Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Withdrawal of motions
Speaker: The Chair wishes to inform the House that the following motions have been removed from the Order Paper because they are outdated: Motions No. 584 and 587, standing in the name of the leader of the official opposition; Motions No. 598 and 599, standing in the name of the Member for Mount Lorne; Motions No. 593, 594 and 637, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane; and Motions No. 596 and 597, standing in the name of the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
Are there reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to provide clarity to the public and private sector by issuing a policy statement on whether future residential lot development will be undertaken by the public sector, the private sector or a combination of both, and that the statement should include criteria for how private developers would be selected.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the people of Porter Creek, residents of the City of Whitehorse and elected municipal politicians desiring certainty with regard to the disposition of the Yukon government-owned land within the Porter Creek area, encourage the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Minister of Community Services to publicly state the manner and time frame in which decisions will occur in this area.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to make available, on a monthly basis, copies of the current contact registry database, and that this information be available in a downloadable format suitable for sorting, searching and database analysis.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Legal actions against government
Mr. Hardy: Two days ago I tabled a motion asking for information about the number of lawsuits initiated against the territorial government since the Yukon Party became the government. It may be awhile before we have a chance to debate that motion, so I would like to pose a friendly question to the Minister of Justice.
Will the minister tell the House how many legal actions have been launched against the government since January 1, 2003, and how much these actions have cost the taxpayers so far in legal fees, judgements or out-of-court settlements?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that the member opposite could probably obtain most of that information from the court registry.
Mr. Hardy: If the minister doesn't want to answer the question, perhaps he'll provide a written response in the next few days. It is his job in the Legislative Assembly. One high-profile case involving a former government employee was in the court today. Yesterday, a new action against this government was filed in the court. This one accuses the government of unlawful expropriation and wilful misrepresentation, among other things.
Last week, we heard of another situation where government officials were basically advising property owners on the Annie Lake Road to take the government to court.
Now, I've lost track of how many First Nations have either threatened to sue this government or actually have court cases in the works. So, how many court cases against the Government of Yukon does this minister expect to leave as part of his legacy for the next minister and the next government to clean up?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This minister won't be discussing any court cases that are before the courts.
Mr. Hardy: Once again they refuse to answer the questions. A lot of people in this territory have taken training in mediation, conflict resolution and alternative dispute resolution techniques - often at their own expense. There are positive and effective ways of resolving disputes but they require good faith on both sides, Mr. Speaker.
If people feel the only way to get justice is to take the government to court, there isn't a lot of good faith being exercised. It's like Goliath saying to David, “So, sue me.” Most people can't afford to sue the government - that's a fact - and they shouldn't have to; it is their government. What it has caused is a huge waste of money and a huge waste of public trust.
So, my question is: how many times since January 1, 2003, has this government used alternative methods of resolving disputes to avoid court action, and how much has this saved the parties involved? Maybe he will answer that one.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It's not my job as a minister to be taking anybody to court or to be making comments about anyone who has issues before the court. I do have the utmost confidence in the Justice staff - that they would be handling everything in a very appropriate manner.
Question re: Tombstone Park mining activity
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, Tombstone Park was created under the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Final Agreement. In January 2003, the First Nation presented its management plan for the park. Now, more than three years later, that plan still is not in place. That is another example of how fast this Yukon Party government moves.
One of the reasons apparently is because this government insists on keeping control over water and minerals within the park. Will the Acting Minister of Environment confirm that the stalemate is because this government still wants to allow mining activity within the park?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can confirm, certainly, that we are committed to upholding all the provisions of chapter 10 of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Final Agreement. Discussions are underway to develop the terms of a management plan for Tombstone Park, but any management plan must be consistent with the final agreement. The Yukon government is willing to work with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and all parties to finalize the representative public service plan for their traditional territory. It's called for in chapter 22 of the final agreement. We will be continuing those discussions, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: So they're using this as an excuse for doing nothing. The Yukon government's foot-dragging on this file is truly appalling. I'm talking about both the former Liberal government and especially this anti-environment Yukon Party government. The First Nation has already threatened to take this government to court twice - twice, Mr. Speaker, over Tombstone Park issues. I understand that one of those lawsuits is actually working its way through the court system at the present time. Once again, we see this government acting like Goliath - “We won't negotiate, we won't mediate, so sue us.”
Why is the minister refusing to act in good faith with the First Nation to move this important file forward instead of leaving one more mess for the next government to clean up?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, I won't even comment on the member opposite's comment that using legitimate negotiation is an excuse. I think - if he wants to use the word “appalling,” that's an appalling word to be using in this sense. We continue the negotiation and work with the draft representative public service plan. As was already discussed, the Public Service Commission has advised us on that, and we're working on that, and working within chapter 22 of the final agreement. But again, it has to come within the terms of chapter 22 and within the terms of the final agreement. We continue the negotiations.
Mr. Hardy: There is also the term “negotiating in good faith”, something this government hasn't demonstrated to date with just about everybody in this territory who has an issue with them.
Now, it's no secret that this Yukon Party government has displayed absolutely no commitment to environmental protection, especially if there is any conflict with the resource sector. It is also no secret that the former Deputy Premier had a great interest in seeing the Dempster Highway area developed for tourism potential. But this government has legal and moral obligations to self-governing First Nations.
My question, Mr. Speaker: when will this government live up to its obligations by finalizing the management plan for Tombstone Park and resolving the issues surrounding the Dempster interpretive centre, or will taxpayers be on the hook for another costly lawsuit because this government refuses to act in good faith?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, I won't comment on the member opposite accusing the government of not negotiating in good faith. I think that's very inappropriate language for this House, but I won't make an issue out of that because we get used to those accusations from time to time.
To comment on environmental standards, the Department of Environment has a larger budget than the Department of Economic Development. We have the largest area of protected space in Canada - over 19 percent. We have instituted many, many different programs within the Department of Environment, and we have one of the best Department of Environment staffs in the world. We don't make excuses for that; we're very proud of that. We will continue to negotiate on the Tombstone Park management plan and make it consistent with chapter 22 of the final agreement and with the draft representative public service plan.
Question re: Dawson City financial situation
Mr. Mitchell: I have some questions for the Minister of Community Services. Last spring, the Yukon Party government put forward a piece of legislation that will ensure a newly elected Dawson mayor and council will be squarely under the thumb of the minister. The bill is essentially the Yukon's version of debtors' prison. The new mayor and council are going to pay over and over again for the sins of the past.
We can all agree that plenty of mistakes have been made in the past with respect to Dawson . There is plenty of blame to go around. We disagree on what is needed to move forward.
Yesterday, I tabled a bill asking the minister to repeal this very restrictive piece of legislation. The minister's bill places more restrictions on Dawson than on any other community in the Yukon .
Will the minister repeal Bill No. 56 and let Dawson get off to a clean start?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I responded to this question yesterday, when he made the request. We're reviewing that situation and upon the disposition of the final financial items for the citizens of Dawson, we'll look at what is required.
Mr. Mitchell: Bill No. 56 was introduced and passed by the Yukon Party government last spring. It was opposed by our party, by the New Democrats and by the advisory council in Dawson. It puts the soon-to-be elected Dawson mayor and council on a very short leash. Under this legislation the minister retains most of the authority for major decisions with respect to Dawson 's debt, spending decisions and even the salary of the mayor and council. No other municipality has similar restrictions. Again, Dawson is being singled out for the sins of the past. The new mayor and council are being told by the Yukon Party, “We don't trust you.” Mr. Speaker, we want this restrictive bill repealed; we want to provide certainty that it won't come forward and be proclaimed. Will the minister do the right thing and allow the new council a clean slate?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will reiterate what I said before. We are looking at the situation for the citizens of Dawson and we'll be reviewing the entire package for that.
Mr. Mitchell: As I said earlier, there is plenty of blame to go around for what has happened in Dawson - we all agree on that. But with Bill No. 56, the Yukon Party government wants to continue to blame the next council for mistakes that were made by previous councils. The minister admitted yesterday that his own bill is flawed and that he might need to bring forward amendments. We would like to take a different approach. We don't believe in this debtors' prison approach that the government is taking. We would respect the ability and authority of the new council to make decisions as other Yukon communities do under the Municipal Act. That is why, we would think, we have passed Bill No. 71 - to allow for a new council to be elected. “No way,” says the Yukon Party government, “ Dawson will be treated differently.” The minister will continue to oversee almost all major decisions. Mr. Speaker, will the minister do the right thing and allow the new council a clean slate?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will remind the member opposite of the situation that was previously there. Does he wish to encourage that? I don't think so. We are in the midst of trying to assist the citizens of Dawson to have a functional municipality. That is what we intend to do, and we will just take it from there.
Question re: Seniors facilities
Mr. McRobb: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The Yukon Party government made an election commitment to build multi-level health care facilities in communities, where feasible. Now that we've seen this government's final budget, it is disappointing to see how badly it has failed in respect to that election promise. There is no new facility for Dawson City. There is nothing for the Kluane region. Nothing for Teslin, Mayo, Tatchun, or anywhere else, for that matter.
We've all heard about this government's problems in Watson Lake, where the one and only such facility is still under construction. It has all come undone for this Yukon Party regime. Why has it ignored so badly its election promises to build multi-level health facilities in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again, the Member for Kluane has a very interesting recollection of history that is not borne out by the facts. Our government made it very clear during the election campaign that we would review multi-level care facilities and build them in communities, beginning with looking at Watson Lake and Dawson City . That's exactly what we're doing. The project for Watson Lake is in progress right now. The site preparation work has begun and construction work will continue.
For Dawson , there is $100,000 in this year's budget to continue with planning. The Member for Kluane seems to want everything overnight. We simply don't have the budgetary resources to build multi-level care facilities in every community of the Yukon in one year.
Mr. McRobb: There have been over a thousand nights of this Yukon Party government and still nothing with respect to new health care facilities in rural Yukon . The Yukon Party promised new health facilities in rural Yukon, and it's clear it has failed to deliver.
Let's look at Dawson City: there was $5.2 million for new facilities there in last year's budget, but that was before this government tabled its supplementary budget in the fall, which repealed those funds. There's nothing in this year's budget to build the Dawson facility.
This Yukon Party government simply won't deliver on that promise. The electoral clock is at one minute to midnight and it's all coming undone for this regime.
Can the minister tell us the real reason why it has failed to deliver on another project in Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I'd like to make the Member for Kluane aware of something called planning. We do need to do the planning work. The due diligence needs to be done and we cannot construct facilities in every community overnight. This takes time.
We're doing the planning work; it takes time to do that. We do not have the budgetary resources nor is there capacity within the construction market to build all facilities in all communities at once.
I reiterate that we're currently moving forward with the construction of the Watson Lake facility; planning work will continue in this year for the Dawson facility. There was a need to make modifications, based on the plans as they existed last year. We are doing the final work and will have that done. Once that is completed, there will be work to commence building a multi-level care facility in Dawson City.
I would also make the member aware that we're moving forward on a seniors central residence for Kluane. This is one step forward in enhancing the ability to deal with the needs of seniors and enhance the care to the community of Haines Junction.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister has confirmed; it has all come undone for this Yukon Party government. It's still in the planning stages. What a pity. Let's examine another region where this government has failed to deliver. Last fall, the Premier promised to respond to my constituents' request for seniors facilities in Haines Junction to serve the Kluane region, but there is nothing in this year's budget to build any such project there.
Mr. Speaker, it's report card time for this Yukon Party regime, and it gets an F on another promise. Now, I know the Health and Social Services minister would like the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation to respond to this question, but it's clearly in the Health and Social Services minister's domain. Can the Health and Social Services minister explain why he has ignored the needs of the people in the Kluane region, who have clearly indicated they want a multi-level care facility for seniors and elders?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again, I would suggest to the Member for Kluane that he might wish to discuss this with the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation during the line-by-line debate. I know the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation is very proud of the efforts that they are making. The seniors central residence project is proceeding under their auspices and through the hard work of the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation and the staff of the Yukon Housing Corporation. Mr. Speaker, we are committed to addressing the needs of Yukoners. It requires planning. It requires time to do the work. We need to do our due diligence. We are doing exactly that, and we are moving forward in fulfilling the needs of Yukoners beyond what any other government has done in providing facilities to these communities.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Land use planning
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for land use planning. Yesterday, I asked the minister about putting some priority on land use planning and how his government would implement the objectives of chapter 11 of the final agreement. The minister said, and I quote: “When this government took office, no plans had been completed, and we put the council to work to revive the plans.” Whatever that means, Mr. Speaker. And after three and a half years, this minister is still unclear about the issues. When it comes to land use, the minister seems to have his own plans. Let's take Shallow Bay, for example. There was a grazing lease that was to expire in 2019, and there was an interest by a member-at-large for this piece of land for agriculture. There was interest from Ta'an Kwach'an during negotiations, and at that time, a third party grazing lease was there and Ta'an Kwach'an couldn't get the land. So what direction did the minister give to his deputy or his director regarding the sale of this Shallow Bay land?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, there were two questions there. The first question was: what is this government doing about land use planning? We're working with the council. We have a commission in place. We have the north Yukon plan almost done. We're working on the Peel plan and hopefully moving into the Dawson plan.
I'll remind the member opposite that there are eight areas in the Yukon that we're doing the land planning on. We're proceeding. It is an obligation of the First Nations and public government to do those plans. We're moving ahead with those plans. If the member opposite wants a meeting with the council, I would organize a meeting so he could be briefed on where the council is now and what's happening internally in the land use planning process that's going forward in the Yukon today.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister didn't answer the question about what direction he gave to his deputy minister or director. It's becoming obvious that the minister has interfered in this process by not answering questions like this.
Now, during the land claims negotiations with Ta'an Kwach'an, the First Nations argued for the right of first refusal once a grazing lease expired in 2019, and so far the Yukon Party hasn't even committed to consult with Ta'an Kwach'an. There's a lack of political leadership on the part of the minister.
Why not deal directly with the Ta'an Kwach'an, government to government? Why not do that? The minister has his own plans and he wanted the sale to happen. Directions were given to his assistant deputy minister to take the land application out of the LARC process.
Will the minister fess up to that now?
Speaker: Before the honourable minister answers the question - Member for Mayo-Tatchun, when you state that the minister has his own plans, it appears to the Chair that there is a motive other than serving the public. I would just ask the Member for Mayo-Tatchun to be very careful about that approach.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I'd like to remind the member opposite that that's in court at the moment. We are obliged to, and we do, follow the letter of the law. This question is in the courts at the moment. I can't speak on it, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I'm not talking about the issues; I'm talking about the process and the minister's political interference in this matter. Let's continue with this, Mr. Speaker. In the 1990s -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Porter Creek North, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I believe the phrase “political interference” falls under what you were just talking about.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker - I intend to try to be helpful - I believe I heard the Member for Mayo-Tatchun say he believes there was political interference, which certainly does not accuse anybody with total certainty of anything. It's just expressing his belief. I believe that's allowed in here. That's what this is all about - members expressing what they believe.
Speaker: Member for Porter Creek North, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: On the point of order, I draw the analogy of having the opinion that someone is lying. That would also be out of order in this Assembly.
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I think there is a little bit too much aggression in the Legislative Assembly and I would ask people to calm down a little bit and allow the debate to happen.
Speaker: From the Chair's perspective, it is a dispute among members. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to continue with the line of questioning.
In the 1990s, soil tests were taken and they found that the Shallow Bay land was only good for grazing and not for agriculture. Last year the Yukon Party redid the soil survey and determined that the soil was good for agriculture. That only could happen with the stroke of a pen. It takes many years for the soil to build up to be suitable for agriculture.
Now, all of this is happening because the minister stepped in and interfered with the process. Will the minister admit that he interfered and will he commit to never interfering in another process again?
While he's on his feet, will he commit to establish a clear process that cannot have any political interference?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I'll remind the member opposite that this land question is in the courts at the moment. Those courts are going to make a decision. I'm not going to debate the pros and cons of a court case in this Chamber. It's not my job, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Watson Lake care facility
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, last fall I asked several questions about the new Watson Lake health centre. As we discussed earlier today, there are problems with the new health centre in Dawson, because the previous minister - the Health and Social Services minister's predecessor - spent a lot of time on something called “extreme make-over, Dawson health care edition”. The same is true in Watson Lake . According to an architect, quoted in the paper, Watson Lake is just as bad. Watson Lake was in many ways worse. The previous minister dictated what it should look like. We know the previous minister left a mess in the Dawson health centre at significant cost to the taxpayer. It now appears that the same situation has occurred in Watson Lake. We have already spent $1.5 million and still have little to show for it. How much did the previous minister's interference in the design cost taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thank the Member for Porter Creek South for her question. I am not going to engage in commentary on her speculation about what she feels the actions of my predecessor were. I'm sure that he took the actions he felt were appropriate at the time. With regard to the Watson Lake facility, the additional costs were due to a need to review design issues with the hospital. The project team became aware that there were potential structural issues, and there was a need at that point to review the design and do the planning work for what would have to be done to address those issues. That's where the additional costs came from.
