Whitehorse , Yukon
Thursday, March 30, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Introduction of pages
Speaker: It gives me great pleasure to introduce the following students who will be serving the House as legislative pages for the 2006 spring sitting. They are Craig Beauchemin, Lawrence Brennan, Patrick Docherty, Erin Eady, Craig Flaherty, Ryan Gerard, Sophie Knezacek and Ryan MacKinnon from Vanier Catholic Secondary School.
Today with us are Patrick Docherty and Ryan MacKinnon. I would ask all members to welcome them to this House at this time.
Withdrawal of motions
Speaker: The Chair wishes to inform the House of changes that have been made to the Order Paper. The following motions have been removed from the Order Paper because they are outdated: Motions No. 199, 486, 581, 586, 588, 590 and 591, standing in the name of the leader of the official opposition; Motion No. 577, standing in the name of the leader of the third party; Motions No. 84, 87, 209, 321 and 429, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South; Motion No. 97, standing in the name of the Member for Mayo-Tatchun; Motions No. 547, 548, 549, 554 and 579, standing in the name of the Member for Klondike; Motions No. 499, 513, 582, 592 and 595, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane; Motion No. 177, standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin; Motions No. 219, 493 and 528, standing in the name of the Member for Mount Lorne; and Motions No. 331 and 351, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
Further, the following motions have been removed from the Order Paper because the actions requested in the motion have been fulfilled: Motion No. 552, standing in the name of the leader of the third party, and Motions No. 34 and 304, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Further, Motions for the Production of Papers No. 28 and No. 36, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane, have been removed from the Order Paper on the request of that member.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Epilepsy Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Cathers : I rise today in the House on behalf of the government caucus and all members of the Assembly to recognize the month of March as National Epilepsy Awareness Month. I recognize that this is the last day of the month but we must take advantage of every opportunity to increase awareness of this condition that affects more than 300,000 Canadians. Epilepsy is a physical disorder caused by sudden, brief changes in how the brain works. It affects people from all walks of life and is the second most common chronic neurological disorder affecting humankind, after chronic headache.
Every day, an average of 42 Canadians are told they have epilepsy. About 60 percent of these are young children and senior citizens.
Today members in the Assembly wear the lavender ribbons. By doing so, we hope to do our part in helping to educate the public about the myths and stigma around epilepsy. The biggest handicap for a person with epilepsy is the social stigma, because people do not understand the disorder. A recent study conducted by an Alberta neurologist shows that adolescents believe that epilepsy has greater physical and social impacts than most other chronic diseases. Among teens interviewed, epilepsy was perceived to have similar social impact to HIV infection. How little we understand; how much more work we have to do. Today we do our small part. Epilepsy Canada celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and we salute their efforts.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of National Learning Disabilities Month
Hon Mr. Cathers: I also rise in the House today on behalf of the government caucus to recognize National Learning Disabilities Month, which occurs in March every year.
We do so much education in the territory to open doors for people to lifelong learning, and of course we always need to look for the opportunity to do more. A learning disability may create a significant barrier to learning, particularly if that learning disability is not diagnosed. Learning disabilities can affect the way people see written words, and they can affect how we internalize information; however, people with learning disabilities are able to function very well in life. In fact one renowned person with a learning disability who went on to achieve great things was Albert Einstein.
National Learning Disabilities Month plays an important role in raising awareness about learning disabilities. If we are all aware of the spectrum of learning disabilities, then we are in a better position to help those who are afflicted. We must recognize that people with learning disabilities have a lot to offer in our communities. That understanding contributed to the decision by our government to create the workplace diversity office, which is in this building.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this time to thank the many people in the Yukon who work toward helping people with learning disabilities. In particular I would like to thank the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon for their hard work, as well as the Workplace Diversity Office.
I encourage everyone to visit the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon at their open house during Education Week on April 7, from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. There you can find out about the good work they do and find out more about learning disabilities.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to join with my colleagues in paying tribute to those organizations that work with learning disabilities. Three years ago the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon celebrated its 30th anniversary. Tutoring for children and adults with learning disabilities is a core program of the organization, which also supports parents and professionals with information and advice.
It was one of the first organizations dealing with the exceptional conditions, such as learning disabilities, to establish itself in the Yukon and support services such as Challenge and the Child Development Centre, which has sprouted from the beginning.
Despite an active presence through Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon, learning disabilities are not well understood by the general public. Lifelong dysfunctions of the central nervous system mean the processing of information is impaired in some persons with average or above-average intelligence. With stimulation and support, these people can make wonderful progress and can reach their full potential in academics and their personal life.
For success, individuals with learning disabilities require early identification of the condition, timely assessments and interventions. We are grateful for the commitment of the professionals in Yukon NGOs and in the schools to assist learning-disabled people to be accommodated in our society and for educating us about this condition.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to recognize Learning Disabilities Month. In so doing, I would like to recognize the struggle Yukoners with learning disabilities experience. I would like to especially recognize the organization whose mission is to enable persons with learning disabilities to reach their maximum potential. I'm speaking of the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon.
Learning disabilities are dysfunctions of the central nervous system in an individual of potentially average or above- average intelligence that impair the processing of information. The Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon, LDAY, has provided service to individuals with disabilities in the Yukon for over 30 years. Today is our opportunity in the Legislature to honour these individuals who struggle and to offer our respect to the Yukoners who volunteer to assist them. On behalf of the Liberal caucus, we express our thanks and our gratitude.
In recognition of Aboriginal Languages Day
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise in tribute to Aboriginal Languages Day. In 1989, the Assembly of First Nations resolved that First Nations set aside March 31 as National Aboriginal Languages Day. This recognition at the national level was an acknowledgement of the critical importance of language in the preservation of culture in Canada's many and diverse First Nations. The expression “We are our language” is reflective of the understanding that language is the expression of a culture's unique values and traditions. It contains the heart and essence of a culture. Understandably, the preservation and continuation of First Nation languages in the Yukon is considered of utmost importance to Yukon First Nations.
In Yukon, there are eight First Nation languages: Gwich'in, Han, Kaska, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Tagish, Tlingit, and Upper Tanana. The Government of Yukon recognized the value of these languages and supports the revitalization of them through school and community-based programming for language. Recently, a fluency assessment of the eight Yukon aboriginal languages clearly showed the critical state of Yukon languages but also showed hope for the future of these languages. Initiatives such as the First Voices pilot project are at the leading edge of revitalization efforts, bringing youth, elders and technology together to effect the transmission of language between generations. This simply means that, for a language to survive, young people need opportunities to hear and speak their language. Doing this in an environment of computer technology engages youth while at the same time provides a forum for fluent speakers, primarily elders, to talk to the young people.
At this time, I would like to acknowledge all the champions who work diligently to make the dream of daily language use a reality. Their task is daunting. Their commitment is remarkable.
Mrs. Peter: I rise on behalf of the official opposition and third party to pay tribute to the Yukon First Nation languages. Aboriginal Languages Day was established by the Assembly of First Nations to be celebrated on March 31.
Dii ginjik shiit gin nee da hii dii dee tii goonlii.
Mr. Speaker, I have just said, “When we speak our language, we are strong.” Those words were passed down to me from our Gwich'in elders. Because of them, our First Nation languages will survive. They are actively speaking the language of their ancestors in their daily lives and many of them are teaching it informally at gatherings and more formally in our schools.
Our elders tell us that we must speak our language every day to stay strong. That is our responsibility as parents and grandparents and as communities. We must encourage and support the use of our language, no matter how little we think it is - even if it is only one word a day.
In the Yukon, First Nation languages are part of the curriculum of our schools, thanks to the hard work of many people who have preserved the Athapaskan and Tlingit languages by developing dictionaries and curriculum. The Yukon Native Language Centre trains language instructors and has been an advocate of preservation and use of language for over 30 years. Recently, the Aboriginal People's Television Network held a national forum on preserving aboriginal languages. I attended this important event along with representatives from across the Yukon. I have personally attended Gwich'in language sessions at the Native Language Centre and was very impressed with the Vuntut Gwitchin students attending school in Whitehorse from Old Crow, who were in the last session. Many youth from our communities want to learn their languages and even want to make a career of seeing the language stay alive. With the involvement of youth such as them, we have much to look forward to in our future.
The message is clear, Mr. Speaker: First Nation languages are worth the effort of preservation and are here to stay.
Mahsi' cho. Günilschish.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hardy: In the Legislature today is a remarkable young man, Kevin Chief, who is doing some very remarkable things to reach and teach First Nation youth in his home province of Manitoba . He's the executive director of the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Association. This non-profit organization was started up in 2000 to help First Nation youth participate in recreational, cultural and educational opportunities. It works with the poorest of the poor and those who are most at risk yet has achieved great success in just a few short years. Today it employs 61 aboriginal recreation leaders in providing year-round programming to over 2,500 aboriginal young people. Amazingly, Mr. Speaker, Kevin and his people have been able to do this with a very small budget of about $800,000 a year.
Now, I really look forward to what Kevin has to say. Tonight he'll be speaking at the Yukon Arts Centre at 7:00 p.m. , and I hope to see many of the people in the Legislative Assembly there to listen to what he has to say. There's going to be a panel in regard to education. I'd also like to ask the Assembly to join me in welcoming Kevin Chief.
Mr. McRobb: I invite all members of the Assembly to join me in welcoming to the gallery Mary Easterson from Burwash Landing.
Mrs. Peter: I'd like all members of the Assembly to please help me make welcome the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin, Joe Linklater.
Mr. Mitchell: I'd like all members to join me in welcoming Ms. Sandra Henderson, the president of the Yukon Teachers Association and a pioneer in French immersion language in the Yukon .
Mr. Rouble: I ask that all members join me in welcoming Thelma and Stirling Young, lifelong Yukoners, to the Assembly today.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon on the by-election in the Electoral District of Copperbelt on November 21, 2005 .
Are there any other documents for tabling?
reports of committees
Mr. Hardy: I have for presentation the third report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. This report is based on public hearings held in February of 2005. It was released to members of the assembly and the public in January of 2006.
As this is the last report that our committee will be tabling, I would personally like to thank all members who contributed over the last three and a half years. I think that they have done a stellar job and I have really enjoyed working with them. It also shows that when we treat each other with respect and trust, good public work can happen.
Speaker: Are there any further reports of committees for tabling?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 20: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 20, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 20, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 20 agreed to
Bill No. 18: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 18, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 18, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 18 agreed to
Bill No. 19: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 19, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 19, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2005-06, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 19 agreed to
Bill No. 66: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move that Bill No. 66, entitled Act to Amend the Securities Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 66, entitled Act to Amend the Securities Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 66 agreed to
Bill No. 69: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that Bill No. 69, entitled Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 69, entitled Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 69 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House supports the efforts of the NDP Member of Parliament for the western Arctic to have the official motto of Canada changed to read, “from sea to sea to sea” in recognition of the importance of Canada's north to our nation's social, economic and environmental fabric, and to the protection of our national sovereignty; and
THAT this House further acknowledges the role played by former Yukon Member of Parliament, Audrey McLaughlin, who raised Canadian consciousness of the north's unique contribution by introducing the phrase “from sea to sea to sea” to the national dialogue.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Canadians have grown increasingly alienated from the political process as a result of repeated violations of their trust by elected officials at all levels;
(2) it is the fundamental right of all Yukon electors to choose both the MLA and the political party they wish to represent their interests in the Legislative Assembly;
(3) an MLA who changes his or her political affiliation between elections has a moral obligation to seek a clear mandate at the polls from the electors of his or her constituency; and
(4) leaders of recognized political parties do a disservice to electors and to the integrity of the political process by allowing or encouraging MLAs to change political affiliations without first securing a mandate from the electors in their constituencies; and
THAT this House shall immediately develop and adopt a Code of Conduct for members and ministers that includes a provision requiring any member who leaves a political caucus, or who leaves a political party under whose banner he or she was elected at the previous general election or by-election, to sit as an independent member until the next general election, or to resign his or her seat and seek a new mandate in a by-election at the earliest possible opportunity.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) an increasing number of aging seniors and elders across the Yukon need care facilities and programs;
(2) seniors and elders reside in all Yukon communities and most desire to remain in their home communities for as long as possible;
(3) recent construction of seniors facilities has focused on two of the largest communities outside of Whitehorse ;
(4) the Yukon government has failed to meet its commitments to seniors in Haines Junction and Teslin; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to plan and implement a broad range of facility and program support for seniors and elders that is community-based across the Yukon .
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) more than two and one-half years have passed and many resources have been spent since this government started a process to revise the Children's Act;
(2) First Nation governments entered the revision project in an act of faith that they would be heard and understood;
(3) now, at the 11th hour, the Council of Yukon First Nations Chiefs Committee on Health has withdrawn its support for the revision;
(4) important new legislation is once again in question due to actions of this government; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to show respect and a cooperative approach toward the Yukon First Nation governments by immediately opening negotiations with all First Nations to continue revising the Children's Act so that legislation that meets the needs of all Yukon people, especially children, who are the most vulnerable members of our society, can be brought forward without further unnecessary delay.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) childcare is a very important service to families across Canada ;
(2) after long negotiations, agreements were reached between the former Government of Canada and a number of Canadian provinces;
(3) while agreements were not finalized with the three northern territories , funding was set aside in trust for that purpose;
(4) under the new federal government, those agreements now appear to be in jeopardy; and
THAT this House urges the federal Conservative government to honour the childcare agreements made with the provinces and begin immediately to negotiate similar agreements with the northern territories that would be over and above any direct childcare subsidy to parents.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to support the dogs for drug-free schools initiative.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Community Services to have the Auditor General of Canada, upon completion of construction, investigate how the Yukon Party government turned the athletes village from a $3-million project into a $33-million project.
And, Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to live up to a commitment to address identified pension plan shortfalls within the Yukon College and Yukon Hospital Corporation pension funds.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) childcare facilities in the Yukon are essential services for Yukon families;
(2) both profit and non-profit childcare centres in the Yukon are dependent on a direct operating grant from the Yukon government;
(3) the direct operating grant is not guaranteed and can be changed at the will of government;
(4) the present federal government is proposing a taxable grant to parents to subsidize childcare; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to retain the direct operating grant at least at its present level without regard to any direct funding to parents that may come from the federal government.
