Wednesday, January 6, 1988 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors? Are there any Returns of Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the Annual Report of the Fire Marshalls Office of the Department of Community and Transportation Services for 1986 and a Legislative Return regarding activity by the Yukon Housing Corporation in house purchasing in Whitehorse.
Speaker: Are there any further Documents for Tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Federal Tax Reform: Yukon Concerns
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure that Members are aware that the federal government has recently announced its new tax reform proposals, and I am sure Members also know that these new initiatives will have an immediate impact on many Yukoners.
In order to ensure that the Federal Minister of Finance was aware of the position of Yukon, an active role was taken in the consultation process leading up to the development of these new tax proposals, both at an official and a ministerial level.
In addition, in September of 1987, I appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs of the House of Commons and advised them that there was concern that the Yukon might be affected adversely if some of the proposed reforms were instituted. In particular, we were concerned about the possible changes to flow through shares and the proposals for a telecommunications tax and a national sales tax.
The House Committees response to our position on the proposed telecommunications tax was favourable and it recommended that the tax on long distance calls in the Yukon be capped at three dollars per month. We were naturally disappointed that the federal government did not see fit to accept the Committees recommendation in this area and we maintain our opposition to the concept of a blanket ten percent tax. It is this governments belief that this tax will be a special hardship to those living in remote communities where the telephone is a lifeline.
We are pleased that the federal government has addressed our concerns about the effect of a national sales tax on the North and has decided that basic groceries as well as medical/pharmaceutical necessities will not be subject to this tax. Considering the high price of groceries in the Yukon, their inclusion would have placed an inequitable burden on our northern taxpayers.
We are not pleased that the federal government did not accede to our request not to amend the provisions relating to flow through shares. I explained to the Committee our concern that such an initiative would reduce the incentives for investment in our mining sector and it recognized the vulnerability of the Yukon economy in its recommendations that the proposed phasing out of earned depletion be deferred for a further period of six months and that tax incentives and that government subsidies should be used to ensure the survival of exploration activities in Canada during periods of depressed prices or economic downturns.
The federal governments position at this time is that flow through shares should be retained although an adjustment in valuation will be made which would have the effect of making them less attractive to investors. Although we are pleased that flow through shares will be retained, we do not feel that the proposed amendment is beneficial and we will continue to press this point with the federal government.
Although the Government of Yukon supports the principle of tax reform and is pleased to see that some progress has been made, we take the position that much still needs to be done. We are especially concerned by the fact that tax revenues in Canada continue to be raised primarily from low and middle income individuals through the combined devices of personal income tax and sales taxes on commodities. Until such time as a truly progressive, equitable taxation system is implemented in Canada, one which ensures that corporations and high income individuals contribute their fair share to government revenues, the policy of this government is that tax reform is merely work in progress and that a lot more will have to be done before it is anywhere near complete.
Mr. Nordling: I am pleased that the Government Leader has brought this statement of government policy to the attention of this House and to the public of the Yukon. We, on this side, have long been on the record with our concerns on the three areas, the tax on long distance calls, the national sales tax, if it applied to basic groceries, and amendments to the flow through share provisions.
We were very concerned about the ten percent tax on long distance calls as it will impose a more severe impact on Yukoners than on other Canadians, and my colleague, the Member for Porter Creek East, as communications critic, has written to the federal government, the Minister of Finance, with a copy to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, expressing this concern, and we will continue to press our concern.
We would like to join with the Government Leader in congratulating the federal government for its decision not to apply a federal sales tax to basic groceries or medical and pharmaceutical necessities. In that respect I think most of the concern and fear in Yukon was created by the NDP in the federal by-election campaign. If, as it appears in this ministerial statement, the Government Leader is claiming credit for the fact that the tax will not apply to groceries then he is just knocking down the straw man that he helped to build.
With respect to flow through shares, it was this side that introduced the motion in this House on January 8, 1987, suggesting that this government should urge the federal government to retain the existing flow through share tax incentive program that is of great benefit to the Yukon mining industry.
In conclusion, we would like to congratulate the federal government for undertaking a tax reform program that will result in middle income Canadians having more money in their pockets.
Mr. McLachlan: I am particularly pleased to see that the flow through share issue has been retained by the federal government, although not at a 133 percent of deduction or at 100 percent. It is, no doubt, responsible for a lot of increased mineral activity near my riding and in Mr. Speakers riding, and is no doubt contributing to the Yukons economic recovery.
With respect to the tax on groceries and foodstuffs, nothing can be more disdainable than taxing a basic necessity like food. I am pleased to see that it will not be implemented. As for the telecommunications tax, although somewhat questionable, I am still glad to see it reduced from ten percent to a maximum cap of $3.00. I still question the applicability of it at all in that area.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to thank the Members opposite for their largely constructive interventions on this important matter. I would point out that the question of the telecommunications tax is more important in the north than it is anywhere else in the country, and I think that is recognized on all sides. I would want to say to the Member for Porter Creek West that this party and this government neither created the fears about the tax on food, nor settled them. The responsibility for both ends of that discussion lie in Ottawa.
The flow through shares provision is a very important one. Notwithstanding our efforts in this House, it has been the single most important factor in terms of the exploration that has gone on in Yukon this past season, particularly. I am told by most of the principals of the mining companies now operating here that it will have a very serious impact on their plans in coming years.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Northwestel sale
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions with regard to the privatization of Northwestel. Yesterday in Question Period I raised this issue and it was apparent that this government had had discussions with a group of northerners who came forward with a press release yesterday and who the Leader refers to as the Hougen group. Yesterday, the Inuvialuit Development Corporation were down here by invitation of this government to discuss the privatization of Northwestel with this government and its Development Corporation. This government and its Development Corporation have had discussions with the government of the Northwest Territories with to regard to privatization.
What I would like to ask the Government Leader is whether this government - either itself, or through Yukon Development Corporation - is, in effect, double dealing with the Hougen group by preparing a rival bid in conjunction with other groups such as the Inuvialuit Development Corporation and the Government of the NWT to compete with the bid being prepared by the Hougen group. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. We demonstrated our interest in this matter because we wanted to protect the public interest of the people of the Yukon Territory in respect to telephone service, some months ago. I, personally, had discussions with some of the potential interests quite soon after we first heard the announcement of the privatization plan. I believe it may not be true that the meeting yesterday was at our invitation. I believe that the discussions may have been at the other partys invitation. That does not matter terribly much. We initiated, I think, the discussion with Mr. Hougen, mindful, of course, and cautious about the fact that I believe Mr. Hougen is still on the board of Northwestel and we think we have to be somewhat prudent about his position and somewhat cautious about his position in that respect.
Our interest, as I told the House yesterday, is in trying in to seriously discuss the possibility of a genuinely northern group, a group that would provide for control of this important public utility by the people in the areas it serves. That is a possibility which we were exploring in my one meeting with Mr. Hougen, and in the one meeting that I have had with the Inuvialuit Development Corporation, and I would hope that when Mr. Hougen gets back from Hawaii that I will be able to have further discussions with him on the subject.
Mr. Phelps: I find it difficult to understand - and I would like an explanation - why this government is holding secret meetings that exclude the other group, which the public is now aware of, if it is not for the purpose of examining the possibility of merging with a rival bid for Northwestel.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: They are not secret meetings because following the meeting yesterday, the first thing that I insisted be done was that an official of Mr. Hougens group be briefed on the meeting that we had - on the existence of the meeting and the nature of the conversations. I gather from the questions here that he chose to brief others as well. That is fine since it is his business.
Rather than behaving in any way that does dishonour to us, we have been quite clear about our purposes - and we have immediately upon the meeting with Inuvialuit Development Corporation communicated to Mr. Hougens group that we had a meeting. Furthermore, after the meeting with Mr. Hougen, which IDC might have been concerned about, we communicated that to them.
Mr. Phelps: Has the Government of Yukon or its officials or the Yukon Development Corporation had meetings with the Yukon Indian Development Corporation regarding the privatization of Northwestel?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We will be having meetings shortly with aboriginal interests in the Yukon Territory. To anticipate a further question, I have already have had two preliminary discussions with a representative of the employees. We have had discussions with the Government of the Northwest Territories at a number of levels. We are also very keen to continue discussions with representatives of the Yukon private sector, including Mr. Hougen.