Ms. Duncan: The public needs to know if the new Health and Social Services minister has made a difference. A number of sole-source contracts have been issued; however, we still don't have a final project in Watson Lake with a completion date.
The minister admitted this week that the construction includes plans to connect the new building to the old hospital, and he has just noted that in the Legislature. The problem is that the buildings are not compatible.
We've heard reports from Watson Lake that it may now be cheaper to tear down the old hospital and rebuild it rather than try to connect the two buildings. The minister himself admitted that unanticipated costs have arisen of late - that's the phrase he used just now.
How much are those additional costs going to be?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would point out to the Member for Porter Creek South that there is no project active at this time to replace the hospital. A review was done. Planning work was done to determine what would need to be done, and there was a decision made that we simply do not have the budgetary means at this time to consider that project.
It will have to be dealt with down the road. The engineers we hired did the work to determine that there were no emergency issues or structural problems that could cause, in any way, a situation of any threat to the people who are in the building. At this time, the project is proceeding forward for the multi-level care facility. When the hospital project does commence, as it will have to some years down the road, they will be saved some money by the fact that work was done at this stage to determine what the needed renovations would be.
Ms. Duncan: The Dawson health centre does not exist. The Yukon Party promised to build it: that commitment is broken. The Watson Lake health centre is way overbudget. The minister isn't prepared today to admit just how badly this project has gone off the rails. There are serious questions about whether the new building can be connected to the old hospital. The minister has just said the hospital is not going to be rebuilt.
There have been sole-source contracts that have exceeded their original limits. Who's going to pay for all of this? The Yukon taxpayer.
The minister himself has admitted there are unanticipated costs. How much are those additional costs going to be? What's the new estimated total cost of this project? Do we have a completion date for it?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the Member for Porter Creek South, I would make her aware that the project in Dawson City is certainly in no way shelved. It is simply going through some more planning work that is necessary to proceed forward with a multi-level care facility in Dawson City, which is what the commitment is in that regard. With regard to the project in Watson Lake, I personally don't do the design work or the drawing of the blueprints, but I believe there is actually a firewall planned for in-between the two facilities - the hospital and the multi-level care facility - in Watson Lake, and at this point they will not be connected. That could be subject to change, but that's my understanding of that, just to provide some clarification to the Member for Porter Creek South.
We are proceeding with these projects. Again, there were additional design costs and engineering costs associated with reviewing the Watson Lake hospital that had not initially been anticipated when the project was begun. That has resulted in increased costs and is entirely the reason for - as noted and commented on by members of the opposition - the higher-than-anticipated engineering and design piece.
Question re: Garbage burning
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, there are some very effective posters on display around the Yukon right now, and the main message of these posters is that burning garbage is bad for you, your neighbours and your planet. This is part of a joint ad campaign with Raven Recycling, the City of Whitehorse and the Government of Canada. Another prominent partner in this program is the Yukon government Department of Environment, so I have a burning question for the Minister of Community Services. When is the minister going to get on-board with this message?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with the communities with regard to no-burn, and we are in the process of working on transfer stations in two of those communities. We are in the process of identifying the others.
Mr. Cardiff: I have copies of the ad here for members of the Legislature, if they so choose. I'll table them.
Mr. Speaker, governments across this country have stopped the practice of burning garbage at dumps years ago. They know that it spews poisons into the air, water and onto the land and that these toxins have been linked to a broad range of diseases and ailments. Even the Breathe Better campaign, in which the Department of Environment is a partner, recognizes this fact. It actually says in the ad, “Ask your municipality, community leaders or MLA about cleaner, healthier communities.” So, why is the Minister of Community Services still allowing widespread burning of garbage in community dumps in rural Yukon that are under his authority? And this is across the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in consultation with the municipalities that allow burning to take place in and around their particular areas, and we are working with them. As I stated earlier, we are working with these communities to identify which of these communities we can work on and get to a landfill-type operation. In some cases, it's very difficult to do because we don't have the land availability. So we are in the course of doing that.
The member is correct - we are looking at the issue of burning garbage. And, as I stated, we are currently looking into dumps very close to Whitehorse. We're looking at trying to make a transfer station out of them.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister is responsible for a number of dumps, as well as municipalities being responsible. But I'm talking about the ones that the minister is responsible for.
Now, the Marsh Lake dump is only one of many where burning garbage is a regular occurrence. As a matter of fact, I understand that the dump has been burning since the weekend. And that's when it poses the most risk - when it burns slowly for a long time.
Smoke from trash burning at that dump routinely wafts into nearby subdivisions and out across the lake, creating a potential health risk. Now, my constituents, and surely other Yukoners living near dumps where trash burning occurs, find this unacceptable.
When is the minister going to table a regional waste management plan for the Whitehorse area and spell out when and how he will dealing with this problem in all communities where trash is still being burned?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated, we are assessing all our dumps throughout the Yukon and are in the process of doing such.
Speaker: Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' Business
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 638
Clerk: Motion No. 638, standing in the name of Mr. Rouble.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Southern Lakes
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue to encourage the growth and diversification of the Yukon economy.
Mr. Rouble: It's my honour and pleasure to rise today to discuss and debate this motion. It's certainly no secret that the Yukon Party supports encouraging growth and diversification of the Yukon economy in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. I think all members in the Assembly today can join me in supporting this motion.
It's a very positive motion. It calls for the growth and diversification of our economy, which is essential for ensuring we maintain the quality of life we enjoy here in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, I should add that, when the caucus was looking at crafting a motion such as this, we originally looked at putting in some “hows”. We wanted to encourage the growth and diversification in the economy by investing in tourism, investing in cultural industries, in IT, in manufacturing, seeing an increase in the resource and development industries, the transportation industries. Education plays a role in this, agriculture plays a role in this, and the list went on and on.
For fear of leaving one out, which I certainly don't want to do, we didn't keep a short list. Instead, we kept it very general and all-encompassing, with the overall objective of continuing to encourage the growth and diversification of the economy.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, this is a positive motion and one that we can all agree with, and I hope that the other parties support us on this motion. If we don't have support on this motion, I hope there is a good rationale for why it needs to be changed. Again, I said we have left it very broad on purpose. It sends a very clear and succinct message that growing and diversifying the economy of the Yukon is a good thing for Yukoners.
The economy has always been an issue - at least it was an important issue to many Yukoners. I am told that a recent poll said that the economy isn't the number one issue facing Yukoners any more, but that certainly was the case a couple of years ago - especially when we last went to the polls. When we knocked on doors and campaigned throughout our different ridings, I think all members would feel safe in agreeing that the number one issue that we heard - time and time again - was the economy. We have to do something about the economy; we have got to get the economy back on track. Mr. Speaker, at that time people didn't have confidence in the economy. Many were afraid that their employers might close the door. Many were afraid that they might be laid off. There was double-digit unemployment at the time, so that was a reasonable fear.
People had watched the NDP drive investors away with the uncertainty of their flawed policies. In my own riding, many people feared that families would be separated as people were forced to seek employment outside the territory. We saw our neighbouring jurisdictions booming, but it wasn't booming here in the territory. At that time the mineral prices next door were the same - different regimes and very different results. It was incredibly sad to see part of the family stay here in Whitehorse - perhaps to finish school - and then one person leave the territory to seek employment opportunities.
Along those lines, Mr. Speaker, many people were afraid that they'd have to sell their house and move away, and if they couldn't sell their house, that would cause some additional financial hardship or, if they did end up selling it, that they'd lose money on the deal. It certainly wasn't a positive situation.
At times, Mr. Speaker, people watched as the government of the day closed down the Department of Economic Development. I have a question for all the members here, Mr. Speaker: is there anyone in here who thinks that this was a good move? Is closing down the Department of Economic Development a good step for a government to make? I don't think so. And, Mr. Speaker, if one of the members of the opposition were Premier in the future, would he or she do that again? Would we see the new department, the new Department of Economic Development, the one that's having a very significant difference and an impact on Yukoners - would we see that department close down?
Also at that time, Mr. Speaker, rather than tasking government employees with the job of addressing the important, responsible work of identifying ways of getting the territory back on track, what did the Liberal government do? Well, they started a navel-gazing exercise that started the reorganization and renewal process. Some liken it to rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking chip.
Now, we know that was the vision of the past government - to stimulate the economy by printing new letterhead. It's certainly not the vision of the Yukon Party government, but we need to ask the question: is it still part of the agenda of the opposition? If one of the members across the floor were elected Premier, would he or she again direct the government to stop addressing the needs of Yukoners and conduct another musical chair exercise? Well, we all know what happened in the last election. Electors endorsed the Yukon Party's platform and vision. Well, what are the results? In today's Yukon, Yukoners have a renewed sense of optimism for their families' future. Families are moving home. Young people are moving home. We see it with those students who have recently graduated from university. They're coming back to the territory, and they're getting jobs.
They are coming home using the education that we as a territory have invested in and using it to build Whitehorse, Marsh Lake, Carcross, Tagish - all the other communities in the territory into being a better place. That's a great thing, and I am glad to see it happening. It's certainly a far cry from the exodus of 20-to-35-year-olds only a few short years ago.
Mr. Speaker, we've seen a rekindled economy with many active sectors: resource development, tourism, information technology, film and sound, arts and culture, small business. You only have to look at Main Street in downtown Whitehorse to see the renewed sense of optimism; to see the fresh coat of paint, the fresh façade and the businesses investing in their business because they know it's going to pay back. There is a sense of optimism and a sense of hope and future for the territory.
We are seeing unemployment at historic lows, and hundreds more Yukoners are working. In today's Yukon our population is increasing again, and it's soon destined to reach an all-time high.
Our property values have risen dramatically - that's always a good thing. A couple of years ago, when folks were forced to leave, they were worried about losing money on their houses. Today it is a different story. Overall the Yukon government's financial health is among the best of all jurisdictions in Canada.
Now, the Yukon Party was given a mandate to take the helm and steer the territory's economy into a positive direction, and that's certainly what we've done.
Yukoners wanted us to build a vibrant, healthy future for their families, and this was outlined in the Yukon Party's platform, “Together We Will Do Better”. It was with this disciplined approach and inclusive plan and a cooperative vision that our government charted a new course to strengthen our social fabric and return Yukon 's finances to a sound financial footing.
We focused on building collaborative, inclusive relationships with our First Nation governments and our neighbouring jurisdictions - the Northwest Territories , Nunavut, Alberta, British Columbia and Alaska . We focused on creating a sustainable balance between the economy and the environment, and we set out to mark Yukon 's place in Canada's federation.
That's another big point - another hallmark of this government. Our work has yielded some very impressive results. The pan-northern approach that I think all ministers have employed - not only the Premier - working with our sister jurisdictions has done an incredible job of dramatically heightening the awareness of the north on the national stage. It has brought about increased recognition from the federal government, and this has helped us to negotiate a significant improvement in our fiscal arrangement with Ottawa.
It wasn't until the northern premiers took a tough, pan-northern stand in Ottawa - walking out on the Prime Minister - that the federal government began to take notice. For far too long we had just been neglected, barely even recognized as being part of Canada - you know, hardly even welcomed at the table, if we were invited there at all.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this pan-northern approach - not only has it done well in establishing our relationship with the federal government, but things have changed dramatically since that day. We now work collaboratively with our neighbours - Alaska , Alberta and British Columbia - to advance major initiatives such as the Alaska-Canada rail link, the Alaska Highway pipeline and port access to the Pacific coast.
Now, Mr. Speaker, these aren't short-term projects that we'll see implemented in six weeks or even in the life cycle of one budget - or frankly, Mr. Speaker, even in the lifetime of a government. These are long-term projects that are going to have long-term benefits to the territory. That is part of the role of government - looking into what the long-term projects are that are going to reap rewards for the territory into the future. Well, I think it's a responsible thing to look into these important transportation links. The rail link, the pipeline and the port access will be short-term stimuli in our economy now, by employing consultants and engineers and designers and people to cut line, but they're going to have tremendous long-term results. So it's important that we continue to look at these long-term initiatives.
Another thing that this government has really focused on is our cooperative relationships with the Yukon First Nations. They resulted in the creation of the Yukon forum, where leaders of our respective governments meet formally to address matters of mutual interest, such as the northern economic development fund and the northern strategy - again, important initiatives that are going to lead to the long-term, sustainable economic development of our territory.
We're working steadfastly to ensure that they too - Yukon's First Nations - become full economic partners that share in the new Yukon economy.
If I can just take a moment, Mr. Speaker, to mention a word about the sound, financial economic management of the government. On the fiscal front, we've set to work getting Yukon 's financial house in order, improving cash management and re-energizing our economy. We've worked with the Finance department to ensure that the government is now booking its assets and conducting its affairs in a proper full-accrual accounting method. We are making sure that there is cash in the bank, so that we don't have to rely on a line of credit or some short-term loan in order to meet payroll at the end of the month.
We are working hard to ensure that the government is getting to the point of having balanced budgets. We only have to look at the budget that was just tabled in the last couple of weeks to show that we are leaving a surplus for this year. Mr. Speaker, that is good financial management and is essential in building a climate for this territory that will give investors the confidence that they need to come back to the Yukon to invest.
In the budgets that the Yukon Party government has tabled in the last couple of years, we have deliberately injected short- and medium-term stimuli into the ailing economy. I believe the evidence is apparent, given our growing economy and growing population. We have also worked to create a balance between the economy and the environment by using an integrated approach to resource management, and I expect that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources will discuss in more detail what the integrated resource management, or IRM, approach is all about.
Just as an example, by having a dedicated, cooperative and coordinated effort, we have worked to develop and endorse a new integrated regime to regulate placer mining in the Yukon . This was accomplished in the face of a federal Liberal government that pushed to impose legislation that would have all but shut down Yukon's placer miners. By changing the flawed policies of past governments, by streamlining and improving our permitting process, and with the implementation of YESAA, we have sought to restore the investor confidence that had all but disappeared in Yukon's resource sector.
Once again, the proof is in the numbers. We've gone from the $6 million in mineral exploration mark of 2002 to some estimates, I hear, that are as high as $100 million to be spent this coming year in the Yukon. All this has been done while we have advanced the environmental issues with initiatives that include developing new territorial parks and habitat protection areas, working to save the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and supporting the efforts of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to protect critical habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd.
The government's overall vision plays a role in the strength and vibrancy of our economy and the economic climate we create, but it's many different areas of the government that are responsible for implementing this new direction. Many departments in the government play a role in continuing to encourage the growth and diversification of Yukon's economy. This includes the flagship, Economic Development. It has been reborn, restructured and given a very important mandate. Education plays a role; Energy, Mines and Resources plays a role; Highways and Public Works plays a role; Tourism and Culture plays a role. Practically every aspect of government plays a role in communicating the message that we do want a strong and vibrant economy in the territory, that we do want growth and we do want diversification.
Mr. Speaker, we have the regimes in place, we have the structures in place. It's the intention to do everything, of course, in a responsible manner, in a sustainable manner, one that will ensure opportunities now and for future generations.
Let's look at the different departments that we have out there. We will start with the Department of Economic Development. Mr. Speaker, it wasn't that long ago that the department released a document entitled, A New Direction: Building a Sustainable and Competitive Yukon Economy. I think all members have seen this. If they don't have a copy of it, I would be more than pleased to provide them with it.
Mr. Speaker, this is a document that took a good look at the Yukon. It said, what are our strengths? What are the opportunities out there? What are the new initiatives that we can get involved in? And it came up with a plan and a strategy, a way of focusing the energies of the department on attaining some of these excellent goals. In it we saw a focus on regional economic development, a focus on strategic industries, and a focus on enterprise development. I'm sure the Minister of Economic Development will want to go into these in more detail.
They didn't stop there in the Department of Economic Development; they continued on. One of the recent initiatives has been to launch the Pathways to Prosperity. Pathways to Prosperity outlines a vision of a prosperous Yukon economy toward 2025. Our vision is that the quality of life in Yukon is second to none, arising from intense global demand for Yukon resources and manufactured products, natural beauty, a high level of investor confidence, a skilled labour force, rewarding career opportunities, strong First Nation participation in domestic and global economy, safe communities and a healthy, well-educated populace.
What a great vision for the future, and one that I'm sure we can all endorse.
Mr. Speaker, in Pathways to Prosperity, we recognize the potential of a wide variety of industries to make a significant contribution to the Yukon economy. We can't put our eggs in one basket. We can't just hold out and hope that a pipeline will soon come through and, with it, bring prosperity to the territory. That kind of approach is simply very short-sighted and probably irresponsible. There are many other opportunities we need to look at.
We need to look at - as I said earlier - cultural industries, tourism industries, the film and sound industries, and resource extraction. You know, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about a diversified economy, that isn't at the exclusion of some of our strengths: our resource economy. Instead, it's at the inclusion of those.
I believe that agriculture, forestry, mining - they all play a strong role in Yukon's economy, but do I want to see it limited there? Of course not. It needs to grow to include tourism, the IT sector, transportation industries, the telecommunications industries.
We have some strengths. We can certainly focus on those, but we have to develop a broader base, and that's what's happening now.
