Department of Finance

Department Overview

Budget: Building on Solid Foundations

Mr. Speaker, every government's budget says a number of things about that government, about the economy in which it operates, and about the priorities of the society it serves.
This budget is no exception.

It is a budget that balances priorities to deliver a strong economic agenda, a strong social agenda and a strong environmental agenda.

This budget demonstrates that we listen to Yukon people and take direction from them. It demonstrates a thoughtful and innovative approach to the management of public funds. And it demonstrates that we keep our promises.

This budget presents a vision of a new Yukon. It outlines government's role in developing a stable and diversified economy to take us to the year 2000 and beyond.

It acknowledges the challenges we face in the coming year, primarily due to continuing low metal prices and global economic uncertainty. These challenges are outlined in the most recent short-term economic outlook for the territory.

Yukon people know we can no longer rely on a highly-specialized, boom-and-bust economy with the major decisions being made beyond our borders. It is essential that we take control of our own economic destiny.

Yukon people also know that government spending by itself cannot create a new, more diversified economy. The task of strengthening our economy requires sharing the responsibility, and recognizing that every job counts.

The Yukon is an entrepreneurial community. The men and women who give the Yukon its strength have the imagination and the drive to meet the current challenges head-on. By working together, we can achieve great things.

Our government has been actively building partnerships with Yukon people, to develop a new economy that is balanced and progressive. The result is a series of initiatives we call Economy 2000.

Success in the new economy will come from being creative and from taking risks. It will come from being aggressive in seeking out new opportunities.

That is the vision at the heart of our Economy 2000 initiatives and at the heart of this budget.

This budget will stimulate new economic activity and help create jobs for Yukon women and men. It also maintains our commitment to important public services such as health care and education.

This is a budget for Yukon families and Yukon people of all ages. It is a budget for communities. It is a budget for workers, for business, for the resource sector and for a healthy, sustainable environment.

In short, it is a budget that meets present needs and looks confidently to the future. It does this by building on the solid foundations of thoughtful, balanced fiscal planning our government has maintained over three consecutive budgets.


KEEPING OUR PROMISES

At the beginning of our term, we promised a stable and predictable pattern of public expenditures. In three consecutive budgets we have kept that promise.


We promised to maintain a reasonable accumulated surplus, or savings account. In three consecutive budgets we have kept that promise.

We promised to maintain our commitment to health care and education. In three consecutive budgets we have kept that promise.

We promised not to impose Medicare premiums. In three consecutive budgets we have kept that promise. We promised not to raise taxes. In three consecutive budgets we have kept that promise.

In fact, with this budget we are going well beyond that promise by introducing the most significant tax reform measures in Yukon history.

We promised transparent, long-term capital planning to provide certainty and predictability for the working women and men of the Yukon, and for Yukon businesses. This budget keeps that promise.

For the first time ever, this budget spells out the Yukon government's plans for major capital projects over the next three years.

This will allow people to see how we plan to maintain a pattern of predictable and affordable investment that addresses their real needs and priorities.

We promised to make electricity prices stable and affordable, and we kept that promise. Our investment of $10 million in rate stabilization will ensure that electricity bills will stay at their current levels for at least four years.

We promised to give priority attention to the settlement of land claims and self-government agreements, and to devolution. We have kept that promise.

We promised to bring a spirit of respectful partnership to our government-to-government relations with Yukon First Nations. We have kept that promise.

We promised stable funding for non-governmental organizations that provide important community services, to help them plan their budgets and programs effectively. We have kept that promise.

We have even granted strategic increases where necessary.

We promised to involve Yukon people in important decisions that affect them, and we are keeping that promise. Many key elements in this budget are there because Yukon people said they were important.

They said it in over 50 pre-budget meetings around the territory, in roundtable discussions on tax reform, and in community meetings on banking services.

We know that government does not have all the answers, and we rely on the public to give us advice.




I would like to thank all those who took the time to share their ideas with us. Their input is valuable, and a great many of their suggestions have contributed to the design of this budget.

Mr. Speaker, the Main Estimates for 1999-2000 include the highest level of capital spending our government has ever undertaken.

The total capital budget for the year is $94,314,000. Once again, the Yukon is spending a higher percentage of its total budget on capital projects than any other Canadian jurisdiction.

At the same time, we have balanced our spending priorities carefully to achieve a wide range of important objectives.

For example, we have continued to reduce expenditures on computers, systems and furnishings for internal government use. This lets us put more capital dollars to work creating jobs and generating economic activity throughout the territory.

On the Operation and Maintenance side, this budget projects an expenditure of $384,217,000 for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.

The minor increase over the forecast for 1998-'99 results largely from wage settlements and several new health initiatives we are undertaking this year.

Keeping O&M spending in check in the face of declining revenues, while still honouring our promise to maintain important public services such as health care and education, has required discipline from all departments.

Taking Capital and O&M together, the total estimated expenditure for the year will be $478,928,000. Our anticipated revenue will be $459,251,000.



In other words, we are investing a portion of our accumulated surplus and initially projecting an operating deficit of $21,427,000 for the coming year, including a contingency reserve.

This is a deliberate course of action, to put more money back into the economy at a time when Yukon people need it. It is a responsible course of action that still leaves us with a reasonable accumulated surplus, or savings account.

The projected accumulated surplus at March 31 next year will be about $27.9 million. This is about $13 million higher than the projected accumulated surplus at the end of the fiscal year contained in the 1998-'99 main estimates.

It is important to consider this in the context of our long-range expenditure and revenue projections.

By running moderate annual deficits in the short term, we can invest in jobs and economic opportunities at a time of reduced economic activity. This will gradually draw down our savings account.

Our projections show that we can expect a slight increase in revenues in about two years. This will allow us to balance the budget and stabilize our spending in the fiscal year 2002-2003.