Question re: Northwestel sale
Mr. Phelps: This is an area of great concern to us on this side for a number of reasons. First of all, the broad based private group that came forward yesterday has taken some pains to have objectives that meet the concerns as stated by the Government Leader. Secondly, we do not see what role the government has to take in terms of owning Northwestel.
We know that in December, 1987, Northwestel had 508 employees - 62 in BC, 307 in Yukon and 139 in the Northwest Territories? Yet, the Northwest Territories provide 50 percent of the revenue. If the two governments are major shareholders in conjunction with groups both here and in the Northwest Territories, how can we ensure that the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Northwest Territories group will not insist upon, at a political and a corporate level, that the head office will be in the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to respond both to the preamble and to the question. The Member talks about the broad based private group, which includes a telephone company owned by a southern provincial government. That does not seem to me to be a broad based northern private group, that is a group where potentially the controlling interest is held in southern telephone companies, one of them owned by a government.
Now it seems to be completely absurd and contradictory for the Member to suggest somehow that it is quite appropriate for a government of a province that does not even have any interest in this telephone company to be an owner, but it is highly inappropriate for a government in the north, which has a vital public interest, to play any role. That seems to be a patently absurd position.
Now that I have responded to the preamble, let me respond to his question about the jobs. I frankly think the possibility of protecting northern jobs is going to be enhanced considerably more by the involvement of two northern governments than it is by the involvement of two southern telephone companies.
Mr. Phelps: Once again we have the obvious situation here where the Government Leader and the side opposite are going to go out and dedicate themselves to socializing whatever private enterprise they can. The problem is this: now we have a good position where a primarily private and northern group has stated that they intend to defend. If the Government of the Northwest Territories is a major player along with this government...
Speaker: Order please, I would like to remind the Member of our guidelines. There is a one sentence preamble allowed in each case of supplementary questions.
Mr. Phelps: Of course, Mr. Speaker.
How can we fight the insistence of the Government of the Northwest Territories, as a major shareholder and player, that a larger percentage of the employees - which now are almost all here - be moved to the Northwest Territories.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It seems to me that there is much greater likelihood of us being able to make an agreement with another northern government to protect a head office and northern and Yukon jobs, than there would be by some southern corporations that are beholden not at all to northerners, have no accountability, no responsibility whatever to northern residents.
Let me respond in another way. The Member talks about socializing a private corporation. Northwestel is a Crown corporation; it is a publicly owned corporation. It is being sold. This is a party that believes the public have an interest in protecting services, and jobs, and investments, and development when it comes to public utilities. This is not a party that is opposed to public ownership of public utilities. Nor, for that matter, are most Conservative parties in most provincial governments. This one may be an exception.
The model we are proposing - I am sorry the Member is embarrassed by the position he put himself in but I have to finish my answer - is one that involves a minority position for the Yukon and Northwest Territories governments as a concept, and it also involves involving all other northern major interests that can appropriately be involved including the private sector, so that we can guarantee not only that we have good telephone service but we can protect the jobs, we can protect the head office, and we can provide this community, and the community to the east of us, with the jobs, the development, and the economic prospects that are expected from involvement in this kind of business.
Speaker: Would the Member please conclude his answer?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We can have no such guarantees from southern telephone companies.
Mr. Phelps: He is all over the map and did not answer the question. How can this government, with the Government of the Northwest Territories as a major owner, insist that the job ratio remain the same?
This group has undertaken to meet all the concerns expressed by the Government Leader just now in his tirade. This group has also undertaken to ensure that the company can be owned by northerners. All northerners can have a stake in it.
I am interested in whether the side opposite has any concern about ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question?
Mr. Phelps: ... whether the side opposite has any concern about being a major player in this corporation and, at the same time without a conflict of interest, fighting to ensure that the rates remain at a reasonable level. They have done that in the past. We have done that in the past. As a government, are they going to have a conflict of interest?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is quite wonderful in terms of its ironies. We have the Leader of the Official Opposition, a good Yukoner, defending the proposition that the control of our telephone company should go to a British Columbia company, an Alberta company and, what is worse, an Alberta company that is owned by the Government of Alberta, versus our proposal, which is the control should reside in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, a company for northerners, owned by northerners.
The Member opposite talks about rates. The contradiction is so obvious. What ability, if any, would we have to protect the consumers of the Yukon Territory when control of the company was held by non-resident southern telephone companies? Look what happened when Alberta owned Pacific Western Airlines. Look what happened to service in the north.
If we are involved, obviously one of our roles would be to protect the interests of Yukon consumers, and I believe that is part of the public interest as we define it, and I believe we can more appropriately do that than perhaps any other body I can think of in the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Northwestel sale
Mr. Phelps: Would the Government Leader please answer a simple question? A group of northerners came forward with their proposed shareholders. One of them is BC Tel, but a significant part of the operation is in northern BC, and that was the reason for that. The group has said it feels that Northwestel headquarters should remain in Whitehorse and control of the corporation should rest with northerners. Those are two of the main principles. Another one is that the company should be as widely held in the north as possible.
Is the Government Leader telling us and the people of the Yukon that he does not believe this group when it says that control of the corporation should rest with northerners and that is the principle upon which they are acting? Is he saying that is a lie? I would like to know.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. I am depending, of course, on that very reliable source of information, The Whitehorse Star, which was told, apparently yesterday, by Mr. Hougens representative, that 40 percent of the company - which would be a controlling interest, I expect, in a company of this size - would be held by two separate telephone companies. There may be an appropriate role for BC Tel. We have no problem with that. British Columbia is part of the service area of this company; we would be quite happy to be involved and work with them, and with Mr. Hougen. I have said that. We have reiterated that. How can the Leader of the Opposition justify any involvement by the Government of Alberta and oppose involvement by the Government of the Yukon is blatantly an absurd position. Absurd.
Question re: Watson Lake school committee elections
Mr. McLachlan: I have a question for the Minister of Justice in respect of a complaint that has been filed with the Human Rights Commission in regards to the school committee elections in Watson Lake. I want to ask the Minister, under the existing Human Rights Legislation, since when did losing an election become a basis for a complaint under the prohibitive grounds of discrimination?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The question is absurd. It is not.
Mr. McLachlan: If it is absurd, why then, since the provision for dismissing complaints under frivolous and vexatious complaints was included in the legislation, would it not be dismissed immediately on that basis instead of undergoing an investigation, a trip to Watson Lake, et cetera, et cetera.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: That is a decision for the Commission to make. It is my understanding of the facts of the matter that the complaint is not about winning or losing an election. It is about the manner in which the election was held, which is of course a different thing. In any event, it is not an investigation that is controlled by the government. In fact, it is an investigation of the government and the people to ask are the Commission itself.
Mr. McLachlan: On the same issue, I wish to ask the Minister of Education if his department is actively considering guaranteed representation on school committees based upon race, gender or something other than the current formula allows.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The policy of the government on school committee representation is as it stands in the Act. Any changes to the Act that are proposed will be made available through the white paper process, which will be released in the spring. The situation that has occurred in Watson Lake has not provided the impetus to change the school committee composition at this time.
Question re: Lottery licensing act
Mr. Nordling: Yesterday the Minister of Justice attempted to explain the scheme and the regulations for setting fees and said, The gamblers themselves should bear the legitimate costs, and that is the scheme that is in place now. That is not the scheme that is in place now. Does the Minister agree that, as it stands right now, the charitable organizations will bear the costs?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No. I do not agree with that. The philosophy or the policy in the regulations that were tabled here with the Bill is that the administrative costs of lotteries, bingos, casinos, et cetera would be borne by the people who are gambling. There would be a proportional fee based on the size of the lottery. Most of the lotteries are very small, and the fee should be very small. We have maintained that.
Mr. Nordling: Could the Minister tell me if when a raffle is held by a charitable organization, who does the Minister identify to be the gamblers?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The people who buy the tickets.
