The member said he would not be here if he had struck it rich. I suspect there were many people who had those dreams back in the original gold rush, as well as in the late 1970s when other people went up there.
We can just see the boom and bust, though, in an area like that where, as the member from Winnipeg just said, out of 25,000 people 8,000 left when every single mine closed down. It was a terrifying experience because they were there, it was part of their life, they were raising families there and then, all of a sudden, poof, the jobs were gone. We can see it happening now. There is another cycle going on in the softwood lumber debate, and the price of oil, of course, is dropping, which severely affects my province of Alberta.
We see these cycles and if there is any way that we can bring in legislation in this place that would help smooth out those boom and bust times it would probably be a really good thing for us to do and a really good way to spend our time.
Maybe this piece of legislation does not help the boom and bust cycle, but it would certainly help a lot of things and areas and classifications in Yukon so that it would be able to move toward more autonomy. Of course, as has been mentioned here several times, and the member for Yukon who is packing this bill around with him knows, it would not achieve full provincial status at this point. I am not sure if this is baby steps that the government is thinking about or if it thinks it needs to see if Yukon can behave responsibly as a teenager before it gets adult status. It is certainly beyond me.
I think that it would be wise for the government to think about the wisdom of this, about not just going this far with Bill C-39 and certainly giving a devolution of power, but about giving full provincial status. I suppose the question could be, when might that come? I know that this will take place in April 2003, and again that is going to be a tremendous step for Yukon, but one has to wonder what kind of proof in the pudding the government needs to see before Yukon gets full provincial status. I think all of us would look forward to that.
It was interesting that government member, from Oxford, I believe, said that in fact people had been invited or could have submitted requests to appear before the committee. I was on that committee. I understand that the chairman and others thought it would be a good thing to wrap up before Christmas break so that we would not drag it on.
However, let us look at the pattern in this place of how stuff goes through here at lightning speed. In fact, the government has brought in closure over 70 times, or time allocation if we want to be technical, but it really does not matter. What the government is doing is shoving stuff through just as quickly as it possibly can. Witness the anti-terrorism bill. Witness some of these other things. I think that is probably the point the member for Winnipeg was making, and probably the member for Yukon as well. That is his home riding and so he deals with the Kaska first nations if they do have concerns. It seems to be very wise to make sure that people have their voices and their concerns heard and that the consultations are listened to. We could go on forever consulting, but for the sake of wisdom it seems to me that we should say “Let us hear the concerns, let us hear the consultations, let us get together and talk” so that we know these things ahead of time.
I am sorry that I was out of town when the government leader was here last week and did not get a chance to meet her. I would have liked to and I hope I get a chance to sometime. She was not unduly concerned about the consultative process. She thought that there were good things in it. As for the continued power for the aboriginal affairs minister, there were some concerns but not huge ones. I think that shows good trust back and forth. If there is any way to better that, it seems to me that we should err on the side of “Let us consult” rather than saying “Sorry, you had a chance and you did not get a hold of us in time” because we put the thing through at such breakneck speed. I think that is wise in terms of any legislation.
We are dealing with two bills in the House right now at third reading. One is Bill C-37, which went through very quickly as well, about the Alberta and Saskatchewan land claim settlement. Again, in my province of Alberta it is a wise thing. Neil Reddekopp, who is the executive director of aboriginal lands claims for the government of Alberta raised this need for a method of dealing with surface rights once the reserves have been created. That is in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
There is great sanity in that, in making sure that things are going through at a reasonable speed with reasonable consultation so that there are reasonable expectations from people at the ground level. As we saw in Bill C-37, which has just passed the House by agreement, and now again with Bill C-39 a few moments later, we are able to say this is a good thing and let us keep moving it ahead, but let us all not get so pleased with ourselves that we get all caught up with the excitement of passing legislation just so that people can slide home as quickly as possible for Christmas.
We know that in Bill C-39 these new administrative powers would be given over its own affairs to Yukon, not just for digging 5x5x5 holes and staking land claims but for land management, resources and water rights, of course excluding those under federal jurisdiction such as national parks. Again, the devolution of those provincial types of powers is a good thing and we in the coalition support that. We know the lower the level of government the closer it is to the people, so for the federal government to say to give these powers to Yukon so it has province like powers yet is still not considered to have province like status, I think some of us would question that.
Yukon would now have powers through devolution to make laws regarding the exploration, development, conservation and management of its own non-renewable natural resources. This is a far better thing than someone from Ottawa, 5,000, 6,000 or 8,000 miles away, deciding what is best for Yukoners. Again, that lower level of government would serve the people better because it is closer, at the ground level. It would be a very sane thing to do.
