people out there. Is it not part of the equation? Three years have gone by. The excuses, the time ó all of that has gone past. People are waiting to see something substantive from this government ó not the rhetoric about turning the economy around. Now, that is an interesting argument as well, because I have heard the Finance minister and the Minister of Health and Social Services stand there and say that the only reason the economy has turned around is because of them. That is fascinating, because I can talk to a majority of people out on the street and they will tell you, ďNo. Anybody who says that is dreaming. They are trying to take credit for other peopleís work, or other factors that are not in their control.Ē But that is the mantra we are now getting from the other side. Of course, I welcome that debate as well.
I cannot imagine the oil and gas industry sitting there with bated breath, waiting for the Yukon Party to come into power so they can raise the prices and invest in the Yukon. They are working under an act that was brought in by the NDP. There is no change, so what was the difference? There is no legislation, no change in regulations as far as I know ó or very, very little if there is. They are working under an NDP act.
I canít imagine all the mining firms around the world saying, ďHold off. The Yukon Party is going to get elected. When they do, prices are going up. Weíre going to invest in the Yukon. Weíll wait.Ē Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, people are not impressed with personal congratulations, chest thumping or taking credit where credit is not due. Unfortunately we are starting to hear more and more of that.
Thatís just one area. Where I give the government credit is for what I mentioned earlier: percentage of gross domestic product, public spending. So, the opposite of what often a conservative government portrays itself as has happened. They have stimulated the economy through public spending. But how much of it is credit to the Yukon Party? Again it is questionable. We in this territory know a substantial amount of money has come into this territory because of the Canada Winter Games. Something like at least $17 million has been spent in the last two years. That has major impact in a small territory. Thatís in addition to a capital budget. Thatís the City of Whitehorseís contribution, thatís the federal government contribution, thatís the territorial government contribution. That is a lot of other investments coming into the territory. That is the creation of an economy that is moving along quite well. A lot of it in the Whitehorse area in the last couple of years can be pointed toward the Canada Winter Games. Remove the Canada Winter Games equation out of it and I can tell you right now there would not be a shortage of tradespeople.†
There would be a lot of tradespeople who would be looking for work. The Canada Winter Games have generated a substantial economic incentive in this territory, and guess what? In a year and a half, it will be all over. So whatís the long-term vision, the long-term plan, to deal with that at the end of that economic activity? Itís large.
I heard a figure, and I heard it from the president of the Canada Winter Games, which he had heard in talking with other areas that had hosted it, and they said the economic impact on a region, after they had done an analysis of the Canada Winter Games, is approximately $200 million. Thatís inclusive of the media coming here and the equipment and the volunteers. Thatís massive, thatís huge: $200 million for a few activities in a two-week period. For a territory this size, it is pretty amazing.
So, what do you do? Whatís our plan? Whatís the next government going to inherit? Thatís probably a better question. There are many issues around this, and Iím just touching on some of them.
We have housing problems. My colleagues will talk more about that. We have promises of social housing. We debated this in the springtime ó no social housing. We have promises of seniors housing, through a financial agreement with the federal government. No seniors housing ó none.
We have a project that taxpayersí money is going into ó private sector ó so I guess that would be a partnership. But there are conditions around that. But I donít see seniors in that complex. I donít see seniors homes being built. I know that the seniors are wondering what happened to that money that they thought was going to help them get affordable housing.
Promises of affordable housing ó I donít see affordable housing being built.
How about the pipeline? What money is being spent on the pipeline? We had to hammer the Finance minister day after day to extract the promise that that money would flow again. I hope that money is flowing again to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. But the N.W.T. is so far ahead, and they have negotiated so well with the federal government to access money that we look silly over here. We have a Premier who was unable to negotiate anything. He came back from Ottawa empty-handed. Yet on the other side of the mountains, $500 million, $13 million, $11 million for an office ó itís amazing. The federal government is completely behind it. We have a project thatís four times the size, that will generate far more work, and we got nothing from the federal government. Weíre getting nothing from the federal government. So what has the Premier been doing in this regard? What happened there?
Signing another MOU is not going to cut it. Weíre not pipeline ready, and that is a fact. Thatís three years of Yukon Party government, and weíre still not pipeline ready. We donít have training happening on the ground. I donít know of any pipeline training thatís happening here.
I know the pipefitters union has tried to do some small amounts of training. This government should be partnering with them, because they are the ones who have the instructors, the equipment and the ability, because they do it all the time in Alberta and in Alaska. They do it everywhere; they train people to work on pipelines. There should be a partnership there. They should be sitting down with them ó nothing.
First Nations have sat down with the unions and have already been working on an agreement of how to ensure Yukon people are employed, but whereís the territorial government in that? Nothing. Why is that?
So, are we ready? Absolutely not ó no money, no training. But the Premier will meet with Governor Murkowski, and now he has met with a couple of the premiers as well, but whatís happening on the ground for the people? Nothing. So, are we ready? Absolutely not. Nowhere near it.
We have issues. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been brought up time and time again. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has begged the Premier to at least go down once with the other people, with her ó she has gone down many times ó to indicate the Premierís commitment. The Premier does everything possible to avoid answering that question or to go.
Thatís all it would take ó one trip, to stand up and be counted with the people, be seen with them, be seen with them fighting for that area, not separate, not this nebulous meeting with the President of the United States where there was a lineup and you got to talk for 10 or 20, maybe 30 seconds, and you might or might not have been able to convey your concern about Arctic National Wildlife Refuge among all the other issues that you might want to raise with him. But be with the people who are actually lobbying, be in the lobby group, donít be separate. Sign a letter that the two leaders on this side signed. No, as a matter of fact, we havenít even got the letter back. Weíre still waiting for it.
So you wonder, Mr. Speaker, why the people out there do not believe the commitment from the Yukon Party government in this regard when the Premier will run to any oil and gas conference, any little meeting ó a mining meeting, anywhere ó but on this issue, on an environmental issue, on something that is so significant to the people of the north, he will not go. Of course people donít believe the commitment. They donít believe the sincerity around that. Thatís a shame.
Childcare in the budget ó I know this government is bragging about the amount of money they put into childcare. We asked questions around childcare and wages in the last couple of years. I know childcare workers. A 12-cents-an-hour increase over three years is not an increase when the cost of living easily outstrips that. But that is what some of them have actually seen on their cheques ó 12 cents. So where was that commitment that that money was going to flow to the childcare workers, into their hands? Where was that? It didnít come through.
So, Mr. Speaker, you can talk about the amount of money youíre spending all the time, but if that money is not sufficient and itís not going to where you want it to go, then you have a serious problem, because those workers out there to whom we entrust our children for a substantial amount of time during the day are not getting it. They are poorer than they were three years ago when the Yukon Party government was elected. They are actually poorer now than before that election.
SA rates ó social assistance rates. If weíre doing so well, and the economy is so good, why canít the government address the concerns of the poor? Again, I talked about minimum wage and the working poor; now Iím talking about people on SA, people in need. Why does the government refuse to address that? Why is that being ignored?
All the act reviews that we keep waiting to see some results from ó itís endless: the list of problems, the list of unaccountable spending, the list of waste. In my history, Iíve never seen as much, ever.
But Iíll give the government credit on one thing. They really are hung up on megaprojects that are, on one side, totally out of their control ó as they stand up and say theyíll be decided by somebody else but, on the other side, laying claim to the credit if it comes, or laying claim to the credit of anything they say or do or any MOU they sign.
We have problems with the relationship that is evolving with the First Nations. Thatís very serious, as well, because what I find distressing is that the Premier will stand there and say relationships are better than ever before, that everything is great. You will have chiefs representing their First Nation governments saying itís the worse relationship theyíve ever had, going public over it, after theyíve tried to negotiate with this Premier. Then the Premier getting up and dismissing it, saying theyíre just playing politics. You donít dismiss people that way: thatís disrespectful, Mr. Speaker.
Those people have legitimate concerns and most of them have raised those concerns in private before they have gone public. As a leader, you should pay attention. If it has gone public it has gotten quite serious.
So I do know that the Premier has said on many occasions that for a future in the territory the First Nations have to be a part of it, they have to be treated as equal partners. There has to be a relationship of respect, collaboration, inclusiveness. Here we are today where many First Nation governments are waiting for the next election, because they donít want to deal any more with this government. And the next election ó if I were predicting óprobably could be next fall. So we may find things put on hold for the next 10 months in the territory in government-to-government relations. That doesnít mean you wonít have more MOUs signed. I thing the Premier is the master of MOUs; heís capable of signing an MOU for everything, but not of following that MOU and getting results.
Where is the jail? Thereís an example of an MOU. Whereís the work around that? Very little is coming forward there. As a matter of fact, Iím not sure if there is anything being done any more in that department. Iím not sure if the government is working with the other governments that were supposed to be part of that analysis and work to bring a new jail but also programming forward, because there has been very little news about it for the last while.
Electoral reform ó another promise. Whereís that? My understanding, in the pledge to the people during the campaign, was that there was going to be a committee set up to look at alternatives to electoral reform. Where is the committee? There is nothing there.
Now we have a group of people out there who are working hard to bring about and raise awareness of electoral reform and the need for it. Weíve brought forward electoral reform. This government refused to accept it. We, the NDP, have brought forward legislative reform. This government refused to agree to it. So I have to assume ó after waiting for the Yukon Party government to live up to their election promises and then we do the work for them and bring something into the Legislature to debate or discuss ó that when they reject that, theyíre rejecting the whole premise of living up to an election promise.
Weíve had serious problems with the computer-use investigation and how that was handled and the morality within the public sector. Under that investigation, everybody was guilty until proven innocent ó very, very serious. It created a serious problem, and I think many people donít approach their jobs in a manner that they did previously. They donít feel respected or trusted. It could be just because of a few cases that need to be dealt with, obviously; however, the process that was used and the number of people who were pulled into it cast a deep, dark shadow on their value, on the public service value and how they are viewed by a government. Of course, comments made by a minister around the veterinary case, about the public servants, did not enhance that feeling of being respected or valued. I hear that from many of them. It is something they feel very deeply, and many of them, again, like I say, are waiting for the next election.
So there is a multitude of other issues. I am going to let other people in the Legislative Assembly get up and talk about them. I look forward to their comments, as I do every year on every budget and every supplementary budget.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I find it interesting, listening to the members opposite on this question and the budget and the targets we have set out as a government, and also the situation that the Yukon is in dire straits through mismanagement of the finances. Iíd like to remind the members opposite that the Auditor General of Canada oversees our books on a regular basis and, of course, over the last three years, through our hard work, we have come back with a very stellar performance, according to the Auditor General of Canada.
I would remind the members opposite that the Auditor General of Canada is an independent body that oversees government management. When they have questions of mismanagement or questions at all, they address those questions in their report. The member opposite says that weíre overspending. He brings up the bridge in Dawson, which was certainly part of our platform. We went to work and fleshed out any kinds of opportunities we had as a government to move forward on that. We are certainly looking forward to moving forward on it. Only good management would dictate that we look at options of how we would do that.
To insinuate that the member opposite from Carmacks would pull a figure out of the air and be closer than us is the reason we did the job we did. The reason we have these kinds of overviews is to come up with a realistic figure ó and understanding that some of our projects have gone overbudget. Weíre concerned about that, but also weíre concerned that, in the Yukon, we get the capacity to handle the work thatís out there.
When the member opposite questions our ability to manage the free enterprise side of the ledger, we have done that. We have looked at oil and gas. We had $35 million more spent in the Yukon in oil and gas development than has been spent in the last 20 years in total.
At the end of the day, are we as a government encouraging free enterprise? Certainly we are. Are we balancing it with the social part of the ledger? Certainly we are doing that.