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to show respect for the Yukon Legislative Assembly by refraining from making budget announcements outside of the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Premier to focus on sustainable community economic development initiatives and not just megaprojects.
Mr. Speaker, I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to develop a plan for economic development that goes beyond spending other people's money.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes and endorses the efforts of the citizens of Dawson City to hold a symbolic municipal election as a way of bringing to the attention of all Yukon people and other Canadians the importance they place on the basic human right of self-determination and respect for the democratic process, which has been denied to them by the Government of Yukon for almost two years.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Canadian military personnel should not have their lives needlessly endangered by being deployed in a combat role in foreign military actions related to the U.S. government's so-called “war on terror” without clear evidence of a threat to Canadian security and without full, open debate and a free vote in the House of Commons endorsing such deployment.
Mr. Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Community Services to make available to the public the options the Government of Yukon is considering for restoring democracy to Dawson City .
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to move forward with an adequately funded alcohol and substance abuse program.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Premier to use the Co-operation in Governance Act as a model for consultations with First Nations instead of the divide-and-conquer approach that is being used to review the Children's Act.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to approve the new municipal potable water regulations and ensure that they come into effect by April 20, 2006 .
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to approve the new waste water regulations and ensure that they come into effect by April 20, 2006 .
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
That then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Children's Act review
Mrs. Peter: The review process for the Children's Act has struggled from its inception over two and a half years ago. From the beginning, First Nations objected to the structure proposed by the Yukon government and two nominations to the team failed. Months ago, the government co-chair resigned and has not been replaced.
The Children's Act is an act that every family and every child in the Yukon is intensely involved with. Will the Minister of Health and Social Services explain why this government has allowed a vitally important act revision to flounder over the years without acting on the concerns of First Nations from the beginning?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: First, I would like to point out that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin's assertion that this act review has floundered and not produced a product is absolutely incorrect. A considerable amount of work has been done in this very important area.
This is children we're talking about; there's nothing more fundamentally important to people than the safety of their children, and I would suggest there's nothing that most of us find more important than ensuring that children who are in an abusive family are given the proper protection, as need be.
A significant amount of work has been done in cooperation - our government working with First Nations in this regard. We are committed to moving forward. The policy work that has been done to this date is commendable, and I commend them for those efforts.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, we are now faced with yet another crisis in this ongoing saga. This minister's representatives presented a major policy paper that was written without consultations with First Nations. The Chiefs Committee on Health and their officials have withdrawn from the process, because this minister acted against an agreement to work together that had been reached only one week before. This unilateral approach by the Yukon government may have derailed the whole revision process permanently. At the very least, it has left Yukon children and parents with no idea what might happen next. But the minister has been silent.
Will the minister explain what was in that paper that was presented and then tell us if the review process still has any validity now that the First Nations have withdrawn?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin aware that the Department of Health and Social Services officials and representatives did not present legislation, draft legislation or a detailed draft policy proposal in any way, shape or form. It was not draft policy. If the representatives of Council of Yukon First Nations had waited to actually look at the paper, they would have seen that the paper presented was simply a very general discussion document. Quite frankly, we expected that Council of Yukon First Nations representatives would present a similar thing outlining the broad vision that they perceived as to how we should move forward. The agreement that was reached by me and the Premier with the Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief and the chiefs committee was to work together. They have chosen to withdraw from this process. We find that unfortunate. We hope they reconsider that decision. Regardless of that, we are committed to moving forward and to working with any First Nations that wish to work with us in this regard to jointly come up with a policy, jointly draft the policy, move forward with a policy forum, and then finally to jointly advise the legal drafters.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: The Premier has taken the position that none of this matters. He is ready to go ahead with whoever will listen to him. This is just one more shocking example of the take-it-or-leave-it attitude of this government. It is apparent that the welfare of our families and of our children is not of concern to this government. Apparently it will be up to the next government to clean up the mess the Premier has created.
Does the minister agree with his Premier that the withdrawal of the CYFN committee means nothing and it is okay to proceed with amending this critical act without any endorsement from First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I wish to reiterate to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that we are committed to working with any and all First Nations that wish to work with us in this process. We certainly hope that there is the full involvement of Yukon First Nations across this territory. In a partnership, when two partners come to the table and one chooses to withdraw, that is fully their right to do so. We certainly find it unfortunate. We had reached an agreement with CYFN that we believed would ensure the completion of this - working together and ensuring that any disputes that could not be resolved at the officials level would immediately be raised at the leadership level for joint discussion. CYFN - the Grand Chief and chiefs committee did choose to announce their withdrawal. We certainly hope they reconsider their decision. The table is still open and we invite those who wish to attend.
Question re: Dawson City financial situation
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, we learned this morning - and the people of Dawson learned this morning on the radio - that the Minister of Community Services has finally appointed a new trustee to run the affairs of Dawson City . I am sure that the Dawson citizens' hearts are warmed by that and that municipal employees and local suppliers will at least be getting paid without undue delay. I have one simple question for the minister: why does the minister keep delaying critical decisions until the very last minute and leaving the citizens of Dawson in limbo while he drags his feet?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am glad that he advised that we have notified the general public of the change in trustee for the City of Dawson . It took us a little while to find a candidate to replace the previous trustee; however, I am very happy to say that the new trustee is on board. We have a good transition with the previous trustee, and we look forward to a solution for Dawson very shortly.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister didn't answer the question. We've heard the minister's excuses over and over again about waiting to get Dawson 's tangled financial situation straightened out. Just this week, I finally received from the minister the auditor's report for 2005 on Dawson 's finances. To no one's surprise, the auditors hedged their bets again. Basically, they had questions about the previous year's closing balance. The problem is that this minister is the one who is responsible for both those years -2004 and 2005. He is the one who appointed a trustee, and he is responsible for the financial statements. So will the minister acknowledge that the current problems with Dawson City 's finances are a direct responsibility of his government, not the previous municipal council that he fired in 2004?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would advise the member opposite that we're in a position to rectify the situation in Dawson City , and that's what we have been doing over the past period of time. That is why we've gone through the processes that we have, to stave off the financial difficulties that the city has been having, and we're doing our best to ensure that the citizens of Dawson have the municipal services required, and they are achieved within the value that they receive.
Mr. Cardiff: Again, the minister didn't answer the question. What we hear continually is delay, delay, delay and excuses, excuses, excuses. That's all we hear from this minister.
The people of Dawson are so frustrated by this minister's foot-dragging that they are staging a symbolic municipal election this coming month. If the minister finally gets around to giving them back their democratic rights, will the new council have the financial means to run the town properly?
Let me ask the minister this: when is this government going to accept its responsibility and provide the financial relief package that Dawson so desperately needs so they can get back to governing themselves?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working on that exact situation on the government side. We are looking to come up with a financial solution that will achieve that and that will enable citizens of Dawson to come forth with their municipal right to elect a new council and operate as a municipality. That's exactly what we are doing. As I indicated earlier, we anticipate doing that shortly.
Question re: Children's Act review
Mr. McRobb: Last week, the Council of Yukon First Nations announced the collapse of the partnership of the Children's Act review. The Grand Chief said that the working group of chiefs and staff had withdrawn because the Yukon government failed to treat them as equal partners by drafting legislation on its own. The Premier denied the Grand Chief's statements, calling them patently false.
This is all about the future of our children, and most of the children in care are First Nation children. Why is the Premier taking such a confrontational approach to the Children's Act review?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would like to correct the record and make the Member for Kluane aware of the fact that this government has made every effort and will continue to make every effort to work collaboratively, to work directly with First Nations and with Council of Yukon First Nations as an organization and the representatives of the member governments. We are certainly very committed to working on this area. Again I reiterate that we are committed to moving forward on the Children's Act review with those who wish to participate. We will cooperate with any First Nation that wishes to participate, and we will move forward to a policy forum and then jointly inform the legal drafters together and in cooperation.
Mr. McRobb: Right, and this government's approach is, “Our way or the highway”.
Mr. Speaker, a former First Nation co-chair of the Children's Act review team recently had some very harsh words for the Premier about his unilateral approach to working with First Nations. She described it as a divide-and-conquer strategy that would hurt First Nations. This is a long way from the Premier's platform promise of “Together we will do better”.
It's all about trust and respect when you're dealing with First Nations. They committed fully to the process and in good faith; however, this Yukon Party government has, as the Grand Chief said, run the project off the rails.
Why is the Premier using this divide-and-conquer strategy on Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again, I'd like to correct the record and make the Member for Kluane and all members aware of the fact that our government is committed to working collaboratively and cooperatively with First Nations. The CYFN representatives at the table chose to withdraw. That was their decision to do so. Their leadership then made a decision to announce that they were pulling out of the process.
We certainly urged them to reconsider that decision and, again, we make them aware that the document - which we have provided to them since their decision to withdraw from the table - is indeed a very general discussion. Certainly in no way, shape or form are we dictating policy or in any way not fully honouring the agreements we have made with the leadership.
Mr. McRobb: This sounds like a government in denial. This is another example of the Yukon Party's failure at public consultation and in working in partnership with Yukon First Nations. Just like his relationship with his Minister of Education, the Premier's relationship with Yukon First Nations is in tatters.
The Yukon Party doesn't have the ability to regain the trust of First Nations. This is another case where the government will have to pick up the pieces - the next government, that is.
What is this government's intention with respect to amending the Children's Act? Specifically, will the bill be brought before this House during this sitting?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: That is a little bit of a surprising question. The Member for Kluane should be aware from his experience as House leader that our Standing Orders make it very clear that all bills must be tabled within the first five days of the session. We have not even begun drafting the revisions to the Children's Act because of our commitment to working with First Nations, first on developing the policy and then on jointly advising and informing the legal drafters. So we are a long way from having an act ready that could even be considered being tabled this session. Again I stress that we are committed to working with First Nations. We hope that CYFN will reconsider its decision and rejoin. Failing that, we are committed to working with any First Nations that wish to come to the table; we are committed to working and jointly discussing the policy. The Yukon government will and must proceed forward. We have an obligation to all Yukon citizens and to the public to make revisions to an act when revisions need to be made. Clearly, we recognize that revisions need to be made to the Children's Act in the interest of all Yukon citizens.
Question re: Government taking credit
Mr. Mitchell: I attended a luncheon two weeks ago where the Premier gave a speech and took credit for pretty much everything under the sun. He is single-handedly responsible for the fact that Canada is experiencing low interest rates and the increase in housing prices right across all of western Canada . He also took credit for record high mineral prices that have caused a huge upswing in mining exploration across Canada and around the world. He wasn't finished. He took credit that the former federal Liberal government has increased transfer payments to the Yukon by more than $200 million a year over the past four years.
When the Premier was finished telling this amazing story, a member of the audience stood up and said, “You know, all these things would have happened regardless of who was in government.” This drew a great laugh from everyone in attendance except the Premier. He saw his main election theme get thrown out the window. Why does this Premier insist on trying to take credit for things that have nothing to do with him or his government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First off, let me correct the member opposite in his assertion. The government is not taking all the credit, not whatsoever. However, I have heard the members opposite, at least in the Liberal benches time and time again, make mention that our MP is to be credited for all this financial wealth that the Yukon has suddenly come upon. Let me point out, Mr. Speaker, I didn't see the MP walk out on the Prime Minister along with our sister territories some three years ago. I didn't see the MP or the members opposite table the business case and the fiscal imbalance that the north was facing when it comes to the fair sharing of the nation's wealth that all other jurisdictions have access to. I didn't see our MP at the Council of the Federation gaining support from all provinces for a northern economic development initiative for this territory with the federal government. I didn't see the members opposite or the Liberals address the issues of health care in this territory until this government stood up and demanded that our citizens be treated to the same standard as other Canadians are being treated when it comes to accessing health care. Mr. Speaker, I think there is a serious problem here in that the members opposite have no understanding of what really took place.
Mr. Mitchell: No, our MP wasn't walking out on the Prime Minister. He was busy working with the Prime Minister to help bring more needed funds to Yukon at the time.
As I said, this question from the floor of the Chamber of Commerce really got a good laugh from the assembled guests. It really popped the Premier's balloon. The Yukon Party government has been running around desperately trying to take credit for an improved economy. They want people to believe that higher home values and an increase in the price of gold and copper and the Government of Canada sending more money here are somehow related to the Yukon Party being in office. People at the luncheon were not fooled; in fact they were laughing at the Premier and these outrageous claims.
Since the Yukon Party came to office three and a half long years ago, we are more dependent than ever on Ottawa to keep our territory afloat. Why is the Premier's sole economic development plan simply asking for more money from Ottawa ?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think the laughing is being directed at the members opposite, especially the Liberals. Let's face facts. When the former Liberal Party was in government, activity in the mining sector and in other resource sectors was increasing all around us, but not in the Yukon . The members opposite were busy bankrupting the territory so that we were in an overdraft position just to deliver programs and services, busy stumbling around with the Yukon protected areas strategy, driving investment in the resource sector out of this territory, busy reducing the unemployment rate by ensuring Yukoners moved out of the territory to find work elsewhere. All that is turned around today, Mr. Speaker. Our population is growing. Our financial situation is in good health. That's what the Auditor General has confirmed. Mr. Speaker, our resource sector is rebounding - under the Liberals' watch, a meagre $5 million in exploration. Projections for this coming season are as high as $100 million. We do not take all the credit; we simply are creating the environment in this territory for those things to happen.
Mr. Mitchell: Well, Mr. Speaker, if we're going to refer to facts, the fact is that according to the public accounts, at the end of the 2002-03 year, shortly after this government came into office, there was $70 million in funds in the Yukon . We weren't bankrupt. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party can't run on a record of providing good government; they can't run on ethics and integrity; they can't run a strong environmental record or a good relationship with First Nations. What's left? Let's run on the economy and try to take credit for a bunch of things that really have nothing to do with them. Higher mineral explorations - it has tripled across Canada in the last four years. Higher housing prices - that's happening all across Canada . It was 20 percent across the country this past year. More money from Ottawa is happening all across the country, thanks to the previous Liberal government. When is this Premier going to stop taking credit for things he has nothing to do with?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can't stop taking credit for things I have nothing to do with, because I'm not taking credit for such things. But let's give some credit where credit is due. Under the Liberals' watch, we were getting qualified audits. Under the Liberals' watch, we weren't providing full disclosure of the fiscal situation of this territory. Under the Liberals' watch, they created all kinds of wonderful funds. We call it the “squirrel midden” budget - stashing money all over the place, with none of it finding its way into the hands or pockets of Yukoners.
