††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, November 14, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Withdrawal of motion
Speaker: The Chair wishes to inform the House of a change which has been made to the Order Paper. Motion No. 487, standing in the name of the leader of the official opposition, has been removed because it is outdated.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Annie Henry
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Annie Henry, long-time Yukoner and a well-respected and beloved elder, who passed away on October 24, 2005, at the age of 101.
Annie Mitchell was born on October 10, 1904, in the Blackstone area of the Yukon, to her parents, Jarvis and Ester Mitchell. She was from the Dego people and was of the Crow clan. Annie grew up along the Peel River and learned about First Nations knowledge and her traditional way of life first-hand. She also grew up with a strong Christian faith that she later taught her family and shared with everyone she met.
At 14 years of age, Annie learned that she was going to be a bride. The Reverend Julius Kendi married Annie Mitchell and Joe Henry three years later on July 15, 1921, at Moosehide. They spent many years trapping in the Blackstone area.
Together she and Joe raised 12 children ó six girls, six boys, nine of whom were born in the bush. Annie spent most of her life on the land travelling with her family throughout Yukon and Northwest Territories, often by foot or by dog team.
She loved being out on the land where she would tan hides, work with meat and fish, and impart her traditional knowledge and wisdom to everyone around her. Annie especially loved to sew, and was still sewing well past her 100th birthday and is well recognized for her excellent and colourful beading on all sorts of tanned hides. Annie was also excellent at making the babiche, which is part of the snowshoes that her husband Joe built.
In 2002, Annie and Joe, her lifetime partner, were recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest married couple in the world, a remarkable span of some 81 years. They also received certificates from Queen Elizabeth, the Governor General of Canada and the Prime Minister of Canada, as well as many other messages of goodwill for this distinction.
Annie Henry was predeceased by her husband Joe, sons Peter and Henry, and daughters Ida, Edna and Fanny. She is survived by her son Percy, sons Isaac, Victor and William, daughters Mary, Margaret and Eileen, and sister Elizabeth, as well as many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. She has left over 100 direct descendants to mourn her, many of whom still live in the Dawson are.
Annie Henry will be remembered for her love and kindness by all who knew her. She did not like to see anyone go without and opened her door and her heart to everyone who came by. She will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by her family and many friends.
Mr. Speaker, itís fitting that today we pay tribute to and acknowledge Annie Henry and celebrate with you her lifelong list of accomplishments. I offer my sincere condolences on behalf of the government in this House to her family on her passing.
Thank you, mahsií cho.
Mrs. Peter: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay deep respect to a woman who has touched the hearts of many people ó Annie Henry.
Annie Henry passed from this earth on October 24, at the age of 101. She and her husband Joe celebrated the longest marriage on record in the world ó 79 years ó before Joe passed away in 2002.
Annie Henryís longevity alone would merit a tribute, but this grand lady was more than simply older than most of us can hope to see. She was a personification of traditional Gwichíin life.
Annieís life began in the Tetlit Gwichíin community of Fort McPherson where survival depended on the skills and knowledge of living off the land, constantly moving through the area of Fort McPherson and Dawson City, later to be known as the Dempster Highway. She learned how to hunt, how to fish, how to trap and how to make clothes and tools from the animals around her. She gave thanks for the abundance of animals and plants that gave her life. In many ways it was a secure life.
But Annie was to live through challenging and even dangerous times as the last century began. Diseases brought by contact with Europeans devastated the population. Missionaries established traditions that gave a whole new perspective on life and death. Mechanized tools and guns meant easier work but also fewer animals.
She learned to read and write in English while speaking Gwichíin. Annieís faith in the Anglican Church, which grew stronger with every year, was integrated into her traditional beliefs. Married in 1921, she and her husband Joe raised their children in the bush and taught them the old and new ways. It was fitting that Annieís last journey was in a helicopter flying to her resting place in the First Nation village of Moosehide. It symbolizes the enormous changes she had seen over her 101 years.
The lessons Annie Henry has given us with her remarkable life are ones of courage, faith and warmth. She was well-loved by all who knew her. We join her family in feeling the loss of a dear relative.
In recognition of National Restorative Justice Week
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today to pay tribute to National Restorative Justice Week, from November 13 to 20.
National Restorative Justice Week offers us the opportunity to reflect on the efforts made to find alternative ways to deal with harm caused by crime. The annual celebration of Restorative Justice Week was originally initiated in 1996 by the Correctional Service of Canada and has since expanded throughout Canada and around the world.
The objectives of Restorative Justice Week are to educate and inspire the public on the principles and values of restorative justice programs and initiatives; inform the public of the multitude of restorative justice programs that are available across Canada; build safer communities by breaking the cycles of violence and victimization among people and engage Canadians to work to build strong, safe and supportive environments.
This yearís national theme for Restorative Justice Week is ďWisdom gained through experience.Ē It is an acknowledgement of what we have learned along the way from victims, offenders, practitioners and community groups about restorative justice.
Restorative justice comes with the recognition that the most appropriate or effective way to deal with crime and its effects on the victim, offenders and the community lies in alternative options to the criminal justice system.
Restorative justice, as a framework for working with victims and offenders in the aftermath of crime, has been put into practice in a variety of ways and processes over the years.
Among the principles of a restorative justice process are that it should be voluntary, fairly balanced and encourage mutual understanding and respect. When used in appropriate cases, restorative justice processes bring victims and offenders together, bearing in mind that victims want to feel heard and understood and offenders need to clearly see what they have done and be given the opportunity to accept responsibility and make amends. It is important to recognize the place of restorative justice options in a society. The concept of restorative justice is not new. Rather, it is a return to the traditional views of the community. Restorative justice has deep roots in various traditions and cultures and has now become established in todayís justice system.
I am pleased for the opportunity Restorative Justice Week gives us to acknowledge the time and efforts of many Canadians over the years to lay the groundwork for ó and to advocate the principles of ó restorative justice. I want to extend a special thank you to individuals in the Yukon who are involved in restorative and community justice through the work they are doing to develop local solutions to resolve conflict.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to Restorative Justice Week, November 13 to 20. The theme of restorative justice week this year is ďWisdom gained through experience.Ē The theme recognizes the great amount of time, energy and commitment made by many Canadians in forming and practising restorative justice.
What is restorative justice? Based on aboriginal values, restorative justice brings the offender and offended together and involves the community in the justice process. It is a complex mesh of several systems based on principles and values that view harm and crime as a violation of people and relationships.
Community problems are responded to in a supportive atmosphere. The repercussions, responsibilities and obligations created by harmful acts are explored and solutions arrived at with a view toward healing options for everyone. When supported by the offenderís family and the community, solutions to offences have a much better chance of successfully changing the individual responsible.
Itís not easy to measure the success of restorative justice. The object of stopping an offender from committing future crimes is a relevant goal and can be measured, but restorative justice goes beyond recidivism. It aims to restore community harmony, make offenders realize their responsibility and be accountable to others, and to promote the development of community justice issues. It is these abstract and intangible goals that give many volunteers involved in restorative justice their passion for the work that they do.
The weekís theme of ďWisdom gained through experienceĒ is especially noteworthy in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. It is the Yukon that in the past has been one of the most productive jurisdictions in moving forward with the vision of restorative justice, and itís practised in a variety of ways in all Yukon communities. Today we pay tribute to those professionals and volunteers who are gaining wisdom through their experiences in restorative justice measures, and we trust that sufficient financial and moral support will be available from government, as needed, to continue this important aspect of the justice system.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Canada Winter Games, athletes village
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Premier in his capacity as Minister of Finance. In August of 2004, the cost of the athletes village for the Canada Winter Games was $10.5 million. By February of this year it was up around the $20 million mark. Today it is estimated at approximately $31.4 million, Mr. Speaker. Who knows what it could be by the time it is actually built. Can the minister explain, in straightforward terms that everyone can understand, why this project is costing 300 percent of what it was originally supposed to cost?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite will no doubt be aware, we are facing a time crunch with the building of the village. As such, we had appointed a project manager to oversee that particular project to ensure that the village will be built in time for the games and to ensure that we have very successful games for the north.
Mr. Hardy: That is completely unacceptable. I asked a question: 300 percent more costs, Mr. Speaker, and the question is directed to the Finance minister, because he is responsible for the spending. Last February, a city councillor who is also on the Games Host Society, called a deal between the city and YTG ďvoodoo mathĒ. A lot of people are saying the same thing, but they arenít really surprised given this Premierís financial track record. $2 million blown so far on a bridge that isnít even going to be built; $3 million for a railway feasibility study to please his friend in Alaska; a $10-million promise with no planning or consultation behind it in the middle of a by-election. This project, $31.5 million for 72 units ó you do the math, Mr. Speaker.
Now, this is taxpayersí money we are talking about, not the Premierís. Why did the Premier let the cost of this project spin out of control, instead of saying ďSorry, itís too rich for our blood; you will have to come up with something far more realistic to house the athletesĒ?†
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at the long-term objectives and the legacy that will be left from these games. Part of that is the development of two units that would be housing for Yukon College to assist them, as well as providing housing for seniors.
Mr. Speaker, thatís what weíre looking at.
Part of the cost that ensued was due to the fact that we are behind the time crunch, as the member opposite indicated, and we have looked at all sorts of opportunities and all sorts of different alternatives to build the facility. Thus, we had to go to the pre-fab model to have it done in time. Weíve gone through the construction industry, as well as the Outside industry, and this is the best and most effective way in which to get the building done and to get it done on time.
Mr. Hardy: Once again, thatís completely unacceptable. Once again, the Finance minister refuses to stand up and be accountable. Itís our job to ask these questions and the Premier is accountable to the Yukon people for how he spends their money. In August 2004, the coordinator of the athletes village project talked about the need to maximize local benefits in the construction. Here are his exact words: ďWe donít want Atco to build our village for us; we want to build it in the north.Ē
Since then, of course, we know the project has changed drastically. Local proposals were rejected; none of the housing units will be going to Yukon communities, as was the plan two or three years before this decision was made. Lo and behold, guess whoís building it? Atco is building the village.
There has been enough lead time, Mr. Speaker. There were years of planning. What happened?
Since the Premier took personal ownership of this project by negotiating a secret deal with the city, how does he justify the huge increase in cost when the local benefit, in terms of jobs and business opportunities, is a fraction of what was originally promised?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, the official opposition simply is not dealing with anything that is factual in their question. In the first place, the athletes village, as per the bid put forward, had a $2.7-million sum of money attached to it. Thatís unacceptable because it couldnít work.
Secondly, there was no $10-million cost to an athletes village. The host society went out with some requests for proposals, but nothing produced anything in the shape of getting an athletes village built. Itís this government that came along and bailed this out, Mr. Speaker, frankly. With a $2.7-million budgeted item for an athletes village, with all the work that is done to date, it shows where the athletes village costs would be, and even if we were to build houses that would be moved to communities, weíd be talking about a significant increase to the price of today. So the choice had to be made, and we did it in partnership with the city, with the host society, the Yukon government. We put together a problem-solving process to deal with the athletes village, and the choice was made to invest in Yukon College so that there was a lasting legacy and use of this facility.
Mr. Speaker, that was a good decision to make. Itís the most cost-effective, and it will produce something in this territory that Yukoners can use long after the Canada Winter Games. Weíre nothing different from the City of Regina. Mr. Speaker, itís the exact same thing the City of Regina did with the Canada Summer Games that were just completed this summer. They invested in their university. So weíre making an investment in the college on behalf of all Yukoners. It will be used for two weeks for the Canada Winter Games.
Question re:† Canada Winter Games, athletes village
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, weíve just heard about the staggering cost of housing athletes for two weeks in the year 2007. The Premier is justifying these expenditures by saying these buildings will be assets for Yukon College and Yukon Housing Corporation.
The minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation is using money earmarked for affordable housing to build these units, but letís look at that a little deeper.
At a cost of $31.4 million for 72 residential units ó do the math: the cost per unit to build them is $432,111. By what possible yardstick can the minister consider a residential unit that costs $432,111 to be affordable housing?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes, letís take a look at the math here. By utilizing $3.5 million under the Canada-Yukon affordable housing agreement toward the construction of 48 units of affordable housing, they will be used for two weeks for the Canada Winter Games. And weíre very grateful for the contribution of the federal government, because this is a federal program that allows us to invest that into affordable housing. As well, the second building will be an investment to our Yukon College ó I think a very worthwhile investment, certainly much better than some of the low estimates of bringing trailers in, utilizing them for two weeks and shipping them back south again, which has happened in other games.
This is good value and itís a good legacy to come out of the games for this territory.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister must run in faster circles than most other Yukoners. $400,000 per unit is expensive housing. It is upper middle class housing, and it is not affordable housing.
Letís take another look at the map. Within these two buildings, there is a total of 138 bedrooms. At $31.4 million for the project, the construction costs per bedroom is $227,538. If this is what the minister considers affordable, we are clearly dealing with different realities. They are in a totally different reality over there. Can the minister tell us what the current market rental per month would be on a residential property that cost $436,000 to build?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: † This affordable housing project is a progressive solution that meets a variety of housing needs of Yukoners. With some creativity and planning, Whitehorse will have comfortable, new accommodations for the Canada Winter Games athletes as well as new, long-term, affordable options to serve the community following the games.
Mr. Speaker, that is a direct quote from our federal Member of Parliament. This is a federal program, and we are very happy to realize that. Rent will be geared according to the affordable housing program. The rents will be geared to the average Whitehorse area rents. The member opposite would have the rents calculated on cost, and that clearly is not the plan at all. The plan is to allow Canada Winter Games two weeksí usage to solve a problem that leaves a legacy for this territory.
Iím sure the leader of the official opposition ó if he would switch to decaf and stop the chattering across the way ó would think about it and would agree with me.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, that was a nice briefing note the minister read. Thereís a ton of other questions about how this project went sideways, but Iím going to follow up with the minister on that later probably.
At one point at least some of these modular units were supposed to help meet the affordable housing needs of rural Yukon. There was even talk about making some of these units available for seniors and others with mobility impairment. I hope the minister at least understands why seniors donít consider this a viable option. Transportation alone would rule that out, even if they could afford the rent. Instead, the athletes village will become residential units for Yukon College and probably not much more.
Given the huge construction cost per unit, will Yukon Housing be providing subsidies to students and Yukon College staff who canít afford to live in these units if they are priced at normal market rental rates?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: † Once again the member opposite is totally confusing his programs. The affordable housing program has nothing to do with social housing, and specifically it has nothing to do with seniors housing. They will be built according to green standards for more efficient and cheaper operation. They will be built in a way that makes them accessible, so that they could be utilized by seniors. There is a possibility that Yukon Housing may get involved in the future and utilize some of these units for social housing, which has nothing to do with affordable housing, but the reality is that the rents will be geared to the average rental structure within the City of Whitehorse. This is a good thing. Itís a good use of federal programs, and itís a good solution to the problem of the initial budgetary inaccuracy that the $2.7 million would build an athletes village. Itís certainly a lot better than investing $12 million to $16 million, or somewhere in that range, to bring units up, utilize them for two weeks, and send them back south. That was not acceptable to us. This is a very, very good program, and itís very good news for Yukon.
Question re: Watson Lake care facility contract
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The minister said that all the rules were followed in sole-sourcing contracts worth almost $300,000 in Watson Lake to a contractor who is related to one of his Cabinet colleagues. Now, that may be the case, Mr. Speaker. It may be that this minister followed the letter of the governmentís contracting rules, but in politics that isnít always enough, especially nowadays when the public is really expecting a much better standard.
The deputy minister was aware that the optics might cause some questions to arise, so I wonder why the minister didnít exercise more discretion in this matter. Instead of sole-sourcing this very significant expenditure, why didnít the minister err on the side of caution and put the project out to public tender or at least to an invitational bid, which are options that this minister could have used?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me make it abundantly clear for the member opposite that we did not err. We followed all the contract regulations, all the policies and procedures that we must follow. I make that abundantly clear.