Now, as I said, all the different government departments are responsible, in large part, for continuing the work on this mission and this vision. In Energy, Mines and Resources, they are continuing to implement projects and programs - almost on a daily basis - to work toward this vision. In particular, in Energy, Mines and Resources, they've established a deputy minister's oversight committee, chaired by Energy, Mines and Resources, to oversee permitting of major mines. This will help. They provided $2.53 million in funding over the past three years for 173 projects under the Yukon mining incentives program.
They're investing in the oil and gas and we only have to look to the Kotaneelee field where a licence was issued to Devon Canada in 2005. This well is now producing and has more than tripled the production rates in the Kotaneelee. With that, Mr. Speaker, it increased our own-source revenues and increased revenues that we share with the other First Nations in the territory.
Forestry - it's moving ahead. Energy, Mines and Resources has awarded fire salvage permits totalling 300,000 cubic metres for Evergreen Wood Products of Watson Lake. There's planning continuing. We are not doing this in an environmentally irresponsible way. Again, that would be irresponsible. Instead, we are looking at what can be done now and what can be done that won't have an incredibly detrimental long-term effect. But what can we do now to improve the economy and do so in a responsible manner?
Mr. Speaker, other departments are involved; for example, Tourism and Culture. When we reinstated the Department of Economic Development, we also reinstated the stand-alone Department of Tourism and Culture. We all know, Mr. Speaker, in our economy tourism is an incredibly important industry and one that needs to be encouraged. Well, it certainly is being encouraged under the watch of this minister -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Mount Lorne, on a point of order.
Mr. Cardiff: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Southern Lakes, in his remarks a few minutes ago, was quoting from a document called Pathways to Prosperity. We have not seen that document here in this Legislature. As a matter of fact, it was referred to in the budget speech and I went and looked for it on the Department of Economic Development's Web site and I couldn't find it anywhere. I haven't been able to find it in government publications and we would appreciate it - it's customary that if the member quotes a document it is provided to Members of the Legislative Assembly. He says it's a policy document and a guiding light for the government, and we'd appreciate receiving that.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The Member for Southern Lakes was quoting from his speaking notes. The fact that he referred to a policy document that will be forthcoming does not equate to quoting that document. He was referring to his speaking notes, and it is long-standing practice of this Assembly that members may do so and are not required to table personal notes.
Mr. Rouble: I'll make this very simple. I don't have the document. I have a briefing note that included the vision statement on it, which I have read and put on the record. I don't have the document, Pathways to Prosperity.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Southern Lakes had a blue-coloured document in this hand and held it up and made reference to it - made references to the document. What is the document he is referring to? His reference was to Pathways to Prosperity. He may have just a briefing note in his hand, but he is nonetheless quoting from something that we have not had the opportunity to see. I would respectfully request that we do have the ability to review such a document. It is apparently germane to this debate, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: I also would like to point out that the member himself had identified the fact that he was quoting a vision statement from the document. He had quoted a vision statement; therefore he has quoted from the document. If you quote from a document, the document needs to be made available for the other Members of the Legislative Assembly in order for us to have a proper debate. He has quoted from it - unless he wants to stand up and say he has not quoted from it.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Given the problems that we have had in this House so far this session with some members quoting from parts of documents, I would like to use this opportunity - and I'm sure members of the department are listening in on this - to direct them to deliver 22 copies to this House as soon as possible.
Speaker: Does that satisfy all the members? A nod of the head would be sufficient.
Mr. Hardy: I'd like to thank the member opposite for doing that. It's a good thing in this House to see that cooperation. My only question: can we have it delivered as soon as possible? If this member continues to use it in his address, we want to be able to look at it and be part of that discussion. So can it be delivered here today?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, we can solve that problem very easily, Mr. Speaker. I move that we take a recess for 15 minutes to produce the document.
Speaker: Is everyone agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned for 15 minutes.
Speaker: I now call the House to order. Member for Southern Lakes, you have the floor.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it's certainly my honour and pleasure again to rejoin debate on this. I've got my notes on Pathways to Prosperity that I'm pleased to table with the Assembly. I received a briefing from the Department of Economic Development on this very exciting new initiative, and I'm pleased to share with all members the information that I have.
Pathways to Prosperity is a very exciting new project. It's an extension and evolution of the economic direction document. That is the blue document that I held up earlier, which is a publicly available document. I've got additional copies of it in my office. But I believe these were tabled in an earlier session. I'll just pass it, if I may, to one of the pages to be taken over to the Member for Porter Creek South, as she seems to have some questions about it.
Again, this is the next step to developing the pathway to prosperity. It responds to stakeholders' recommendations to focus on the big picture, to take a long-term view, to attract outside investment, and to orient government activities toward development.
It takes into account significant developments in global and North American economies. Mr. Speaker, this recognizes that the optimal pathway to prosperity will be one that recognizes global forces and trends, addresses sustainable economic development opportunities, and acknowledges Yukon's key advantages - such as mineral wealth, spectacular scenery, geographic location and, most importantly, its skilled and adaptable people.
The vision for Pathways to Prosperity is that the quality of life in Yukon is second to none. It arises from intense, global demand for Yukon resources and value-added products, natural beauty, high levels of investor confidence, skilled labour force, rewarding career opportunities, a strong First Nation participation in the domestic and global economy, safe communities and a healthy, well-educated populace. I think this is a grand vision for the territory and one we can all embrace and one that I'm sure that all members of this Assembly would agree with.
It recognizes the strategic enabling factors that we are faced with, such as business and industry promotion and facilitation, capacity development and growth and planning, policy and regulations, research and innovation, and economic infrastructure. It calls upon partnerships and linkages with the private sector, with the First Nations, with regions and communities involving citizens, and certainly not leaving it all up to the government.
Rebuilding the Yukon economy is certainly not something that the government can and should do alone. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it's the role of government to facilitate a place where the private sector can thrive. Do we have a role to play? Certainly we do. Can we have stimulus in our spending? Certainly we do and we have seen that with the budgets that we have tabled. But more importantly, what sets the tone and sets the stage for long-term economic development is a vision. This document lays out that vision.
When we started discussion today - and the topic of debate is the motion that this House urges the Yukon government to continue to encourage the growth and diversification of the Yukon economy. As I said, Mr. Speaker, I think we can all embrace the fact that we want to have a strong, growing, vibrant, sustainable economy in the territory.
We can't limit it to just one industry. It has to be diversified. It has to encompass sectors that we're strong at right now and sectors that we're gaining experience in, such as the film and sound industry. I expect the Minister of Tourism and Culture will have quite a bit to say about how important the cultural industries are to the territory. We only have to look at the Film Commission. I understand, for every dollar invested in that area, it generates almost $10 in additional spending throughout the area related to film production.
There are other emerging industries out there - logical industries, nanotechnology, industries that will be facilitated by some of the other developments that are sure to come through the territory, for example when the pipeline comes through. It's not the government's responsibility to bring the pipeline through - indeed, it can't. That decision about when the pipeline will go through will be made in places far away from our jurisdiction. We can facilitate the pipeline in going through but we can't make it happen. When it does happen, it will have a tremendous impact on our economy and increase the number of opportunities for Yukoners.
We will see opportunities in transportation and, once we have access to energy at reduced cost - which I expect we will have once the pipeline comes through - that will additionally spur on other industries and allow things like value-added facilities for forestry to grow, and other industries that we haven't even thought of yet.
Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that all Members of the Legislative Assembly can embrace this very basic tenet or belief that the Yukon government will continue to encourage the growth and diversification of the economy. To say otherwise would mean that we want the economy to stay the same or even to decrease in size, which I don't think would be beneficial for the Yukon Territory, either in the short, medium or long term.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of members who want to make comments on this. I know the different ministers want to detail what their departments are doing to support this initiative, and I would ask all Members of the Legislative Assembly to support this motion.
Thank you for your attention.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, right off the top, I have to say that this is a motherhood statement. I can't see anybody in the territory figuring that diversification of the Yukon economy would be something that they would oppose. I think diversification is extremely important, especially when one industry, as we have experienced, falters or steps back from its activities for a period of time based upon forces usually outside its own control, that there are other legs to hold our economy up, other industries, other activities. Growth, of course - we all know growth is important. But we also know that growth is extremely important to be managed properly to ensure that all aspects of the economy and quality of lifestyle are enhanced. Not all growth is good, and that's a fact.
There are many examples, whether it's the health of somebody or even economies, but in most cases, as a government, we try to manage growth in such a way that it improves the quality of life for all people. Of course, the debate around quality of life is that it's not just about dollars and cents. If that were the case, we would find that Canada would be leading in happiness and quality of life, but most studies around the world are finding that, as a people, Canada doesn't come out very high on that kind of an index or measurement. It's a different type of measurement than just dollars and cents. It really is about quality of life and whether you're content and happy in the life you're able to lead, and what kind of joy you have.
I've talked about this before, because I think it's extremely important that we all recognize that fulfillment in life has a lot of different meanings for different people. One of the first ones that almost everybody agrees on is having friends, having time to spend with each other - time is important. Having a quality workplace, where you feel valued, is always important. Having enough money to feed yourself and your family and to participate in the economy in a meaningful way, without too much worry, is important. Pursuing your own particular desires and interests, whether spiritual, sports, academic, arts, culture - these all make up quality of life, or a mixture of them, which is something we have to consider.
Canada has those in spades, but one thing it is finding that it's short on is time. One of the greatest measurements of quality of life is the time we have to do those things and not constantly be working to pay the bills.
I've been looking at some economics of individuals in Canada - even in the Yukon. One of the areas that I'm looking at is the debt load that people are carrying today and what they were carrying 20 years ago, and how that affects their lives. I'm finding that it has become very easy to borrow money and go into debt. Young people are encouraged to go into debt very, very fast. Our society is almost built on the concept that we can live life in debt and live a fulfilling life. Possibly that is true if you have a well-paying job or you have security in that job. But we also know that's also changed, and job security has altered quite drastically in Canada in the last 10 years.
But the debt load that people are carrying is becoming quite a large portion of their income, and people are finding they have to work two jobs. A couple may be working very hard to keep ahead of the debt - whether it's the purchase of a house, activities of the family, or owning lots of material goods. Even the cost of food and gas - we know that is going up. All of those add to the debt that a person carries, and at the end of the day there is very little left to pay for things that you may want to. But most of all there is very little time. I value time more than I value anything else - time to be able to do the things I love, the reasons I live in the Yukon: to be able to go canoeing, hiking, time at the cabin, time with my family and friends. I value that probably more than just about anything else.
So, when I find that has been shrunk more and more and more, then I'm taking one of those great things of my life that I value. Not meaning to deviate a little bit, but it's just a different concept, to give us an idea of why we keep trying to improve the conditions we live in. Let's not get confused that government's job is only to continue to work in economic aspects - we also have to look at the quality of life. I think, in the Yukon generally, we're doing fairly well, though I do know many people who are struggling, and those numbers have increased.
We often talk about how good things are, but I would invite all members to come to the soup kitchens and the food banks. More people go to them now than last year and the year before and the year before that. That's something we have to look at: why the disparity of wealth.
Now, the Member for Southern Lakes made a couple of statements I find very sad in some ways. He said the NDP drove people away, like the NDP was some kind of body that didn't like the people of the Yukon. I'd like to remind the member opposite that we're all Yukoners. And other comments, like families were afraid to be torn apart, and this kind of fear-mongering; like 14 years of - pardon me. Sorry, not fear-mongering. But statements like that are not conducive to good debate, I feel.
What the member may not know, because he hasn't been here that long in the history of politics, is that the NDP, the New Democratic Party, has been in government for 14 years, and those 14 years brought about a lot of change - very substantial change to the territory. What's interesting is that a lot of those changes are things that this member enjoys today but doesn't recognize where they came from.
So, what I think I'm going to do - I have some time - is talk about some of the initiatives brought forward by former governments. I'll talk specifically about the NDP governments because I'm sure the members from the third party will have their own little list.
Let's talk about what people were able to see brought forward by an NDP government. Let's look at attracting new investment. It was the NDP who developed the Yukon mineral strategy and the oil and gas strategy to guide the development of these industries. It was the NDP who did that to ensure the territory remained a solid jurisdiction for resource development; it wasn't any other government. It created a small business investment tax credit to assist companies with business expansions. I've heard the members opposite often talk about that and praise it, but where did it come from? It's never recognized. They will often talk about how good it is, but they won't give credit to where it came from and who created it.
How about the Yukon film industry? The member opposite started to say how much benefit there is in the film industry for the Yukon . Let's talk about what government actually put some incentives in place and believed in that industry in the first place. The NDP developed the Yukon film travel rebate program and it developed the film location incentive fund and it purchased a grips and electrics package to encourage increased film and television in the territory. That came during an NDP government.
The NDP government invested in infrastructure at a higher per capita rate than any other Canadian jurisdiction. In each of its last four budgets, the last time we were in, and the ones previous, it was the same approach. The last four years was the Whitehorse Airport extension to allow those larger jets to land for tourism; phone Internet services through the Connect Yukon project, from which many people are benefiting - another NDP initiative.
It worked very hard to secure tidewater access for the territory. Unfortunately, it was a Liberal government that didn't believe in that direction and shut that down. I see the Yukon Party has been negotiating and trying to get something back in place. Obviously, the Yukon Party agreed with the direction the NDP was going in regard to that, and the Liberals didn't.
What about the new economy? It was the NDP that developed and identified and promoted Yukon products to new markets by introducing the trade and investment branch, the trade and investment fund and small business investment tax credit. Those were created and brought in by an NDP government. It created a cultural industry sector plan, tourism marketing fund, community development fund, millennium fund, microloan program and struck a contribution agreement with the Recording Arts Industry - Yukon Association to spur on the arts in the Yukon.
It went on trade missions to Asia, Japan and Taiwan, similar to what the Yukon Party government is attempting to do as well. The member opposite may not be aware of the history of the Yukon and that many of the programs they now praise were brought in under an NDP government. It established the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act and the tourism marketing fund. We launched the green power initiative and brought in a commercial wind turbine to try to develop alternative energy sources and to create local expertise under an NDP government.
How about small business? Yukon NDP introduced the research and development tax credit. What was that for? To develop new products and services. It has been beneficial. It created the Yukon small business investment tax credit. I've heard this government talk about these things. Obviously, they support them. They support NDP initiatives. That's fine. We all try to build on each other's successes. Each government should take the good from a former government, but not take the credit.
Let's recognize where they came from. They created the Yukon hire commission. What for? The whole goal was to develop a comprehensive policy to maximize purchases of goods and services from local companies for government contracts. It was to raise the amount of local activity in purchasing, and that created a 20-percent increase in one year alone. That stimulated the economy. It allowed small businesses, contractors, and suppliers in the rural communities to be involved in the bidding process, because there was recognition of limits and incentives put in place to use the local people. It was also the same thing for local hire - to increase and give opportunities to Yukon people and training for young people coming into the workplace. I won't even go on about the training initiatives the NDP brought in.
It developed the rate stabilization fund. What was that for? It was created for stable and affordable electrical bills for small business - again to help small businesses. It also established the commercial energy management program. I'm only touching the tip of the iceberg of initiatives that were brought in under 14 years of NDP government. They are quite substantial. Many of them are what this government now uses to help promote and stimulate the economy.
How about tourism? The waterfront trolley - every summer we see it. Where did it start? I applaud the Yukon Party government for continuing with that work, because in the long term, I think that will have a significant impact on the downtown area of Whitehorse . It's a very attractive trolley; people are coming from around the world to ride it and look at it; it keeps tourists here a little bit longer. I think the Tourism minister would recognize that.
As a matter of fact, I know she does. She has said it many times. But where did it come from? It was an initiative brought about through working with those people in that area. It was determined that a trolley could be put on the narrow gauge tracks we have, which were already in place, as a tourist attraction.
Of course, the NDP government put a lot of money into restoring heritage buildings. One example is the Taylor House and the fire hall. These are all indicative of our belief in heritage.
That's just a small example. It was the NDP that gave long-term funding to events like Yukon Quest, Sourdough Rendezvous, the International Storytelling Festival, Frostbite and the Alsek and Dawson music festivals. Again, there was a belief that these activities stimulate the economy, but they also improve the quality of life for people who participate in these.
We negotiated an agreement in principle with the federal government for the transfer of responsibility for forestry, so that local decision making and greater accountability was in the Yukon. We developed the Yukon forest strategy, and we built it on the principles of sustainability, community involvement and maximization of local benefits - again, always thinking of how we can benefit the people of the territory. We provided training assistance to sawmills in the territory. In 2000, we had three operating sawmills. Under the NDP, there were three operating sawmills.
Like the Yukon Party, we believed in agriculture and there was funding to set up the first abattoir in the Yukon. Now there is going to be a mobile one, and I think that's a good step. I applaud the government for that as well. Again, it's connected to what we did.
We negotiated a devolution deal with the federal government to transfer responsibilities for all lands and natural resources to Yukon control. We spent a lot of time doing that, Mr. Speaker.
How about mining? There is a lot of talk about mining in here. There is a lot of talk about the programs that are in place. Where did they come from? We developed the Yukon mining strategy, and that introduced the largest mining exploration tax credit in Canada, to encourage prospectors, placer miners, more junior and senior mining companies to locate in the Yukon and look at the mining potential here.
