Evidence of meeting #26 for Finance in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was program.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jim Eglinski  Mayor, City of Fort St. John
Chief Andy Carvill  Council of Yukon First Nations
Karen Baltgailis  Executive Director, Yukon Conservation Society
Rod Taylor  President, Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon
Stanley James  Chairman, Board of Directors, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon
Stu Mackay  Dean, Professional Studies, Yukon College
Debbie Throssell  Conference Coordinator, Yukon Child Care Association
Shirley Adamson  Chief Executive Officer, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon
Lewis Rifkind  Energy Coordinator, Yukon Conservation Society
Doug Graham  President, Association of Yukon Communities
Roberta Morgan  President, Yukon Council on Aging
Patricia Cunning  Executive Director, MacBride Museum
Ian Church  Chair, Canadian IPY National Committee
Rebecca Jansen  Executive Director, Yukon Historical and Museums Association
Sierra van der Meer  Communication Coordinator, Yukon Literacy Coalition

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

The committee welcomes our witnesses and guests.

We are really pleased to be here as part of the pre-budget consultative process. We're the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.

We are pleased to be here in this beautiful and special part of the country. I must say it's my first time in the Yukon. I've really enjoyed the last few hours I've been here and I look forward to coming back again.

We all look forward to hearing your presentations today. Thank you for the time you've taken to be with us, to prepare your briefs, and to answer any questions we may have.

You've all been notified you have five minutes to cover a massive undertaking, and in the interest of time, we will keep you to five. While you're giving your presentation, I will give you an indication that you have a minute or less remaining, if you care to make visual contact. We'll cut you off at five minutes to allow time for an exchange and for questions and so on.

Welcome. Thank you for being here.

We will begin with the representative from the city of Fort St. John, Jim Eglinski. Welcome, Mayor.

Please proceed. Five minutes is yours.

9:30 a.m.

Jim Eglinski Mayor, City of Fort St. John

Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Jim Eglinski, and I am the mayor of the city of Fort St. John. I have with me Mr. John Locher, my city manager. Thank you for inviting us to speak here today.

We agree with the premise of your consultation initiative that if Canada is to have a meaningful place in the world, our citizens and our businesses must prosper. We also agree that for citizens and businesses to prosper in this increasingly competitive world, Canada must have the infrastructure required to ensure a high quality of life and efficient local, regional, and national economies.

But people and businesses don’t just live and work in Canada or even in a province or territory. They live and work in communities, large and small, like Fort St. John or Whitehorse. If you want individuals and firms to be happy, healthy, and prosperous, you must support not only federal and provincial infrastructure but the infrastructure of each of these communities, large and small.

While previous federal governments have attempted to support a narrow range of municipal infrastructure, like roads, water, and sewer, and the current government is supporting roads, bridges, and border crossings, it is my humble submission that these programs are short-term and costly to administer and suffer from a lack of accountability and transparency. We believe you can do better.

You have asked what specific federal tax or program spending measures should be implemented to ensure our nation has the infrastructure required by citizens and businesses. Our answer: you must change the way it is funded. Communities like Fort St. John need this to be done as soon as possible.

You may find it hard to believe that a city like Fort St. John needs your help with infrastructure. After all, the city is in the midst of rapid growth and transformation.

We are the oil and gas capital of British Columbia and the primary service centre for the province’s northeast. Fort St. John has a major softwood forest industry, including a world-class oriented strand board plant. We are at the centre of the largest agricultural region in the province. Our city boasts the second youngest population in Canada, and its residents have the highest net incomes in the province. The BMO Financial Group recently ranked the city third on its list of small business--it's a hotbed among 111 communities across Canada--second for small business growth in the next five years, and first in the number of businesses per thousand people.

So why do we need your help? A booming economy is a double-edged sword for small municipalities like Fort St. John. We are challenged to attract sufficient employees to the community to support the resource industries and the growth in the community. Our revenues don’t go up as much as those of the private sector, individuals, or the two senior levels of government when the economy booms. Our only significant revenue source is property tax, and we are constrained by both the property values and the political costs of increasing the already high tax burden of our citizens.