We dissolved all those funds, increasing the financial position of the territory, but the member opposite, if he intends on taking on the financial management of the Yukon, had better understand cash in the bank versus accumulated surplus deficit numbers on a balance sheet - a big difference.
Question re: Dawson City financial sitation
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. In Dawson City on the evening of October 3, 2001 , at a meeting in the Downtown Hotel on the Dawson recreation complex, the now Deputy Minister of Community Services made the following statement: “We need to teach the City of Dawson a lesson.”
Well, Mr. Speaker, it has been some lesson for Dawson City . The minister has been made aware of that statement and, under his guidance for two years, what has transpired in Dawson is that the trustee has been instructed to liquidate assets, pay down the debt and not continue with funding any of the infrastructure.
Is the minister now satisfied that Dawson has been taught a lesson, and can we now move forward?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will just say that we are working toward assisting Dawson City to the betterment of all its citizens.
Mr. Jenkins: The City of Dawson did not get into the financial quagmire alone; it did so with the assistance and complicity of the Yukon government. Will the minister confirm and accept his role in Community Services in the financial failure of Dawson City ? Dawson could not have spent the money they spent had not the Yukon government provided it to them beyond the terms in the Municipal Act.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Obviously the expenditures took place before we took office. As such, they weren't under my purview. However, I will state, and I have stated in the House, that anything that has happened under my watch, I am more than willing to take responsibility for. This government is in there trying to clean up the situation for Dawson City . We are trying to do that. It is taking a lot longer. There have been many unusual circumstances in the City of Dawson 's financing, in bookkeeping and other aspects related to its financial capabilities. We are trying to do that. It took a lot longer to get that process underway. We did a forensic audit. The forensic audit identified several unusual circumstances of the City of Dawson 's finances.
I am doing what I can from this government's side to clean up the mess that was previously there - that developed over years, I might add, getting into the situation it was at. Now that we are in the possession of the financial statements, hopefully we can go forward and present something to the citizens of Dawson for their betterment.
Mr. Jenkins: In Dawson , some $22 million was spent. $1.2 million to $1.4 million of that money can be directly attributable to the previous elected mayor, his council and administration. But Community Services has set out to teach Dawson a lesson. At the same time, they are covering their involvement and advancing non-viable solutions to the financial quagmire Dawson is in. They are offering financial solutions based on naive assumptions.
When will the minister provide the political direction to restore Dawson to a financially viable municipal status, or do the citizens of Dawson have to wait until the next government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think it is important that we inform the Member for Klondike that it is not a productive thing to make assertions based on idle conversation about what someone may or may not have done. I think, given the choices this government has made, we are at the point where we can actually and effectively bring forward a financial plan for the City of Dawson . There is no question that up to the time the minister responsible appointed a trustee - when we took over the affairs of Dawson City - Dawson City was in a very difficult financial position - in fact, financial demise. I agree wholeheartedly with the Member for Klondike that past governments of this territory - both NDP and Liberal - contributed to the financial demise of Dawson City .
A forensic audit has shown clearly where many of the problems are. Before the Member for Klondike starts to make those assertions, he might want to wait for the RCMP investigation to conclude. Let me remind the member opposite that much of where we are at today was the direct result of his involvement as a member of Cabinet when we made the many decisions we had to with respect to Dawson City .
Question re: Government promises
Mr. Hardy: We are heading into the final weeks or months of this government that had promised a whole new way of doing things. The Premier gave his solemn word that we would see consensus building, consultation, collaboration and compromise. I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, the only compromise we see is the number of people, including other governments, who are feeling totally compromised by this government. The people of Dawson certainly feel very compromised by the way this government has treated them over the last few years. This government has to accept responsibility for that.
Government workers who thought this government might treat them with more respect than the last one certainly felt compromised when the first action this government took was to accuse them - all of them - in the computer use investigation. Contractors shut out by politically motivated, sole-source contracting certainly feel compromised.
Will the Premier finally put his cards on the table, and tell us why his government has consistently failed to honour his promise of respectful, collaborative government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the cards are on the table and have been since day one of this government taking office. We have worked collaboratively with First Nations, with municipalities, with Yukoners, with the public service, and the list of evidence that speaks to that is a long one. We have, in terms of our neighbouring governments, worked very collaboratively with great success. That is why the financial position of this territory has improved dramatically. We have gained the support not only of our sister territories but also the provinces. Let's look at some of the results in collaborating with First Nations: the Yukon forum, Cooperation in Governance Act, a joint position on the northern strategy implementation framework, a joint position on the northern economic development fund. The Children's Act review is, to the greatest degree, complete by the input of First Nation as partners with the government. Mr. Speaker, education reform, correction reform, fundamental changes in Yukon 's social fabric - the list goes on and on. It's far too long to relay it all here today, Mr. Speaker, but the member knows full well his assertions are incorrect, and therein lies the problem for the opposition. They cannot seem to get it.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I guess, Mr. Speaker, if we don't see it the Premier's way, we don't have a clue what's happening. That is the way he has treated the people of the Yukon to date. We've heard the Premier's mantra many times. No doubt, we're going to hear his high-blown claims all over again when he delivers his budget speech in a few minutes, Mr. Speaker. The trouble is, words don't cut it. Because that's all they are: there is nothing complete, just a bunch of words. Now, when it comes to deeds, this government's record is appalling. I can't even count the number of consultation initiatives that have fallen apart because of this government's unilateral actions and confrontational attitudes - the exact opposite of what the Premier promised in 2002.
As the Premier heads for the door, what specific actions will he be taking to regain the confidence of the other levels of government who feel that they have been cast aside and ignored by this Premier and his ministers?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There is no need to take any action with respect to what the member opposite is alluding to. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, the official opposition, the third party, and now the independent members in this House, have all witnessed the turnaround of this territory. The member opposite has mentioned tangible evidence. Well, let's talk about the growing population; let's talk about record low unemployment figures; let's talk about the hundreds more stimuli in the Yukon economy. Let's talk about the increased investments in education and health care, strengthening our social fabric. Let's talk about the turnaround in the resource sector. Let's talk about how financial institutions in today's Yukon are starting to release more and more risk capital. Let's talk about the growth of our small business community. Let's talk about the increases in tourism. That's all factual evidence, Mr. Speaker.
Let's talk about the development of our film and sound industry under this government's initiatives. That's happening; it's growing. Let's talk about our cultural industries. That is happening, and they are growing. The arts community is growing. The IT sector is growing, Mr. Speaker. These are all facts. If only I had the time to list them all, we would be here a long time.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, he didn't answer the question. He went on the same old diversion trick - don't look here, look over here. He insists his relationships with other governments are wonderful, and we don't have to deal with that. Yet, those other governments say the relationship is terrible. They are out there in the public saying that.
The City of Whitehorse is angry over payments for the Canada Winter Games. It's angry that it got blind-sided on the college endowment lands, and was left holding the bag over the Yukon government's flawed consultations on land development.
First Nations are angry because this government won't honour its legal obligations to consult with them in a meaningful way. That would make a huge difference. The Children's Act review is just the latest of many, many examples. He wants to talk about the economy, which we are going to talk in length about. A simple question about the economy he will have to answer is: where did the money come from? His pocket? No.
Will the Premier finally acknowledge that other governments have legitimate concerns about the way this government has treated them, and will he commit to adopting a more constructive approach in future, instead of simply dismissing the concerns of anyone who doesn't agree with his version of reality?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It's highly unlikely there are versions of reality. Reality is fairly consistent and constant. But there are many versions from the members opposite of today's Yukon - all of them are incorrect and fly in the face of what's happening in this territory.
We came into office at the behest of the Yukon electorate to change the direction the territory was going in. We have done that. We are building on those accomplishments and will continue to do that.
We've done it. We've done it by being a government that will collaborate with any other order of government in the territory and outside our borders. We've done it by compromise; we've done it by consensus building; we've done it with a vision and a plan sorely lacking from the members opposite, as they continue with empty criticism.
Mr. Speaker, we've brought forward solutions for the challenges of this territory and more that it faces. The members opposite have not expressed one solution, only criticism of what is happening in today's Yukon . That's the reality.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 20: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 20, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 20, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 20, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: By the way, Mr. Speaker, it's great to be back, once again - looking forward to this sitting.
Mr. Speaker, honourable members, today it is my honour and privilege to table our fourth budget in this House, a surplus budget that lays the foundation for forecasting balanced budgets in the foreseeable future beyond our current mandate.
The Government of Yukon's capital and operation and maintenance budget for 2006-07 is $793 million, the largest budget to date in Yukon 's history, comparing main estimates to main estimates. The operation and maintenance budget totals $601.3 million, of which $59.8 million is recoverable. The capital budget totals $191.7 million, of which $81.2 million is recoverable.
Mr. Speaker, in 2002, our commitment to Yukoners was to provide the territory with sound fiscal management and to utilize government budgets to create a sustainable, competitive, private sector economy. We have met that commitment. Our first budget in 2003-04 was a restraint budget designed to put the Yukon government's fiscal house in order. At the time that our government took office, the Yukon government was paying overdraft payments just to meet, for example, its payroll. The territory certainly has come a long way financially since that time. We have utilized our successive budgets, starting with our 2004-05 budget, to inject a further $200 million to $300 million in increased investments annually into the economy to add stimulus.
We have utilized our budgets to create more stimuli, more investment in capital, more investment in program and service delivery for all Yukoners. The 2006-07 budget will allow us to continue to invest in capital projects across the territory and to promote the development of the private sector economy. The 2006-07 budget is our second surplus budget and once again raises the bar, comparing main estimates to main estimates. We are also forecasting, Mr. Speaker, balanced budgets for the next four years. These, Mr. Speaker, are realistic forecasts.
Our government has reached a financial threshold of balanced budgets to which previous Yukon governments could only aspire.
Further, the Auditor General of Canada was recently in Whitehorse and gave the Yukon government one of the best financial report cards on accountability of any jurisdiction in Canada. The Auditor General has applauded the accounting practices of the Government of Yukon as being fully transparent and reflective of current Public Sector Accounting Board standards. For the third year in a row, our government has received an unqualified financial bill of health. This means the Auditor General's office believes that our financial statements, as presented, fairly represent the government's financial position on a full accrual basis and that appropriate financial controls are in place.
We give full credit for this success to our professional accounting and budget staff in the Department of Finance for the exemplary job in preparing the report and ensuring that the budgetary controls are in place and are being followed. The fact is, the previous Liberal government made significant changes to the design of the territorial funding formula. It began in 1995 with a five-percent cut to the base transfer for this territory. Subsequent to that, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut made a stand in Ottawa to ensure that our federal government recognized the inadequacies and the imbalance between us and our federal government.
In 2004-05, the territorial formula financing grant for the three territories was then set at a floor of $1.9 billion. In 2005-06, the territorial formula financing grant was fixed at $2 billion, an increase through our efforts at the Council of the Federation of 5.3 percent over the 2004-05 amount, closing the adequacy gap. After 2005-06, however, the total territorial funding financing is to be escalated at a rate of 3.5 percent per year, with a review of the adequacy escalator after five years. Mr. Speaker, a federal expert panel on equalization and territorial formula financing has been established to provide recommendations on the allocation of the fixed amounts. Many of these results that we have achieved are the direct effort of collaborative relationships with all jurisdictions in Canada. Our Department of Finance prepared a submission to this expert panel as well as to the provincial panels on fiscal imbalance. The rest of the country knows about the fiscal imbalance, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, the members opposite have missed that.
The needs of each territory were clearly articulated in the joint submissions. Mr. Speaker, I have personally asked Prime Minister Harper to consider these recommendations very early in their mandate so that we can prudently plan the Government of Yukon's long-term fiscal future. The current “new TFF framework” as established by the previous federal government does not adequately address our long-term fiscal requirements. We believe that the federal expert panel on equalization and territorial formula financing fully understands the major shortcomings of the new TFF framework and will be making recommendations to address these deficiencies.
Now, let us talk about partnerships and government-to-government relationships. Mr. Speaker, in 2002, our election platform committed our government to “formalizing government-to-government relationships with Yukon First Nations based on mutual respect, consultation, cooperation, and benefit for the better operation of all governments in the territory with the objective of reducing barriers and providing more cost-effective services to all Yukon citizens.” This is based on the fundamental principle of understanding and respect for each other's jurisdiction. That is what we said we would do and that is exactly what we have done.
On January 21, 2005, our government and the Council of Yukon First Nations signed the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in governance in the Yukon and created the Yukon forum.
On October 27, 2005, the Co-operation in Governance Act establishing the Yukon forum in law was tabled in the Yukon Legislative Assembly and was ultimately passed. The Yukon forum provides a mechanism to establish cooperation in governance that has helped achieve more effective services and program delivery by both orders of government to benefit all Yukoners.
On April 28, 2005, agreement was reached with First Nations on the Yukon chapter of the northern strategy through the Yukon forum. On October 21, 2005, agreement was reached on the northern economic development fund. The Yukon forum has already more than proved its utility and can be utilized in the future to address such major joint initiatives as the Children's Act review, the corrections consultation and education reform.
Another Yukon forum is scheduled for April 3, 2006, to discuss the northern strategy implementation plan and the northern economic development tripartite investment plan and corrections consultation.
Another 2002 election commitment to First Nations was to make them full partners in the economic development of the territory. Our government has delivered on that commitment as well. Some examples of these economic partnerships include: the north Yukon economic partnership agreement with the Vuntut Gwitchin, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the Na Cho Nyäk Dun First Nations; partnerships established with the Kaska and Selkirk First Nations on the Faro mine closure planning; and the agreement with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations for a pilot project designed to recruit and place Yukon workers in the oil and gas industry.