The federal government would retain some administration and control of property in Yukon if it is deemed necessary, for defence and security, for creating a national park, for settlement of an aboriginal land claim, et cetera. Again, because we have just looked at Bill C-37, the Alberta and Saskatchewan land claims settlement, we know how important it is to have the level of trust between two levels of government, or among three levels, whether it is the provincial one in Alberta. The four western provinces have their own provincial departments of aboriginal land claims. To be able to see this also in Yukon, where that level of government could deal with the federal government, I do not think anyone would dispute that. I am sure my colleague from Yukon would agree that there still is a place for federal government legislation in these areas I have just mentioned, which Yukon would not want to usurp in terms of national parks or defence and security.
Of course we all have that remembrance from September 11 of a great, big, jumbo jetliner landing in Whitehorse. It was a surprise to the local folks, I am sure, but to everyone else as well. We realize now that no matter where we are on the planet, let alone in Canada, the world is different now after September 11 in defence and security issues. For Yukoners to have seen a jetliner sitting on the tarmac in Whitehorse, I understand and appreciate that Yukoners realize and recognize that there is a role for the federal government to play there.
The auditor general would conduct yearly audits of the Yukon government and report his or her findings to the legislative assembly. Each one of us needs to be accountable, of course, and to have an auditor general is a very smart thing to do. We know that the auditor general is coming out with her recommendations and report tomorrow and we are looking forward to some of those things because everyone needs to be held accountable. With Yukoners and the books and how the auditor general would go in there and report them to the legislative assembly, it is a really good accountability mechanism, not just a triggering mechanism. Everyone finds it important.
Although the Yukon government, and I mentioned earlier that the leader of Yukon was down here last week, seems content with the amount of federal authority that remains in the legislation, we in the coalition have some concerns which we would like brought forward even though we are supporting the legislation. Specifically, the commissioner of Yukon would be appointed by an order of the governor in council. Recently I received an excellent briefing on this from the departmental people in my office. Under the legislation the commissioner of Yukon must follow any written instructions given to the commissioner by the governor in council or the minister. Again, it is a trust factor. If the minister deals fairly with me, and if it looks as though the minister's department or governor in council makes appointments on merit, I do not think any of us have a problem.
Of course once things start turning political or partisan or because someone is my political buddy and will get such and such a position, then it is no longer filled strictly by merit. Again we need to be careful that power is not usurped. We have that caveat in place, that these orders of the governor in council must be wise and based on merit.
Under the bill the governor in council also could direct the commissioner to withhold his or her assent to any bill that has been introduced in the legislative assembly and the governor in council could disallow any bill from the legislative assembly within a year after it is passed. An example would be if I were a member of the Yukon government, this power of devolution was transferred to us in 2003 and we were thinking, yes, we are on the track and are masters of our own destiny, but then within a full year from that, which is a fairly long time, the minister or the governor in council could direct the commissioner to say “No, sorry, we veto that bill”.
When something is up and running and taking shape and within a year officials can say “No, sorry, we have the veto power on that”, that is a tremendous amount of power. I would want to make sure and we in the coalition would be concerned about making sure that power is not usurped. I know the member for Yukon would also have horrible concerns and frustrations if his home government in the Yukon passed a piece of legislation and then someone in Ottawa, with the great wisdom bestowed on him or her, said almost a year later “Sorry, we are vetoing that”. There would be a great hue and cry. It would be as big, as bright and as sparkly, I am sure, as the northern lights themselves. Let us make sure these concerns are taken into account.
Let me wind down by talking about the employment offer. Those who are currently employed by the federal government will now be offered jobs under Yukon. I asked someone somewhere with whom I was consulting whether all the federal government civil servants would be under Yukon. That may bind their hands. If the government is saying it is guaranteeing jobs, what if there is some sort of changing mechanism, not downsizing but restructuring, when they have jobs through the Yukon government? If these jobs are being virtually guaranteed to those who are now in the federal civil service, with the same pay and cost of living allowance, plus the territorial bonus or northern living allowance, what happens if there is restructuring and someone loses a job? I can see that there could be a tremendous outcry and a tremendous difficulty in being faced by that.
My colleague from Winnipeg, who disagrees with me on most things political, and we are probably at opposite ends of the spectrum, was a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and paid by the federal government. So was I. I was a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada when I taught school under Indian Affairs.