We increased funding for geoscience and resource assessments, yet every other jurisdiction in Canada was making cuts. The NDP went in the opposite direction and believed in the mining industry. We established the Yukon Mineral Advisory Board, and that board was to provide input to the minister about how to improve the mining industry. We created a $200,000 training trust fund and established a $300,000 mining training trust fund with the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon NDP established many training trust funds. I'm not going to list all of them.
We provided more financial assistance to the Yukon Chamber of Mines so that they could be more involved in consulting and advising the government of the day. That's just a small glimpse of some of the initiatives that came long before the Yukon Party was elected this term. Those all go back to when an NDP government was in place.
That small list was just to remind the Member for Southern Lakes that there truly is a different perspective and a different history in the Yukon than the one that was presented. What is really important is how essential it is to recognize the good that each government does. If this government loses, the next government to come in takes that good and builds on it. Don't continue the mistakes that they've made. Treat people with respect and equality and recognize their achievements and goals. That's where a lot of governments fall down - the desire to take credit, or maybe it is just the nature of politics that you have to constantly try to find a way to talk to the public in a manner that makes it look like you are the only ones who can stimulate an economy, that you are the only ones who can diversify an economy.
Unfortunately, the public has become so jaded with politics and politicians - and I think it's partly because of that and other actions, of course, that happened - that they just tune out when we start to talk that way. But there are other points that were made that I want to touch on before I go a little bit into something else.
I'd like to recognize one thing about the Member for Southern Lakes: he is truly a team player. I recognize that, and I will take off my hat to him. He stands completely behind the Yukon Party vision. If he is told to present it in this manner, he steps up to the plate and really does a good job of it. I think that's good. I think the public does want to see politicians who are true to their values and principles, true to their party and can hang in there, even when things aren't going the way they want. So I have recognized that with this member over the last while and that is something, I think, that is a good thing.
But there are some corrections I need to make. That is the concept that everything is better with the Yukon Party government and that everybody was leaving at one time and now they're all pouring back. It's interesting, if you look at the population, there were still 2,000 more people here in 1997 than now. In 1996, there were still 2,000 more; in 1998, there were still more people; in 1999, still more people in the Yukon, through an NDP period, than now.
That indicates that people weren't leaving in droves. There were changes in our economy. We all know about the booms and busts. Anybody who has lived here or grown up here definitely knows about it. I worked in the mining and construction industries. I lived through quite a few booms and busts, where I had more work than I knew what to do with and then, two years later, it was almost impossible to find a job and you really scraped - worked hard.
When you work in construction, there's no such thing as a permanent job. You get hired to build a building. Your job is to build it as fast and as well as you possibly can, and if you get it done in time or before the timelines and underbudget, you've done a great job, and you're out of a job - it's kind of a funny one - unless the contractor or you, as the contractor, are able to procure more work. If there isn't that much work around then, of course, you have greater spells between those jobs.
But what has really been the stimulus to the economy? This is a government that made it very clear that the answer to the economy was to stimulate the private sector, so the territory can be less reliant upon transfers from the federal government and the public spending would not have to be as high as it has been in the past. That's what they ran on - under them, the private sector would grow and take more of a lead in revenues, especially the territorial revenues.
But what has actually happened? That's not what has happened. The territory has never seen such a huge increase in spending as we've witnessed under the Yukon Party government.
The budget is $798 million, up from roughly $550 million in 2001. That's huge. When you think of that size and you think that Yukon's whole economy is only $1.4 billion, you recognize that government spending makes up over half. This government spends other people's money very freely.
There were two articles in the paper in the last couple weeks that are very, very interesting. I take my hat off to the reporters who have pursued this; I think they've done a very good job. I recognize that civil servants can be very clear about what is happening. That is the actual capital budget, and that is what is really capital and what is operation and maintenance. I'm not going to talk a lot about that. I'm only going to talk very little. I would just recommend that people read the article from approximately a week ago and the editorial from today to see what is being said about that. You realize there is not that much that is really being spent in capital.
A question I was wondering about is: you think $190 million, but what does it show in capital? What has been built? What has been done? You can't find $190-million worth of work. You can't find it, so where it has been slotted under - it really should not be under the capital budget but should be under the operation and maintenance budget.
I recommend people read today's article, the editorial and the previous article. I think it's very insightful to point out what governments do in trying to present a different picture.
Let's look at the territorial revenue in comparison to transfers from Canada over the last few years to get an idea if this government has been able to meet their promises to the people of the territory - which was to have more revenue brought about by private activity and less by transfers from the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, in 2000-01, territorial revenue was 18.24 percent of the budget. Transfers from Canada made up 81.76 percent. That's our income. In 2001-02, territorial revenue was 16.39 percent of the budget. Transfers from Canada went up to 83.61 percent of the budget. In 2002-03, territorial revenue - what we generated - dropped again to 13.59 percent. There was less money being generated territorially. Transfers from Canada were 86.41 percent of the budget - not a good trend. In 2003-04 - we entered into the Yukon Party period - 15.1 percent of the whole budget was generated by territorial revenue. Transfers from Canada were 84.99 percent. In 2004-05, territorial revenue dropped under the Yukon Party government to 13.82 percent. Transfers from Canada rose to 86.18 percent to make up the territorial budget.
In 2005-06, territorial revenues dropped again with less money being generated territorially: 13.24 percent - now this is the 2005-06 forecast. Transfers from Canada , 86.76 percent - a huge jump. In 2006-07, what is the estimate and what is predicted? Well, territorial revenue is not going up, Mr. Speaker. Less revenue is being generated locally in the territory to make up the budget - not a good trend, definitely not the trend that this government promised would be happening. It's going in the exact opposite direction under them - 13.4 percent, those are the figures.
No matter what we stand here and say, this is what's making up the budget. Transfers from Canada , 86.6 percent - 86.6 percent is what makes up our budget from another government, from transfers from Canada . Our reliance under the Yukon Party government has grown. Our reliance on the federal government has grown. So that is not diversifying the economy, Mr. Speaker. What we are witnessing, based upon just the revenues, is a greater and greater reliance upon the transfer payments.
Those are the facts - far more than when the NDP were in, even more than when the Liberals were in. The Yukon Party government has created a greater degree of reliance upon one source of income, so they have not been diversifying the economy in any significant manner, if that's the case.
Our revenues generated locally - if there was more activity locally, you would assume the territorial revenues would be going up. That's simple math; this is not hard stuff to figure out. More activity, more spending, more taxes, more money coming into the coffers of the territorial government, generated locally, means the figure is higher but it has gone in the opposite direction. The reliance upon the federal government has increased under the Yukon Party. The stimulus they promised in 2002, during the campaign, has not materialized after three and a half years. The direction we're going under this government does not bode well.
Mr. Speaker, it's really hard to pin this down, too, because the private sector is very dependent upon government spending. Most people in the private sector, either directly or indirectly, depend on salaries of government employees or depend on government spending. It was an economist who said that. The biggest employer in the territory is the territorial government. The wages that are paid stimulate the economy. It's hard to measure that, but that's stimulating the private sector.
There are a couple of exceptions. Mining and tourism are driven by factors from Outside, and they're not that large, compared to the whole budget. We're looking at $60 million, I think, for mining exploration, and tourism is $60 million to $75 million - somewhere around there. That's not a large part of the budget, but it still adds to the pieces we need for a diversified economy.
It's almost impossible to identify how much private sector activity there really is out there, because it is so reliant upon the spending of government. It's the government spending that's stimulating the private sector; it's not necessarily the private sector stimulating the private sector.
Mr. Speaker, we don't have hard rock mining in the territory at this moment that I know of, unless there is one happening that the Yukon Party government hasn't announced. Placer mining is doing well this year. Why? Why is it doing well? Placer mining will do well this year. Well, it's sure not because of any new initiative or program brought about by government. I think everybody in here can recognize that gold prices are up. It makes every placer miner - all my friends in the placer mining industry - very happy. They're smiling. As long as you see those prices up, they're investing; they're spending money; they're making money; they're employing more people. If the Yukon Party government can stand up and say that the reason the placer miners are doing so well is because “we” did this, well, I'll be happy to listen to that one.
I'll go pan for gold in the Yukon River and think I'm going to get rich too.
Now, tourism is a piece of the puzzle, as a part of the diversified economy, just as mining is one more piece. I stand to be corrected, but I think it was about $75 million in 2004. Again, there is all that interconnection with government money and spending in that area. It's almost impossible - it would be a huge challenge, I think, for any economist to try to split that up and see. I'm sure it can be done. I'm sure they have the skills to do it, but I don't know if the government has an interest in having a study like that to try to really pin down what stimulates the economy to what extent. But I think common sense dictates that with your biggest employer in the territory, the highest wages paid, the budget of $798 million, with 80-some percent of that made up of federal transfers, government is the single biggest factor in what drives our economy in the territory.
That is, again, me saying this and not what this government promised in 2002. They said they were going to turn that around, that it was going to be a different picture after four years. And guess what? It's even more so. They didn't turn it around; they sped it up. Our reliance has grown. I believe we could be spending more money, more direct money, stimulating the small businesses. Many of the initiatives that these members stand up and talk about are NDP initiatives. I would like to see some of theirs, and not just another vision statement.
I appreciate the Minister of Economic Development getting us this document that the Member for Southern Lakes referred to quite a bit. When you look at it now, there were direct quotes from it in what he said.
It's basically an overview of world population growth - maybe - growing demand for resources - probably, and Korean import dependency is in there, Canada 's role is a tiny bit, China 's zinc trade is in there. I know there are other economies in the world. I know India is one of the growing economies. I know many other places around the world that actually need minerals as well. But we seem to be focused on one area in the strategic plan, I notice. That might be because the minister might only like to go visit one area.
Yukon challenges - a little box there and a vision statement. Acknowledging Yukon's key advantages - absolutely, spectacular scenery is a key advantage.
It's pretty thin soup, as my friend from the Liberal Party mentioned to me earlier on. I happen to agree with her that there is not much there. I have seen these vision statements and little presentations before. It doesn't necessarily point the way to anything. It identifies some stuff, but I don't really know where it's going because it's not fully developed.
I've heard the announcements about Yukon economic development officers for communities to help develop local economies based on using local products and local expertise. I'm not sure where we are at with that, Mr. Speaker. I think we are still searching to find what the government has done in that area. Are they in place?
What I did was take a look at Economic Development again and the regional economic development section. Program objectives: to become the Government of Yukon's focal point for First Nation economic development; to foster regional and community economic development; to work in partnerships with First Nations and others initiating or implementing regional economic plans; to proactively administer the community development fund.
Ah, the community development fund. Everybody loves the community development fund - except for the previous Liberals. They didn't. However, if you look back in Hansard, the NDP was criticized time and time and time again by the Liberals and the Conservatives on the community development fund.
The Member for Porter Creek South just called it a slush fund. Now, I find it shocking that she would call the community development fund a slush fund. I hope she is going to go out to those communities and tell those people that they were participating in a slush fund when they made their applications - that's how it works. I hope she will stand out there openly and call it a slush fund. I hope that in the coming election the Liberals will stand there and say they are going to cancel the community development fund because they think everybody who received that money, received it through a slush fund.
I hope that's the position I hear; I really do. It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, what you can hear sometimes in the opinions of people, but let's take a look at this, Mr. Speaker. There's a regional development program. There was an estimate in 2004-05. $500,000 was put in the budget for a regional development program. Mr. Speaker, do you know how much was actually spent? $75,000. $500,000 was allocated, and $75,000 was spent on regional economic development.
What happened there? Guess what we see? In the 2005-06 forecast another $500,000 is announced all over again. This is what I talked about yesterday - announcing money over and over and over in every budget, but it doesn't get spent. And we will see about that operation and maintenance. Again, regional economic development under operation and maintenance, First Nation economic development - in 2003-04, $35,000 was earmarked to be spent with First Nation economic development. That's not much money. But guess how much was spent, Mr. Speaker? Zero. Nothing. So it looks good. You announce it, Mr. Speaker - $35,000 is going to go to that specifically, but nothing was spent. That was in 2003-04.
In 2004-05, it went up to $97,000. Did they make that mark? Did they get there? No. $65,000 was spent. That's an improvement, but again, they did not spend the money.
$23,000 was earmarked for regional development. We have lots of regions in the territory - $23,000 doesn't sound like much. I'm not sure exactly what it was going to be used for. That's a question we will have to ask when we get into the budget. What really has been happening with these amounts? How much was actually spent? In 2003-04 - $8,000. Maybe we need to find out what you actually bought for $8,000, or did the minister put anybody in the field as was promised -regional economic development officers for the communities? Another question around that - this is a friendly question to the members opposite - would it be good to have these regional development officers in those regions, or should they only work out of the Whitehorse offices? My understanding is that there might be some people assigned, but they are not working in the regions that they are supposed to be looking after. They are working out of Whitehorse. I would wonder if that is a way to stimulate that area or to understand the region they are supposed to look after. Maybe the members opposite could answer that.
We all know the part of the Yukon economy that is generated here is very much at the mercy of world metal prices - gold, lead, zinc, copper - commodity prices, gas prices, timber prices, and of course the Big Brother government - the federal government.
I'm going to sit down and let other people have a chance at this. I think it has been made very clear that the direction we've been going in - looking at the figures - that our reliance upon one - one - engine of the economy has been growing under this government, and that's the transfer payments from another level of government. Diversification: in some areas, a little bit; in other areas, completely stalled.
Definitely there has been increased activity in mining and oil and gas, not generated by government but generated by prices, without a doubt. And we all know that.
Even the programs the NDP brought in, even the one that has been capped, only added a small portion to stimulating the economy. What stimulates the economy in that area, of course, is price - the world prices of resources, of minerals and oil and gas.
But there are so many other areas that we could be working on, so many other economies and activities that people could be involved in, in this territory. But we do need a vision for that. I haven't seen it today, I haven't heard it today, I haven't seen it in this budget. This budget is the same as last year's and the year before - basically spend, get more money from Ottawa, spend more money, and don't necessarily put it in the proper breakdown of the budget, such as capital compared to O&M.
I look forward to the continuation of this debate. Just to wrap up on that, as I started - it's a motherhood statement, resolution or motion. I believe it's put on the table so that we can talk about our perspectives of what this government has done for the last three and a half years, what governments have done in the past, and what governments may want to do in the future. I can assure you that the NDP, with its tremendous history and the programs it brought in before, and the fact that the population was largest when the NDP was in government - contrary to what the Member for Southern Lakes was insinuating in that area - that we will be bringing forward other alternatives in the next election that people will have a chance to look at.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I'd like to thank the member opposite for all the ideas there and everything. Wow, I didn't realize the NDP invented the Internet - but there was probably some part to do with it in there.
The member opposite has some good points and, as I've said many times in this House and elsewhere, I think the NDP have some very good ideas and I agree with that. The problem I have is that I don't see the NDP coming up with consistent ways to pay for those ideas. Again, people think of the political spectrum as a flat line. It isn't. You go far enough left, you come up on the right; you go far enough right, you come up on the left.
The ideas are good, but we have to look at ways of paying for those and for keeping the infrastructure there. Simply doing something that will take effect in the next couple of weeks or months or even years is not really going to accomplish much of anything.
The member opposite talks about reliance on federal transfers. He forgets a couple of things: first of all, a large chunk of that came to us in April 2003 through devolution. He mentions the part of devolution that came under an NDP government; he seems to forget the negotiations during the last government and the completion of the devolution agreements under our government.
There were a number of employees who came across to the territorial government and a number of funds. Our challenge is to take that pot of money, so to speak, and to take the various funds we have available to us, as our fair share. We've had a lot of debate in the House the last couple of weeks on whether or not this is our fair share or are we simply going back to a federal trough for money. I would suggest, no, we are not. I realize the Liberal caucus is struggling with this, with their newest member, and we wish them well with that. The reality is that we're utilizing funds that are, in fact, our fair share.
A lot of these are one-off funds. A lot of them are development funds that we are going to have one shot at. It depends on how we're going to utilize those funds. We have to utilize them for infrastructure, in our opinion. We have to utilize them to bring about the ability of the territory to increase its economic generation in the future. It's not something we are going to put on the table that is going to be seen in one year. That simply is not a reasonable way of looking at it.
Look at some of the statistics that the Member for Whitehorse Centre throws out. Again, I would submit that that shows either a very narrow way of looking at the situation or a very profound inability to understand the situation. I'm really not sure which. I guess that will be the subject - welcome to election 2006.
What the Member for Whitehorse Centre forgets is that some of the statistics he is quoting are statistics that came out of the Department of Economic Development that had been recently reconstituted after the destruction of the department under the previous government. Again, it strikes me that doing away with the Department of Economic Development was a very strange way to promote economic development - the department that is supposed to be forming this vision and promoting the economic infrastructure. Be that as it may, as has been said before in the House, maybe things were different. It reminds me of the very famous play on Broadway, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, but we always have to remember that we wouldn't do that today; things were very different before.