Mr. Speaker, the community of Watson Lake did request a project manager, and it was tendered in the community. So that is where weíre at with the whole equation. What we are looking at is maximizing the benefits for Yukon and specifically Watson Lake. That has been accomplished. The members are criticizing virtually all the major projects that are going to benefit Yukoners. I canít understand this line of reasoning. This is not about sound fiscal management. This is about playing politics, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, thatís about the first time Iíve agreed with the Minister of Health and Social Services. It is about playing politics, and itís all on that side. Now, maybe public opinion really doesnít mean that much to this minister. If he did, he would have made some attempt to pay back the $300,000 he owes the Yukon taxpayers. Thatís playing politics on that side. Maybe public opinion doesnít mean much to the Premier, either, when it comes to projects in his own riding. But it matters to Yukon people, Mr. Speaker ó people who want to believe that government is acting in the best interests and not playing favourites with our hard-earned money.
Let me pose the question to the Premier. Knowing the Health and Social Services ministerís credibility in regard to financial accountability has been questioned, why didnít the Premier insist that the Minister of Health and Social Services use a contracting procedure that would stand up to public scrutiny and wouldnít raise yet another question about this governmentís ethical standards?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government did use contracting procedures that will stand the test of public scrutiny. We followed all the rules and regulations that exist in this area.
Question re: Blood Ties Four Directions funding
Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up with the Health and Social Services minister and his response to his refusal to fund the Yukon organization Blood Ties Four Directions.
When I first asked the minister about this matter last Tuesday, he clouded the hepatitis C funding issue with the issue of federal compensation to patients who received infected blood. Then on Thursday, the minister said he had increased funding to the group for its work related to hepatitis C; however, thatís not the case, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that no funds have been provided to the group for hep C services.
Will the minister now put away the smoke and mirrors and confirm that his government provides absolutely no funding to the Blood Ties group for hep C services and programs?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is completely in error and wrong. Blood Ties Four Directions is contracted by the Health and Social Services department to provide prevention, education and support services to prevent the spread of blood-borne infections and diseases, including HIV and hep C. The amount in the 2005-06 budget is $166,000. When we came to office, it was $130,000-something.
Mr. McRobb: Those funds are for HIV and AIDS prevention. The minister ought to know that. Blood Ties is struggling to survive. This group has been tasked with the additional essential services to hepatitis C victims and to prevent the spread of this disease through education and prevention throughout the Yukon. It has been more than a month since the group wrote to the minister requesting $127,000, but he has yet to respond. Moreover, he has yet to address the issue of more funding, because he is too busy playing with the smoke and mirrors.
Our health care system is burdened with the high cost of treating this disease. It makes strong fiscal sense to invest in the prevention of hep C. ďAn ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.Ē Will the minister now clear the air and tell us whether he will be funding this proposal.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have funded Blood Ties Four Directions. I would encourage the members opposite to listen ó specifically the questioner, Mr. Speaker.
Blood Ties Four Directions is contracted by the Department of Health and Social Services to provide prevention, education, and support services to prevent the spread of blood-borne infectious disease, including HIV and hep C. The amount in the 2005-06 budget is $166,000; when we came to power, Mr. Speaker, it was $130,000. We have significantly increased the amount of money flowing to Blood Ties Four Directions.
Question re: Carmacks school
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Finance minister. The Yukon Party says that they are good fiscal managers of taxpayersí dollars. The Carmacks school bid that was accepted came higher than was expected. In addition, the contractor has had difficulties with dealing with the soil and an old garbage pit. This, of course, is no news to members opposite, but cold weather construction is always more expensive than building in the summer. Does the Finance minister plan to foot the bill for these extra costs, and is this now a cost-plus project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with the proponent on this particular project and we are dealing with ó how shall we say it? ó the overabundance of jobs in the Yukon. This has created a higher price for the building in Carmacks, and weíre working with that proponent toward that end.
Mr. Fairclough: The question was to the Finance minister. The minister didnít answer the question, so let me try again to the Finance minister.
The Yukon Partyís inability to work with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation has created a deep division and hostility between the two governments. This government wants to build extra space on the school that the community doesnít want. That extra space is costing over $800,000.
If the government is serious about being good money managers, why didnít the Premier jump at the opportunity to save $800,000 for an unwanted space?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the first place, weíre not arguing with Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation or the community of Carmacks, whatsoever. In fact, months and months ago, it was made clear to the community and the First Nation that the choice is yours; weíre building you a facility; the community and the First Nation can work together on what they want in that new facility.
This is all about children and their need in the community of Carmacks, so we are building them a new school because itís needed there. The existing facility is time-expired.
This has nothing to do with implying that it has something to do with the governmentís fiscal management with respect to the cost of doing business in the construction world today.
Iím here to tell the members opposite that, if this is what they know about whatís going on in the construction field, we wouldnít want them managing the finances or construction in the Yukon. The facts are that weíre victims of our own successes, not only here in the Yukon but in western Canada. The construction community is overheated, the price of materials is rising daily ó these are challenges we must meet. Under our financial management, weíre meeting those challenges and there are projects across this territory ongoing today in virtually every community.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre rebuild
Mr. Cardiff: † Nearly three years ago, the Premier signed a memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun First Nation, which included Kwanlin Dun First Nationís involvement in managing and owning a correctional facility. The MOU appears to have crashed and burned, another example of this governmentís mismanagement. Since then, millions have been spent cleaning up the Whitehorse Correctional Centre in an attempt to address health and safety issues of employees and inmates. Everyone knows that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre needs replacement and it has needed it for years.
Will this government be identifying capital spending for a new jail facility in the 2006-07 budget?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If the members opposite would actually read the MOU, theyíd see clearly that part of that agreement includes dealing with corrections and programming and the commitment that both parties made to conduct a major consultation in that area; and thatís whatís happening today. Nothing has crashed and burned. Nothing is off the radar screen. Weíre doing our work as we committed to do, not only in the MOU but publicly.
Weíre not building another warehouse. Weíre not going to deal with a recidivism rate as we are today by building another warehouse. Weíre going to deal with the recidivism rate by programming and correctional reform. Under the leadership of the Minister of Justice, thatís exactly whatís happening. I think, overall, Mr. Speaker, the outcome will show clearly the difference between the governmentís side, and its direction and plan, and the NDP in this House, who have obviously no direction or plan at all with respect to corrections in this territory.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the Premier didnít answer the question, so now he has two to answer. The government has avoided the issue of Kwanlin Dunís involvement in the construction of the new facility by setting up a process they call ďcorrectional reformĒ, which is what the Premier just referred to. In the agreement, there is the provision for providing money to Kwanlin Dun to participate in that consultation, so maybe when he stands up he can tell us how much money they provided to Kwanlin Dun to participate in that consultation.
Now, that consultation is likely to cost taxpayers $900,000 this year alone, according to the supplementary estimates, and itís likely to top well over $1 million in total. And letís hope that finally we get a facility out of all this. Will the Yukon Party be using the desperate need for a new facility in their election promises next year, or will it sincerely approach this problem now?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the desperate need that is being addressed is whatís happening in corrections here in the Yukon Territory. We have a recidivism rate of well over 80 percent, at a per-inmate cost thatís one of the highest in the country to house them in what is essentially a warehouse. This government is changing that, Mr. Speaker. Again, I speak to the agreement made with Kwanlin Dun. It speaks clearly to the commitment of both parties to conduct this exercise for programming. We want to make sure that what we do with respect to corrections ó the building of a new facility ó is going to contribute to improving the situation. The member opposite speaks of funding for Kwanlin Dun. Well, today, under this government, itís in the millions, not to mention our contribution to the cultural centre and many other programs and initiatives that weíve undertaken in partnership with Kwanlin Dun. Our contribution today to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation is in the millions.
Question re: Government ethical standards
Mr. Hardy: The Yukon Party candidate in Copperbelt was just on the radio saying that ethics in government isnít coming up at the doorstep. Let me assure the Premier that it certainly comes up when our candidate visits homes in Copperbelt, and it certainly comes up when I visit homes in that riding and almost on a daily basis when I speak with people in my own riding and elsewhere.
Unpaid loans by Cabinet ministers; partisan appointments to boards and committees; the suspicion of favouritism in everything from granting land applications to sole-source construction contracts ó why has the Premier refused attempts by members on this side of the House to introduce measures that would improve ethical standards in government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the member opposite is clearly accusing this side of the House of being unethical. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, that is simply unacceptable. The members opposite should be providing the evidence in this House that speaks to it. This government has taken the highest ethical standards that any government has with respect to governance in this territory, and thatís exactly whatís unfolding in the Yukon today.
The member uses examples that they say are clearly a demonstration. Well, I ask the member opposite why, then, as a government, did the NDP not put the delinquent loan files into collection? We did. Why then did the NDP, when they talk about sole-source and directly contributing funds to a capital project, provide the community of Watson Lake $5 million to build a rec-plex? They didnít tender it out; the government never tendered it out. It was the NDP government. Is that the question of ethics they speak of?
This government did not interfere in the justice system nor in the democratic process. We as a government have stuck to a high level of ethics in governance and will continue to do that. The question is, on the opposite side of the House, what are their ethical standards?
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to remind the member opposite that he was in that government. He was part of those decisions, although he is living in a fantasy about that kind of stuff, because his recollection is completely inaccurate, and he knows it. And so do the people out there. One thing Yukoners find extremely frustrating is the way this government refuses to answer to them in the Legislature. We just had another classic example of that. Itís just attack, attack, attack.
Now, that also is an ethical matter, as well, and the Premier really needs to do something about it. Another issue that comes up over and over is the Premierís wild spending habits ó project after project going way overbudget without any control. The Carmacks school ó $800,000 he could have saved. Dawson bridge ó he spent $2 million and thereís no bridge. Athletes village ó tens of million of dollars overbudget. Then there are expensive little surprises the Premier likes to spring after having a closed-door meeting somewhere. The railway study ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the member ask the question?
Mr. Hardy: Yes. Will the Premier make a commitment that any major spending commitments he makes in the future will only be made after a proper consultation and responsible evaluation of their budget implications has been completed.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the first challenge from this side of the House to the members opposite is the members opposite have to understand the difference between an estimate and what a budget is. Once thatís done, that part of their question will probably never be asked again. Secondly, is it a high standard of ethics to actually provide incorrect information on the floor of this Legislature? There was no $10-million budget for the athletes village. The host society had $2.7 million for the athletes village in their bid. That was so far under the realities of cost for an athletes village that we as a government had to step in and, in partnership with the host society and the city, found a way to make this work. We intend to host the best Canada Winter Games ever. So the question is for the members opposite: when incorrect information comes to the floor of this Legislature, whose ethical standards are at issue here, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Hardy: Hereís a question for the Premier: how do you budget without an estimate? He obviously doesnít understand the importance of estimates.
Thereís another issue we have to touch on today that people are finding very disturbing, and thatís the whole question of what this government is and is not doing to provide affordable housing throughout the territory.
The minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation doesnít seem to understand what the word ďaffordableĒ means to most people. It certainly isnít the kind of project he has attached his name to. So we have a government that is spending without any regard for the future, a government that plays favourites, a government that is so out of touch with seniors, the poor and everyday working families that they have no idea what affordable housing really means.
Let me ask the Premier a blunt question: are these things the result of incompetence, financial and ethical neglect, or just a deliberate disregard for the needs and rights of Yukon people?
Speaker: Before the member answers, Iíd just like to remind the leader of the official opposition that thereís supposed to be continuity between the question and the two supplementary questions. From my perspective, that third question had very little relation to the first two. Just keep that in mind in the future.
Minister, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: In terms of the affordable housing agreement, so far what has been done? Letís look at reality here. The Yukon Housing Corporation and the board of directors have looked at that criteria ó a federal program, I might add ó and approved 44 home ownership units and 20 rental units with Falcon Ridge Development Corporation. I had the good opportunity on Friday afternoon to go through those units, Mr. Speaker, and theyíre coming along very well.
We are looking at other affordable housing needs of Yukoners, which one member opposite continually confuses with other programs. Perhaps some day heíll work out exactly what this one is.
$3.5 million is allocated for the athletes village, thereís $830,000 for Falcon Ridge, and we are looking at other program, as well, in terms of utilizing the small amount thatís left, which may involve additional housing units within some of the communities and the potential for a supported living facility in one of the Yukon communities, which will be directly involving seniors and built for that specific purpose.
The Yukon Housing Corporation is continually looking at this within its constrictions and restrictions by our federal government, and continuing to use that money in the best possible way. Weíll continue to do that, and weíre very happy the athletes village has been able to roll into this to provide an additional 48 units that will be affordable housing.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb: I invite all members to join me in welcoming to the gallery a long-time Yukoner who has been an outspoken advocate for victims of hepatitis C and who recently made the details of his personal case known and had the courage to do that: Farley Hayes.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent re calling Motion No. 525
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would request the unanimous consent of the House to call the government Motion No. 525 at this time respecting the Yukon substance abuse action plan.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed. †
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
Motion No. 525
Speaker: Motion No. 525 reads as follows:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate to work with non-governmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public to move forward on a collaborative, coordinated approach to addressing the problem of substance abuse in the territory and making our communities safer, including specific steps to address harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement as detailed in the Yukon substance abuse action plan to develop a bill to create a safer communities and neighbourhoods act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect to the act of the same name that has been in effect in the Province of Saskatchewan since November 15, 2004, and to do so as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation is ready to be considered and passed during the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I wish to make a few points in objection to this motion. First of all, the approach taken by the Yukon Party government with respect to this motion is of great concern. Itís normal practice in this Legislature to provide a full dayís notice of the motion ó
Speaker: Order please. The purpose of the point of order is to point out and advise the Chair on how this conflicts with the Standing Orders, not to argue the merits of the motion; nor is the Chair privy to anything that goes on in the House leadersí meeting, so I would ask the honourable member not to ask the Chair to rule on something he has no control over.
You have the floor, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Iím making a few points on the record in objection to this motion. It does relate to the Standing Orders 27 and 28 ó if you will just allow me a minute to go through the concerns.
Once again, itís normal practice to give all members of the House a full dayís notice of what the motion to be debated is, but this government kept that a secret. We only heard about one minute ago what the motion number was.
Speaker: Order please. The honourable member is making the argument as to the merits of the motion. From the Chairís perspective, the opposition had a chance to decline unanimous consent ó you did not. So if the member has more advice for the Chair, Iíd welcome it; however, I would ask the honourable member to stay away from discussing the merits of the motion.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will continue to avoid discussing the merits of the particular motion on the floor. I am discussing the approach taken by the government to bring this motion to the floor. I have already stated a couple of concerns. I have a few more if I have your indulgence.
Although it is not a requirement in the Standing Orders to give notice of a government motion, it is only common courtesy to do so. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, providing the other side ó the right to know the case to be heard is a very important aspect of the principle of natural justice. Refusing to let the opposition know the case to be heard today, this government has been unjust. Why did it keep it a secret ó
Speaker: Order please.
Once again, the opposition House leader is straying into rationale. I donít find that that is assisting the Chair in making a decision.
On the point of order, from the Chairís perspective, there is no point of order.
Minister of Health and Social Services, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, it was clearly indicated at the meeting of House leaders this morning that I would be calling a government motion at this time. This motion deals with a very important issue, and that is the problem with substance abuse we have here in the Yukon. Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the scourges of our society here in the Yukon. As a result of the summit that was held earlier this year, our government has received a Yukon substance abuse action plan. This motion speaks to implementing that substance abuse action plan.
†It comes in part ó and Iíll give credit to the official opposition, Mr. Speaker ó due to a motion that the leader of the official opposition tabled earlier in this House, and this was debated at great length last week. That motion has been reinforced and provided with some substance, Mr. Speaker ó some substance to ensure that all stakeholders are engaged in developing the strategic directions. The action plan that we are putting forward as a government focuses on the following four strategic directions: harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement.