Investing part of the accumulated surplus strategically now maintains the pattern of stable spending that we have consistently promised and consistently delivered.

I would also like to note that the federal budget tabled last week increased the Canada Health and Social Transfer to provinces and territories by about $2 billion.

Our minister of Health and his provincial and territorial counterparts across the country worked hard to get Ottawa to begin reversing the severe cutbacks in health spending we have experienced over the past four years.

While the change does not come close to restoring the transfers to their previous levels, it is a welcome first step.

It gives us approximately $2 million more this year to invest in health programs for Yukon people.




ECONOMY 2000: A Yukon Partnership

Mr. Speaker, the closure of the Faro mine last year resulted in the immediate loss of hundreds of jobs. We must not attempt to minimize the impact this has had on Yukon people and on our economy.
In the face of that challenge, our government has continued to take bold steps to help build a new economy to take us into the next millennium.

To do this, we are working closely with business, industry and labour, as well as municipal and First Nation governments and non-governmental organizations.

As delegates to the recent Yukon Business Summit pointed out, the responsibility for making the Yukon's economy work better doesn't rest on government's shoulders alone. It is a shared responsibility and a shared challenge.

Still, government can play an important role in facilitating economic growth. That's why we are forming partnerships to promote trade and investment opportunities for Yukon businesses and workers. For example, we created two major new funds as part of Economy 2000, the Trade and Investment Fund and the Tourism Marketing Fund.

These funds are to support ideas and activities that will help Yukon business people build the capacity to pursue new opportunities outside the territory.

I am pleased to announce that this budget expands these two funds by $1 million beyond the current mark. That means the Trade and Investment Fund and the Tourism Marketing Fund will each get $750,000 in the 1999-2000 fiscal year.

This investment of $1.5 million demonstrates the outward-looking approach we are taking with our Economy 2000 partners in the Trade and Investment Diversification Strategy.

We have worked hard to make those partnerships successful, here at home and outside the territory.

The Yukon has been well-represented on trade missions to such places as Alaska, South America and Russia. As a result, several Yukon businesses have had direct exposure to potential new markets for their goods and services.

We have also hosted familiarization tours for potential investors in the resource and tourism sectors. These visitors came from Japan, Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere, to see the Yukon's many economic advantages first-hand.

Last fall, I delivered the message to key decision-makers in Washington and New York that the new Yukon is ready to do business, and that we welcome responsible investment.

The minister of Economic Development has just returned from delivering the same message throughout Asia. In Tokyo, he told mining investors about mineral exploration and development opportunities in the Yukon.

He also went to Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul to promote another major Economy 2000 initiative, the Immigrant Investor Fund.

This fund will allow foreign investors who qualify for landed immigrant status to make five-year investments in the Yukon's economy at $250,000 a share.

We believe this fund can attract a substantial pool of capital that will help Yukon businesses expand their activities, create new jobs and broaden our economic base.

The new Yukon Film Location Incentive Fund is another Economy 2000 innovation.

This fund is already yielding positive results in attracting film and television production activity to the Yukon. One example is the car commercial filmed at Schwatka Lake, which millions of Super Bowl viewers saw last month.

This year, we are putting $125,000 more into this fund, bringing it to a total of $175,000. This is a positive investment in new and different jobs for Yukon people.

This growing industry is also a boon to Yukon retailers who supply accommodations, meals, rental vehicles and other goods and services to visiting productions.

  • Immigrant Investor Fund to encourage investment in the Yukon economy
  • Yukon Film Location Incentive Fund - $175,000
  • Yukon Mineral Exploration Tax Credit - 22% on eligible exploration expenditures


Mr. Speaker, one of the key elements of Economy 2000 has been our ground-breaking decision to look at ways of reforming the Yukon's tax regime to help create jobs and stimulate the economy.

Last fall, we convened a tax reform roundtable to identify tax measures we could introduce this fiscal year.

As a result of those discussions with business, industry, labour and other interested groups, I am pleased to outline some major amendments to our tax system that will promote investment in the Yukon.

The first is a refundable tax credit to encourage mineral exploration and help offset the current challenges facing the industry worldwide.

The Yukon Mineral Exploration Tax Credit will provide an income tax refund of 22 per cent on eligible expenditures for Yukon exploration on new sites.

This is the most generous exploration credit of its kind in Canada, and sends a strong signal that we want to see responsible mining flourish in the Yukon.

This credit will be available for two years, starting this April 1. By making this tax revenue investment of approximately $2.5 million each year, we expect to encourage significant exploration activity in the territory.

  • Yukon Mining Incentives Program - $506,000
  • Increased commitment to Geoscience Program
  • Small Business Investment Tax Credit - 25% on investments in Yukon businesses

This budget maintains our commitment of $506,000 a year for the Yukon Mining Incentives Program, and increases our ongoing commitment to the Geoscience program.

We are also moving forward in partnership with the mining industry and other community interests to develop a Yukon Mineral Strategy.

Our government will continue to encourage and support this industry that has always been such a vital part of our economy, at the same time as we are working to broaden the territory's economic base.

The second Economy 2000 tax reform initiative I am announcing today is the Yukon Small Business Investment Tax Credit, which will start July 1 with up to $1 million of credit available per year.

This will encourage Yukon people to invest here at home and help build local businesses.

This investment measure will provide a non-refundable tax credit of 25 per cent on investments in eligible Yukon businesses, to a ceiling of $200,000 per business. These investments may be RRSP-eligible under federal criteria.

The Yukon Small Business Tax Credit provides a way for local investors to express confidence in our economy. At the same time, it will give small business people in the Yukon greater access to the capital they need to finance growth.

Like the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, this tax measure to support small business began as a recommendation from last fall's tax reform roundtable.

