Whitehorse , Yukon
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to have members in the House help me welcome teacher Mr. Deuling and some students from Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Welcome.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have for tabling the final report for the corrections consultation project dated March 2006.
Speaker: Are there any other documents for tabling?
Are there reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 111: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT a bill, entitled Act to Repeal the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party
THAT a bill, entitled Act to Repeal the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 111 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) disturbing incidents of violence, bullying, animal abuse and senseless vandalism of public and private property continue to occur in the Yukon ;
(2) domestic violence and bullying in our schools and on our playgrounds cannot be excused or tolerated and neither can verbal abuse, physical violence or harassment in the workplace;
(3) violent and abusive behaviour that is learned in childhood continues into adulthood unless it is confronted and corrected; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to state clearly that all forms of violence, bullying, intimidation, harassment and abuse of other people, animals or property cannot be tolerated, and to demonstrate leadership by supporting community, school and workplace programs that will help to eradicate such behaviours.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Corrections reform consultation
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak briefly about the corrections consultation and the final report. This was a very comprehensive consultation focused on corrections reform. It was a territory-wide public consultation that was co-chaired by the Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations. The purpose was to develop a corrections action plan. The plan will guide the planning for delivering programs and services in the Correctional Centre and communities.
As a result of this consultation and the plan, we will be working on significant changes to the way programs and services are delivered in our correctional facilities and in the communities for offenders, victims and families. For example, we will be developing ways to ensure that there is a comprehensive assessment of inmate needs. We will find ways of addressing those needs in the Correctional Centre and other facilities through the time of transition and reintegration into the community.
There will also be an emphasis on working with First Nations to include First Nation traditions, cultures and practices in programs and services. This will help First Nation offenders reconnect with their culture while addressing their issues. There will be an emphasis on working with communities to help them develop capacity to deliver programs and services in their communities or adapt Whitehorse-based programs and services to better meet community needs. These are just some of the changes we will be working toward.
Mr. Speaker, many Yukoners contributed to this consultation. The project team held public meetings and also met with chiefs and councils, mayors and councils, First Nation staff and inmates at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, workers in government and non-government organizations, and other groups and individuals. Approximately 160 consultation meetings were held. Yukoners talked about the challenges facing offenders, victims, families and communities and how to meet those challenges in the Correctional Centre and in the community. The corrections action plan is in the final report. The plan is based on issues raised during the consultation and discussions at the corrections summit in December of 2005.
Some issues included: making the Correctional Centre and other correctional infrastructure safe and secure places to live and work in; the programs and services needed in Whitehorse and in the communities; the needs of those with FASD or mental health issues; and building community capacity to help meet the needs of victims, offenders and families in the communities. Yukoners were clear that correctional reform must include correctional facilities and the communities; therefore, we have included that in the plan.
The Yukon government and Yukon First Nations worked in partnership throughout this consultation and continue to do so. At the Yukon forum, the Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations endorsed the principles, priorities and recommendations in the plan. They will provide the foundation for correctional reform. At the forum, we also approved the implementation framework.
I would like to acknowledge those involved in the consultation. The executive committee included Grand Chief Andy Carvill, Liard First Nation councillor Dale Stewart, the Ross River Dena Council representative, Lloyd Caesar, and myself, as Minister of Justice.
Earlier members included Elaine Taylor, former Minister of Justice; Ed Schultz, former Grand Chief; Eric Morris, former Grand Chief; and Jason Shorty, former councillor for Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The project team included Barb Joe, CYFN co-chair; Sharon Hickey, Yukon government co-chair; Brenda Jackson was CYFN policy analyst; and Joanne Lewis was the Yukon government policy analyst.
During this consultation, many people spoke about personal experiences or the experiences of family members. Talking openly about such issues can be painful; however, many people were willing to do this in the hope that their stories would be heard and would be used to help improve the correctional system.
Thank you to all Yukoners who shared their experiences and ideas. You showed that reform is necessary and possible. We will work with First Nations and communities to fully develop the possibilities.
Mr. Cardiff: I'd like to begin by thanking all the professionals, the officials, the staff, the groups and the members of the public who were involved in this very important consultation. They've worked very hard and shared many excellent ideas about our corrections system and court system, and their contributions have been huge. They won't be forgotten on this side of the House.
We're facing many problems with the current situation in the correctional centre, in our courts and in the communities. We've asked many questions of this government about the safety for workers and inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, about its lack of programming, about community justice programs and about many other aspects of our justice system.
It is interesting to note that the minister is giving a ministerial statement about a report that he tabled about two minutes earlier in the Legislature, so we haven't had an opportunity to view that report. We look forward to seeing that report. The minister has made a lot of promises, and we hope that they'll live up to them.
I have talked to people during my participation in one or two meetings and have found that this corrections consultation process was good. It is unfortunate that there are other act review processes and consultations going on that aren't proceeding as well as this one.
Unfortunately, at this point, we're still almost at the same place in the corrections system as where we started nearly four years ago, Mr. Speaker. There has been a lot of consultation, and the minister has made some promises, but we haven't made a lot of progress on the ground, and we look forward to that. For example, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has been propped up with millions of dollars in wasted repairs, and it is still falling down. There are still challenges in meeting the occupational health and safety standards for the safety of inmates and workers. Over the years, this government has done nothing to solve many serious problems. They simply have ignored some of the hard questions.
We're very interested in the results of this important consultation. Like I said, how are we to respond to a report that we haven't had a chance to read? It would have been more appropriate for the minister, I believe, to have made this report available to us, to the public, and then we would have been able to respond more fully. We will be responding in more detail once we have the report in our hands and have had an opportunity to read it.
Ms. Duncan: There's no question that consultation on programs and services delivered by any government are important, and I would like to express our thanks, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, to the individuals who are in attendance in the gallery today and all those who shared their views and concerns during the process of this difficult consultation.
The problem that we have with the corrections consultation report is that it should not have been used as an excuse not to replace a facility that is a danger both to staff and inmates, that successive governments have known about for a very, very long time. When the Yukon Party came to office they did not want to build a new jail. There were, and I quote, “no votes in building a new jail.” They put their heads together and came up with a plan to delay the decision on building a new facility. They came up with correctional reform - that equals buying some time. A decision was pushed over to the next government.
The facts are, Mr. Speaker, that when the Yukon Party came to office, a new design for the correctional facility was complete. Dirt had already been moved. Money was set aside in the capital budget. Community consultations on the new facility had been completed. The Yukon Party simply didn't want to allocate the funds. Concerns raised by inmates, staff and the fire marshal about the facility simply had to wait.
Now, what has this stalling cost the taxpayer? In the last three years they've spent $1.4 million in renovations to a facility that is clearly beyond repair, $2.4 million on correctional reform and the consultation process that has taken three years. And now here we are on the eve of the next election and there's a million dollars in the budget for planning.
Due to inflation, the cost of the facility has probably increased $10 million in the last four years under the Yukon Party watch. The result of the Yukon Party delaying this project is an increase in the budget of approximately $15 million for a new correctional facility. That cost will be paid by Yukon taxpayers. There is no question that the next government has to deliver the construction of a new facility. Again, Mr. Speaker, there is no denigration in my statement of the individuals who have participated in the consultation on correctional reform. My criticism is of the government that used the correctional reform process to delay the much-needed construction of the correctional facility.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the members opposite for their comments with regard to the correctional consultation. I must say, though, Mr. Speaker, regarding the member from the third party who made the comments about historical references to building a new facility - from the consultations I have had with a number of stakeholders, there was very poor consultation by the previous government in its attempts to construct a new facility. There were numerous people across the territory who said that they were very pleased that this government did stop to ask all Yukoners what they wanted to see in a new facility. The first and foremost recommendation that came out of this consultation was the need to construct a new facility - one that would best meet the needs of the Yukon population - and I am pleased to say that this government is really focusing on providing some intervention in the revolving-door syndrome of the facility. The recommendations from the advisory committee will be the direction that the government will take, and the quotes from the third party about the costs increasing by $15 million - that's just hearsay. I would prefer to wait until the building committee comes up with a plan before anyone determines what kind of costs will be added to this facility.
And again, I really want to thank all the people who were involved. It was a tremendous amount of work, and I think the Yukon is going to benefit from this.
I might also add, Mr. Speaker, that I saw just yesterday on the news that in Vancouver they are attempting to do the same thing we are - diverting and looking at different ways to deal with those who are suffering from alcohol and drug addictions. That's all part of this process that the Yukon has already undertaken.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Education report by Fraser Institute
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, for the first time the Fraser Institute included four Yukon schools in its report card on secondary schools in B.C. Yukon schools did not do very well in its report - especially the school in the Premier's own riding. Mr. Speaker, the Fraser Institute is well known for its bias toward privatized social and educational services. We have serious concerns about how this right-wing think tank does its research, including this particular report.
Does the Minister of Education accept the Fraser Institute's findings about Yukon high schools, and what is his response to this report?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question. This is very important. Watson Lake Secondary School administration and staff provide excellent programs and services for students. Everyone is working hard at that school to increase students' success and to provide for the best possible learning environment. The Department of Education is always looking at the big picture, so we can adjust the programs and services we provide students to make for the best possible learning environment.
Just this year Yukon schools received continuing funding for the home tutor program, full day kindergarten, and there's over $300,000 available to schools for First Nation cultural enhancement.
We have also introduced special training for all our math teachers, and special programs like the Individual Learning Centre.
Mrs. Peter: Many good things are happening in Yukon schools. The dedication of teachers and department staff is evident in successful new programs. The minister made reference to the after-school tutoring, the Individual Learning Centre and the reading recovery program. But this is a time of change and progress.
My own First Nation, for example, is showing leadership by working to incorporate land-based cultural programs into the curriculum. The education forum we held recently confirmed the importance of experiential learning and partnerships between schools and communities.
The minister made reference to some supporting programs that they are offering. But based on real partnerships -
Speaker: Would the member please ask her question?
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I will.
What are some other support programs that are based on real partnerships with those who are most concerned with the education of children, parents and students themselves?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am pleased that the member opposite asked that question because in addition to all the programming changes taking place at the school level under this government's mandate, I would also like to speak briefly to the education reform. This government is working in partnership with the Council of Yukon First Nations to make the education system more relevant to all Yukoners and to meet the needs of all Yukon students. Full consultation with Yukon communities, First Nations, as well as educators and school councils, are planned for the spring and fall of 2006.
In the 2006-07 budget we are requesting $674,000 to support the education reform process. This support for the education reform process is integral to creating the kind of education system that reflects the needs and aspirations of all Yukoners, particularly First Nations and rural community people.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the education system is complex and not easy to change. The Liberal government found that out with its failed attempt to review and amend the Education Act. This minister likes to talk about his pet project, the education reform process. But that won't be completed, Mr. Speaker, until two years after this minister is no longer around to implement any changes. Changes are needed now.
What is this minister doing now to ensure that our children are receiving the education that they deserve, both in core curriculum and in cultural programming that is so important to our unique Yukon way of life and, more especially, in our communities?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I'd like to start by assuring the member opposite that I will be around for many years to come. I want to assure everyone that the Government of Yukon is working very hard to improve First Nation and rural student success rates, and we are approaching this important issue in a number of different ways. Through school-based programs and education reform, this government is working to create an education system that is more relevant and engaging to all students, an education system that will increase success for all students.
Question re: Watson Lake care facility contract
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon the Minister of Health and Social Services asked us to believe that the delays and cost overruns in Watson Lake aren't about the multi-level care facility; he said they're about the existing hospital. Now, that's slim comfort for taxpayers who are footing the bill for one more Yukon Party boondoggle.
According to the minister, we're on the hook for about $1 million in extra design costs because of problems in the hospital, Mr. Speaker. Will the minister tell us how much it will cost to actually fix these problems and why this isn't being treated as a separate capital project?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again I'd like to explain to the leader of the official opposition that the reason work was done on the Watson Lake hospital, and a review of that, was that, in the beginning with the multi-level care facility in Watson Lake and due to the fact it is connected, there was initially an intent to have a door and create flow-through from the two buildings. When they began doing this, they had to look at whether or not there were any issues related to the hospital and this became far more detailed and in-depth than had originally been envisioned when it became apparent that there were structural issues we had to take a look at.
Mr. Hardy: Well, that was quite the non-answer. It definitely wasn't a million-dollar answer.
It's déjà vu time all over again: the Carmacks school, overdue and overbudget; the Thomson Centre, a money pit with no decisions on what it will be used for; the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, already talked about today - $4 million of propping, patching, plastering and painting and absolutely nothing to show for it; the Dawson care facility - lots of designs, lots of money, no product; the Dawson bridge - how about that one? - millions of dollars to find out the government was on the wrong track on that.
Can the minister explain why a government that promised to lead us to a new economic wonderland can't seem to deliver a single capital project on time and on budget?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thank the leader of the official opposition for that question. Again, as I've said before, on the issues with regard to the Watson Lake hospital, there was a need to review whether there were structural deficiencies or any problems and there was planning work to determine what we would need to do down the road. That is not a new project.
I thank the member for asking me about the Thomson Centre. The Thomson Centre has been undergoing renovations to correct design and construction deficiencies and to ensure the building meets current building code requirements. I would point out for the benefit of the member opposite that the Thomson Centre was built by an NDP government, and that NDP government actually ran the building inspector off the site and moved residents into a structure that did not have an occupancy permit.
I would go further, for the member's benefit, to point out that that former NDP government selected a design that could never be expected to perform well in the Yukon 's climate. I would recommend that the member opposite remember these points when he attempts to criticize our government. We are simply doing the work required to clean up another NDP mess.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I'm glad the minister has a briefing note, although it's not all correct.