However, the demands on our municipal infrastructure--roads, sewers, parks, cultural amenities, sports facilities, and other programs--are skyrocketing. More goods are moving on our roads, and companies expect us to provide cultural and arts facilities to attract and keep their employees in the area. The list goes on to include expanding libraries to meet growth, working with our senior levels of government to renew health facilities, and establishing additional post-secondary training facilities in these communities.

But while these demands increase, our revenues do not. And Fort St. John is among the luckier small communities; our economy is strong. I can only imagine how difficult it is for communities that don't have a strong economic base.

What do we recommend for all our small communities, those trying to keep up with a booming economy and those that don't have one?

One, eliminate the short-term, one-off federal infrastructure initiatives, whereby programs take longer to design, negotiate, and implement.

Two, adopt the principle of subsidiary by which key decisions affecting local communities, like infrastructure spending, are made locally. This will not only speed things up, but it will clear things up.

Three, expand the definition of infrastructure to include not only roads, bridges, and sewers, which may not be a priority for every community.... Each community has a different set of priorities and should be able to set them.

How can you do this when your own budgeting process is an annual one, usually no more than four years? It has to become local, simple. This is my message to you today. Work with the provinces and territories to give municipalities, both large and small, an appropriate share of the wide array of income, sales, and other taxes collected by senior levels of government; reduce our dependency on property tax; and give back a portion of what is generated locally in sales, income, and other taxes.

We already have a precedent that's been set, whereby municipalities can secure a share of the gas tax. We believe this should be expanded to include goods and services, income, corporate, and other taxes you collect.

Thank you.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Thank you very much. Well done.

We'll move now to the Council of Yukon First Nations.

We're pleased to have you here, Grand Chief Andy Carvill. I will give you an indication when you have a minute remaining in your presentation, but you have five minutes to make your presentation this morning. Then we'll have time for questions thereafter.

Welcome. Please proceed.

9:35 a.m.

Grand Chief Andy Carvill Council of Yukon First Nations

Thank you.

I want to begin by just saying good morning and welcome to the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dun and Ta'an Kwach'an First Nations. On behalf of all CYFN first nations, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

Within the context of the objective for Canada to remain vibrant, be progressive, and prosper within a competitive world, we must begin closer to home with a focus on our resources, key relationships, and processes. It is recognized that within Yukon there are many natural resources yet to be developed and tourism opportunities yet to be realized. First nations are willing to share many aspects of their culture with others and provide access to wilderness sites and experiences where no adverse cultural or environmental impacts can be assured.

A valued resource is our people. We must continually work together on ways to increase education levels, provide job experiences, and offer appropriate compensation and stability within the work environment. We need to ensure that sustainable capacity is developed and our full potential is realized. Yukon first nations are anxious to work with others to achieve these and other goals in a constructive and meaningful way.

The success of both Canada and first nations governments in the global economy is influenced by the perceptions of other nations. It is essential that they view the relationships between all governments—federal, provincial, territorial, and first nations—as both constructive and stable in our work toward common goals. The importance of commitment, integrity, and cooperation amongst all cannot be over-emphasized. Yukon first nations support these ideals.

We view the opportunity to work constructively with those arms of Canada's government that serve the collective interests of many of their departments, rather than continually deal with individual departments with their own complexities and mandates. As self-governing first nations, we strive to establish and maintain an effective government-to-government relationship, and we appreciate that active participation in forums like this one today is a step toward that end. We believe that working in such a manner will permit us to obtain better value from our very limited resources.

In significant part, we see this view of our relationship as a foundation of our self-government agreements with Canada. This implies that funds should flow directly from Canada to Yukon self-governing first nations, not through the Yukon territorial government. When Yukon first nations issues and interests are being discussed within intergovernmental forums, we need to be at the table. Increased effectiveness of available financial resources can be achieved by flowing them directly to those who can best respond to the widely varying needs of their citizens.