It talks about education. It talks about the situation in education ó we havenít invested wisely in education. Now, I understand the members opposite have voted against every budget that we have put forward. That, of course, is their prerogative, and that is why we have this House, and that is why we debate this. Of course, at the end of the day, through our management, through our Premier working with the other premiers north of 60, they have looked at the health care ledger; they have looked at education. They have worked with the federal government to get our share of the national wealth that is there. We do encompass two-thirds of Canadaís land mass. That has to be taken into consideration, and we do have a small population, but we are part of Canada. When the member opposite says in health care ó and he voted against the $10 million that we increased to the Whitehorse General Hospital; $10 million, and he voted against it. That is so we could have this high level of medicare that we have here today.
There is $6 million for pharmacare. There is $6 million more for the chronic disease program. The member opposite goes on and on and on about how we are not socially responsible and that we donít worry about that part of the ledger, but the figures speak for themselves, Mr. Speaker.
There is $1.1 million more for specialized medical services; $400,000 to support children with development disorders and assist with a five-step fetal alcohol spectrum disorder plan ó $400,000 more to work with the less fortunate out there, and weíre doing that in a very positive way.
As far as education is concerned, weíre looking at education as a tool so we can train our population, our constituents, and we can get the employment that they wish and that they need to further their lives, and weíve done that. The member opposite points at the Carmacks school. The Carmacks school is a $9.5-million investment in Carmacks. The training programs are in place, so there are apprentices there, there are Carmacks citizens; weíre maximizing the workforce that can be in the Carmacks community.
I hope, at the end of the day, we can turn out trained individuals in the trades who will come and work all through the Yukon.
We look at the Porter Creek expansion, a very necessary expansion that the opposition and the third party had on their front burner but never materialized. We talked about it at great length in the Yukon: the need to expand that school to maximize the school so students would have a better infrastructure for the learning experience. Weíre doing that.
As far as the Copper Ridge school, we have been aware that situations have changed in the Yukon. The member for the third party brought that up. There are more people moving into Copper Ridge.
Iím sure the people who are moving into Copper Ridge have the necessity for a school, but itís an interesting argument, when weíre arguing the fact that, three years ago, the party in power was consolidating their schools, looking at closing down some and, three years later, in our mandate, we have to expand those facilities.
Elijah Smith is full. Elijah Smith three years ago was not full. Now, when we look at that question, the question is: what has changed in three years? Did these people move in from Mayo? In other words, is Mayo empty today? I donít think so, Mr. Speaker. The people who live in Copper Ridge now have come here. There are 2,500 more people working in the Yukon today than were working three years ago. That workforce that we talked about 10 or 15 years ago is coming home. Programs that this government put together include the program with the Public Service Commission that we funded ó our students, whom we put through schools, whom we bring back to the territory, who come back to the territory, and the public service can do that because all of a sudden we have a program where we can bring them in and they can work in the public service and get the experience that is demanded for the jobs that are out there, Mr. Speaker.
A year ago, if we had a student come back to Whitehorse directly from university, understanding that we, in turn, have invested in that student, he was at the back of the line because the individual didnít have the experience. Weíre going to try to address that so we can foster our own coming back to the territory. I know it is an interest for all of us in this House.
So our government, the Yukon government, has done those things. Weíve taken a balanced look at the economy, taken a balanced look at our environment, taken a balanced look at the social side of the ledger to make sure at the end of the day that we have a society that Yukoners would like to live in. Thatís what our government is here to do.
I understand the member opposite, the leader of the official opposition, going on about how conservative the NDP are across Canada, and I understand that that debate is, of course, above my head. In fact Iím here representing the Yukon government; I donít know why we would be in a contest across Canada, but the member opposite obviously doesnít have much meat to the subject, in the sense that, at the end of the day, what are we going to do in the Yukon? That same member, last year, stood up and debated the Minister of Finance, the Premier, on three consecutive days on depreciation. Iím not sure at the end of three days whether he was any the wiser.
Now we all understand that if we had been in business about depreciation, Mr. Speaker. At the end of the day, depreciation on whatever business you are in is not set by something from heaven, it is set by the federal government on a process of how you depreciate your assets. But it was beyond the member opposite, so the Yukon can breathe a little easier knowing that this capable group is in charge of the finances. We have one of the ó itís not hard to stand up and toot our horn. Weíve got, next to the Alberta government, the best set of books in Canada. We are showing a bottom line that is very solid. We are certainly showing that we invest in Yukon, if you take a look at each riding. Old Crow ó the amount of money that is spent in Old Crow in partnership with the First Nation there ó we are expanding the facilities; the economic foundations are being improved. Go to Mayo ó Mayo is getting a new community complex, a very necessary part of the community. Go to Carmacks and of course the school is getting built. Dawson City is looking forward to their health care unit that will be going up in the near future.
Weíve looked at Keno Hill; weíre working very positively with the new owners of the mine to make sure that Elsaís and Kenoís concerns are addressed. So, as we move through the Yukon, weíre looking at it from a mosaic and balance between what we can do as a government and what position free enterprise has. When you look at it, as you look at the mining portfolio and the expansion of exploration in the Yukon, I would remind Yukoners that, three years ago, we had less than $7-million worth of exploration money being spent in the Yukon. The argument thrown back in our face was that the price of metals has gone up, but I bring another argument back into it: when you look at the statistics three years ago in B.C., the Northwest Territories and Alaska, all three of those jurisdictions were in the millions and millions of dollars. Why were we only roughly $7 million? I ask you to answer that question.
I say, because of our solid management of the economy, the mining community is looking favourably in Yukon again for investment. Thatís what I say. With that confidence in this government, I think in the future youíll see progressively more investment.
In the mining world ó Iím not a miner, by any sense of imagination, but they say if you donít have $30-million worth of investment in exploration, youíll never find a mine in the Yukon ó youíll never find a mine in any jurisdiction.
We have $43 million to $50 million this year, probably $20 million being spent on developing mines. We have a list of potential mines in the Yukon that looks very favourable for the economy of the Yukon.
What are we doing again? Managing the economy.
What are we doing in line with oil and gas? We are looking at north Yukon. We are looking at exploration. Hunt Oil is looking at spending $7 million or $8 million this winter. That is going to affect all Yukoners, because that money is going to be spent in the Yukon.
On Northern Crossí dispositions, they are looking at an opening of their existing wells, proving up their wells, which will incorporate a 12-month period where they will extract product, and take product to the market and test up their wells. That is another potential in north Yukon. Again, this is money being spent in the Yukon. Division Mountain ó the coal operation outside of Whitehorse. There are going to be potentially 75 trucks a day going to Skagway with product. That is real industry for Yukoners to get to work at, and move ahead with economic development.
As far as what we do as a government, we certainly have to address the issue of the social fabric of the community. Education is our responsibility. We have health; we have the environment; we have the regulatory certainty of mining, or the extraction industries that are potentially coming forward. We have worked very positively on the Yukon Forum. We will be debating, now that we have the majority of First Nations signed on to their self-government agreements with the federal government and us, how we are going to manage as a Yukon group to move forward and answer some of the questions that impact on all sides of the ledger, and that certainly is going to be a positive move by the government.
Tourism is a very important part of our economy and, over the last couple of years, there has been an increase. We had 9/11, which took the issues of tourism to question ó what would happen after that and, at the end of the day, we did suffer because of the American security question.
As a government, weíre very concerned and weíre taking it forward on the passport issue, which is an issue the Americans are contemplating implementing. We are keeping our eye on that, because that will be devastating for a period of time on the movement of Americans across the border because of the fact the Americans have fewer passports per capita than we do. In other words, the urgency of having a passport has not been a big issue with the average American, so it takes time for these kinds of things to level off. Our jurisdiction being the size it is has some issues with that because it could mean a year or two gap.
We are working with our American counterparts, with the Governor of Alaska, and theyíre all very concerned with making sure that, at the end of the day, we have some form of ID thatís workable and reasonable and that we donít impede our inter-territorial trade in any way.
Hopefully, the people in Washington, D.C. will see the light and work with us to make sure that ó we appreciate security but understand there has to be some common sense to it, and I think a passport isnít the answer but thatís not up to me to decide.
But as far as the member opposite going on and on and on about the economics of the Yukon, you only have to take a look at what weíve done in 36 months, and the Yukon is in good hands. We have a solid bottom line, which has been overseen by the Auditor General. We have done some housekeeping in that Auditor General report. Some of the requests that were made by the Auditor General ó all those questions have been answered and we have a solid set of books that is only second to Alberta in Canada. So letís go forward. Letís manage the Yukonís economy in a balanced way. I look forward to the next three or four years, because I think at the end of three or four years we will have a solid economic base that we can look at and work with, and hopefully it will be a very positive experience for all Yukoners.
So thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, itís an honour to rise on behalf of the people of Porter Creek South and as the House leader for the Liberal caucus in response to the supplementary estimates that were tabled in the Legislature. This is also traditionally a time when members of the Legislature can have a word about their riding. I would just like to address some of the issues ó or one key issue in my riding that is certainly going to be coming up in the line-by-line debate in the supplementary. That is, of course, the lapsed funding for the lower bench development. It was very quietly lapsed, and there have been some undertakings and studies by government over the course of the summer and expenditure in studies in part of the land area in my riding. I certainly will be looking forward to ferreting out some more information and these initiatives in the coming line-by-line debate of this supplementary and, of course, in general debate as well.
The issues of land development ó the Government of Yukon is the land developer for the City of Whitehorse. It is a huge issue right now in my riding and not only in my riding, but in the City of Whitehorse. Itís a problem, a very divisive issue, a very difficult issue that requires leadership and rolling up of sleeves to do some hard work. I look forward to discussing with the minister some of the expenditures in the supplementary that are dealing or not with that particular issue.
Speaking of the hard work of government, the Yukon Party has spent a great deal of time trying to take credit as to why our economy has improved. ó I believe the phrase they like to use is ďunder our watchĒ ó particularly improved somewhat in Whitehorse.
Their main role in this improvement has been that of a bystander. Three things have happened around the government and around the members opposite: the Canada Games, Larry Bagnell and higher mineral prices. The multiplex alone has brought over $20 million of federal dollars into the territory. Since Larry was elected, he has brought millions of dollars into the Yukon ó thatís but one example. He has done such a good job of providing the Yukon Party with money to spend that I believe a good many of the members opposite quietly support our hard-working Member of Parliament.
Mineral prices. Gold has gone from $270 an ounce in 2002 to $470 today; similarly, copper has risen nearly a third in value in the last year; nickel prices have nearly doubled since mid-2003.
Of course there is the mineral exploration tax credit, which is not an initiative that the Yukon Party can take credit for. All three parties have supported and increased the mineral exploration tax credit, which has also contributed to the number of individuals who are still working today. In spite of the late date, there are still exploration camps out working in November in the Yukon ó something we havenít seen for quite some time. The credit, mineral prices and the mineral exploration tax credit, and also devolution ó all those initiatives have helped our exploration industry and have helped the Yukon economy.
I emphasize, also, that although the Yukon Party election platform committed to the opposite, under the Yukon Party our reliance on Ottawa has actually increased. We get more money from Ottawa than we ever have, thanks in part to our hard-working Member of Parliament.
The economy is somewhat better in Whitehorse, and I would like to note that the economy has not improved under the Yukon Party watch in our Yukon communities. Yukon community business people ó the Member for Kluane, Iím certain, will be noting this as well ó are very concerned about the Yukonís future.