Now, let me deal with them in the following manner. Letís deal with harm reduction first. Harm reduction strategies are intended to reduce the health and social problems associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs among individuals, families and communities. Mr. Speaker, thatís the first goal weíre hoping to achieve. This will lead eventually to safer communities. We can make all sorts of laws here on the floor of this House, Mr. Speaker, but a law is not going to stop substance abuse.† A law can deal with what flows from the use of those products, or substance abuse itself, but we have to look at it overall, and we have to take a very balanced approach to ensuring that we succeed on this measure. Because if we donít, Mr. Speaker, what will happen here in the Yukon is whatís happening today. Substance abuse will continue to destroy the family unit, peopleís lives, peopleís hope for the future and eventually could serve to pull down the Yukon.
The first strategic direction that we will be taking is harm reduction. The community harm reduction fund will be established by the Department of Health and Social Services and there will be some federal components and assistance to communities that wish to deliver projects focused on after-care treatment, harm reduction and prevention.
So, Mr. Speaker, what we do is cover the whole gamut. This initiative will be brought forward as part of our overall strategy. We look at prevention and education and we look upon it as part of the ongoing education process, but weíre looking and proposing the prevention strategy to promote healthy behaviours and maximize protective factors and human potential.
The goal of prevention and education is to build healthy communities whose citizens are committed to the well-being of all who live there. Prevention initiatives will include school programs that identify, monitor and provide support to children living in households where substance abuse is occurring, actions that prevent or delay the onset of drug use, and actions that reduce the harms resulting from drug and alcohol use.
Mr. Speaker, we have to engage with our youth in society at an earlier age than ever before. Education is vast and, with the advent of educational tools like the Internet, the advent of television, more and more programming is made to appeal to the youth in our society.
We want our youth to have every opportunity to learn about this subject matter, but at the same time be deterred from ever using it. Drug and alcohol abuse has been around here and is amplified and has gone through many phases, and there are drugs of choice in various communities. Alcohol has been around since time immemorial, and its abuse is predominant in the north. It affects a great number in our aboriginal population, Mr. Speaker. We as a government have an obligation to do our level best to get the best possible prevention and education programs out into our society and to reinforce those prevention and education programs and give our youth a chance to become meaningful members of our society.
A lot of our youth go home to well-balanced parents and homes that are loving and caring. Thatís not to say that all homes arenít loving and caring, but if there is substance abuse being carried on by any member of the parents, that has an influence on their offspring. That influence may serve to attract them to substance abuse, because it usually tracks in family units that have broken down. Then, as a matter of course, government ends up intervening in the family unit and, again, Health and Social Services looks at the number of cases. In the Yukon, with a population of just over 30,000, we have just over 200 children in care. The greatest majority of them come from aboriginal homes. The greatest reason for them being taken into care is substance abuse. I donít know how I can hammer that home any better.
††††††† This is an area that we must concentrate on if the Yukon is going to maintain its stature as a great place to live, grow, work and be provided with opportunities.
This educational program breaks down to a public education campaign, alcohol and drug education in our public schools, and it also has other facets. The RCMP will be implementing a pilot project called Aboriginal Shield. Aboriginal Shield is a substance abuse prevention initiative specifically aimed at our aboriginal youth. This initiative will complement existing substance abuse education programs.
Members of the RCMP will use a culturally specific package to educate aboriginal youth about substance abuse issues. These four teaching modules cover aboriginal culture, substance abuse prevention, and informed and responsible decision making.
Mr. Speaker, if we can be successful with this educational program, we wonít see changes overnight. It wonít be an immediate fix, but itíll serve the youth in our society well and it will allow them an opportunity to grow, become educated, learn a skill set and be fully cognizant of the perils of substance abuse.
That hopefully will result in those youth becoming meaningful, productive members of our community, and going on to be parents themselves and contribute in a similar manner as they contributed as substance-free youth.
One of the other areas that weíre examining is an initiative by the Yukon Liquor Corporation, and it is a publication, Be Prepared to Talk to Your Children About Drinking. This booklet is designed to help parents discuss alcohol and alcohol-related issues with their children. It targets parents of children between eight and 18 years. It is written in a how-to format and offers examples of common situations, as well as how parents might approach some situations related to youth drinking. It will be distributed to all households in rural Yukon communities, at central locations in Whitehorse, and it will be available on the Yukon Liquor Corporationís Web site.
Mr. Speaker, again, this is another initiative. Itís in print form, and it will be widely circulated. Again, itís targeting the parents to talk to their children ó an initiative that on the surface appears to be pretty easy to relate to and pretty easy to explain. But that in itself is time-consuming, and parents have to take back the role of being parents in many situations here in the Yukon.
We also get into the next area of strategic direction, and that is the treatment aspects. Currently we have quite a number of individuals here in the Yukon who are afflicted with substance abuse. They require a program. It was part of our partyís platform to bring back the 28-day residential program that was cancelled by the NDP government a number of years ago, not reinstituted by the Liberals, and thereís a need for residential programming ó live-in programming.
That 28-day programming was brought back in. It is being dealt with by the Department of Health and Social Services and is being administered through the drug and alcohol branch. A number of individuals are engaged in providing the programming to those individuals in the 28-day live-in program, and it has had some successes.
At the same time, those delivering the programs have, during the summer months, been able to get out to the programs put on by our First Nation communities and offer assistance to those communities, to that First Nation programming, by way of being the trainer or program deliverer. That has worked and will continue to be moved ahead by our government.
We speak about treatment, and there are a number of initiatives here. The expanded outreach service ó weíre looking at the Department of Health and Social Services adding additional outreach workers to the alcohol and drug services staff, as well as working with our NGOs that are doing an excellent job across the Yukon in delivering programs to Yukoners. These non-government organizations are staffed by a number of paid individuals, and at the same time they have quite a number of volunteers ó usually a volunteer board that oversees them.
If it werenít for the NGOs here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, weíd be in a sorry mess. The programs that this group delivers and the compassion that they show is exemplary, and I would like to thank all the NGOs, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government, for the excellent work that they undertake on our behalf. We have been the first government that has come along in a long time, Mr. Speaker, that has indexed their funding. Those NGOs that are funded through the Department of Health and Social Services have had their funding indexed, in recognition that they have a rising cost. Our department has gone through each one of the NGOs and examined ó and in many cases it has resulted in a considerable increase in funding to that NGO. Our government has always operated on the premise that where there is a demonstrated need, we will do our level best to meet that demonstrated need, and we as a government have continually demonstrated that and, at the same time, are getting the Yukonís fiscal house in order so that we have the funds available to meet these challenges.
We also are looking at tele-health addictions counselling. We are looking at expanding the role of tele-health.† Again, Mr. Speaker, the IT technology is growing, where one can sit in a room in a far-off region of the Yukon with a television screen and have two-way teleconferencing to a central point. Thatís fantastic. We have come a long way in bandwidth and its expansion throughout the Yukon and thatís served to be able to provide us with the opportunities of tele-health and tele-conferencing and that is another tool at our disposal that we are looking at expanding and enhancing in order to provide service delivery to Yukoners in the addictions area.
We also have the 1-800 number that those in a crisis situation can call. Much to-do is made about ďOh, yes, but that links into British Columbia, to a 1-800 number there.Ē Well, it does, Mr. Speaker, and that number is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. Because crises do not occur 9 to 5, Monday to Friday; they usually occur outside of the working day, they most often occur around the holidays, and to have people and staffing available in anticipation of something of that nature is difficult. But our government does it, Mr. Speaker; we do it directly and we do it through NGOs.
Thereís someone there to answer the phone at any time someone needs assistance. Through the auspices of the womenís shelters across the Yukon ó from Watson Lake to Dawson City to Whitehorse ó thereís someone there to answer the phone in times of need.
The Department of Justice is also looking at a problem-solving court. Iím sure when the Minister of Justice speaks to this motion, he will outline in more detail what is envisioned around that initiative. That, again, is another very good initiative.
On the enforcement side of it ó which is the fourth strategic direction we will be taking ó this is an initiative whereby our government will continue to work with other provinces and territories to urge the federal government to reduce the availability of illegal drugs by increasing the penalties for their manufacture and trafficking.
Most of the laws surrounding drug paraphernalia and drug trafficking are federal statutes, so we have to work with the federal government on this initiative. If the federal government would put the same amount of resources toward drugs and getting tough on drug dealers as they have toward the gun registry, weíd probably be much better off here in Canada.
Our government has already taken the initiative to move behind the counter certain cold medicines that are the precursors to crystal meth. Theyíre still available, but theyíre available only through a pharmacist. This was done by the pharmacies at the request of the Government of Yukon, in consultation with the pharmacies in question. So we have had some successes already. As I have said earlier, Mr. Speaker, it is still much easier to go downtown and buy virtually any drug today, and itís much easier than buying a six-pack of beer, in most cases, especially after midnight.
Part of the fourth strategic direction is reducing bootlegging. That is rather self-evident. The government has taken steps to reduce the hours of off-sales, so off-sales are only available up until midnight. The Liquor Corporation has a number of signs in their stores telling adults who are of the age of majority not to supply liquor to minors, not to buy liquor for minors. That in itself is a good initiative, but bootlegging is still a problem. Itís a problem across the Yukon. Itís common knowledge in some of our communities, one of which has banned alcohol in that community. How much does a bottle of vodka cost? Itís $100 for a 750-ml bottle of vodka in some of these areas ó considerably less than in others.
But we still have a problemó and it is a serious problem ó with bootlegging. The Department of Justice will be taking steps to address that.
Another initiative is our safer communities legislation. Weíre looking at developing legislation, and the substance of this motion clearly indicates that, clearly indicates that that will be a step we as a government will take. Weíre asking the opposition to join with us and work with us on the development of this legislation and on the development and implementation of this Yukon substance abuse action plan.
There was an all-party motion that began this process, which led to the creation of the substance abuse summit. That substance abuse summit subsequently led to this substance abuse action plan.
The next step is to implement the action plan. Safer communities legislation is but one component of this substance abuse action plan and its implementation.
We donít have a magic recipe for success. We consult with Yukoners, we ask Yukoners what will be needed, we examine legislation in other areas of Canada, and we reach a consensus and agreement on what would be the best way to move forward.
That is the essence of the motion that is before the House here today. The motion urges the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate to work with non-government organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public to move forward on a collaborative, coordinated approach to addressing the problem of substance abuse in the territory and making our community safer. Simply stated, we all got here together, Mr. Speaker. Letís all move forward together on this initiative.
One of the other steps that our government is taking is secure identification cards. Itís a standing joke in other jurisdictions about the Yukon driverís licence. You can go downtown and pick up a Yukon driverís licence for $25 to $50 with your picture on it and any name you want on it. You can even have Santa Claus on it, Mr. Speaker. Thatís how secure our driversí licences are. You can go down to any of the stores and pick up a laminator. They even come with laminated pouches the same size as what are used by the government for these cards. As far as security goes on the national and international scene, Yukon driversí licences are a joke, but they do have one advantage that Iím told of, Mr. Speaker. That is if you are travelling in a neighbouring jurisdiction and you are stopped for a minor traffic infraction, they tend to look at these driversí licences and ask, ďWell, where is that from, and, really, is this a driverís licence?Ē and they shake their heads at them.
But that said, there is need for improvement in this area and our government will be moving forward. At the same time, initiatives are underway for health care cards because, as it stands, if you look at driversí licences, and I believe there are about 24,000 driverís licences issued today, and you look at the demographics of the population of the Yukon, virtually everyone who is of driving age must have at least one driverís licence. If you look at health care cards and how many of those are issued, well, itís pretty interesting as to where our population is at.
One of the other initiatives in our strategic plan, Mr. Speaker, in the enforcement end, is one of targeted enforcement. Again, it allows the Yukon Liquor Corporation, when specific concerns are identified, to coordinate inspection blitzes on licensed establishments ó another very good initiative, another one that we look forward to seeing implemented. In fact it is probably done today; to what extent we donít know. The RCMP are very diligent in their walk-throughs, and the liquor inspections branch tends to have a policy now of not just working nine to five, Monday through Friday, but going out and doing inspections on the busy evenings and checking for after-hours and other problems.
Itís not all about enforcement; itís not all about making more laws; itís about a coordinated approach in the harm reduction, education, prevention and treatment, as well as the enforcement.
Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go on at great lengths in dealing with this motion. Iím very hopeful that the official opposition will see this as an opportunity to join with us and accept this motion, and work with us in setting out the strategic directions that are outlined in the action plan and help develop a piece of legislation specifically targeted at safer communities.
Together we can probably do the job very well but, as a government, weíre prepared to go it alone, because we recognize the need, not just for more legislation in this area, but the need for an overall direction that will help those who need help, educate those so they donít fall into the pitfalls of substance abuse and, for those who have, treat them and give them an opportunity to become contributing members of our society once again, and, at the same time, strengthen our enforcement.
Mr. Hardy: You know, Mr. Speaker, politicians are not often rewarded for humbleness or humility. Theyíre not often rewarded for their dedication or their generosity or their kindness. Instead, a lot of attention is on self-promotion, back-patting, taking credit when so many other people have done the work. When you think about it, Mr. Speaker, we donít do that much in here. We try to position ourselves so we can win at the next election.
Some of us try to do good work; some of us donít. Iíve thought about the work in the last couple of years in regard to communities, substance abuse, safe communities, and what weíre doing or not doing, where we are today and where we were two years ago. Because of that, what really is important is keeping in mind that we are here for our communities, for our neighbours, for our constituents ó as the word goes. We call them constituents but Iíd rather call them friends.
I and my colleagues, the NDP, want to think about that and keep that in the forefront.
So weíre not going to contribute any more to this debate. We just want to see action. Thatís all we want. So whenever theyíre finished on the other side, weíre willing to vote. Thank you.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. 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.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 525 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 61 ó Co-operation and Governance Act
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 61, Co-operation and Governance Act. We will begin with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will open discussion with respect to general debate on Bill No. 61 with some brief comments.
As members heard during debate at second reading, this bill establishes the Yukon forum as a place where our government and self-governing Yukon First Nations and the Council of Yukon First Nations can come together and discuss common priorities and issues of mutual concern. It formalizes what in the past has been very informal ó meetings of the leadership of Yukon First Nations and the Premier and, from time to time, members of Cabinet. This is a historic bill, not just for the Yukon but for the country in general, because it puts into context a structure that is necessary when we have the jurisdictions that we do in the Yukon, which is not something that is predominant in the rest of the country.
No other jurisdiction has this kind of legislation that formalizes a government-to-government relationship, and we are very unique in that respect as our final agreements and self-government agreements are unique in the country, and self-government agreements are the jurisdiction that self-governing First Nations have under those self-governing agreements. For example, in the areas of natural resources, First Nations have law-making power over their lands and natural resources on their settlement land, and Yukon has comparable authority over public lands.
In the field of social services, Yukon can legislate in a number of areas, but so, too, can Yukon First Nations. Under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, both Yukon and Yukon First Nations will be decision-making bodies over projects on the land. The purpose of the forum is to bring together governments that have a comparable jurisdiction so we can discuss common concerns and look at mutual priorities. Each government respects the jurisdictions of one another. Should we agree to cooperate in a certain area, we will do so because it is in the best interests of the people we represent.
Bill No. 61 makes it clear that the final and self-government agreements are not affected in any way. This is because those agreements are the primary, legally binding documents that define the relationship between Yukon and Yukon First Nations.
The bill references the memorandum of understanding that was signed to establish the forum prior to the legislation. That memorandum, which has been signed by nine First Nations, outlines First Nation involvement in the forum itself. I would like to point out that, to date, nine Yukon First Nations have signed on, but also eligible to sign on are Kwanlin Dun First Nation, which became fully self-governing early this year on their effective date of April 1, and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, which will be able to sign on as of January 9, 2006, when their agreements are scheduled to come into effect. Also, all First Nations are able to attend by the terms of the MOU and have a voice in the discussions and a seat at the table.
The memorandum also outlines the operating procedures of the forum. The bill leaves it open for the forum to make decisions in that regard. This, too, is an important feature of the legislation. We do not want to over-prescribe what the forum may or may not want to do in terms of operating procedures or that sort of thing. That should be for the forum to decide, from time to time.