Mr. Nordling: The people who buy the tickets are not paying the fees. Does the Minister feel that people who support these organizations by buying tickets should be punished through this tax that he is imposing on the organization.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: It is my position that nobody should be punished at all. There is not and should not be a tax on this kind of activity that is carried out primarily by voluntary associations. The legitimate administrative costs should be paid for by the process, and the gamblers or the ticket purchasers ought to bear the costs.
Question re: Lottery licensing act
Mr. Brewster: Does the Minister of Justice not realize that the old arena in Haines Junction, the swimming pool, the curling club and the television dishes to provide extra television channels were all put into place by volunteer organizations. The Shakwak Valley Community Club raised money through raffles. Under these current regulations, with a ten percent surtax on such donations, it is highly unlikely that these facilities would ever have been built .
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I realize the history of the involvement of lotteries in Yukon very well and I am also aware of the situation in other jurisdictions, and it is important that we keep our system clean here and administer it properly and effectively, for the benefit of the charitable groups involved.
Mr. Brewster: As usual, I never got a answer. I never do, I do not know why I bother wasting my time. To get these facilities in Haines Junction, three private hunts and other big prizes put up. I also resent the fact that we might be a little bit sleazy on this, because we are not.
My question to the Minister is: I would like to know why the Minister is trying to punish these volunteer groups and is attempting to destroy small communities and their spirit.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The government, of course, is attempting to do no such thing. The government supports the spirit of volunteerism and the raising money by charitable groups and intends to regulate it to their benefit.
Mr. Brewster: I guess I would support it too if I could put ten percent away, like the government is doing.
Would the Minister now reconsider his position, in view of these facts, and rescind the new regulations?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The Sport Yukon body has specifically communicated with me and have asked specific questions about the interpretation of the regulations and have made information available that leads me to conduct a review of the whole situation and that is ongoing, in fact.
Question re: Lottery licensing act
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice regarding the lottery licensing act.
The representations made by the sports group and the question of interpretative questions with the regulations came from the Minister, I believe, not from the sports group. It was the Minister interpreting his own regulations.
This controversy over the lottery licensing act continues to grow and the future of many volunteer organizations - such as church groups and childrens athletics organizations, and seniors groups - is very questionable, and we heard that on the news this morning. The reason that it is questionable is because of this governments unbearable regulation, their eagerness to impose laws on Yukoners, and taxes on Yukoners.
I would like to say to the Minister that if he is going to put it under review and if he supports community spirit and charitable organizations, why does he not prove it today and stand up and give all of these groups a commitment today - which is what they want, they want this - to repeal immediately the payment of the ten percent of the retail value of the prizes. Will he stand up and do that and prove that his intentions are good?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The assertion about the interpretations that was made in the preamble of the question is totally wrong, and is irresponsible and completely unfounded. The question of the effect on practical situations - the effect is basically on five or six major lotteries in the Yukon. This is lotteries with substantial prizes. That question is being reviewed and that review is ongoing and I have assured Sports Yukon of that - yesterday, in fact. It is premature to announce any changes because the practical effect of all of these fees is still being considered.
Mrs. Firth: There is no commitment there. None whatsoever. The practical effect is obvious, and I cited yesterday the increase of the fees. I am going to ask the Minister again - these groups are asking to have the ten percent revenue that has been imposed on them - the tax on volunteers - removed. Is the Minister prepared to stand up and say yes they will remove that. That is what they are asking for.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: That is repeating a question. I repeat the same answer.
Question re: Lottery licensing act
Mr. Lang: I want to pursue a little further the question of lotteries. I get the idea from the Ministers answer that he is trying to implicate the whole Legislature in that they approved the regulations. I want to say for the record that we did not; the Cabinet has that responsibility. Over and above that, we spoke against it. We spoke against a number of things.
There was one question that I put on April Fools Day in 1987 to the Minister of Justice. It read as follows, All I have asked is for the Minister to give us an assurance that it is not the intention of the government to levy a percentage tax on lotteries in view of this bill coming forward. That is all that we are asking. I would like a yes or a no, I do not want a big convoluted answer.
Mr. Kimmerlys response at that time, on April Fools Day in 1987, was as follows, Yes, that is not our intention. Can the Minister tell this House why he went ahead and imposed that particular percentage tax?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: There is no percentage tax. There is no tax at all. The wording of the regulations was tabled at that time and was available for all Members to see at that time. In the light of that information that was under discussion, I expressed a view that it is not the intention of the government to tax lotteries. That is not our intention. We are not doing that. The administrative costs of lotteries should be borne by the system. That principle was not objected to at all at the time. That is a legitimate principle even the charitable organizations are accepting. It is the way in which it is applied that is under review.
Mr. Lang: For the record, on April Fools Day, 1987, this side said in respect to lotteries regulations, and it was said by my good colleague, the Member for Riverdale North. He said: ....I have been involved in a great many volunteer organizations in the territory a great many times, you are talking about a percentage of the profit for the licence, the idea you were discussing earlier. What I am concerned about is some organizations who were terribly strapped for money may make a decision to hold one larger lottery instead of half-a-dozen smaller ones in one year. I think it would be a shame to penalize these people with the much larger fee if they make a larger profit....
That was the position that was put forward from this side. Why does the Minister not come clean and tell the people of the territory and those organization directly affected, why he went ahead and put that percentage tax levy in place, in view of the position that was put forward by this side of the House?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The lottery regulations as proposed were known to all Members at the time. The Member opposite is talking about a percentage of profit that is not in place. There is not a fee on the percentage of profit. There is a fee based on the size of the prize, which is not the same at all as profit. The profit is determined by the price of tickets and the number of tickets sold. The scheme of a rising fee was well known at the time.
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: It is the application of that which should be put into place to not work particular hardships. We are trying to do that.
Mr. Lang: It concerns me very much that the Minister stands in this House and tries to insinuate that Members of this House were responsible for the regulations. That really concerns me and I want to put a point on the record here. Back on April Fools Day, 1987, I asked the following question: Is it safe to say that we are actually talking about, approximately, being conservative, $4,000 that you are going to need for the actual per diem for the board? Is that not correct? And Mr. Kimmerly said yes. I put the view across at that time that perhaps the front bench could maybe stay in town and not take a couple of trips outside, using Canadian Airlines, and put that money towards the costs of the board.
Speaker: Order, please. One sentence preamble.
Mr. Lang: I put that view across, and the Minister at that time said, I now have the Members view and I thank him for that. Why did the Minister not see if he could get the money elsewhere as opposed to bringing this surtax in? It can be nothing but a tax to basically kill volunteer organizations.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: There were two questions. One was essentially a statement that I am trying to insinuate that the regulations were brought in by the Legislature. I am not at all. I am simply making the statement that they were tabled and known at the time. In light of that, I answered specific questions and I was asked about the approximate $4,000 fee on the per diems for the board members, and I answered accurately - yes, that was accurate then and remains accurate on the per diems for the board members.
Question re: Office accommodation
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services regarding the great 1987-88 space shuffle. Last night, during Committee of the Whole, I laid out at least ten major moves from one building to another of various government departments. Can the Minister confirm today that the total cost of this great government shuffle of 1987-88 will exceed $200,000 in relocation expenses alone?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Not specifically. I do not have at my fingertips a specific figure of cost. In fact, yesterday I made a commitment to table the specific numbers for each move which has not already been tabled, and I again make the same commitment.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder then when the Minister is finding that information if he can tell us whether the renovations to be carried out with respect to this office shuffle have been done, or will be done, in house, or by contract?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Yes.
Mr. Phillips: More and more people are coming to me and asking where various office departments are. The offices are moving so fast these days that no one can keep track. Can the Government Leader tell this House if all these moves to various government buildings in Whitehorse are to honour their campaign promises to decentralize government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I am sorry that our effort to house the public service and serve the public well and provide accessible accommodations for government employees is confusing the Member. It is not necessary nor sufficient for decentralization. We hope to be taking other initiatives to achieve that worthy end. I appreciate the Members support in the initiative.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation
Mr. Lang: When the announcement was made that the government was going to proceed with a $70 million housing program in the Yukon the Minister of Housing on December 10, 1986 stated the following, and I quote from the Whitehorse Star: The new Yukon Housing Corporation will be lean and small and aggressive in its bid to more than quadruple subsidized housing stocks in the territory over the next five years. Is that still the policy of the Minister and the government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Given the task that the Government of the Yukon has provided to the Yukon Housing Corporation in order to meet the needs of the low income people in the territory, the policy of the government is to keep the Housing Corporation administration as lean and as effective as possible.