Under the land claim agreements, Yukon first nations have responsibilities for their beneficiaries and citizens that go beyond those with status. Further, since most Yukon first nations lands are not reserves, there are a number of federal government funding and service issues and entitlements that arise between Yukon first nations and those south of sixty.

We currently require your valued support to help us fully achieve the collective benefits of our self-government agreements and to resolve any outstanding issues arising from our land claims agreements. Our support for a major pipeline to provide essential fuel to domestic and international markets alike and our involvement in the construction of a transnational rail line to effectively move natural resources, commodities, and people are premised on land claims settlement and active Yukon first nations involvement.

We are anxious to become key participants in becoming increasingly competitive within the global economy. In the immediate future, however, we must concentrate our efforts and resources to get it right the first time. In our move toward true self-government, we ask the Government of Canada, through their upcoming budget, to increase our financial support for self-government and land claim implementation, to help accelerate this progress. Clearly, such an increase in budgeted expenditure should be viewed as a further investment in developing capacity for both first nations and Canada. Only then can we focus our efforts and expertise on the international scene and become active partners under this and other equally important themes.

Notably, this would not preclude the need for Canada, through its honour of the Crown, to continue to address many issues surrounding health, justice, human resource development, housing, community infrastructure, economic development, and other requirements on an ongoing basis, rather than intermittently or periodically in some instances. Further advances in all these areas would benefit all Yukoners and Canadians alike.

I hope we'll be able to offer a greater focus on the more technical aspects of this issue through a written submission.

In the meantime, I thank you for your indulgence and the opportunity to address this important topic, albeit while identifying its significant relationship with--if not dependence upon--many others.

Thank you.

9:40 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Thank you very much, Mr. Carvill.

We will continue with Karen Baltgailis, who is representing the Yukon Conservation Society.

Five minutes is yours.

9:40 a.m.

Karen Baltgailis Executive Director, Yukon Conservation Society

Good morning.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you this morning.

Ensuring that Canadian citizens can prosper in the future requires much more than an active economy. Canadians' social and physical health depends on the natural environment. No amount of economic activity can compensate if human social and physical health and the natural environment they depend on is impacted. For this reason, the Yukon Conservation Society is focusing on climate change and mining in these recommendations this morning.

As you know, climate change is impacting the north--first and worst. This is an ecological disaster, where polar bears are unable to hunt due to melting sea ice and massive insect infestations or fires are completely changing forest habitat. We read in The Globe and Mail this morning that evidently the pine beetle is moving north now, in addition to the spruce bark beetle. It's also an economic disaster, as infrastructure like roads, pipelines, and buildings are impacted by melting permafrost and communities that are dependent on the forest industry are left high and dry.

Mining has serious economic impacts as well as economic benefits, for example, on traditional livelihoods such as trapping and nature tourism. It also creates boom and bust economies, with the concomitant social and health issues.

There is a long history of mines that have left environmental disasters in their wake, such as the Faro Mine in northern Yukon, which is likely to cost the federal budget $500 million to clean up and will leave a permanent legacy that needs to be monitored and maintained.

We are therefore recommending that the federal budget end subsidies, such as the super flow-through share program for mining and exploration and to instead create tax incentives and subsidies for mineral recycling and economic initiatives based on a healthy environment, such as developing national parks and supporting community stewardship initiatives.

Enhanced funding is essential for the cleanup of abandoned mines and for monitoring and regulatory oversight of mining and exploration. For example, here in the Yukon, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is creating a new regime to manage placer mining. Without adequate resources to monitor water quality and fish health, the new regime will not be effective.

A Canadian climate change strategy must immediately begin freezing carbon dioxide emissions and then begin sharp reductions. Tax incentives for renewable energy are needed, combined with an end to subsidies for oil and gas. There should be carbon taxes on oil and gas production and consumption. Public transit within and between northern communities also needs federal support. Energy conservation through energy efficient buildings and renewable energy sources must also be encouraged through education and financial incentives.