As well, it is important to note that this legislation, which arises from the MOU, is one of a kind and is a product of discussions and agreement with First Nations. We agreed upon the MOU and its content; we agreed that legislation would be the next step and jointly developed that legislation, which is before us today.
Mr. Speaker, this bill makes it very clear that the forum is not a new level of government or a new structure of bureaucracy that will cost a lot of money. There will be some expenditures by Yukon but they will be modest, and Yukon First Nations are contributing their share as well.
With that, Mr. Chair, I will conclude my remarks and look forward to comments from the members opposite and, of course, I will try to answer the questions they may have with respect to general or line-by-line questions with respect to the bill itself.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have a couple of questions for the Premier on Bill No. 61. First of all, the memorandum of understanding that the Premier refers to was signed off in May 2004. A lot has happened since then, and I think the Premier understands that. We have had First Nations say that they have not been properly consulted on a number of different things. We have had First Nations say that they want no part of the Yukon forum, that itís a waste of time. We have had First Nations say that the memorandum of understanding signed off by this Yukon Party government didnít mean anything; they may as well rip it up and throw it away.
These are very significant comments made by First Nations to this Yukon Party government. It brings into question, Mr. Chair, whether or not this Yukon Party is sincere about bringing forward legislation like this. They say it is the first of its kind. Basically, the legislation is committing to certain First Nations ó not all First Nations ó that they will meet four times a year. Everybody will throw some money into the pot to allow that meeting to take place, and they will talk about priorities. That in itself raises a lot of questions about governmentís commitment to those First Nations that havenít signed on.
Here is a commitment by the Yukon Party, signed through a memorandum of understanding, with First Nation signatures. They had to go to great lengths to try to get the governmentís attention. I refer to the demonstration outside this Legislature. Why couldnít the government deal with them with the respect that is so deserved them as the senior government at the time ó why couldnít they have had the government come out and face them on this matter? It didnít happen. Frustration is building with First Nations. Now the Yukon Party wants to bring forward a bill ó legislation ó saying they will meet four times a year. It says that right in there, in the explanatory notes.
I talked about this Co-operation in Governance Act with some First Nations, not all. Those who have final agreements are saying, ďWe have final agreements. They should speak louder than any legislation that is put forward by this government. They should speak louder than that.Ē The Premier, I think, if he recalls the days when he was in government with a different party, committed to meeting the First Nations and working on priority lists with them on major issues. I think where the Premier is coming from now is an extension from those commitments by the New Democrats at the time. I think that the Premier feels that signing these memoranda of understanding, which commit to having legislation in place, is now the right thing to do.
I think the right thing to do is show that respect to those First Nations. One of the questions I will ask of the Premier is this: what happens to those who donít sign on?
The Premier said there were nine First Nation leaders who had signed on to this commitment. I know a number of them are no longer chiefs; some have taken drastic action, and there is no relationship with government any more. If thereís no relationship with government any more, then the MOU that was signed on to in May of 2004 isnít working. I think they are saying to government that things need to change and things need to improve. By bringing forward legislation that says they will commit to meeting four times a year ó or maybe less, if it was agreed to ó it doesnít hold a lot of weight with some First Nations.
We have seen, for example, this government not abide by the legislation they have.
Chair: Order please. Accusing the government of breaking the law or not abiding by legislation is not a matter that can be lightly entered into debate. If a member does believe a law or legislation has been broken, he is well within his rights to put forward a substantive motion to that effect, but itís up to the courts to decide who is or is not guilty of breaking the law and should not be lightly entered into this debate.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I am hoping you take that seriously and back to your caucus, too.
What I am saying is it wasnít a ó
Chair: Order please. The Chair is very uncomfortable with the memberís comment to take it back to his caucus. The Chair is a neutral Chair who plays no part in this debate other than to ensure that the rules of debate, which all members have agreed to, are followed, and to ensure that the appropriate decorum is maintained in the Assembly. I will ask the member not to include the Chair in debate in the future.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, there is legislation in place ó for example, the Education Act, which calls for a review to be done every 10 years. That review is long overdue. The Liberals didnít do it and the Yukon Party didnít do it. Draw your own conclusion from that; I guess the words that I say must abide by the House rules. But those are the facts. To use the Premierís words, facts speak for themselves.
So this is obviously a touchy issue with many peopleó it is with First Nations, and they feel the same way. The Premier says that the Co-operation in Governance Act is one of a kind. It commits government to do something.
So Iíll ask the Premier this, in getting right to some to the questions then. In the act it says, that ďÖcertain self-governing First Nations entered into by the memorandum of understandingÖĒ I would like to know, once this act is passed, what happens with the rest of First Nation governments that are not signing on, that have said that the forum the Yukon Party likes is a waste of time. What happens with them? Are we going to have other legislation come before this House? How is the Yukon Party going to deal with those First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has to get a fundamental understanding of what this is. From there, we can actually have a constructive debate and discussion. In the first place, past governments, on a basis of trying to grapple with a new way of doing business in the Yukon, have grappled with how that is going to actually work. Both the final agreements and the self-government agreements have created a whole new era of governance in this territory. So has, by the way, the post-devolution era. But the whole focus by the Yukon Party government was to formalize the relationship. When we say ďformalizeĒ, that means put in place mechanisms and structure and focus on the pan-territorial level so that orders of government, both First Nation and the Yukon, would be collaborating on the many issues and concerns that we all share.
At no point is the Yukon forum ó other than by agreement on an issue ó specific to an individual First Nationís issue in their particular community or with respect to issues that they would be dealing with, one on one, bilaterally with the government anyway. So I want to lead the member through this whole process. First, out of great respect for First Nation governments, we are not saying, ďYou have to be involved in the Yukon forum.Ē Weíre saying itís there by your choice. If you want to involve yourself as another order of government in the Yukon forum, you are able to do so. If not, it is not a requirement, although we have already found that the Yukon forum is a very useful mechanism, because we managed to formalize the jurisdictional relationship.
So itís by choice of First Nations. The Yukon forum allows all First Nations to participate. I think the Yukon forum, which was established through the MOU, speaks clearly to how this will function and what itís intended to do, but the First Nation governments have that choice, and so they should. That clearly shows this government understands what the self-government and final agreements are providing First Nations.
Thereís a non-derogation clause in this legislation for greater certainty. It will not abrogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada and/or the Yukon that are based on section 35 of the Constitution. The member should know that. It does not affect the agreements in any way. It does not affect jurisdiction.
Mr. Chair, those three areas are important because it speaks to what this is about. The member opposite has, in his comments, mixed and matched many things here and, frankly, the member has to get the understanding that, bilaterally, the foundation of the agreements is that the Yukon government has to work with individual First Nations, but that doesnít include working in a pan-territorial environment or forum.
So this is about the collective ó First Nations and the Yukon government, both jurisdictions coming together four times a year. The structure is laid out for how this all works, and now letís look at some examples.
First and foremost, the member keeps alluding to bringing legislation forward. What the member should recognize and understand is that the legislation was jointly developed between Yukon government and Yukon First Nation governments. So it is a joint effort, and we agreed upon the legislation before it was even brought into this House.
Further, Mr. Chair, the work that the Yukon forum has been doing to date is quite significant and why we feel that that formalization of jurisdiction was so important. Many of the issues have been grappled with for quite some time here, with all kinds of options like a secretariat being created and having political discussions. Looking at how we can come together as governments in this territory is not new. The difference is that this government has actually done it and has put it into legislation.
Some of the product ó well, we early on agreed that we would collaborate on jointly developing legislation. That came out of the Yukon forum, this venue, this mechanism that we created, and weíve done so ó the creation of a common working group to deal with the nine-year review of the implementation of the final agreements and the self-government agreements here in the territory. Now, the member opposite should know that weíve reached a period where the federal mandate for implementation now must be renewed. Yukon and Yukon First Nations are working jointly on making presentations to Canada ó input toward the development of a new mandate.
We were successful in encouraging Canada to put adequacy on the table. That was not there before, until First Nations and the Yukon jointly encouraged Canada and lobbied Canada to do so.
So, the nine-year review and the development of a new federal mandate is something the Yukon forum and the governments are working on. The development of the Yukon chapter for the northern strategy was done through the Yukon forum, another pan-territorial initiative, and thatís a significant work that has been completed by Yukon First Nation officials and Yukon government officials, providing us ó the executive arms of government, both First Nation and Yukon ó the necessary fundamentals to sit down and make a decision on the Yukon chapter for the northern strategy, and thatís done.
It also included a joint common position on the northern economic development fund. Clearly, here again is an example of how the Yukon forum can work and does so quite well. Mr. Chair, the joint position on the northern economic development program and fund is one that we are definitely intending to present to Canada so that we continue to work in an environment here that is trilateral in nature. Give the agreements and the foundation they create, given the post-devolution era, Canada can no longer operate unilaterally in the Yukon. There is a need for Canada to work with the territory, with the Yukon government and First Nation governments, on a trilateral basis. That is what the new governance era is all about in this territory.
The member makes a point that First Nations are having problems on bilateral issues. Yes, there will always be disagreements bilaterally on what we can and cannot do. Some of the issues are ongoing and are complex in nature but, overall, the respect of jurisdiction, the respect of each otherís government, has been predominant through any discussions.
The member alluded to a demonstration that I know the member was very much involved with. Well, unfortunately, those types of things had to happen, and they do. Thatís part of the democratic process. People have the right to demonstrate and, through demonstration, voice their view and opinion.
With respect to the Carmacks school, the commitment was clear, as far back as December 2004, that the government was building a new facility ó a new learning institution ó† in the community of Carmacks, and the community has the latitude to put what they want to see in it. I donít know what issue the New Democrats in this House have with that, because they voted against the budget that provided the spending authority for this school. So they obviously opposed it, Mr. Chair.
A voting record is important, and it is of great significance in terms of what any partyís position would be in this House. That voting record of the NDP, the official opposition, is clear; they voted against it. They obviously take issue with the school ó such issue in fact that if they could have, they would have voted down the budget that provided spending authority for the school. The official opposition also ignores all the work thatís going on out there with respect to First Nations, and the list is a long one. Capacity development ó Yukon government and First Nations are working on that. Nobody is disagreeing that that should happen.
The Kaska economic table ó thatís still ongoing, as is the resource exploration training program; the Yukon First Nations mineral exploration and development symposium; the consultation and discussions with Yukon First Nations on mineral policy and/or legislation; the reclamation and closure policy for new mines; working with First Nations, government to government; successor legislation and the new Yukon placer regime. That was done with First Nations and the Yukon government jointly working on the issue on behalf of the citizens of this territory and the placer mining industry. There is a First Nation liaison officer in the mineral development branch; operational funding for the Yukon Chamber of Mines, where some of it is earmarked for First Nation training initiatives. We are dealing with the surface lease issue with the Kluane First Nation; baseline surveys; payment of royalties to First Nations; approval of a lease to the Kaska Mineral Corporation.
We all know what is happening in oil and gas. Not only do we distribute the revenues that come from oil and gas, but we continue to consult on oil and gas rights. There is common regime development; joint development of benefits agreements. We are working with the Gwichíin Tribal Council, assessing the abandoned wells in the Peel River watershed. We are working with First Nations to develop Yukonís interest in northern pipeline development. There is the Champagne and Aishihik oil and gas recruitment and placement pilot project; community workshops ó the list goes on and on, Mr. Chair, so if we are going to have a debate, letís debate the realities and the facts. The facts are that First Nations agreed with the government on the development of the Yukon forum, because of the need to formalize the government-to-government relationship and create the structure.
They also supported and agreed with putting the structure, the Yukon forum in this case, into legislation. Therefore, the structure is set, and what we do is there in law. And they have jointly developed that with us, all through the process.
So the government side is very encouraged at our building relationship and what weíre producing through the continued efforts of First Nation governments and the Yukon government. Now, the members opposite can really make a statement here, should they choose, and that would be to vote against this. Go ahead. Establish yourselves, the official opposition, with a position on this. Would the official opposition, or would they not, formalize a government-to-government relationship in this matter? If they would, well, then, there is not a lot of need for a whole lot of discussion. But if they wouldnít, then what would the official opposition do to formalize that government-to-government relationship, considering the facts and the realities of the matter?
Mr. Fairclough: Well, what they would do is show respect to First Nations that this Yukon Party hasnít done. That would be a big improvement, wouldnít it? The Premier allows his ministers to make comments about chiefs and spin in the paper, and the chiefs ended up making comments back. It is to the degree that they say, and some say, why bother with the forum? Itís a waste of time? Thatís very real, and those are the facts.
So if the Premier wants to know what we would do on this side of the House, we would show them the respect they deserve, which this Yukon Party hasnít given. If the Premier doesnít know about it by now, every government has dealings with First Nations ó they have to. We can go back over the years and list them, if he wants, if it will make him feel better, †so he would make a list of what the different departments have been doing, not necessarily what his government has been doing.
The Premier and many of the ministers often talk about a vote and what a vote means. If he really is sincere about that, Mr. Chair, then he would go back and look at how the Yukon Party voted in the past and maybe follow their direction ó for example, voting against the Mayo school or the school in Old Crow or the one in Ross River. That was the Yukon Party vote; they voted against it.
He can go back many years and list all the projects and the different developments that took place that the Yukon Party voted against. Now, all of a sudden, it appears that the Yukon Party, with the Premier, discovered something new: a relationship with First Nations. I wouldnít say itís a good one that the Premier has.
He says we will pass this through the House. They have a majority; they can make amendments to our motions on the floor here and pass them through the House. Thatís what they can do, and they know it, rather than work constructively with this side of the House.
Thatís what weíre expecting the Yukon Party to do: ram it through, whether you like it or not. This is how decisions are made by the Yukon Party, by the way, and the Yukon public has talked about it. They make a decision and say, ďHow do you like us now?Ē They make a decision and say, ďWeíll consult you now, but the decision has been made. I donít know what we can change.Ē This has happened over and over again.
They say, ďWe hear you, but this is how weíre going to do it.Ē That has happened over and over again. Those are the facts, Mr. Chair.
I asked the Premier about other First Nations, because this bill, Bill No. 61, lists First Nations on there that are signatory to the memorandum of understanding. There are nine of them. Because it doesnít have everyoneís signature on it, it makes this bill even weaker. It would have been nice to have all of them agree and table all the signatories in this House ó all the First Nations. I know they have been working on trying to get governments to pay some attention to them in a more meaningful way, and it has really come to light under the Yukon Party government, because as far as Iím concerned some of the First Nations are not treated with any respect by the Yukon Party. And the Yukon Party says, ďYeah, you know, the First Nations say they have the right to demonstrate outside of this House.Ē They do have that right, but he said also that it came to the point where they had to go out and demonstrate. Well, why did they do that, Mr. Chair? Because they didnít have the ear of the Premier; they didnít have the ear of the Minister of Education, and their demonstration was supported by many First Nations and groups across the territory. Thatís a fact, and the Premier knows that.
This whole mess could have been avoided; the whole demonstration thing could have been avoided by the Premier coming out and taking some control of this matter. Maybe the control wasnít in his hands at the time, but he could have done that, and we could have moved on beyond that. Iíll tell you where it has gone, Mr. Chair. The Premier says that there are clauses in the agreement, a non-derogation clause where the agreements will not be affected. Well, of course you have to put that in, because otherwise there would be a court challenge, and the Premier doesnít want that, so it has to be in the agreement.
Right now ó and maybe the Premier understands it, but heís not relaying that to the public ó First Nations are trying to implement their agreements. Theyíre trying to make them work. Theyíre trying to get governments to say, ďThis is how we want to do things. Understand us, listen to us. We have things to say that perhaps you havenít thought of, and that will always be.Ē
The demonstration outside this Legislature was significant. I donít think a First Nation has ever done that before. Under a Yukon Party watch, it happened. It could have been avoided. The result of that is that the Carmacks school will be built, and it will have this big, extra space on it. As a result of that lack of respect by this Yukon Party government, the First Nation moved on to a point where they donít want to go right now. This is unfortunate, because neither does the Yukon Party. They donít want to see the Yukon First Nations having a system of education thatís different or slightly different or significantly different from what they have themselves.