I happen to know that job very well because, yes, we had to run off some unqualified workers from that site, as well, when I worked for the union.
I'm going to help the minister out here, because we're talking about their spending and lack of production, which is in the millions of dollars - and we have no product. It's about the Yukon Party attitude. It's about an attitude that says other people's money isn't real money. You can just throw it around like Monopoly money. Give it to your friends as sole-source contracts; this government is legendary for it. Write the mayor an IOU for millions on the back of an envelope. Call the Alaskan governor's telethon and pledge $3 million for a train that we know is not going to arrive. How many more millions of dollars' worth of unfinished capital projects is the Yukon Party government planning to toss into the lap of the next government because it doesn't know how to finish what it starts?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: When the leader of the official opposition notes construction costs rising and going above the anticipated levels, he might wish to note that, nation-wide, the cost of construction is up. This is a problem being faced by every government.
I could not help but find the leader of the official opposition's comments with regard to having to run off unqualified workers at the Thomson Centre project - I note that he apparently is referring to the building inspector as an unqualified worker, because that was the only person I referred to as having been run off by the NDP government.
A functional review of the various proposals for the use of the space within the Thomson Centre is nearly complete and decisions regarding the most effective and efficient use of this area will be based on a reasoned analysis in conjunction with current and future operational requirements. The problem we are facing with the Thomson Centre is due to the decisions made by an NDP government, not due to the decisions made by our government. We have stepped in, we have done the review, and we are waiting for the review at this time.
Early on in the mandate, we had to make repairs to the roof - again, structural deficiencies - and we are now taking the steps to determine how we will bring this space back into operation.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As mentioned early, Chief Andy Carvill played a very important role in correctional reform, and he is in the gallery today with his executive assistant, Joan Graham. I'd like the members to help me welcome them.
Question re: Porter Creek land development
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there have been several questions about the future use of lands in Porter Creek, and it's important, in the words of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources yesterday, that the facts are on the record.
Fact one: Government of Yukon owns the surveyed, titled lots in the Holly Street area.
Fact two: On November 4, 2005 , the minister's department wrote the City of Whitehorse . The department said that they would transfer the land to the city based on the current official community plan. Earlier in the letter, officials confirmed that zoning for the land is parks and recreation.
Fact three: On November 10, 2005 , city officials responded saying the land is zoned environmental protection and that they had no plans to change the zoning, and they would ask for the land in 2006.
Mr. Speaker, I'm filing the letters with the Clerk.
Fast forward to 2006, the minister writes a letter - in spite of the fact that the city has already said no, it wouldn't change the zoning - in spite of the fact zoning bylaws are the responsibility of the City of Whitehorse.
Speaker: You have to ask the question now.
Ms. Duncan: Now that the earlier correspondence has been brought to the attention of the minister, will the minister retract his comfort letter of March 29 to Mayor Bourassa?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you to the member opposite. We certainly work with the city on land issues and will continue to do that.
Ms. Duncan: I did ask the minister to retract the letter. He didn't agree to do that. The fact is that the letter of March 29 authored by the minister caught City Hall off-guard. There is an inconsistency between the City of Whitehorse clearly standing behind their official community plan and planning to proceed to have YTG lots transferred to them, and the minister saying that we should have public debate about the zoning. A private developer told a public meeting that he “had a confidential deal” with the minister about this same lot development. The minister said he only wants to have a public discussion. Mr Speaker, Whitehorse residents are left wondering who's on first in land development. Who's going to enjoy greenspace in their neighbourhoods? How are we going to reach consensus on what areas should be developed if we don't know who is making the final decision - the landowner, YTG or the City of Whitehorse ? Who is making the decisions about greenspace within the City of Whitehorse ?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will remind the member opposite that zoning and community planning fall under the municipal government. Certainly, the protocol that we will be proceeding with is very important in that issue.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, that's the whole point of the question. The city is responsible for zoning, but YTG owns the lots. Who is making the final decision when there are inconsistencies in the ministerial correspondence?
Mr. Speaker, as I said, Whitehorse residents want to know who is ultimately going to make decisions about greenspace. They also want to know what we are going to do for affordable lots in Whitehorse this coming building season, and who will be building the subdivisions. We've had successful, large subdivisions constructed by private developers; however, traditionally, it's YTG that does the subdivision development. The minister has failed to explain to the public in Question Period how one particular developer was able to obtain a “comfort letter”. Who is going to build the new subdivisions we need, and if indeed the Yukon Party is interested in private development, how will the developer be selected - sole-source or open tendering?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That is why I repeated that the protocol between the City of Whitehorse and the government is so important, and we're going to have that finalized, and we will move forward with that protocol. I commit in the House here to have that done.
Question re: Aircraft float manufacture
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on a proposal to manufacture airplane floats in Watson Lake . In a recent news story, the proponent behind this project said he has had discussions with the Yukon government about locating in Watson Lake . He said tax incentives have been offered by the Yukon government. He went on to say that he could not comment on the tax incentives at this point.
Mr. Speaker, before the minister stands up and says we don't support this project because we're asking questions about it, I'd like to put something on the record: we are interested in this project. We support economic development in our rural communities. We also want to know what it might cost the taxpayers of Yukon . What special or new tax incentives has the government offered this company to locate in the Yukon ?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I'm certainly glad to hear that the leader of the Liberal Party agrees with us. We support economic development; that's why we re-created the Department of Economic Development after the previous Liberal government, in their wisdom, killed it, something that I still have to scratch my head about.
We are working with the private company on that. If the private company is making statements, I suggest the member opposite ask questions of them. There are a number of tax incentives in coming to the Yukon . They're all on the Web site.
Mr. Mitchell: The minister did not answer the question. The private company has outlined a plan to open a manufacturing business in Watson Lake . The proponent said he cannot comment on the details of the tax incentives. He didn't say it was the regular tax incentives, the small business incentive program - he said he couldn't comment. He did say, however, that the tax incentives make this an extremely exciting and viable operation. These tax incentives will come from Yukon taxpayers, and they have a right to know what's on the table.
There may be other companies that would like to invest in other Yukon communities. They, too, need to know what this government's tax incentive policies are so they can make their investment decisions.
Why is this minister unwilling to tell Yukoners how he wants to spend their money?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It's an interesting spin on the whole thing. Again, I'm very proud of what the Department of Economic Development has done, now that we've re-created it after the Liberals saw fit to promote the economy by killing the very department that should have been doing the work.
They have been contacted by a private company -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, Member for Porter Creek South.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, our Standing Orders clearly indicate that we are to refrain from the use of violent language in the Legislature. Killing something strikes me as rather violent. I don't have the specific reference at hand, but 19(i ) cites words “in a context likely to create disorder.”
Speaker: It falls within the realm of 19(i). The honourable member, please just refrain from using the term.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can certainly refrain from that and will use other words, like “disbanding”, or “renewing” the government by dispersing the people relevant to the project to other departments, and removing those positions.
There are a number of tax benefits to coming to the Yukon . We have a very favourable tax rate, and those are the things that will draw any small business here. I thank the member opposite for pointing that out. We do hope that other companies come here and look at the things the Yukon has to offer, but again, if some proponent is talking about something they're looking at, I ask the member opposite to discuss that with the proponent.
Mr. Mitchell: Once a deal has been signed with the company, it's too late to go to Yukoners and ask for their input. They need to know up front how much money the Yukon government is planning to give or provide through tax incentives to this company. Is it thousands of dollars, a million dollars, or more? I am urging the minister to be open and accountable while spending other people's money.
The proponent said that he cannot comment on the details of the initiatives or tax incentives at this point. He did say the tax incentives make this an extremely exciting and viable operation. It's clear that the Yukon government is having discussions with a private company and that the government has offered tax incentives. What's on the table? Why won't the minister fess up?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Some of the things that are on the Web site include a tax reduction to the small-business corporate tax rate from six percent to four percent. That was passed last fall. I believe the member opposite actually voted for that. There are a number of other tax incentives that are very good in terms of drawing small business to the Yukon , but we have to look at the facts and do proper research. One thing that certainly comes to mind is an ad on TV currently that shows, for instance, a person stumbling down the streets of Pamplona - this is running the bulls five days after it occurred.
The same third party, several days ago, demanded that we bring in the Auditor General to take a look at the Yukon Housing Corporation project and the Yukon College project, which is sometimes referred to as “affordable housing” or the “athletes village”, or whatever. It's 10 weeks too late.
I have for tabling a photograph taken on February 2, and I will be happy to send the original over to the members opposite. It shows a group touring that very facility, and in the front row is Ms. Sheila Fraser, Auditor General of Canada . It's 10 weeks too late, Mr. Speaker. Let's do better research.
Question re: Land use planning
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the minister responsible for land use planning. It has been over 12 years since the first four First Nations signed off their final agreements and others have followed since - May 29, 1993 , to be exact. Since then the First Nations have worked hard to implement their agreements but are constantly running into road blocks and delays. Now, much time has gone by and chapter 11 of the final agreement is a land use planning chapter - a very important chapter.
One of the objectives of land use planning is to ensure that the social, cultural, economic and environmental policies are applied to management protection and use of land, water and resources in an integrated and coordinated manner so as to ensure sustainable development. In the absence of land use planning, can the minister tell us how the Yukon Party is implementing this objective when it comes to development?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member is right; that is part of the final chapter, chapter 11. It was set up to do an overall view of land use planning throughout the Yukon . I think eight distinct areas have been set up to be planned. When this government took office, no plans had been completed, and we put the council to work to revive the plans. We have to report to the House. The north Yukon plan is almost ready to be finalized. We are working on the Peel plan, and there is some movement into the Dawson area.
Mr. Speaker, this has been a long and complicated process. I have to say that this government - this council, to give credit to the council - and with the help of the commissions, has done more in the last two years to get product out the door than I think we've done in the last four years, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, ask that question to First Nations and they'll say otherwise, Mr. Speaker.
Now, there was a lot of talk of development of the mining industry and the logging industry and the agricultural industry in the budget speech, and they are all good, Mr. Speaker, but there is no mention of land use planning under Energy, Mines and Resources. It's just not a priority for this government. The department's objective in Energy, Mines and Resources is to manage, support and coordinate regional land use planning. Mr. Speaker, that isn't working.
Now, the government is not following proper process, and they're finding themselves in court over land issues with First Nations. So when will the minister make land use planning a priority - this mandate or after this mandate?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly look at land use planning as a priority, and to answer the question about economic development in any of these areas, it is all part of land use planning.
The commission is in place, councils have been put together. Really, we as Energy, Mines and Resources oversee the council, but the council is independent. The council is set up through the agreement, Mr. Speaker. The funds for those councils have been put aside by the federal government, chapter 11, and we certainly work with the council to move these things forward. But we have to do them in a responsible way, and obviously in the last five years it has become more of a cumbersome job for the council. But again I say to the member that the council is up and running; we've got the north Yukon almost finished; the Peel is probably three-quarters done and we're moving into other areas. So we are doing the job. We're not overseeing it. We're working with that council that is independent on land use planning, and they have some product, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, land use planning is no priority of this government, and that's what I was trying to get to the member opposite. He needs to get on with land use planning; that's what he has been told by First Nations.
Let's take a look at land use plans; for example, the Ddhaw Ghro special management area between Pelly and Mayo. That took up to six years to complete. There's an increase in development in the Yukon since devolution of lands and resources to the Yukon - we've all seen that.
This is the biggest budget ever. Why didn't the minister ensure his budget reflects some resources for land use planning, or is land use planning just in the way of the Yukon Party's plans?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again I correct the member opposite. We're not driving land use planning; the council is driving land use planning. The funds come from the federal government and flow through this government. There was a figure of $10 million put aside in chapter 11 of the agreement. There are still resources left. The council is going to work and, as the member just said, these land use plans take time. They're not something that can be done overnight and they're not going to be driven by Energy, Mines and Resources. They're going to be driven by the proponents in the area.
This government is not driving land use planning; that's not what we were elected to do. We're here to work with the council and get some successful land use plans out into the general public.
Question re: Government contracts, summary report
Mr. Cardiff: I've a question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. For several years the government has been publishing a summary report of all government contracts, and they've been doing that twice a year. This summary is important for business people and for anyone who wants to know how the government conducts its business with the private sector.
Will the minister confirm that his department now intends to produce this report only once a year, and will he tell us why?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will continue to report as we usually do.
Mr. Cardiff: The report that was normally available this winter wasn't available, so he's wrong on that point.
The contract registry provides a public record of government spending. It allows the MLAs, the media, the business community and the general public to keep an eye on how their government spends taxpayers' dollars. It shows what contracts were tendered and which ones were sole-sourced. It shows which departments are investing in our economy and which communities are getting the benefits. To put it in street terms, it also shows who is getting a piece of the government action and who isn't.
Why is the minister making it harder for people to get this important public information?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We provide all that information on-line and it's available on the Web site.
Mr. Cardiff: This is the same minister who said he was going to fix the access to information system, but then he wouldn't take any input about what needs fixing. The minister says that the contract information is all on-line, but what he won't admit is that it's often slow in getting posted on-line, sometimes it is incomplete, and it is hard to analyze.
Now, it doesn't have to be that way. Full, timely information makes for timely decision making for both business and the public. I've spoken to computer experts who are telling me that a few dozen lines of computer code would make an on-line contract registry much more useful to the public and to business.