  • Labour-Sponsored Venture Capital Corporation - tax credits for Yukon investors



That group also endorsed a proposal by the Yukon Federation of Labour for a Labour-Sponsored Venture Capital Corporation. This would be a way to encourage Yukon residents to invest in our new economy.

Similar corporations elsewhere in Canada have successfully invested in small business start-ups and expansions to create new opportunites for working women and men.

This year, we will develop enabling legislation to permit the establishment of a Labour-Sponsored Venture Capital Corporation in the Yukon. The target date for implementation is January 1, 2000.

Investors would be able to claim a maximum non-refundable tax credit of up to $1,500 a year with a share purchase of $5,000. The territorial and federal governments would each fund half of this credit.

Mr. Speaker, these investment innovations mark the first time any Yukon government has used tax reform in a significant way to stimulate economic growth.

Once again, it shows that we listen, and that we're working in constructive partnerships with Yukon people to build a new economy that works for everyone.

We will be starting a second round of tax reform discussions immediately, to identify other potential tax measures that might be introduced in future budgets.

Our Economy 2000 initiatives include other important steps to improve conditions for Yukon businesses and Yukon workers.

For example, the Code of Regulatory Conduct changes how government does business. It requires prior consultation on proposed regulations, to keep the regulatory burden as light as possible.

As the minister of Government Services describes it, the approach is "regulation if necessary, but not necessarily regulation."

We are also working with the community to find ways to reduce existing red tape by streamlining rules and regulations already on the books. These are two practical ways we are responding to requests to make it easier to deal with government.

In keeping with our Yukon Hire Policy, we have also improved our contract regulations and expanded the Business Incentive Program to ensure that more benefits from Yukon government spending stay in the territory.

Our efforts are clearly paying off. This year, 89 per cent of the total value of Yukon government contracts has gone to Yukon businesses. Four years ago, just 59 per cent of the value from Yukon government contracts stayed in the territory.



Finance officials recently visited Yukon communities to discuss renewal of the territory's banking services agreement. Yukon people told us their concerns, and told us what kinds of financial services they want.

With proposed bank mergers on many people's minds, one suggestion that frequently arose was for government to encourage alternative financial institutions such as a Yukon-based credit union.

This spring we will convene a roundtable to discuss banking services in more depth, including ways to improve access to capital for small businesses. We will also explore options to allow other institutions such as credit unions to operate in the territory.

Another key factor in the new economy will be how Yukon people manage their resources. The Yukon Oil and Gas Act, based on a common regime with Yukon First Nations, represents a major step toward control of our economic destiny.

The minister of Economic Development has identified general areas where land leases will likely be offered this year. This will take place only after appropriate consultation with First Nations and community interests.

When oil and gas development does begin in the Yukon under Yukon control, our government is determined to get it right.

Responsible development of this resource offers substantial benefits in terms of jobs and economic opportunities, as well as revenues to support important public services.

This year, we will continue to work in partnership with First Nations, and involving the public, to develop a fair and effective oil and gas regulatory process that maintains the proper balance between economic and environmental considerations.

Mr. Speaker, one of the brightest spots on the Yukon's economic landscape has been the strong performance of the tourism sector. Last year, the territory played host to the highest number of visitors on record.

These visitors are also arriving earlier, staying longer and spending more. The impact on our economy was clear to see in a substantial increase in retail sales in July, compared to the same month a year earlier.

The outlook for this year is for continued growth.

With annual revenues of about $125 million, tourism is vital to the Yukon's new economy. It is directly responsible for 2,000 Yukon jobs, and indirectly contributes to many more.

Our government is making sustained efforts to increase tourism year-round, and to support the development of tourism products that can compete with other travel destinations anywhere in the world.

This budget supports several new Economy 2000 measures that reflect the importance of this growing industry.



Besides increasing our investment in the Tourism Marketing Fund, we will put an additional $200,000 into tourism marketing this year.

With this investment, we will build on our successful marketing efforts in Europe, the United States, other parts of Canada and elsewhere.

This year we will also finish expanding the runway at the Whitehorse Airport, with an investment of $3.4 million in the 1999-2000 budget.

This two-year project is generating jobs and economic opportunities for Yukon people, besides allowing Whitehorse to accommodate larger aircraft from abroad.

By offering both residents and visitors the benefits of more direct flights to and from Europe, it brings the world closer to our doorstep.

  • Tourism department will conduct its first comprehensive Visitor Exit Survey since 1994
  • Two-year investment of $900,000 in the new Yukon Millenium Fund



Mr. Speaker, up-to-date information is an essential tool in planning how to attract visitors and meet their needs while they are here. This summer, the Tourism department will conduct its first comprehensive Visitor Exit Survey since 1994.

This will provide a clear picture of where our visitors come from, how long they stay, what they do here, how they spend their money and what changes they think would improve the Yukon experience for tourists.

At a cost of $315,000, the exit survey will create about 30 summer jobs for Yukon women and men this year.

While it is important to know what tourists think of the Yukon, it is also important to know what Yukon people think about the future of tourism in the territory.

The Yukon has undergone a remarkable evolution in the decade since our first Tourism Strategy was developed. This is particularly evident in the implementation of land claims and self-government agreements.

New relationships are developing among Yukon people and governments, and new economic opportunities are arising from a dynamic and growing tourism sector. This makes a full and open dialogue about the future of tourism essential.

Our government promised to consult Yukon people on the development of a new Tourism Strategy for 2000 and beyond. We are keeping that promise.

This spring and summer, people in every corner of the Yukon will have a chance to share their ideas on how we can derive the most benefit from tourism without compromising our heritage, our environment, or our community values.

The purpose of this dialogue is to match the priorities of Yukon people with the changing demands of an industry that is becoming more competitive worldwide.

Through the Tourism department's arts branch, our government is also looking to the future with a two-year investment of $900,000 in the new Yukon Millennium Fund.