Maybe they weren't that different, but we have to look at getting that structure utilized. In the first year when we reconstituted the department and programs such as the enterprise trade fund, regional economic development, and strategic industries, there was a very low utilization, because they were only available for a very short period of time. The member opposite - without me checking his statistics - may be accurate or close to it. I don't know, but they were low.
But let's look at reality. It's always a little bit easier to deal with facts. We'll look at regional economic development for the moment. The regional economic development fund basically does look after the regions. As the member opposite mentioned, there are two philosophies in that. One is to put regional economic development officers into a community where the resources are limited, but they perhaps have a better ability to understand the region as opposed to keeping them where all the resources are for that development and making sure that they rack up as many frequent-driver miles as possible.
It has been our decision to keep the officers in the central office where they have the best utilization of resources and to make sure that they are constantly on the road, and they do a very, very good job of this.
In the fiscal year to date - and we are talking about this current year - the fund of $178,000 is distributed through Yukon communities, primarily to assist with community development and capacity development and regional economic planning. On top of that $178,000, we have committed a further - a further - $120,000 to pending projects. And what the Member for Whitehorse Centre forgets is when he looks at that initial budget year and what was spent, he is ignoring the fact there is a great deal of money committed, which was re-voted. He seems to conveniently forget that part.
So we continue to develop a really strong network of contacts in all Yukon communities and with First Nation development corporations. The branch is also working with two First Nation governments to embark on an economic planning exercise, which was outlined in chapter 22, of course, of the Umbrella Final Agreement. There has been a total of $260,000 budgeted in 2006-07 for these two projects; $130,000 for work with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation and $130,000 for the Kluane First Nation.
So this gives you a bit of a better overview of regional economic development. That branch administers the regional economic development fund, which is $450,000. Applications can be submitted at any time. For the information of the Member for Whitehorse Centre and for anyone listening, the maximum eligible funding for a single application is $50,000, with no more than 75 percent coming from Yukon government sources and at least a 15-percent contribution of total project costs funded by the proponent. I have mentioned the two that have been put in there so far. So this gives you a bit of an overview of the regional fund as being one of the funds that we work with.
If we look at some of the other funds and look at some of the other things that we're working with, not to mention small projects like the Canada Export Centre, which is a privately owned, permanent, high-profile export exhibition hall in Vancouver, and it exists to provide opportunities for governments and companies to showcase Canadian products, services and facilities and reduce international trade barriers and promote Canadian exporters. This is something that we have invested in and we've had relatively good luck with.
The enterprise trade fund is another one of our branches. Now, as of March 17, the enterprise trade fund has approved $377,418 in the budget year just past. This includes funding for 117 private enterprises for projects ranging from marketing strategies, attendance at conferences and events, catalogue and CD production, participation in trade missions, operation expansions and a wide variety of other activities. It is designed to enhance the ability of Yukon businesses to generate sales of Yukon products and to expand Yukon products and services beyond the existing markets. Now, this was developed to stimulate and support the growth of Yukon business activity through market expansion and through development across the board. Applicants are eligible for up to $50,000 toward marketing and business development and up to $10,000 toward the development of business plans and professional development opportunities.
The first applications commenced in August 2004, and they may be submitted at any time. The member opposite is probably either accurate or close to accurate in some of these things if he only looks at a small part of that first year. The reality is quite different, of course. The 2006-07 capital budget for this program is $600,000.
We'll continue to work with our key industry partners to determine all the best strategies and access external markets for Yukon goods and services. This can be anything from scents and fragrances, soaps, CDs, films and quite a wide variety of different things that are available for that. In fact, if you look, Mr. Deputy Speaker, at some of the things that that fund has supported, we've gone back to the traditional mining and supported attendance by the Yukon Chamber of Mines at mining conferences outside the territory. We've looked at investment into conferences and trade meetings in Shanghai , in the People's Republic of China . We've promoted Yukon sound recordings and performers to the Western Canadian Music Awards in Calgary.
Another project includes attendance at the RendezVous Folk festival in Halifax , Nova Scotia; a fine-arts trade mission to Chicago ; West Coast Women's Show in Abbotsford , British Columbia. We even funded a marketing plan for fibreglass toilets. This fund has looked at a wide variety - Organic Connections Conference in Saskatoon, promoted an album in a tour through Edmonton, Saskatoon, Yorkton, Winnipeg, Regina, Lethbridge, Calgary, Toronto, Sudbury and a variety of other places. We've looked at a folk alliance in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and attended various shows in Toronto, London, Hamilton , Winterfolk in Toronto . I can keep going through this entire list and picking all of these different things we have done. With the exception of the first one I mentioned, I don't see that any of these things are involved with mining.
We had someone attend the annual Knifemakers Guild Show in Toronto . We put $3,225 toward that.
We had someone attend the Alaska Playground Workshop in Anchorage.
There is the Film and Sound Commission, which has been referred to extensively in this House, so I won't go back into that area.
But if you go back into Hot Docs forum in Vancouver to look at attracting broadcasters and obtaining financing for story and film proposals before it even gets that far.
We can keep going on and on with these things - a trip to Inuvik on a publishing mission; film trade mission to Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival in Guangzhou, China.
There are so many things that can be done within this, and one of the capabilities that the enterprise and trade fund has to do is to assist businesses that have to go to other funding sources or that want to go to other funding sources - to actually help them with their presentation, with their business plan, with something they can take to banks for traditional financing. There are just so many things that you can go to for that.
When you look at the community development fund, which the Liberal caucus referred to as a slush fund a few minutes ago, what is the status of that fund? We re-created it. And it was a good fund initially, which the Liberal government pretty well wiped out.
The program budget was set in 2003-04 at $4 million and, again in an earlier year - I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm suspicious that the uptake was relatively low because it was a relatively short period of time there. But $3.5 million in 2004-05; by 2005-06, $3.8 million; and 2006-07 is projected at $3.37 million.
During the fiscal year of 2005-06, 97 projects were approved, for a total of $2.5 million in funding, creating a total of 118,000 hours of employment for Yukoners.
That's not bad for a slush fund.
Since June 2003, a total of $8.1 million has been approved. 45 percent of approved funding has gone to Whitehorse-based projects, 54 percent has gone to rural Yukon , and when you look at projects right across the territory, there is only about one percent.
The community development fund has three tiers: tier 1 is for projects less than $20,000; tier 2 is for projects between $20,000 and $75,000; tier 3 is for projects greater than $75,000.
We have seven intakes per year: tier 1 has four intakes, tier 2 has two intakes, and tier 3 has one intake per year. Information is available to the public, it is up in the lobby, it is available to anyone who wants to phone in on the 1-800 number to our offices, and we recently published our first annual report, which I tabled in the House a few days ago. Again, the budget this year is set at $3.37 million.
We don't fund projects that are the responsibility of other government departments. There is a review process, including input from an intergovernmental review group consisting of members from Justice, Tourism and Culture, and Community Services. Then there are also groups within there.
The community development fund approves up to a certain level. It takes that certain level, and we say we will fund up to $19,000, let's say - let's pick a number. It will fund up to that if it is needed. If it is required to go to that amount then we certainly will go that high. If that amount is not needed, then we don't go back and fund the whole thing. We have a holdback. The holdback may not be given if the funds are not needed for that project. Or, in many cases - I believe 32 cases in the last year - funds were either not fully advanced or they were requested to be returned.
Having reviewed that whole adjudication process, going through those committees and going through our committees, we're confident that the amount of money spent for that project, up to that amount of money, is a reasonable amount. Non-profit groups, First Nation governments and local groups can apply. As you very well know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, community organizations can apply, but the projects are adjudicated. I was rather horrified to get a letter from the leader of the Liberal Party, who wanted the surplus funds for one group simply returned to them for other projects, projects that weren't adjudicated, that weren't considered by any committees, that weren't gone over by Tourism or Justice, where there was no public input. I think Justice Gomery was very clear on that, and we're not prepared to go there. We need to properly adjudicate these things.
If I were the president or member of any organization that applied for community development fund grants and knew that funds were being put out and utilized for things that were not reviewed by these adjudication bodies, I would be annoyed.
This fund has done a wide variety of things to stimulate the economy. Recently, there's a project in the beautiful Southern Lakes - a project that not only will allow us to stimulate the economy by employing people, but by creating a series of trails and creating a whole opportunity for people to spend an extra day when they are hiking the Chilkoot Trail or this sort of thing. They can then bike or walk or take their dog with them, or whatever they happen to want to do, to go up Montana Mountain and look at the beautiful scenery and everything else. We think this is a great stimulant for the economy down there. It's another way to diversify.
We have to look at all these funds that are coming through and look at the vision of where we want to put them. I'm suspicious that some of the other things people look at and would like to do under it - they're nice one-offs, but they're not going to do anything in the long term to stimulate the economy, to keep people here those extra days, to start a new business or industry, to get that idea of something they can produce here, to do Web site design in the Yukon - because if we can improve the pipe down to the south and have better access and higher speed Internet, you can do the same work here that you can do in downtown Vancouver and have a much better quality of life in this area and spend your money here.
With those points hopefully correcting some of the statistics, we're certainly very pleased to look at economic development and the widening of our capabilities in the Yukon and diversifying the economy. We're not likely going to do it overnight, but we're certainly going to do it in the near future, and we look forward to continuing that in the next mandate.
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, I do welcome this opportunity to address the House today on this very important topic of our Yukon economy. This government has not passed up an opportunity to portray itself as the saviour of the Yukon economy. They've claimed responsibility for increased mining activity, increased interest in the pipeline, increased tourism, low unemployment rates, a housing boom and, of course, large and supposedly balanced budgets. So it's all good news, apparently, Mr. Speaker, and the suggestion is causality. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the only thing this government has not claimed credit for is the sky-high rocketing price of gasoline.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I will not blame that on this government any more than I will give them credit for other things over which they had absolutely no control.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to review, if I may, that long list of economic factors that this government has claimed complete ownership of. Myth No. 1 essentially claims that under the watch of this government, mining activity has escalated, and they claim ownership of the fact that we are getting close to having a new copper mine open in the Carmacks area. That's good news. We do look forward to the possibility of new mining activity. In fact we've been looking forward to it for three and a half years.
Somehow this government would like Yukoners to believe that it was their policies that resulted in this flurry of exploration. It's interesting that a Stats Canada report in February of 2006 states very clearly that high commodity prices were again the dominant force at the beginning of the new year and have been so since 2003. The vigour in mining reflected the highest prices ever for copper and zinc; whole gold, aluminium, nickel, potash and uranium also remained at high levels. But we are told that copper, zinc and gold low inventories constrain supply and an increased demand from Asia is behind today's record high copper prices - not anything this government has done. The Minister of Economic Development has gone several times to China because he does recognize that there's demand in China but we've yet to see a mine open in Yukon as a result of anything that either this government or the Minister of Economic Development has done. The economic development just seems to be for the airplane tickets back and forth to China and perhaps a few hotel bills in Vancouver or Toronto or wherever else on the way there and here.
In fact the president of Sherwood Copper Corporation stated just yesterday that their plans to open Minto mine property were largely a result of the recent quadrupling of the price of copper from some 65 cents per pound to more than four times that value. So, you see, Mr. Speaker, that unless the Minister of Economic Development and the Premier want to claim that they not only stimulated exploration here but over the entire world as well, then you can plainly see that this activity we now have in the mining sector is a reflection of world markets. The mining companies would have come regardless.
Ingrid Sternby, an analyst with Barclays Capital, recently said that copper prices rose to a record on supply concerns while gold and silver hit multi-year highs on soaring investor interest. With high crude prices raising concerns about inflation, investors are rushing to invest in gold, which is seen as a good store value. Metals are being boosted also by low inventories and rising demand from China .
The key to the latest aggressive push higher by copper has been renewed inventory draws from already low levels following more output disruptions and strong order books with prices fuelled by investor buying. That's according to Barclays Capital. It didn't mentioned the Yukon Party government anywhere in that report.
Myth No. 2: the pipeline is coming. Well, it isn't the Premier's pipeline or the Minister of Economic Development's, but we are glad that after spending almost two years of this Premier's mandate claiming there was nothing this government could do to encourage the private sector and the federal government toward building the Alaska Highway pipeline, it wasn't for government to take any action. The private sector would build it. It would be made by bigger players than the Government of Yukon, so there was no role to play and nothing to do to encourage it. We suddenly saw a turnabout. The Premier awoke from his slumber and decided that this project wasn't just a pipe dream. He finally decided it was time to build on the hard work done by previous Yukon governments, and stop just waiting for something to fall onto his lap.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, the pipeline may be coming, but that has nothing to do with this government. It is despite this government ignoring it for two years that it may be coming anyway. That's a good thing, although there will be upsides and downsides, as we will discuss later.
We are all very aware of the worldwide escalation of crude oil prices and the increased interest that brings in finding, and tapping into, new and proven reserves. In reaction to market concerns that the U.S. has actually discussed - and we are all in fear and trepidation of these types of things - a military strike against a major crude producer, Iran, the price of Brent North Sea crude oil reached a record $69.70 USD per barrel just yesterday.
Under this government we've seen no expansion of the oil and gas industry. Under the NDP and Liberal governments, there were annual land leases, land sales, where companies secured the rights to explore for oil. That has stopped under the Yukon Party government. There's no growth in this industry at all. In gas, one well has been re-drilled in the Kotaneelee in southeast Yukon by Devon Canada - one well in four years. Devon was asked if this was something that they were doing because the Yukon Party was in office. No, they said, this was something they would do in any case, because the existing well was at the end of its useful life. This is nothing for which the Yukon Party government can take credit.
I'll return to pipeline or pipelines, Mr. Speaker, because we know that there are probably two of them. We don't know what order yet.
What is very sad, Mr. Speaker, is that nothing is being done to get ready for the benefits or to be ready to mitigate any possible negative impacts that this multi-billion dollar investment will being to Yukon. The government seems to be rubbing its hands together and just waiting for the goose that lays the golden eggs to arrive. Well, like all other myths, this one is a fairy tale too. I look forward to the impending election campaign when the Liberal Party will unveil an action plan that will ensure all Yukoners will receive full benefit for that pipeline.
Myth No. 3: Members of this government have on a number of occasions claimed that tourism has increased and that that was in no small part a result of their good government. Again, Mr. Speaker, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is just not so. The facts lie in history. The facts will show that, after the terrorist attacks in New York and in Washington on September 11, 2001 , world tourism changed. Americans in particular were most reluctant to travel, and there were hard times in the tourist industry in the two years that followed. As was the case with so many things, time gradually changed the fears of those potential American tourists. They decided it was once again safe to travel. For many people, that meant safe to travel in North America.
We have witnessed not only a return but an increase in tourist traffic. Make no mistake, it was an impact of world events that caused this industry to undergo massive changes, not any new policy of this government. In saying so, I don't want to dismiss in any way the hard work that is done and continues to be done by the officials who work in the departments and in the Department of Tourism because, despite the lack of leadership, they've continued to do their jobs to try to get tourists to return to Yukon - and we're thankful for that work. They work despite what is going on upstairs in this building.
As for the film industry, for which the government takes so much credit, one would sometimes think they all belonged to the Screen Actors Guild. I'm sorry to break this to the Yukon Party government, but this industry existed long before they came to office.
We will certainly agree that the Film Commission and the hardworking officials in the Department of Economic Development, along with the work done by officials in Tourism, continue to encourage this industry in Yukon and, in doing so, they have also built on the foundations of the success achieved under a series of Yukon governments over the years, not just this government.
Myth No. 4 claims that, under this government's fiscal guidance, unemployment has hit an all-time low. This is true. We should say, however, what's also true is that, again, this is another national phenomenon. The unemployment rate in all of Canada fell to a 32-year low of 6.3 percent, the average for Canada in March, Statistics Canada said last week. The national employment rate, which measures the proportion of working-age Canadians who have jobs, rose to 62.9 percent across the country.
The best this group can claim is that they're keeping in line with Canada , and that doesn't really give them bragging rights.
Now, the next couple are sort of interesting.
Myth No. 5: there is a housing boom in Yukon or, more specifically, there is a housing boom in Whitehorse. Now, you may have seen the pattern here, Mr. Speaker. Yes, there is one, and there has been one all across North America . The price of new housing just keeps rising, keeping up with demand. The cost in February rose seven percent over the previous 12 months, according to Statistics Canada. And, of course, we do know that the main reason for the run-up in housing prices across Canada and in the U.S. has been the record-low interest rates and easy credit that we've all enjoyed over the past six years or so.
What is sadly true, however, is that this government has dropped the ball on this issue and, as a result, many potential home buyers cannot get a lot to build on. Tradespeople will soon miss out on opportunities, even in this coming building season, and suppliers and manufacturers are missing out on business because you can't build a house until you have a lot, and there won't be any more lots to be had until this coming fall, when the building season is almost over. On this issue, another failing grade, another shattered myth.
Now, we often hear this government brag about the population growth in Yukon . I think we heard this today. The government uses this as their reason why there has been such an increase in housing prices. I think we should take a closer look at those population figures and see if they support the premise of this motion - “growth and diversification of the Yukon economy”.
Where has the population been growing? And does it reflect diversification or a shift in population from one location to another?