One of the tasks of government ó it is not just about managing the taxpayersí money ó is legislation. In this session, which is traditionally a legislative session, we will be focusing our time largely on the supplementary budget, because not only is the Yukon Party legislation ďliteĒ, we could go so far as to call it ďno calorieĒ. It is no-depth legislation.
The only landmark legislation in three years produced by the Yukon Party was the repeal of the accountability act. As I said, the focus of this session will be the supplementary estimates. The question is: how has the Yukon Party as a government spent the money? How do they intend to spend the money? How have they managed taxpayers dollars?
I listened with fascination to the Member for Porter Creek Centre go on and on and on about the wonderful set of books. Well, the last set of books that was tabled that I signed off in 2002, that have my signature on them, also reflect a $80-million surplus. Thatís not what the current books suggest we have, Mr. Speaker. How has the Yukon Party spent the money, including the new-found wealth generated by our hard-working Member of Parliament?† How have they spent the money? In three years they have to look back and ask themselves, what they have built. The silence is deafening. They canít point to one new school. The Canada Games Centre is not to the Yukon Partyís credit. Is there a rec centre under construction anywhere in the Yukon? No. The Mayo rec centre was on the books before we left office.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Highways and Public Works says, ďGive me a break.Ē It was there. The capital budget that was ready to be tabled was there. The Yukon Party chose not to go forward with it.
What have they built? The Member for Porter Creek Centre said that the previous government was all about closing schools. It seems to me there were enough questions about the construction of a very small school in Riverdale to suggest to the members opposite that that their predecessors were not about closing schools. Their predecessors were about dealing with the needs of in excess of 150 children who were going to school in portables that are older than three of the members opposite, Mr. Speaker. But this government is going to spend $3 million studying a train. Commitment ó nothing to show for it. A commitment ó words on paper ó that said they would name the commission, theyíd name the terms, theyíd do all this by such and such a date. It didnít happen.
So how else have they dealt with the money? Well, there are a couple of expenses. There are revotes: $654,000 to the redline train announced this spring. Guess what? No train. And $288,000 for repairs to the jail and another $267,000 for correctional reform. A new jail, not more band-aids, is what we need.
It is interesting to note what the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation had to say about the construction of the new jail. He said on CHON-FM on October 27, and I quote, ďWe donít know what to think of that. We signed an agreement with the government. At the time, they did not disclose to us that they were going to have a hearing process, a consultation process, because we, at the time, the information to us was that the consultation process was undertaken by the previous government ó a two-year process involving the communities, the elders, and we had before us a project. We signed away. It will happen sometime in the future. First of all, weíre going to find out what the First Nations think about this, again. So thatís, you know, an agreement that is waiting to happen. There is no indication from the minister in charge as to when thatís going to happen, and theyíre not prepared to give us any dates on that.Ē
That is an example of two things: not moving forward on much-needed projects; nothing to show for three years of† capital expenditure in the territory; and a complete breakdown of relations between First Nations and the members opposite. Letís go through that, Mr. Speaker. Three First Nations are drawing down education out of frustration with the current government: Carmacks, Mayo and Kwanlin Dun. They have all stated that their reasons for working on this and drawing it down is a lack of leadership from the Premier.
The Childrenís Act ó the largest First Nation, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, is not participating.
Of course there is the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition ó funding not flowing to First Nations. It is the biggest economic project and partnership facing the Yukon, and how does the Premier try to advance the project? When he finally decided that he should speak up for the project, it was to try to strong-arm First Nations ó perhaps I should try to use another word ó persuade First Nations into supporting his-way-or-the-highway approach. It is not working.
The Premier is fond of signing MOUs. The problem is that there is hard work to the implementation. The members opposite are not prepared to do it. The Yukon Forum is being boycotted by several First Nations, including the Na Cho Nyšk Dun.
Returning to the issue of education, we have the situation of what has the government built in terms of schools? Absolutely none. Rien.
I asked the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin how you would say ďnothingĒ in Gwichíin. People in Old Crow will forgive my pronunciation, but I understood that it is ďgaakwaaĒ, nothing. This government has built nothing in education. The Carmacks school is an example of not having anything under construction and a deterioration of the relationship between the government and First Nations.
We also now have the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation opposing the bridge in Dawson City. What outstanding issues were left for the current members opposite? What about progress on land claims? The Premier has made no progress whatsoever on the land claims file. Ross River and Liard are as far away as they ever were. Thanks to the Premierís historic agreement with the Kaska, it is going to be harder than ever to conclude a final agreement; White River remains unsigned. Itís hard work. It requires rolling up your sleeves, patience, communication, good relationships, listening, endless hours of concentration to get these deals done ó and the Premier hasnít done it.
The Yukon Party took office with the slogan ďTogether We Will Do BetterĒ. Unfortunately it seems to apply to only some of us ó some of us in Whitehorse.
Some received increases, some are paying back loans. Some supported the new liquor act, but it hasnít come forward. Some have been involved in sole-source contracts. Some have studied electoral reform. Itís about all of us. Itís about all Yukoners. Itís about everyone being heard from. Itís about equal opportunity. Itís about building consensus. Itís about leadership.
We have a breakdown in First Nations relations under the Yukon Party government. We have no capital construction that has actually been undertaken and completed by the Yukon Party ó a complete shortage of legislation. Itís about all of us, as Yukoners, working in this Legislature and outside of it on behalf of Yukoners. To do that, we need to have before us a supplementary that addresses the needs. It doesnít, in response to Question Period, change the capital plans of the government.
The government has less than a year left in their mandate. Thatís very little time, Mr. Speaker, very little time to demonstrate leadership, to resolve some of the ethical issues that have been asked on the floor of this House and outside, to demonstrate to Yukoners that together we will all do better under their watch. So far, we havenít, least of all in this supplementary.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise in the House today. It has been somewhat interesting, listening to the members opposite and hearing their view of the territory. I think the contrast is very clear to Yukoners ó the difference between the government and the members on this side and the opposition. The NDP and the Liberals have consistently gotten up during this legislative session and during previous sessions and criticized us for not tabling lots of new legislation. In fact, Iíve heard the argument from the leader of the NDP that we should be tabling lots of new legislation because our name is the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Speaker, I look in front of me, and I see seven thick volumes of the statutes of the Yukon. Those are just the laws alone. That does not take into consideration the numerous volumes of regulations or the volumes of policy that are put forward to govern the lives of Yukoners and our activities within our territory.
I have certainly not had any Yukoners come to me and identify shortage of laws in the Yukon as a problem. No one has come to one of my public meetings or picked up the phone and called me or sent me an e-mail and said, ďYou know what? We need more laws in the territory because we just donít have enough. There arenít any laws here.Ē In fact, if anything, the opposite is the truth. Yukoners feel that we have quite enough laws, thank you very much, and if anything we should be looking at reducing red tape and at reducing areas of overlap and laws that do not benefit the territory ó laws that are an impediment to the territory.
Another thing I canít help but notice is the negative attitude of the members opposite, from the Liberal and the NDP. They seem to have a very negative image of todayís Yukon, of what is going on in the public. It does not reflect the optimism I hear in talking to Yukoners.
Since the election in 2002, approximately 2,500 more Yukoners are employed. When this government took office, we inherited a six-year nose-dive of the economy brought about by previous governments. Weíve heard the comments from members opposite consistently that the economy went up when you came to power, that itís just a coincidence. Iím sure theyíll also find it a coincidence, in looking back through history, that the economy of the Yukon always goes up after the election of a Yukon Party government and has always gone the other way after the election of the NDP or the Liberals.
It is no secret to Yukoners or to Canadians the record of the NDP across the country in exercising management of provinces. They are not generally a positive economic influence.
Mr. Speaker, the unemployment rate in the Yukon was at double digits when we took office. It has dropped to a historic low of 4.2 percent and has been consistently running around the five percent mark for approximately a year now. The population, after six years of decline, after approximately 4,000 people leaving the territory, has begun increasing again. It has gone up by more than 1,200 people.
We are not back, in terms of population, to where we were in 1996, but the members opposite and Yukoners will recall that our party stated during the 2002 election campaign that it took more than one government to destroy the Yukonís economy and it would take more than one government to fully turn it around and get it back to where it had been, but we have begun the turnaround.
††††††† Turning the economy has been referred to as being like †turning around a cruise ship or a supertanker, but it has turned around. Retail sales and housing prices have increased. Mining exploration has gone from approximately $7 million under the previous government ó and I think it was to a low of $5 million at one point ó it has increased by over $43 million to an estimated $50 million in this exploration year.
The governmentís efforts included targeting spending on projects that generated employment and creating a climate of certainty to encourage private sector business investment. One of the first moves this government made upon taking office was to cancel the flawed protected areas strategy that was brought in by previous governments and was being pursued to the detriment of industry and to the detriment of all Yukoners, in fact.
We have supported and implemented the creation of several parks since taking office. Certainly, members on this side are very environmentally responsible, contrary to suggestions by the opposition.
As I stated previously in the House, I know the reason I am in the territory, and I believe the reason that most Yukoners are here is our love of the land, our enjoyment of the natural beauty and the appreciation of our surroundings. We have no desire to see this territory become southern Ontario; we have no desire to see it strip-mined, paved and clear-cut, as the members opposite would suggest. We have the utmost respect for the environment and the wildlife population, and a great desire to protect them, but we do believe that responsible development can take place and the critical element is ensuring that the development that does take place is done responsibly.
This government has also increased spending on education, on arts, on health care and on social programs. We reinstated the departments of Economic Development and Tourism and Culture as stand-alone departments, and we reinstated the community development fund and the FireSmart program. This government has carefully managed our fiscal responsibilities, and thatís something that continually seems to escape the members opposite.
We heard the assertion by the leader of the NDP and the member of the Liberal Party that this government is not properly managing Yukon finances. But what they have in fact done is proven that they cannot read a balance sheet, in their accusation that we are deficit spending. The 2005-06 supplementary budget shows the revised projections for year-end, with the net financial resources, which is essentially cash or cash equivalents, will be $23,205,000 at the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year ó cash in the bank, Mr. Speaker.
Weíve heard assertions from the leader of the third party and former premier about the state of the books under her leadership as Finance minister. However, it did not reflect what was spent between the tabling of those statements and the 2002 election in a last-minute spending spree by that government.
If members of the public will look back through the budget ó I would remind all that the budget and financial statements and the public accounts are not something dreamed up out of the heads of the Finance minister or any member of this government. They are approved by the Auditor General, and all the budgets tabled by this government have met with full approval and have not been qualified budgets, as has been the case for previous governments.
Early on in the mandate, the trajectory of spending was out of control and we were in danger of running into an accumulated deficit position. However, we did sound fiscal management to get the territory back under control and, since that time, as members opposite will note, the injection of new money through the hard work of not only our Premier but also the other two premiers, working in cooperation at the federal level, has resulted in $780 million in new funding north of 60, since we took office.
Itís all very fine to credit members of Parliament, but anyone can look at history and note that, in the two and half years previous, when certain members of Parliament were in, that that money was not flowing. The new federal commitments occurred after our Premier and the premiers of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories walked out on former Prime Minister Chrťtien from the health care table on national television. I would urge all members and any member of the public to take a look at the financial statements and to note the timelines.
As I referred to, the projected net financial resources at year-end will be $23,205,000 and the total accumulated surplus, which includes the non-financial assets, is predicted to be $430,619,000. I note again that the Auditor General is our auditor. As referred to on the radio report, the Auditor General goes through our books. Theyíve looked at the last yearís statements, the way theyíve been presented, and they have no concerns with the statements as presented.
The government is not carrying any net debt. The only other jurisdiction in Canada to report the same is Alberta.