Mr. Lang: I cannot argue with the principle. I do have a problem with that being a policy of the government in view of the information that was provided to this House last night, in that it is the intention of the Yukon Housing Corporation to go from 2,100 square feet in 1986 to, I believe, well over 5,000 square feet. If the Corporation is to stay lean, mean and aggressive could the Minister explain to us why it is now necessary to more than double the space requirements for this lean, mean and tough Corporation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The answer is relatively obvious. When the government assumed responsibility for the Corporation it was not only lean but it was starving. The Corporation required office space in order to house its operations and do an effective job.
Mr. Lang: My information is that in 1986 the Housing Corporation had 18 person years. My understanding is that today the estimates are for 18 person years for the same lean, mean and aggressive Corporation. Could the Minister explain to this House why it is necessary, in view of the fact that the person years are the same as they were two years ago, to double the size of the administration from approximately 2,100 square feet to well over 5,000 or almost 6,000 square feet of office space requirements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: When the government assumed responsibility for the Housing Corporation, many of the person years in the Corporation were not filled and, subsequently, space was not required for them. At the same time, the conditions in which they were housed were rather cramped. They were housed quite illegally, sandwiched in amongst the various persons in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. So, the task was large for the government. The answer was relatively simple. The government chose to do the legal and civilized thing and separate the Corporation from the Department of Community and Transportation Services and give the employees in the Yukon Housing Corporation adequate space to do a good job.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with orders of the day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Mr. Lang: I move that, as a result of the discussion of the House Leaders, that the motions be called in the following order: Motion No. 26, Motion No. 28, Motion No. 23, Motion No. 27, Motion No. 24, Motion No. 5, Motion No. 6, Motion No. 21, Motion No. 15, and I ask for unanimous consent.
Some Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
Motion No. 26
Clerk: Item No. 9, standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with item No. 9?
Mr. Phelps: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that sections 3 and 4 of The Garage Solid Fuel Fired Appliances Regulations, O.I.C. 1987/39, made pursuant to the Building Standards Act, impose an excessive financial burden on Yukoners who wish to install a solid fuel fired appliance in a garage; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to develop less rigorous and more reasonable regulations to govern the installation of solid fuel fired appliances in garages that will meet acceptable and appropriate safety standards.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to rise at this time in support of this motion, one which reflects the anger and frustration of a growing number Yukoners in regard to the red tape and unnecessary kinds of regulations that are emanating from this government and this Cabinet.
Of course, I am referring to the regulations cited in the motion and passed on the ninth day of February, last year. This is an Order-In-Council, a set of regulations that imposes ridiculous standards upon Yukoners who have garages and garages that are heated by solid fuels, primarily, of course, and almost exclusively, wood. It is a set of regulations that will have the effect of raising the insurance rates on numerous taxpayers, citizens of the Yukon, who own garages or businesses that have garages that have been relying for some time on wood heat. We have a whole number of reasons - and in this we are reflecting the views of a huge number of Yukoners - for opposing these regulations and insisting that the government develop less rigorous and more reasonable regulations in the of these.
I guess the first self-evident point, to anyone who has any knowledge at all about wood heat and construction, is that these regulations are prohibitively expensive for a person to comply with.
Look at the kind of burdens that these regulations impose upon Yukon citizens that have garages. Section 3 in the Act states that no one can install a solid fuel fired appliance - normally a wood stove or heater in a garage - unless it is installed in a service room. Then it goes on, 3(2): A service room shall have a non-combustible floor and shall be separated from all other areas of the garage by a fire separation, having a fire resistance rating of no less than two hours. Then 3(3): A service room in which a solid fuel fire appliance is to be installed shall consist of the floor, walls, and a floor to ceiling system designed to prevent contaminated air from the garage from entering into the service room. Then it goes on to say that there should be no openings in the floor, walls or ceiling between the service room and the garage, except for heating pipes, ducts, and chimneys. Then it goes on to say that all openings for ducts shall be located not less than eight feet above the floor of the service room. Then it goes on to say that all hot air and return air ducts shall terminate at least eight feet above the garage floor.
A door to the service room has to be from the outside of the building and not from within the garage space. That is in these regulations, too. There is a prohibitive capital cost that is being put upon Yukoners in order to comply with these regulations. The actual creation of this fireproof separate room with duct work eight feet above the floor is terribly expensive and is beyond the means of many Yukoners that I have spoken to over the last number of weeks.
The second point that I would like to make is that these regulations make the use of wood heat cost prohibitive. Not only is it so expensive to create this separate room in accordance with the regulations that I have already read, but it makes the wood heater virtually inefficient. A person would be foolish to try to comply with these rules and use wood heat when there are other methods of heat available in the Yukon. Many Yukoners have looked at this and have just shook their heads and said that they would not bother with wood heat in a garage with these kinds of regulations.
The third point is one that leaps to the minds of virtually every person who has had a chance to look at these regulations, and many, many Yukoners have. It is a silly regulation because for some reason this government wants to discriminate against wood heaters. If a person has oil heat in their garage, as many people do, there is a flame, and most oil burners - as in my place, and many like it - draw the air in from the room that is being heated. There is a flame there. Why is there this discrimination against wood heat, particularly when one considers the pledges made by this government to stop leakage to the south? This government has gone to considerable expense to encourage people to use the renewable resource for heating, namely wood. Why do they then discriminate against wood in favour of an oil heater when an oil heater has the same potential for an explosion in a garage as a wood heater?
I am not making this up, and it is not something that was lost on the people who read the regulations. These are arguments that have been put forth by engineers, by business people and by long time Yukoners who have lived with wood heat for years and years and years.
The fourth point raised by many is that there is no history of wood stove fires despite the fact that there are all kinds of garages that are heated by wood stoves throughout the Yukon.
Why suddenly come forward with these Big Brother regulations? The outrage of virtually everyone approached who looks at the regulations was well expressed by a letter to the Minister dated November 17 from a Mr. R.B. Cameron, a long time Yukoner. I will briefly quote from that letter.
Most of us know the dangers of allowing combustible fumes, liquids or solids to come in contact of an open flame, just as we are aware of countless other hazards: sticking your hand against the blade of a power saw, jamming your finger in a light socket, or running a combustion engine in a closed room. So, what is the purpose of a new regulation? To prevent stupid people from blowing themselves up? If you are attempting to protect people from their own stupidity, then should you not also legislate that no garages should be enclosed, lest people asphyxiate themselves, and no private work shop should have power tools, lest somebody cuts his hand off? What about gas barbecues? They, too, have their dangers if mishandled. Should they not be outlawed?
My point is that you should not attempt to insulate people from their own stupidity or lack of common sense with regulation such as this. We are already practically regulated to death, with three levels of government constantly imposing more and more restrictions on our daily lives. Any sensible person can operate a wood stove perfectly safely in a garage or workshop, exercising the same kind of common sense precautions needed when working with any potentially hazardous machine or situation. The tone of this letter reflects the feelings of many Yukoners, once they have become aware of these regulations.
As the Minister for Community and Transportation Services is well aware, I attended a meeting at the Golden Horn Subdivision on a separate issue. The meeting was called to deal with zoning problems and regulations proposed in the Golden Horn Subdivision area. That was held on the evening of December 7. Twenty-two people at that meeting signed a hastily drawn up petition that one of the people there drew up opposing these regulations. It was something that was brought up by one of the residents out there. So, on December 8, I sent a letter to the Minister, enclosing the petition signed by 22 people. Virtually no one there looked at all favourably upon these regulations.