The following are examples from the government's own Department of Health and Social Services and Yukon Bureau of Statistics. I'm going to compare the figures from December 2001, which was the last complete calendar year under the former Liberal government, and December 2005, which is the most recent calendar year under the Yukon Party government. I would pick the figures from mid-way through 2002, but then I know someone opposite, as the Minister of Finance did recently, will say the whole turn-around occurred in four months of that year. So, we'll try to stick with year-end to year-end - calendar year-end, not fiscal year-end.
Let's look at the communities and see if there is a pattern.
Beaver Creek: December 2001, 117 people; December 2005, 111 people - six less.
Burwash Landing: December 2001, 90 people; December 2005, 85 - five less.
Carcross - this is interesting - December 2001, 404 people; December 2005, 446 - Carcross had an increase of 42.
Carmacks: December 2001, 425; December 2005, 408 - minus 17.
Destruction Bay: 2001 to 2005, 52 to 56, respectively - a net increase of four people.
Faro: 388 to 391 - five more people in Faro, despite the fact there has been a private housing market develop in Faro.
Marsh Lake: 121 to 364 - up 243 - that's interesting.
Mayo: 443 down to 400 - minus 43.
I could read them all. I'll skip a few; it's the same pattern.
Watson Lake: 1,593 to 1,544 - negative 49.
Whitehorse, 22,545 to 23,511 - an increase of 966 people.
The pattern is clear, Mr. Speaker. What we have seen is a migration from rural Yukon communities to Whitehorse and Marsh Lake and to Tagish and Carcross - all within commuting distance of Whitehorse . The Yukon Party government's plan seems to be to move people to the city and let rural Yukon fend for itself. That's not good enough - that's not a record to be proud of.
Myth No. 6: I'm trying to save the best for last. We've heard many times in this House about the largest budget in Yukon history, and a balanced one. Again, facts speak louder than members' rhetoric. The magic words here, as we know, have been federal money.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, this government is responsible for spending massive amounts - a record, we were told. I always believed that when times were really good, non-capital spending could actually go down. I mean, Mr. Speaker, this is the party of the right. We would think that we'd be seeing more capital, but what have we seen regarding more capital? Well, just recently, we've seen some of the Finance minister's own officials question the capital spending. Recently we've heard that one of the officials in charge of the budget say, “Other jurisdictions in Canada don't count studies and agreements and program funding and paperclips as capital spending” - things that you can't amortize or turn around and sell as an asset down the road. Because if we're going to go to accrual accounting, we'd like to believe that things that are spent in capital are things that we would be able to turn around and eventually be writing off over a period of time and amortizing them or even selling them.
The official has said he has written three letters to Management Board requesting that the operations expenditures be counted as operations expenditures, not as capital. He said this is the more accurate number representing capital spending, tapping his finger on the $79-million figure in the budget that he wrote with his staff. So the minister's own officials are saying that it's not $191 million in capital spending, it's more like $79 million. It's just more operation and maintenance, which is a surprise for this government. I know the previous government leader of the Yukon Party used to say quite frequently and quite strongly that it's capital spending, not operation and maintenance that builds the economy. Apparently they are listening to their former leader, because what they're doing is just bootlegging the operation and maintenance spending into the capital budget so that they can claim that it's a big capital budget.
So again, it's federal money, it's other people's money, but we're not sure what it's really being spent on. The facts are that this economy is totally propped up by federal transfers and grants, thanks to the former federal Liberal government, which they are now so quick to criticize and to our hard-working Member of Parliament. We never hear about the $200 million per year - oh, they're laughing at our Member of Parliament, Mr. Speaker. We can all laugh when we get re-elected with 50-percent mandates, because that's something of which he should be proud, and it speaks to what Yukoners think of the work he has done.
We never hear about the $200 million per year increases, the $30 million economic strategy money or the fact that for the past four or five years the federal government has been lowering taxes and putting more money into the pockets of Yukoners. In fact, in the last Liberal platform we were going to lower the small business corporate tax rate from six percent to four percent. I'm glad to see this government has done that. So we can agree on that.
Those are the facts, Mr. Speaker. There is no firm hand at the helm of the financial ship, no long-term economic strategy to prepare us for the next decade - nothing except spending.
We could hire a person off the street to run our government, if all there was to it was to spend. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I recall an incident where the Premier was speaking to a group in Whitehorse not so long ago - a group of business people, a friendly audience. In his remarks he began to take credit for everything good taking place in this territory. The Premier did pretty much everything but recite the Lord's Prayer and then take credit for the Creation. He was openly laughed at and laughed out.
Yukon voters will soon have their turn to laugh at and vote out this government. We look forward to that opportunity.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I always enjoy following the leader of the third party. His overview of the economy of the Yukon is quite interesting. When the members opposite talk about “weak as water”, they should look in their own caucus for that definition.
The member opposite talks about how the government of the day hasn't done anything and then he goes on to say that the officials who work diligently every day have done a great job. You can't have it both ways. Either we all did a bad job - you can't pick and choose the people you want. You can't pick and choose your electorate and say, “You did a good job but so-and-so did a bad job.” The member opposite obviously doesn't understand the economics of the territory.
What is very good is having him in the House here, showing all Yukon what “weak as water” means. Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talked about the Liberal platform - the two-year record of Liberal management in the territory and their financial vision for the territory. We should all hold that up as good financial management.
I think that under our watch the Yukon has done fairly well. Nothing's a perfect world - it involves people; it involves vision. And that's what the last Liberal government didn't have. It didn't have the vision to even stay in power, never mind run a territory.
When we took over the territory, we had an obligation to the people of the Yukon and the bureaucrats of the territory to show some leadership and move forward. We've done that. The Member for Whitehorse Centre, the leader of the official opposition, is quite right - we certainly looked at programs the NDP had put out, such as the community development fund, and saw the merits in that. I found it interesting in the House today to hear the Liberal Party call it a slush fund. I hope when they go to these communities to talk about the community development fund that they talk about it - I don't know what a slush fund is, but it doesn't sound very positive to me. Of course, that was the vision of the Liberal government of the day that cancelled the community development fund. So, I imagine, with the comments made by the members opposite, that we can look forward to - if the third party is lucky enough in the next election - the community development fund being the first thing to go. The slush fund will go.
That's a commitment they have to make.
Now, the member opposite talks about placer mining. The price of raw gold is going up every day. I think it's over $600 - I think the price of gold is around $610 or something. Now, in fairness, the price of petroleum has also gone up, so there is a trade-off, Mr. Speaker, as far as a mining operation is concerned.
But what did we do when we arrived here in government? The first thing we faced was the Liberal Party in Ottawa virtually cancelling the placer authorization. If, in fact, the Liberal government of the day had had their way, we would have had very little placer mining in the Yukon. Probably 80 percent of it would have been unable to meet the standards that the federal Liberal government expected from that industry.
Now, what did we do? The member opposite asked what we have done for placer mining. Well, we got the authorization going. We funded it, we moved ahead. I'd like to thank the senator - our senator was very, very active on this file and should get credit for exactly what she did. But our government funded and moved forward with industry, First Nations and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to get some rational sanity through a new placer authorization. We did that.
So today, why is there placer mining in the Yukon? It's because we did our homework, Mr. Speaker.
Now, if you look at the Yukon from an Energy, Mines and Resources point of view, from mining, which is a very important part of the economy of the Yukon - and, as the leader of the Liberal Party says, it all happened because of us. We should have all gone home, Mr. Speaker. What are we doing here tying up all his time when in fact it would take care of itself? Those are options. We could just go home.
At the end of the day, that's not how you run a government - by ignoring the fact that government takes direction and provides management. The leader of the third party obviously has never been in government, so he doesn't have the background in government a person would have to have, I would say, to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have almost four years in government, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite -
Speaker: Order please. Member for Kluane, please quit interrupting. You have the floor, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In moving along on the overview of this, what happens is misinformation on the floor. They talk about oil and gas; they leave out one well in their conversation. They conveniently leave out what is probably a $12-million investment by Devon . That was left out of the conversation from the leader of the third party. It was too positive.
This government worked with Devon to get the paperwork in place. We worked with the Kaska First Nation and the First Nation in the Northwest Territories. It was a very positive experience for everybody concerned. Devon did the drilling in north Yukon - another piece of work that was done through Energy, Mines and Resources to make sure everything was in place and that we in the Yukon get maximum benefit.
I'd like to say that the first $35 million ever spent in oil and gas exploration was spent last year and was spent on our watch, this government's watch. We weren't at home; we were here doing our job, as we were elected to do.
As far as mining is concerned, the leader of the third party mentions the fact that it would happen anyway. I guess it would happen if you had blonde dogs in here.
But, you know, things don't work like that, and that shows you the capability of the man across - the leader of the third party. Things take management and regulations.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Hon. Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I think I just heard what could be deemed as a sexist comment and one that is hugely denigrating. I won't even bother repeating it, Mr. Speaker. You heard it.
Speaker: I think there was an analogy there. The Chair certainly didn't interpret it as a sexist remark. I simply can't understand the member's point of view. From my perspective, there is no point of order. You have the floor, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Hon. Mr. Lang: So, moving along, I think what we did in Energy, Mines and Resources was that, first of all - we have to remind the House and also the Yukon - through devolution, we acquired the staff from the federal government. We absorbed probably more individuals than we actually had working in the territorial government. That's a process in itself, and a part of the job of doing government.
I would like to thank all the people in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources who worked so hard to make sure that was a positive experience. Things like that are not easy for the people being transferred or, in fact, the people working with other people. So, that working relationship has been very positive.
When the member opposite talks about mining, and talks about the fact that they're now spending almost $100 million this year, I would remind the members opposite that it was about $6 million something, $7 million maximum, in the year we took over the responsibility of government. Now we're looking at $100 million in exploration and development. We're looking at development and production investments now.
Now, that is done by investors, but in turn, when the member opposite says it would happen under any government, I would have to say to him that's not factual.
Investors have to be confident in the jurisdiction in which they invest their money. The members opposite argue the point and say, “Well, it's happening all over the place, so be it.” Well, I question that. The year that the Yukon Party took over the reins of this government, there was $100 million being spent that year in Alaska. Now, that was quite a statistic, Mr. Speaker, because that was 75-percent Canadian money - Canadians investing in Alaska. There was about $120 million in British Columbia. Northwest Territories, of course, with diamonds was way up in the $100 million some, and we were looking at $7 million. As an investor, what does that tell you? Well, it tells us that they were not confident in the regime that was in place in Yukon . Now, to be fair, that regime, at that time, was situated in Ottawa, so there can be a bit of sharing of the blame, but investors were not comfortable moving into the Yukon. Now, Mr. Speaker, in three and a half short years, that has turned around. We've got the tools in place, the regulations in place; we've got the certainty in place. We as a government have the responsibility to do that - 100 percent.
Now, with that responsibility comes pluses and minuses. The plus is that we make decisions here, but the minus is that we have nobody to blame but ourselves any more. So as far as the financial planning or the financial community and the financial future of the Yukon in the mining industry goes, they look very good. As far as placer mining, we have the placer authorization. In partnership with First Nations, ourselves and the federal government, we're hopefully going to be signing a document here - the Premier, the Grand Chief and minister in Ottawa. That will be another done deal, and we're moving forward into the next stage of the authorization. This government has put that authorization as a line item in the budget. We'll be able to debate that. We've got the resources so that we can go ahead with that authorization.
By having it as a line item, we are showing the Yukon that it is an important part of our community and we are investing money.
As far as the member opposite talking about the mining community and how, through lack of regulations or through some mechanism that it could run on its own - and we as a government, meaning all of us, meaning the bureaucracy and ourselves as the elected members, can't take any kudos for it because in fact it just runs on its own is in fact folly.
Western Copper is going forward with exploration. We've got the Minto mine that's moving forward into development and then into production. It looks very favourable for the beginning of next year that we'll have a mine in production, and I would say that is more than we inherited. The next government will inherit that. That will be a production. That's a partnership among the Selkirk First Nation, the corporation and, of course, us, the territorial government. It has been a positive working relationship. We are moving ahead with that. We are working with the Kaska in southeast Yukon. We've got wood out, potential wood. The forest plan should be in front of us any day for the southeast Yukon so we can move forward with managing the forest there.
I've mentioned that we've had the $35 million in the Kotaneelee that was spent to revive a very important part of the oil and gas pertaining to the Yukon . We're looking at the orphan mine situation. What did we do there? The orphan mine situation is a type 2 site. We as a government, again showing leadership, put United Keno Hill into receivership so we could clarify ownership, Mr. Speaker, so we could go ahead with the closure plan and also a sale. We've done that, Mr. Speaker. A very credible company has purchased United Keno Hill. The closure plan is being put together, plus an exploration plan. Today silver is at over $12 an ounce. Gold is over $600 an ounce. It looks very successful for Alexco in Keno Hill.
This government, again, is aggressively looking at Mount Nansen and BYG, putting that into receivership - clarifying, first of all, who owns it, what is the legality of it, and then going ahead, not only with closure, but some potential of sale. So, we are working on that.
We are very close to closing down Clinton Creek. Minto, of course, is a type 2 mine, but it is just going into production. Ketza is up and running. They've been drilling there all winter. They've had three drills on the site, and there have been very positive returns on that. Are we doing our job? Certainly. Our biggest type 2 mine is Faro.
What did we do with Faro? Aggressively, as a government, with the aid of our bureaucracy, we went in and asked, “What do we have to do with Faro?” First of all, we have to put a closure plan together. Our government went out and hired one of the better guys out there to do just that. We are working with the Selkirk First Nation; we are working with the Kaska First Nation, the Town of Faro and our government to put together a closure plan that will be successful in eventually closing the Faro mine.
With the closure plan comes closure. There is not going to be a question out there that it could be a potential mine or anything else. Faro will be closed. The federal government is committed to work with us financially on that. It has been a positive relationship.
As far as Energy, Mines and Resources' other accomplishments, which are many - the forest management plan in southwest Yukon, in partnership with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. We have wood from the beetle kill on market there. People can now bid on it and move forward with a harvesting plan.
We are working with Natural Resources Canada to make sure that the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and ourselves can look at the beetle kill and answer some of the questions that we don't have the expertise to answer. We are working very positively in Ottawa and in Victoria to look at putting some sort of group together to evaluate the spruce beetle kill. This is the largest spruce beetle kill in North America - another thing we inherited from the last government.
It wasn't part of the devolution agreement, Mr. Speaker. They forgot about it. Well, it's almost as big a liability as the Faro mine. So, at the end of the day are we doing our job for the economy of the Yukon? Yes, we are, Mr. Speaker. We are doing it in such a way that it's organized and you only have to go out into the communities, you only have to go onto the streets of Whitehorse to see what's happening in the community. The communities are growing; the communities are being employed and they have a future. That's more than we inherited, Mr. Speaker, and again I would like to thank all the members in the House for the debate this afternoon, but it's important to put on the floor the facts because the facts speak for themselves. We are in a growing economy. The population is growing, regardless of the numbers picked out of certain documents by the members opposite. In fact, it is a growing population; the workforce is growing. We are going to need more workers. The pipeline - the Liberal member opposite talked about the pipeline and how they were the inventor of the pipeline. Mr. Speaker, they hung their hat on a pipeline that didn't exist. We are working with the pipeline as we clarified when we first took office but we certainly didn't base the economy of the Yukon on the hopes of a pipeline.
So, Mr. Speaker, I can't say enough about the economy today. Is our job done? No, it's not done. We've got a future ahead of us. The Yukon's got a great future, and with this group here I think it's in good hands, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I'm not sure where to start after hearing all of that, but we'll give it a try. What if I start with looking at the motion itself?
I'm not sure if the Member for Porter Creek Centre is even aware of this term because he has been here but three and a half years, and there's a term that preceded his arrival and it was called a back-patting motion. That's exactly what this is: a back-patting motion.
And the debate in the years prior to the member's arrival essentially concluded that Yukoners looked down on back-patting motions. Instead, they wanted government to listen and to respond, not to go on and essentially brag about their version of their accomplishments and their version of their failures by putting a rosy spin on them.
That is exactly what is occurring so far this afternoon.
Speaker: Sit down, please. The Chair is uncomfortable with the Member for Kluane accusing another member of bragging. I think that term is unparliamentary. I would just ask the Member for Kluane to watch that, please.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I would point out that I have heard it at least twice by other members this afternoon and ask for fair treatment. So, Mr. Speaker -
Speaker: Order please. Is the Member for Kluane debating the Chair's ruling?
Mr. McRobb: Of course I wouldn't do that. That's against our rules, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Thank you. You have the floor.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you.
We have heard the government boast about its accomplishments and try to put a rosy spin on the failures all afternoon, and it's no wonder Wednesday afternoons - especially government motion days - are referred to as “wasted Wednesdays,” because there is very little in the way of substance or productivity in spending our time this way, especially when you consider the other workload in front of all the members, which includes the biggest spending budget in Yukon history and a number of important legislative bills that need to be reviewed. As we just heard yesterday, Mr. Speaker, the government side refused to agree with both opposition parties that a 40-day sitting is best; therefore, under our rules, the number of sitting days reverts to 30 days, and I believe we're at day 8. It's day 8 already, and we haven't even begun the departments.