It's essential that Canada's climate change plan develop a strong focus on the north, because as we said earlier, it's here that the impacts of climate change first appear.

In summary, we're recommending a freeze on carbon dioxide and related greenhouse gas emissions; long-term funding for EnerGuide-style programs and low-income energy efficient housing; tax and other incentives for renewable energy; ending subsidies for oil and gas; tax incentives for energy efficient vehicles; taxes on vehicles that are inefficient; funding for initiatives in education that help Canadians to reduce greenhouse gases on an individual level; funding for mitigation and adaptation as well as modelling; continued federal involvement with programs like the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Arctic Council's “Arctic Climate Impact Assessment”; and a focus on the north for climate change initiatives.

Under mining, we're asking for enhanced funding for the cleanup of orphaned and abandoned mine sites; funding for enhanced regulatory oversight, particularly by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with regard to the Yukon's new placer regime; tax and other incentives for mineral recycling; economic initiatives based on a healthy environment, such as developing new national parks; and supporting community stewardship initiatives rather than mining exploration.

Finally, cancel the super flow-through share program for mining exploration. That's a federal tax incentive for exploration. Instead, concentrate on mineral and metal recycling. Simply cancelling the super flow-through share program and the investment tax credit for exploration could bring in $105 million per year, which is currently lost by the federal government.

If you are still interested in making yet more cuts and saving more money for Canadians, this would be a good way to do it and switch over to funding metals recycling instead.

Thank you very much.

9:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Thank you very much for your presentation, Madam Baltgailis.

Because of the lateness in coordinating some of the presentations today, do I have consent of the committee that they are available only in English at this point? I am told they will be translated and available later this week.

Do I have the consent of the committee to distribute these, so that everyone has them?

9:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


9:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

I thank you for that, and it's only for today Aujourd'hui seulement. Merci, monsieur.

We will continue with Rod Taylor, the president of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon.

Mr. Taylor, the floor is yours.

9:45 a.m.

Rod Taylor President, Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon

Good morning. Thanks for having us.

I will be brief.

Adventure travel and ecotourism are emerging as two of the fastest-growing markets for tourism worldwide. The Yukon, like Canada, is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this current global travel trend. That said, our global competitors are continually increasing their marketing budgets to compete in an increasingly competitive workplace.

In order for Canada and the Yukon to achieve our potential as world-class travel destinations, we must also continually increase our marketing efforts to the world. Unfortunately, as the Canadian government's support of the Canadian Tourism Commission has weakened, so has Canada's market share in tourism around the globe. The CTC makes money for Canadians; it is not simply an expense-side entity. The return on Canada's investment in tourism in 2005 was a total of $15.3 billion in taxes for all levels of government, with $7.7 billion going specifically to the federal tax base.

In simple terms, investing in Canada's tourism industry makes sound economic sense. As such, TIAY is calling on the federal government to significantly increase its funding of the Canadian Tourism Commission, so that Canadian tourism businesses will be able to compete effectively and continue to provide significantly to Canada's tax base.

Secondly, we're asking the government specifically to reverse its decision to take back the $5.6 million that was saved during the recent relocation of the commission to Vancouver—funds that earlier had been determined to be made available for marketing purposes.

In the Yukon, tourism is the largest private sector employer and annually adds approximately $165 million to the Yukon's GDP. In fact for every dollar spent by the tourism department on marketing, over $37 is realized in visitor spending. Unfortunately, the combination of the strong Canadian dollar, high gas prices, and the western hemisphere travel initiative are all threatening this tremendous return on investment. Every advantage the Canadian travel industry has is desperately needed to ensure our competitiveness in the marketplace.