So weíve gone down that road. There are already commitments by Na Cho Nyšk Dun, Kwanlin Dun and Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and others probably to follow. Dawson has been working on this issue for awhile. Letís take that First Nation, Mr. Chair, in regard to education, respect for their final agreement, their ability to draw down under their agreements ó that is education and responsibility for it. Like other First Nations they have tried to work with Yukonís government on this matter. Letís jointly do this; letís share this responsibility. Do you know where it went? Nowhere. The Yukon Party government rejected that. They didnít want to have their input to that level as part of how the school is run in the traditional territory of TríondŽk HwŽchíin. They didnít want that, it didnít happen, it failed, it fell apart. It was back to the drawing board for that First Nation.
So, where do you go from there? You take another crack at it because theyíve done it so many times already ó to try to work with the Yukon government on this matter? Or do you start exercising your agreements to draw down education? That, I believe, is where First Nations are going and I believe that itís too late for the Yukon Party to say, ďWait a minute ó we will work with you on this matter.Ē Itís too late. Unless there is some drastic move on the part of the Premier, itís too late for that and legislation brought forward like this doesnít do anything to improve that relationship. So what is the Premier going to do? Is a major issue brought forward by the First Nation through this forum going to be dealt with in that manner? No, because itís something that is negotiated, and they are part of this negotiation process.
Weíve always heard from the Premier ó almost like itís the first thing that has ever happened under their watch, like sharing royalties from resource revenue. Well, thatís part of the final agreements too.
So I want to get clear from the Premier about those First Nations that havenít signed on or are unwilling to sign on to this memorandum of understanding that is directing the creation of this act that weíre debating now ó other than bilateral agreements, which normally take place. I think, because there are holes in this, that the Premier needs to work on the relationship with the First Nations before bringing this to the floor. He needs to work on it. Itís not good. I know the Premierís going to say itís great, itís rosy, it has never been better. But that is not correct, I believe.
So what do we do here? Given an avenue for some First Nations to work on priorities that they raise with the government, and it moves ahead and others are left behind ó how is the Premier going to take care of the issues, other than bilateral, because they havenít been signed on to the agreement? How is he going to deal with those First Nations that disagree with how this whole process is laid out, the memorandum of understanding and this Bill No. 61 that is brought before this House?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, this is a frivolous conversation, so, frankly, let me try one more time for the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and see if we can get through.
First, as I answered before, this is a matter of choice. The member opened his comments by failing to recognize that, in the body of the bill itself, every Yukon First Nation is listed and named, but the member opposite conveniently ignores that. The member makes some statement around the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation. He should well know that, under their agreements, they have a section called 17.7, which dictates that the government sit down with them to discuss myriad issues with respect to education and, frankly, those discussions are ongoing as we speak today. So, again the member has provided incorrect information on the floor of this Legislature.
How disrespectful to say to First Nations that jointly developed this legislation that itís no good, and there are holes in it. The member opposite talks about respect. The member opposite has just criticized Yukon First Nations. The member opposite also downplays the significance of what First Nation agreements have achieved, and that includes the right to take down education, to take that authority. Thatís in their agreements. Itís not a question of should we or shouldnít we. Itís a matter of choice of a First Nation government that has that authority.
Then the Member for Mayo-Tatchun says weíre doing nothing. Does the member not recognize the co-chairs on the educational reform process? The member conveniently ignores all the investment in curriculum and language and all thatís going on with First Nations today.
So if the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is trying to make some sort of case here, I would suggest we allow the member some time to go back to his office, dig out the facts and all the material necessary to prepare, and then come into this House ready to debate and discuss the issue of formalizing the relationship between these two jurisdictions that are present and involved in the governance of this territory.
Because the discussion weíre having is a waste of time, totally fruitless, the member is not even dealing with facts. So how can this side of the House in any way contribute to the debate unless, first and foremost, we deal with facts. Once we get to that level, then we can have a constructive debate. But whatís going on here right now is, frankly, an outrage. I would hope the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has a little more substance to this debate than so far has been presented.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, we heard that same gibberish in almost every debate we had in this House from the Premier: ďIt has been a waste of time. Donít you have any constructive questions? Why debate a bill if you donít have the answers?Ē Thatís what we have heard time and time again from the Premier: itís a waste of time.
If the Premier feels that way, and he doesnít want any discussion on this bill, like he does on many of his bills ó the public knows that. What the Premier wants to do is ram it through. He wants to ram it through. Almost every debate weíve had ó say, on the supplementary budget. The Premier said the same thing: ďItís a waste of time; donít debate this. Weíll pass it through, weíve got the majority.Ē Weíve heard it time and time again, Mr. Chair.
Iím sure that First Nations out there have been working with the government to try to get something substantial in a working relationship with the Yukon Party government. Itís year 3; itís year 3 and we still havenít seen any improvements by this government ó none. The Premier is going to give a list again. Heís going to list the programs that the different departments have been working with First Nations on. Heís going to list the education reform. Heís going to list the Childrenís Act and so on. Those are still ó time for debate in this Legislature.
I asked a simple question about the bill. Why does the Premier ignore it?
Those First Nations are listed on this bill. We understand that. I asked about those First Nations that are not part of the MOU ó there are nine First Nations there ó and how theyíre being dealt with. I think the question I asked the Premier about the priorities the Yukon Party will be working on with First Nations that have signed on the MOU versus those First Nations that are not part of this whole process was a very fair question.
I guess I could go through example after example on this matter. The Premier says he wants facts, and Iíve laid out a couple. There are comments, for example, from chiefs who donít want any part of the forum ó itís a waste of time. There are reasons why those comments are made. I know comments like these bother the heck out of the Premier.
Comments like those are made because that First Nation feels that the dealings they have with government and the signing of MOUs are not worth the paper theyíre written on, because theyíre not followed through by the Premier and the Yukon Party.
The Premier will come up with more examples on that to specific First Nations. We donít want to talk about negotiated final agreements and some of the projects that have been listed, as the Yukon Party seems fond of doing. I want to be clear, and I want the Premier to make it clear to those First Nations out there that havenít ó and are not ó taking part in the MOU and the legislation thatís before us, because itís clear in this legislation: it lists certain self-governing First Nations. Thatís the area Iíve been asking the Premier about. Weíd like it to be clear. Where does it go from here?
I donít believe that the Yukon Party and the Premier are very clear about what happens next.
This act thatís before us is fairly simple. It commits governments to form meetings, funding and so on, in dealing with priorities. But it is not clear as to how other First Nations will be dealt with. Itís very much of a concern to me because of how this Yukon Party government deals with my own First Nation, for example ó the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. So I would like the Premier to answer that question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The only place where it is unclear is right there across the floor. Weíve already answered the question, over and over and over and over again. Itís a matter of choice. All First Nations from time to time have been involved in the Yukon forum, but they can choose to do so. Whether they want to participate in the forum or not participate is a matter of choice, but it is open for all to be involved. Regardless of what the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is saying, that option is there and thatís the fundamental purpose of this arrangement. Out of respect for other orders of government, it is built on allowing choice, as it should be. Nothing will compromise or preclude what government must do with respect to the agreements and what government is dictated to do. That doesnít change, but there was certainly a need to formalize the relationship. So the only clarity thatís at issue here is with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. All the member has to do is read the memorandum of understanding. Itís all self-explanatory. So if the member read it, one could only wonder why the question is even being asked.
The member is asking what we are going to do? The answer is quite simple; itís by choice, but nothing stops us from working bilaterally with First Nations ó as we must ó under the agreements. Thatís a fundamental foundation of governance in the territory. The Yukon forum is a structure that allows those governments to come together ó should they choose to do so ó this many times a year to deal with issues of importance and mutual concern and interest.
Iíve even listed some of the product from the forum to date. Itís essential to understand that, working bilaterally, it would have been much more difficult to get to those common positions and agreements, as we have to date.
The point of this debate is in question. This is not about not wanting to debate with the member opposite whatsoever. In fact, we would be very encouraged if we could, but it has to be reciprocal. The government side is prepared to provide factual information on what itís doing, what the bill means, anything that goes with it. The opposition side must be prepared to reciprocate by questioning and discussing whatís factual in nature ó itís as simple as that.
So if the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has anything constructive to add ó or maybe the Member for Mayo-Tatchun just simply opposes this bill, then he should say so ó put it on the record, voice his position, actually take a position. Go ahead and take a position. That would be a breath of fresh air if the official opposition provided the Yukon public with a position on what the NDP would be doing with respect to this.
So the choice is for the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Now, the member said there are holes in this, so Iím going to just point out to the member that the legislation was jointly developed with First Nation governments. What is in this legislation is agreed upon. Itís not intended to create a situation where the opposition is going to manufacture holes in legislation. It is intended to put in law the structure of the Yukon forum and the activities in terms of the timelines that we will undertake.
Now, governments come and governments go, but if any future government wants to discontinue the Yukon forum and what weíre dictated to do and obligated to do, they would have to amend or rescind the legislation. That would a choice of a future government. But this government, in agreement with First Nation governments, has brought this bill forward, and itís all about formalizing our government-to-government relationship.
For the NDP to say in this House that this kind of thing has been done before ó Mr. Chair, that is entirely incorrect. This hasnít been done before. It has never been put to legislation. Weíve never worked on the Yukon chapter of the northern strategy before. Weíve never worked on a common position on the northern economic development fund with First Nations before. Weíve never worked with First Nations, because the nine-year review has just come upon us and the development of a new implementation mandate for Canada.
Mr. Chair, the member made mention of royalties. Yes, we share royalties, as weíre supposed to and obligated to. But itís the Yukon Party government that has done the work necessary to increase those royalties by actually getting into further exploration, development, and production of our reserves or our resources.
So everybody benefits from that, Mr. Chair.
These are the things that are factual. If the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has anything constructive to add, please do so. If not, well, we can listen to the member go on at great length. The member has days and days and days ahead of him.
As it is a choice for First Nations to participate in the Yukon forum, I would say to the member opposite thatís entirely his choice.
Mr. Fairclough: I know what my choices are, Mr. Chair. I donít need the Premier to tell me what they are.
The Premier wants to know a position. We say final agreements are where we would go with respect to consultation and working with First Nations. So I ask the Premier again ó he always feels that this is a waste of time and debate goes nowhere. Iím sure there are First Nations out there wanting to know where, for example, they fit into this legislation if they donít sign on ó other than bilateral agreements and working with them.
What we donít want to have is the Yukon Party working with First Nations that have signed on and ignoring the rest. So Iím trying to get some assurance from the Premier, if heís interested in it at all, Mr. Chair ó to answer that question. I know heís bothered by it. Heís hurt by the fact that not all the First Nations have signed on to this MOU.
If the Premier doesnít have an answer, maybe one of the ministers will. How interested is the Premier in debate on this bill?
If he is, he would answer this question the first time and give a reassurance to First Nations that donít have bilateral agreements, that arenít part of the MOU. Itís an MOU that some First Nations say they would rather rip up. Some First Nations have said they couldnít bother with the Yukon forum, that itís a waste of time because of how theyíre being dealt with today.
So what improvements will this legislation make?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: One of the good benefits of any forum is the ability to sit down and talk. Yes, there is always a democratic right to communicate in any reasonable way, but the ability to sit down in the same room and actually talk over mutual problems is a very rare thing in some venues, and this does give us the opportunity to sit down. It sets up the venue for anyone ó for any First Nation, for the Yukon government to sit down and talk about things of mutual interest and work things out.
I have to admit, though, that there are times, after you pound your head against a wall for so long, that it is kind of nice to stop after awhile. We on this side do feel that, from time to time, it really does seem to be an exercise in pounding your head against the wall. Weíre accused of secrecy: sometimes so secret that we post it on the Web for all to read.
Of course, the member opposite considers that secrecy and chooses not to read it and that, too, is a democratic right. Thatís something that everyone has the right to not do.
Weíre accused of spending all over the map. Letís take a look at some of that map, since the members opposite have had no interest over these last three weeks of entertaining any kind of questioning on the economy.
Thatís a good part of that. A great deal of it has gone to First Nations as well and communities of First Nations. We are accused often of not supporting ó Iíve heard the accusation that we donít support ridings that we donít hold. Millions of dollars are going into a new school in Carmacks; millions of dollars have gone into Old Crow in the past. We need a place to sit down and actually talk things over with all 14 First Nations listed here. We have a venue, we have a place, and we have that interest. It would appear that the member opposite doesnít agree with that, but I will let him keep talking on that.
Mr. Fairclough: It would be nice to have the Premier be part of this discussion. After all, it is his bill, Mr. Chair, and Iím hoping that he will muster up enough energy to answer the question. He says he wants to respect First Nations. Well answer the questions here. Itís not right that he sloughed the work off to someone else. Because of the situation we are in the House here ó I canít say it, Mr. Chair, and I know you are just waiting for me to say it. Where is the Premier when there is important debate in this House? He is not to be heard. That is unfortunate, because the Premier feels it is a waste of time. I just asked a question of the minister, and I hope that the minister can fill in for the Premier ó I suppose as an acting Premier ó to answer the question about other First Nations that choose not to sign on to the MOU and choose not to be part of the forum, even though they are allowed to come in. The Premier is saying that they are allowed in, and we will deal with them at that time. I donít need to know about the final agreements that have been negotiated under them, or royalties. I want to know about the future. I want to know how this Yukon Party is going to work with that, because the way itís laid out, and the fact that not all First Nations have been part of putting this legislation together. Not all of them have signed on to this memorandum of understanding. That makes it weaker.
I want some reassurance, and maybe the minister can give that, about how these First Nations will have the respect coming from them, and how that change is going to happen now that we have legislation in place versus how it has gone over the past few years.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I do thank the member opposite for the promotion. That is nicely thought of, much appreciated.
His point about sloughing off the work ó I think most people would think that the good work of government is very valuable. I think a comment like that sort of does give an indication of the high esteem or other esteem that the member opposite feels the work of the government has.
I think it is much more that we allow other people ó other First Nations, other chiefs, other councillors ó to come in. Theyíre always welcome at the table. It is a venue to talk about problems, to come to common decisions ó obviously, not the sort of forum that the member opposite is comfortable with, and that is troubling. But itís a place where anyone can come in and talk. So yes, I have no problem giving the assurance that all are welcome.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasnít the question. Itís unfortunate that the Premier was unable to answer that question again. I donít think the minister is fully briefed on this memorandum of understanding. Otherwise that question should have been answered quicker, Mr. Chair. So I will give him a chance again to answer that question about those ó we know theyíre welcome in. Theyíre welcome in. Thatís what the Premier said. Theyíre listed in the proposed act, Bill No. 61. Theyíre listed there, but the fact is that there are First Nations that havenít signed on to the memorandum of understanding and do not agree with the Yukon forum. I am concerned about those First Nations.
This Yukon Party does have a reputation of dealing with some First Nations more than they do with others; thatís a fact. The minister knows that; too bad the Premier doesnít.
So I would like to give the minister a second chance to answer that question about the reassurance, other than the fact that you can come in ó youíre in or out, but youíre welcome in. We know that; we already know that; we want to know how the Yukon Party is going to work on these bilateral or trilateral agreements or relationships they could or may or might have in the future with First Nations that are not part of the MOU.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I wasnít aware that speed was necessarily part of the discussion. The member opposite seems to think that the speed of something happening is the relevant factor, and I would disagree with that completely. Again, itís a forum; we hope all First Nations come in and fully participate. We can fully understand at any given point in time there may be some discrepancies, and people may want to exercise their democratic rights. Everyone has the right to come into that discussion, to come into that forum, to come into an MOU; everyone has the right not to. Every First Nation has that right and that ability, so Iím not really sure what the member opposite expects as an answer when, obviously, anyone can participate in this. Thatís the whole idea of it.