So, time is ticking down, there is a lot of work before us, and here we are, spending another wasted Wednesday on what is a back-patting motion from this Yukon Party government. I would have expected by now that this Yukon Party government would have learned to stay away from such endeavours and try to be more practical and act in the public interest.
We know there is lots of federal money available that's being spent, not only in this budget, but in recent budgets. Through the spending of those federal dollars, a number of initiatives are taking place across the Yukon. We've heard the members allude to some of them, but we must be mindful of the fact that federal largesse is not sustainable. What we're experiencing here in the early 21st century is an opportunity where future Yukon historians will look back and conclude that it was a heyday of federal largesse and a lot of it was simply spent on nothing that is producing return in future investment or diversifying the economy, and that it was a lost opportunity. It's sad - there might be some examples of success but, by and large, I think a lot of this opportunity will be lost, and that's too bad.
While we're referring to the federal government, I'd just like to point out on the record that I've noticed quite a change in the attitude of the government members when referring to the federal government, especially the federal Liberal Party. Before the January 23 election, we heard nothing but praise for the federal Liberals. Everything the Yukon Party government said referred to working in conjunction with the federal Liberals and bringing home investment dollars for the Yukon and how the federal MP for the Yukon was doing a great job.
There has been quite a noticeable change in attitude. Suddenly it's Liberal bad and Conservative good. I have to wonder about the principles of this government. Just because there's a change at a certain point in the federal government, all of a sudden a party they thought was great is now bad.
I know the Member for Southern Lakes is chuckling away. I hope he has an opportunity to respond because I'd like to find out from him what's so funny.
The government is changing its stripes, if you will. I wonder how long it will be before the moniker “Yukon Party” is dropped and the old one, the Progressive Conservative Party or Conservative Party, is reinstituted. After all, it has been 14 years and three months since the reversal in the name took place.
Perhaps following the next election, if it turns out the way the polls are suggesting, whereby the Yukon Party suffers a major defeat, it will once again synchronize its name with the federal party. We're seeing indications that could happen.
Returning to the diversification of the economy, the Member for Porter Creek Centre took a lot of credit for everything he's doing. He didn't give any credit to global metal prices or recovery from disasters in the financial world, such as the Bre-X disaster, and so on. There was no credit for that, no mention of those issues.
Instead, he took credit for defending the placer mining industry. Well, Mr. Speaker, my memory is not that short. The Yukon Legislative Assembly passed a unanimous motion here probably two years back defending the Yukon placer mining industry from proposed regulations.
This has been an issue in the news recently, and I recall the position of the New Democratic Party, where it wanted to side with the federal government and shut down the industry and, if not for the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and I, that's exactly what would have happened. I dread the consequences of that.
I see the Member for Mount Lorne chuckling, but I recall how adamant he was, along with the Members for Whitehorse Centre and Old Crow, that tougher regulations were required. Anyway, if that would have happened, it wouldn't have been a unanimous motion and perhaps the placer mining industry would have suffered a big blow. I'm quite worried about that. So when I hear the Member for Porter Creek Centre stand up and take all the credit, it's not quite telling the whole story or giving an accurate version of it.
So when I hear and see recent evidence of a left-right coalition in the works, that's more definitively explained. That's a coalition between the Yukon Party and the NDP. We know that both parties are hurting a lot. They find some accommodation, I guess, in joining together. Anyway, this left-right coalition really raises some questions. I'd love to have a debate on that one day. But on situations - Mr. Speaker, I've been interrupted, just like the interruption you identified a few moments ago.
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Kluane is right. Please respect the member when he is speaking. You have the floor, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: I can't help but wonder: in a situation, given the history of what really happened on the Yukon placer authorization - in reality, how would this left-right coalition work?
I can see the Yukon Party saying, “Let's give everything to the miners,” but the NDP saying, “No, let's not.” So, what would the outcome of that be? It's really amazing because we know that the leader of the NDP is totally against mining. Even though he might write letters to the editors complaining about comments said, that's only his opinion. If you read between the lines, comments I made were not contradicted; they were just softly touched upon.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Leader of the official opposition, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: Yes, I feel that the member is taking extreme liberties with the truth in supposedly presenting my letter, my words, and his interpretation of it. That's not appropriate in this Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Clearly this is a dispute among members. The Speaker really has nothing further to say on it.
Member for Kluane, you have the floor.
Mr. McRobb: Exactly, Mr. Speaker. That is simply not a point of order.
Speaker: Order please. No, no, no - the Member for Kluane does not get to bootleg comments on it. The Speaker made a ruling. I would ask you to respect that.
You have the floor, please.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Now, we know there are a lot of sour grapes over there in the official opposition about a number of things - a lot of sour grapes. That's fine. We know there is an important date coming up in a couple of weeks, and there is probably a lot of tension over there.
I want to stick to the substance of the motion, and I want to take the high road and first say -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Please sit down.
Leader of the official opposition, I just have to caution you, as I have cautioned other members previously, when a member is speaking, please respect that. Thank you.
You have the floor, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Now, I want to comment on something the leader of the official opposition said in his time on the microphone. He praised the mover of the motion for being ethical and true to his party and true to his principles. But what was really missing is -
Speaker: Order please. No, no. I almost don't know what to say here. One should never challenge another member's principles. We work under the presumption here that every member of this Legislative Assembly is an honourable individual. And, unfortunately, I was in conversation with the Clerk and only heard the tail end of the member's comments. And if, in fact, my interpretation is wrong - I will review the Blues. You have the floor.
Mr. McRobb: I think you will find, after you review the Blues, there was nothing said that was contrary to the rules. I was merely pointing out something he said about the mover of the motion, where he commended him for sticking to his principles and being true to his party and so on. That's all I said.
And I would point out that there is a huge issue missing, and it's about leadership. And what we're seeing - and I will give the Yukon Party some credit - the Premier has demonstrated some leadership in some areas.
Let's just leave it at that. Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to remind all members that there is a very fundamentally important part of our work in this Legislature, and that is recognizing the good work done by other parties. Mr. Speaker, as you no doubt are aware, this probably becomes more difficult and occasions far fewer as we get closer to election time, but I will acknowledge that there are some projects and programs undertaken by the current government that are good. I am very pleased that our leader has also recognized that and has said there will be a review, and the good will be kept. I believe that's what Yukoners want. I've heard other speakers prior to this mention that. Yukoners do want recognition of good work, and they don't want to see programs simply chucked out.
Now, of course, good programs like the community development fund, Mr. Speaker, are exactly what my leader was referring to. You know, there are lots of references to slush funds. I've got a reference to some of the Yukon Party comments. I won't go there, because it's important to stay on the high road. Mr. Speaker, let's acknowledge that no party has a monopoly on achievements. I respect my leader for recognizing that and for putting on the public record his position with respect to what he would do if he is successful after the next election - retain the good.
That is what I'm hearing out there. I'm hearing it from some Yukon Party insiders even. I'm hearing it from people in the public service. They don't want to see a wholesale change from right to left or whatever. They want to see a lot of initiatives they are working on kept and continued. I think that's what we're going to get.
However, in response to my original concern about how this motion is essentially a back-patting motion, I want to try to correct that inadequacy with a proposal to amend this motion.
Mr. McRobb: I move
THAT Motion No. 638 be amended by deleting the word “continue” and replacing it with the word “begin”.
Speaker: The amendment is in order.
It has been moved by the hon. Member for Kluane
THAT Motion No. 638 be amended by deleting the word “continue” and replacing it with the word “begin”.
Member for Kluane, I believe you have two and a half minutes.
Mr. McRobb: I think reasons for this are self-explanatory. This afternoon I listened to the identification of a number of failed projects in the Yukon , including the Dawson City bridge, the Whitehorse jail and health centres in rural Yukon. Even the proposed Whitehorse clinic by the Yukon Registered Nurses Association is nowhere to be seen in the budget. Those other items have all been identified in previous budgets but haven't materialized. They are all failed projects.
The government's position on the pipeline has switched around 180 degrees. Essentially, nothing is happening on those big-ticket items. So, when we examine what's really happening out there, we see that the diversification has yet to start. Hence, the wording in the amendment.
Looking through the Yukon Party's last campaign platform, in particular the section on energy, it talks about promoting development of energy resources, but what has been done? Nothing. Nothing has been done. Instead, looking back on the past three and a half years, we've suffered one of the longest blackouts in recent Yukon history, just on January 29.
So, I think that, in itself, is a great example of the Yukon Party's record versus the rhetoric - you promise the sky, but what did Yukoners get? A big blackout. And that goes for health centres, bridges, jails, pipelines - all the way down the list.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'll just close by saying I think it's a good amendment. Do I think it's going to pass? The answer is no, because the newly united Yukon Party-NDP coalition will probably work together to defeat this amendment. But anyway, my hopes are up and so is my time.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: I think the nays have it. I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to Motion No. 638 negatived
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There is quite an interesting debate this afternoon. I heard a lot of comments from the Liberal side of the House here. I think I will make some comments and try to keep the decorum a lot higher than it has been this afternoon.
I heard a lot of colourful descriptions of this government's progress over the last year from the Member for Kluane. However, I must say that, yes, the budgets get bigger every year, but in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, this clearly indicates the government is implementing its election platform. Who could present a platform where there was no expense added each year? I'd love to see that platform. Any government that is doing its job should have budget increases each year; otherwise one would have to question if the government was accomplishing anything in their mandate. Accomplishments cost money.
Now, Mr. Speaker, let's talk about some of the comments that were made by the Liberal opposition, and maybe we could just talk a little bit about their accomplishments over the two years they were in government.
The community development fund, for example - maybe we should start with that one. The Porter Creek South MLA referred to it as a slush fund. I beg to differ, because that slush fund created a total of 118,000 hours of employment in 2005-06. How could anybody say that that's not worthy of the money spent - 118,000 hours of employment for people who would probably not have had jobs otherwise. I think it was well worth the money that was spent. And the Liberal government cancelled this program when they were in government.
Let's talk about the Department of Economic Development. Now, one would have to question again: why did the Liberal government cancel that department totally?
What about the Women's Directorate? Another program cancelled totally by government. It's very important to have women's issues addressed on the floor of this Legislature, but the Liberal government felt it was not a worthy program to be kept in operation. I can't understand why that would be let go. The women across this country have enough problems trying to get a strong voice, and the territory needs this position very badly. This program is very valuable.
Let's talk about the community training trust fund, which the Liberals reduced to $500,000 in their mandate. This government restored the training trust fund to $1.5 million and also directed $500,000 to trades training. All the programs that were cancelled are contributors to the economic t growth of this territory, yet they were all cancelled.
Mr. Speaker, education acts as a catalyst for growth and economic development; therefore, being the
Education minister, I will add to this debate by talking about the improvements in the Education department. However, I believe I should talk a little bit about First Nations first because, in the discussion so far today, there hasn't been much mentioned about First Nations.
I would like to say today that the First Nations are a very valuable resource in the Yukon Territory. They have not been recognized for it. They are the best sustainable development this territory ever had, and I back that up by saying that First Nations have never left this country and have always brought lots of money to this territory, not like the mines and other industries that dry up and become non-existent. First Nations have always brought large sums of money into this territory. The other thing that's very important to recognize is that every dollar they bring into this territory stays here. The money they bring in stays here. They've always contributed to the economy of the Yukon Territory; therefore, it's vitally important that any government recognizes this and starts to develop a sincere, strong partnership with First Nations in the territory. They contribute a lot to the economy.
When we talk about how education contributes to the economic development and growth of the territory, I could talk about mining training. There's a critical need to develop training skills to meet the expected labour demands in the mining sector. As was mentioned earlier today, there are a couple of potential mines in the territory right on the verge of becoming productive.
Advanced education branch and Energy, Mines and Resources officials are actively working with representatives of the mining industry to identify immediate and long-term mining needs. We have made significant direct investments in mining-related training over the past years through additional trades training programs offered by Yukon College in the amount of $417,000, as well as exploration mining training through the explorations and mine training fund in the amount of $95,000.
Education, through Yukon College, continues to offer pre-employment courses, and community-based training funds can be accessed for mining training purposes.
We talk about the Women's Directorate and the importance of women in the territory. This government values the involvement of women; therefore we saw that it was important to start the women exploring trades & technology course at the college as part of the government's effort to increase the representation of women in skilled trades training and employment.
The Government of Yukon, Yukon College and Yukon Women in Trades and Technology have developed the women exploring trades and technology program. This is a 16-week course that started March 13, 2006, at Yukon College. The program outline consists of safety, welding, pipe trades, carpentry, electrical, general mechanics and personal development skills for the workplace. Women have been taking the initiative to pick up trades skills more and more. This program allows for formal skills training that can be applied in the workplace. In addition to trades skills, the program will also explore gender issues and workplace culture specific to women working in the trades field. With twice as many applications as available spaces, we know that women are interested in pursuing this line of work, and the government is committed that ensuring that access to trades training and employment is available to all women.
Again, we also believe that the youth employment strategy is important. This program is designed to provide employment skills to youths aged 15 to 30 who are out of school, chronically unemployed or underemployed and having difficulty retaining employment due to lack of necessary skills.
The youth employment strategy will help our rural youth integrate successfully into the workplace, especially those with identified barriers to employment. In 2006-07 the budget will be the same as in 2005-06, at $200,000. From 2000 to 2005, 132 youth have successfully completed this program, which, again, is the basis for developing a strong economy.
The Yukon government has also embarked upon the apprenticeship program. The Department of Education will continue to fund Yukon government apprenticeship program positions. The Department of Highways and Public Works, in conjunction with the Department of Education, has recruited two apprentices under the Yukon government apprenticeship program, and the Department of Highways and Public Works anticipates recruiting for one additional apprentice position. There are now a total of five apprentices registered under the Yukon government apprenticeship program. Those numbers may seem small, but that's where you start. You have to start somewhere, and the more that this increases over the years, the better it will be for everyone in the Yukon.
The Yukon government has also looked at the Yukon nominee program, which is a joint program between the departments of Education, Economic Development and the federal Department of Immigration. It is designed to attract business expertise, investment capital and fill crucial labour shortages in the Yukon .
The program has two separate streams: the business stream, since 2003, and the skilled worker stream. The skilled worker stream is a new edition since March 1, 2006 . The current shortage of doctors, other professionals and the national shortage of tradespeople has prompted the inclusion of a skilled worker category in the program. This program will include only those occupations identified by Yukon employers as being a critical skill shortage, and it will assist Yukon employers in addressing skilled labour shortages.
Again, I talked a bit about the community training trust fund. That is a proven program that addresses the training needs of Yukoners. This government is committed to providing the training opportunities that Yukoners need for success in this ever-changing local and global economy. These funds provide a variety of training opportunities for Yukon residents by supporting various projects in trades and technology, literacy, basic employment skills, development, heritage, culture and cultural development.
The money from the community training trust fund assisted in delivery of a variety of training projects by Yukon organizations, including the Child Development Centre, the Learning Disabilities Association, Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Silver Trail training fund, Yukon Learn, Yukon Literacy Coalition and Skills Canada.
Yukon College delivered trades training on behalf of the Department of Education in welding pre-employment, pipe trades pre-employment, women exploring trades program, Mayo carpentry pre-employment, and other initiatives that include such things as childcare professional development training, highways equipment training, heritage and cultural industries working training, clerical training in Mayo, Health and Social Services SA client training, and the list goes on.
The value of this program is just unending, and it does open a lot of doors for a lot of people in the communities. I would just like to do a quick overview of some of the expenditures that are taking place in this budget.
For example, we have the $674,000 education reform - a very important process to try to improve the success of students in the education system. We have $500,000 for First Nation resources and curriculum development - a very important part of Yukon culture.
$375,000 goes into the home tutoring program - trying to improve the success of students in school. It is critical at the younger ages to try to assist as much as possible, so that they do continue on in a good way in school.
We also have $300,000 to the student grant - $100,000 for the annual cost of indexing and $200,000 for increased demands - again, supporting the youth in the territory financially in education.
We have $75,000 for Whitehorse school planning. It's all critical to the economic development drive of the territory. We have to be able to identify the areas of need within the schools' infrastructure. It's critical. It's important to have. As the economy grows and the population grows, we know there are going to be pressures on different schools. This government is trying, at this time, to get ahead of the game and do that study to identify the exact locations and the need for new infrastructure.
I could talk for a long time on some of the accomplishments that have come forward through the Education budget. There has been a 17-percent increase over the last three years, which is quite a positive thing. Any money that is put into education to help improve the knowledge and lives of any individuals is very important. In fact, education, in my opinion, tops the list of programs that should be supported wholeheartedly.
In capital projects, we have $1,400,000 for the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria expansion and renovations. Again, improving the infrastructure for students in the territory is critical. It keeps their interest in going to the high school.
I believe the government has done extremely well in supporting the Education department, and I want to thank all my colleagues for seeing the value of increasing benefits toward education. At the end of the day, you won't have an economy if you don't have educated people to do the necessary work.