It is with this fact in mind that TIAY is asking the federal government to reverse the elimination of the GST visitor rebate program. The additional costs to our consumers, which this initiative will create, will once again ensure loss of market share, and of the corresponding federal and provincial taxes for all Canadians.

I want to thank you for the committee's time today. Yukon tourism operators appreciate the opportunity to express these concerns.

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Thank you very much, Mr. Taylor.

We now continue with Stanley James of the Northern Native Broadcasting organization.

Mr. James, welcome. You have five minutes, sir.

October 2nd, 2006 / 9:50 a.m.

Stanley James Chairman, Board of Directors, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon

Good morning, Chairman Pallister, vice-chairperson, and members of the standing committee.

I'm Stanley James, chairman of the board of directors of Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon.

Thank you for the invitation to make a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance regarding Canada's place in a competitive world. The standing committee wishes to hear how citizens and business can prosper in the future, can be healthy, can have proper skills, and can be given the incentive to work and to save. The committee also wishes to hear how program spending measures can be implemented to meet those aspirations.

In 1979, recognizing that aboriginal northerners had serious concerns about the lack of representation of indigenous languages, customs, and culture, the CRTC established a committee on the extension of services to northern and remote communities. The committee recommended that federal funding be provided to develop aboriginal broadcasting networks in order to meet Canada's obligation to provide indigenous people with opportunities to preserve our languages and culture.

In March 1983 the northern native broadcasting program was created to support the production and distribution of relevant aboriginal programming to the northern indigenous population. The access program funds 13 non-profit communications societies, one of which is Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon. In 1984 Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon was incorporated as a non-profit society, governed by the 14 first nations of the Yukon.

Following a two-year training program, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon staff, consisting of five aboriginal individuals, began broadcasting radio programming on CHON-FM on February 1, 1985, to six Yukon communities seven hours a day, five days a week.

In 1986 Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon carried out a one-year television training program. The following year it produced its first season of four television programs, broadcast across the Yukon and Northwest Territories on CBC North.

Shortly after that, on February 1, 1991, Television Northern Canada went on the air. Television Northern Canada was created as members of northern aboriginal communications societies, including us, took on the challenge of providing television services to the north.

In 1999 Television Northern Canada underwent a change. It became the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Canada’s national aboriginal broadcaster. Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon currently provides 26 hours of original programming on that network in a variety of languages, including English. We also broadcast aboriginal radio programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our radio signal streams over the World Wide Web.

The majority of key Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon staff and support staff are members of first nations and are intimately familiar with the languages, culture, and communities of the Yukon, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and Alaska.

From the beginning, over 150 individuals have been involved in the organization in some way or other. Employees, directors, the board of directors, consultants, and independent producers have all had a significant role to play in the growth of Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon and its contribution to the social, cultural, and economic fabric of northern society.

Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon has played, and continues to play, a role as an economic generator. Since its launch, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon has injected approximately $21 million into the economy. It has been the main trainer and employee of aboriginal people wishing to enter into a career in electronic broadcasting in the Yukon.

The northern native broadcast access program is administered by the aboriginal programs directorate of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon submits an application annually to the department for core funding. A contribution agreement provides just over $1 million to the organization per fiscal year. The organization in turn must provide the department with quarterly activity and financial statements to trigger payments. Each year the department has been late in advising recipients of the status of their applications.

9:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Mr. James, I'll ask you to wind up your presentation in the next ten seconds.

9:55 a.m.

Chairman, Board of Directors, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon

Stanley James

The program has not kept pace with the needs of the societies it helped establish. It has not been increased to match the cost of living, which means our paycheques are less each year.

In an era of rapid technological change, funding to replace and upgrade aging and obsolete equipment is not factored into the program. In spite of these challenges, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon is a first nations success story. We’ve established ourselves as a credible communications operation for the production and distribution of radio and television programming from a first nations perspective.

9:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Mr. James, we'll have to conclude on that note and leave time for questions after.

We'll continue now with a representative from Yukon College, the dean, Stu Mackay.

Welcome. You have five minutes, please.