Mr. Fairclough: We understand that; the minister now understands that; I think the Premier understands that. ďYouíre welcome in,Ē is what theyíre saying, but if youíre not in and you donít want to be in, how does the Yukon Party deal with that First Nation? Thatís what Iím trying to get from the members opposite.
There is no clear answer yet from that minister, and Iím hoping that maybe the Premier could muster up some energy to answer that question properly. The Premier is sloughing off the work to the minister. There is no doubt about it. It is not a bill that is sponsored by this minister. Itís sponsored by the Premier. So the questions should be answered by the Premier.
Perhaps if they had some help in this House by bringing in some department people to address some of these issues, we could move on. The act clearly says that certain self-governing First Nations ó that is the wording in the act, ďcertainĒ, and the rest of them are welcome in. But thatís not what Iím getting at with the minister. I want to know about how the government is going to deal with these other First Nations, and I know what this Yukon Party is going to do. This is probably written down. They will take this act, and say: ďLook at what a good government we are. We have a relationship, a good one, with First Nations. We have now an act in place ó never before passed in this House.Ē What investors and developers are looking at is exactly that, whether a government has a relationship with First Nations or not. I know the Premier is going to use that and sell that. That is part of how heís opening up the territory. The Premier, I am sure, will answer the question then.
We on this side of the House feel that self-government agreements, final agreements in place, are those to be abided by, by any government, and should be followed and respected in their intent and meaning.
I think those are more powerful than anything else, more powerful than this act the Yukon Party is bringing forward. There is an obligation there. If thereís an issue raised by First Nations, deal with the matter. I believe part of the problem over the years with First Nations is in trying to get their governments up and running and having some certainty in place to ensure their final agreements are implemented. Thatís the tough part.
Every government in the past, including the Liberal government, has sat down with the Yukon First Nations and worked on having some sort of working relationship and dealing with priorities. We can pass this act in this House; itís a good idea, the Yukon government should do that. They should meet with First Nations four times, three times, whatever is agreed to. I donít think the Yukon government needs an act to give them that direction. I donít believe so.
Maybe the Yukon Party doesnít trust themselves.
Is that in order, Mr. Chair?
The Premier thinks itís a joke, he thinks itís a waste of time; he thinks that any questions being asked of this bill should not be asked.
I would like to ask the Premier, then, when this act is being passed in this House ó itís going to get passed in this House, and there are nine First Nations that have signed on to the agreement. The rest may or may not be part of this memorandum of understanding. Can the Premier then give us assurance that these First Nations are all on side with the memorandum of understanding, and how does he expect this forum, these meetings, to take place? Does he expect all nine of the First Nations, including Council of Yukon First Nations, to be part of, say, the first forum, or is there an invitation to others than havenít signed on to this memorandum of understanding to be part of the first meetings?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, for the member opposite, he seems to have missed everything from the throne speech and since. This government has always maintained ó always said and always followed through ó that we will treat First Nation governments on a government-to-government basis, whatever their signatory or signing status is. Again, I give the example of the amount of support that has gone to First Nations before their land claims have settled, as it should.
The only way to continue to develop the economy, the only way to develop the welfare and well-being of all Yukoners, is to work in a collaborative way. This has always been our position. Certainly this forum gives us the opportunity to do that. There may be times when some are there, some arenít, for whatever reason, but it sets up the forum to get people talking.
And itís always difficult, Mr. Chair, to get upset or get as upset, I suppose, with somebody with whom youíre actually meeting and talking and working out common problems. You may not always agree ó there may be lots of times that you donít agree ó but at least youíre sitting down and talking, and thatís more than has been offered by previous governments. It certainly sounds like more than the official opposition has any interest in right now.
Itís hard to say what their feeling would be in terms of sitting down. Would they lock somebody out? That seems to be what theyíre implying.
You have to be able to sit down and work in a common area. You have to look at the economic benefit of all communities, whether theyíve signed on or not. You have to continue looking at forestry and its place within the economy of the Yukon, and not sit down and say, ďWell, they havenít signed on yet so weíre not going to do that.Ē You canít do that, and thatís the implication I hear coming from the member opposite. Itís very troubling to look at that and hear that sort of attitude.
Everyone is welcome at this forum; everyone is welcome to talk and to meet, and Iím having difficulty with why the member opposite is having such an ethical and philosophical problem with the ability of groups to sit down and talk. Iím wondering what the other suggestions or solutions would be to that.
Mr. Fairclough: If thereís interest in this debate, then maybe the minister could answer the question. Itís funny he didnít mention anything about the environment at all in his remarks, but I did ask about other First Nations that havenít signed on to the agreements. Thatís my concern.
Itís fine for governments to sit down and talk with a First Nation, and that should happen anyway. I told the minister that over and over again. It might be a surprise to the member opposite, but other governments have sat down with First Nations and had discussions about their priorities and so on. Itís not something new, even though the Yukon Party might think it is. Iím surprised at that, if that is the attitude, particularly if it came from the Premier.
I want to know about those First Nations that are not a part of this. Is that so hard for the minister to answer? Heís got a whole binder full now, heís got all kinds of notes that he can read off.
I want to know how this government is going to be dealing with those that havenít signed on. There are only four meetings taking place ó there could be three, could be two, depending on how they agree. The fact is that there are First Nations out there that disagree ó one in particular. The Kwanlin Dun disagrees with the forum, saying it is a waste of time. Those are the First Nations that I am concerned about. So I am hoping the minister can get focused on that and not say, ďWell, they are welcome to come.Ē If they do not want to use that venue and they want to sit down and deal with government, government to government, instead of through this forum, how is it going to be done? Because the Yukon Party hasnít given any indication other than that there could be some bilateral dealings with them. So could the minister answer that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite still isnít getting it and it really does get to be after awhile like you are hitting your head against a wall. Well, since he has opened the door and asked extensively what we have done for First Nations, whether they have signed on or not, letís take a look at some of those. The Aboriginal Sports Circle, $20,000 through the community development fund ó I donít see any notes in any of the briefing binders I have looked at, in terms of whether or not this is for a First Nation that signed on or whether they attended the meeting last Tuesday or whatever else that is.
Alcohol awareness, bringing in a guest speaker for a First Nation that hadnít signed on at that point ó $5,500; strategic industries fund put $6,000 toward hiring an event organizer for the Destination: Carcross summit on March 16. They also put in $15,000 for the hiring of a contractor to assist with the development and implementation of Destination: Carcross MOU. These were done with a First Nation that, at that point, hadnít signed on. I understand, of course, that you have an interest in that, Mr. Chair.
$60,000 toward the strategic industries fund for looking at Four Mountains Resort investment package; funding to support Destination: Carcross, another $5,500 through the regional economic development fund and strategic industries fund; another $61,500 through strategic industries to fund Caribou Crossing business incubator, and another $7,200 toward the coronary health improvement project for that region.
The community development fund has been active in that, and thatís something again that was killed by previous governments. We brought it back and we think itís a good way to stimulate the economy in many ways, and thatís why we put another $20,000 toward a plan that would outline the location of single-track trails in the Carcross area.
We provided funding to Grey Mountain Housing Society to provide a pair of business plans, $20,000, and provide a workplan to identify forest project development opportunities, according to the First Nation traditional territory forest management plan, which was $19,625.
When you start going back through the list in other parts of the Yukon ó another coronary health improvement project, $9,797 ó and Iím not really sure where the $97 came from, but that was the total amount that went out. We looked at community emergency measures plans. Again, these are all First Nations projects, for another $9,835. There was $50,000 to fund executive leadership development programs. Roof repairs to a youth centre, $13,900. There was $18,250 spent to revitalize Yukon Indian Days and the First Nations portal, $90,000. I understand that has actually received more funding recently.
We funded a workshop on the morel mushroom industry, $10,000, and the community access program, which is directly distributed through Council of Yukon First Nations, $49,500. Third party assessment of the housing manufacturing plant joint venture corporation business plan, in order to secure financing, a third-party assessment, $16,500. The member opposite, of course, will claim that we did nothing to help those programs, but we can only deal in reality here. We organized First Nations participation in a tour of Syncrude operations, meeting with First Nations business and community leaders, $28,865. We provided support for project management and an investment package support, $30,000. Since the member opposite is so concerned about First Nations that havenít signed agreements, letís go into that area in a little bit more depth: mining development opportunities and contribution agreement, $95,000. We did work to facilitate an economic development planning session for $10,000.
We funded a recreation director position, $4,100; weíve worked with the development of a business plan and equity gap assistance on the Great River Journey for $16,500 from YTG; and we established a community garden in another First Nation community for $20,000.
I can keep going on this, but I think this hopefully begins to get the message through to the member opposite that we work with First Nation governments on a government-to-government basis. We set up a forum to sit and meet and talk about common problems and common planning. None of this is based on whether or not a First Nation has signed a formal agreement. All will be treated equally.
Mr. Fairclough: I think the member could read a list of First Nation projects that monies have gone to over the last 10 years, if he wanted to, if thatís what he wants to do to ensure good debate in this House ó then do that. What the minister is saying is itís business as usual but, if you want to work at ó maybe itís a different level that the Yukon Party is saying because, right now, what Iím hearing from the minister is theyíre working government to government. Theyíre working on priorities government to government. We could go into that quite a bit down the road.
What the forum does is allow some of the self-governing nations in, if they want, or all of them in, if they want, and those that are not self-governing, if they want, to work at that table. It has a different staff. Is that what the member is saying ó that itís a different forum, different staff, a different direction under this forum versus business as usual, government to government?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite canít have it both ways. You canít criticize by saying that nothing happens and that nothing is being done and then start dripping sarcasm when we actually look at what actually happened and what was being done.
We put in another $7,500 to fund a training program for cultural centres. Another $14,028 was put in to fund development corporation capacity-building workshop. We understand that capacity is a very serious problem in First Nation governments. It is serious problem in the Yukon government. We have a very large jurisdiction and a very small population; therefore capacity is always a problem, and we are very aware of that.
With $20,000 we funded a feasibility study for an administration for a First Nation that hadnít signed an agreement. There was also another $20,000 to fund the planning phase of an outdoor recreation facility; $44,870 to fund the construction of a large greenhouse; $21,285 to fund a Yukon heritage training needs assessment. To facilitate a board of directors training session, we provided $10,836. We did Wellness Day celebrations in Mayo for $19,300, and that one, Mr. Chair, I enjoyed going to very much. I didnít see any representatives from that riding there, but we certainly had a great time. It was beautifully done and my hat is off to that community, and I hope that it is an ongoing thing year to year.
$14,279 was put into planning and production of a heritage plan; to fund interpretive signs along the river where the river channel has been reconstructed for juvenile salmon habitat, $3,014. The member opposite asked about the environment. A number of environmental options and environmental things have gone on here.
Weíre very proud of the fact that we are so much higher than the national average in terms of protected areas. And weíve done that by killing and stopping YPAS, exactly. And in doing that, weíve actually exceeded by almost doubling the national average in protected areas, and we can do better ó we hope to do better than that.
Another $20,000 to fund upgrading and stabilizing the old Legion building for future use as a cultural centre ó very good project. And that riverbank did need stabilization ó very pleased to have gotten involved in that. And weíre looking at planning stations in the same area, another $7,376.
††††††† A daycare facility with an after-school tutoring program is an excellent project ó $157,875. We are very happy to invest in our communities and within our First Nations.
Trapper training ó $16,500; youth, health and recreation programs ó another $20,900; a recreation society and training and funding the hand games ó $3,870; improvements to the Dena Cho Trail ó another good project ó $49,000.
We funded improvements to the Pelly River campground ó $75,046; and we funded a skateboard park to the tune of $19,825. We installed a playground in another community ó $4,500 ó and training for environmental staff at $34,500.
We funded strategic planning in some areas for another $11,575, and a skills development program for another $20,000; another community greenhouse ó different community ó garden construction, training and all the things involved in that ó $19,905.
We funded an economic community development planning and scoping process to the tune of about $11,250. That was through the regional economic development fund. We funded improvements to heritage centre landscaping and a canoe shelter for $22,700. Iím not really familiar with that project, Mr. Chair, but it must have been a pretty good canoe. $59,360 of funding was provided for improvements to the George Johnston trail, another excellent project. The Moosehide gathering ó there was $22,596 put toward work on that. $2,000 was put toward assisting with the watershed council annual general meeting.
We have funded a number of different things. If the member opposite would stop and think this thing through, we have dealt with all First Nations on an equal, government-to-government basis. That is what we said we would do; that is what we are doing; that is what we will do.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís the ministerís opinion, Mr. Chair, not ours, and not that of some of the First Nations out there, either. And the minister likes to read his lists. Maybe he can flip the page and read another one, if he wants to avoid the question. The member said that this is what governments do. This is what governments do. And the Premier, I know, likes not to hear this debate at all, but itís going to happen. If he doesnít like it, he wouldnít have it brought to this floor, I would think. I asked the minister about other First Nations, and he lists a number of things, funding of events, for example.
By the way, I have attended many of these wellness workshops and days in Mayo, and I also have been part of discussions with the Northern Tutchone Council. Whether the member sees me there or not ó I donít know how long he spends there, Mr. Chair. It couldnít be all that long.
But the minister says that they work government to government. I asked the minister what the difference was. What is the difference that this act is going to make in how government works? Because they work government to government. There is a forum in place calling for four meetings but it is business as usual out there, or is it? I donít know why the minister or the Premier wants to skirt around that, but I think the public needs to know what itís going to look like ó four meetings, could be five, could be six a year with First Nations ó on a quarterly basis is what the memorandum of understanding says. They are dealing with priorities so those that have not signed on to the memorandum of understanding or do not want to be part or take part in the forum that is set up by the government ó there is still a government-to-government relationship, is what the Yukon Party is saying, or the minister anyway. I am trying to get at the difference. If there is no difference and it is going to be business as usual and all we are doing is committing to set up an organization and meet four times a year, we need to know that.
We want to know why government is making all these expenses, too. The Premier looks interested now and might answer the question.
What the minister said was that itís business as usual with those First Nations that are not part of this MOU and those that may not take part under this forum. Itís business as usual; theyíll have government deal with them on a government-to-government basis.
With those First Nations that are part of this forum and are taking part in this meeting, monies go into a pot, thereís expertise that is provided to the Premier, there is staffing for an aide to support the Premier and the organization. Thereís quite a bit more information that could be flowing and I want to have from the government an assurance, other than ďTheyíre welcome in to this processĒ, that other First Nations will not be left by the wayside. The minister said they donít; clearly, they do. Kwanlin Dun said the forum was a waste of time, and that, to me, is a serious comment, and itís serious to other First Nations that are starting to talk about that a little bit more now.
I want to know from the minister clearly ó instead of reading a list, which he was so fond of doing only back a couple of years ó that First Nations will not be left out. I donít want to hear from the minister that theyíre welcome in, and thatís that.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Chair, Iím not sure how many times I have to repeat the answer for the member opposite to finally hear it. You know, itís a forum where people can talk and work out common problems. People come, people go. There may be reasons for staying away at this point in time but not the next point in time. Somebody might not show up, so God knows, maybe we should just cancel the whole thing. Thatís what Iím hearing from the member opposite. The forum is a good thing, and we can set out so many different priorities and planning, and we can look at some of the things, like our funding of repairs to the Old Crow community hall at $58,144. The member hasnít understood it yet, so maybe Iíll just keep going. Maybe he will finally see the light. You can never tell here.
We funded construction of a wood surface for court sports and purchased playground apparatus, $54,924, and another provided $3,800 to undertake a review of previous economic development reports as a prelude to a community planning process. Planning is always a good thing. It requires people to sit down and talk. Maybe there could be a forum for that, Mr. Chair; you never can tell. Another $3,403 was paid to fund attendance at an Opportunities North conference.
I do note the member opposite, who mentioned that he attended some of the wellness day things. The one I was at, I was there for the entire day. I guess Mayo is just so large that itís really easy to get lost in their community hall.
Hopefully it is going to be just as easy to get lost in their new community hall that we are building in a riding that we donít hold. But heíll change that around somehow, no doubt.