The list of examples could go on and on.
Another 2002 election commitment was to complete land claims. Since making that commitment, the Kluane First Nation, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation have all signed and ratified their land claim agreements.
Today's Yukon is very experienced in terms of the process, and 11 of 14 Yukon First Nations have now settled their land claims and have signed on to their self-government agreements.
Our government will be lobbying the new Conservative government to re-establish the federal comprehensive land claims mandate that was cancelled by the previous federal Liberal government so that the White River First Nation, the Ross River Dena Council and the Liard First Nation can all conclude their settlements.
Our government is willing to act as the facilitator or mediator with the Government of Canada and these three Yukon First Nations, in order to conclude the unsettled business of completing land claims in this territory.
Unlike the two previous Yukon governments, we have adopted a pan-northern collaborative approach with our two sister territories in our dealings with Ottawa, and that collaboration has resulted in millions of dollars flowing into the respective territorial treasuries, as it should.
We have also developed close relationships with the State of Alaska, the Province of Alberta and the Province of British Columbia. Projects such as the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, the Alaska-Canada rail link project and the port access study can only serve to benefit from this close collaboration.
Perhaps our greatest collaborative challenge will be making the 2007 Canada Winter Games a resounding success. We are confident, however, that together with our other two partners in this major undertaking - the City of Whitehorse and the host society - Yukon will be up to the task and up to meeting the challenge. The multiplex is in place and is receiving rave reviews and the residences at Yukon College for the athletes village are being constructed on time and on budget.
The Northwest Territories and Nunavut have joined Yukon in making the 2007 Canada Winter Games a pan-northern cultural event that will showcase the entire north to our fellow Canadians. The Yukon and the entire north are coming of age, largely because we are speaking with one voice to our fellow Canadians in the south.
Because of this, more and more Canadians are looking north and envisioning a Canada that extends from sea to sea to sea.
Mr. Speaker, a main plank of this government was building a sustainable, competitive economy. To that end, our government has been working hard to revitalize, diversify and expand Yukon's economy. The hard work is paying off. Hundreds more Yukoners are working now than were in 2002 when we first took office. The Yukon has consistently achieved historic low unemployment rates - as low as 4.3 percent - well below the national average. These historic low rates have been achieved with an increasing population as more people move to this fabulous territory.
More tourists are visiting the Yukon. Mining exploration has increased to $50 million for 2005, and projections for the coming year range as high as $100 million. Average house prices have been consistently increasing. These are some of the signs of an economic recovery and clearly show that the Yukon economy is now headed in the right direction.
When it comes to economic development, the department's strategic focus under the leadership of the minister responsible is to promote and support businesses such as primary and value-added industries that capture external dollars and to encourage the growth of secondary industries. In order to meet its objectives, the department currently administers five investment programs, totalling $6.6 million. The two largest investments will be $3.3 million for the community development fund and $1.45 million for strategic industries development.
The department has undertaken a series of strategic planning exercises that will help build a prosperous Yukon economy by creating and fostering development opportunities. Economic Development has conducted a planning exercise entitled “Pathways to Prosperity”, which is a strategic visioning document to be finalized and used by governments, businesses and investors as a guiding and visioning tool.
The draft document points out that global forces are now shaping future opportunities for Yukon in the 21st century, just as the world famous Klondike Gold Rush shaped the Yukon in the 19th century, and the construction of the Alaska Highway shaped the Yukon in the 20th century.
Global trends in population and economic growth and an increase in purchasing power are creating heightened demand for natural resources and interest in expanding tourism destinations. As a consequence of these trends, the Yukon economy is anticipated to grow and prosper because of its abundance of natural resources, its scenic environment, its strategic location and most importantly its people.
Mining activity is projected to drive the economic growth over the next 10 years, with a focus on gold, silver, zinc, lead, copper, molybdenum and tungsten. Oil and gas exploration and development are anticipated in the medium term, with pipeline construction providing the catalyst for several projects. The “Pathways to Prosperity” document notes that with additional investment and marketing efforts, tourism and the film and sound industry present distinct growth opportunities.
Two other strategic industries are also underway: the rail feasibility study and the port access study. The rail feasibility study is examining the economic realities of a rail link connecting the Alaska railroad through the Yukon to northern British Columbia. The study has two stages: a marketing and engineering feasibility assessment and a financial feasibility and public interest analysis, with the full study to be completed by the summer of 2006.
The economic potential for the Yukon is enormous. A railway would benefit natural resource development, improve access to southern markets for Yukon products and ease congestion on the North American transportation network.
Mr. Speaker, the State of Alaska has agreed to pay $1.15 million of the $1.7-million cost included in the 2006-07 budget for completion of the study and we thank our Alaskan partners for their investment. We commend the state for the generosity in other areas such as the Shakwak project. It speaks volumes to this collaborative approach our government has taken.
The $400,000 port access study is being done in close conjunction with the rail feasibility study and, like the Department of Tourism and Culture, has an important job to market the Yukon both nationally and internationally, and that, Mr. Speaker, is exactly what the minister responsible has been doing. To this end, our minister will take over as president of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, comprised of Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, leading this very important initiative. Truly, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is coming of age and is demonstrating not only national but global leadership. Having our Economic Development minister head PNWER will give Yukon issues an international audience as well as provide profile and exposure for marketing the vast potential of our territory.
Yukon is also active on the national stage, as we will be hosting the Northern Development Ministers Forum in September, which promotes the diverse interests of northerners and the accomplishments, contributions and potential in Canada's north.
We have provided $70,000 to host this forum and plan to present a priority project called “Knowledge North”, which will provide northerners and those looking for information about the north with a user-friendly map-based Internet tool to access a wealth of data on social and economic information. Earlier this month the minister and deputy minister went on a promotional tour with Pacifica Resources Ltd. to Korea, Japan and China to talk to some key government personnel and corporate representatives about potential investment, the purchase of commodities, and to raise Yukon's profile for investment and export. Pacifica requested government support to organize the meetings and to accompany its officials on this trip.
It should be remembered that the Yukon's traditional marketplace for the Faro ore was Japan and Korea, and today the world is undergoing a shift away from the established markets of Europe and the United States, toward the emerging economies of China and other Asian countries.
Pacifica Resources Ltd. owns the giant Howard's Pass zinc-lead deposit and Yukon Zinc. An affiliated company owns the high-grade Wolverine zinc-silver development project, as well as other Finlayson district properties.
Mining is destined to become Yukon's number one industry over the course of the next decade, and Economic Development is working with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on the development of the Yukon mining strategy for training, to provide opportunities for aboriginal and other Yukoners to acquire the necessary skills to access jobs in the mining industry.
Tourism is another strategic industry, and the department has great focus on that also. The Department of Economic Development has fulfilled its obligations under the Destination: Carcross memorandum of understanding signed by the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, White Pass & Yukon Route, and our government. The memorandum of understanding is designed to take advantage of the increased volume in train traffic passengers that will make Carcross an attractive tourism destination, while contributing to business opportunities in the region.
Another region the department has been focusing on is northern Yukon through the north Yukon economic development partnership agreement. This agreement is between the Government of Yukon, the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the Na Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation governments. It is designed to identify economic opportunities within the Dempster corridor and to prepare an economic development plan in 2006-07.
The department is also focused on southeast Yukon and has included in its budget $77,575 to complete an economic assessment of the forest industry in Watson Lake. This assessment was conducted in conjunction with the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce and is another example of the department working with rural Yukon communities to take advantage of their regional economic potential.
Economic diversification is also a mandate of the Department of Economic Development and, once again, the department is working to gain international and national exposure for another strategic industry. As a consequence, our government is providing $150,000 to host the Yukon International Film Festival in Whitehorse in June.
The locally shot big-screen film, The Big White, the comedy starring Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, Woody Harrelson and Whitehorse resident Eric Epstein, will be featured for a special screening at this very festival.
This event includes a partnership with Telefilm Canada and Trade Routes to develop an industry component to the festival, with training specifically targeted at young Yukon film makers.
2005 was a banner year for the Yukon film production industry, generating $4.1 million, compared with $2.5 million in 2004 - another sector of growth.
The Yukon was also successful in developing its first TV series, Northern Town, which was written and produced by Yukoner Daniel Janke and 100 percent filmed on location in the Yukon, with a contribution of $550,000 from the film incentive funds.
Over 250 Yukoners worked on the production, and the series has been given the green light to proceed with seven more episodes. It is anticipated that the airing date on CBC may be scheduled to coincide with the coverage of the 2007 Canada Winter Games, which will give the territory maximum exposure.
In addition to Northern Town, Quixote Films Inc. spent $262,000 while in Yukon and employed 21 Yukoners while shooting a commercial for Land Rover. Whisper Productions Inc. spent a total of $265,000 while in Yukon and employed 42 Yukon residents on a feature film production now entitled Hellion. Mad Films shot an AIM Trimark tire commercial, with projected total spending of $120,000 and employment of 21 Yukoners.
Yukon filmmaker Andrew Connors shot Artifacts, hiring 15 Yukon residents on this production, and Yukon filmmaker Carole Geddes is currently finalizing development of a six-part TV series, Anash and the Legacy of the Sun Rock.
A further 10 Yukon filmmakers also received funding from the Yukon filmmakers fund for their projects.
The Yukon Film and Sound Commission is also pleased with the new sound recording program that is designed to enhance the growth and development of the Yukon's sound recording industry by developing domestic sound recording skills and experience.
There are two components to the program, which include a demo recording fund and a sound recording fund. In December of 2005, the professional demo recording funds were awarded to Danette Readman, Heather Loewen, Kate Weeks and Michael Brooks in the first round of applications. The two projects awarded professional sound recording funds were Caribou Records for Valle Son and Buckeroo Music for the Gordie Tentrees Band.
The second round intake deadline for sound recordings was February 15 of this year.
The department has also included $60,000 in its budget to sponsor the sport business opportunity development program/raising our game with Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce to raise awareness of sport-related business opportunities.
In keeping with its diversification mandate, Economic Development is working with the National Research Council and Yukon College to create a cold climate innovation centre. In this regard, a $137,000 investment to develop a plan has been completed. As part of an innovation cluster, the ultimate goal of the centre would be to enhance the knowledge and innovation sector of the Yukon economy.
The community development fund, reinstated by our government, continues to assist Yukon communities in realizing their potential. During the fiscal year 2005-06, 114 projects received a total of $3.5 million in investment, creating 118,000 person hours of employment. The community development fund is a very popular program and has funded a wide variety of projects, such as the recent tier 1 approval for 21 community-driven projects. Some of these are the Dawson City Community Radio Society, the Great Northern Ski Society, the Selkirk Renewable Resource Council and the Yukon Council on Aging, to name but a few.
Further, our government, through its agent, Dana Naye Ventures, is continuing to pursue the collection of the decades-old delinquent loans with some success, which will serve to augment the loan capital fund for small business, putting more stimulus back in the Yukon economy - an impressive accomplishment by the minister responsible and the department to say the least.
For Energy, Mines and Resources, mining exploration in the territory in 2005 was approximately $50 million - exceeding our expectations - and prospects for 2006 look even better.
As a result of this dramatic increase in exploration, the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit will be capped at $300,000 as the amount a company will be able to receive for work undertaken in the upcoming year, and the program will be continued until March 31, 2007.
The Yukon mineral exploration tax credit is a refundable corporate and personal income tax credit of 25 percent of eligible exploration expenses for off-mine site exploration. It was introduced in 1999 to stimulate exploration during the last mining downturn.
The Yukon government committed to examine the credit when exploration spending exceeded $30 million and now that limit, I am pleased to say, has been exceeded by over $20 million.
The government is committed to exploring options that would re-profile incentives toward development and production.
Our ongoing Yukon mining incentive program funded 63 applications in 2005-06, and it is anticipated that spending by applicants will be in the range of $2.5 million.
Another major reason for Yukon's success in attracting mining investment is due to the Yukon geological survey projects. The Yukon geological survey has done a superb job in enhancing the geoscience database through the completion of numerous geological, geochemical and mineral deposit assessments.
Our government has also developed and implemented a major mine permitting process. A committee of deputy ministers, chaired by Energy, Mines and Resources, has been established to oversee the permitting of major mine projects. Each project is assigned a coordinator whose primary role is to work closely with the companies to provide advice and help them through the regulatory processes.
Our government has initiated this process for five projects: Western Silver's Carmacks Copper, Yukon Zinc's Wolverine, Sherwood Mining's Minto, Cash Resources' Division Mountain and Tintina Mine's Red Mountain.
On February 15, 2006, the court approved PriceWaterhouseCoopers' application for the sale of the assets of United Keno Hill Mines to Alexco Resources Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary Elsa Reclamation and Development Company.
This sale represents the positive culmination of two years of cooperative work between Yukon, Canada, the interim receiver and Alexco, to set the stage for Elsa to once again become an operating mine.
The department also secured $11.1 million in 2005-06 in federal investments for work at abandoned mine sites. The department also established a partnership with the Kaska First Nation and Selkirk First Nation and Canada to work on the development of a Faro mine closure plan and to set up First Nation community offices in Ross River and Pelly Crossing for participation in closure planning work for the Faro mine site. The Faro mine closure planning office was very recently opened in downtown Whitehorse to lead the development of the closure plan.
Another area that is a mainstay - Yukon's placer mining industry - has always been the backbone of the Yukon mining industry. The new Yukon placer regime was developed through the cooperation of Energy, Mines and Resources, the Council of Yukon First Nations and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, under the leadership of the minister responsible. This is another shining example of collaboration with other orders of government.
A total of $1.5 million will be cost-shared with the federal government to implement the new regime over the two fiscal years of 2006-07 and 2007-08.
The 2006-07 budget provides $708,000 to establish a secretariat to implement the new integrated regime framework to manage placer mining in 19 watersheds in the Yukon. This is another major success story for the territory - another deliverable by the minister and the department.
Oil and gas is another strategic industry managed and regulated by the department. In 2005, there were two wells drilled in the Yukon - one in north Yukon at Eagle Plains and one in southeast Yukon in the Kotaneelee gas field. These were the first wells drilled in the Yukon in the past two decades. While Devon abandoned the well in Eagle Plains, the L-38 well was put into production in May 2005, and this well has more than doubled production rates in the Kotaneelee field in southeast Yukon.