Why hasn't the minister directed his department to make weekly or even monthly contract summaries available on-line or on compact disc? He has had almost four years. What does he have to hide?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Obviously I can't hide anything because the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act allows them to get all that information. Plus, it is available on-line and has been all this time through the process. We are not trying to hide a thing. The fact that the member opposite can't find the information he's looking for on the Web site - well, maybe that's his problem.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Government House leader's report on length of sitting
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I rise pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 75(4) to inform the House that the House leaders have met for the purpose of achieving agreement on the maximum number of sitting days for the current sitting. The House leaders have not reached an agreement on the maximum number of sitting days for this sitting.
Speaker: Standing Order 75(3) states, “When, pursuant to Standing Order 75(2), an agreement cannot be reached between the government House leader and at least one other House leader representing a majority of members of the Assembly, each of the spring and fall sittings shall be a maximum of 30 sitting days.”
Accordingly, I declare the current sitting shall be a maximum of 30 sitting days, with the 30th sitting day being May 24, 2006 .
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 . They are Motion No. 638, standing in the name of the Member for Southern Lakes, and Motion No. 639, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 18, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 18 – Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07
Chair: The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 18, the Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07. We will begin with general debate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be able to provide Committee of the Whole with some introductory comments on Bill No. 18, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07, before we move into general debate. As the Premier, the Minister of Finance, mentioned earlier, this appropriation act is required to allow the public service to continue to make certain expenditures while the main estimates for the 2006-07 budget are being considered by the Legislative Assembly during this 2006 spring sitting.
The interim funding requested is for the period of April 1, 2006 , until the end of June 2006. The total amount for which approval is being sought is $385,557,000 and is made up of capital expenditures and appropriations amounting to $129,373, and operations and maintenance expenditures and appropriations of $256,184,000.
The amounts required for this three-month period have been derived by canvassing all Yukon government departments to determine their minimal expenditure requirements for this three-month period. The amounts are certainly significant and largely owing to the fact that a number of government-funded organizations such as the hospital, the Yukon College and some of our non-government organizations received the bulk of their grants in the first quarter of the year. In addition, a large percentage of capital expenditures are made during this period.
As has been relayed by the Premier on a number of occasions throughout this sitting, we are very pleased to be able to table the largest budget in Yukon's history and, of course, this year is by no means an exception - $793 million in total. As in the past, this budget will continue to exercise fiscal prudence while being able to continue our trend of stimulating the Yukon economy.
We are very pleased to be able to provide the sound fiscal management. This, of course, has received the accolades, praise and attention of the Auditor General of Canada on a number of occasions. We are very pleased to continue to utilize our budgets to create a sound climate that encourages the growth of the private sector and continues to stimulate our economy in terms of jobs.
Mr. Chair, in terms of accountability, I just wanted to take a couple of moments to reflect some of the comments that were made by the Auditor General of Canada when she came to the Yukon earlier this year. She spoke to the Chamber of Commerce and met with the Premier and other finance officials in our department. I just have to say that she was very pleased with how the Government of Yukon has managed its financial reporting as we have moved to full accrual accounting. One of the reasons why the Yukon government has received the praise of the Auditor General of Canada is that our financial records - or perhaps I should say “our books” - fully reflect all assets and liabilities of the government. We have implemented higher standards of accounting and taken steps to ensure accountability and public confidence in governance. The booking of liabilities includes retirement benefits that employees are eligible for on retirement. That certainly is not an insignificant amount. The accrual last year totalled an additional amount of some $27 million owing to changes in accounting reporting standards, which had to be recognized.
Booking these amounts ensures that we are fully transparent to our employees and taxpayers by completely revealing all liabilities, both present and future, and that will affect the government's long-term financial framework.
Previous governments have not been as forthcoming or fully transparent for all the financial transactions of the Government of Yukon. For example, some previous governments, from time to time, capped employee leave and severance liabilities, as reported on the financial statements, to an arbitrary amount. This is not the case with this government; in fact, we are reporting the complete and total liabilities associated with these expenditures.
As the Premier stated on a number of occasions, our government is very pleased to be able to provide unqualified financial statements. During the term of this government and the time we have been in office, over the last three and some years, the Auditor General has not issued any qualifications of our financial statements - another reason why we have received the praise of the Auditor General of Canada .
I wanted to point that out for the members opposite because I think it is a very important fact to remind Yukoners and the members opposite that the Government of Yukon continues to exercise fiscal prudence and is fully transparent and accountable for each of the expenditures reflected in this budget.
We have come a long way, Mr. Chair, since the election in 2002. Our first budget, as I recall, was introduced in the spring of 2003. At that time, unemployment stood far greater than what it is today, well over eight percent. Today it has been reduced to an all-time low, the lowest of any Canadian jurisdiction, with the exception of the Province of Alberta .
At the same time, our labour force has grown. We have fewer people unemployed today than we did three years ago, and that is also inclusive of growth in the private sector and so forth. Our GDP has benefited from this growth. Real estate transactions have benefited from economic growth; retail sales have increased.
Compared to three and some years ago when we had individuals - primarily young families - leaving the territory, we actually have a number of families coming back to the territory, making the Yukon their home - a great place to reside and raise their family. As a result, we have experienced a five-percent increase in our population over the last three years.
Again, mineral exploration costs have surged tremendously over the years. Our tourism numbers continue to rise. A number of industries - our cultural industries - continue to thrive - whether it be film, sound recording. These are all positive statistics, and they're all very positive signals of the economic growth that has taken place in the Yukon over the last three years.
I think it is important to note that we certainly do take credit for being able to utilize each of the government budgets to provide a climate, to build upon that climate that is attractive or conducive to the growth of the private sector. But we are very appreciative of being able to benefit from some of the growth that has taken place in the territory.
While the economy has improved and investments have been made in some of our strategic sectors, of which I have made mention before, we certainly have not forgotten our social safety net, with investments in health, social services and investments in education. I just want to point out a few examples: the Health and Social Services budget for operations and maintenance has grown from $154 million to $176 million - that's a 14-percent increase over the last three years - and the Department of Education's operation and maintenance budget has certainly also grown, an increase of about 15 percent over the last three years; funding for the Yukon Hospital Corporation has also grown from where we were in 2003-04 to this budget. These are just a few examples of investments that we have made in the Department of Health and Social Services, Department of Education and so forth. With these increases we have benefited from a number of new and improved initiatives, many of which our ministers have outlined and will continue to outline for members opposite.
Because of these incredible programs and initiatives, we continue to see improvements across the board. Do we have a ways to go? Yes, of course we do. We always strive for improvement in terms of our economic growth and meeting our social needs and concerns. But I think that collectively over the last three years we have provided a vision for the territory. We will certainly continue to exercise fiscal prudence while also continuing to utilize our budget toward the continued growth of the territory.
I certainly look forward to debate coming forward from the members opposite and for its speedy passage that the Government of Yukon may continue.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would like to ask all members of the Assembly to join me in welcoming my father, Ned Cathers, to the gallery.
Mr. Hardy: I assure the minister that I will not be long. I should be very, very brief. I anticipate and look forward very much to the general debate and the debate of the departments in the budget itself - not so much the interim supply bill.
I do have a few points to make. Of course, we've talked about special warrants and how this government has used special warrants excessively and inappropriately. That's something that we will continue to challenge this government on. We feel it's bad planning. The fact that they don't come into the Legislative Assembly early enough puts them in that situation, and it's all done by their own will. It is definitely not necessary. Other governments before them have always been willing to come back into the Legislative Assembly in a timely fashion to allow proper debate around an interim supply bill to carry the government over and not have to use special warrants, as this government seems so fond of using. I am not going to belabour that point, because I think it's very clearly on record how we feel about it.
T he minister has indicated that this interim supply bill is from April 1 to the end of June. That works out to roughly three months, yet if we break it out, the interim supply bill is approximately 48 percent of the whole budget. That's pretty massive. There's no way in the world that I on this side can believe that we have to have an interim supply bill that makes up basically half the budget for the whole year, for a three-month period - no matter what this government says. It just doesn't add up accordingly.
I've actually gone through a few of the departments to look at how it has been broken down. I would have hoped this government would have done the same thing.
I know the excuses that were made, and the minister has already touched on those; however, I don't find them acceptable. Let's take a look at the Executive Council Office. In the interim supply bill they've requested 45.8 percent of the whole yearly capital budget. That's massive for the Executive Council Office. From my perspective, why would you need half the budget for the year to be put into a three-month period?
I anticipate and look forward to the explanation. I'm sure the departments have done their work, and I'm sure there might be explanations, but from our perspective, we don't have access to the Finance department to justify it. I'm asking the minister to explain that.
Community Services is requesting that 54 percent of their budget be passed in this bill. That's without line-by-line debate. I know the reasons, but still, that's over half the budget for a whole year to be passed for a three-month period, without debate around it.
Education - 46 percent. Now we know, Mr. Chair, that there is a whole new education season coming up in September. Is the government saying that it needs half the budget now for a three-month period when we are finishing up this season in education?
Highways and Social Services - 53 percent. Over half the budget is again being passed for a three-month period to carry the government over - to advance projects. Am I supposed to assume that almost all the projects are going to be released in the next three months while we are in here debating a budget, a budget that won't even be passed until May 24? The interim supply carries on for another month.
Highways and Public Works - 60 percent of the budget is to be approved.
Tourism and Culture - 52 percent is to be passed for a three-month period. That leaves 48 percent.
There are other figures that don't look too bad, but these are ones that jumped out. I have concerns about that, just as I have concerns about the special warrants - and it comes down to accountability and working very closely with your departments to justify why the interim supply bill needs to be this large - because it is extremely large.
As I say, it's 48 percent of the whole budget for a year we're passing for a three-month period. However, the government has operated in this fashion before and, I suspect, plan to do so for the rest of this period. We do have an election year. I know some people looked at this and said this is to cover for an election, a spring call, that the money would be in place and projects would be able to go ahead no matter what happens in the election. This is just in case the Premier woke up one morning and decided it was time to go back to the polls. At least this would ensure that the operations, projects, ongoing projects, operations of government, capital projects, rural communities and municipality transfers would all continue while the public decided who would be the next government for the territory. That was one suggestion.
Another is that this government just wants to pass a heck of a lot of money right up front, and allow the debate to flow from that, even though half the budget has already been voted on. So be it. The minister likes to quote the Auditor General about their statement in regard to the financial recordings, and that's fine. I think it's a good thing. I think if the Auditor General says how you record your finances is in accordance and is acceptable, it's a good thing for the territory, and I'm glad the government has full accrual accounting. I believe that's good.
However, I don't think it serves the purpose to try to make it sound like the Auditor General approves the spending habits of this government.
The Auditor General is talking about the accounting procedures - the financial recording - not the decisions made by this government on where they spend their money. That's not what the Auditor General is commenting on, unless the Auditor General's staff is called in to take a look at it, as the Public Accounts Committee has done. It uses the Auditor General to take a look at decisions made within departments or corporations. That's the way it should happen. I think the government definitely has a position in saying they've done a good job ensuring the recording is done properly, but let's not confuse the two. The Auditor General hasn't taken a look at, say, the multi-care facility in Watson Lake and how it has been handled so far, or the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and what has been done around that or the Carmacks school and how that is being handled, or a multitude of other projects that have been either started or delayed or cancelled. Very few have actually been finished that the Auditor General will be able to look at. The agreements for housing - the Auditor General hasn't been called in by the government yet on that, so let's not confuse those.
I will vote in favour of the interim supply bill, and I really want to move on and debate the budget for this 2006-07 year and allow my colleagues to get into the department and scrutinize it, asking the questions the public expects us to ask. I look forward to the participation of Yukon Party ministers in responding to that.
Mr. Mitchell: I will be even briefer than my colleague, because I think we've already addressed most of our issues and I, too, would like to see us get into debate on the mains of the budget. I think that's what Yukoners expect of us, and that's what our main role is here. As I've said before, interim supply bills are normally a housekeeping exercise. We have to provide the authority for the government to spend the money while we debate the main budget and it moves through the Legislature.
I've already expressed for the record - but I will do so again - my disappointment that, for the third year in a row, we ended up having to go to special warrants. I still believe it is to be the exception rather than the rule. I think it would be preferable to at least call our Legislative Assembly back in early enough to commence debate on the budget, and it's not as if, compared to many other jurisdictions, our schedule is so onerous. We sit for 30 days twice a year. I know there are many Yukoners who think we could perhaps spend more time than that at it.
Starting a couple of weeks earlier is not that onerous and, in fact, there's no surprise whatsoever when the fiscal year ends. There was lots of time for this government to bring their budget in, especially considering the fact that, even starting on the next to last day - the penultimate day of the year - we still ended up with a tabled budget that did not include any funding that was required for addressing the needs of Dawson. It did not include the funding that would be required for the resolution of the shortfall in pension monies for the college or for the Yukon Hospital Corporation, if that's to be the next announcement.