Since then, petitions have been circulating around the Yukon and the people who are asking people to sign this petition have been saying that virtually no one, or very few people - less than one percent - asked to sign the petition have refused to sign it. I have received a large number of petitions and am told that there are a lot more out and a lot more to come, but because this is the last opportunity for us to bring our motions forward, I will present the petitions that I have received. As, and if, I receive petitions from outlying areas, I will forward them to the Minister as I receive them.
I have here now with me a petition holding an additional 68 names from people who live in the Hootalinqua area. The petition is to Piers McDonald and it reads: Re: Order-in-Council 1987/391 - Building Standards Act Petition. The undersigned hereby petition to have this Order-in-Council dealing with garage wood stoves repealed. So that is one set of petitions that I have received. Along with the other 68 from Hootalinqua, this brings the total to 90 from my riding that I have received and forwarded so far. I would ask that these be tabled.
Today, I also received some more petitions from Dawson. In this case the total that I now want to table are 95 signatures from residents in the Klondike riding.
I think it is very clear that people in the Yukon are fed up with rules, regulations and red tape. We know that this set of regulations has already had an impact on insurance rates for a number of people who have been paying rates at one level and are now facing an increase because of these regulations. That is only one of the problems that I have already stated. It is certainly a set of regulations that has put wood heat in workshops and garages beyond the means of many Yukoners, and made wood heat an impractical heating alternative for Yukoners who are now building shops or are planning to build shops in the future. I would state that the motion, as worded, is reasonable. It is intended to be reasonable; it is intended to reflect the views of all these people. I would urge each and every Member to support the motion, and I would urge the government, in a gesture of goodwill, to do something to ameliorate the situation.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to speak to this item brought forward today with respect to the insulation of woodstoves in garages, and I will respond primarily to the character of the wording of the motion rather than the innuendo in the speech, because I found that rather unfortunate. I will say, too, that as Minister I have been giving this matter some considerable thought for a couple of months now as to what could be done to make the safety rules that we have put in place more accommodating to the people who wish to have woodstoves in private garages.
As I said, I have already given it considerable thought, and I have actually decided to make a move on this matter, though I must say - and I will make it clear - not for the reasons that the Member for Hootalinqua has brought forward. I found many of those reasons disturbing, and I will just explain why.
One of the reasons the Member raised for softening or eliminating the regulation is to ensure that insurance rates do not increase. As I will explain in a few moments, insurance companies are shy about insuring something that is considered across this country to be unsafe. So, rather than a matter of worrying about whether or not insurance rates are going increase, in fact we were concerned that people would not be getting any insurance at all if we were simply to permit unsafe conditions to continue. The Member made the allegation as well that the government had intentionally decided to make the use of wood heat cost prohibitive and that the government intentionally wanted to discriminate against wood heaters and, to prove his point, there was no discrimination against oil heaters. That is, in fact, not the case. The government is not discriminating against people who heat with wood. It is the case that the current National Building Code does refer to oil fired furnaces and explicitly prohibits the use of oil fired furnaces. They are silent, unfortunately, in some respects, on the use of wood heaters because it has never been an issue for the nation as a whole which would allow it to come to the attention of the designers of the National Building Code.
The National Building Code does make explicit reference to oil fired furnaces because of the concern about the open flame. The Member makes the spurious point that the fact that has never been, in recent history, a wood stove fire, is in itself sufficient justification for not trying to ensure that safe conditions will exist, when the expert opinion is reasonably sure that unsafe conditions and an unsafe environment exist. So, basically, the premise, the bottom line of that position is that, presumably, a fire must happen first, accidents should happen first, and perhaps a death should take place first before the Legislature should take notice of this particular situation. I do not think that is right and I do not think that that is responsible, and that is not the way this Legislature has acted in the past with respect to making reasonable rules and regulations about what is safe and not safe for building construction standards. That is not the rule in this Legislature; that has not been past practice.
The Member also made a point inappropriately. I would like the Member to think the point he made through a little bit. The Member read from a letter from a person who suggested that it was wrong to save people from - as he puts it - their own stupidity. He does not use the word ignorance; he uses the word stupidity. This gentleman obviously presumes that all people are not only aware of safe and unsafe conditions, in great detail, but, through their own conscious actions are going to ignore safe practices.
I believe the point of the matter is that safety standards - Canadian Standards Association standards - are put in place to save people from their own ignorance, and many of us are ignorant about many things. The Member referred to gas barbecues, and I recall looking at my own gas barbecue and looking down at the tank and seeing a sticker on it: CSA approved. This is a gas barbecue whose construction has been regulated by the Canadian Standards Association, to save people like me who do not know the first thing about gas barbecue construction from our own ignorance, not our stupidity, but our own ignorance. The same is true in terms of many appliances that are common in peoples kitchens, the television set, the video recorder, wood stoves, wood stove construction.
The Canadian Standards Association does provide standards for people who construct these units to save the public from their ignorance. That is what, very often, the Legislature does when it passes rules on building standards, adopts building codes and makes reference to the Canadian Standards Association. We do this for a purpose. We do this to protect the consumer. Not every consumer has the experience of a fire marshall or a construction contractor combined. They do not all have that. For that reason, there are codes and guidelines. The point of the matter is to make them reasonable, and that is what I am going to respond to here. I am not going to respond to the rhetoric that the Member referred to in his words saving people from their own stupidity.
I am trying to save the Member from his own stupidity. I have an innuendo about the concern on rules and regulations in Golden Horn. I would like to remind the Members who created those regulations that have to be improved.
The sole purpose of the regulations as conceived by the government was to save peoples lives, to ensure that unsafe conditions did not exist, and in essence to allow for the safe installation of wood stoves in what were considered to be dangerous environments.
One aspect of the regulations that the Member did not read out was the definition of garage. I realize that many people who have complained to me indicated that they signed a petition. They have said that the regulations are to prevent them from putting wood stoves in carpentry shops, upholstery shops or all shops. They use the word garage in the common sense of garage as a big area where people do almost anything.
The Member for Riverdale South says, That is what it says with respect to garages. That is not what it says with respect to garages. I will read the definition into the record to save the Member for Riverdale South from her ignorance as well. Garage means a building used to park, store or repair motor vehicles and includes single family dwelling, residential garages and aircraft hangars.
The point of the matter is that you have to be storing vehicles in the garage for it to be a garage for the purposes of these regulations. I will explain it for a moment.
The reason the government originally chose to provide for the safe installation of wood stoves was to allow wood stoves to be installed in an environment that was, by all accounts, unsafe.
The National Building Code is silent on wood stoves. The Canadian Standards Association is not silent on wood stoves. The Canadian Standards Association is rather explicit in preventing the use of wood stoves as space heaters.
The reason for the concern about wood stoves, and the reason why people are concerned that wood stoves might be more unsafe than oil fired furnaces, is that wood stoves have a couple of characteristics that are unique to wood stoves. First of all, it is an open flame that cannot be turned off like an oil fired furnace can be turned off. Secondly, they have the uncommon characteristic that, when the door is opened for stoking, the air hanging low to the ground where gaseous materials congregate is sucked into the open fire. The Member for Riverdale South finds this hysterical. The air is sucked into the open fire and there is an explosion. That is hysterically funny. We should all find this the most enjoyable experience.
Mrs. Firth: Point of Order.
Speaker: Point of Order to the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South.
Mrs. Firth: It is the Minister whom I find hysterically funny. It is not the comment the Minister made.
Speaker: Order, please. I find there is no Point of Order. Does the Minister wish to continue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Riverdale South has been so incredibly rude in this Legislature, it is hard to countenance.
The reasons for showing concern in the first place about wood stoves was that they were considered to be very dangerous when combined in a place determined to be a dangerous environment, where combustible fluids are sharing the same air space. That is the general purpose of the regulation.
After having given this considerable thought over the last couple of months and listening to various people, the government and I have given thought to a variety of options to make the situation better for persons who wish to use wood stoves in their own garages, irrespective of whether or not there are motor vehicles stored for private purposes.