Our government continues to make the Yukon “pipeline ready”, for both the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and the Mackenzie Valley pipeline projects. In October, Governor Murkowski, Premier Klein, Premier Campbell and I agreed that the development of a strategic action plan for the Alaska Highway pipeline project would enhance coordination and collaboration required to prevent delays in the project. We met again in Anchorage two days ago, on March 28. On February 21, Governor Murkowski announced that the State of Alaska and the producers, Conoco Phillips, BP, and Exxon, reached an agreement on a natural gas pipeline contract. The deal still requires approval by the Alaskan Legislature, but once approved, this clears a major hurdle and represents an important step toward the eventual construction of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline.
Our government is also intervening in the Mackenzie Valley project. This is to ensure that Yukon is able to maximize opportunities that will arise from northern oil and gas development and ensure Yukon's natural gas reserves in north Yukon are not stranded. The government's goal is to secure opportunities for Yukoners while minimizing social and environmental impacts.
Our government continues to work with and provide investment to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to assist First Nation communities in becoming pipeline ready. At the same time, we are insisting that the Government of Canada provide funding to Yukon First Nations to allow them to prepare for the Alaska Highway pipeline just as they have provided assistance to the Deh Cho in the Northwest Territories to prepare for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.
Energy, Mines and Resources is responsible also for forestry in the Yukon, which is another strategic industry. The department has completed the Yukon forest policy framework to guide the development of a new Yukon forest resources stewardship act to replace the outdated timber regulations inherited through devolution. This new legislation will centre on forest tenure, forest planning, and will commit the Yukon to the sustainable management and sound stewardship of the Yukon's forest resources. The department has developed a strategic forest management plan with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the renewable resource council. The implementation plan includes fuel abatement, timber harvesting and an approach to the spruce bark beetle infestation - another example of collaboration.
The department has also developed an interim wood supply. This plan in partnership of the Kaska Forest Stewardship Council has recommended a three-year plan totalling 290,000 cubic metres of identified harvest opportunity. Energy, Mines and Resources completed timber salvage plans for several of the 2004 southeast Yukon fires in the Watson Lake area. Salvage opportunities for two of the largest of these burns near the False Canyon and Barney Lake fires has recently been awarded to Forever Green Wood Products Ltd. of Watson Lake to harvest up to 340,000 cubic metres of near-saw-log-quality timber over the next decade. Under the minister's leadership, for the first time in years, timber has been made available to Yukon forest operators.
Agriculture is another strategic industry on Energy, Mines and Resource's list of their many responsibilities. The agriculture policy framework - in short APF - offers programs that provide the agriculture and agri-food industry with the tools, services and options to strengthen business, increase prosperity and meet the demands of consumers. APF funds have helped establish and promote the new Farmers Market in Shipyards Park and provided assistance for industry to obtain new equipment to test in Yukon conditions such as the plastic bale wrapper and equipment to repair irrigation piping.
The agriculture branch has also developed a master gardener manual for the master gardener course put on by the branch each winter. The new manual replaces previous publications with new, streamlined information that will provide Yukon gardeners with information relevant to northern gardening.
In this budget, $175,000 has been identified to purchase a mobile abattoir that is designed to service the red meat industry - beef, hogs and game-farmed elk and bison. This infrastructure was identified by the agriculture industry as a major step forward in the development of a local agriculture industry in the territory.
A successful lottery was held in the fall for two agriculture parcels in the Whitehorse area. Five agriculture agreements for sale are ready to go to title. An environmental assessment for a land offering of approximately 260 hectares in the Haines Junction area has been completed, and six lots, ranging in size from 10 to 40 hectares, will be offered for sale by lottery this spring.
Also, in the Ibex Valley, our government has been working with the Ibex Hamlet Council and is looking forward to local area plan amendments that will result in the development of additional agricultural land.
If the Yukon economy is to continue growing, land development must keep pace. For the first time, the public government and a First Nation government, the Teslin Tlingit Council, are exploring opportunities for the joint development of both public and First Nation land for residential and recreational purposes. Such joint ventures bode well for our future. Significant progress has been made to complete local area development plans and zoning regulations in the Whitehorse periphery. These include plans and zoning regulations for Ibex Valley, the Mayo Road, the Hot Springs Road and Golden Horn. Regulations in support of the Mount Lorne local area plan are expected soon. Completion of these plans and zoning regulations provides opportunities for planned land development while reducing the potential land use conflicts that arise from spot land applications.
Our government takes its responsibility for land availability very seriously, and we are looking forward to the continued economic and community opportunities that successful land development provides Yukoners.
Funding in the amount of $450,000 has been allocated to the Yukon Development Corporation to also invest in energy infrastructure, lending itself to economic growth. This is a project in preliminary planning and permitting work related to the development of the Carmacks-Stewart transmission line.
One of our mainstays in economic growth is the Department of Tourism and Culture and the tourism and culture industries. Tourism has proven itself to be the economic mainstay for the territory. Tourism is a key strategic industry that has helped sustain, diversify and enhance the Yukon economy, and has tremendous potential for growth.
Under the leadership of the minister, success of the tourism cooperative marketing fund has been overwhelming, with in excess of $1.9 million in funding being invested by government and industry to promote the Yukon worldwide since the inception of the fund in May 2004. This fund leverages matching dollars form the industry. Of the $500,000 for the fund contained in 2006-07, $350,000 will be administered by the department, with the remaining $150,000 to be administered by the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon. 70 applications from Yukon businesses received funding to market their products and services worldwide, and another 84 applications received funding to attend consumer and trade shows throughout Canada, the United States, Asia, Germany, and London, England in 2005. The minister has been very active in marketing and promoting tourism for our territory.
The tourism cooperative marketing fund is only one of several important funds within the department's purview. There are others that are lending themselves to marketing partnerships, such as $260,000 for the Alaska Travel Industry Association. It's a joint Yukon-Alaska marketing program that continues to be our highest return marketing program. There is the $264,000 Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon adventure marketing program that enables the association to leverage over $80,000 more. There is also the very successful $200,000 meetings, conventions and incentive travel marketing program with the Yukon Convention Bureau that generates $3.5 million in tourism revenues in the Yukon each year. This is government investment into the private sector, helping the private sector grow.
There is also the $118,000 Tourism North marketing consortium partnership with Alaska, Alberta, and British Columbia and there is the $150,000 Yukon Quest marketing program that supports the Yukon Quest through contributions to specific media coverage and marketing of Yukon winter tourism.
Our total tourism marketing investment of $8.6 million in 2006-07 demonstrates our commitment to tourism and our recognition of its importance to our economy.
Another major new initiative is the Yukon tourism brand strategy. Our government and the minister recognize that a clear and identifiable Yukon tourism brand will ultimately benefit all sectors of the tourism industry and will ensure that tourism remains a top economic generator in the territory.
The strategy will define the attributes of the actual tourism brand, as well as provide a proper positioning statement of the brand imaging. The statement will be the foundation on which to build basic guidelines, protocols, partnership programs, taglines, logos, licensing and merchandising. Given the level of competition with other destinations, the Yukon tourism brand strategy must outline how to showcase or develop products that support a distinct positioning for Yukon against competition. Adoption of a tourism brand strategy by local industry, communities, First Nations and Yukon residents is imperative if the strategy is to succeed.
The name “Yukon” on its own is a uniquely powerful branding tool because of the power of the imagery and the distinct appeal of the word “Yukon.”
The Yukon tourism brand strategy is supported by the senior marketing committee of the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. The new Yukon tourism brand will be launched in April 2006.
Mr. Speaker, the 2006-07 budget supports a variety of recommendations provided by the senior marketing committee and maintains the increases that were made in the 2005-06 budget. An increase of $50,000 in 2006-07 is being added to the $150,000 from 2005-06, bringing the total for implementing the brand strategy to $200,000. An increase of $75,000 was made in 2005-06 to enhance the tourism Web site, increase media relations and increase travel trade activities in North America. All these increases are maintained in the 2006-07 budget.
Our government has also made a substantial investment in media familiarization tours - $156,000 for North America and $100,000 for overseas. The total investment in media familiarization tours both overseas and North American represents an increase of 250 percent from 2004. The minister has certainly been active.
Web sites are an important marketing tool, and $250,000 has been provided in the 2006-07 budget to include stronger linkages to Yukon operators and new media and trade Web sites. We are also continuing to develop and launch in-market Web sites in Germany, Japan and Australia.
Mr. Speaker, the 2007 Canada Winter Games also provides an opportunity to market the Yukon and indeed, the entire north. A $2 million pan-territorial marketing campaign is being developed to market the 2007 Canada Winter Games and to raise the awareness of the north in southern Canada, with $1 million being included in the 2006-07 budget.
The Department of Tourism and Culture also signed a tourism and sport development accord with British Columbia in order to strengthen our sports system and maximize the benefits of the 2007 Canada Winter Games and the 2010 Olympics. This is a mutual benefit for both jurisdictions - another example of collaboration.
With the 2007 Canada Games fast approaching, the third season of Culture Quest is in high gear, soliciting new projects for the cultural community to support new works with an arts or heritage focus for presentation at special events such as the games and the Olympics.
The $157,000 Culture Quest program was initiated as part of Yukon's $200,000 annual decade of sport and culture program. It was developed as a strategic initiative with the Yukon Arts Centre managing the program on behalf of the Department of Tourism and Culture.
Culture Quest's projects can include performing, visual and literary arts projects, First Nation traditional and contemporary practices, and heritage projects that animate Yukon history.
The remaining $43,000 per year is allocated to the Yukon Convention Bureau to support sport tourism initiatives.
In September 2005, the Minister of Tourism and Culture made a promotional marketing trip to Europe, and I am very pleased to say, her trip was very successful.
Condor Airlines officials in Frankfurt, Germany, were very pleased with the number of passengers who travelled on the twice-weekly summer flights to Yukon, and will be scheduling additional flights this summer.
New flights will add 520 seats and extend the summer travel season from May 9 to October 3 - a great accomplishment for the minister and the department - growing Yukon's visitation.
Meetings with Air Canada officials in Germany also produced positive results. For the first time, Tourism Yukon and Air Canada participated with German tour operators in a five-week promotional print campaign focusing on winter travel in the Yukon.
I am pleased to say that Air Canada also committed to providing affordable, one-way fares to Whitehorse and other western Canadian destinations to facilitate fly-drive tour programs.
Yukon's own airline, Air North, is also playing an important role in Yukon tourism with its nine weekly flights to Vancouver and three flights weekly to Calgary and Edmonton. These flights are particularly important in promoting the gateway cities program that focuses on enhancing and increasing visitation from the gateway cities of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Last summer Tourism Yukon and Air North gave away three Yukon adventure trips through the “Win Yukon: Four Friends, Four Days, Four Ways” contest that involved top-ranked radio stations in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Lucky winners were allowed to choose three friends to join them on a four-day adventure, including a choice of four activities from a list that included everything from rafting, canoeing, biking, golf, fishing, dogsledding and skiing to attending the Sourdough Rendezvous and the Yukon Quest. The number of entries far exceeded expectations.
The major tourism wholesaler, Thomas Cook, is also offering Yukon winter packages for the first time among seven major European wholesalers featuring Yukon tourism products. Fulda Tire held its 2006 Fulda Challenge from January 28 to February 7, with teams from Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria and Canada. The Fulda Challenge, which contributes $1.1 million in local spending to Yukon economies each winter, adopted an all-Yukon course this year, beginning at Whitehorse and continuing along the Robert Campbell Highway to Watson Lake and Faro.
The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous continues to be the Yukon's main winter event, and credit must be paid to all those dedicated Yukoners who, year after year, make it all happen. Our government is very proud to be providing $50,000 in order to provide a stable level of funding to support the continued operation of this very important winter event.
The Department of Tourism and Culture launched another initiative, the $350,000 scenic drives initiative, in October of 2004 to further attract rubber-tire visitors to the Yukon. We made a further investment of $350,000 in 2005 and announced on March 13, 2006 that the second of the Yukon scenic drives is now on-line. By logging on to www.driveyukon.com, visitors can now choose between the Alaska Highway and the Klondike-Kluane loop scenic drives. The Web site highlights attractions, events, cultural experiences, First Nations history in all regions and provides direct links to accommodation, RV parks and campgrounds.
The Golden Circle route, Silver Trail and Dempster Highway Web sites will be up and running later in 2006, giving potential travellers new and existing virtual Yukon highways to discover.
On the February 25th weekend, Global Television aired a half-hour program featuring Ride Yukon 2005 on Biker TV to more than one million Canadians.
Tourism and Culture worked in partnership last summer with Ride Yukon in assisting Biker TV with filming the first Ride Yukon event. The success of that trip led to a full 30-minute program showcasing Yukon and including Yukon music with the footage. It is hoped that the 2005 ride will generate interest and excitement for motorcycle enthusiasts to come for Ride Yukon 2006, which will take place from June 22 to 25, under the theme of motorcycles, music and midnight sun.
The cultural services branch also has a number of initiatives on the move. “Traditions of Change”, a contemporary art exhibition featuring the work of 11 Yukon First Nation artists, has been on display in Zurich since September 2005 and will end April 2006.
Tourism and Culture developed two special art exhibitions at the Yukon Arts Centre: a retrospective of Mark Porter's Tlingit carvings, and the permanent art collection exhibition of all works collected since 1993. These exhibitions were very well received.
The department provided $25,000 to the Yukon Art Society for its Arts Underground initiative located in the lower level of the Hougen Centre on Main Street. Arts Underground is an innovative partnership between the Yukon Art Society, the Yukon Arts Centre, the MacBride Museum, the Friends of Yukon Archives and the Hougen Centre that integrates cultural vibrancy with downtown development and promotes participation in arts and heritage activity.
Tourism and Culture has entered into a contribution agreement with the MacBride Museum to expand the museum with $100,000 provided in 2005-06 for the design, and a further $400,000 in 2006-07 for construction. Resulting in part from the recently approved museums strategy, $200,000 in new funding is being provided to assist Yukon museums to undertake special projects important to their ongoing development, raising museum assistance to $1.135 million.