9:55 a.m.

Stu Mackay Dean, Professional Studies, Yukon College

Good morning, everyone.

I'm pleased to be able to speak with you on the topic of Canada's place in a competitive world. Yukon College firmly believes that training and skills development are critical for an economy that is knowledge-based, and that the quality of Canada's workforce will be the primary competitive advantage in the future.

Canada must ensure it has a highly skilled, adaptable labour force that can respond to and drive the economy of tomorrow, and it must be able to make the best use of the skills of those already in the marketplace.

Canadians require post-secondary education systems that are among the best in the world to translate into a competitive advantage, economic prosperity, and a higher standard of living. However, as was stated by the premiers at the Competing for Tomorrow conference in Ottawa in February, Canada is falling behind in productivity, innovation, and education attainment rates. Therefore, investment in human capital must be a critical priority of the government's social and economic planning and work.

Yukon College recommends that the 2006 budget incorporate a comprehensive agenda that would include major national policies and initiatives to ensure that Canada has the resources in place to build a highly skilled and adaptable workforce. This agenda may be based on a number of principles.

First is inclusivity, providing access to learning opportunities for all Canadians. All Canadians will need to participate in the new economy. Although the federal government can provide leadership, it must be a concerted effort with provinces, territories, and communities.

Second is a strategy to promote a commitment to lifelong learning.

Lastly, as a principle, it should capitalize on the significant contribution that first nations peoples and immigrants make to society and our economy.

We would also recommend the following key components be included.

Number one, the federal government must act now to reinvest in the quality, capacity, and access to Canada's post-secondary and skill systems. The most important role for the Government of Canada to play is to restore the Canada social transfer funding to the 1993-94 level, adjusting for inflation and demographic growth, with an emphasis on public post-secondary education and training.

Number two, a new learner support system is required. The confusion and prevalence of many different types of financial assistance mechanisms for post-secondary learning add access barriers for many current and potential learners.

Number three, investments in infrastructure, including funds for modernization and equipment acquisition, are critical. This must also include increasing our broadband connectivity to rural remote communities through such programs as CANARIE.

Number four, increased research and development and commercialization funding designed, funded, and administered exclusively for colleges and institutes would strengthen the innovative capacity of communities and their small and medium enterprises. This would bring new services and products to market and develop highly skilled expertise to enhance economic development.

I hope you have an opportunity later to look at our submissions in more depth, but I really thank you for your consideration today.

9:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Mackay.

We continue with the Yukon Child Care Association, Debbie Throssell.

Welcome. Five minutes are yours.

9:55 a.m.

Debbie Throssell Conference Coordinator, Yukon Child Care Association

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for wanting to hear what the Yukon Child Care Association has to say on these important subjects.

With the socio-economics of our country changing, many of our young people are starting families early rather than getting an education. This place has a great need for available child care spaces for these children, while their parents go to work to support them.

We would suggest tax breaks. Parents need more of a tax break on income tax. With the costs of day care rising, this cost is becoming unaffordable for many.

Education needs to be more accessible for people wanting to access post-secondary education. Raising the education deduction would provide an added benefit to this. We need access to ongoing funding for further training and education and sustainability for testing programs to further education. Infrastructure needs to be in place for stakeholders.

When asked to be on committees, there are lost wages and time is unaccounted for.

Day care needs to be affordable to families who are working. At this time, the accessibility of day care is available to the rich, who can afford to pay for it, and to the poor, who are eligible for subsidies. Many middle-income families are unable to afford day care, leaving children at home who become latch-key children. Implementing a program of affordability would help to alleviate this problem.

Day care is in a crisis right now. They are unable to compete with wages and benefits for their workers. There's also a need to be able to pay proper wages in this industry.

The new child tax benefit that was implemented in July of 2006 is insufficient for families. The $100 does not pay for one child care space or spot per week, leaving many unable to access day care.