With $300,000 in 1999-2000 and a further $600,000 next year, the Millennium Fund will help Yukon people and visitors join the rest of the world in celebrating the end of one era and the start of another.

The Millennium Fund will support community events around the territory next year. It will also enhance established programs such as music festivals and other arts and recreation activities with a millennium theme.

A citizen committee representing a cross-section of Yukon people will decide what projects will receive funding, with a special emphasis on youth, the future and the environment.

Through a millennium speaker's bureau, Yukon people will also have an opportunity next year to hear interesting perspectives on a variety of thought-provoking topics.

The creativity of Yukon people guarantees that our millennium events will make the territory an exciting place to be in 2000. We have a lot to celebrate and a bright future ahead.

In Tourism, as in all our efforts to build a new economy, our focus will be to work as an active partner with Yukon people and Yukon businesses.

This is the best way to build on our established economic foundations as we head toward 2000 and beyond.




INVESTING IN YUKON PEOPLE

Mr. Speaker, there is a reason for speaking at such length about our partnership approach to the economy. A strong and diversified economy is the best safeguard for the important public services we provide.
Our government takes its responsibility to provide social programs seriously. This budget reflects a balanced social agenda for youth, seniors, families and low-income Yukon people.

It represents a high level of investment in Yukon people, both in the 1999-2000 estimates and in our three-year capital plan.

  • Low Income Family Tax Credit (LIFT) - up to $300 for people earning less than $25,000 a year
  • Yukon Child Benefit for families with annual income of less than $22,000



I am pleased to announce two bold new Anti-Poverty initiatives that complement each other to make more disposable income available to Yukon families and individuals who need it most.

The first is the Low Income Family Tax Credit, or LIFT, which takes effect as of January 1, 1999.

This will make $500,000 a year in non-refundable assistance available to people who make enough to pay taxes, but have a tough time making ends meet.

The LIFT credit is aimed at people with net income less than $25,000 a year, and will provide an annual benefit of up to $300.

Our government believes that any low-income support measures we take should also benefit the dependent children of Yukon women and men who pay little or no income tax and cannot benefit from tax credits.

Today we are introducing a new Yukon Child Benefit, aimed at families with children where the net family income is less than $22,000 a year.

We are setting aside $500,000 a year for this Health and Social Services program, which will provide direct support for an estimated 1,100 families and 2,000 children across the territory.

For a family with a net annual income of $15,000 or less, the Yukon Child Benefit will provide $300 a year for the first child in a family, $200 for the second child, and $150 for each additional child.

For example, a single mother with two children and a net annual income of $12,000 would be entitled to a Yukon Child Benefit of $500 a year. That's an extra $42 a month to spend on her family's needs.

For families in an income range between $15,000 and $22,000 a year, the benefit will be a proportion of the full benefit.

In the case of a two-income family with one child and a net income of $15,000, the combined effect of the Yukon Child Benefit and the LIFT credit would come to about $322 a year, depending on the income split between the two wage earners.

The Yukon Child Benefit will not be considered as income in calculating Social Assistance payments.



This investment of $1 million a year complements initiatives we have already introduced to address poverty, such as the school lunch program and free eyeglasses and prescription medicine for children from low-income families.

In the coming months, we will be seeking partnerships with the federal government to harmonize the Yukon Child Benefit and the Yukon LIFT credit with federal support programs for low-income families.

  • Seniors Property Tax Deferral
  • Yukon Seniors Strategy



Our government also recognizes that families with children are not the only ones facing financial difficulty. Seniors on fixed incomes often face similar hardships.

That's why we are introducing a new tax measure to provide some relief to seniors who live in their own homes. We will be proposing legislative measures to provide for a new Seniors Property Tax Deferral.

This would allow a senior in Carcross, for example, to remain in her family home and choose to defer paying property tax until the home changed hands.

This tax relief for seniors would apply to homes outside incorporated municipalities, where the Yukon government is the taxing authority. We are also prepared to work with municipalities that are interested in implementing a similar program within their boundaries.

Mr. Speaker, people over the age of 65 represent the fastest growing segment of our population. This trend presents significant challenges in planning health and social services programs.

We intend to work with a variety of community groups on the further development of the Yukon Seniors Strategy to address the particular needs of our aging population.

For instance, we know a need exists right now for more continuing care beds for those who need a high level of care on a long-term basis.

  • $14.2 million for a 74-bed continuing care facility to be opened in 2001
  • $645,000 to open 7 extended care beds at Thomson Centre
  • $1.5 million to complete Teslin health centre
  • $200,000 for health workers' Professional Development Fund



Today I am especially pleased to announce two major investments in long-term health care for Yukon people.

The first is the construction of a new continuing care facility in Whitehorse with a capacity of at least 74 beds. This facility will serve both seniors and other Yukon residents who require extensive long-term care.

At a cost of $14.2 over three years, this will also be the territory's largest building construction project since the new Whitehorse General Hospital was built.

This exciting project will meet demands for residential high-level chronic care beds for the foreseeable future. It will also create employment for Yukon workers both during and after construction.

Construction will begin next year, and the new facility will be open in 2001.

To help meet the immediate need for continuing care beds in the interim, we are making a further investment of $645,000 this year to open the seven remaining beds at the Thomson Centre.

In addition, the comments we received during recent consultations in Yukon communities will be used in considering how to accommodate both short-term and long-term needs for home care and continuing care throughout the territory.

Our commitment to provide for the health care needs of Yukon people, without imposing Medicare premiums, can be seen in many other items in this budget.

We will invest $1.5 million in the 1999-2000 fiscal year to complete construction of the new health centre in Teslin. This is in addition to the $330,000 in the current budget.

We have provided $200,000 of new money in this budget for a Professional Development Fund for health workers. We recognize the importance of having qualified, professionally trained staff to deliver health and social programs to Yukon people.