I thought of a number of things; the options were presented. There is the option of simply rescinding the regulation, completely. That is, in all good conscience, a situation that could leave unsafe conditions present, and is also a situation that would not prevent the fire marshall, under the Fire Prevention Act, from doing his duty when it came to determining whether or not there was, in all good conscience through expert opinion, a fire hazard in place.
There was the option of perhaps permitting the installation of the stove in the normal course of events but ignoring the environment completely. I believe that would have, essentially, the same consequences - permitting the installation of a woodstove under the Building Standards Act - as the first option.
There is the possibility of changing the Fire Prevention Act to force the fire marshall to ignore woodstoves, because there is a provision within which the fire marshall does have the discretion to order remedial action when he determines a situation to be unsafe or dangerous. There will always be unique cases where a fire marshall will require that discretion. That is the reason why it was put in the Fire Prevention Act in the first place, a long time ago.
There is also the option of changing the regulation. There is a good argument to make, and I am convinced of this after talking to a large number of people over the last couple of months that the government should review the regulation with respect to the use of woodstoves for all private family dwelling residential garages because there is low level activity, that there is less likelihood that dangerous conditions could exist in a situation like that, that there is recognition that it is very much part of the Yukon character to have wood space heaters in garages, that it is very much part of the rural character to have wood space heaters in garages and in various components of a persons dwelling or group of buildings. In order to recognise that reality and the desirability of allowing wood heat to reasonably heat peoples dwellings, especially in situations where there is next to no or very low activity with respect to people working on motor vehicles, making use of combustible liquids, which could be considered dangerous, the government should amend the regulations to account for people in those circumstances.
What I would propose to do with respect to this motion is move an amendment.
I move: THAT Motion No. 26 be amended by deleting all the words after the expression Building Standards Act and substituting the following:
may impose an undue financial burden on Yukon people who wish to install solid fuel fired appliance in a private residential garage, and
that this House urges the Government of Yukon to review the regulations to determine if alternative requirements could be adopted which would make it easier and less expensive to install wood stoves in private residential garages while still maintaining a satisfactory level of safety."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services: THAT Motion No. 26 be amended by deleting all the words after the expression Building Standards Act and substituting the following:
may impose and undue financial burden on Yukon people who wish to install solid fuel fired appliance in a private residential garage, and
that this House urges the Government of Yukon to review the regulations to determine if alternative requirements could be adopted which would make it easier and less expensive to install wood stoves in private residential garages while still maintaining a satisfactory level of safety."
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In this regard the government is going to request that a group of officials from the department, especially the fire marshalls Office, the Federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and the City of Whitehorse, who have expressed an interest in the matter, and the private sector, the Yukon Contractors Association, and hopefully the Yukon Homebuilders Association, to carry out a review of the regulations. Basically, they would do a number of things: review the present minimum building code requirements; develop and assess options to the present regulational requirements; make recommendations as to what changes, if any, the government should consider making to the existing regulations as they apply to private residential garage wood stove installations.
With respect to this, I will make it clear once again that the garages we are referring to are the garages where the environment is considered unsafe due to the heavy concentration of combustible gases and where work on vehicles is the predominant activity. In those commercial operations only would the regulation apply.
It is the governments intention that in respect to private residential garages to make the situation safe as much as possible, but also to recognize the historic need and desire of people in the Yukon to heat with wood, to provide space heaters in various components of their living quarters and their garages, irrespective of whether or not they have their vehicles stored there.
I believe this is a responsible course of action. I believe that it recognizes both safety requirements, for which this Legislature is charged with developing, and ensuring that those are done efficiently and effectively. It also recognizes the very clear character, the will, of the vast majority of Yukoners who would like to see reasonable change. The government is prepared to affect that change to the extent that it maintains safe requirements and still allows space heating in garages.
Mr. Phillips: It is interesting to see, when we read the amendment, that after a grand speech by the Minister, telling us that people out there are ignorant - then he clearly says that he feels in his mind that private owners are not ignorant, but that the commercial garage owners are ignorant.
I would suggest to you and everyone in this House - especially in the outlying areas where most commercial garages are heated with wood stoves -that they are no doubt more aware of the hazards than the private individual is.
I fail to understand why these stringent regulations are required at all. This Big Brother government, with its love for bureaucracy and red tape, has come up with another cure for a disease that does not exist. The Minister has come to this House today and has not brought one shred of evidence supporting the need for such regulation. How many fires in the Yukon have been caused by wood stoves in garages, and why just wood stoves? Would not an oil-fired furnace be just as unsafe as a wood stove, or perhaps even more dangerous? Is the poor, unsuspecting public going to be subjected to even more regulation in the future?
On December 16, 1987, the CBC, on its Insight talk show, featured these regulations as a topic for discussion. From the members of the public who phoned in, there was one consistent message for the government, and that was to scrap the current regulations. Sixteen people called in and 16 people were opposed to these regulations. These people are backed up by a petition that I have for tabling today, which asks the government to repeal the current regulations. On my petition that I will be tabling today I have 482 names. If you add the number of names on that petition to the number of names that was presented by the Member for Hootalinqua, I think that you will find that you will have about 667 Yukoners, from every Yukon community, who have signed this petition.
I have been advised by the people who took the petition around that everyone who was approached to sign this petition did so eagerly and did it with purpose. At least three of the petitioners who have signed this are long time veteran firemen. I have not heard any Yukoners actually speak out in favour of these regulations, other than the officials who drafted them. The officials claim that those regulations align us with outside standards. Oh happy day. Are they also going to align our heating costs and our energy requirements with outside standards, as well? Is this in their bureaucratic bag of magic tricks?
I do not think so. Let us have some common sense. The fact is that we need regulations that are appropriate to Yukon conditions and not to outside conditions. We do not need outside bureaucrats telling us how to live in Yukon. We do not need Big Brother government trying to protect us from ourselves. Give Yukoners some credit for being able to think for themselves and protect themselves.
I am convinced that, one of these days, I am going to wake up and I will not be able to get out of bed, because this government will have brought in legislation requiring bed belts. The side opposite will be able to prove statistically that if people were not able to get up in the morning, they would be less likely to come to some kind of harm.
The City of Whitehorse is in the process of drafting a resolution, which they will take to the Association of Yukon Communities at the end of the month, which falls very closely in line - and they have similar concerns to the motion put before you today.
I would also suggest to all Members opposite, when they get copies of this petition - which they will - to look and read of the people who have signed this petition. They will find that they are all good, longstanding Yukoners who care - and many of them in the Members own ridings.
Enough is enough. The Minister can take these regulations and stick them in the nearest burner.
Accordingly, I propose an amendment to the amendment, which would read as follows:
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 26 be amended in line one by deleting everything after the first that and by adding it is the opinion of this House that sections 3 and 4 of the Garage Solid Fuel Fired Appliances Regulations, O.I.C. 1987/39, made pursuant to the Building Standards Act, be repealed.
Speaker: Order, please. An annotation says that this subamendment cannot be accepted as a subamendment and cannot be moved if it proposes to leave out all the words that are proposed in the amendment. In such a case, the first amendment will be negatized.
Mr. Lang: On the Point of Order.
Speaker: Point of Order to the Member from Whitehorse Porter Creek East.
Mr. Lang: May we have a brief recess then in order to put an amendment in the proper order, in view of the importance of the issue.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the same Point of Order. There is yet another procedural problem with this amendment. It is not permissible for a subamendment to amend the principle of the previous amendment. It must be consistent with the principle of the previous amendment, and I do not believe that this subamendment is. Therefore, it is also out of order on that score. If it was to be redrafted, it would have to be consistent with the principle that is already on the floor.
If the Members wish to propose a different principle by way of an amendment, they have to defeat this amendment and substitute another one. That is procedurally correct.
Mr. Lang: On the same Point of Order. We are in a procedural dilemma here unless all Members want to sit here until two Wednesdays from now and debate the bill. We have the option to adjourn it. I disagree with the previous speaker. The question is regulations, and the next question is what do we do. Do we, as per the first motion, develop less rigorous ones or do we repeal it? The principle that is being discussed is one of regulations and what should be done with them. I do not buy that position put forward by the previous speaker.