Initiatives that have helped to open the door to investment and to open the door to business include the development of the integrated resource management process under the leadership of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. This process has not changed the rules that apply to mines and to other projects with regard to environmental standards. What it has done is provided them a clearer path and provided them assistance in the form of project champions for finding their way through the process. It is not changing the rules but helping them comply with it and helping them comply in a quicker manner. Also, some of the processes within government now are running at the same time instead of forcing proponents to fully complete the work with one department before another department will talk to them. We have united the departments and have them working together, and the credit, of course, for that work is due to individuals, including the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, but it is also due to the officials within those departments for their cooperation and their leadership in providing the details in moving forward with that process.
Weíve done a similar thing on the social side of the equation with the departments of Health and Social Services, Justice, Education and the Womenís Directorate working together rather than in isolation on addressing social problems.
It should be noted that we have also engaged with the public on issues such as substance abuse and the substance abuse action plan, which is available in the public and followed public discussions. Itís something I would encourage members of the public to pick up and to read through. They will note that it has, I believe, 50 planks in it, and one of them includes looking at a form of legislation, such as suggested by the members opposite, in the form of safer community legislation. I do commend them for that input, but they might want to read the substance abuse action plan.
Mr. Speaker, we have also addressed the interests and the needs in every area of the territory, in every riding, whether held by a member of this government or not. In my riding, this has included, in this year, continuation of the well-drilling program, which has been very popular among my constituents and was originally brought forward to me by constituents. It is a grassroots-driven and grassroots-conceived initiative, and it has been very successful to date. That is being continued again in this fiscal year.
The engineering assessment on the Hot Springs Road to look at widening it and adding a cyclist or multi-use lane is something that was ongoing in this year and will be, through its internal work and its review, coming back to the public in early 2006.
In this year, there was brushing along the Mayo Road. Again, that was a constituent request that came forward to me, and that is something that had been neglected for a number of years, and I was pleased to go to work on behalf of constituents. I am very pleased that it has been addressed, and I thank the Minister of Highways and Public Works for his assistance in that regard.
We are also doing engineering to determine what needs to be done to bring the Mayo Road up to 100-kilometre-an-hour standard between the Takhini River bridge and the Fox Lake campground. Asphalt work on the Mayo Road was continued again this year. The south access to Couch Road was relocated to provide appropriate sight distances to protect the safety of vehicles turning on to and off the road.
The Takhini River Road upgrade was continued. There was miscellaneous work on other roads, including the work that was done on the Horse Creek Road, for which I received an e-mail from a constituent just this morning, thanking me for it. Another item that occurred last week is the implementation and erection of road signage on a number of the smaller roads that did not have a sign before. That is an issue that had been brought forward to me by constituents and that the department has addressed, and I thank them for doing so.
The work was continued again on the Alaska Highway going through the Ibex Valley and, as Iíve mentioned previously, I believe, in this House, I have asked the minister to look at the feasibility of installing thermosyphons. Due to the high cost, Iím advised theyíll be conducting engineering first, because it is estimated to cost $2 million U.S. per mile, but it will be considered and may be addressed in that fashion, if they believe it is a feasible solution.
This year has also included planning the improvements to Alaska Highway intersections in Whitehorse, including the Mayo Road and Two Mile Hill, and money for planning the replacement of the mobile radio system which, rather than merely remaining a government internal process, is now going to include enhancing cell infrastructure to be available to all Yukoners.
Weíve continued funding for the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter, again an issue brought forward by constituents, and also an increase to another NGO that does a lot of good work for Yukoners, the Yukon Agricultural Association.
Other issues that come outside of the budgetary process include things such as zoning, and Iím very pleased that, at this point, the three areas of regulations that had been brought forward to me from constituents ó where they were waiting for area zoning to be passed ó that all three have been implemented. In the case of the Mayo Road zoning regulations, a press release was just issued last week, announcing their implementation. The Mayo Road regulations had been hanging since, I believe, 1998, in draft form. The other two areas were the Ibex Valley regulations, which were passed in September, and the Hot Springs Road regulations, which were passed last year.
Mr. Speaker, other efforts that have taken place with this government include working together with our neighbours. The relationship that the previous government had with our two neighbours, in particular with the Government of the Northwest Territories regarding the ill-advised dispute over the pipeline, has been something that we have certainly criticized, and we are very pleased that in working together that relationship has moved forward to a stage where the citizens of either territory will see benefit from either pipeline no matter which goes forward. The fact that this Alaska Highway pipeline is now being supported and is being worked on at very senior levels within not only our government but the Alaska government and the Government of Alberta and the Government of British Columbia. Seeing the four leaders ó our Premier and the other three leaders ó agreeing on a joint position on that is excellent to see.
Another front that we have made progress on is the western hemisphere travel initiative and the joint letter coming forward from those same four government leaders, expressing our concern to the U.S. government on their planned initiative to require passports for all Canadians, and U.S. citizens as well, crossing the border. That joint position is something that reflects a strong sense of unity and cooperation, and in fact this House last week passed a motion in support of that and I thank all members for their participation in that.
At this point, I am disappointed to hear comments from the leader of the Liberal Party that seemed to suggest a negative position on the railroad, criticizing us for funding the feasibility study, and I would have to wonder if thatís perhaps why the federal Liberal government has not lived up to their election commitment to move forward and participate in that.
Mr. Speaker, youíre signalling that I am out of time. I thank members for their attention. I will, of course, be voting in favour of this budget and urge all members of this House to put aside partisan concerns and vote in the best interest of Yukoners and vote for the budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to respond to the supplementary budget that has been presented to the House and to some of the comments made by members opposite. First of all, I will be talking about what the Yukon Party has promised and said in this House when they were first elected. But I also recall, Mr. Speaker, that it wasnít too long ago that the Yukon Party tabled a huge budget in the spring, and it was said at the time that this was their flagship budget and that they consulted with Yukoners on this budget and this is what Yukoners have said to them. It was very detailed. Every one of the members opposite got up and spoke to the budget. It didnít take long for the Yukon Party to bring forward a huge supplementary budget, asking the House to approve over $30 million of new spending.
What happened in that short period of time? Did they go out and seek more direction from the Yukon public about where to be spending taxpayersí dollars? Or did they sit quietly and plan out projects that could put people to work this winter, until the next budget year? Or were they following what they said to Yukoners three short years ago about government finances?
I heard the Member for Lake Laberge say that members on this side of the House in the opposition didnít know how to read balance sheets, and so on, and I find it interesting to hear that member speak because, when the Premier did his throne speech and first budget speech, it was their understanding that government was broke at the time.
That was a big part of this Yukon Party government setting out their spending priorities to the Yukon public.
They started off with the words ďcontrolling the trajectory of spendingĒ ó government spending was totally out of control to them. At the time, it was going up and up, but they couldnít see, I guess, the increase in spending in health care, education and so on. They were going to put a cap on it, and they did. But what they did, in my view, was tell the Yukon public something different from whatís already on the books.
We pointed out many times the surpluses the government had. The government side said no, there isnít any.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Rouble: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I believe I just heard the member opposite say that the government told the Yukon public something that was different than what was on the books, and that is clearly out of order.
Speaker: On the point of order, Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, obviously, again to the member opposite, he didnít cite any violation of the Standing Orders. Thereís no point of order, in my view.
Speaker: Minister of Economic Development, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, you have many times ruled that citing an exact chapter, line and verse is not relevant. Itís still a violation, whether thatís cited or not.
Speaker: †The Chair will ask the House to allow me to review the Blues. Both the Table Officers and I have had a momentary lapse and would request that we review this and give a ruling later in the week. Thank you. You have the floor, Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Itís interesting, the members opposite wanting to remove the point of order.
As I was saying, Mr. Speaker, the government side said government was broke, they were broke. What happened was that there was not the funding going to the organizations that have been asking for it through the Yukon government because the government was broke. We brought this up many times in this House, that the government was broke, that we donít have the funding, and we on this side of the House said you do have the funding. Itís there, itís in the books, itís black and white. So what happened is the Yukon Party decided to change how the books are and bring in one set of books ó that is what they were saying. They didnít want to violate the Taxpayer Protection Act ó that was a big thing.
Now what weíre told is that the Yukon has all kinds of money, but thatís also, in a sense, misleading to the public because you canít spend that surplus money. I know all members on that side of the House would agree with me on that: you canít spend it. Itís about the value of assets the government has, not how much money it has in the bank to spend.
The Yukon public is pretty wise to that. I think the Yukon Party has worn out that line quite a bit, because they can always point back to the books that are circulating around the territory. They know, Mr. Speaker. Itís unfortunate that weíre going down that road, but it is about government money.
Now, Yukon of course is fortunate to have and see an increase in monies coming from Ottawa. Thatís our economy right now. Iím going to read one section from the throne speech of the Premier, and itís on page 7. He said, ďThe challenge facing my government is to develop a sustainable economy that is based on the private sector rather than on transfer payments from the Government of Canada.Ē
Right now, if you talk to the public out there, weíre reliant on the federal money. We all would like to see increased spending in the private sector. Thereís no doubt about that. Everybody in this House wants to see that. Itís good that people are spending money on mineral exploration, but that didnít come about just because the Yukon Party was elected.
So by saying that, not relying on the Government of Canada, what we see in the supplementary budget is an increase in over $12 million in O&M. The increases have gone up and up with the commitment from the federal government to possibly end some of the funding that is coming to the Yukon Territory. Really, what the Yukon Party has done for the future is put any governments coming into office ó whatever party they are ó in a position of having to deal with less money coming from Ottawa perhaps, along with increased spending on O&M and capital. It is unfortunate. We have gone three years with the Yukon Party saying that they want to improve the economy. They talk about the balance between the economy and the environment, but none of them on that side of the House could tell us how it is working, other than the fact that they pulled and killed the protected areas strategy, which already had been killed by the previous government, Mr. Speaker. It was already dead. They were saying it today, which I cannot believe. As a matter of fact, I am wondering how many of the members on that side of the House even read it. I think the members opposite should come out and say publicly why there is an increase in interest in the territory. What is happening here in Whitehorse versus the communities?
Thereís a building boom here, and we see it. Interest rates are really driving that. I mean, people want to be smart in their investments and theyíre investing in houses here in Whitehorse. Not a whole lot of that is happening in the communities. Part of the problem is that you canít even borrow money to mortgage a house in the communities. Thatís part of the problem, and there are more and more community people moving to Whitehorse and investing here in the territoryís capital. We know that.
We know the price of metals is driving people out in search for gold and base metals and so on. Weíre not the only ones saying it. The mining community is saying that. The Yukon Party would like to say itís because of them. Well, we had nothing major to brag about here in the territory over the last three years of the Yukon Party being in government when it comes to mining. As a matter of fact, I spoke to a fair number of placer miners out there this past summer, some of whom are investing a lot of money here, in the Dawson area and so on. To my surprise, theyíre still complaining about the Yukon Partyís commitment to the mining industry. I was quite surprised because a lot of them are really basic things, like road maintenance. Why get the private sector to do road maintenance that strictly belongs to the Yukon government and have them spend the extra $200,000 when the Yukon government could be doing that? Thatís one thing, I think, the Yukon Party could be doing to address the issues of the mining community, because a lot of people are going out there and they are wanting to access land, and it doesnít take very much to do some road improvements.
These individuals are looking at spending millions of dollars of their own money doing some exploration work, and complaints come in about how this Yukon Party is not supporting them. Three years ó theyíve got another year left, and hopefully the investors have built up and done enough PR work to get some interest out there with those who do have the money to open up and run some of these smaller mines.