This funding will help health workers throughout the territory keep their skills up-to-date, and will complement the bursary program we recently introduced to encourage Yukon students to pursue nursing as a potential career.

  • $228,000 to expand the Healthy Family Initiative
  • $200,000 to Child Development Centre to support children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • $200,000 more for community treatment centres



Last year our government introduced the Healthy Family Initiative to improve the ways we identify and support children at risk. Studies have shown conclusively that every dollar invested in such children can save seven dollars in future social costs.

In the coming year, the department will spend a further $228,000 to expand the Healthy Family Initiative, including $45,000 for a support nurse at the Whitehorse Health Centre.

This budget also provides $200,000 in new funds to the Child Development Centre for programming that will address the special needs of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

This will be targetted at enhancing the centre's important outreach services in rural Yukon.

We are also honouring our commitment to a new, community-based approach to alcohol and drug treatment by setting aside an extra $200,000 in program support for community treatment centres. That brings the ongoing total for that purpose to $300,000.



Mr. Speaker, patients being discharged from hospital often have a need for medical or social services support once they return to the community. Health and Social Services will spend $140,000 this year to develop hospital-to-home service linkages.

  • $140,000 for hospital-to-home service linkages
  • $108,000 for people with severe mental and physical infirmities
  • $98,000 for people with diabetes
  • $131,000 to increase ambulance backup support
  • $80,000 to Ross River for community and social planning



The department will also spend $108,000 for outpatient day programming at the Thomson Centre for people with severe mental and physical infirmities, including dementia.

Support programs for people with diabetes will receive an additional $98,000 with this budget. In recent years, the volume of ambulance calls in the territory has increased dramatically. In light of this, we have added $131,000 to the Health department's O&M budget to increase ambulance backup support.

A special allocation of $80,000 will go to help the people of Ross River address community healing needs and support their efforts in community and social planning.

Mr. Speaker, the scope of these new health care investments I have outlined today demonstrates our government's deep commitment to the well-being of Yukon people.

Yukon society faces changing health care needs and expectations, rapidly evolving technologies and increasing costs to provide services. It is important that we work together to set priorities for future health investments.

Later this year, the minister of Health and Social Services will convene a Yukon Health Summit to get the views of Yukon people on the directions we should be taking in the delivery of health services.

The importance our government places on having a balanced social agenda can also be seen in our support for Yukon youth.

At the Northern Lights conference in 1996, young people said they wanted to be heard and respected. They also wanted to be involved in developing a youth strategy for the territory.

We listened and we took action. Young people were central players in creating the Yukon's new Youth Strategy that we adopted last year.

  • Youth now sit on boards and committees
  • Training Trust Fund sponsored youth conference
  • $200,000 more for youth recreation programming



Like our Anti-Poverty and Seniors strategies, it is a rolling document that can be reviewed and updated regularly. It emphasizes shared decision-making with young people, and promotes youth participation on public boards and committees.

Youth now serve on the Health and Social Services Council and the Whitehorse Public Library Advisory Board. Other boards and committees are interested in including youth representatives.

The youth conference in Whitehorse a few weeks ago, which was organized and led by young people themselves, was a positive reflection of our government's efforts to give youth a direct voice in training and job creation projects.

The conference was funded by the $200,000 training trust fund for youth that we created in the first year of our mandate.

This budget makes a further investment in the Yukon's young people with an additional $200,000 for youth recreation programming.

With the $200,000 already budgetted for strategic recreation initiatives, this brings our commitment to youth recreation programs to $400,000 a year.

This is a direct response to what we heard during pre-budget consultations in rural communities. The need for recreational opportunities for young people came up time and time again.

With this investment, we expect many exciting and innovative projects to come forward. These will be designed with young people themselves, to respond to the specific recreational needs in their communities.

  • $7.1 million for new school in Ross River
  • $7.3 million for new school in Mayo
  • Yukon-wide consultation on crime prevention and Restorative Justice



Our commitment to Yukon's young people is also clearly evident in our three-year cycle of school replacements.

This began with the construction of the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow, which will be completed with an expenditure of $400,000 in this budget.

We also promised our partners in education, who jointly developed a priority list for new schools, that construction would begin this year on a new school in Ross River.

The 1999-2000 budget includes an investment of $5.1 million for that purpose. An additional $2 million next year will complete this project.

This budget also includes $100,000 for design work on the new J.V. Clark School in Mayo. Construction will begin next year with an allocation of $5 million in the 2000-2001 capital budget.

The Mayo school will be completed the following year with a further $2.2 million in 2001-2002 fiscal year.

In the construction of both these schools, we expect to apply the experience gained in building the new school in Old Crow to encourage as much local employment as possible.

Another significant area of government activity is justice.

This spring, the minister of Justice will visit every part of the Yukon to engage people in a major dialogue on how we can ensure that our criminal justice system reflects the needs and values of Yukon society.

This consultation will be based on the principles of crime prevention and Restorative Justice.

The aim is to develop community approaches to justice that help prevent crime and ensure public safety, and also help restore balance and harmony to the community after crime has occurred.

  • $3.2 million over three years towards new correctional facility



Correctional reform will be one focus of discussion in this public consultation. Yukon people will be asked to consider what is the best way to deal with offenders, including those who need to be segregated from society.

We do know that our major correctional facility, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, needs to be replaced before long. After the Restorative Justice consultation, we will be better able to determine what kind of facility we need and what it will cost.

In the meantime, we are setting aside an initial $3.2 million over the next three years toward the cost of replacing the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.


INVESTING IN OUR COMMUNITIES

Mr. Speaker, the development of new inter-governmental relationships is a major part of the Yukon's changing reality.
The recent amendments to the Municipal Act demonstrate the evolving and increasingly responsible role of municipal governments in providing public services.