$7,684 to fund a knowledge and tools workshop for First Nation members. The Snag Village restoration ó we put in $35,184. Another coronary health improvement program was held in a different community for $16,380. We funded upgrades to existing community greenhouse and gardens in a third community ó that was $11,378. What about the aboriginal sport development and sport role model program for $55,000? Thereís another project with various expenses including speakers, facilitators, meals, room rental, program materials, advertising, performers, et cetera, et cetera. We put all that into an economic summit and paid $31,352 for that. This is all the support that we donít give to First Nations, according to the member opposite. Phase 1 of the tourism forum for the Yukon First Nation Tourism Association, $18,000. For the First Nations economic summit that was held in March of 2005 ó $45,000. Admission for the Canada Gala, which included First Nation participants, we paid $6,823 out of our budget for that. To develop a business investment model for the innovation technology sectors, that was another $60,000.
Mr. Chair, that list, if you add it all up together, is $1,873,534.
Every First Nation involved ó Iím not cherry-picking individual groups here, Iím not making a determination of whether or not they attended a meeting. This goes to all First Nations. We work on a government-to-government basis. Itís interesting when you look at this sum of money, which is considerable, and then you look at some of the other things involved in that. I donít think people really realize that, when you look at government expenditures on culture and on all the things around culture ó which, in this territory, does mean a wider variety, but a lot of it is First Nations involved ó we have actually a huge amount. The total in Canada is up 4.1 percent. When you actually start looking at it within this jurisdiction, basically $22 per person was spent on culture by municipal governments, and when you look at municipal governments, itís actually a little bit low for the Yukon, but when you turn that in terms of the Yukon itself, itís up significantly higher, closer to $418 ó the highest of any provincial or territorial government in Canada. That includes museums, archives, historic parks, nature parks, other heritage things, arts education, literary arts, performing arts, visual arts, crafts ó all of which are heavily represented in what Iíve just listed.
We work with governments on a government-to-government basis. Somehow the member opposite is still not getting that one.
Chair: Order please. Weíve reached our normal time for an afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute break.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act.
Mr. Fairclough: Bill No. 61, as the Premier said, is the first of its kind, and I would think that he would like to defend that bill and answer questions being asked about that bill.
I asked the minister over and over again about the difference between what this bill directs government to do, how government now sees their interaction with other First Nation governments, and the difference there is. And I laid it out to the minister. ďHave government-to-government relations,Ē he says. He listed a bunch of things the departments do and involvement with First Nations. Thatís ongoing ó forever ó with any government. I think the minister knows that. After all, they do make up close to 30 percent of the population. You canít avoid First Nations in this matter. As a matter of fact, many of the initiatives are headed up by First Nations and call for governments to support them.
I asked the minister about government-to-government relationships versus this forum developed under this act, Bill No. 61, and what the difference would be in how First Nations are dealt with. Maybe the minister can give us examples of how it would work. Reading through the memorandum of understanding, there are ó well, any First Nation can take their name off and not be part of it. The act is different. It lists all the First Nations that can come in.† Does the minister feel that all 14 First Nations listed will take part in the very first meetings, or is he concerned that there are First Nations that disagree with the memorandum of understanding, disagree with this forum, that will not be taking part in it, and are we going to see this as a failure more than a success?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I had hopes there for a moment that the member opposite was starting to understand when he said he wasnít really seeing much difference ó and there isnít. All are treated on a government-to-government basis.
In terms of being able to predict who is going to show up at any given meeting, we set up the structure so that any can. We set up a structure so that itís an equal basis, government to government, among all jurisdictions and all orders. I donít know: I bet on the Red Sox two years ago and did pretty well, but I bet on them last year and didnít do well at all. So I canít make that bet.
The best we can do is to set up a structure so that all are welcome, all are able, and I donít think you can do better than that. All are treated on a government-to-government basis, on an equal basis. I guess thatís a really difficult concept for the member opposite to understand.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís what the minister says, but what the act is essentially doing is setting up a body. There are monies going into it ó each First Nation that participates pays their own way, type of thing. Thereís technical support and staffing for the minister to deal with these priorities. So hereís a body that other First Nations ó which are not part of it ó do not have to deal with their priorities. Thereís a difference there. There is a difference, and Iím sure the minister can see that.
I would like to know from the minister what it takes to form this body. We have a ďyouíre welcome inĒ attitude by government written in the bill. Is the Premier going to say, if two show up or four show up, that this is a success? After all, they are welcome, but is it a success? Would they go ahead ó I want to know, I guess, the minimum of how this government is going to work through this forum. If they go ahead on their priorities, is that a possibility? Would they ó would that happen? Are we working on consensus, and if we are, with whom: those who are part of it or all of the First Nations?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fairclough: Yes, there is, Mr. Chair, and the Premier and the minister who are answering these questions say this is an important matter, an important bill, the first of its kind, and they canít debate it here? How embarrassing for them. Where is that respect that they say they are showing to those First Nations that are affected by that very bill? Answer the question.†
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fairclough: Yes, Mr. Chair. The Premier had gone up to his office and decided that they were going to clear this.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. The Chair is having a challenge hearing the speaker who has been recognized, and I would ask all members to reduce the chatter.
Mr. Fairclough: Whatís wrong with this picture, Mr. Chair? The Premier is now frightened to answer questions in this House, and I donít know if we have to shame him into answering questions on this bill, the very one he is sponsoring. Do we have to do that? Or are the members opposite going to muster up enough energy and commitment to First Nations to answer these questions? I asked some very serious questions about the forum.
Now, the Premier is huffing and puffing and doesnít like it. It doesnít help debate in this House when that happens with the Premier. I asked about quorum and what constitutes a quorum in this forum, in their first meeting. Why canít the members opposite answer the question? Itís very important. We would like to know. Is it clear? How many? Is it all 14 First Nations, those that are part of the forum ó on these priorities that this government could have and be making and committing to with those that are part of the forum? I would like the members opposite to answer that question and please show the respect to the First Nations that are concerned about this.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Letís talk about respect, Mr. Chair. All afternoon, weíve been listening to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun criticize First Nations who helped draft this legislation, who agreed ó agreed ó to the memorandum of understanding and its content and what the purpose and objective of the exercise was all about. All afternoon, the member has asked the same question over and over and over.
Now, I know that the official opposition is struggling these days. I know that the official opposition has lost touch ó lost touch, Mr. Chair ó with the Yukon and its people. Thereís no doubt about it. I know the members find that amusing, but I think the facts will bear this out.
The New Democrats are really, really struggling, and Iím not sure if theyíre going to be able to be a constructive opposition or be any reasonable alternative or option to any kind of government, regardless of what they may say. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has continually asked the same question, and we continue to provide the same answer: itís a matter of choice.
Now, if the member would read the memorandum of understanding, the member would see exactly what this is all about. And furthermore, the development of this act, that the member says is not needed ó ďWe donít need this act. We donít need the Yukon forum. We donít need any of these things.Ē These are words coming right out of the members opposite. Well, if thatís the case, then why did First Nations work with us on this to produce the act that weíre debating today?
What the member doesnít get is the fact that this is a structure to work within. It doesnít, in any way, shape or form, compromise or diminish the agreements or the authorities First Nations have in this territory. It commits the government and First Nation governments to endeavour to meet quarterly, as it states in the MOU. It doesnít say anything about quorum. This is the difference between the respect this side of the House shows and that of the opposite side. Obviously, they would dictate who has to be there, how many there will be, when this will happen and what weíll talk about. Theyíll even dictate what the issues are, and theyíre clearly showing that here this afternoon.
Thatís not what we, the Yukon Party government, will do or have done and will continue to do. Weíre going to respect First Nation governments and work with them on a government-to-government level that does not dictate to them in any way, shape or form. Thatís obviously not what the NDP would be doing.
Mr. Chair, the issue again for the member opposite is about other First Nations that havenít signed on. Let me repeat the answer again: if they choose to sign on, itís their decision to make. Signed on or not, if they want to participate in the Yukon forum, theyíre welcome to do so, and, in fact, in Yukon forums, weíve had most, if not all, the First Nations represented there ó every First Nation in this territory ó whether theyíre signed on or not, whether theyíre self-governing or not.
They were there, and they have made a contribution. And furthermore, they have agreed to steps that have been taken. They have agreed to the Yukon chapter on the northern strategy. They agreed on how we would get there. They agreed on what officials would be appointed to work on this. The same thing with the northern economic development fund ó agreement was reached. The same holds true with the Yukon forum that was held with respect to agreeing to the MOU. Not all First Nations who were signed on to it were absent; they were there, whether they were signed on to it or not.
The issue here is one that the member opposite, by premeditation, does not want to get. He doesnít have any interest in it, Mr. Chair, because the official opposition obviously has another approach to this. So they do not agree with what the government side is doing, and theyíre trying to find a reason not to vote for this bill. And they know how dangerous that would be for this opposition, because they know full well how hard First Nations have worked with respect to this.
Their contribution here is equal to and as important as the public governmentís contribution. It is in the pages of this bill. This bill was jointly developed. That is the problem the members opposite have. Theyíre trying to find ways to be able to just say no, because the NDP are fixated on saying no to everything.
Their approach to things simply does not allow them to recognize what this is and what it means. They throw out all kinds of wonderful suggestions and implications. Look at all the times in this House the NDP has tried to create an issue. We only have to ask ourselves, ďFor what purposeĒ? For what purpose would this be? To create a political issue out of ANWR. This is the members opposite, Mr. Chair. Now, what else could I say?
Just to remind members, it is clearly against our Standing Orders to impute false or unavowed motives.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, this we cannot do. We cannot create a perception out there that we are not unanimous when it comes to ANWR. That is unacceptable. Here is another example. This is the same thing we are dealing with with respect to Bill No. 61. What would the opposition benches do to formalize the relationship with First Nations? It looks like the opposition ó especially the official opposition ó is fairly short on any ideas of how they would accomplish that. The member has spent a good number of hours this afternoon asking the same question, around and around and around and around in a circle. Maybe thatís the NDPís problem. There is so much circular movement that things are getting lost: sense of direction, vision. Theyíre getting lost. Theyíre absent.†
Theyíre void, and this side of the House is trying to constructively engage with the official opposition. That is extremely difficult on any level. Theyíre dumbfounded by the budget. It is very difficult to constructively debate the finances of the territory. They donít grasp the government-to-government issue and formalizing the relationship ó very difficult to debate. The facts that relate to the issues of todayís Yukon ó difficult to debate with the official opposition. They see a different Yukon. We see a change for the positive, for the better. We see an optimistic future. The official opposition, the NDP, see nothing of the sort. Theyíre mired in this negative outlook. The NDP just simply will not admit to whatís actually going on in this territory.
And itís unfortunate, because they could have made a contribution, and the government side was more than willing to accept that contribution, as weíve shown time and time again. Itís this government, here in this House, that has passed more unanimous motions than all past governments have been able to do.
And, you know, thatís an example ó itís merely a statement of fact ó that, with the right approach from the opposition, there are ways for us to advance collectively and unanimously. And look what has happened today: the members opposite debated and agreed to what was a very, very important initiative for this territory.
A very important initiative ó and they voted for it. Another example ó a motion tabled by the members opposite, amended by the government side to even strengthen it and improve it, finally has been agreed to. But we had to bring it back in the form of a government motion to gain passage, to move ahead with the initiative of dealing with something that is a tremendous challenge in society. So one can only wonder what this discussion is really leading to and is really all about.
So if the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has a contribution to make with respect to Bill No. 61, and if the member takes issue and finds fault with the bill, then what would the NDP do? This is what the government side is going to do. This is what we committed to do. This is what we delivered. This is done in agreement with First Nations. Now, if the NDP takes issue with it, fine. Please do so. But, given the measure of government and what we must be tested and scrutinized on, at least provide the option that you would go forward with.
So, Mr. Chair, the answer to the member opposite is that itís by choice, period. First Nations have a choice as governments, and rightly so. It is obvious the NDP would not provide that choice. They take issue with that. They take issue with the fact that First Nation governments have a choice in the matter. That seems to be a real problem for the member opposite.
And then the member opposite tries to fold in all kinds of issues that really have nothing to do with the Yukon forum or the bill that weíre debating today.
But he has opened up a discussion on the balanced and fair approach by government with all First Nations, and the Minister of Economic Development has consistently been providing examples of how all First Nations are working with this government in a fair and balanced manner as we continue to meet the challenges and needs and find ways to collaborate in this territory. The foundation is the agreements; the mechanism from those agreements is the need for us to develop and formalize a government-to-government relationship, and thatís exactly what weíre doing.
It would probably be more productive and constructive if the Member for Mayo-Tatchun actually had an option here on what they do. It might be interesting to hear.
Mr. Fairclough: Perhaps the Premier forgot the process in this House. Perhaps he forgot how things work. Legislation and amendments to bills, and so on, are debated in this House and examples are brought up of how improvements could be made or not. Maybe the member opposite has all the answers. They seem to think that when theyíre out in the public, and they feel that we on this side of the House are not connected to the general public.
Itís unfortunate that the government on that side thinks that way. Well, go ahead and think that way: itís okay.
We have a bill here and we have questions about it, so I think the Premier is obligated to answer those questions. He brought the bill forward, so answer the questions.
We could read, I guess, from many different letters that have gone to the Premier. One of them was a letter that was written by a chief as part of the signature of this memorandum of understanding, Mr. Chair, but this letter was written after that memorandum of understanding was signed. So itís about how government respects First Nations.
Iíll just take one paragraph out of page 3 of that letter. The Premier has it. Itís a letter that has gone to him. So we donít have to table anything, Mr. Chair. It says: ďWe canít think of any Yukon examples of collaborative governance agreements that meet the true test of respectful governing partnership. We can think of many arrangements that are examples of disrespectful, condescending, old-style, even colonial approaches.Ē Now, thatís a concern I have been getting at with many of the First Nations that do have concerns about this government and their government-to-government approach. But what was wrong with the question that was asked?
I mean, if the Premier stuck around to hear the questions, this is one that I didnít ask before the break. It was in regard to quorum. A decision is made at a meeting of the forum. I would like the Premier to be clear on these things. A decision is made ó and it could be one that affects many of the First Nations ó about quorum and whether or not there is consensus or any veto power by any of the First Nations on agreements. I think the Premier needs to answer that question. It could be there are only four First Nations taking part in the forum and a decision is made. That is the question that Iím asking about quorum. Is it so loose that meetings can take place with or without the majority of Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The question has been answered ó itís about choice. Nothing in the memorandum of understanding speaks to or directs anything about quorum, and neither does the act.
And itís four times a year. Itís a matter of choice.
The member just recited something from a letter that the member apparently has. So let me engage with the member on what it is the NDP had done with First Nations in the past, compared to what the Yukon Party government has done.
Past governments did the consultation thing ó yet to be defined, yet to have any structure or parameters with respect to consultation. They just talked about it. Now, Mr. Chair, that has changed. Itís this government that entered into a consultation protocol that defines all of what this is. Thatís step number one thatís different.
Itís this government that embarked on the Childrenís Act review that is much more than just simply consultation. Itís a meaningful partnership, where both First Nations and Yukon have collectively and collaboratively worked on this particular area. The same holds true with the correctional reform consultation process and educational reform with co-chairs. First Nations are not just being consulted; First Nations are now one of the architects of change.
On the one hand, the members opposite say, ďWell, how do you work with First Nations who are not self-governing or have not signed on to the Yukon forum?Ē But on the other hand, when we do work with First Nations, like the Kaska, and enter into a bilateral arrangement, they take issue with that too.
I think we have to look at this for what it really is. If the member opposite hasnít gotten on to what Iím responding to the member with ó that quorum is not at issue here; the issue of those First Nations that havenít signed on to an MOU is not at issue here; participation in the Yukon forum is not at issue here. Weíve already agreed to the structure. In fact, weíve agreed to it to the point where we jointly developed legislation.
This is two working groups directed by respective governments developing law and, in this case, itís the legislation to give effect to the Yukon forum.