So there really was no reason; there was no last-minute work or tuning that apparently required the budget to be tabled so late. I look forward to getting into the departments and debating the main budget in detail. And in point of fact, I don't really want to spend any more time on this, so that's all I have to say.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the use of special warrants in previous years is certainly nothing new. In fact, according to our Department of Finance, since 1984, there actually have been 41 special warrants used. Certainly, our government hasn't used 41 special warrants in three years. So that is since 1984. It certainly is nothing new. It is a practice that has been used in the past by all parties, all stripes. In coming up with a number for the interim supply, we relied upon the advice of each of our departments and their officials working with the Department of Finance, and we were able to arrive at this number. We certainly have the confidence in each of our officials to come up with these numbers. They know best how to manage and administer their departments and what they require, come April 1, 2006 , to operate for three months. I just also wanted to reiterate that this is to operate for three months - until June 2006. A number of these expenditures are very important in terms of making contributions to the Yukon College, Hospital Corporation, Shakwak funding - these are all very important expenditures made by the Government of Yukon that help put people to work. It sustains our spending and ensures that we continue to see the delivery of the government services as Yukoners have expected to see delivered over the last number of years.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing no further general debate, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would request the unanimous consent of Committee of the Whole to deem all clauses, schedules and the title of Bill No. 18 read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent re deeming all clauses and schedules of Bill No. 18 read and agreed to
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of Committee of the Whole to deem all clauses, schedules and the title of Bill No. 18, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07, read and agreed to.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 and 2, and Schedules A, B and C, deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, I move
THAT Bill No. 18, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Taylor
THAT Bill No. 18, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 71 - Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006) - continued
Chair: The next item on the agenda is Bill No. 71, the Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006) . We will continue with general debate. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Cardiff: I just have a couple questions for the minister. I was just wondering if anything has changed since yesterday. There seemed to be some confusion around what the intentions of the government were with regard to Bill No. 56 and the sunset clause, as to when it would expire. I asked the minister how long he envisioned that piece of legislation to be in force. I think the crux of the matter was that it was either five years or when the threshold of debt had fallen below what is specified in the Municipal Act.
The minister's remarks were that they were currently looking at that. I'm wondering if they've decided if it's going to be five years. If the threshold falls below the three percent, will Bill No. 56 not be in force any more?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated yesterday, we will be working on the final items with regard to the financial plan for the City of Dawson . Depending on what the results of that are going to be, we will possibly make an adjustment to Bill No. 56. We may have to make an amendment so that the five-year clause stays in place. Depending on what money is provided to the City of Dawson with regard to their debt, we want to make sure that the appropriate supervisory aspect is in place for us to keep Dawson in check.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, as well as keeping them in check, I suppose, kind of following in the same vein as where we left off yesterday afternoon, if the government is going to continue to keep Dawson in check and monitor the financial goings on, how much responsibility is the government prepared to take in return for that supervisory capacity that they would be in? I guess what I am leading up to is kind of more of a general question about what the minister was questioned extensively on yesterday, which is legal actions that the government could have filed, and regarding the engineering - even the Member for Porter Creek Centre, in his budget response, pointed out that the foundations of the building weren't designed properly and that that was a travesty of justice and that anybody should have known, including the project management team, that there were problems with the building. The project management team - the government was part of that. So I'm just wondering what responsibilities - and I'm talking about financial responsibilities to the City of Dawson for things like legal actions and upkeep and maintenance on things that the government is requiring that Dawson do. How are they going to resolve that? Is that going to be something that is part and parcel of the financial plan? Will it be laid out clearly so that the public, the citizens of Dawson and anybody who might be interested in running for city council has an opportunity to see that before they decide to run?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated several times yesterday, that is our intent. We are looking at the entire situation for the City of Dawson . We are looking at all aspects that will allow them to operate as a viable municipality. Those are our goals and objectives.
Mr. Cardiff: I have one more question at this point. In the spirit of cooperation, the minister agreed to provide an updated financial picture of how much this government has spent on the Dawson City supervision trusteeship, forensic audits, and all that material. I am just wondering if, in the same spirit of cooperation, the minister could make available the report on the arena that was commissioned by the trustee. He mentioned it yesterday. The minister's words are on page 5705 of the Blues: “Mr Chair, there was a report commissioned by the trustee on the arena, not only dealing with the roof but with the structural part of it. They are moving forward on that report, based on the third party engineer on that.”
I am just wondering if that report could be made available. I don't know if it's available or not in the public, but it would be helpful to see if there is any justification for why the government hasn't pursued legal action in that matter. If there were mistakes made in the engineering and design of that building, it would seem appropriate, seeing as how the government was looking after the financial interests of Dawson City and the best interests of the citizens of Dawson , that they might have pursued that legal action on their behalf.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe that report is available from the City of Dawson . It is a public document. It is also the document that the town used to make its MRIF application for repairs to that building, based on that engineer's assessment. I'm sure the member opposite can obtain that particular copy from them. Failing that, he can make a request of me, and we'll see what we can do about getting a copy from the current trustee. In addition, we are working on the information the member opposite requested yesterday, and I hope to have that to him shortly.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, that was what I just did, Mr. Chair. I did make a formal request of the minister to get me a copy of the report about the arena. I assume that, seeing as how the report was commissioned by the trustee, which was the minister's employee, the minister would have a copy of that report and that it would be easier for him to send it from his office than for me to get it from Dawson City . So hopefully, if he didn't take the first request as a formal request, I am now making a formal request, and if he can forward that, I would be pleased to receive it.
Thank you, that's all I have.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The trustee reports to me, but the trustee is also acting on behalf of the City of Dawson for its operations and maintenance on a daily basis, and he has duties that he has to perform on that basis. But I will endeavour to obtain a copy for the member opposite.
Mr. Mitchell: I think we all know we are going to pass Bill No. 71. We've all agreed that it certainly is in the interest of that community of Dawson to do so, and allow them to restore their elected democratic form of government.
There were some comments made by other members on the government side - the Member for Porter Creek Centre, speaking his usual hyperbole about not being comfortable without debating the fact that the third party was “180 percent” responsible for this. I guess that means he feels we were not only responsible, but responsible twice over. It's a great figure of speech that doesn't really have much meaning. Obviously, a lot of things went wrong. Some of the things that went wrong, went wrong under the watch of more than one territorial government. Others obviously went wrong due to the municipality's own actions.
We can spend our time here debating, arguing and playing the blame game, or we can actually move forward and help restore Dawson to being the healthy and productive community that it wants to be.
I want to ask the minister some questions about just why the minister feels that the never-proclaimed Bill No. 56, the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, should be proclaimed after this act, Bill No. 71, the Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006) , has been passed. He has already mentioned perhaps amending it and changing it. That's why I tabled a bill earlier today - wouldn't it be better to, in fact, repeal it and start fresh if there are some particular things in order to provide assistance to Dawson that we need to do.
Since there has not been any definitive decisions made, either civilly or criminally, as to exactly where all responsibilities lie, and we don't know who will be coming forward to run for office in the municipality, I am a little unclear as to what the intent is of the other act, which is fairly onerous in some of its wording. It does state that for at least four years prior to April 13, 2004, the City of Dawson had failed to act as an accountable government. Elsewhere, it talks about a period of five years where that municipality will be treated differently from other Yukon municipalities under the Municipal Act.
If the minister feels that Dawson is ready for self-government again, then I'm curious why there is a need to treat the Dawson municipality as kind of living in debtor's prison, so to speak, with that hanging around their neck. I'm wondering if the minister has had any second thoughts about that and might want to comment.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at trying to assist Dawson in getting a fully functional municipality in place in the next very short period of time. We are trying to do that in ways and means that will enable them to operate as a functional municipality. We want to ensure that the transition period for the new mayor and council that is going to take over is appropriate, that they are following the actions that are necessary. We need to ensure that they are aware of what their responsibilities are. I anticipate that anything we do along those lines will be in, as I indicated previously, for a short period of time.
Mr. Mitchell: Thank you, Mr. Chair. We can agree on that. We all want to see whatever assistance and expertise that the municipality of Dawson might require to be made available to them, so there is no contesting that. But rather, there's a difference between offering assistance and offering expertise versus maintaining a sort of in loco parentis approach to the municipality, where you basically have wording that indicates that, yes, you're governing yourself, but on the other hand, at a moment's notice we could choose to step in. So I guess I'm again asking the minister whether he has perhaps given some thought to presenting this in a different manner so that it is less, frankly, demeaning to the municipality and more in the realm of offering a helping hand, which I'm sure the municipality would be quite happy to accept.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated, we're looking at trying to assist Dawson. Secondly, on the issue with regard to us being able to take over at a moment's notice, we can do it under the current Municipal Act, regardless. We're not treating them any differently than other municipalities but, let's face it: no other municipality has had the problems that Dawson has had; no other municipality has had, shall we say - dare I use the phrase - the skulduggery that went on within the municipality. We were trying to prevent that on behalf of all Yukoners, not just the City of Dawson.
Mr. Mitchell: I think the minister makes my point for me when he says we have those powers anyway under the Municipal Act and, therefore, I would again ask whether we need to have them stated yet again and differently in Bill No. 56. As for skulduggery, I think we should all continue to be patient and await the results of any ongoing criminal investigation before we assert whether there has or has not been skulduggery, since I don't believe charges have been laid to date.
Other than that, I guess the only other point - which I made yesterday and will just make it again for the record - is that I would have liked to have seen some amount of the financial package included in the budget, and I recognize - and the minister correctly pointed out - that we don't know the exact dollar amount that will be required, but we probably have a fairly good idea of the order of magnitude of it and could at least have improved the forecasting that we do in the budget by having included the amounts in the budget. I look forward to seeing the minister come forward with the required amount at the earliest possible date, because that will be something any citizen of Dawson who's considering running for municipal office would want to know before they put their name forward to take on those responsibilities. They would want to know just what they were actually taking on.
Again, I would ask the minister if he's going to be bringing that amount forward in the next couple of weeks, or if he feels it will take yet longer to come up with those numbers.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated yesterday, we are working on the financial plan. The final details have not been worked out yet. Those amounts are going to basically determine what is going to be required with regard to Bill No. 56. Bill No. 56's biggest point is dealing with the debt of Dawson City. How we structure that debt with Dawson City will determine which portions, if any, of Bill No. 56 will be brought forth. We will look forward to that and, as I indicated yesterday, we will bring that forth. We will be having discussions with the trustee and their council on the issue, and the information will be available prior to the election in Dawson City.
Mr. Mitchell: Well, I also look forward to receiving that information as soon as the minister has finished compiling it. With that, I would just say that we will be supporting this bill and we look forward to seeing municipal representative democracy restored in Dawson. I have no further comments.
Mr. Cardiff: I would just like some clarification from the minister. He said that the financial plan and all that information would be available prior to the election. I just would like him to clarify. Is it prior to the election, or prior to the election call? If they decide to hold the election on June 15 and they make the information public on June 14, that's not much help to potential candidates. I would like the minister to tell me that it's going to be prior to the election call, please.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated yesterday, several times, we are providing that information very shortly and it'll be prior to the election call.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
Mr. Cardiff: I request unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 71, entitled Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006), read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent re deeming all clauses of Bill No. 71 read and agreed to
Chair: Mr. Cardiff has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 71, Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006), read and agreed to.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 and 2 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, I move
THAT Bill No. 71, Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006), be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Hart
THAT Bill No. 71, Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006), be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 18: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 18, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I move
THAT Bill No. 18, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Tourism and Culture
THAT Bill No. 18, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 18 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 18 has passed this House.
Bill No. 71: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 71, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Hart.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move
THAT Bill No. 71, entitled Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006), be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Community Services
THAT Bill No. 71, entitled Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006), be now read a third time and do pass.
Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Agreed.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agreed.
Mr. Rouble: Agreed.
Mr. Hassard: Agreed.
Mrs. Peter: Agreed.
Mr. Cardiff: Agreed.
Mr. Mitchell: Agreed.
Ms. Duncan: Agreed.
Mr. McRobb: Agreed.
Mr. Fairclough: Agreed.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 71 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 71 has passed this House.
We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner of Yukon, in her capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to grant assent to the bills which have passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILLS
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: Madam Commissioner, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed certain bills, to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2006-07; Dawson Municipal Election Act (2006) .
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 66: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 66, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Hart.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT Bill No. 66, entitled Act to Amend the Securities Act, now be read a second 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 read a second time.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 66 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: It has been suggested that before we begin with Bill No. 66, Act to Amend the Securities Act, we take a brief recess. Do members agree?
Motion agreed to
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute break.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 66 - Act to Amend the Securities Act
Chair: The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 66, Act to Amend the Securities Act.
Hon. Mr. Hart: This bill provides for the mutual recognition of securities legislation in other provincial and territorial jurisdictions and delegation of the Yukon's authority to those jurisdictions to improve the way capital is raised in Canada, and to make the securities regulatory system work better. Mr. Chair, there is a general agreement among all provinces, territories, Canada, security issuers and other security stakeholders that the regulatory system governing securities in Canada must be improved to be competitive with other nations. Provincial and territorial ministers are committed to making improvements to the Canadian securities regulatory framework. Ministers responsible for securities regulations from Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut signed a provincial-territorial memorandum of understanding regarding securities regulation.
The memorandum of understanding provides for meaningful and timely improvements to the current system, including a passport system for securities regulation, resulting in a single window of access to capital markets in participating provinces and territories; highly harmonized, streamlined and simplified securities laws to be implemented by the end of 2006; and a Council of Ministers to facilitate change on the ongoing cooperation.
The Council of Ministers' goal is to develop a provincial and territorial framework that inspires investor confidence and supports competitiveness, innovation and growth through efficient, streamlined and cost-effective securities regulations, that is simple to use for investors and other market participants.
The provincial and territorial ministers have agreed to establish a passport system that will provide a single window of access to market participants across Canada that will permit them to comply with a single set of laws and deal with one regulator. The passport system addresses the administrative inefficiencies of the old system with many provincial and territorial security regulators administrating their own local securities legislation.
The MOU jurisdictions' successful launch of the passport system of securities regulation on September 19, 2005, was a very important symbolic act that demonstrated that significant regulatory reform is progressing and that the MOU jurisdictions are capable of working together to that end and living up to the milestone commitment for the timing of securities regulatory reform.
The second significant milestone of securities regulatory reform requires legislative amendments to provide legal authority to recognize the security legislation in other MOU jurisdictions and to delegate authority to those jurisdictions to approve securities on Yukon's behalf. Approval of the Act to Amend the Securities Act will fulfill Yukon's commitment to implement the mutual recognition and delegation provisions.