Our government considers the strength of Yukon communities as vital to the territory's future, whether or not they are incorporated. As this budget demonstrates, our investment in Yukon communities takes many forms.

  • first increase in municipal block funding since 1991
  • municipalities will have more flexibility in how they use block grants
  • $25,000 to AYC for trade and investment activities
  • $5 million for Watson Lake recreation facility



Municipal officials have expressed concern for years about the level of municipal block funding, which has stayed the same since 1991. This year, we are increasing the comprehensive municipal grant by $115,000.

Amendments to the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act this sitting will give municipalities unprecedented flexibility to determine what portions of their territorial block grants will be used for operational and capital purposes.

We have also made a commitment to meet with elected municipal officials annually to review their block funding needs.

In the coming year, we will also provide an additional $25,000 to the Association of Yukon Communities to foster greater participation by municipal leaders in trade and investment initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, this budget contains a number of major investments in community infrastructure throughout the Yukon.

For example, we have agreed to help the Town of Watson Lake reconstruct and upgrade its recreation facility. To help get work started and create employment in the area this year, we are investing $2.5 million from the current budget for the facility.

An additional $2.5 million in the 1999-2000 budget will bring the territory's contribution to about 90 per cent of the total estimated cost of this community project.

Last year, we made a nine-year pledge of $1 million a year to help Dawson City build either a sewage treatment facility or a recreation centre.

  • $1 million in 1999-2000 for Dawson City recreation centre
  • $2 million more on multi-year pledge to Whitehorse for recreation facilities
  • $4 million released by April to start work on swimming pool this year
  • $500,000 more in Fire Smart Communities Program 



This budget includes $1 million to maintain our multi-year commitment.

We will provide financial support to build a recreation centre, which is the town's priority, provided the federal DIAND minister makes it clear that the need for a new sewage treatment facility can be postponed.

Last year we also committed $7 million over seven years to help the City of Whitehorse build recreational facilities. I am pleased to announce today that we are increasing that commitment to $9 million.

An extra $1 million is being provided in the current year's budget, and we will also increase our 1999-2000 contribution by $1 million.

That means $4 million will be released by this April to permit the city to start work on a new swimming pool this construction season.

With our $9 million investment, which includes a total of $5 million for the pool, we are helping provide jobs for Yukon labourers and tradespeople this year and into the future.

Our capital budget is supporting a variety of construction projects this year and over the next two years. Besides providing much-needed jobs for Yukon men and women, it confirms our commitment to foster safe and healthy communities.

We believe that rural Yukon has a promising future, and we are prepared to back that belief with positive partnerships and real investments.

This year, for example, we will invest $500,000 more in the Fire Smart Communities program. This is over and above the half-million dollars in the current budget year for projects to reduce fire risks in and around communities.

In the 1999-2000 fiscal year, we will be investing a total of $3 million in the Community Development Fund, including the Fire Smart Communities funding.

As in previous years, CDF grants will be used to create jobs and support a range of worthwhile projects that Yukon people themselves decide are priorities for their communities.

In the coming year, we are also doubling our investment in the rural roads program to improve transportation infrastructure in rural Yukon.

  • $3 million for Community Development Fund
  • $2 million over two years for rural roads program
  • $19 million for Shakwak project
  • $3 million for Robert Campbell Highway reconstruction



We will spend $1 million in the 1999-2000 fiscal year for priority road upgrades and improvements undertaken by community contractors throughout the territory. We have also set aside a further $1 million to continue this work the following year.

The major road-building activity in the Yukon this year will be on the Shakwak project. The continuation of this U.S.-funded project is the result of intensive lobbying by the Transportation minister and his senior officials.

With an expected expenditure of just over $19 million this construction season, the Shakwak project will lead to a significant improvement in the Yukon's highway system.

It will also provide business opportunities for Yukon companies, and jobs for Yukon workers. I'm pleased to note that a number of those workers received their job training through programs supported by the Yukon government.

We will also spend $1 million this year for reconstruction work at Grew Creek on the Robert Campbell Highway. An additional $2 million has been identified for road work on the Campbell Highway over the next two fiscal years.

This investment will improve travel conditions for both local residents and visitors, and provide work opportunities for people in the Faro-Ross River area.

  • $950,000 for work on Tagish Road
  • $1 million to landscape Whitehorse waterfront
  • $200,000 for new pumping station for Granger
  • $350,000 for Burwash sewage lagoon
  • $1.5 million for Range Road affordable lot development
  • $1 million for Mobile Home Park Enhancement Loan program



Upgrading work on the Tagish Road will begin this year. Over the next three years, Community and Transportation Services will spend a total of $950,000 on this project.

The department will also replace the Willow Creek bridge on the north Klondike Highway, at a cost of about $600,000.

In addition to an ambitious program of road upgrades, this budget also reflects a significant investment in infrastructure in various Yukon communities.

Last year, we set aside $294,000 for relocation agreements with Whitehorse waterfront residents. This year's budget includes $669,000 to conclude that process, so that waterfront redevelopment can take place.

Over the next two years, we will also contribute $1 million to the City of Whitehorse for waterfront landscaping.

This year we are making an additional contribution of $200,000 to the city, in response to the needs of Granger residents for a pumping station to bring water pressure in the subdivision up to standard.

We will spend an additional $350,000 over the next three years to provide a new sewage lagoon in Burwash.

Our long-term capital plan also includes $300,000 over the next two years for a firehall in the Mayo Road area. We expect that local residents will be heavily involved in the development of that project.

We are also moving ahead on our Mobile Home Strategy, with an allocation of $1.5 in the Yukon Housing budget to complete the affordable lot development on Range Road.

In addition, the corporation has earmarked $1 million for a Mobile Home Park Enhancement Loan program.

This program will enhance the quality of life for mobile home residents by helping owners improve roads and public safety features.