Mr. Cardiff: It's with pleasure that I rise to speak to this motion. It's an interesting motion. There was a proposed amendment defeated. I'm not going to propose an amendment to the motion. The only thing I could probably contribute to it is that this House urges all Yukon governments, now and into the future, to encourage growth and economic diversification of the economy.
If the member who proposed the amendment that was defeated had listened to what he was saying preceding his failed amendment, he would have understood why the amendment failed. To paraphrase, he said that no political party has an exclusive corner on economic achievements. I think that's something we need to recognize - that there have been governments before us that have made great economic achievements for the benefit of the territory. We need to recognize that.
As the leader of the official opposition pointed out a number of economic achievements that our party had made, I will attempt not to revisit too many of them.
While I am on my feet, I would like to make some comments about other statements that were made by the Member for Kluane in the Legislature this afternoon. With regard to the Yukon placer authorization and his recollection of what took place in the caucus meeting that he was talking about, his recollection varies significantly from my recollection of what transpired in that meeting.
I know where I stand. I know where my seat is in this Legislature, and I am proud to stand where I stand and to sit where I sit. I know which values and which principles I stand for and have stood for - for the past 20 years or more - and my affiliation with this group of people.
I would like to put on record that the Member for Kluane should pick up a copy of Monday's Yukon News. On page 20, there is a gentleman in Dawson City - I won't mention his name because I know we aren't supposed to mention people's names in the Legislature. This person has declared his candidacy in the upcoming election this year. This is a person who was a president of the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce. He was one of the key people in Dawson City to organize the Black Wednesday demonstration against the federal government's unilateral action, and he wants to run as a New Democrat in the next territorial election.
The reason he says he wants to do this is that he knows the facts about the NDP's position on placer mining. He knows what ethics, credibility and leadership are all about and he knows where to find them. He cites our leader; he basically says that the leader of the official opposition is a great leader and, under him, we can actually be the government. Politicians have to be honest, he added.
I think that speaks volumes about our party's stand as the official opposition on the Yukon placer authorization. I think that's all that needs to be said.
That's what we're prepared to do when it comes to standing up for the diversification of the economy. I think there have been a lot of accomplishments by various governments. What we need to do is expand on those. We need to keep working - whichever government is in power - to diversify the economy and to encourage growth here in the Yukon.
I'd like to go back to the mover of the motion and some of the comments he made in his address about diversifying the economy, things like: we have people coming back; we have more jobs in the economy than we've ever had before. I think it was pointed out that the population in the late 1990s still surpasses our current population. I have one thing to say about new jobs in the economy - I've spoken very passionately in this Legislature about the need to recognize the rights of workers in our economy and the need for them to be paid a fair wage. This is in no way a slight against those people, so don't get me wrong about it.
When you look at the jobs - especially the jobs that have been created here in Whitehorse in this economy - a lot of them are at the lower end of the wage scale.
Do we need those jobs? As I said the other day, yes, we do. Do we need to ensure that they're paid a fair wage and a living wage, something they can raise their families on? Yes, I believe that. And is that good for the economy? Those people spend their money here in the Yukon, and it is good for the economy.
With regard to workers fleeing to other jurisdictions for work, I'd just like to let the Member for Southern Lakes know that this is a practice that's still happening. Currently I know of a number of people who are going to be leaving very shortly to work in the oil patch. I know some of them really well, actually. It's unfortunate that there aren't more jobs here in the Yukon for those people. But it's important that they have the opportunity to get the training and experience so that when there are opportunities here in the Yukon for them, they will be able to participate in that economy. What we need to do is to ensure that there are jobs after some of these megaprojects that the Member for Southern Lakes and others have gone on about.
The member went on to talk about some of these long-term projects, like rail, pipeline and port access. Some of those projects - the pipeline has been around for as long as I can remember. I have been here almost - it will be 30 years this November, and it was being talked about when I moved here. So, it's 30 years later. Are we getting any closer? What does the government need to do in this regard? They need to be supportive of people here in the Yukon and their aspirations with regard to this project.
They don't think about the fact that the government doesn't need to go out and sell the pipeline. The pipeline will sell itself. If it's a financially viable concern, then it's going to go. Just like the railroad, you don't have to go out and spend millions and millions of dollars to find out whether it's advantageous to build a railroad. I'm sure if industry thought it was advantageous to do that, they would be looking at those types of projects more seriously.
Now, port access was something that was started back in the late 1990s by the then New Democratic government, and it was later trashed by the government that followed. They didn't think it was a good idea. I think it's a good idea. If we're going to develop resources, then we need that access so that we can get those resources to market. I would like to thank the Minister of Economic Development for inserting himself into the point of order discussion earlier about the document and providing that document in a timely fashion, Pathways to Prosperity. It is certainly interesting to look at this document. There is not really anything here that I don't think a lot of governments could agree with. Focus on the big picture - that's pretty straightforward.
What is the big picture? The big picture is about economic prosperity for Yukoners and about Yukoners playing a part in the economy. It's about partnerships with First Nations to allow them to participate fully in the economy.
What did we see in Dawson City with the Dawson bridge fiasco? The First Nations wanted to play a role in the economic development of the territory. They wanted to be a part of that project. They brought everything to the table. They brought the expertise. They brought money. They brought First Nation participation through a number of self-governing First Nations coming to the table - and they were shut out of that process. Is that fair? Is that what “partners in the economy” means? Is that part of the big picture? I don't think that is part of the big picture, Mr. Speaker. I think the picture needs to change a little bit.
The Minister of Education went on about training for people to get them ready for jobs. This government turned its back on proposals that would have seen the athletes village modular units built here in the Yukon with training and manufacturing provided. Is that economic diversification? It strikes me that it is.
But this government didn't see it. By the government denying a very small contribution to that initiative, the Premier basically quashed it and didn't allow it to proceed.
One of the other things in here is to take a long-term view. I agree. That's something most political parties can agree with - take a long-term view of the economy and what is good for the economy in the long term, what is good down the road for Yukon people, for our children and our grandchildren.
I know my time is limited, and I'm probably going to have to speed up. I could probably talk the clock out on this one by myself. They take a long-term view. Let's use a quick example of taking the long-term view. Look at this document. What is on the front page? The front page shows a picture of Canada and a big arrow going to China. We know what the Minister of Economic Development did - he wanted to sell the White Pass & Yukon Route train and rail system to China . If you look more closely at this document, that's what a lot of this document is about. It's about selling the Yukon 's resources to China and the Far East.
Now, should we be selling our natural resources to China? I don't have a problem with selling them to China , but we need to remember that the natural resources - the non-renewable resources that are here in the territory - belong to the people of the Yukon. They don't belong to the people of China; they belong to the people of the Yukon . We need to ensure that we're getting the most for Yukoners when we do this, not some bargain-basement garage sale where, for a short-term gain, we get basically long-term pain. Down the road - that's not looking to the future, if we're selling everything. So, we need to ensure that we're getting the most for our dollar.
That involves things like ensuring that regional land use planning is done and that appropriate funds are allocated in every department to provide the right information to those land use planning commissions so they can do the work and can identify what the priorities are, which areas are open for resource development and which areas are more suitable for conservation projects.
Before I close I'd just like to touch on the fact that, in this Pathways to Prosperity document, there is nothing that I can find that really says a lot. The highlight of the document is about our environment, the tourism industry - the wilderness tourism industry, in particular. I'd just like to say that all you have to do is look at the budget and what the government has offered up to the tourism industry, and I believe there could be more effort put on things like wilderness tourism. That is something that is taking a long-term view.
If we look after it, if we promote it - the Minister of Tourism and Culture made a big deal about promoting the Yukon Quest on Air Canada flights but, at the same time, when it was suggested that maybe we should promote things like the Three Rivers project, the conservation area, or the Being Caribou films on Air Canada, that wasn't acceptable to the minister.
It just strikes me as strange that we are not putting more effort into areas like that. That is taking the long-term view, and it is that type of investment, I think, in the long run that can benefit all Yukoners. It can benefit our children and our grandchildren. Do we support the motion? It's pretty hard not to support the motion. Like I said, I believe that all governments need to continue to encourage growth and diversification of the Yukon economy. It's all about what your vision is of that economy and what your vision is for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. I look forward to hearing remarks from the members opposite, and we'll see whether we get to vote on this one.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: An election must be in the air because I've heard just about everything but the kitchen sink this afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, I don't really know where to begin other than to thank my colleague from Southern Lakes for bringing forward this important motion. I think it always a good idea to debate and discuss ideas for consideration with respect to the long-term vision of the economic outlook for the territory. It is always useful to reflect upon our past, to look at what we are doing presently, and to look toward the future.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot said here today. I am just going to focus on a few things. I think that we have to reflect upon some of the things that we have been doing, and the leader of the official opposition did reflect upon a number of accomplishments of the previous NDP government. Of course, the leader of the third party also reflected upon accomplishments of their government. And there is no question that we all strive to do our best in this Legislature; we all do our best to represent our constituencies, by whom we were elected, and we all accomplish a great deal, I believe. I sincerely believe that. So I do give credit to all stripes of respective governments that have held office in the Yukon over the last number of years. There have been quite a few governments, I might add.
Mr. Speaker, I think that Yukon is a great place to live. It's a fantastic place to raise kids. It's a good place to do business and it's a superb place to visit. As Minister of Tourism and Culture, I am really proud to be able to represent a department that works really hard, day in and day out, in conjunction with industry representatives toward growing the Yukon economy. That is by bringing people from all over the world here to enjoy what the Yukon has to offer. I think there have been a few comments like “Why aren't you doing this?” and “Why aren't you doing that?” I suppose if we had unlimited pots of dollars and unlimited time, we certainly could do much more in government. But we are continuing to focus on strategic industries, tourism and culture certainly being a couple of those major strategic industries in the territory.
The unique thing about working with Tourism and Culture is that we do take leadership from industry. I'm proud to be able to work with the very qualified and professional bunch of individuals in the department who take great pride in working with industry representatives from all across the board. We take leadership and direction from industry. It's really important to keep that in mind. Through bodies such as our senior marketing committee of the Yukon tourism marketing partnership, about three years ago we actually formalized that body that would present direction to the Department of Tourism and Culture for future direction.
I am pleased to say that we have acted on pretty much all their recommendations. We have been able to follow up on initiatives such as product development. There is a new product development officer in the Department of Tourism and Culture and there is money for product development.
Initiatives such as the tourism cooperative marketing fund - again, that was an initiative that was deemed to be very important to industry. The very fact that we have been able to leverage equal amounts of dollars from industry has been very substantial.
Initiatives such as the development of a new Yukon tourism brand - a very exciting initiative and, actually, the priority of the senior marketing committee. So when I hear members from the opposition say that there's no leadership shown, I have to say that's an insult to industry because we're taking direction from industry. I'll be sure to clip out their comments and send them to industry to make sure they know that members of the Liberal Party, in particular, perhaps do not give credence to the abilities and expertise put forward by industry.
Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of other investments - again, a continuation of the gateway cities campaign. That, I believe, was a campaign initiated under the previous Liberal government, and I will give credence to the former Liberal government for that initiative. We saw it to be a great initiative, and we're carrying forward with it.
Again, I think that we have to give credit where credit is due, but we also have to take the initiative to recognize the priorities of others and the accomplishments of other governments, as has certainly been made known to us by the members opposite.
In terms of other investments, there have been so many. In terms of cultivating and continuing to grow tourism, again, I have always been a firm advocate of product development. Product development isn't just simply packaging or pricing; it is also developing product on our highways, whether it is interpretive signage or continuing with maintenance of our highways that brings a substantial number of visitors to our territory. It's the extension of cellular services, for example. I am really pleased to see that all our communities will be wired as of the end of 2007.
There are a substantial number of investments in our highways. Thanks to the Alaska state government, we are receiving a substantial number of investments under the Shakwak agreement to continue to upgrade and maintain the Alaska Highway, which has become a tremendous corridor, not just for resource purposes but for bringing up many of our visitors. It is a historic corridor. It's one worth preserving and protecting.
Again, as for our scenic drives initiative, we continue to work in this regard and we were pleased to come up with a new program, the scenic drives program, building upon our rubber-tire-related tourism initiatives that have been developed over the years - a great program.
I thank the department for providing leadership in fleshing out details in terms of marketing programs and in terms of providing interpretive signage and furthering developments of highway pullouts, for example. Substantial dollars - $350,000. We're continuing the program again this year with new investments in the Klondike and Kluane loop, which will benefit those folks living along the Alaska Highway, the Top of the World Highway and down the Klondike Highway.
When we talk about tourism, I look at the investments in the airport. Airport infrastructure is so very vital to the growth of the tourism industry - air access is everything. If we don't have air access, it substantially reduces our ability to compete in what is becoming a very fierce, competitive marketplace. In this year's budget, we have almost $3 million toward the renovation and expansion of the Whitehorse Airport terminal, not to mention the improvement and enlargement of the parking lot at the Whitehorse Airport . One only has to look at the parking lot and see the dire, desperate need for improvements. That's how very important the airport has become to Yukon and to visitors.
In terms of other investments, one only has to look to our cultural industries. There are many sectors that fall under culture industries.
In heritage, I am very proud of the investments that our government has made over the years in terms of enabling our heritage partners to be able to further protect and preserve our heritage assets in the Yukon, starting with the First Nation heritage worker. That was a new position we created in our department, and it's a position that has been very well-received by our First Nation heritage community, in particular. That position is coupled with a new program with designated funds of $220,000 for the continued support of our First Nation cultural heritage centres, of which there are four currently in the territory.
Again, this helps to build capacity in our communities, and it enables our communities to better develop and better interpret each of our artifacts and provide worldwide attention to Yukon and all that we have to offer.
The heritage training fund was a new fund we created along with the cultural industries training fund, which we extended about a year ago. Both of these funds are part and parcel, in terms of training opportunities. It's great to see dollars being made available in order to train individuals in terms of building capacity and filling those very needs in our heritage sectors.
This year alone, we are spending about $1.5 million on museums and cultural centres in the territory. That is a very substantial investment - the MacBride Museum expansion, for example. They are doing an amazing job, and they have been able to use the dollars that we have provided to them. They will take those dollars and leverage those dollars to obtain other dollars from the federal government and other partners. In turn, they are able to expand their programs and the delivery of initiatives they are looking at right now - children's programming being one of them.
Again, the dollars that they have been requesting for expansion of this facility have been on their books since the 1980s, as I understand. We are very pleased to be able to come through with funding to help them address their ongoing needs.
Look at other new initiatives. Culture Quest has been a great success - just shy of $160,000. Again, we're continuing with that. It is especially to engage our First Nation individuals, artists and those in the communities to become more involved with the Canada Winter Games, to prepare and build capacity in our communities, to provide programming during the games, and perhaps they can even look toward the 2010 Winter Olympics as well.
These are all part and parcel of initiatives that we have been undertaking through the Minister of Economic Development. Sound recording and film industries are two key strategic industries that have really made an incredible difference in the Yukon. I think, for every dollar invested there is a $9-dollar return. Just like throughout all our marketing programs, we're always looking for the best return on investment.
That helps us guide our decisions and the decisions of industry, in terms of whether we continue those programs or we carry forward with those programs or we look to re-direct our money when we're spending and not getting as much return on those dollars.
In terms of film, I'm really pleased to see that Whitehorse will be hosting the International Film Festival this year. The Economic Development department is providing a substantial number of dollars to help facilitate this very important venue.
Just to touch upon what the Minister of Education was saying about women in trades, we all know that there is a substantial shortage of skilled tradespeople in the country. It's a worldwide problem, and it's one that we feel can help be addressed by looking to garner the further attention of women in the territory to look at getting involved in the trades. This 16-week course is being provided through Yukon College, as a partnership between Education and the Women's Directorate, and it's fantastic to see it underway. I had an opportunity to go to the college the other day to witness firsthand each of the women who have enrolled in that program and to listen to them. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about each of the trades currently being offered in the territory.
One individual related to me her personal experiences, how she had just finished at the Individual Learning Centre. She was a graduate. That is another initiative under the leadership of the Minister of Education that has evolved and has benefited many individuals in the territory. It has enabled them to finish their high school in order to move on to other things, such as women in trades. It's all about training; it's all about education; it's all about jobs - preparing our young people and old people for the opportunities of today and tomorrow. It is capitalizing upon our strengths and working on our weaknesses to see how we can address those particular challenges.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion. There are so many other things I could say, but I did want to limit my remarks to just a few of those key initiatives that have been going on in the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the time this afternoon is fairly limited, as the clock is fast approaching 6:00 p.m. I would just like to say that there have been many comments offered this afternoon and there have been many criticisms. I would like to say that I appreciate the fact that the Minister of Tourism and Culture has stood on her feet this afternoon and recognized the work of her predecessors in government with respect to the gateway cities initiative in the Department of Tourism and Culture. I appreciate that. There have not been very many kind remarks in this Legislature in recent years about the previous government, and I appreciate that one, Mr. Speaker.
Motion to adjourn debate
Ms. Duncan: As the time is close to 6:00, I move that debate be now adjourned, and I thank the Clerk and Deputy Clerk for their assistance this afternoon.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Porter Creek South that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion 638 agreed to
Speaker: The time being 6:00 p.m. , the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.