Mr. Chair, the Council of Ministers is implementing improvements to the securities regulatory system as they are developed. There will be other significant improvements including more rigorous investor protection and civil liability initiatives that are currently under development.
Under the passport system, the Yukon will accept a security issued under the laws of another provincial or territorial jurisdiction. To give full legal effect to this system, our act must be amended to provide clear authority to recognize their legislation in the Yukon and to delegate authority to them to make securities decisions on our behalf.
The Yukon has taken a lead role among the smaller jurisdiction on securities reform. We were the first of the smaller jurisdictions to sign the memorandum of understanding, and we have taken an active role in the regulatory reform process.
It is important that we pass these amendments this spring to demonstrate that smaller jurisdictions are active participants in the process and are capable of realizing the improvements identified by the Council of Ministers. While respecting the independence of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the Council of Ministers hopes that we will approve legislation for mutual recognition and delegation of securities laws this spring.
The opponents of the passport system do not believe the provinces and territories are capable of working together to implement a highly harmonious system of security regulations across the country.
The credibility and success of this securities reform lies in the ability of all jurisdictions to achieve legislative and regulatory milestones established by the Council of Ministers.
The securities regulatory reform will only fail if the memorandum of understanding jurisdictions do not pass the necessary legislative amendments. The Yukon is not the largest actor in the securities market, but we are an important partner in the securities system nonetheless. Without our active participation, the reform initiatives will not succeed, as all partners must implement the regulatory reforms together.
I am committed, as are other securities ministers from across the country, to working together on an ongoing basis to ensure that the highest standards of investor protection are effectively and consistently applied and will work together to explore options to further enhance our securities markets.
The Securities Act initiative before the House today is fully supported by Liberal, New Democrat and Conservative governments across the country. I ask that my colleagues from both sides of the House give this bill their full consideration and join with me in making the Canadian securities system better.
I look forward to comments from the members opposite.
Mr. Cardiff: The first thing I would like to do is to thank the officials who attended the briefing we received this morning. To a lot of people, this is complex legislation in that not everybody would necessarily be that familiar with what it deals with. It was explained very well by the officials, and I believe we can support the legislation.
It's good to know that we're on the leading edge of the secondary jurisdictions, the smaller jurisdictions, in Canada in this regard and showing leadership in that respect, and I wish the minister and his officials well in future negotiations.
The thing is that people who invest money in stocks and bonds and securities need to know that their investments are safe and that there is oversight provided for those investments. I won't use the word that the minister used in his previous speech earlier this afternoon, but they need to know that everything is on the up and up with regard to securities and stocks and bonds.
We've seen fairly high-profile examples in the media in the past few years, where companies have gotten away with not being so up front and it has hurt a lot of people financially, including in their retirement savings. That's the other part of this: there are a lot of pension monies that are invested in the market.
And for the jurisdictions to work together and harmonize the way this is dealt with and provide an almost one-window approach for securities companies to become approved in the 13 jurisdictions - actually, it was my understanding from the briefing today that Ontario is kind of the holdout, and that is pretty standard. Ontario is a pretty big province and looks out for itself and its own interests first. But it is good to know that the other jurisdictions are working together cooperatively to ensure that this is done properly. I hope that the other jurisdictions proceed with their legislative amendments.
The other thing I would say is that I look forward to the other amendments that are yet to come to the Securities Act. My understanding is that this provides a framework for the companies that issue securities, stocks and bonds for approval. And the part for me - not that this is an important part of it and that the oversight isn't there - is that there is protection for the more consumer protection measures that are coming down the line. Should we have a fall sitting, I would look forward to seeing those in the fall sitting. Failing that, we'll hopefully see the next government bring them forward.
So based on the information that has been presented to me, I don't really have any questions for the minister on this piece of legislation.
Mr. Mitchell: I would also like to commence - I was unable to attend the briefing this morning, but we did have someone attending on our behalf and I want to compliment the minister's department for the good work at the briefing, as it was reported back to me.
I have only a couple of questions for the minister on this.
We also agree with the spirit and the intent of this legislation and it seems to make sense. It will be more efficient and the uniformity in most ways would be a good thing.
I do note that Ontario is being a holdout, and I just want to ask the minister - that's a little bit of a concern because I think that Ontario, based on the existence of the Toronto Stock Exchange and the size of the financial community in that jurisdiction, would perhaps be the jurisdiction with the greatest amount of activity and securities being issued. Is that problematic and is it simply a question of timing - we are waiting for Ontario to sign on or is there some indication that we could have 12 partners instead of 13?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I will advise him that our next security meeting is in Toronto at the request of the minister from Ontario. The minister from Ontario has visions of being one jurisdiction handling all the securities and it is Ontario. Of course, Quebec, Alberta, and B.C. have different thoughts on that particular aspect. What they have been trying to say is that we can't all get together and make it happen. But I think that we have demonstrated already, to date, that we've got more than 80 percent of the people on the wagon ready to go and we are looking forward to meeting in June and hopefully we will be able to convince him that he either gets on with it or he is going to be left out. We are prepared to go that way with the other jurisdictions. But in essence I think that the fact that he is hosting the thing will probably tell us where we are at. For the member opposite, we are working on the full legislation this fall. That will be taking place over the summer.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for the response. It certainly is encouraging that they are hosting it - although the concept of a minister having visions can be a scary concept at times.
I have one other question. While recognizing the benefits and efficiencies of this approach, does the minister think, in discussing this with his colleagues at the previous meetings, there is any danger for Yukon in participating - or any other jurisdiction for that matter - in not having each jurisdiction doing their own due diligence, but rather potentially inheriting a problem through an oversight in another jurisdiction? Because, instead of 13 sets of officials doing their due diligence - cumbersome though that might be, it could be the weakest-link-the-in-the-chain theory, so to speak. Is there possibly any increased likelihood of an Enron or WorldCom-type situation, due to just signing on and saying that, well, it has been approved elsewhere.
I see the minister shaking his head, so I presume he has an answer that says, no, there isn't. But I'll just let him say so.
Hon. Mr. Hart: This issue was brought up by all the ministers with regard to securities. It's a very important issue in some jurisdictions, obviously. In most cases, the difficulties we've had are with the company and not with the security exchanges, not with the operation of jurisdictions - depending on what it is, whether it's securities, as in our case, or if it's an actual house.
As I indicated in my statement, the essence is that we are looking at improving ways to protect the investor, and on a continuous basis, to ensure that it's there. The main focus, though, is to ensure that we can get our securities through. Right now the disadvantage for us is that, in general, we accept other jurisdictions' risk securities already in most cases. It's a case of us getting on the boat and getting with the program and sticking with it.
We feel we are on the leading edge. As I mentioned earlier, we have 12 jurisdictions ready to go. That's a big challenge in itself. Yes, there are going to be some amendments that may be delayed until this summer. But, in essence, we anticipate that all the amendments will be through in time to at least get the first phase of the passport through.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for his answer. And, yes, I do recognize that primarily the problems have been with companies, as opposed to elsewhere. But there have been cases, such as Bre-X, where there was sufficient endorsement through particular exchanges that the exchanges themselves virtually were close to collapse as a result of events that happened and a lack of investor confidence. But I do think that we are one country and, in this electronic age where we have instant communication and ever-improving transportation, it only makes sense to deal with things in this manner. So I am encouraged by it. I, too, as my colleague mentioned, look forward to the next steps going forward. We will be supporting this legislation.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Chair: Clause 3 is quite an extensive clause, as it includes all of the amendment to part 6, the original act. Is there any debate?
Mr. Cardiff: In discussions with the leader of the third party, I don't think there are any questions, so I would request unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 66, Act to Amend the Securities Act, read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent re deeming all clauses of Bill No. 66 read and agreed to
Chair: Mr. Cardiff has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 66, Act to Amend the Securities Act, read and agreed to.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted. That concludes the debate on Bill No. 66, Act to Amend the Securities Act.
Clauses 1 to 3 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move
THAT Bill No. 66, Act to Amend the Securities Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Hart
THAT Bill No. 66, Act to Amend the Securities Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: The Chair understands that we are going to be going into general debate on the budget but that it will take a few minutes for officials. It has been suggested that we take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 20 - First Appropriation Act, 2006-07
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07.
We will begin with general debate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I am pleased to introduce to Committee of the Whole Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07.
This appropriation is most commonly referred to as the main estimates.
Mr. Chair, the First Appropriation Act, 2006-07 presents, in its Schedule A, total funding requests in the amount of $798,360,000 for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006. Of this total, $606,658,000 is required to fund the operation and maintenance expenditure votes of the government. This amount includes $5 million for loan capital and $357,000 for loan interest.
The other component of this total is $191,702,000 for the funding of capital expenditure votes. The operation and maintenance budget represents an increase in budgetary expenditures of just over four percent over last year's main estimates. Forecast capital expenditures are somewhat lower than last year's main estimates budget; however, that should come as no surprise since we did indicate at this time last year that capital expenditures would be lower as projects that were started early on in the mandate come closer to completion.
Mr. Chair, I'm very pleased to be able to advise our colleagues that, adding the amount of approximately $191.7 million, this capital budget is still the second-highest capital budget in the history of the Yukon government.
The first reading budget speech certainly highlighted many important components of this budget. I will not repeat them in any detail in this presentation to Committee of the Whole but, rather, will provide a recap of our current financial position and forecast position.
I'll also say a few words about the status of our fiscal relationship with Canada.
Mr. Chair, this budget contains no tax changes. I am pleased to be able to remind members of the Legislature that our government has not introduced any tax changes throughout our mandate. In fact, any tax changes announced have been decreases in taxation. These decreases included the corporate tax amendment to lower the corporate tax rates for small businesses as well as increase the eligibility threshold for small businesses. Our government extended the mineral tax credit, and in this sitting our government has introduced an amendment of the mineral tax credit.
As members opposite are aware, mineral exploration has surged over the last number of years. It has gone from a level of around $6 million when we took office to well over $50 million just three years later. 2006 will certainly not be an exception to this trend; rather, thanks to the hard work of our Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and industry, I'm sure we will see this dollar figure surge even more.
Due to the overwhelming popularity of the mineral tax credit, the Yukon government will respect the extension that was introduced for the credit but will cap the amount an individual corporation can claim.
If a cap on the credit were not introduced, corporate income taxes could certainly go into a negative territory, and that would not be a fiscally prudent decision. This decision to place a cap on the tax credit will certainly treat exploration companies equitably. Of course, these changes will be explained in much more detail when the minister responsible presents that.
Our government has been one with an exemplary track record of fiscal prudence, as I outlined earlier today. That theme continues in this budget, as well as the long-range fiscal projections that were tabled with the budget documents. As members will note, these main estimates project a budgetary surplus of $37.9 million for the year just ended March 31, 2006, and another surplus of just over $8 million for the current fiscal year of 2006-07.
Over the longer term, the long-term forecast that accompanied the budget documents certainly presents a very favourable financial picture. Throughout this future forecast period, we are projecting yet again another set of positive net financial resources.
In other words, the government will not need to incur any debt to finance its operation and maintenance or capital expenditures.
Forecast own-source revenues are up moderately from the 2005-06 forecast. Total tax in general revenues is forecast to be $86.4 million. Increased revenues are expected in personal income taxes, while corporate taxes are somewhat down from the 2004-05 actuals. Much of this corporate tax decline can be attributed to the increased uptake on the mineral tax credit and generally lower than projected corporate taxes.
As the members know, corporate tax estimates are somewhat unpredictable and certainly can have wide fluctuation from year to year. While there are moderate increases and decreases in the forecast for various other revenue sources, overall there is nothing that is particularly noteworthy in these revenue forecasts. These revenues, as members are aware, are listed in detail in the budget documents.
Third party recoveries and recoveries from Canada, excluding the territorial formula financing grant, amount to $84.4 million and $57.155 million respectively.
Mr. Chair, as members of this Assembly are aware, the main source of income to the Government of Yukon is the territorial formula financing agreement, better known as the TFF. In the estimates, the total shown is $505.9 million, up slightly from the 2005-06 forecast of $494.1 million.
Over the last 12 months, this financing agreement has been undergoing review by two separate and distinguished groups. One is the federal expert panel on TFF and equalization, and the other is a provincial-territorial panel on fiscal imbalance. The federal expert panel has a group of experts who are focusing their attention solely on the TFF. The TFF panel received a giant submission from the three territories, as well as other interested parties, and they also held meetings and forums with a number of different stakeholders. Submissions from all parties are publicly available on the panel's Web site. That was issued just recently via the Premier's news release.
We believe the panel members for both the federal and provincial panels generally understand the issues that face us in the north with respect to our diverse geography, demographics and economics. We also believe that they appreciate, through discussion and submissions, how these very issues translate into quite different fiscal realities than those that exist for each of the respective southern provinces.
We are optimistic that the expert panel, through our presentations and their various meetings with other stakeholders, heard those messages and will address those challenges in one form or another through each of their recommendations.
We should really take the time to comment about how positive and refreshing we and our Finance officials feel about how both panels went about their deliberations. It has been a pleasure for the Department of Finance and our officials to deal with such well-informed and professional panel members.
While the panel is certainly mindful of fiscal realities, and while they are very prudent in asking the tough questions, we believe that each of them truly listened to what each of the three territories and other intervenors said and presented to them. It is clear from those sessions that they do, in fact, have open minds, and that they did not pre-judge the outcomes of the reviews. The federal TFF panel was supposed to report in the fall, but sought an extension from the previous government in Ottawa to report sometime in May 2006.
The Premier has been assured by Prime Minister Harper that the federal Finance minister will still receive the TFF panel report as well as the provincial-territorial report, and that he will review in detail the recommendations of both.