So, Mr. Chair, the answer again is that itís by choice. Weíre not going to dictate to the First Nations. If they donít want to hold a forum on that particular date, thatís fine: weíll pick another date. This is a matter of choice and working together as governments so we jointly decide on when the forum will take place and what will be on it.
The next step is the implementation plan for the northern strategy. It has already been agreed to; officials are going to work. In fact, I just signed off a letter today informing the First Nations of our Yukon government officials who will be involved with their officials in jointly developing the implementation plan for the northern strategy.
How many times do we have to answer the question? Thatís what at issue here, Mr. Chair.
Itís fine to be criticized. The member opposite can criticize all he wants. When he criticizes Bill No. 61, heís criticizing First Nations. In great haste, the members criticize and, in many cases, they criticize others. They criticize everyone and every possible entity in the public as they try to criticize the government. That includes officials ó it includes all kinds, Mr. Chair. Criticism thatís constructive is a good thing; criticism for the sake of criticism doesnít work and never will.
So the member has gone on at great length, but the question is the same. And we on this side of the House have been relaying or trying to articulate to the member opposite the answer over and over and over again. I guess Iím just not getting through, Mr. Chair.
So, for the record, all First Nations by choice can participate ó signed on or not. Quorum is not an issue. We will collectively decide ó given the fact that we have committed to endeavour to have four meetings a year of the Yukon forum ó weíll collectively decide when and what the dates are. We will work together on whatís going to be on the agenda. It is all about government to government.
So the memberís concern, if it is, indeed, a valid concern óIím not sure if it is, because we couldnít tell from any presentation the member has made today. If it is a concern, the member should not be concerned about the issue of quorum or who has signed on or who has not signed on, because all can participate by choice if they choose to do so.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier is really talking down his own bill with those statements. He was very negative in his comments, over and over again. Thereís nothing wrong with the opposition asking questions about the bill, about what may not be in it, and so on. We need to get it clear, because the Premier is not going to be out there in the public to say what it means and have all the answers. Heís not going to do it. He never has in the past and wonít now.
He has not made it clear to those who are not participating or choose not to, but what he will do is take this Bill No. 61 out to the public and say, ďLook how good we are. We have partnerships with First Nations.Ē Thatís exactly what the Premier will do: ďWe have this good working relationship and we have legislation to prove it. Now letís open up the Yukon and get investors here because they want to see good relationships with the Yukon government.Ē So the Premier will do that; thatís exactly how he is.
I cannot see why the Premier would skirt around the questions we asked, saying theyíre the same old questions. I asked about consensus in a quorum. Itís not clear in the bill about what takes place. Itís an advisory body. It sounds to me, the way the Premier explains it, like thereís absolutely no difference in how this government will be dealing with First Nations ó none. Itís government to government, he says.
I asked about whether or not a body thatís funded by government and has technical support provided to the Premier ó what the difference is and how the government deals with those First Nations involved versus others ó we get the runaround. The Premier is not clear on it. He says, ďEither youíre in or out. Youíre welcome in though, but youíre in or out.Ē And that is a problem. We on this side of the House do have a right to ask those questions.
The bill is not complicated. We know that. We have a memorandum of understanding thatís signed that supports the bill. And, at this point, these certain First Nations are the First Nations that have signed on to the memorandum of understanding.
Iíll ask a simple question of the Premier then: to the best of the Premierís knowledge, are all the First Nations that are signatories to the memorandum of understanding still in agreement with the memorandum of understanding?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: And the show goes on. We have tabled a piece of legislation that was jointly developed by First Nations and the Yukon government. The memorandum of understanding is specific and clearly states what it is both parties are doing ó both orders of government. It does state that we should develop legislation, and we will, and we did.
The member opposite continues to try various angles to get to what he believes to be an issue. The government side keeps explaining to the member opposite. This is governmentís choice. We are not dictating here. Itís by agreement. Thatís what itís all about. The legislation actually commits to the quarterly meetings, to the structure itself and so on and so forth.
The member is trying to suggest that this Yukon Party government has not been working with First Nations at all ó if you listen to what the member implies. We are here to tell the member opposite that that is fundamentally incorrect. Many governments in the past have worked with First Nations in various ways and forms. We chose a tack and approach that we committed to do, and we are following through with that commitment. The member states, ďYou are in or you are out.Ē Well, that again is not a representation of the facts, it is not a question of ďyouíre in or youíre out.Ē It is your choice should you want to participate. Again, I repeat, we collectively agreed what the date will be, what will be on the agenda for the Yukon forum, as weíve already done. It has produced, and it will continue to produce as long as this Yukon Party is in government. I canít state with any confidence whether, if the members opposite were in government, this kind of product and relationship building would continue. It is obvious from their questions today, and the issue they take with whatís going on in the Yukon, that they have a different approach to things.
So, Mr. Chair, the member has concerns, obviously, that simply are not reflected in the bill or the memorandum of understanding. Theyíre concerns that the member is drumming up. If the member read the bill and read the memorandum of understanding, there would be a better understanding on the part of the member. We continue to try to answer ó over and over and over. Itís the same answer.
And itís important, because it speaks to our approach to relationships with First Nation governments and the problematic relationship that the NDP would have. That lack of understanding is clear. So itís a matter of choice, and itís agreed upon ó when and whatís on the agenda ó and thatís the beauty of this, Mr. Chair. Weíre not dictating or directing or demanding. Weíre saying, ďHey, itís part of building a relationship. Letís do this together. If you want to meet in February, letís talk about it.Ē And if we agree thatís the date, then we endeavour to bring the parties together. The member would see that clearly in the memorandum of understanding. And then it goes further, in listing all the facts about why we are not going to compromise or dilute in any way the agreements. It says that in here, Mr. Chair.
I think that there is only one way to address this with the member opposite. We must start from the beginning and the beginning is formalizing the relationship between two jurisdictions. So it begins with the discussions on how we would do that, because as a government we committed to do that. On page 1 ó after the discussions progress to where the work had got us to where we would actually sit down and hammer out an agreement ó it starts with ďYukon and Yukonís First NationsĒ. Itís called a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in governance in the Yukon. It is entered into on this day, so on and so forth, between the Government of Yukon, as represented herein by the Premier of Yukon, and the Council of Yukon First Nations, as represented herein by the Grand Chief.
So let me just for a moment pause and express to the members opposite what that means. That means the Premier and the Grand Chief are the principals with respect to this agreement, and it includes the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, the First Nation of Na Cho Nyšk Dun, the Kluane First Nation, the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the Selkirk First Nation, the Taían Kwachían Council, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the TríondŽk HwŽchíin and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation ó the self-governing First Nations as represented respectfully herein by the chief, chief executive or chair, as the case may be, collectively being the parties to this memorandum.
Then of course there are the ďwhereasĒ clauses that set up whatís to follow in the rest of the agreement. The ďwhereasĒ clauses go on to say the Yukon and the First Nations have concurrent ó for the members opposite ó responsibilities in several fields of authority and Yukon self-governing First Nations and CYFN share an interest in working together cooperatively on issues of common concern. That sets up the next portion of the MOU.
Therefore, the parties do now agree that ó and now comes the purpose. Iím not sure if weíre getting through yet, but weíre working on it.
The purpose of this memorandum is to formalize the government-to-government relationship between the parties ó and we defined who the parties are ó by establishing a means by which the parties can together review, discuss and determine common priorities and opportunities for cooperation and collaboration as governments, as the parties may deem appropriate.†
Now, there in context is what this is all about ó the purpose, where we discuss and agree that this is an issue we bring forward, that it is common in nature and it is a common priority or concern.
It then goes on to the structure itself of the Yukon forum: the Premier, the chief, the chief executive or chair ó as the case may be ó of each self-governing First Nation, and the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, shall endeavour to meet together as the Yukon forum at least quarterly. Whatís that saying, Mr. Chair? It says that we will get together to discuss; at least four days, we will meet as the forum ó and the parties to the forum have been explained.
It goes on to say the Yukon forum shall aim toward cooperation among the parties and coordination or collaboration in Yukon and First Nation government priorities, policies, programs and initiatives, as the parties may deem appropriate and taking into account ó now, ďtaking into account,Ē Mr. Chair, thereís a long list. And I hope this is helping the member opposite because, all through this, the spirit and the intent is that we agree on what it is weíre going to do, including the dates.
The partiesí respective responsibilities and authorities ó itís taking into account ó you know, Mr. Chair, when you hear the kibitzing over there, itís a wonder why we even bother, as far as the government is concerned, in trying to engage with the members opposite.
So, taking into account the respective responsibilities and authorities ó now, thatís important because it speaks to the level of respect here, which obviously the members opposite do not share, in terms of the level of respect that this government brings to our relationship. The members opposite donít share that at all. It takes into account the vision, priorities, and direction that the parties respectively and together believe to be in the best interests of the Yukon Territory, its regions and communities.
Are the members opposite with us so far?
The objectives, strategies and areas of endeavour of the parties ó thatís in the agreement. Opportunities for effective coordination and efficiencies in the provision of government programs, services and initiatives and the obligation, priorities, commitments, operation and financial arrangements of the Government of Canada in relation to the Yukon, the self-governing First Nations and the Yukon Territory, including those arising under Yukon First Nation final agreements, Yukon First Nation self-government agreements and the devolution transfer agreements.
It is speaking to, Mr. Chair, the new order of governance in the territory. It is saying that, given the agreements and the self-government agreements that have been entered into, the devolution transfer that has taken place, there is a whole new way of governing in this territory, and that is why formalizing that relationship is critical to the discussion.
Now it says that the Premier shall endeavour to ensure that the full Yukon Cabinet attends at least two meetings of the Yukon forum per calendar year. Thatís something weíre committed to. The chiefs of Yukon First Nations who are not party to a self-government agreement shall be invited to attend and shall have voice in the meetings of the Yukon forum.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun obviously hasnít read the MOU, because the questions the member has been asking reflect and are centred around this particular clause.
The member kept asking, ďWhat about those First Nations that arenít signed on?Ē Let me repeat: the chiefs of Yukon First Nations that are not party to a self-government agreement shall be invited to attend and shall have voice in meetings of the Yukon forum.
That includes all First Nations.
At meetings in the Yukon forum, the parties shall strive for consensus ó another question the member has been asking. Itís in here. The MOU is clear and specific in virtually all areas of the memberís so-called questions. The answers are right there.
Meetings of the Yukon forum shall be scheduled at mutually convenient dates. Weíve been answering that question. Itís a matter of discussion, agreement and choice.
Implementation ó of course you need implementation. The parties acknowledged that the effective exchange of relevant information among the parties and our diligent attendance to matters approved by the Yukon forum for action will be vital to the success of the discussions and endeavours. So we are saying that we go into the forum to exchange ideas; we go in there with common purpose. Iíve already alluded to the fact that we shall strive for consensus, and we have been achieving that.
Yukon shall endeavour to ensure that Yukon Government departments and agencies incorporate the directions established by the Yukon forum in their strategies, activities, undertakings and appropriations.†
And the member is diminishing what this means? Through legislation, this particular area is now absolute, because the government by law is committed to and obligated to the Yukon forum and its outcomes, Mr. Chair.
The self-governing First Nations and the Council of Yukon First Nations shall endeavour to ensure that Council of Yukon First Nations and First Nation governments incorporate ó so itís equal ó the directions established by the Yukon forum in their respective strategies, activities, undertakings and appropriations.
This is agreed to. This is about formalizing the governmentĖto-government relationship.
Mr. Chair, Iím not really sure what point the member opposite was making over the course of this afternoon, but all this is clearly laid out and the bill we brought forward ó jointly developed, I might add ó with First Nations ó finishes this whole process, puts the cap on the process of formalized government-to-government relationships by giving our process force and effect through legislation.
Thatís what this is about. All matters that we deal with in the Yukon forum are agreed to. All First Nations can, by choice, attend or not. Itís up to us, as it states here ó the governments, the principals ó to do our work to establish the dates, the agenda and the forum itself, as far as what we will be doing in that particular venue. It says it all here. So the legislation clearly reflects the structure, the definitions and all that goes with it. It brings clarity to the fact that we will not in any way, shape or form compromise the existing agreements and authorities and jurisdictions. It lays out officials and working groups, the expenditure of money, the meetings ó so on and so forth.
At the end of the day, Mr. Chair, this is something that hasnít been done in the past year. We all know that. The members opposite know that; First Nations know that. Itís a step ó a step in a long process of building a relationship. Itís the step that helps to formalize, if not indeed formalizing entirely, the government-to-government relationship, giving the structure that we have to work within. It also says, Mr. Chair, that if the members agree to hold fewer or more than the four meetings per year, that we shall participate in the agreed-upon number of meetings.
Operating procedures for meetings, including quorum requirement, scheduling of meetings and rotating the role of chair are governed by the provisions of the memorandum of understanding or as determined by the Yukon forum. Thatís what weíve been saying all along.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that was a long answer for a yes-or-no question ó a long answer for a yes-or-no question. I asked the Premier about the First Nation signatories to the memorandum of understanding, which is clearly ó is this not important to the Premier? Can the Premier listen to this question again? I guess not. So much for the commitment by the Premier, Mr. Chair. This has happened time and time again. I canít say it in the Legislature here because itís out of order.
But I did ask the Premier this: whether or not those signatories to the memorandum of understanding, whether or not all of those First Nations are still part of the memorandum of understanding and still agree to the memorandum of understanding. That was a yes-or-no question, and I think the Premier could have simply answered yes or no.
But we heard him come down on this side of the House again. Itís beginning, I guess, to really speak a lot about how he would like to see his government perform.
So hopefully the Acting Premier, minister, or whoever is left on that side of the House, would like to answer the question for the Premier ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. Jenkins.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: One cannot make mention of anyone being absent from the House, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, on a point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: I just asked for whoever wants to answer for the Premier, Mr. Chair.
Chair: I think members have been very careful not to break with established practice, and I would encourage members to be even more careful of that.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess the members opposite know what Iím talking about. It has been like this all afternoon, and I know the Premier wants to debate the bill, and he says itís a very serious one. But we would like to with him. We would like to debate this bill with him, Mr. Chair, not the acting minister or Acting Premier ó with him.
If the interest were there, we would have that debate, but it appears that it isnít with the Premier. Itís a simple question, a yes-or-no question, so maybe the minister could answer it.
Are all the signatures on the MOU, the First Nations that signed on, still part and in agreement with the MOU? Thatís a very important question, Mr. Chair, because the bill itself, Bill No. 61, refers to the MOU. I have it in front of me. Iíve gone through it, and weíve asked questions in this House, I think, that the public out there are interested in. Whether itís clearly spelled out in the agreement or the bill could easily be said by the government, it is here. This is where you find the answer.
How does the Premier approach that? Heís true to his nature, and I believe the way he is and the way he governs is exactly the way he is with the opposition. At one time they said they work with us on this side of the House, that they would take our considerations and debate in this House and work with the opposition, but itís not happening today. What happened? A backslide in their commitment to the public? Why isnít the Yukon Party committed to trying to have some constructive debate in this House?
We ask very simple questions and, if you read the Blues or the Hansard, youíll see that the Premier is not exactly wanting to have good, constructive debate in this House.
I read a paragraph from a letter to the Premier, and I see that fired him up a little bit. He knows exactly which letter I was referring to. Perhaps the ministers havenít seen it. Let me look here. Iíll see if theyíre ccíd to anybody else, because I believe the Premier may not have shared this information with the members opposite.
I see itís not ccíd to anybody else. But it is addressed to the Premier. Itís a long letter. It is 18 pages. It says some incredible things.
And the Premier said that they are operating government to government, and theyíre developing partnerships throughout the territory with First Nations. So?
We know what Kwanlin Dun had to say when it came to the Yukon forum. Iíve read one paragraph to the members opposite about how one First Nation feels, and maybe Iíll continue to read a couple more. Iíll read this paragraph over so that we can continue on. But perhaps Iíd like to read it for the ear of the Premier. So, given the time being close to 6:00 p.m., I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fairclough that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 61, entitled Co-operation in Governance Act, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.