Iíll give an example. One thing the member opposite put forward in killing the mining industry is the protected areas strategy. It didnít even have a chance to kick in, so it really wasnít there to deter anybody from developing out there. The one thing that came about in 1996 was the Bre-X scandal, or before. I canít remember what year it was ó 1995. The example I could use with that is with Minto Resources. They did all their work, they did their PR work, they had proven ground, and they needed to get people to invest in their property.
Well, Bre-X came about and nobody was going to invest money any more in these junior mining companies. People who were investing wanted to invest to make money, and I keep saying that to members opposite ó they all know that. They waned to make money so they were making money on things like high-tech computers and so on. Thatís where their investment was going; it was not going into the mining industry.
Now things are turning around, but not because of the Yukon Party being in power here in the territory. But sometime we need to get over the whole Bre-X scandal and get people investing in the territory. This summer we had all kinds of work happen on the Minto Resources property near Minto and they want to prove the ground up again. They are doing more drilling ó theyíve got to do that work because the work they did was in the time when Bre-X happened. So they need to go back and do that work and thatís what happened.
I know Iíve only got five minutes, and Iím talking a lot about the mining industry, because it is a big part of my riding, and it is a big part of the discussions that take place in my riding. I see it all the time, every day, every time I go out to the bush. Every community thatís in my riding has these issues. The Premier gets up and says that we will walk backwards with the New Democrats or whomever is in government, but he failed to recognize some of the good things that happened. Maybe the members opposite, whoever gets up to speak, can recognize some of those things, like the devolution of oil and gas that took place before devolution of the federal programs through the territory. That happened. That work needed to get done, because things donít just turn around in a year. It takes many years to get things up and going. As a result, we had people investing in the territory and renewed interest in the oil and gas industry, right up into my riding, Mr. Speaker, where seismic work took place along the highway and so on, and it sparked the interest of many people in the communities. So that interest is there, and itís not because of the Yukon Party; it was because there is potential here in the territory, like there is elsewhere ó the Northwest Territories, Alaska and so on.
I wanted to quickly go into some of the commitments that the Yukon Party made, like partnering with First Nations and so on. What happened to that? Did they say it and then just drop their commitment to First Nations, and theyíre not talking about partnership any more? I think partnership in economic development is about getting people working and developing the area. In my riding, what has happened? What has happened with the Carmacks school? Is there any partnership there? Is there any business with the First Nation on that school? I mean, itís one project, but we donít see that, and itís not there. As a matter of fact, when they were demonstrating out there, I think the Premier should have taken it upon himself to go out and meet with the people out there who were demonstrating and talk to them. It would have been a simple thing. In my view, it would have been critical for the Premier to do that, to ensure we do have a better relationship with First Nations, because itís falling apart. It doesnít matter what the members opposite say over there. It is not as rosy as they think it is.
We talk quite often with First Nations and theyíre not happy. Thatís the bottom line. I think they need to re-address their commitment they made in their throne speech to First Nations.
It has been a long time since the beginning of negotiations on land claims to see all First Nations finalize their agreements. Thatís another thing that came forward time and time again with industry. They wanted to see First Nations conclude their final agreements. They wanted to have some certainty. It was brought up by the Yukon Party at the time.
We had, for example, the whole northern part of the territory finish their final agreements, put them in place, implement them and get industry again sparked with interest in those areas. They are looking because of that, because First Nation agreements are about spending monies on developing their governments. Itís about setting up their lands office. Theyíve selected land strictly for economic development and for developing huge tracts of it for mining, oil and gas, and so on. So the members opposite cannot say that the final agreements are deterring anybody from investing in the territory. I think weíve made some big strides in those areas. Itís now up to First Nations to put all the information together and look at what needs to happen in their territory.
One of the things we asked the members opposite to do to ensure development does take place is to concentrate on some of the commitments that are there ó for example, land use planning, very important. I think the members opposite should take that seriously and give some direction to the representatives on the land use planning committee and get things going so we can have land use planning in place. If anything, thatís where First Nations are going to ensure that takes place before a lot of development can happen in the territory.
We need to do that. We need to do that hard work. We need to move that along and get that money flowing. Mr. Speaker, there is a big pot of money in land use planning. I think there was over $7 million, and every year that federal money goes back to the federal government and doesnít get spent, as it should be being spent in the territory to get that plan together.
Itís unfortunate ó I know Iím out of time. Iím hoping that the members opposite take some of these issues that Iíve raised seriously and take them back and have a good discussion in their caucus meetings. If they do that, those few steps that Iíve listed ó Iíd love to list more because Iíve got lots to say here ó will go a long way in building relationships with our First Nation governments around the territory.
Thank you for letting me say a few words on the Supplementary Estimates No. 1.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of this supplementary budget and would like to clearly point out a number of the issues our government had to address to bring us to the point we are today.
We are very proud of where weíre at today, given the financial situation we saw was in place when we came to power. Letís look at what has transpired under our watch.
The financial house of the Yukon is now in order. We understand our sources of revenue, we understand where our spending is being incurred, and what our spending trajectory is in a number of areas. Weíve also had to address a number of outstanding issues that we inherited and have had to call in auditors to examine, and examine in great detail ó the Mayo-Dawson transmission line being one of those initiatives. It was in a sorry state, and a lot of the outstanding issues have yet to be resolved, and that is some three years after the line has been re-energized.
The Energy Solutions Centre is another initiative we inherited when coming into power ó its operation and the way it was being run. The first thing that will be said is that we do not agree with the purpose of the Energy Solutions Centre. Nothing could be further from reality, because our party certainly agrees with what the Energy Solutions Centre had as its mandate. Just how it was carrying out its mandate and the cost it was incurring to carry out that mandate is what comes into question.
Currently the Energy Solutions Centre is alive and well and moving forward with many good initiatives, but at less overhead and management cost than before. It is now under the direct control of the department.
The third area our government inherited was the Dawson City financial situation. That saw the expenditure in my community of Dawson of some $22 million. It doesnít matter where you are, that is a tremendous amount of money. What the citizens of Yukon and the citizens of the Klondike came to realize as a result of that expenditure is an $11-million plus arena recreational complex that still does not function, and we will be fortunate if we have natural ice for curling and hockey in there this season. Yet it continues to consume about $100,000 in energy costs for both electricity and heat. What was envisioned is a far cry from what we currently have.
It still requires a further expenditure of ó we donít know how much to rectify roof problems, and that doesnít even address the bottom of it, which is the foundation, which is nonexistent, because itís built in an old tadpole swamp and the water flowing underneath it ó really, if youíre going to build something somewhere, you donít build it on top of flowing water. The only community Iíve ever lived in that managed to do so was Montreal, when they built Expo í67 on an island. But they did make sure the ground was solid on which they built.
Mr. Speaker, the financial situation in Dawson has seen new municipal offices constructed and one would question the need for such a grandiose expenditure when what was needed was recreational facilities. We have a swimming pool that isnít utilized, even to the same extent as our old outdoor swimming pool was, and thatís in spite of an expenditure of $3 million. So I really take issue with those who say that we should restore the viability of Dawson by electing a new mayor and council. Who would want to inherit a mess like that, Mr. Speaker? Currently, the city is in debt to an unimaginable amount of money, and that whole financial picture is going to have to be rectified before the city itself can move forward.
There has to be a light at the end of the tunnel, Mr. Speaker. There has to be opportunity. When we came to power, Mr. Speaker, that was the situation across the whole Yukon. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. The opportunities were diminished. Oh, yes, there were opportunities. But they were in the Northwest Territories and British Columbia and primarily in Alberta for Yukoners who moved to those jurisdictions to find employment.
The previous administration was looking at closing down schools and consolidating. That was a far cry from where we are today, Mr. Speaker. As a government we have done what we said we were going to do. That is restore investor confidence in the Yukon economy and the Yukon community and develop it and provide opportunities for all Yukoners ó including our youth. Because really, if you look back just a few years ago, our youth, after they graduated from high school or went on to post-secondary education, were choosing to move somewhere else where they could gain meaningful employment.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun spoke about the potential of the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, the potential of the Yukon is vast ó itís fantastic. He was saying how everything that has happened is the result of world metal prices. Well, you only have to look back a couple of years ago when the NDP were in power, and we only have to look back at those days when the mining industry in Alaska was about $1.2 billion U.S. a year. Eighty percent of that was being carried out by Canadian mining companies. A number of them were based in Vancouver B.C. Mineralization doesnít stop at the Alaska/Yukon border, nor does it stop at the N.W.T./Yukon border; it flows right across the north. We only have to look at the mining and exploration activity that was then taking place in the Northwest Territories and in British Columbia and in Alberta ó if you just want to look at the western jurisdictions, and look at the mining activity and the mining exploration, oil and gas exploration that was taking place in the Yukon. We were void of any activity to speak of, Mr. Speaker. What changed?† Well, in B.C. the political climate changed, and they did in British Columbia exactly what we have done here in the Yukon ó restored investor confidence and encouraged industry to look at us again and look upon us favourably ó and they have done that. Today, we have gone from a low of approximately $5 million in mining exploration to $50-million plus in mining exploration.
Itís a far cry. Oil and gas wells in the Kotaneelee that were on a downhill slide as far as production, their output, and monies flowing into the coffers of Yukon that were distributed among a number of the First Nations ó that was on a downhill gradient. What has been done under our watch? The proponents and owners of those wells were encouraged to go in, re-drill them, and increase production. Theyíve done that, and production is now ramping up.
Mr. Speaker, it goes on and on and on as to the initiatives weíve undertaken that have resulted in industry coming back to the Yukon.
We can look at our educational system and the $1 million more put into Yukon College, the $1-million odd that was put into the high school system across the Yukon when our Minister of Education visited every school in the Yukon and asked what was needed. Those were resourced by our government to a large degree.
Now, the Yukon currently spends the highest number of dollars per student of any jurisdiction in Canada, including the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and we have some of the best opportunities for post-secondary opportunities for those graduating from our high schools here in the Yukon to move on to obtain the skill sets they want to acquire to enter into their chosen field, and that has been indexed and increased. The opportunities for our youth have never been better here, and they will continue to grow under our watch.
If we look at health care, if we look at daycare ó daycare today, in the Yukon, is probably the second best ó well, it is the second best funded daycare system in Canada, after the Province of Quebec. The number of setup spaces and the number of dollars that are earmarked to the direct operating grant and provided in assistance to those whose family incomes are not at the level that they can afford to pay the full amount are very, very significant in seeing that the youth in our society today ó who are in the daycare system ó receive the best possible care and the best attention that we as a government can give them.
Thereís room for improvement because, recently, the federal Liberal government announced a $5 billion early-learning and childcare initiative. This initiative is spearheaded by the Hon. Ken Dryden. There was a recent meeting in Ottawa with Mr. Dryden, with Nunavut, N.W.T. and Yukon in attendance. We put forward the consistent position of our three territories that what was needed to make it work in the north was base funding plus per capita. What we received from Mr. Dryden was his assurances that we would get half a million dollars each for accountability and per capita funding ó they wouldnít allow us any further opportunity to further expand or enhance our daycare here in the Yukon or in Nunavut or in the Northwest Territories.
Having been involved in a lot of these discussions with the Hon. Ken Dryden, I have come to respect what he asked for. He asked that we consult all our colleagues in all the political jurisdictions in Canada and seek their concurrence that they would allow us base funding plus per capita. That was done, and that was done without hesitation or reservation and all the political jurisdictions in Canada agreed. Yet we have still been unsuccessful in achieving what the north needs to move forward, and that is base funding plus per capita.
The federal Liberal government has many initiatives that have been announced, re-announced and announced again. One of the other ones is the territorial health access fund. This fund would allow us to expand a number of our programs that we recognize as being well-deserving of enhanced funding, such as an increase in the travel subsidy for Yukoners who have to go elsewhere for medical attention.