Obviously, it was not sought from the Chair because it was not brought forward. It was brought forward because it was written in an improper manner. Is it possible, and it is not unorthodox, to ask for a brief recess to take some time to bring forward an amendment to the amendment?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: While a recess while we are on the floor of the House may not be technically in order, I believe that the House can, by my favourite rule, do anything by unanimous consent - almost anything - and that may be the acceptable procedure. In response to the last procedural point made by our colleague from the other side, Mr. Speaker, of course, is not obliged to rule an amendment out of order on all the grounds on which it is procedurally correct; he only needs to find one ground which is procedurally correct. My only representation - I was trying to be constructive and helpful - was that, to save us time, if it was out of order in one respect, I claim it is also out of order in another respect and I believe, in redrafting, that should be addressed as well. If a 20 minute recess is, by unanimous consent, acceptable to the House, I would so move.
Mr. Lang: I would agree, except I would amend that to make it ten minutes as opposed to 20 minutes.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent for a recess?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We seem to have a dispute about time. Let me suggest there may be a more effective way to do this, based on a comment of the Minister of Justice. Sometimes drafting of amendments like this, to get correct wording or mutually agreeable wording, can take more time than we have allocated for ourselves. May I suggest that, if we did take a recess now, we either not set a time limit; or I will make an alternate proposal that we return to this matter at seven-thirty tonight, which the House Leaders have already agreed to do, and proceed with the other motions that are on the table at this time. We have those two options. I believe we can do either by unanimous consent.
Mr. Lang: I prefer that we move back to this at seven-thirty this evening. That solves our dilemma, and we can get on with the business of the House.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to move back to this Motion No. 26 at seven-thirty?
Some Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motion No. 28
Clerk: Item No. 11, standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with item No. 11?
Mr. Phelps: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Yukoners residing in rural areas should receive equal treatment with regard to Government services and utility services; and
THAT this House urges Northwestel to adopt a policy that rural areas with more than 25 telephone subscribers be considered a locale for the purpose of establishing telephone rates so that they may receive equal treatment with rural areas currently established as locales.
Mr. Phelps: At stake here is the issue of parity or equity, or the principle that people in similar circumstances ought to receive equal treatment in terms of services - not only from government, but from monopoly situations such as Northwestel, which is under the jurisdiction at the present time of the Canadian Radio Television Telecommunications Commission.
I am convinced that no one in this House is going to disagree with the opening principle that Yukoners residing in rural areas should receive equal treatment with regard to government and utility services. In fact, I know it has been a past principle accepted by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services in the past during debate on several occasions.
What we have in Yukon is a situation where some areas at present have been accepted and treated as locales when it comes to determining the monthly rates that those rural areas will pay. Two that spring to mind immediately are Tagish and Carcross, where the monthly rates do not have any imposition of a mileage or distance or line charge.
On the other hand, there are localities that have just received improved cable service from the operating telephone company. One such area in my riding is the old Alaska Highway area west of town; another is the Takhini Hot Springs area. As Members here are aware, the telephone company is committed to improving the service by way of laying this cable operation as far as Shallow Bay, Mile 10.5 on the Mayo Road.
The obvious concern that we have is that in these areas there are groups of residences fairly closely spaced in terms of proximity to each other, areas that could be considered similar in all respects to rural areas that are now treated as locales. Yet, these people are facing huge monthly charges, based on their distance from the nearest telephone exchange, which, in the case of both the Alaska Highway South and the Mayo Road, is determined in quarter mile distances from the exchange located at the McPherson Subdivision area.
People in that area, along with many others in Yukon, have received less than adequate service from the telephone company, and the issue of the quality of service was one raised by me when I intervened on behalf of Yukoners before the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission a year ago, January 13, 1987.
The arguments I expressed and the cases I brought to the attention of that Commission were also used in an intervention by the Government of Yukon, which intervention was directed at ensuring that there would not be exorbitant rate increases by the telephone company while the quality of service was less than adequate in many areas of Yukon.
The way to ensure that many of these areas receive adequate service is to lay the cable and give them the quality of service that is presently enjoyed in such places as Tagish and Carcross and other small communities in Yukon. It seems most unfair that with the improvement in the service comes a huge monthly cost. A business person in Shallow Bay wanting a private line service, in addition to all other costs, would be paying a monthly charge on the mileage portion of the fee to the telephone company of $34 a month. That seems unfair and exorbitant, given that people along the Mayo Road who already have telephones have already paid a lot of money for communications service.
It is felt that there are several areas along the Mayo Road that could be treated as a locale, given the intent of the motion before the House, where 25 or more subscribers would constitute a locale. A gentleman resident on the Mayo Road, John Obstfeld, has gone to a great deal of time and trouble to discuss the issue with constituents in that part of the riding and to deliver a brief to the CRTC. Together with a follow up letter, the brief was sent to the CRTC. I received a copy of it in December. A follow up letter was sent as well. I am not going to read from the brief and letter, but suffice it to say that he makes a very compelling case, not only about the unsatisfactory service that many residents are receiving from Northwestel, but that there is definitely a growing demand for adequate telephone service, and in fact he could see four distinct locales being established for the purpose of setting rates.
I am told this position has been made not only to CRTC but to officers in the Northwestel company. He has been working with them and with the director of communications in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. In any event, I think it only fair that I table these documents, one dated December 18, to Mr. LR Sherman, vice chairman of CRTC, and a follow up letter to the same vice chairman of CRTC dated December 28, 1987.
The issue is one of interest to not only me as the MLA for the area, but to the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party, which passed a resolution very similar to this motion at its convention held in November of 1987.
At this time, I am asking for support for a very basic principle. I am sure that all Members are sympathetic to the principle. I hope that this support would possibly result in a more fair and equitable distribution of telephone communication costs throughout Yukon. I ask all Members to join with me in voting for this motion.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Hootalinqua can count on the support of Members on this side of the House for this particular motion. As he stated in his opening remarks, this governments record with respect to the provision of equal and fair treatment to all rural persons in the territory stands for itself. My commitment as a Member of this Legislature toward that principle has been perhaps the one singular theme in my political career so far.
The body of the motion is to deal with the issue of Northwestels adoption of a policy that, as the Member explained, where there is 25 telephone subscribers or more they should be considered, for the purposes of establishing rates, as a locale.
As the Member made reference to in his remarks, the Director of Communications has had discussions with Northwestel recently regarding the locality rate policy. He was informed that current company policy does allow for certain rural areas to be designated as locality rate areas in establishing telephone rates where there are 25 people or more.
Unfortunately, the difficulty comes when one interprets what a locality is. That is always dealt with with great subjectivity, and that is the unfortunate issue at hand. The companys policy is that there should be a minimum of 25 telephone subscribers and that there should be a relatively highly concentrated telephone development in the area. That is left up to subjective opinion.
The policy also states that there are good prospects for future telephone expansion. That is obviously very subjective. There should also be an up front payment of the installation charges for the total area to be included in the locality rate area. They are saying that if they are to make an area a locality, they want the capital installation costs to come to them up front.
That has fairly severe consequences for rural telephone users. That is something that the government ought to be pressing for Northwestel not only to explain in full detail but to justify in cases where the up front costs would be considerable.
In some respects, the capital installation costs for various types of equipment can be borne through the expanded Rural Electrification Program. It is the governments preference to have the telephone company live up to its own responsibilities and provide the necessary infrastructure to improve telephone service to rural residents without government assistance.
The policy is one that is very objective. On the face of it, it is consistent with what is requested in the motion. I am not convinced, however as a rural Member, that this is going to resolve problems for rural residents who consider themselves to be a conglomerate of people of 25 residents or more, especially when the very subjective elements are placed into the equation.