INVESTING IN OUR ENVIRONMENTAL HERITAGE

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Yukon are justifiably proud of the rugged beauty of this vast land. We want to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy it as much as we do.


We know that decisions we make now about our environment will have an impact far into the future. Similarly, the impact of actions we take here can be felt far beyond the Yukon's boundaries.

Safeguarding the environment is a matter of prime importance to our government.

  • $2.3 million in ongoing funding to implement Yukon Protected Areas Strategy



The cornerstone of our environmental agenda is the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy. It was adopted last year after extensive consultation, and is now being implemented with $2.3 million in ongoing funding identified in the O&M estimates.

Through a clearly-defined public process, the Protected Areas Strategy will lead to some form of protection for representative areas of all 23 distinct ecoregions in the territory.

Our first goal is to set up protected areas in ecoregions that are not adequately represented, where Yukon First Nations final agreements are already in effect, and where there is local interest in protected areas planning.

The priority areas in northern Yukon are the British Richardson Mountains, Eagle Plains and North Ogilvie Mountains ecoregions. The priority in the south is the Southern Lakes-Pelly Mountains ecoregion.

We are now establishing local planning teams for these areas, and our current goal is formal designation of two or three new representative areas by the spring of 2000.

This spring, we expect to complete designation of the Fishing Branch Ecological Reserve, which is a Special Management Area under the Vuntut Gwitchin Final Agreement.

By this fall, we expect to finalize the designation of two other final agreement SMAs, the Tatshenshini Heritage River and the Tombstone Territorial Park.

  • $1.4 million over three years for resource assessments and park systems planning



As well as protecting important elements of the Yukon's ecosystems, the lands designated under the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy have the potential to make a major contribution to the economy as areas for tourism and recreation.

Over the next three years, we are committing nearly $1.4 million of the Renewable Resources capital budget for resource assessments and park systems planning.

In addition, a portion of the $520,000 in the 1999-2000 Economic Development budget for mineral resource assessments will support the Protected Areas Strategy.

Our ongoing commitment to the environment can also be seen in how we are implementing the 56 recommendations of the Cabinet Commission on Energy.

Many of these recommendations were aimed at promoting responsible energy use, including the use of alternative energy sources to reduce our dependence on diesel fuel.

We contributed $3 million of last year's one-time census adjustment to the Yukon Development Corporation to set up a Green Power Fund to promote the use of alternative sources of energy.

We also committed $2 million for research and development on the use of wind to generate electricity. A commercial-scale wind turbine much larger than the existing one on Haeckel Hill will go into operation this fall as part of that commitment.

When the blades start turning, it will supply enough power to meet the non-heating needs of about 100 Whitehorse families.

The size and location of this new turbine will make a strong visual statement about the Yukon's commitment to alternative energy.

Besides the $1 million provided to YDC for energy-efficiency initiatives for electricity consumers, in the coming year Government Services will invest over $220,000 in retrofitting public buildings to make them more energy-efficient.

The department will also sponsor two community energy management projects through its capital budget. The first is a district heating facility study in Haines Junction, at a cost of $50,000.

  • $220,000 to make public buildings more energy efficient
  • $50,000 for district heating study in Haines Junction
  • support for waste heat project in Watson Lake
  • $50,000 to study climate change
  • $270,000 for Yukon Housing REMP and CEMP programs



The second project will support Watson Lake's effort to capture waste heat from the YECL generators to heat the new recreation centre and the adjacent school. Other community buildings could eventually be added to the hook-up.

Throughout this year, we will be initiating a number of other projects to encourage Yukon people to help protect our environment by using energy wisely.

We are investing another $50,000 in the coming year to continue the work already being undertaken with community environmental groups to study the impact of climate change on our northern environment.

We expect this investment to help launch the Yukon Climate ExChange. This will be a centre for gathering and sharing information about climate change in northern Canada and the rest of the circumpolar world.

The Yukon government has been developing this project in partnership with Yukon College, the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada and others.

Yukon Housing will invest $270,000 this year in its Residential and Commercial Energy Management Programs to help people change from electricity to more efficient methods of heating.

With its ongoing home repair programs and next month's HomeShow '99, the Housing Corporation will continue to show leadership in promoting more efficient use of energy by Yukon consumers.

Another key aspect of our environmental agenda is the Development Assessment Process, which is a requirement of the Yukon First Nations Umbrella Final Agreement.

Given the importance of DAP and its far-reaching impacts, our government firmly believes the draft legislation should not go ahead until Yukon people are satisfied that it meets Yukon objectives.

Our goal is clear legislation that protects the Yukon's lands, waters and cultural heritage without imposing an unfair burden or unnecessary delays on responsible resource developments or other economic activities.

We intend to sponsor a major DAP workshop later this spring, to make sure all concerned Yukon groups and people have the chance to provide full input on this important legislation.

  • $100,000 for lobbying efforts to protect critical calving habitat of Porcupine caribou herd
  • $150,000 training trust fund for environmental advocacy



Mr. Speaker, our government has consistently opposed oil and gas development in the critical calving habitat of the Porcupine caribou. This herd is essential to the lifestyle of the Gwitchin people on both sides of the Yukon-Alaska border.

In the past, we have helped the Vuntut Gwitchin people of Old Crow and the Porcupine Caribou Management Board bring the need to protect the herd's critical calving habitat to international attention.

During my trip to Washington and New York last fall, I once again brought this issue to the attention of the senior senator from Alaska, and to key environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club.

The 1999-2000 budget includes a commitment of $100,000 to extend the public information and lobbying efforts to keep oil and gas development out of the 1002 Lands that make up the herd's core calving grounds.

We recently concluded an agreement with the Yukon Conservation Society to create a training trust fund for people working in environmental advocacy. That fund will provide $75,000 in the current year and a further $75,000 in 1999-2000.