I canít recall the number of months since the announcement first came out, but it is over a year ago, and yet that is coming before the federal Parliament for approval perhaps late this fall, early winter. I am sure, after the conclusion of Parliament this fall, it may be re-announced with a lot of fanfare. You know, if there is a reason to pat somebody on the back, weíll be the first to jump to the plate and pat the federal Liberals on the back. But in many cases, they need a kick somewhere else, not a pat on the back.
This holds true for a lot of the federal programs that have been announced and re-announced. One of the other programs that the federal government has held the lionís share of responsibility for in the health area has been the health care providers for our aboriginal population here in the north. There is every indication that the feds want to back out of providing the level of funding that they currently have done and, in my opinion, should continue to do. In fact, they should be looking at enhancing existing programs so that we can bring the health of our aboriginal population up to what currently the balance of the population of Canada enjoys for health care.
Yes, some of the programs seem to be beyond the scope of what is being provided by government to non-aboriginal populations, but overall there are some serious problems for the health care provided by Health Canada and by INAC to our aboriginal populations here in the north. We have a ways to go to bring that up to current standards.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun also went on to say that weíre falling apart. Whatís falling apart is the ability of the opposition to offer constructive criticism and critiques of what is being done. There havenít been any.
I spent a number of years in opposition and always with an eye to providing constructive criticism. Yes, there were many times ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We donít resort to physical violence on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, not like the member opposite is suggesting and critiquing what I have to say.
Constructive criticism and constructive beneficial debate can go a long way toward ensuring that Yukoners receive the best in services from the government of the day and the best in representation from their elected officials.
My opinion is that the supplementary estimate that is before us, this bill, shows where the additional funds will be needed to deliver services to Yukoners. It clearly shows and identifies with many of the issues of the day as to what departments are spending what, where and for what reason.
I look forward to the members opposite doing their necessary homework so they can constructively debate and critique a supplementary estimate that represents and does a lot of good for a lot of Yukoners across the entire territory.
Iíll be supporting this supplementary estimate. Iím sure the members opposite will be voting against it, voting against added money for health care, added money for education, added money for needed infrastructure and added money to fix a lot of the problems that we inherited from the previous Liberal administration and from the previous NDP administration.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to say a few words regarding the supplementary budget that is currently before us for debate. I have quite a few things to say when it comes to expenditures by our government over the last three years, and certainly we have made best efforts to target areas of importance to our citizens of the Yukon. I just look to my own riding where people elected me as their representative. Clearly, the issues of importance over the years have not changed that much. Although there has been a shift of perhaps the prioritization of the issues of the day ó and less so being the economy ó certainly the issues of importance still remain today: those being childcare ó adequate, affordable, accessible childcare for Yukon residents; education ó preparing our young Yukoners for the next century and all the challenges that go along with them; health care ó the status of our health care, the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining health care professionals to our respective communities; and the quality of life ó ensuring that we have safe communities, that we have secure jobs and that we have lots of opportunities for our families, so that our families can stay here with us and can contribute to the well-being of our territory.
Iím very proud to be part of a government that has made many strides on a number of these fronts. Also, Iím certainly very proud to say that we continue to work on many of these fronts, and that it takes some time, effort and resources to address some of these issues. But I am quite proud to say that we have made a lot of movement, a lot of headway, toward accomplishing many of the goals that we set out in the last election in 2002 and that we continue to strive for the betterment of all our citizens.
As has been reiterated by many individuals, at least on this side of the House, we have been working to revitalize, diversify and expand our economy, and itís no secret that since the election in 2002, we have more people employed. In fact, we have around 2,500 more Yukoners employed. The unemployment rate has dropped to one of our historic lows, and is certainly one of the lowest in Canada.
At the same time, our population has increased by more than 1,000 people. Our retail sales have increased, and our housing prices have increased here in Whitehorse. Our mining exploration in the territory has also increased by over $43 million. Visitation, again, continues to increase, and we continue to see new businesses setting up shop in the Yukon, showing that investor confidence in our territory is certainly alive and well.
These are all very good signs that we do have a healthy economy in the Yukon, but are those grounds for sitting down and doing nothing more? Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. What that tells us is that we have to remain vigilant in providing opportunities and providing a climate thatís conducive to the growth of the private sector, then continue to provide the services and programs that are required when we see an increase in our population, an increase in our schools, and an increase in pressure on our health care system. Again, finding the balance between our economy, providing sustainable economy opportunities, providing a healthy environment and meeting the challenges associated with economic growth on the social side is of paramount importance to me as one of the elected representatives in this Legislature as well as to my colleagues on this side of the House.
Weíve certainly seen a lot of things go on in my particular neck of the woods. Iíve seen a lot of growth. A lot of houses continue to go up in my area, that being Copper Ridge, Arkell and Logan. New families ó a lot of young professionals are moving into the area, many of whom are new individuals coming to the Yukon. They are coming to the Yukon because of job opportunities and because of a strong feeling that the Yukon is a great place to live. Itís a wonderful place to raise our kids, and itís a great place to grow old. As a result, we are seeing more and more Yukoners choosing to stay in the Yukon as they age.
At Copper Ridge Place, which is in the Whitehorse West riding, we have seen the opening of 12 additional beds, weíve seen additional staff for these new beds, and these investments, coupled with the investments in Macaulay Lodge and other health-related facilities in the Yukon, are all very welcome investments.
We have seen improvements along Hamilton Boulevard, which I am pleased to say are pretty much all near completion, and we are currently working on the completion of preliminary engineering and design for the extension of Hamilton Boulevard, an initiative that is a priority for my constituents and something that all our area residents would like to see continue.
We have seen things like a new skating rink going up in my area, thanks to the good efforts of the Copper Ridge Community Association, as well as continuing to work on the development of a neighbourhood park for many of our children to enjoy.
These are all initiatives that are very good investments, whether they be investments in our schools ó again I refer to lí…cole …milie Tremblay, working with the citizens of that school to meet their needs, working with Elijah Smith Elementary School to meet their needs, and of course now working to meet the future needs of our residents with our commitment to build a new school in the Copper Ridge area.
We are very proud to be able to rise to the occasion to meet those needs, and there certainly is a need there that needs to be addressed: the growth in population, with the growth in families, as well as growth in student population that warrants the construction of a new school in that area. I know it is also very much supported by members opposite.
Just down the road, of course, along Hamilton Boulevard, we were able to see the Canada Games Centre recently opened. There was a substantial investment of contributions from all levels of government, and Iím very pleased to see that facility open. It is a remarkable facility. It is a world-class facility. It certainly is an asset that is welcomed by Yukoners, as well as our visitors from all parts of the world. I was also very pleased to hear our government announce a significant increase to the kids recreation fund ó a fund that hasnít seen an increase for some time, but we were able to see the need for an increase. It is a very special fund that is able to assist many of our youth who are unable to participate in an active lifestyle because of financial hardship, so the significant increase of $140,000 to this fund, which is included in this supplementary budget, is very much welcomed.
Also housed within this supplementary budget is $1 million for the Canada Winter Games national marketing campaign, a commitment that we made with our respective counterparts to the east, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I think weíd all be very hard-pressed to not recognize the benefits accruing from these games occurring in our backyard in 2007. Together with funds from us, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the federal government, we look forward to the games. We will be able to showcase ó not only the games part of it, but also us ďcoming of age,Ē as the chair of the Canada Winter Games Host Society would say.
Itís all about the opportunities in the Yukon accruing from devolution, settlement of land claims and us just evolving ó us maturing as a territory, and us taking it upon ourselves to provide tremendous opportunities for our children in our schools, recreational opportunities and so forth. So it is a spectacular opportunity, and I certainly look forward to working with our respective jurisdictions to make the games a tremendous success and one that will certainly benefit our territory for many, many years to come.
When we were on our community tour ó I had the opportunity to participate in the majority of these community tours. I know it was well over 15 communities that I was able to visit with many of my colleagues. There are a number of capital projects that have been underway, have nearly reached completion, or have been completed. Itís really thrilling to see that some of these initiatives are gaining momentum. Weíre seeing their completion. These are initiatives that have been requested for many, many years.
Just look at the recreation centre in Mayo, the Ross River recreation centre, also a daycare. Look at the Old Crow Airport terminal. We have dollars for a new school in Carmacks. Of course, we have an expenditure of over $30 million for the athletes village, which will be used as family residences for those attending Yukon College.
We recently were able to announce the construction of a new Marsh Lake recreation centre ó again, another vibrant and growing community. That certainly is a need ó a gathering space for all community residents.
I have to also refer to some of the member oppositeís questions or critiques about initiatives, perhaps spending that shouldnít be taking place or shouldnít have taken place. I just have to refer to education again, because this is one of the areas that continues to be of prime importance to my constituents. I would just remind members opposite of the increase in the Education budget over the last three years ó a 17-percent increase. I have to say that it has not all gone to waste ó not one red penny has gone to waste.
Look at literacy initiatives in this fiscal year. Look at contributions to Yukon Learn, the Yukon Literacy Coalition, Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon, to the Literacy Action Committee, to our home tutoring program ó a new program made available in our communities ó our reading recovery, literacy for math, et cetera. We have over $3-million worth of literacy-related initiatives. Thatís a very significant number of dollars to very worthwhile initiatives.
Look at other initiatives, like our full-day kindergarten program, which is optional and an initiative that was welcomed by many of our parents.
When we look at all the dollars over the years increasing our community training fund, weíve reinstated those training funds to where they were at their original levels, plus we increased it. And we have dedicated a specific $500,000 toward trades training in particular.
We have allocated $500,000 in new dollars toward First Nation curriculum base materials. We have also allocated an additional $300,000 toward cultural-related programming in our schools. Again, these are all very well-received and very important initiatives that Iím very proud to be able to provide.
There is a $1-million increase to the base grant for the Yukon College, and that is something that the college has been asking for and wanting for many, many years. When we look at, also, new monies, introducing late French immersion, again that is another initiative that has been very popular in our schools and very well-received. When we increased our student grant, we increased our dollars available for the Yukon excellence awards, and so forth.
The capital projects alone in this capital year, this fiscal year, amount to just shy of $12 million, and that includes $2.65 million toward the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria. We have over $5.4 million available for the Tantalus school in Carmacks. We have dollars available for heat pumps, construction at Vanier, almost $1 million, and so forth. A substantial number of dollars have been identified for projects, one of which weíre very proud to be able to showcase.
Childcare is the second best funded childcare system in the Canada, thanks to the very good efforts and hard work of our Minister of Health and Social Services. We have made more money available to childcare operators for setup spaces through the direct operating grant and so forth, and weíre very appreciative of that as well, as are my constituents.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know Iíve run out of time, and it is unfortunate because there is so much other good news to bear.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, Iím here today to speak about Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. Itís interesting to hear about the dream world that the members opposite live in. I couldnít help but hearing the Member for Lake Laberge talk about the six-year nose-dive that the territory was in previous to their taking power. I donít know ó maybe the Member for Lake Laberge was stuck on the marge of Lake Laberge somewhere in a boiler. I donít know, but he was missing some of the good times that were happening in the Yukon, because I was out there working and there were a lot of other people out there working as well. There were three operating mines in the territory, and I worked in all three of them at that time.
So, the times that the Member for Lake Laberge was living in were somewhat different than what a lot of other Yukoners were living in during those six years.
Iím not quite sure where he gets his information from, but if he would like a listing of the mines, I can tell him exactly which mines. The reason theyíre not in existence any more has nothing to do with who was in power. It has all to do with metal prices and the way those projects were managed.