Tourism and Culture is also contributing $220,000 in funding support for four First Nation cultural and heritage centres in Dawson City, Teslin, Pelly Crossing and Carmacks. In total, $1.5 million in government funding will be provided to Yukon museums, interpretive and First Nation cultural and heritage centres in 2006.
Our government is also working with First Nation governments to preserve and protect historic sites in the Yukon. The Rampart House historic site that is co-owned and co-managed with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, will receive $71,000 in order to develop the Cadzow House. Similarly, Tourism and Culture will provide $70,000 in funding for the continued development of the Forty Mile historic site, which is co-owned and co-managed with the Selkirk First Nation.
Also, ancient ice patches in southwest Yukon are continuing to reveal their treasures. In 2003, Cody Joe of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations retrieved an artifact from a melting alpine ice patch that has turned out to be the oldest moccasin in Canada, at 1,400 years old.
Since 1997, annual fieldwork at the ice patches is carried out under a cooperative partnership between the Department of Tourism and Culture archaeology program and six Yukon First Nations with support from the Department of Environment. Researchers have recovered more than 180 hunting-related artifacts to date, ranging in age from several hundred to over 8,000 years old. Not to be outdone, a palaeontological survey in the Old Crow basin has unearthed the probable remains of a 125,000 year-old beaver dam, the first ever fossilized artifact of its kind. It appears that many of the sticks in the beaver dam were cut by beavers, but it was unclear to the survey team if they were cut by the extinct giant beaver that lived some 90,000 years ago. Studies are now underway to make that determination. The work, supported by land claims funding, was conducted on Vuntut Gwitchin settlement land and was part of a larger survey of ancient mammal fossils along the Porcupine and Old Crow rivers. Yukon's history and prehistory remain drawing cards that attract visitors and scientists alike to the territory.
Other developments include waterfront in both Whitehorse and Carcross, and these have tremendous tourism potential. The Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada are committed to providing $22 million for waterfront development in both Whitehorse and Carcross under the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund. In Whitehorse, the bulk of $19 million will be spent on basic infrastructure improvements such as water, sewer, street improvements and extensions, upgrades to the Kishwoot Island suspension bridge and restoration or relocation of heritage buildings. Our government has already contributed approximately $4 million for the development of the Kwanlin Dun cultural centre to be located on the Whitehorse waterfront. We have provided $60,000 to the Artspace North Society and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, which have provided an arts and heritage village development plan that portrays their vision for the Whitehorse waterfront. In Carcross, the waterfront funding will be used for water, sewer and road improvements, community cleanup, landscaping and construction of river structures. Our government is looking forward to the day that the waterfronts in both Whitehorse and Carcross will once again assume their rightful place as being the heart of each community.
Another area of increased investment is infrastructure, and Highways and Public Works is a department very much involved in that investment. Transportation and communication infrastructure are critical building blocks for a developing and sustainable competitive economy.
Our government is very pleased with the long-term commitment that the Government of the United States has continued to make to the Shakwak project for the reconstruction of the north Alaska Highway and the Haines Road. In August 2005, the Government of the United States approved multi-year funding for completion of the remaining grading work, replacement of the bridges, and commencement of pavement where appropriate on this project. This is good news for all who travel on this section of the Alaska Highway corridor north of Haines Junction and on the Haines Road. Local residents, commercial vehicles and tourists will benefit from a safer road and reduced travel time. Many employment opportunities will also be available as we continue to proceed with the Shakwak project this year, totalling close to $35 million in new spending. Four Shakwak projects have been planned for the Alaska Highway this year: reconstruction from kilometre 1692 to kilometre 1702; BST and vegetation control, kilometre 1707 to kilometre 1717; design of new bridges for the Slims and Duke rivers; and, most importantly, the replacement of the current Donjek bridge with a new and modern structure.
Work under this year's Shakwak project is also planned for the Haines Road, where the highway from kilometre 71.3 to kilometre 91.2 will receive pavement overlay. Our government values the partnership with United States and the benefits that this ongoing partnership brings to all travellers on the Haines Road and the Alaska Highway. The Department of Highways and Public Works is seeking approval for reconstruction projects along the Alaska Highway to be cost-shared with the Government of Canada. Under this program, the Yukon will recover half of the projected $5.3-million investment. In 2006-07, these projects will include a deck replacement for the Lewes River bridge at kilometre 1393, vegetation control from kilometre 1603 to 1627, deck replacement for Seaforth Creek bridge at kilometre 1315, and a deck replacement for the Teslin River bridge at kilometre 1296.
Once again, as with the Shakwak projects, there will be employment opportunities for Yukoners through this upgrading and the travelling public benefits from a high standard, safe and secure road network.
It should be recognized that in this regard, in December 2005, this department and its minister was presented with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators' 2005 traffic safety award. This award was for the greatest reduction in highway fatalities nationwide, based on Transport Canada numbers from 2003.
In October 2005, the Dempster and North Klondike highways to the Dempster junction were recognized as part of the national highways system. This decision to include these two northern highways officially recognizes the strategic importance of these highways to the economic and social well-being of northerners.
Further, recognition of these Yukon highways under the national highways system provides a higher profile and priority for federal investment. The Department of Highways and Public Works will proceed with projects totalling $2.1 million to continue work along the Dempster.
This improvement work will include $600,000 for road resurfacing because of the increased traffic experienced over the years. Work will be performed using the highway equipment rental contract process. $500,000 is for slide repairs at kilometre 116, involving a localized relocation of this piece of highway and placement of new material to prevent further deterioration.
$800,000 will be spent on gravel production for surfacing work, and $200,000 will be spent on erosion control and the placement of rip-rap at various locations along the highway. This work will generate considerable employment for local contractors and will not only improve the road for our travellers but will be good news for the oil and gas companies that use the Dempster Highway extensively.
The highway equipment rental contracts, or HERC, process is a new strategic delivery mechanism aimed at renting local equipment in order to provide timely service to the Government of Yukon in an operational capacity for projects relating to the removal of vegetation, resurfacing and construction of roads and highways in the Yukon.
The HERC initiative is our government's response to the concerns of smaller Yukon contractors who are not able to compete on large projects. HERC started out in 2004 as a pilot procurement project and it clearly demonstrated an increase in economic activity in the territory benefiting contractors, rural residents and businesses located throughout our territory.
Consequently, the HERC initiative will also be used to do reconstruction on the south Campbell Highway. The department is seeking legislative budget approval for $1.6 million in improvements along the south Robert Campbell Highway near Watson Lake; $1 million will be dedicated to reconstruction between kilometre 16 and kilometre 20 of the highway, and the balance of the budget amount is for engineering and design work to commence the next phase of highway improvements from kilometre 58 to kilometre 185.
On the Atlin Road, upgrading is taking place. An investment of $2.3 million will be made in order to proceed with reconstruction from kilometre 1 to kilometre 7 of the Atlin Road. This reconstruction will include earthwork, drainage improvements and BST surfacing and will also improve safety along this section of highway.
Legislative budget approval is also being sought for $2 million in order to proceed with pavement rehabilitation on the Alaska Highway between the intersection of Two Mile Hill and Porter Creek. The department plans to improve some of the intersections through this region, as well as make other general safety improvements.
When it comes to communications infrastructure, this is a key to building a sustainable, competitive economy. In 2007, the current multi-department mobile radio system, otherwise known as MDMRS, will be over 15 years old and is approaching the end of its useful life. Consequently, the Department of Highways and Public Works is seeking legislative approval for $5.28 million in order to proceed with the mobile communications solution. The replacement strategy consists of an integrated solution of cellular technology and a new public safety mobile radio system.
As was announced in December of 2005, enhanced cellular phone service will begin within the next several months in the first 13 of 17 communities, with the service to all communities being available by the end of 2007. Improved communication and timely information is also important to the travelling public and to those who manage our transportation systems. Accordingly, Highways and Public Works is seeking legislative approval for $290,000 in order to proceed with the implementation of several road/weather information system projects.
These new intelligent transportation systems will allow for new and innovative methods of transportation management, such as the transmission of traffic counts by satellite, relaying of real-time road conditions to those responsible for highway maintenance, automated generation of road condition reports and other advantages which will improve the safety operation of Yukon highways.
When it comes to airports, there is a need for upgrading, and the department is seeking $1.6 million in order to proceed with renovations and expansion to the Whitehorse Airport terminal to meet the new, more stringent screening requirements presented by the Canadian Border Services Agency as a result of 9/11, and to meet the growing passenger traffic.
Highways and Public Works is seeking a further $1.2 million in order to proceed with improvements and enlargement of the Whitehorse Airport parking lot. Phase 1 of the work will begin in 2006, with the entire project completed by the fall of 2007.
Our government continues to upgrade its transportation and communication infrastructure in order to support our growing economy and to keep Yukon communities connected to one another, and indeed to the outside world.
But much is about building healthy communities, our environment and, of course, a better quality of life. Mr. Speaker, in meeting the commitments outlined in our 2005 election platform, our government has placed as much emphasis on the environment, education and health and social services as we have placed on the economy. One of the best social programs in the world is still a growing, diverse and sustainable economy. The health of an economy is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of individuals and their environment. The many initiatives in this budget and our three previous budgets have indeed helped build healthy communities and a healthy environment and a better quality of life for all Yukoners.
The Department of Community Services and community infrastructure is very important in this regard. Transportation infrastructure and other infrastructures are critical to improving the lives of Yukoners. Our government has undertaken a great many capital projects since taking office to do exactly that territory wide.
Some projects have been completed, while others are works in progress. In Mayo, work was completed in 2005 to stabilize the Mayo River dike. In Keno, upgrades to the community water system were completed in 2005 to improve water quality. In Old Crow, work started in 2004 o stabilize the Porcupine riverbank, managed by Porcupine Industries, a Vuntut Gwitchin development corporation, and Pelly Construction, under a contribution agreement with our government - another example of partnership and collaboration. This project is scheduled for completion in 2006-07.
In 2006, design work will begin on water system improvements in Old Crow as well as investigations on the sewage lagoon. Community Services is requesting $50,000 to undertake this work.
A second access route alternatives analysis and environmental assessment is underway for the Taku subdivision near Tagish and the Carcross townsite. The Taku subdivision has only one access road and is considered to be an area of very high forest fire risk. Similarly, Carcross currently has only one access, and a second access will be required to meet the demands of a growing economy.
The department is seeking approval for $200,000 for the Taku subdivision second access and $100,000 for the Carcross second access in 2006-07.
The repair of the walking bridge over the Pelly River at Ross River began in 2005 and is scheduled for completion in 2006.
Work continues on alternatives to replace the sewage plants in Carmacks and Dawson City.
A Canadian strategic infrastructure fund application is being prepared for the planning, design and construction of the replacement of the existing mechanical plant in Carmacks, which will directly service the central core of the village.
Community Services is seeking approval in 2006-07 of $4.4 million for the Carmacks sewage treatment project.
A similar CSIF application was made in 2005-06 for the Dawson City sewage treatment and pilot testing of aerated lagoon technology. This was undertaken last year, and the department is now seeking $2.5 million in 2006-07 for the Dawson City sewage project.
While construction of sewage treatment and storage cells in Carcross was completed in 2004, enhancements are underway this year to accelerate evaporation.
A new multi-celled sewage lagoon was completed in 2005 to serve Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay as the existing lagoon system will be decommissioned this year.
Construction of a community well in Army Beach is expected to be completed in 2006. The department is seeking $232,000 in 2006-07 to investigate options and costs for the development of a potable, self-serve water supply near the M'Clintock River Bridge on the Alaska Highway. The water supply will service residents in the surrounding areas of Army Beach, North M'Clintock and South M'Clintock.
Community Services is seeking approval of $200,000 to identify, study, report options, and make recommendations to improve water and sewer systems in various communities. In Old Crow, a request for $50,000 is required to effect suitable repairs to the existing water well because of permafrost damage.
In our government's platform, a commitment was made to ensure Yukoners have safe drinking water. As a consequence, our government launched a domestic well program in 2004-05. To date, 37 contracts for wells have been committed at a cost of almost $843,000, at an average cost of $22,700 per well.
The department is requesting approval in 2006-07 for $700,000 for the continuation of the domestic well program.
In Whitehorse, Hamilton Boulevard improvements were completed in 2005, and $250,000 is being requested to conduct planning, centre line and brushing work in the 2006-07 budget for a south extension to the Alaska Highway at Robert Service Way.
Mr. Speaker, community halls and recreation centres are all important to Yukon communities, as they are often the focal point of community life. The department is working with the community of Mayo, utilizing the municipal rural infrastructure fund to create a community centre which will be the recreational and community social focal point for Mayo and the surrounding area. Community Services is also requesting $3.156 million in 2006-07 for the construction of the Mayo community centre.
Our government is undertaking another MRIF community centre in Marsh Lake. A request for $1.159 million in 2006-07 is being made to undertake the Marsh Lake community centre project, which includes the construction of a multi-use community building to serve the community of 400 and the local region's requirements for sport, recreation and community meetings.
Another MRIF project involves the construction of a new ski chalet at Mount Sima, in preparation for the 2007 Canada Winter Games. The department is seeking approval of $700,000 for the Mount Sima ski chalet that will serve the community long after the games themselves. Our government is fully committed to ensuring that the 2007 Canada Winter Games are a huge success. Total funding from 2003, through to completion of the games will be over $50 million, including $19 million for the Canada Games Centre and over $31 million for the residences at Yukon College that will be used for the athletes village as well as a $4-million contribution to the host society for both O&M and capital.
Community Services is requesting approval in 2006-07 for $8.7 million to finish the college residences for use as the athletes village.
Another threat to Yukoners' quality of life is fire, which is an ever-present threat to all Yukon communities. For this reason, the department is requesting approval of $1 million in 2006-07 for the FireSmart program, that implements fuel reduction safety projects to reduce the threat of wildfires.
Community Services is also requesting $320,000 for fire hall upgrades: $50,000 in design funds for Carcross to upgrade the old government grader station as a volunteer fire hall; $150,000 for Tagish to construct a second bay at the present fire hall; and $120,000 for Golden Horn, to commence design work to replace or upgrade the existing fire hall.