Finance colleagues from the other two territories, and ourselves, have recently written to the federal Minister of Finance, urging him to seriously consider the recommendations of both panels. Our government has also asked him to consider deciding upon the panel's recommendations for the TFF in advance, considering what he will do to fix equalization. While these two funding mechanisms are related in terms of some of their components, they can easily be de-linked in terms of the decision-making process.
The three northern territories would rather have an earlier decision so we can plan accordingly and lay out our respective fiscal frameworks for future years.
Mr. Chair, I mentioned earlier today the importance of financial accountability and transparency. It is certainly something that the Government of Yukon has been able to demonstrate over the last three years.
In February, when the Auditor General of Canada visited the Yukon, she met with a number of individuals. She made a speech to the Chamber of Commerce and met with the Premier and other senior Finance officials. As the Auditor General stated, very eloquently, she was very pleased with how the Government of Yukon has managed its financial reporting, as we moved to full accrual accounting.
One would ask, “Why would she make such comments?” One of the reasons is that our financial books, or records, fully reflect all assets and liabilities of the government.
The Auditor General applauded the Yukon government for implementing higher standards of accounting and for the steps taken to ensure accountability and public confidence in governance.
As I mentioned earlier - and I will reiterate again for members opposite because I believe that this point is very, very important to note - this booking of liabilities includes all retirement benefits that employees are eligible for on retirement, certainly not an insignificant amount. The accrual last year totalled an additional amount of some $27 million to be recognized owing to changes in the Public Sector Accounting Board accounting report standards. Booking these amounts ensures we are fully transparent to our employees and taxpayers by completely revealing all liabilities, both present and future, that will certainly affect the government's long-term financial framework.
As I mentioned, previous governments have not been so forthcoming and fully transparent for all of these various financial transactions. For example, previous governments had, from time to time, capped employee leave and severance liabilities as recorded on the financial statements to somewhat of an arbitrary amount. While that may have been an all right practice at that time, this past practice of not booking liabilities of the government had resulted in qualified financial statements.
As I mentioned earlier today, during the term of this government the Auditor General has not issued any qualifications on our financial statements. Clearly, that is another reason why the Auditor General commented positively about our financial reporting practices.
The second amount is in excess of $45 million and is in addition to the $27 million referenced previously. The government's financial statements that were tabled last fall in the Legislature clearly highlight each of these amounts.
As ministers of the government, we wish that we could take all the credit for maintaining good financial management. While our colleagues have all played a key role in establishing the direction of the government, we really have to take our hats off to the Department of Finance officials for the very professional expertise and the advice that they provide each of us, day in and day out. Thanks to their advice and their expertise, they have ensured that financial documents tabled in this Legislature and audited by the Auditor General of Canada fairly and accurately represent the financial position of this government. We very much wish to thank them for that.
As I mentioned earlier, it really has been a pleasure to serve the Assembly over the last number of years. We have come a long way in a few short years, laying out the economic blueprint for the road ahead, and we're very pleased to see some positive results coming out of the economy.
As I mentioned earlier, when we were first elected in 2002, we saw unemployment at a much higher rate - I believe it was at 8.5 percent. Today it has been reduced to one of the lowest of any Canada jurisdictions, with the exception, perhaps, of Alberta.
The labour force of people over 15 was around 15,000 in 2002. Today that labour force has jumped by about 1,000, with far fewer people unemployed than in 2002.
We have also seen our GDP grow. We have seen retail sales grow. The population of the Yukon has grown. We are seeing more families choosing to make the Yukon their home and more people choosing to make the Yukon their place of retirement.
Exploration costs have surged over the last number of years. We have seen a number of different elements of the economy and the further diversification of the economy - whether that be in our IT sector, cultural industries, tourism or manufacturing. Thanks to the good work of the public service and the private sector, and certainly to the vision as put forward by this and previous budgets, we will continue to enjoy a very good economy here in the Yukon.
I see that my time is just about up, so I will sit down. I certainly look forward to the debate that will ensue in days to come, I'm sure.
Mr. Hardy: I do agree with the member opposite on one point: there will be debate in the days to come. As a matter of fact, I would suspect there will be budget debate for approximately 24 of those days, and we all look forward to it. It does have its moments.
I can assure you, Mr. Chair - actually I can't say that. My colleague was ruled out of order. Maybe I'll try: to end the pain that we feel sometimes. That's a better way to put it.
We feel sometimes, in trying to work through budget figures, numbers, interpretations, explanations and understanding, it's no easy task.
There's a lot of repeating that happens in here. The member opposite basically repeated fairly well what she had said during the interim supply bill, and some of the positions that she took and said will be challenged. However, let's start with the Government of Yukon projections, since she did bring that up.
These projections are different from the projections of 2003-04. Maybe I can get an explanation of what the factors are that keep adjusting. If you're given a projection, you try to - I know that projections are looking in a crystal ball, to a certain degree, but it's also on negotiated agreements. If we're talking about transfers from Canada, there are agreements in place that give us an idea how much they will increase.
Also, I'm sure that when the three premiers get together and sign an agreement on northern transfer, that would change a projection, I'm assuming, and that would have impacts, some that weren't necessarily seen a year or two ago. Other agreements with other governments would also have an impact.
Hopefully, the member opposite could put on record what the factors are that have been changing these figures. Some of these figures have been changed fairly substantially, and I wouldn't mind getting that on record.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That is exactly what these are - budget estimates. Projections are based on our knowledge of the very day we have those projections. As the member opposite is aware, these projections are updated every year and, of course, the projections may vary. They vary from time to time according to various incomes, which fluctuate, in terms of, for example, Shakwak funding that may or may not come through and capital projects that may come through. Again, the member referenced two earlier, in terms of different monies coming from other government respective levels.
So, again, these are projections, and they are certainly subject to change.
Mr. Hardy: Well, maybe the minister can elaborate a little bit on that. A lot of these agreements are three-year or five-year agreements. From the projections two years ago to the projections of this year, what has been the most significant impact on the projections? Because they have changed a fair amount. What's anticipated? Is the government in any negotiations at the present time that may have an impact?
I don't necessarily need to know what they're negotiating - if they need to keep the negotiations private at the moment - but are there any significant negotiations at the present time that could have a substantial impact? I do know that the member opposite mentioned the expert panel. I would like an update on that, but we'll get to that in a minute. Are there other negotiations happening, other than the TFF, that may be changed, which we'll talk about? Other than that one, is there anything else?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, the member opposite had made reference to - his question was pertaining to some of the more significant investments that have been made and have reflected a change in our projections over the last two years. Some of which I will mention, of course, include the Shakwak funding arrangement, municipal rural infrastructure fund, Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, northern strategy, and the territorial health access fund, to name but a few.
Mr. Hardy: That's fairly significant. I know it adds up to a fair amount of money. Are there any being negotiated at the present time, either as additions to these ones or extensions? Are there new negotiations happening at this time?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: For the member opposite's information, he may wish to just turn to S-6 on the main estimates of the 2006-07 budget, for a more detailed breakdown of some of the additional funds and some of the different funding initiatives that have been arranged with the Government of Yukon over the last couple of years.
With respect to negotiations currently underway, we - that is, the Department of Finance - is not familiar with any current negotiations going on, particularly given the fact that we just had a federal election recently, so with a new government in place after a number of years, there are a lot of things obviously still to be discussed.
Mr. Hardy: Well, we definitely, over the course of the next 20-some days, will be talking about that relationship with the federal government and what indications are coming out of it. I do know the Premier is Outside right now and may come back to the territory with some news about what we can expect from this new Conservative government, good and bad. We had the same lines from the Liberal government: good and bad announcements.
One of the things that used to drive me nuts about the Liberal government was the announcing of money over and over - the same money, over and over and over, and the promises of investment. They would announce it, and then for the next five years they would package it as brand new money every budget. Unfortunately, for a lot of people who don't pay attention to politics, it works. For people who have to pay attention to politics or work in the field, it gets extremely tiring and very frustrating to deal with. But it was a technique that was used by the Liberals, and quite successfully, to get re-elected on many occasions. But like everything, it caught up with them in this regard. I'm hoping that we don't see the same thing happen with the new Conservative government. I hope they're far clearer on what is actually being delivered that year and not just reannouncements of old money.
Another thing, I guess - just staying on that for a slight bit - is the childcare. I'm very concerned about two things. One is the direction the Conservative government seems to be going in - even though I hear they are in negotiations at least with the other parties about some aspects of the childcare agreement that the Liberals, after 13 years, finally found their way to sit down and talk with the provinces and territories about and come up with some money. Now, saying that, that doesn't necessarily mean that there was a childcare package that we were necessarily going to see, although the Liberals had a tendency to think that it was already in place and they have to defend it now. We have to remember it took 13 years for them to even get to that point, even though promises were made 13 years ago.
Some of us actually do have a memory of that promise. It's not as if I was holding by breath, depending on which government got elected, as to whether we would see that kind of money flowing. My understanding is that the new federal government is looking at working with the other elected parties on aspects of the agreement that was finally reached. Hopefully we won't see drastic change in that area, because it would have an effect on Yukon.
Going back to the taxes, it shows recoveries from Canada, an indication of a 16-percent drop on the same page that the member mentioned - since she mentioned that page, we'll talk about it. There's a change of a 16-percent drop in the amount from what is forecast to the estimate for that year. Could the minister give us a breakdown of that, please?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would first of all like to respond to the leader of the official opposition with regard to his questions regarding the early learning and childcare funding. I certainly do appreciate and recognize the frustration that is felt by many within the childcare community - and those who depend upon it - regarding the 13 years that the Liberal government spent promising a national childcare program and then never quite delivering until, at the last moment, when they started cobbling together a few program details and made announcements regarding them, but had not set up a single childcare space by the time the election took place.
With regard to the funding structures, there has been significant discussion regarding that. I recognize and appreciate the feeling of the childcare community and their concerns regarding the Conservative plan to provide funding directly to parents in the amount of $1,200 per year per child, rather than provide the contributions specifically for the purposes of setting up spaces and enhancing the existing daycare programs that are in place.
As mentioned previously in the Legislature, I travelled to Ottawa to raise those concerns with the new Minister of HRSDC, who is responsible for this, to make her aware that we certainly did have a preference for the known structure and there were already plans to be spending it. But, as I'm sure members aware, the childcare funding program and structure was one of the five priorities identified by the Conservatives and they have been adamant, for better or worse, that they intend to stick to their five key priorities and ensure those are implemented.
My meeting with Minister Diane Finley was very cordial and pleasant and she was also very firm in noting they would implement their platform commitment, as it was one of their five priorities, and that was the way it would be. To that end, and in answer to questions also raised by the leader of the official opposition, we have pursued - beginning at that meeting and continuing from there - and asked the new federal government to add a component of base funding, recognizing whether the per capita funding is direct to parents or provided in a program allocation to create spaces. Per capita funding arrangements do not address our needs in the north with our spread-out populations, high cost of living - small populations within a large region.
At the meeting I had with Minister Finley, I mentioned to her the fact that we appreciated the commitment made by Prime Minister Harper during the election campaign to all three territories jointly. They recognize the need for base-funding components and the inadequacy of per capita funding arrangements for the north, so I stressed to her that we regard this as being yet another one of the areas this is needed. We urged them regarding the commitment they made during the election and to modify this program to provide a base-funding component.
We have not received a yes or no at this point, so we will again have to work with the federal government on this and hopefully they will come through in that regard.
Also with regard to the components that are in the program, I would make the leader of the official opposition aware that we do have the money for 2005-06. It was provided and the commitment made by the new federal government was that they would also provide the funding level for the year 2006-07, including for the territories, though we had not signed on to any funding arrangements or contracts at that time. They had committed that they would honour the previous government's commitment for a period of one year and that, effective at the end of March 2007, the funding would no longer flow and they would be providing the funding as per their campaign commitment directly to parents in the amount of $1,200 per year per child. I hope that has addressed the questions of the member opposite.
I should also point out that we are asking for some leeway regarding the program structure and are going after the federal government, asking them to provide us some leeway, both to the territorial government and with the groups - the family day homes and the daycares within Yukon - to work with the childcare community regarding the component of the Conservative plan to have corporations set up daycare spaces. Again, we have not received a yes or no on that at this time. It is an area that we are actively pursuing and hope for a positive result.
I hope this has addressed the questions from the leader of the official opposition, and I would be happy to provide more detail on that.
Mr. Hardy: Okay, we have two questions going here right now. How do we sort this one out? That's fine.
First off, I appreciate the Minister of Health and Social Services standing up and clarifying some points - I really appreciate that. It gives a picture of what's happening out there. I am not overly comfortable that we would accept the Conservatives' position that this is the way it's going to be in regard to the Conservative government sticking to their agenda. I think it's a five-point agenda that they were very, very clear about. I have no problem with that. That's what they went to the polls with and that's what they were elected to, albeit in a minority situation - from my perspective, thankfully a minority situation. I think, personally, it's thankfully for Mr. Harper, too, because he can deal with some of the more difficult elements of his party in regard to wanting huge, massive change. A minority government at the federal level often has a tendency to temper radical or extreme viewpoints and that, in this country, anyway, is a valued contribution and something that needs to happen.
But I would hope that the childcare file is one that is pursued vigorously and emphasized strenuously, because I do know the NDP federally are making that a big issue - a very big issue - in offering support, along with a few other things, to the Conservative government. A lot of people have said that the last budget was really an NDP budget, and the Conservatives continue to say that because of the tremendous impact that the federal NDP had on the Liberals' original drafting of their federal budget and what ultimately was put in it. Advancement on childcare was not a Liberal initiative. I'll tell you right now, after 13 years, it really wasn't. It was the fact that they were a minority government and they had to listen to the other parties for once in 13 years.