Accessibility and sustainability are key to our economic future. Our teens of today are our next generation of the economic workforce. Post-secondary education costs are rising, making it inaccessible to many. Families cannot afford to send all of their children to further education.

Middle-income families cannot obtain child care or higher education, with the rising costs of supporting their families. Day care is in a crisis. We need help from the federal government.

Thank you.

10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

Thank you very much for your presentation.

Thank you all for your presentations this morning.

We'll move now to questions from committee members. We'll begin with Mr. Bagnell.

Welcome, sir. You have six minutes.

10 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you.

I'd like to start by thanking the committee for choosing to come. It's been a number of years, since I can't remember when. It's great that you've come to hear firsthand from Yukoners. As you can see, they have lots of input.

10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Brian Pallister

It's the first time.

10 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Yes, the first time.

Thank you very much, committee members, for making that choice.

I'd love to ask questions of everyone, but I don't have time. A number of my questions will be on the theme of the dramatic cuts that were made last week.

A number of Yukoners have approached me, asking for reinstatement of some of those. Some of my questions will be asking if there are certain things you would like reinstated that you would like us to recommend, as the finance committee.

Grand Chief, I'm glad you touched on land claim implementation, which is very important for funds. I would like you to touch on a couple of other things. One is the core funding for your organization and whether you need more.

The other one is this. We talked last week about cuts to the aboriginal tobacco strategy and women's programs. Are there any comments you want to make on those areas?

10 a.m.

Council of Yukon First Nations

Grand Chief Andy Carvill

Thank you, Mr. Bagnell.

Yes. With respect to your first question or comment about our core funding for the Council of Yukon First Nations, our core funding is at a very nominal level. It's hard for us to do anything effective. We represent eleven of fourteen first nations governments in the Yukon--through our land claims agreements they are governments. In order for us to effectively carry out the mandate we receive from the chiefs in each one of these communities across the Yukon, our funding has to be brought up to a level where we can effectively meet the needs of the people in the communities.

For a number of years now, there have been promises made at PTOs and tribal councils and whatnot that there would be an increase in funding. We're still waiting. This promise was made three or four years ago, I believe, by the federal government, and we still receive nothing. We have to go hat in hand to the Yukon regional office of INAC every year to ask for a top-up to the funds we currently receive in order to help us carry out our business. It's not only for first nations people; when I sit in that office it's to represent the interests of all Yukoners.

With respect to the cuts in Inuit and first nations health and tobacco strategies, I believe they're very detrimental to a lot of people. When we look at the impact on people, the smoking strategy and the money that was there before helped to educate people about the problems with smoking and whatnot. If we take that away, there'll be more of a burden on the health system: costs will increase, more people will become more sickly. I believe the money shouldn't be cut. If anything, we want to become less and less of a burden on society--if I can use that term--and help our people become healthy. When we continue getting cuts, as first nations organizations and as people across the country, then it goes against some of the very commitments that were made to us.

The cuts to the society of women are also something that of course aren't supported by the Council of Yukon First Nations. When we look at the aboriginal people, the women, they need more funding to help them achieve some of the goals and objectives that have been set out. I've sat in a couple of different meetings with women's societies across the country, and they're struggling to get to their rightful places. If we start to cut back their funds, it's going to make it a lot harder for them to participate and to effectively meet and address their needs.

10:05 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you.

Debbie, in August there was a huge protest rally on day care that one of the Yukon press characterized as the biggest protest in Yukon history. When we were the government, we had originally planned to put $5 million into day care through the Yukon government, and then they could give it to day cares for staff or whatever. Do you think a cash contribution such as that by the federal government would be helpful in your request?

10:05 a.m.

Conference Coordinator, Yukon Child Care Association

Debbie Throssell

I believe that would be helpful. Part of the problem is that when day cares hire staff, they start at $9 an hour. You can go to Wal-Mart and start at $10.35 an hour. So where would you work?

Day cares have not had a raise in wages since, I believe, 1992. So yes, that would definitely be a big help.