I worked on mining sites in Faro, at the Anvil Range site; I worked in Dawson on the Viceroy site, and I also worked on the Mount Nansen site, as well, all of which eventually went into production.
How many hardrock mines can the Member for Lake Laberge say are in operation in the Yukon right now? Obviously he canít.
Iíd like to talk about ó when it comes to mining, they seem to think theyíre the gurus, but if you look back over time, Mr. Speaker, mining is not affected by how much money is in a budget and the management of the territoryís finances. Itís largely affected by world mineral prices.
Iíd like to talk a little bit about the Premierís new campaign slogan for the next election, and that is: is your life any better now than it was three years ago? Weíre waiting to see what colour the literature comes out on.
I donít see that much in this supplementary budget or in a lot of the budgets that this government has put forward that really has made Yukonersí lives that much better.
When you go out and talk to people about whether their lives are any better now, you get a mixed answer. Some people will say ďYeah, things are better.Ē But there are an awful lot of people out there who are still struggling, and this government is not addressing their issues. They are not making their lives any better.
One of the critic areas I hold is Yukon Housing Corporation. When you look at the approach that this government has taken to affordable housing and the way that they have treated people ó is housing affordable? What we have right now is a hot real estate market where prices are really way up there. We have the rental market that is tight and the rents are pretty high. Has this government moved to try to ease the market, especially for youth?
I happen to know for a fact, Mr. Speaker, of young people who, while they may not be homeless, cannot afford to rent decent housing. They are forced into substandard housing because they donít have the funds to obtain safe, affordable housing. Part of that is tied to the fact that this government has done absolutely nothing in its three years to even address the issue of how much young people make in the workplace. I introduced a motion earlier on last week to try to address that, about the minimum wage. This government, in spite of urgings on my part to the minister responsible for having the minimum wage reviewed, he insists that, instead of reviewing the minimum wage ó and I admit I encouraged him to review the fair wage, too, but those are people who are working on construction sites and they are making way more money than minimum wage.
The minimum wage in the Yukon has been at $7.20 an hour since 1998. Thatís something this government could address, but they havenít addressed it. They take the legislative ďliteĒ view of life and thatís one way. The Premier claims the budgets are making peopleís lives better, but I donít see that. We have kids out there and there are employers who still feel they can pay the minimum wage, and thatís where a lot of the job creation this government has created has been targeted to ó minimum wage, part-time jobs. There has been a lot more of that activity, and weíve seen that.
Seniors housing ó are seniorsí lives better? Well, I donít see a lot of money in this budget in the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 targeted at seniors housing. As a matter of fact, if you look at the budget, when it comes to affordable housing, the governmentís affordable housing project is in Community Services under ó they canít even be honest about what this is, Mr. Speaker. Iíll try and rephrase that: they canít be realistic about what is in this budget.
Thereís $10.6 million in Community Services in this vote alone for what they call speciality games. What are specialty games? The total revised vote will be $23 million. Itís going to be the athletes village. Why didnít they say it was the athletes village? Are they ashamed? What is the problem?
Down the line, they identify projects; they identify community halls in Ross River, community centres in Mayo. They identify the Teslin sewer main, but they wonít identify the athletes village in this budget. There was a big loss to the territory through the governmentís management of this project. They have money in the budget for it, but they missed out on the seniors housing project. There isnít really a seniors housing project out there right now. The project thatís being built in Copperbelt or Whitehorse West, as we speak ó the uptake on that, my understanding is that there arenít ó and seniors housing was one of the priorities of the affordable housing money. It is being bought up by young families, and it doesnít address the needs of seniors. The other project that the government chose to support through the affordable housing money has been cancelled. It was an assisted living facility in Takhini. The proponents of that chose to pull out of that project; hence, there is not really any seniors housing. For seniors, is their life any better than it was three years ago? I donít think so, Mr. Speaker.
On the athletes village and the seniors housing projects, as well, this government missed a golden opportunity to partner with non-profit organizations, in the spirit of consensus building, collaboration and compromise, but they didnít do it, Mr. Speaker. They had the opportunity, but they didnít do it. What could have come out of that? The government, on one hand, will tell you that there are immense training needs for trades training. They passed up an opportunity for training local people in a housing manufacturing plant plus the creation of an industry ó a housing manufacturing plant that would have provided opportunities for young people to go to learn about trades, about manufacturing modular homes. But what does this government do? Mr. Speaker, I think we need to bring back those stickers from a few years back: ďYukon Party: Building Albertaís FutureĒ What do we see?
What do we see? $10 million shipped directly south. They talked about the U-Haul economy; well, they must have filled the U-Haul full of $100 bills and shipped it to Alberta so they could get the modular homes. Thatís the U-Haul economy of this Yukon Party government.
Iíd like to move on. The time we have today is limited, I know, and there are a few other issues I would like to address. One of the areas ó and the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources should know all about this ó is the money that isnít there, or is there, for land planning. It has been not just a problem in my riding of Mount Lorne with spot land applications and the lack of adequate planning. The process, quite frankly, has been poor, even when it comes to land planning.
We watched here in the Legislature and in the newspapers, the media, at City Hall and at a few public meetings how this government consulted with the residents of Wolf Creek, Mary Lake, Pineridge, MacRae on a subdivision. What did we get from the Minister of Community Services? An ultimatum ó my way or the highway; that access is going there; I donít care; thatís whatís going. Thatís not consensus building; thatís not consultation. It doesnít resemble collaboration or compromise. People had genuine concerns about the safety of people travelling on that highway and that access, and what does this government do? Theyíve turned around and itís an ultimatum.
When it comes to the total situation regarding land planning in this territory and spot land applications, weíve seen it not just in Mount Lorne. Weíve seen it in other areas. We know there are concerns in Dawson.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun mentioned in his comments, I believe, the dollars from the federal government that come over for land use planning, and they keep getting turned back, because this government doesnít want to engage in the process with all regions of the Yukon in getting some sort of a comprehensive land planning exercise going that can identify which areas need to be protected and which areas are open for development. Whatís wrong with going through that exercise?
The money is there, and there are people staffing an office. Here we are, post-devolution, post-land claims, in most regions of the Yukon, and this government is not working. Theyíre not in a consensus-building mode; theyíre not in a consultation mode; theyíre not collaborating, and theyíre not compromising. Theyíre not working with First Nations and communities to identify the wishes of Yukoners when it comes to what they think needs to be done with respect to land in the Yukon.
And when it comes to devolution, the Member for Lake Laberge ó in his comments in an earlier speech, but different topic ó brought up property rights. Here is another area where this government has not moved at all to address the issues. In fact, I havenít even received a response to a question that I asked about what the governmentís plans were with respect to reviewing the mirror legislation around property rights when it comes to individual property rights, which I know the Member for Lake Laberge really holds dear in his heart, over that of people who stake mineral claims on property.
We passed a whole bunch of mirror legislation in here back in the spring of 2003, and that was to mirror what the federal legislation was. Unfortunately this government doesnít think that itís important that it reflects the realities we live in today, post-land claims, in most instances, and reflects the reality for Yukoners today. One other concern I have in this budget is that this government has made a lot of promises. It could go promises, promises, lapses, because a lot of the promises that they make never seem to come to fruition, or they seem to take an awfully long time to get there.
One of the promises they made was to restore democracy in Dawson. Theyíve even admitted that what that requires, Mr. Speaker, is some sort of financial package that will get Dawson back on its feet. The Member for Klondike even alluded to it. He referred to the financial situation in Dawson as being a mess, I believe, something to that effect. But the Member for Klondike is doing nothing about it. He is not working to ó otherwise, Mr. Speaker, there would be money in this budget for Dawson City that could provide some stability, some certainty. It could get them back on their feet and they could have a democratically elected council. What do we get? We get the promise of a bridge, we get the promise of a multi-level health care facility, and lastly we get the promise of a new recreation centre. Where is that in this budget? We donít see that. We donít see money for Dawson City to get them back on their feet.
One more thing ó I know my timeís running out, itís amazing how fast it goes ó is this governmentís action on substance abuse. You know, itís unfortunate. This government has not moved forward at all on the issue of substance abuse. They came out with a plan and some great ideas, but anything concrete? No, Mr. Speaker. There is nothing in the Justice budget to deal with substance abuse. Thereís a plan, but there is no money. Itís hard to deliver on a plan unless you commit some resources to it. Itís hard to deliver on any kind of a plan unless you are prepared to stand behind it. Whether thatís a legislative change or a financial commitment in the budget, it needs to be there. This is something that we hear about on the doorstep ó going door to door whether itís in Copperbelt or another community ó substance abuse and the havoc it wreaks in our community is a real problem. People are concerned about it. What did we do about it? We tabled, for the governmentís perusal if they want to bring forward some positive initiative, a safe community act from Saskatchewan. We hope that they do.
I know my time is up, and I thank the members for listening, and I look forward to their comments.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly after listening to this over the last number of hours, what strikes me the most is the number of misconceptions ó the number of places where people are simply wrong. For instance, the final comments of the previous speaker questioned why there is nothing in the budget for the substance abuse action plan, which was formulated over the last couple of months, with good public consultation. Well, we are not discussing next yearís budget; we are discussing the budget that was formulated almost a year ago.
This government will react to all demonstrated needs. We have proven that over and over. So, obviously, there is nothing specific about that substance abuse plan thatís in the budget weíre debating today. There is, however, if the member opposite reads it, quite a bit involving safe communities, drug houses ó all the things the opposition has been asking about are in the plan, if they would take the time to read it.
Itís also interesting, in terms of the affordable housing project ó the one program thatís going in Falcon Ridge. Iíve heard that criticism ó that the uptake is mostly young families ó and I checked on that. The reality is that thereís a very good mix and, in fact, a very high mix of seniors that are applying for mortgages in there. Again, I have to deal with fact and not speculation on that.
Again, the member made the comment ó corrected it afterwards ó that the assisted living project had been cancelled. It wasnít cancelled. The proponent withdrew the application, and that is certainly beyond our control.
The affordable housing program is simply an example of this, and is one that was basically set up by the federal government. It had some flaws. Iíd be the first to admit that. But itís a program that we have to live with or, as the leader of the opposition might have put at one time ó I certainly heard it ó that the money should be given back. No, I donít think he meant that, and I certainly donít think we should be giving it back.
But it allowed us, for instance, with the $3.5 million that was announced today that would go into the athletes village, to put that toward the construction of 48 new units of affordable housing in Whitehorse. Itís under construction as we speak.
When itís completed, the athletes village residence will consist of two three-storey buildings that will temporarily lodge athletes and coaches during the games. One of those residences will become affordable housing and the other will go to Yukon College to house families who are coming in for training and such. The interesting quote out of that whole thing is, ďThis affordable housing project is a progressive solution that meets the variety of housing needs of Yukoners. With some creativity and planning, Whitehorse will have comfortable new accommodations for the Winter Games athletes, as well as new, long-term affordable housing options to serve the community following the games.Ē
Thatís a quote from the Hon. Larry Bagnell, so obviously the Liberals think this is a good idea. We hope the official opposition will also take a closer look at this and see the good work that will come out of that, because that will be a very interesting and a very good project.
The previous speaker also mentioned how terrible it was and how wages were low and nobody was making any money. Mr. Speaker, in July of 2005 ó itís a couple of months ago ó preliminary seasonally adjusted estimates show there were 16,600 Yukon jobs. At that same point in time, the preliminary seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings figure for the Yukon was the third highest in Canada at $825.95 per week.
I will agree with him on one thing: we can do better, but weíre hardly living in the doom-and-gloom era that some people would portray.