Because of that, we witnessed some accords that were signed - some very significant, historic accords that were signed. So, to a certain degree, the NDP played a huge role in ensuring that there was some movement on files that had been promised for year after year after year, and yet never materialized under the Liberals' way of running a government.
So, I guess my concern is that this minister is pursuing and trying to convince the government of the necessity of having childcare in Canada from sea to sea to sea that is supported and accessible to all people and that has enough funding and allows our children to be healthy and have people working with them who have decent wages and proper skills that we would want our children exposed to. I'm hoping that the minister can stand up and give me that assurance that he is really pursuing this.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Yes, again in regard to the questions from the leader of the official opposition, as I said, that is an area we have identified to the new minister and we certainly identified our frustration - not only the current issues but the issues over the past 13 years on this file. I have met with members of the childcare community and discussed their concerns, and as the member is probably well aware, the childcare community - the childcare providers and Childcare Association within the Yukon - is very frustrated and disappointed with the plan as outlined by the new Conservative government regarding childcare. I certainly recognize the member's concerns. We feel that the area where we have some chance of achieving success in this is going after base-funding allocation and asking them to give us some leeway in the areas of the program that they have allocated to provide to corporations for them to set up daycare spaces. We are hoping that we can get them to put some flexibility in there and they are going to allow us to work with our childcare providers here in the territory and use that money to provide that in that context rather than a corporate context, because we simply don't have the type of large corporations which the Conservatives are probably envisioning in other areas of the country.
The north is a very different area and has unique concerns and challenges. We are hoping for success in that area with regard to the basic structure of the plan, though again it has been made quite clear to us - as the members have heard from the news - that the Conservatives are very adamant that they have five priorities and those priorities must go forward, come hell or high water, and they have no intention of moving off that.
Failing some option where other parties in the Parliament push them into an accommodation because of the fact they are in a minority situation, it seems like that is an area where there is absolutely no hope for success of the territories or the provinces in achieving a different structure - no matter what our desires might be to that end.
If the members have frustrations with that, then that is an item they may wish to take up with our Member of Parliament or any other Members of Parliament that they happen to know or have a connection with. It is a matter that seems very clear to us that, if it will be changed, it will be within Parliament only because of the minority situation and not due to any negotiations on the federal-provincial-territorial level.
Mr. Hardy: I'm not sure if our Member of Parliament will be able to go around and deliver buckets of money to all the Yukon. Liberals are so fond of pointing out that the only reason we have money in the Yukon is because we have a Liberal Member of Parliament delivering buckets of money. I hear it almost daily in the Legislative Assembly from the Liberal members.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The member opposite, the leader of the third party, the Liberal leader, just made an interesting comment about what we got from an NDP member lately. Well, there is a difference in that some people work without seeking public attention and others work to seek public attention - and we know exactly where the Liberals are on that case.
I look forward to when the Liberal member stands up and talks and has his turn here. In the meantime, we'll go back to this.
I do have a very strong concern about this, and I appreciate the member opposite also expressing the concern. It would have a big impact if negative changes were made to the support offered for people who need to use childcare services, like single parents - you can put it that way. Predominantly, often single mothers often do not make a high income. If there are changes, so that daycare and day home operators have to raise their costs, that could have a very profound effect on their ability to be able to participate and earn an income in our society - be part of society and not be a burden.
Some of the concerns I have around childcare, interestingly enough - I don't want to spend a lot of time now and we'll get back to this debate when we get into the departments. But one of the concerns I have is that, often, the resources available for the operations are so limited that the facilities are lacking in equipment, sometimes they're not in the greatest location and could use some support. But most of all, it is the wages that are paid in that area.
This is a long-standing issue for people who work in that field. The operators are continually trying to deal with it because they lose their workers. Just as they get them trained - level 1, level 2, level 3 - they find other jobs that pay a heck of a lot more, and it could be just for dealing with paperwork in a different field. Our children - as we all agree and all say - are our most precious resource, yet we don't seem to be able to make that leap and recognize that the people who work and spend so much time with them must be cared for.
So, of course, we have 13 years of promises and nothing materializes until there is an NDP in opposition that manages to force the federal government - maybe that's one way to address the leader of the third party, the Liberal leader: what has an NDP member done lately? I guess, take a look at the last budget that was crafted and changed dramatically by 19 NDP members - very significantly, added a substantial amount of money. This is one of those direct results of it. So there is his answer for that one particular comment that he made.
I am going to go back to the member who is involved in the general debate around this, and I don't know if she still remembers the question I originally asked. So unless the Minister for Health and Social Services wants to just add a little more to health care - which I'm quite happy to hear. I have no problem. We'll come back to it too. Whoever wants to stand up is quite welcome.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thank the leader of the official opposition for his questions. Yes, as he has noted, certainly the issue of wages is a matter of great concern within the childcare community and has been one of the largest impediments that they have faced for years in retaining their workers. As the member is aware, our government did commit $675,000 in new funding back in 2003 and has increased that. We escalated that funding, which is provided to assist them with operations cost and with wages. We increased that by three percent in the past fiscal year, and this year's increase to that allocation is a five-percent increase. So we're certainly doing what we can.
I would point out that this increase is an increase of 30 percent to that which was provided by previous governments to childcare. So I would note again that 30 percent is a significant increase.
With regard to the issue of the federal funding, the early learning and childcare component and the new Conservative government's plan, the early learning and childcare funding that we had been given by the federal government, has not been included yet in the funding agreements, or been flowed. At the time this was coming through, we were already aware that there was a great deal of uncertainty with regard to how that was being provided. Of course, we were still disputing with the then Liberal government the issue of the fact they had not included a base funding component, that it was entirely a per capita contribution.
At this point, the funding for 2005-06 and 2006-07, now that we know this is going to be a one-time contribution - the Department of Health and Social Services did a survey of stakeholders following up on the priorities identified by stakeholders in the four-year planning exercise to determine whether the priorities and the areas of needed investment they identified at that time remained the areas where they would like to see funding allocated and the areas they considered to be priority. The survey has been done and the results are being compiled. Following that, Health and Social Services officials will be coming up with a plan for the expenditure of this money. We will be sitting down with the childcare stakeholders and discussing that plan prior to making a decision to approve it. It will remain a draft plan until that time.
I have made the commitment to them, and we will certainly honour that commitment, to involve them in the decision. We will certainly lay out a proposal for discussion and see if they have concerns with that. We will take a look at that and see what could be done. But as they are aware, and I'm sure members are aware, the fact that this is a one-time funding allocation certainly changes the concepts that would have previously existed for spending the money under the early learning and childcare fund, because this will no longer be ongoing.
So, we have to have the discussion around whether it's a one-time allocation that does not occur in any further years, because the money is all spent, or if there is some delay and staggering of the payments from this fund to address this over several years. That's a discussion that we are certainly fully prepared to have with the childcare community, and we will do the best that we can to work with them to address their needs and concerns and, ultimately, and most importantly, the needs of Yukon children and families.
I hope this has addressed the member's questions. I'm certain we'll be talking about this in future days and there will certainly be discussions within the stakeholder community with department officials, and we will try to address this as best we can, considering that the funding from the federal government is now, unfortunately, a one-time commitment.
Mr. Mitchell: Well, we heard the Finance minister's speech less than two weeks ago, and I'm not sure if all members have recovered from that experience. It's too bad, Mr. Chair, that we didn't have these new chairs yet for that barn-burner of a speech.
Now, the Finance minister has bragged quite often about the stimulative effect of this record budget, and we've heard much about the high level of capital spending forecasted at over $191 million. I did find it interesting to see a news story just last week, where one of the minister's own officials, Mr. Chair, was criticizing the inclusion of many items in the capital budget. Even the officials apparently thought they would perhaps be more traditionally included in the operation and maintenance budget.
I'm sure the minister will be pleased to explain why the minister's own officials are suggesting that - not once, not twice, but I believe it was three times - officials were asking for a more traditional allocation of the spending between O&M and capital, because we've seen this $191-million capital budget - a lot of people think that capital has to do with spending on buildings and vehicles that are amortized over a certain period of time, and they know that it includes spending on highways, because highway work has always been included there.
But increasingly we see studies and planning and other things booked in as capital, and even the officials are beginning to sometimes publicly question that.
Now, the minister is estimating a surplus for the 2006-07 fiscal year of approximately $8.98 million. That number, as we have previously discussed in this House, does not include many items. It doesn't include the funds to alleviate Dawson's debt. It doesn't include the $1.25-million contribution to assist Yukon College in dealing with its pension shortfall. It doesn't include any funds that perhaps the minister may announce in the coming days or weeks for addressing Yukon Hospital Corporation's pension shortfall. It doesn't include funds for other commitments that may have been given in letters of commitment and memoranda of understanding to waterfront development or the arts community, so we really don't know, Mr. Chair, just what the real financial status of the Yukon's finances are, despite the minister's frequent references to having the imprimatur of the Auditor General.
Yes, we have complied with the Auditor General's recommendations that all provincial and territorial jurisdictions move to the full accrual system of accounting. That's fine, but it doesn't necessarily provide the desired transparency that one would like to see. If so many other promises are being made “off the book,” so to speak, certainly, when they're made within hours of a budget speech, it makes one question just how reliable those numbers may be.
So I guess one question I would have for the minister would be whether she can provide us with the latest estimates, the updated estimates, from the latest Management Board meetings for the surplus or possibly even the deficit at the end of 2006-07, because this $9-million surplus that we've seen in this budget didn't include some of the items that we've seen announced in the last week, so we know it should be at least forecast to be less than that already.
I'd also wonder whether the minister - I did ask this question of her colleague, the Community Services minister, in Question Period today and I didn't really get an answer. But I'm hoping that the Acting Minister of Finance might be able to give us some indication of whether the officials in the Finance department are recommending any amounts potentially as reserves that might be allocated to address Dawson's debt situation, because obviously there is going to be money spent on that. I guess I'll wait for some answers and then I'll ask some more specific questions.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, there has been a flurry of questions coming over from the members opposite - I don't know where to begin.
First of all, with respect to the leader of the third party, I do want to put some things on the record again; I think we have to. A quick comparison of the previous Liberal government to this government - there's really not much comparison. I think I've mentioned on the floor of the Legislature on a number of occasions how, in the last three years, we have been exercising fiscal prudence. At the same time we've also utilized our budgets to continue to stimulate the Yukon economy, and I think we have been able to accomplish both with a great degree of success.
I think it is really important to point out that, yes, the Yukon government is fully in compliance with the public sector's - I guess you would say - generally accepted accounting principles. We did move to full accrual accounting for our budget and our financial statements.
It's in complete accordance with the Public Sector Accounting Board's guidelines and, as a result, we have received continued praise from the Auditor General of Canada. That's something that we can take great pride in over the last three years.
In doing so, we have been fully transparent with our expenditures. We have accounted for all liabilities - unlike the previous Liberal government - and as a result received unqualified statements for the third straight year. It is thanks to our full adoption and implementation of the guidelines and standards set out by the Public Sector Accounting Board that we have received the ongoing praise from the Auditor General of Canada.
Just to reiterate - and I know the members opposite don't like to hear it - to receive for the third straight year from the Auditor General of Canada an unqualified financial bill of health - this is a good thing. It is something that my colleagues and I are very proud of and one which all Yukoners can be very proud of as well.
Again, according to the Auditor General, Yukon government has one of the best financial report cards on accountability of any jurisdiction in Canada. Who are you going to believe: members of the opposition or the Auditor General of Canada? I will hedge my bets on the Auditor General of Canada.
Again, we have succeeded on a number of different fronts. In terms of having surplus budgets, one only has to take a look at the projections in the budget book and that will give the leader of the third party a good base to start from. In terms of some of these expenditures that the leader of the third party seems to think we have made decisions on already, such as the future of Dawson City's long-term financial framework, those decisions have yet to be made. In terms of the pension for the hospital, again, those decisions have yet to be made. We continue to work with the hospital and they continue to work with the office of the financial superintendent; because it is a federally-regulated plan, they have to work with OFC and their actuaries.
So, we will continue to work with those respective parties, as per the Premier's previous commitment; we are committed to working with the hospital, just as we are committed to working with Yukon College. I am very pleased we were able to announce that we were able to provide assistance to Yukon College, and that's exactly what we have done.
Again, surplus budgets, healthy net financial resources - the long-term fiscal forecast shows a long-term stable fiscal position. We are not borrowing anything. There is no borrowing required to finance programs - whether it be capital or operation and maintenance. We have increased capital expenditures to unprecedented levels. This budget, albeit not the largest capital budget, is certainly the second-largest capital budget.
I just have to point out that when one looks at the last three years under our government's watch, compared to the previous Liberal government's watch, when you break down the percentage of the tangible capital assets, the total of the budget, we in fact have a far greater percentage than the Liberals did under their watch.
Really, I think that we certainly have raised the bar in terms of providing capital projects. One only has to take a look around the territory. I always hear from the members opposite that we continue to study everything to death. Well, then we get criticized for not doing our due diligence and our planning. Mr. Chair, I think that there are a number of great examples of capital projects that have been completed under our watch. One only has to look at the Old Crow airport terminal and the recreation centre in Ross River, to name but a few. Certainly there are many other capital projects that are underway, and planning is being undertaken at this time. But again, Mr. Chair, there are a number of things that we continue to work on, and that is always part of doing business in government. We continue to work on initiatives. We continue to work on unforeseen events. We continue to address issues that come up. That is exactly what we are doing in terms of the case of Dawson City, in terms of pensions, et cetera. I think it's really important, again, to reiterate that, thanks to our Premier's efforts over the last number of years - you know, the approach before that was per capital funding. Our Premier has always gone into negotiation mode with the federal government, saying that per capital funding is not going to cut it. In fact, base funding plus per capita is the way to go. We have been able to negotiate a number of agreements in our government's favour.