  • $460,000 for museums and exhibits
  • $166,000 for Yukon archaeology program
  • $115,000 for palaeontology program
  • Heritage Property Tax Exemption for designated heritage sites



Besides protecting the environment and wildlife habitat, our government believes it is important to preserve the Yukon's cultural heritage.

We are continuing to do that with an investment of more than half a million dollars in historic sites maintenance, interpretation and signage in the coming year. We are also investing over $460,000 in assistance for museums and exhibits.

The Heritage branch will spend $166,000 this year for the Yukon archaeology program, $115,000 for the palaeontology program, and $30,000 for heritage studies.

I am also pleased to announce the seventh tax reform measure in this budget, the Heritage Property Tax Exemption.

This exemption means that the owner of a building designated as a heritage site under territorial legislation and located within Yukon government taxing authority would not have to pay property taxes on that building.

This initiative is a signal of our government's appreciation of the Yukon's rich history, just as our environmental agenda signals our ongoing commitment to respect the territory's unique environmental heritage.



INVESTING IN OUR FUTURE

Mr. Speaker, we are standing at the threshold between one millennium and the next. In that context, it is important to look forward and plan carefully for the economic, social and environmental needs of the future.


Our government has made great strides in using new technology to deliver services to Yukon people. In partnership with the federal government, we have made major investments to provide rural communities with public access to the internet.

Two weeks ago, the first internet transmission of medical diagnostic images flashed from Old Crow to Whitehorse. We will continue to work with rural communities and our high-tech industry to explore new uses of the internet for medical, educational and commercial purposes.

  • $75,000 for Yukon Technology Innovation Centre



We are also demonstrating leadership in addressing the problem of the so-called millennium bug. Our government is an active partner in the Yukon's Y2K Task Force, and our own systems should be fully Y2K compliant before the end of the year.

Information technology is the fastest-growing sector in the modern world economy. The boom in electronic commerce means consumers anywhere in the world can now use telephone lines for their financial transactions, or buy goods and services from virtually anywhere else, including the Yukon.

This provides exciting opportunities for Yukon businesses, including small, home-based operations.

For over a year, our government has been working in partnership with a number of Yukon businesses in the information technology sector, and with Yukon College, to identify ways to expand this dynamic industry.

This budget moves that partnership forward with an investment of $75,000 to set up a Yukon Technology Innovation Centre, in association with this partnership and the Northern Research Institute.

  • $200,000 fund to support research on information technology
  • $1.5 million in training trust funds in 1999-2000



In addition, we are contributing $200,000 to a fund that will be administered by the institute and will support research on innovative approaches to using technology.

This is an exciting project that offers great potential for future developments initiated here that can be used throughout the Yukon and beyond.

We are confident that this investment in the ingenuity of Yukon people can lead to new jobs, new services and new business opportunities in the territory.

Another key aspect of our investment in the future is our emphasis on training opportunities for Yukon people.

Our investment in training trust funds has put millions of dollars to work helping Yukon people prepare for the demands of a changing workplace.

We recognize that every job counts. Part of government's role in fostering a healthy economic climate is to make sure that people have access to the skills they need to participate fully in the economy.

Training trust funds can also be a means of stimulating economic activity. The funds we established in Watson Lake last year, for example, contributed directly to the opening of the South Yukon Forest Corporation sawmill.

As the Yukon Forest Strategy comes into effect, we expect that a secure supply of timber will permit the mill to operate year-round in the future and create stable employment in southeast Yukon.

In 1999-2000, we are investing a further $1.5 million in training trust funds to help ensure that a pool of trained workers will be available to meet the needs of industry, communities and non-governmental organizations.

Mr. Speaker, the end of this millennium coincides with the end of the Yukon's first century as a territory in Canada.

As we enter the next century and the next millennium, we are also entering a new era in our development within the Canadian constitutional family.

The devolution of the Northern Affairs program from the federal government to the Yukon next year will mark our coming-of-age as a Canadian jurisdiction.

Devolution will effectively put virtually all province-like rights and responsibilities into the hands of Yukon people.

This is an enormous challenge and an enormous opportunity. It means we will be in control of our own forests, our mineral resources and our water. We will also be fully responsible for the stewardship of our land.

As I said earlier, the imagination and drive of the men and women of the Yukon give the territory a unique strength.

We are working together to meet the economic challenges that face us now, and to move forward and turn those challenges into opportunities.

So, too, with devolution. By working together with a sense of shared responsibility, we will meet the challenges of devolution and move forward to create opportunities for the future.

To do this, we must forge new, lasting and respectful relations between public and First Nation governments. It is only through these partnerships that all Yukon people will prosper.

Mr. Speaker, over the past hour I have focussed on the many, many new initiatives contained in this budget.

This represents only part of what the Yukon government is doing on an ongoing basis.

A great deal has been accomplished in the past few years, thanks to the dedicated efforts of our public employees and the active involvement of the Yukon public.

This budget responds to what Yukon people told us about how they want public government to invest their tax dollars.

We have kept our promises to Yukon workers, to business, to First Nations, to the resource and tourism sectors, to conservation groups and to Yukon communities.

We have taken bold steps to address the needs and wishes of Yukon youth, seniors, people in need of long-term care, and families struggling to make ends meet.

This is a budget for today, with substantial investments in jobs through several major building projects, an aggressive program of road reconstruction and a range of community-driven projects.

This is also a budget for the future, with investments in training, emerging technologies, tax reform, trade and investment initiatives, millennium celebrations and the full range of our long-term capital plan.

This budget is about moving forward with the settlement and implementation of First Nations final and self-government agreements.

It is about sharing responsibility for our future.

It is about balancing competing needs and interests.

It is about responsible management of limited financial resources.

It is about listening to Yukon people and taking their advice.

Beyond everything else, it is about working side-by-side with the people we serve.