The other thing thatís kind of interesting when you look at the affordable housing initiative ó and Iím just picking examples on that ó the program itself is something that we have to work with. Itís something that was very good; it came in like much of the income that came in on other things. Again, as Iíve said over and over in this House, the government is a business, and those who only look at the expense column and never look at the income column are doomed to failure.
Weíve done very well. Weíve had good assistance from our Member of Parliament. I will agree with the member from the third party with that. He has helped us immensely, but he is hardly playing Santa Claus, running around with a bag of money, passing it out, which is how some others would like to make that look. Itís a good partnership, and itís a good example of working with all levels of government, with all political philosophies, rather than sit there and take shots at everybody and then wonder why at the end of the day they donít want to talk to you. That makes no sense at all.
Some of the projects that members have referred to are controlled by boards. Again, affordable housing is a good example. Where that money goes, the projects that are accepted, how theyíre modified, are all within the purview of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board. Theyíre not political decisions. I canít really take credit for some of those decisions, any more than the member opposite likes to sit there and throw barbs in claiming that they were political failures. They werenít. Theyíre things and opportunities that came up and, under control of the board, which has done a spectacular job, have developed. This has allowed the development of a great deal of infrastructure. I think anybody would have to be nuts to think that a town our size and a jurisdiction our size ó there are apartment complexes in Toronto with a larger population than we have in 5.8 percent of the land mass of the second largest country in the world. That presents opportunities; it presents challenges. But youíd have to be nuts to think that we could afford the multiplex, that we could afford the school system, that we could afford everything else. And if we were to walk away from that kind of assistance and sharing with the federal government, then we would be sitting here in wall tents. I donít think anyone in this House wants that.
Speakers on the opposite side have made some points, and when we took office I donít think anyone on this side said we were broke ó we certainly werenít broke. We were going broke, but we werenít broke yet. It was that trajectory that we had to change. Again, trajectories have two sides. We had to cut back on the expenses while we worked very, very hard on the income and came up with the funds that we could start investing in infrastructure, that we could start doing the wide variety of things that we do.
We have been accused of a number of things, or at least people have claimed a number of things that have happened. But letís look at some of the whole, some of these things that keep coming up. At the end of the day the comment has been made that we are recklessly spending. We are so reckless, Mr. Speaker, that the Government of Yukon entered the fiscal year with a net financial resource of just over $48 million. This means that financial assets exceed liabilities and that the government is not carrying any net debt ó zero, nothing. The surplus for the year ended with just over $5 million for the one year. The accumulated surplus, presented in the non-consolidated statements, was $413.3 million. Now, on a consolidated basis, the net financial resource of the government, which includes all government operations and corporations, was $168 million and the accumulated surplus was $559 million.
It wasnít more than a year or so ago that we were working on a line of credit. We were working with no money in the bank and actually paying interest on the loans to keep the government going. Now we have money in the bank and we have, I believe, the third best jurisdiction of anywhere in Canada.
If thatís irresponsible, then I really have difficulty with the accounting abilities of someone who can make that claim.
There are a number of other things in here that really bother me. The member of the third party, who quoted some of the mineral prices, like gold going from $270 to $470, nickel doubled ó I donít know those right off the top of my head, but sheís right; they did go up dramatically. What she doesnít mention, however, is they went up all over the world. Those prices are the same in Whitehorse or Dawson or anywhere else in North America that has a mine, be it from Gagnon to Flin Flon. They are the same everywhere.
In that amount of time, why has the Yukon Territory skyrocketed in terms of support? Why have we gone to the third highest income per capita on a weekly basis? Why have so many of these things happened? Why have 2,500 people ó and, I would argue, more ó moved in? Why has the unemployment dropped to a historic low of 4.8 percent? Itís one of the lowest in Canada.
British Columbia is screaming because of their low unemployment rate, which is actually a little higher than ours, I might add. The population has increased. Weíve rebounded from the 2002 era, which seemed like an episode of Survivor gone bad, and mining and exploration in the territory has increased to $43 million and possibly as high as $50 million by the end of the season, up from $6 million. Thatís pretty darn good and, again, itís the other side of the coin.
Yes, mineral prices have gone up, but theyíve gone up worldwide. Tell the whole story.
If I go back to affordable housing for a little bit, the board of directors for Yukon Housing is, as I told them several times, one of the best that Iíve worked with. Theyíve approved 44 home ownership units with Falcon Ridge Development Corporation, and the project is well underway and it is a mix of people who are moving toward that. They have also approved $3.5 million toward construction of the units. Weíre very, very pleased that there is going to be a legacy component out of the Canada Winter Games in quality housing. Iíve had some members opposite suggest that we should have just brought up Atco units, brought up trailer units, that we could put them in place and do the job just as well. Estimates ran anywhere from $12 million to $24 million for that, and at the end of the day, back to the U-Haul, Mr. Speaker; theyíd be heading south. These might be heading north, but theyíre heading north and theyíre going to stay and theyíre going to be put to use for affordable housing and for our students.
We do have to adhere to that protocol agreement with CMHC. We have to be very careful with how some of those things go. The board, I am very pleased right now, is looking at a number of different ways of doing that, including the possibility of a supported-care living facility in a rural community. That is a project that staff is now looking at, and we hope we can make some announcements on that soon.
But if I can go back to the election time ó letís go back and take a look. Are people doing better today than they did before? When I was going door to door during the election, I heard basically four things. One thing I never heard was, ďWe need more laws. Letís get more laws. Letís go for volume and judge it by volume.Ē No. If there is a demonstrated need, it should be looked at and it should be evaluated and proper consultation be done. But the members opposite judging by volume is perplexing, at best.
What Iíve heard was about education, support of our students, whatever field of study they choose to go into. Iíve heard a lot about health care, and I heard a lot about childcare, early childhood, daycare. As the Minister of Health and Social Services mentioned earlier, we have gone from a fairly marginal system to the second best ó second only to Quebec, which is a very unusual situation ó in Canada in terms of early childcare and daycare.
Weíve done that. The other thing that I was rather surprised at when I was going around was, of course, the number of people involved in the film and sound industry in Porter Creek North. I wasnít expecting there to be a real group up there, but there certainly is. So, on that note, some of the things weíve done while weíve been ďrecklessly spending,Ē according to some people, is to invest $715,000 into film and sound incentive programs. Now, thatís based on a nine-to-one ratio. In other words, almost $9 comes back to the Yukon economy for every $1 that goes out. Thatís a pretty huge difference, Mr. Speaker.
The Film and Sound Commission, which was brought back into the Department of Economic Development, after the department was killed, of course ó I still scratch my head why a previous government whose intention was to stimulate the economy felt that disbanding the Department of Economic Development was going to accomplish that. But, who knows? Itís possible.
What other things have happened through there? The film activity that has been dramatic ó Northern Town, a CBC series, written and produced by a Yukoner, filmed in the Yukon for five weeks in the spring ó 250 jobs. 250 Yukoners worked on that production.
Five productions from England were shot in the Yukon in the spring of 2005. Fifty-six Yukoners worked on those. And I could go on and on, in terms of other projects, productions and such. Our biggest problem right now with the film industry is that we are actually having to start to consider the possibility of a film studio or something like this. Our Film and Sound Commissioner has done too good a job and has drawn an incredible amount of work north. I really, really commend her for that.
While all this has been going on ó I wonít even begin to get into the reinstatement of the community development fund which, again, a previous government killed ó what have we done on the other things I heard at the door? As I mentioned, we have the second best day care; weíve put in $10 million to assist with the increased costs at Whitehorse General Hospital; $6 million for pharmacare and chronic disease programs; $1.1 million for specified medical services.
The previous speaker mentioned the fact there was someone who had waited weeks or months to get an appointment with the doctor. I was in Winnipeg not that long ago, and a person who was giving me a tour of the city made the comment that she had been in Manitoba for three and a half years and hadnít found a family physician yet. Itís a national problem. It is not simply a Yukon problem, because every time we simply throw more money at it, every other jurisdiction in Canada throws the same amount of money and little progress is made. We have to look at creative solutions. We have to look at other ways to do that and the department and the Minister of Health and Social Services are working on that.
We have $400,000 to support children with developmental disorders and assist with the five-step fetal alcohol spectrum disorder plan; $300,000 to provide outreach support to families with FASD; $600,000 to support families with autistic children; $900,000 for additional family support workers. All these things ó increasing seniors pioneer utility grant by 35 percent and indexing it ó all these things are things that I heard at the door as priority items: this is what we need. This is what weíre accomplishing.
Weíve developed and implemented the Individual Learning Centre as an alternative path to achieving high school diplomas. We already have graduates ó numerous graduates, as a matter of fact, from that, Mr. Speaker ó a marvellous, marvellous success story. Again, our biggest problem on that is the space, and that we are probably going to have to expand it.
We have established a home school tutoring program in the communities. We have increased the Yukon student grant. We have increased the base funding of Yukon College by $1 million. We could have put that into some garden sheds out there and said that we had built something, but building something with rocks and mortar and sticks is not necessarily what the college needed. It needed an injection of cash. Weíve done that.
Weíve encouraged enrolment in trades and technology by expanding the apprenticeship programs. Weíve implemented optional full-day kindergarten. Weíve expanded late French immersion to include grades 6 and 7. Weíve revitalized Yukon aboriginal languages through the First Voices program and invested $500,000 into First Nations curriculum development. All of these things appear to be what members opposite are saying is ďreckless spendingĒ. Itís easy to criticize.
I look forward to the debate when members opposite have a chance to actually offer some of their opinions, rather than just complain.
Mrs. Peter: Iím happy to respond to the supplementary budget on behalf of my riding. It was very interesting to listen to the comments from the members opposite, especially from the previous speaker.
There is a certain amount of money in the supplementary budget that is before us, Mr. Speaker. Weíve passed another budget a few days back where we were referred to a lot of the money that lapsed from the previous year. Those are interesting scenarios for the average Yukon person out there on the street. They are very interested in how this government is spending their money, where they are spending their money and where a lot of this money is coming from. Weíve heard it mentioned by many previous speakers. The Canada Games project and many of the dollars we are seeing in the budget before us come from the federal government. The Premier stands and trumpets that this is the biggest budget in the history of the Yukon. A lot of the dollars are going to infrastructure in the Whitehorse area.
On that note, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to bringing my views forward tomorrow.
I move that the debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved that the debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, you have five minutes.
Mrs. Peter: † I have a few more minutes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
A few of the issues that Iíve heard from the members opposite are in regard to legislation. The Member for Lake Laberge was speaking about legislation, and he referred to seven thick volumes in front of him. Unless I missed out on some tabling of legislation here, seven thick volumes is not something I see on my desk today. If nothing else, there are seven skimpy little volumes of legislation.
The comments that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources made in reference to the community of Old Crow were very interesting. I know the member knows many people from my community, and of course he was part of the Cabinet tour that came to Old Crow and made reference to the dollars that are being spent in my community in this budget. Of course the community is grateful for that, and of course it is appreciated by the community members.
What I find more interesting is every time that members in the Yukon Party government refer to the community of Old Crow, itís in regard to how much money theyíre spending there and the inference of that. How does one interpret that? And, you know, the community of Old Crow is very well-informed on how much money is being spent in their community. Theyíre happy to have a new terminal.
However, there are other issues that are outstanding and that are not being addressed on their behalf.
Speaker: Order please.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 17 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 7, 2005:
Order-in-Council 2005/155, First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act: amendments of the Self-Government Agreements for the Selkirk First Nation, Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, TríondŽk HwŽchíin, Teslin Tlingit Council, and Taían Kwšchíšn Council† (Fentie)