One only has to look at the territorial health access fund, a number of infrastructure funds, the northern strategy, et cetera. Thanks to those good efforts - certainly the Member of Parliament has always played a very important role, but it is certainly not 100-percent attributable to the Member of Parliament.
Again, I didn't see the Member of Parliament walking out on the Prime Minister with the other two northern premiers. I think by working on a pan-northern approach - collectively - and making the Yukon's needs known and making known that we deserve our share of this country's wealth and putting it in strategic investments that will garner growth - and I think that's exactly what we have seen over the last number of years. We have seen growth in the economy. We've seen people coming back to the territory. We've seen investor confidence come back to the territory. It's great to see. We still have a way to go. Again, budgets such as these certainly tend to put the wheels in motion and will lead us to further success.
Mr. Hardy: Well, could you answer the question I asked?
Chair: Before the member answers, I'd just like to remind the member that the Chair can't answer a question. Part of our procedure in the Assembly is to direct the questions through the Chair. I think we're okay, just as long as members are cognizant of that point.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: It has been awhile since that question was asked but I will do my best. I understand, as I seem to recall, the member opposite was raising questions regarding the 16-percent reduction in recoveries from Canada - if I am not mistaken.
We don't have a specific breakdown because it's actually reflected in each of our respective departments, but just a couple of examples - I guess when you look under Health and Social Services, there's a reduction of a couple million dollars there, if I am not mistaken. I think that's as a result of the - forgive me, Mr. Chair, I don't have the specific term of the fund that was negotiated - it's the northern health accord. I think that's coming to an end right now so that shows a reduction; however, as you know, the Minister of Health and Social Services recently announced a sum of $29 million to replace that fund over the next number of years. So, that's one example.
Highways and Public Works - there's another example of a reduction of almost $9 million and that can be attributed to fluctuations in infrastructure funds, such as the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund. Again, for the specific details, once we get into more concrete debate - more line-by-line debate - in each of the respective departments, I will be able to provide you with finer detail.
Mr. Hardy: Could the member supply us with, from the recoveries from Canada, the actual reductions that cost 16 percent? Obviously, Mr. Chair, I know if we go through this, it's all in there. But if it's listed on one page specifically for that 16-percent reduction and we don't have to go through department after department to try to piece it together - I would appreciate it if they could do that.
If the minister is telling me that we have to go department to department to department to piece it together, fine. If the deputy minister is indicating to the minister that it's all on a page, I would appreciate the page that shows exactly that 16-percent reduction, not a bunch of pieces of it, where there was something missing. If that's there, then that's great. I haven't seen it, and I would appreciate that being pointed out to me.
Just to follow up on the reductions under the transfers from Canada, could I have explained - one was already mentioned: the northern health accord was $6,667,000. I believe that was a three-year agreement. It looks like it is now finished. It's not the only one that looks like it has ended. The Canadian health social transfer supplementary trust - is that one now complete? The health reform trust: is that one completed? It looks like it's almost an overspend of $12,000.
If those are actually complete now and they are finished, as per the agreement - and there was another one, early learning and childcare trust, another 100-percent reduction, a transfer from Canada. Is that one, as well, completely finished now?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, as I seem to recall, I just mentioned details within the budget of main estimates that the members opposite have in their hands - if they would roll up their sleeves, do their homework and actually look under total recoveries from Canada, they will actually see details surrounding the breakdown of recoveries from Canada. I urge the members opposite to do that, and if they want more information, I suggest that they defer to each of the respective departments when we get into department-by-department debate.
Mr. Hardy: I don't think the minister needs to be insulting about a question that is asked. It is our job to ask questions. I think everybody in this Legislative Assembly actually does work. It is shame that the minister has such a low regard for other members of the Legislative Assembly in telling us that we need to roll up our sleeves.
Any day that the minister wishes to take a walk through my riding, I am quite willing to show her what I have to deal with in my riding. If she doesn't think that we on this side work, that's a shame. I'm really disappointed that those kinds of comments are what we get when we ask a simple question. If she knows the page, please tell me; that's all I ask. I'm not being insulting; I don't have to insult. If her way of responding to the question is to accuse us of not working, you know what kind of debate we are going to have for 24 days. I thought we were having a good discussion up to this point. Unfortunately it may not go that way now.
So, what consultation process has happened in formulating this budget? How much money has been spent on all the communities, on the consultation tours? Did every community get treated exactly the same? Was dinner supplied for all communities, as they were supplied for some in the consultation process?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, I'd be very happy to assist the member opposite. I'm pointing out the page numbers, starting with Executive Council Office. Operations and maintenance - we have page 418. Moving over to the Department of Community Services, we are looking - I'm just pointing out for the member opposite that he did want actual page numbers. So, if he wants to bear with us, we will be very happy to point out the page numbers for the member opposite.
There is nothing in Community Services as such. For the Department of Economic Development, we have page 6-11. Under the Department of Education, we have page 7-19. For the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, we have page 8-18. For the Department of Environment, we have page 9-21.
There's nothing to report on the Department of Finance. For the Department of Health and Social Services, we have page 1146. The Department of Highways and Public Works is page 1219. I have the Department of Justice, page 1304. Page 1326 - nothing to report under the Public Service Commission; Department of Tourism and Culture, we have page 1514. There's nothing under the Women's Directorate; Yukon Housing Corporation, we have page 1805.
Department of Community Services - page 5-10. Nothing for Executive Council Office. Nothing for the Ombudsman's Office. Economic Development - page 6-9. Department of Education - page 7-9. Energy Mines and Resources - page 8-12. Department of Environment - page 9-10. Nothing to report for the Department of Finance. Department of Social Services - page 11-8. Department of Highways and Public Works - page 12-10. Department of Justice - page 13-8.
There is nothing for the Public Service Commission. The Department of Tourism and Culture is 15-9; there is nothing for the Women's Directorate; there is nothing to report under the Yukon Development Corporation. Last but not least, page 18-11 is for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
That concludes the page numbers for the member opposite that outline each of the recoveries, whether that be an increase or a decrease. I am sure the member opposite can go over each of those pages. If he has any further questions, I would just defer to each of the respective departments for further detail.
Mr. Hardy: As usual, this is where we go again. It was a simple question: if the member could supply us with a list of what made up the reduction of 16 percent under recoveries from Canada. I never asked for page numbers. I never asked for that. We just asked for a one-page list of what made that up. That's information that the Finance department would have, or should have, at their fingertips.
For the minister to stand up and give us page numbers and then accuse us of not doing our work - in other words, she doesn't agree with the fact that the Finance department could give us the one-page list of the reductions of 16 percent.
That's a shame. So, I guess that's the way we are going to have to deal with this minister anyway. The question I asked, though, was consultation and obviously she also didn't hear that. So, would she be willing to respond to the questions around the consultation process in drafting up this budget?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, again for the member opposite, yes, we could certainly make available - I guess I could have the Department of Finance photocopy those pages that I just listed - if the member opposite wished to have that - but I just made reference to each of the respective pages for the member opposite and it's detailed there.
With respect to the budget consultations that took place, I was very pleased to take part in many of those consultations. We did commence our Cabinet community tour and it was our third one we took over the last three years. It was a very successful consultation. I can attest personally that many of the meetings at the communities that we did visit were very well received. I know members opposite often critique the members of the government for taking the initiative to meet with communities. However, when you speak to the actual individuals who live in those respective communities, they very much appreciate having the opportunity to dialogue and to communicate with their elected officials and members of the Cabinet - the Premier in particular. It gives us an opportunity to hear first-hand what those issues of concern are and what the needs of the respective communities are.
It gives us a much better understanding of each of the challenges, the strengths, in each of our communities, particularly, in rural Yukon. We visited every single community in the Yukon, and I know that we met with a number of different governments over the course of our travels, from municipal governments - mayors and councils - to First Nation governments - chiefs and councils, and so forth.
And then, of course, we would always have a public meeting in the evening. Again, it didn't matter whether it was during meetings or in the public meetings, again, the sentiments were, “Thank you for coming here and taking the opportunity to hear directly from the individuals who reside in these communities.”
A variety of issues came up. Some individuals may have thought that they were very small items, and some we were able to deliver immediately. Some were larger initiatives that communities have been asking for - wanting to report progress. In terms of reporting progress, that's actually one of the things that I was very pleased to see. The Premier, over the last three years, in his meetings with each of the respective communities - we have been able to report progress on a number of initiatives that have been identified as important initiatives to the community.
It really is good because when you do go out into the community and you do meet with individuals, you want to be able to report progress. I think we have been able to garner success in all our communities and we have been able to report progress on a number of very important initiatives.
So I think the community tours are an amazing initiative. I know that previous governments also took part in tours. But again it is a great thing to participate in, and one in which we have been able to see a lot of success and also see capital projects underway or completed. I just referred to the Ross River recreation centre, for example. What an amazing building, an amazing community gathering place that not only provides childcare services, but it also provides a gathering point for community citizens to come together to celebrate different events in their community.
There are a number of different initiatives in terms of checking out a culvert and checking out the roadwork or sewage lagoons, for example. We have taken tours of each of these respective facilities, and we have seen it first-hand. I can tell you that a highlight of my years in this government is having the opportunity to go out into the communities, to be able to travel the highway, see how the highway is doing, see how that signage is standing up and to be able to talk to those individuals who live in the communities and talk to those people who run those restaurants and those hotel rooms. It really is; there is nothing like it. Yes, we field phone calls and have meetings on a daily basis from individuals outside of Whitehorse, but there is nothing like going out into our communities and seeing things first-hand, and meeting individuals who have made their livelihoods in the communities. I really place high value on these community tours.
I would just refer to our experience when we went to the Village of Mayo, for example. We spent the day in Keno - again, what a great opportunity, not only for myself but for each of my colleagues, to be able to actually go through the Keno City Mining Museum. What an asset that is for the community. It's a well-regarded gem in the territory. We were able to sit down in the small church in Keno and talk about the issues of the day with the residents of Keno - about how their visitor seasons went, or didn't go, to talk about how we can improve signage along the highways and how we can improve lighting on the bridge. It goes on and on and on. Other things we discussed during the community travels included everything from the application of the domestic violence treatment option and how that was working, to how there are things we could do to improve on that. Again, it's a way of being able to dialogue with residents, being able to exchange information, to hear their concerns and act on their concerns.
It was a valuable experience and w e take great value in having the opportunity to visit each of our communities.
We have spent time in your community, Mr. Chair. We had a great public meeting at which we heard not only things that they would like to see happen, but where we also received thanks for things that have been happening - the waterfront initiative, for example.
It's great to be able to travel with our colleagues and our officials and report on progress. That is a very integral component of our community tours - to be able to report progress and to follow up with individuals, to show that it doesn't fall on deaf ears, but these are concerns and we are working on their behalf to address each of the concerns put forward. I certainly will speak any time about the community tours held, and I am happy to elaborate in great detail about what we have heard and seen on our travels.
We had a great stay with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin in the community of Old Crow. We had a tour of their sewage lagoon, as well as of some of their facilities. We had a great meeting with the chief and council - again, being able to report some progress.
Are we able to solve all the problems? Of course not. But it is the responsibility and obligation of each government to work with the community and address each of these issues, as presented by the communities.
So, again, consultations were held in each of our communities. I think they went very well. Some very good issues were put forward, whether they regarded economic initiatives, tourism or health and social services. The benefit was having the opportunity to bring other Cabinet colleagues along with us to address the very issues of importance to individuals.
Again, a two-way dialogue - listening to concerns, but also being able to report progress on some of those issues put forward.
Mr. Chair, any time the members opposite want to talk about, in great detail, what our consultations are, I'd be happy to sit down with them. But, again, it's very important to meet with the respective levels of government - the various orders of government in each community - and to have the community tours.
Again, whether it be Faro, whether it be Ross River, we certainly do our utmost to sit down with the residents. Again, even if it's not in the formal meeting place, it could be simply taking a walk down the street or having a coffee in the local restaurant. These are all ways that we're able to dialogue with community residents. It's certainly one of the highlights of my job, regardless of what may happen - being able to take away with me those experiences and those stories and learning more about the Yukon than I have ever learned before.
So, Mr. Chair, again, the members opposite may raise concerns with respect to community consultations. Again, we on this side of the House see it as a great opportunity to dialogue and to consult with individuals. That helps us form priorities that are identified and addressed in the budget here.
Again, I would just like to say thank you to all the officials who took the time to travel with many of us to our communities, because these were the individuals who actually documented what was said and what was heard, and these are the individuals who are also working with us, the elected people, to identify and to work toward the resolution of some of these issues that have been raised in each of our communities.
So, I thank them for that. It certainly makes for some long days, but they really are great days - days that I certainly would never change for the world.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Taylor that we report progress on Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 66, Act to Amend the Securities Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment. Also, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. 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: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 11, 2006:
Corrections in Yukon and the Corrections Consultation: Final Report (dated March, 2006) (Edzerza)
The following document was filed April 11, 2006:
Holly Street East, letters regarding: from Lyle Henderson, Director of Lands Branch (dated November 4, 2005) to Dennis Shewfelt, Director of Operations, City of Whitehorse and from Dennis Shewfelt, Director of Operations, City of Whitehorse (November 10, 2005) to Lyle Henderson, Director of Lands Branch (Duncan)