The department is also proposing to upgrade its fleet of fire tankers for the volunteer fire departments through a $300,000 allocation in the coming fiscal year.
EMO is requesting $100,000 for its rescue boat program to address the safety of Yukoners and visitors, recognizing the increased boating traffic on southern lakes. A high-powered rescue boat will be purchased for the Tagish Lake system in 2006. The Emergency Measures Organization, on a 50:50 cost-share basis with the town of Teslin, will provide $50,000 to assist in purchasing highway rescue equipment, including protective hazmat suits to safely attend hazardous sites.
EMO will require a further $25,000 to replace rescuer equipment, such as GPS, ropes, tents, first aid supplies, water safety and other rescue and safety equipment.
The motor vehicles branch is seeking approval of $955,000 to upgrade its computer system to support new levels of service delivery.
Our government has also launched a new information tool for businesses and investors, called “Bizpal”, or business permits and licences.
Bizpal is a Web-based service that will allow business clients and investors to easily generate a customized list of all government permits and licences needed to start up a business anywhere in the Yukon - timely, considering the business growth in our territory.
Our government is working with local governments and First Nations to develop land to meet the growing needs of the real estate market in Yukon and to develop an orderly planning, development and disposition process throughout the territory.
Our election platform commits us to make land available to Yukoners for community, residential, recreational and resource use purposes. The government, through the departments of Community Services and Energy, Mines and Resources, is living up to that very commitment.
In Whitehorse, 107 urban residential lots in Copper Ridge became available in 2005. Another 105 lots will be available in 2006, completing the entire Copper Ridge development. The department is requesting $2.25 million to complete this development.
In 2006, 20 rural residential lots will be developed in the Hot Springs Road area. In Haines Junction, 14 country residential lots became available in 2005. In Carcross, planning for residential lots will begin in 2006.
Community Services and Energy, Mines and Resources are working in Grizzly Valley and in Mount Lorne to develop more rural residential lots. Beginning in 2006, we will, on a territory-wide assessment basis, research potential cottage lot locations and $150,000 is being requested in this budget to carry out this work.
Work is also underway to develop 110 country residential lots in the Whitehorse Copper subdivision and 25 service industrial lots in the Whitehorse Mount Sima industrial subdivision. Community Services is seeking approval of $7.973 million in 2006 to carry out this development, and Mr. Speaker, it is making a significant contribution to quality of life in this territory.
The Yukon Housing Corporation plays a significant role, and our government, through the auspices of the corporation, is meeting the housing needs of seniors and other Yukoners and indeed our staff. In 2004-05, 10 senior-friendly condos were completed in Takhini, and in 2005-06, an energy-efficient complex of condos was completed in downtown Whitehorse. Four of these units are senior friendly. These private sector projects were assisted through the joint venture loan program. The joint venture loan program is designed to stimulate private sector housing development, and this budget includes $1.7 million that can be accessed by the private sector.
In 2005, the Yukon Housing Corporation began a review of its lending programs, starting with the home repair program, to ensure these programs are delivering maximum results to Yukoners. In 2006-07, $2.5 million has been allocated for the home repair program, and in 2006 Yukon Housing Corporation adjusted the affordability threshold for first-time home buyers with a better interest rate, extended amortization terms and increased the limit to mortgages to enable first-time home buyers to access mortgage financing and Yukon's rising real estate market. The corporation has identified $7.35 million in 2006-07 to meet the needs of the home ownership program.
The Canada-Yukon housing agreement encourages industry to meet the need for energy-efficient, affordable, barrier-free housing. In 2005-06, the corporation approved financial assistance to offset the cost of building to Yukon Housing standards, including 44 home ownership units and 20 rental units being built in the Falcon Ridge development in Whitehorse. Under the same program, the Yukon Housing Corporation provided a $3.5-million contribution toward the construction of 48 new affordable housing units at Yukon College in Whitehorse that will be used initially as part of the games themselves, but will be a lasting legacy for those who require this type of housing assistance.
The corporation has allocated $2 million in 2006-07 for the Canada-Yukon affordable housing agreement.
In 2006, the corporation initiated consultations on the feasibility of a six-unit seniors housing building in Haines Junction. In keeping with our platform commitment for increasing the inventory of affordable seniors housing, the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors approved changes so that seniors above the income threshold who have mobility problems can apply for the social housing program. As well, in 2005 the Yukon Housing Corporation initiated a seniors housing program in Faro and retrofitted two vacant staff units in the community to accommodate seniors.
To promote aging in place without impacting the rental market, the corporation included provisions in the rent supplement program for seniors currently in rental accommodation to assist them to remain in their current accommodations, if that is their preference. The corporation has included $100,000 in this year's budget for the seniors housing management fund, which is a dedicated source of resources for future seniors housing projects.
Responding to concerns about priority housing for women leaving abusive relationships, the Yukon Housing Corporation is reviewing the eligibility criteria for social housing. The corporation is also upgrading social housing and staff housing to improve overall quality. Beginning in 2004, Yukon Housing Corporation began excluding child support payments from the calculation of income that was used to assess the tenant rents in Yukon social housing units so that low-income parents in social housing would retain more disposable income for use in meeting other needs of their children. This is another one of our government's election platform commitments.
Another platform commitment was to develop an integrated pet policy for government-sponsored senior housing. The Yukon Housing Corporation and its directors will provide final approval in 2006 on the implementation of a territory-wide pet policy.
There is no department more important than the Department of Environment and its role for the future of the territory. The Department of Environment is moving on a new initiative that will have critical long-term benefits for decision makers who must consider the many aspects of natural resource management in the territory. Referred to as the biophysical land classification and mapping project, this initiative will have benefits for land-use planners, wildlife and forest managers, mining companies, renewable resource councils, the agricultural industry, and the many federal, territorial and First Nation governments and agencies that will be called on to make land-use and resource-management decisions.
Over the long term, this new system will contribute to sustainable development and benefit the Yukon 's environment. The Yukon 's wildlife will benefit through more effective habitat planning. We have, as a government, allocated $180,000 to start this project this year.
Tasks will include the recruitment of an expert ecologist to head the delivery of this new program and the development of a strategic plan to put all the pieces together.
The department is also moving forward on its commitment to climate change initiatives. The Department of Environment has been a key player in the government's climate change activities ever since it helped in the establishment of the Northern Climate Exchange at Yukon College more than six years ago.
The department now has a climate change co-ordinator on staff to begin the next phase of planning and the delivery of climate change activities to address concerns of impacts and adaptations.
For example, there are concerns for the impact of climate change on the health of our wildlife - and plant populations also are included in these concerns - and whether we will be facing new diseases that have not existed here in the past.
The department is continuing the government's commitment to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve by helping to improve infrastructure at the preserve. The major task is to make sure the preserve is double fenced so that the risk of nose-to-nose contact, and the risk of wildlife escaping into the wild, or wild animals entering the preserve, is minimized. Fencing is one of the requirements for the preserve to become an accredited member of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which sets standards for animal care, housing and security.
The department also oversees a variety of fish and wildlife management plans with input from First Nations, local resource users, the public, renewable resource councils and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Works in progress include an elk management plan, a Southern Lakes moose recovery plan, as well as reviews of the integrated fish and wildlife management plans for Kluane, Teslin and the north Yukon regions.
We are also working with the Kaska to carry out fish and wildlife planning in their traditional territory.
We will be carrying out several species-at-risk management plans this year, including work on Yukon wood bison, bears, woodland caribou and wolverines.
This is the final year of the Chisana caribou recovery project and - I might add - a very successful model of international and intergovernmental cooperation.
The partners have been the White River First Nation, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the United States National Parks Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and, of course, our own Department of Environment.
The techniques developed over the last three years are now being looked at by agencies in Alberta, which see this project as a possible answer for recovery efforts aimed at declining caribou herd populations in that province. The department's commitment to land claims implementation is also highlighted within its parks branch and the efforts toward special management areas and parks planning. Much of the work will be done on ecosystem assessments and preparing information for future special management area planning.
Work is also continuing on management plans for the Fishing Branch Ecological Reserve and the Fishing Branch Wilderness Preserve and Habitat Protection Area. Management plans for Nordenskiold, Ddhaw Ghro and Lhutsaw habitat protection areas are also being drafted as we speak.
Our government, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation and Holland America are working on a partnership to promote interpretive trips into Tombstone Territorial Park .
In other parts of the territory, work is planned to fix and upgrade facilities at the Five Fingers Rapids wayside and at the Wolf Creek , Kusawa Lake , Pine Lake and Simpson Lake campgrounds. The department will also be working with the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation for the maintenance and management of the campsite on the 30 Mile portion of the Yukon River out of Lake Laberge .
Another area of concern is drinking water, and we are making sure our potable water is safe. This has resulted in $20,000 being added to the parks branch operations budget for 2006-07. Biophysical well water quality monitoring will be carried out on a regular basis to ensure basic environmental health and water quality standards are maintained.
Programs popular with the public will be supported this year as work is done to improve public viewing at the Whitehorse Fishway and to expand the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery. The wildlife viewing program will be adding to its efforts to increase the public's wildlife viewing satisfaction. New wildlife viewing information signs will be installed at significant wildlife areas at Whitehorse , Emerald Lake on the Carcross Road , Keno Hill, Gravel Lake and Wye Lake .
Another important area of government is the Youth Directorate and its contribution to Yukon young people. Yukon youth are our future and our government, through the Youth Directorate, continues its strong focus on supporting our young people.
The directorate, through the Executive Council Office, is continuing to support three major youth groups in Whitehorse . Each group receives $110,000 annually for their ongoing operations in helping young people. Bringing Youth Toward Equality is an advocacy group that targets youth involvement and education to a broad youth audience. The Youth of Today Society focuses on employment and provides services to youth between the ages of 16 and 25. The Whitehorse Youth Centre Society/Boys and Girls Club of Whitehorse provides education through activities and a prevention focus to a younger age group of 13 to 16.
The Youth Directorate is now funding a fourth group - the francophone youth group - with a $25,000 contribution. Funding is also provided to the youth winter activities program in the amount of $200,000 to 17 rural Yukon communities that offer activities, training and employment for youth in the winter months.
Funding is also provided to support summer activities for our young people. Dawson , Mayo, Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek, Faro, Mount Lorne , Tagish and Marsh Lake each receive $5,000 to support youth activities in the summer. All the other communities participate in the summer leadership program put on by the Department of Justice.
Outstanding youth achievement awards are provided to individual youth or youth groups who have provided a significant contribution to their communities. The awards are handed out at the annual youth conference.
The Youth Directorate also sponsors a youth training leadership workshop that provides over 50 youth from across the territory with skills and hands-on training to promote activities for other youth in their communities. The youth facilitator training course on March 21 to 23 provided facilitator training to youth workers throughout the territory to develop skills on engaging youth through the arts. About 25 youth service providers from across the territory participated in this skill development course. This initiative was prompted by the successful fall conference of youth-serving organizations in Yellowknife .
The future is all about education. Our government continues to make a heavy investment in education, both on the capital side and on programming. For example, school construction, expansions and renovations total $12.979 million in the coming fiscal year, some of which include $6.775 million for the Tantalus School in Carmacks, for a total investment of $11.4 million. There is $1.4 million to complete the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria expansion and renovations. There is $300,000 to repair the roof of the Vanier Catholic Secondary School , $300,000 to fix the ventilation system in the F.H. Collins industrial arts wing, and $360,000 to put a speed-skating oval at F.H. Collins lower bench, in partnership with the Canada Winter Games Host Society.
Our government has placed considerable emphasis on trades and technology training. We restored the community training funds in the 2003-04 budget to $1.5 million and have maintained this level in successive budgets, including this year's budget.
Also, an awareness campaign targeted students, teachers and parents, and will continue to promote trades as a desirable career option. Three new apprenticeship categories were created and implemented: heavy equipment technician, off-road motor transport technician and truck trailer technician.
A piping trades program was offered at Yukon College for the winter-spring session of 2004-05, and we also supported efforts to train Yukoners for oil and gas jobs by offering entry-level petroleum industry training service certified courses at Yukon College . We are very proud of our women-in-trades initiative.
The number of registered apprentices has increased 28 percent since February of 2005, and this program will continue in 2006-07.
In keeping with our 2002 election commitment to index the student grant, $100,000 was designated in 2005-06 and a further $100,000 is being allocated in 2006-07. Our government has expanded alternative education by opening the Individual Learning Centre early in 2005 to encourage high school dropouts to return to school and re-engage in learning. The ILC has been very successful because of its flexible and supportive environment.
Our government continues to make literacy a priority because it is a fundamental building block of education. The Literacy Action Committee disbursed two rounds of funding in 2005, with the continued support of our government, for local literacy initiatives throughout the Yukon .
Most recently, in November of 2005, approximately $78,000 was awarded to 15 groups operating initiatives in Whitehorse and in the communities. The international adult literacy skills survey results released in November of 2005 show that Yukoners on average have the highest literacy rates in Canada . However, the survey also indicated areas for improvement.
On February 15, 2006 , our government announced nearly $100,000 in funding for a workplace literacy project that is being made available to staff of Yukon First Nation governments. The workplace project will focus on the development of both basic and high-level literacy skills that some First Nation government staff may need in order to reach their personal and professional goals. Eight First Nations are participating in a partnership with our government on this initiative.
In another area, our government has made fetal alcohol spectrum disorder a matter of top priority and is developing and implementing its five-step action plan.
In education, a total of $465,000 has been identified for FASD initiatives that will provide a continuum of support for those affected by FASD, starting with preschoolers and continuing through to post-secondary students at Yukon College .
Currently, the teacher training program is being implemented at the Tantalus School in Carmacks, the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing and the Johnson Elementary School in Watson Lake . At Yukon College , this training program, with a contribution of $137,000 from our government, will assist FASD-affected students to complete their academic or vocational programs and enable them to make successful transitions into the labour market within their communities.
Mr. Speaker, language lies at the heart of First Nation culture, and the Department of Education budgeted $111,000 in 2004-05 to hire two new native language instructors and a further $72,000 in 2005-06. A further allocation of $23,000 in 2006-07 is being made, to bring the number of First Nation language instructors to 32.
Our government in 2005 entered into an agreement with the First Peoples Cultural Foundation to pilot the First Voices program in two Yukon schools, initially. First Voices is being utilized to support the Han language at the Robert Service School in Dawson , the Southern Tutchone language at the Elijah Smith Elementary School in Whitehorse and the Tagish language at the Carcross Community School .
In conjunction with the Department of Education, the Executive Council Office has $910,000 in the aboriginal language program to support community-based language initiatives aimed at revitalization, maintenance and increased usage of aboriginal language.
Another initiative conducted by this government is education reform, which is one of two major initiatives our government has undertaken with the Council of Yukon First Nations. The education reform process was launched August 26, 2005 , and is estimated to take two years to complete.
It will build on input already gathered through the Education Act review and other processes, in order to develop recommendations for fundamental changes to the current system to meet the needs of all Yukoners. The education reform process will not stop or defer any bilateral negotiations or arrangements with individual First Nations and is open to all stakeholders in Yukon 's education system.
In this regard, the department has budgeted $674,000 in 2006-07 to continue this initiative.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If I may, Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn our attention to the gallery to introduce former Grand Chief and now one of our leads in the education reform process, Mr. Ed Schultz. Welcome.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Justice is critical to the social fabric of any jurisdiction. In this territory, our government has undertaken another reform process. We call it “consultation on corrections”. This is another major initiative that is an undertaking in partnership with the Council of Yukon First Nations, and another example of collaboration and partnership.
At the end of 2005, the corrections consultation project team tabled the corrections consultation interim report, Your Views … Your Voice, at the corrections summit. This public consultation began in April 2005 and was concluded in November. During that time, the project team visited communities, met with the public, non-government organizations and front-line staff throughout the Yukon and with First Nation governments, chiefs, mayors and councillors, and the staff and inmates of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The interim report incorporates the views of the project team, which they heard expressed during consultation meetings. At the summit at the end of November and early December, representatives from communities, non-government and governments, provided their views on the major issues raised during that consultation process.
Their views assisted the corrections consultation team in creating a draft corrections action plan. The final report will be released in the spring of 2006. A draft corrections action plan will be reviewed by the chiefs and our government at a Yukon forum meeting this spring.
The Department of Justice has allocated $1 million in the 2006-07 budget to begin the development of a new correctional infrastructure that will use the input from the elders that was previously given, along with the consultation on corrections final report, to guide its construction.
Another area is the Yukon substance abuse action plan, which is another major undertaking by our government.
The action plan represents a partnership between the departments of Health and Social Services and Education, the Executive Council Office, the Women's Directorate, the Youth Directorate and the Yukon Liquor Corporation. A draft of the Yukon substance abuse action plan was released in October 2005. The action plan contains many initiatives as well as expansion of existing programs and services that focus on four strategic directions: harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement. The action plan is based on community involvement and partnerships with Yukon non-government organizations and agencies.
A fund of $2 million has been included in the budget of the Executive Council Office that will be utilized to implement the initiatives arising out of the substance abuse action plan. One of those initiatives of the plan that will be implemented by this fund is soon to be tabled here in this sitting - the safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation. Our government committed to the drafting of this legislation and will carry out that commitment in this sitting.
The legislation is modelled on the Saskatchewan and Manitoba acts and is designed to give government a civil remedy to stop unsafe behaviours in neighbourhoods such as drug dealing or illegal alcohol sales. This is one more tool for government to combat the spread of substance abuse in our communities. This is one of the many substance abuse action item initiatives, and there will be many more. The Department of Justice has allocated $104,000 to begin implementation of safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation, and a full implementation plan and final costing will be available later this year.
Substance abuse, Mr. Speaker, is a major problem here in the north, and I think we can all agree. We know from our neighbours to the south another tremendous challenge is coming upon us and that is the use of crystal meth. This is, by evidence, causing serious problems in southern Canada and through the substance abuse action plan we have an opportunity to do some important prevention work to help minimize impact of this terrible and dangerous drug. As a consequence, our government launched a crystal meth education series beginning in January of 2006, to provide factual information about the drug through a series of workshops and information sessions to parents, professionals and youth.
A subcommittee of the Yukon substance abuse action plan working group, consisting of representatives of the departments of Justice, Education, Health and Social Services and the Youth Directorate, developed a series of workshops focused on education and prevention.
Seventy-five front-line workers attended one workshop, and to date over 320 Yukoners have participated through this series.
The Department of Justice has successfully lobbied the federal government for a four-year period to implement a treatment program for children who witness domestic violence - another area that is extremely critical to government and to the improvement of our social fabric.
The program first started in 2005-06 and $50,000 of federal funding will be available in the next three fiscal years as well.
Across the north, there is a chronic shortage of qualified justice workers. Accordingly, our government is conducting a feasibility study to determine whether a northern institute of justice could be created.
The total cost for the project over two years is $218,000 - $88,000 in 2005-06 and $130,000 in the coming fiscal year.
The study is jointly funded by the departments of Justice and Education, Justice Canada , the RCMP and the Federal Council - another example of collaboration and partnership.
A northern institute of justice would help train new and existing staff so that the highly qualified, trained staff could provide quality programming across the north for our justice system.
Now, Mr. Speaker, our social fabric is dependent upon health care and social services.
Our government has completed negotiations on a health-care deal with Canada and the other provinces and territories.
Approximately $29 million will be provided to the Yukon over the next five years for the territorial health access fund and the territorial medical travel fund.
Just recently, our minister signed funding agreements with Health Canada which follow out of a commitment from the Prime Minister at the First Ministers meeting in September 2004.
The commitment was to provide the three territories with $150 million over five years to support health reform, help improve access to services, and support the costs of medical travel.
The territorial health access fund will give the Yukon $4.3 million per year, and will support activities such as developing and implementing a comprehensive health human resources strategy, improving palliative care, and enhancing access to dental services in the communities.
The medical travel fund will provide us with another $1.6 million per year for five years, helping Yukoners access a standard level of health care that all other Canadians have access to.
Yukon also had an agreement in 2005-06 with the Canada Health infoway funding, which provided funding for a number of projects such as a strategic planning project for the management of Health and Social Services information and supporting technology over the next three to five years, with emphasis on building the infrastructure for an electronic health accord.
Another project is the client registry planning system to enable coordination of pertinent health information from disparate systems and drug information system planning that will enable health care providers to review complete history of prescription information for an individual and improve their decision making.
Under the primary health care transition fund, there is $1.8 million in 2005-06, with a $505,000 extension to September 2006 for projects that include the development and release of the Yukon HealthGuide and establishment of access to B.C./Yukon HealthGuide sites, the development of chronic disease management and palliative care project, a new insured health services system for processing and paying medical claims, the implementation of a case management computer system for mental health services, and implementation of a computerized public health immunization system.
Health and Social Services, together with other departments such as Education and Justice, is continuing to implement our government's five-step FASD action plan. Training workshops for professionals are completed and ongoing and a training needs assessment tool for communities has been completed and implementation of that is ongoing. Health and Social Services has updated FASD public service and media ads, prevention brochures and early pregnancy tips, and has held many workshops.
The department has increased funding to FASSY and is supporting a meconium testing research project being conducted by local doctors. Further, FASD support has been implemented in Yukon schools, as stated earlier, in the teacher training and school-based programs, including the introduction of a school-age diagnosis program.
Our government continues to work hard to attract more health care professionals to this territory and, in particular, family doctors. A new surgeon and two general practitioners have started work in the Yukon and the department is providing support to international medical graduate and Yukon resident Xui Mei Zhang, to complete the assessment process that will allow her to fully practice medicine in Canada .
Health and Social Services is seeking approval of $345,000 in 2006-07 to purchase three new ambulances. It is also seeking authorization to spend $750,000 to complete upgrades and emergency repairs to community nursing stations and to purchase equipment needed to provide care. Our government has provided funding for opening up additional beds at Macaulay Lodge and Copper Ridge, and the department is currently seeking authority in 2006-07 to spend $100,000 to assess and plan for future continuing care needs in the territory.
Health and Social Services is also seeking budget approval to conduct a mental health housing options assessment to assess and plan the housing options and residential supports required for persons with serious mental health illnesses.
In November 2005, the department contributed $14,000 to the Anti-Poverty Coalition to allow the NGO to introduce a new support program for low-income individuals. The project is designed to help people to gain the skills to set and maintain peer support groups and to help them find supports they need to ease daily living requirements, mentoring and finding inexpensive sources of products and services. In addition, the department provided a three-percent increase to contribution agreements in 2005-06 for non-government organizations. At the end of January 2006, our government provided $61,000 in funding from Health and Social Services to a new non-government organization supporting families and individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Also, in 2005, this government introduced a 100-percent increase from $125 per month to $250 per month for the territorial supplementary allowance for persons with disabilities and seniors receiving social assistance. This initiative demonstrates our commitment to taking care of the most vulnerable people in our society.
In keeping with our government's 2002 platform commitment, the department increased the pioneer utility grant by 25 percent and indexed it against inflation in 2004, with an additional 10-percent increase to the base, effective October 2005.
Childcare continues to be a priority for our government. The department provided a three-percent increase in the direct operating grant in 2005-06 to assist childcare operators with staff wages and operating costs. Funding for a further five-percent increase is included in this year's budget.
Earlier this month, our government announced its support for a public awareness campaign on the importance of childcare for Yukon children and families. This awareness campaign will be conducted by the newly formed Childcare Coalition Yukon , representing the three Yukon childcare groups, the Yukon Childcare Association, the Society of Yukon Family Day Homes and Childcare Awareness Committee.
The department is exemplary in carrying out its mandate of delivering health care to Yukoners.
Another area that this government has lived up to in terms of its commitment is the Women's Directorate. The Women's Directorate continues to play the lead role in addressing the prevention of violence against women and children. In November of 2005, under the leadership of our minister, our government launched its first phase of a three-year public education campaign addressing violence against women and children as part of the efforts around Women Abuse Prevention Month. The campaign is being led by the Women's Directorate and the Department of Justice and is being developed by an inter-agency group of 19 organizations dedicated to stopping violence against women and children in the Yukon . The campaign ties in with our government's substance abuse action plan, as family violence is often linked to substance abuse. The campaign encourages people to use services like VictimLINK, a phone line to help victims of violence that is available 24 hours, seven days a week. Information can also be found on a new Web site: www.stopviolenceinyukon.ca . In order to carry out its mandate, the Women's Directorate budget has increased by $190,000 in 2006-07 over the main estimates for 2005-06, which clearly shows our government's commitment to women's issues and gender balance.
There has also been a $140,000 increase in contribution agreements that enhance our government's commitment to seven grassroots women's organizations to support their development and their capacity to effectively enhance the equality of all Yukon women.
An additional $10,000 contribution to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre advocate position will be provided in 2006-07. Funding is also being provided to the Women's Directorate to establish a new First Nations liaison coordinator.
There has been an increase of $20,000 to support ongoing work on violence prevention, Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues, and public education on women's equality issues.
Again this year, funding will be provided to aboriginal women's groups to support the aboriginal women and violence initiative.
Another very important part of our fabric in this territory is our francophone community. They participated in the October 2005 selection committee to hire the new director of the Bureau of French Language Services.
Our government also announced in 2005 that we will create a directorate affiliated with the Department of Highways and Public Works in 2006 and that the Association Franco-yukonnaise will be consulted on the implementation of the new structure, giving more credence and effect to the representation of our francophone community within government.
Our Public Service Commission also plays an important role in the corporate structure. Yukon public servants are critical members of “Team Yukon ” that make government programs and services work to meet the needs of all Yukoners on a daily basis.
Our government is committed to continued investment in the public service and to developing and sustaining our organization as one that provides top-quality programs and services to Yukon people; therefore, our government is continuing to invest $1.382 million in the program called “Investing in public service - serving Yukon people”. We announced this initiative in 2005-06, and it continues in the coming fiscal year.
The IPS initiative supports our government's priorities to build a sustainable, competitive economy and build healthy communities, environment and a better quality of life by establishing the groundwork for better program and service delivery to Yukoners.
On December 1, 2005 , I had the honour and privilege to announce the first-ever Premier's award of excellence to seven individuals and three teams: the forest management transition team, the development assessment process team and the adult protection legislation team.
It is public servants like these award recipients who go above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis and instill pride in our public service and deliver effective programs to the Yukon public.
Our government is committed to developing the public service so it is attractive to encourage our talented young people to return to Yukon after graduating from post-secondary institutions. To accomplish this end, the Public Service Commission established the GradCorps in the fall of 2005 that facilitates the hiring of Yukon post-secondary students for employment with the Yukon government. The first intake in 2005 saw the hiring of interns in five departments, and the second intake is currently in progress.
Our government also remains committed to workplace diversity. The workplace diversity employment office helps us achieve that commitment by providing training opportunities for Yukon First Nation people and helps our government meet its land claim obligations, as well as providing opportunities for people with disabilities, who can then come to work within the public service.
I have covered in detail the 2006-07 budget but, in conclusion, it is important we recognize how we got here. This is, once again, the biggest budget in the history of the territory. There is more investment ensuring stimulus in the Yukon economy and there is more investment in our social programs, our education and health care systems and in other areas, strengthening our social fabric. There are a number of statistics that show that the hard work is paying off. Yukon is turning around. The direction is now positive; the future is bright and we are on a pathway to prosperity.
The time has come, given this budget and what it means, to continue the direction that we have charted. The time has come for all Yukoners to decide: decide whether change is what they want or whether they want to continue this path of growth and prosperity. This budget complements what we have done to date. This budget invests in areas that will continue that growth and prosperity and I commend this budget to the House.
Motion to adjourn debate
Mr. Hardy: I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Bill No. 20 agreed to
Hon Mr. Cathers: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 4:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 30, 2006
By-election in the Electoral District of Copperbelt, November 21, 2005 : Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon (Speaker Staffen)
Public Accounts, Standing Committee on: Third Report (dated December 2005) Vol. 16 (Hardy)