Certainly there will have to be some work done by government, but primarily by the telephone company, to determine what the character and the nature of the policy is in practice. What does it mean in practice for Tagish; what does it mean for areas such as Rock Creek near Dawson, which will probably have, if it does not already, 25 telephone subscribers in the very near future. Other areas in the territory will face very high mileage charges. There are people in this territory who face monthly mileage charges in the neighbourhood of better than $50.00 per month for a basic telephone service; whereas the rest of us, who may be paying the standard of $5.19, I think it is, pay an obviously much lower rate for the same service. It is a serious issue for rural people, and we do not want to allow the company to abrogate its responsibilities in any way with respect to the provision - upgrading and improvement of telephone service to rural people. We will support the motion. I believe the companys policy, which superficially, at least, is consistent with the motion, is explained to the extent that we understand, in detail, the effects the motion might have on rural people - when there are situations where objectively 25 telephone subscribers or more exist in a particular area. We do support the motion and hope that services improve for rural people who may benefit from the policy.
Mr. McLachlan: I will be very brief in my remarks and I want to commend the Leader of the Opposition for bringing forward this motion on rural telephone service. I believe that when two dozen or more people congregate in one area for whatever reason, it is sufficient to justify the beginning of the costs for a communication link hookup under Northwestels definition of a locale. Frequently, when there are 25 or more, it often instigates more and more population for various reasons. The basis of my support for the motion is simply this: rural dwellers are often penalized by a higher cost of communication, or no communication at all, simply by reason of their decision to seek a rural way of life. I do not think that is fair. I believe that, as technology improves and costs come down, it should get easier for Northwestel to service these situations.
In closing, I would like to add that the only thing the Leader of the Opposition did not say in his remarks is that perhaps if the government owned the telephone system, it would be so much easier for him to make his case.
Mr. Brewster: I am not going to say very much about this and of course I will be supporting the motion, but of course it is only one step for mankind. There are an awful lot of places, including an awful lot of lodges and other places, that are paying, as the Minister mentioned, $50 a month - it is a long ways out and you could put $100 or $200 in front of that and you would still be stretching the facts a little bit. Since modern technology has come in, all the lodges, which used to all have good telephones and lines and pay the same rates as everybody else - they put all these additions up on the things. Nobody has had satisfactory business out there: the phones do not work half the time. I get telephone calls continually. Although I have to admit, after five years in this Legislature now, when I phone Northwestel and emit a roar, the last two times the dish was turned around within two days. I do not know whether they hope that I will leave here soon, so that they do not have to do that, or whether they are actually trying to improve this service.
It is very ironic that these lodges, which pay these fantastic rates, that the police use these for emergencies, the ambulance use these for emergencies, any wrecks from the roads - who pays for this? The lodge people. If they have a pay phone, who gets the money? The telephone company. Although I said that I will support this motion, I say that this is only one step for mankind and we have to turn around and start to be fair to these lodges that are performing public services. They get very poor service and I know, they telephone me at all hours of the night - some of them pretty mad - and I do not have any shares in NorthwesTel. I do not really know why they bawl me out like they do but some of them telephone me from as far away as Edmonton, at three oclock in the morning, so that I will do something about Northwestel.
I do not really know what I am supposed to do. The Member from Faro mentioned that if the government took over it might be able to do something. Then I would really be in trouble, because I have been yelling at the government for 40 years and I have not got anywhere yet. Thank you.
Mr. Webster: With respect to the second part of this two part motion with Northwestel, to adopt a policy establishing locales for 25 subscribers or more: recent experience in the Klondike riding could shed some information on this. Residents out at Rock Creek organized themselves about a year and a half ago. They managed to get 25 names on a petition, requesting the extension of telephone service out to their area. They met with Northwestel officials and they did establish that area - Rock Creek as a locality for this purpose - and the monthly charge for residents in that area was $13.32. So what they did was they did not have to pay a monthly rate for these lines, which was mentioned by the Minister for Community and Transportation Services. That, of course, was after the residents paid a provisioning charge - a one time provisioning charge - of $875 for a multi-party service line, or $1,200 for an individual line. It also included a one time service charge of $40.19, so the Member of Faro was correct when he said that there is somewhat of a penalty attached to people living in rural areas who want to improve the amenities in their areas, to make life a little easier for them.
The first part of this motion deals with rural Yukoners, and says they should receive equal treatment to government services and utility services. I have some problem with the definition of equal treatment, but I assume this means an equal opportunity to access to these services. That is a principle we all support in this House, because it gives the individuals a choice. They can either take it or leave it. If they are willing to take it, they have to pay for it. What sometimes happens, and has been the history in the past with many individuals, that they do not want the comforts and amenities that are provided in a town situation, so they do move out to the rural areas and, gradually, to make life easier for themselves for one reason or another, they ask for water delivery from the local community authority, or sewer eduction or, eventually, they get power service. They even ask for their roads to be graded so the school bus can come in to pick up their kids and take them to school, et cetera.
They are either paying for this through taxes or directly, for example, for the extension of power lines to their property, and I am pleased to see there is something in place by this government to help them out in that regard with the Rural Electrification Program. Now, it has been extended to include telephone service as well.
I believe very strongly that, whenever it becomes financially viable to provide that opportunity for access to a service, it should be provided. We have a situation right now at Hendersons Corners where 25 households out there want electrical power for a variety of reasons: for industrial, commercial and to bring power to their residences. Unfortunately, at this time, they do not have that choice of accessing the main line. The main line does not exist that far. They are quite willing to pay the cost incurred to bring electrical service within their subdivision using the Rural Electrification Program, but the cost to extend the main line from Rock Creek right out to Hendersons Corners would be a prohibitive sum right now for these 25 residents out there. It is in the neighbourhood of $300,000.
That is why the residents at Hendersons Corners have banded together to approach the Yukon Energy Corporation to see if they will be willing to extend that main line out to their area, enabling them to make a choice to pay for accessing their residences and businesses out there. This is currently being reviewed by the Yukon Energy Corporation, and I hope this request is being looked upon very favourably.
Naturally, I will support this Motion with all Members of the House.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard.
Mr. Phelps: It appears that the Motion will be supported by all parties in this House, and I am thankful for that. I would like to congratulate the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for giving a fairly clear exposition about an extremely unclear policy area, that of the locale policy of Northwestel. The various permutations and combinations that officials of that company can come up with when you speak to them about the practical problems of an area that ought to be a locale is frightening. They seem to be able to come up with all sorts of figures that would dazzle anyone.
I would like to thank the Member for Faro for his comments, and the Member for Klondike. I am sure he misspoke himself when he attributed the electrification program to this government; it was the previous government that put this policy in when dealing with the electrification of Judas Creek. Of course the extension of that policy to the issue of telephones was done by this government, but I would like to also mention that there was a motion in this House put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East on that score.
I am very thankful that this Motion will get support, and I look forward to the vote.
Motion No. 28 agreed to
Heading = Motion No. 23
Clerk: Item No. 7 standing in the name of Mr. McLachlan.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 7?
Mr. McLachlan: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Faro:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Robert Campbell Highway is a transportation corridor which possesses significant tourism and economic development potential; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to give a higher priority to the planning, development and upgrading of the highway.
Mr. McLachlan: There is no doubt that the accent on highway funding, upgrading and reconstruction by this government and the previous governments has been on the north Klondike Highway from Whitehorse to Dawson. An additional major funding and rebuilding has taken place on the north Alaska Highway, and the point of entry of Beaver Creek is part of another project. Additional monies for both capital equipment and road upgrading have been approved for both the south Klondike Highway, although these were necessary consequences of the concentrate haul to Skagway. Federal funding has also helped considerably with reconstruction of some portions of the Alaska Highway between Watson Lake and Whitehorse.
However, if you happen to live anywhere along the Robert Campbell Highway between Watson lake and Carmacks, you are probably wondering what you did to get the government brush off for highway improvement and upgrading funding.
This highway is a 600 kilometre stretch on the eastern side of the territory that links Watson Lake in the south with Carmacks in the north and provides access to Ross River and Faro enroute. It does offer tourists an alternate route into and out of the territory at Watson Lake and a variation in the tourist route north to Dawson City.
It has long been the hope of the people of Faro and Ross River that an aggressive tourism marketing department would be able to sell this route as a complementary route for tourist traffic to or from Dawson. That is, they would not traverse the same route twice from Carmacks to Watson Lake going via Whitehorse. To do that, we need some help with reconstruction of the road in some parts, which can be best described as narrow and winding and more than a little treacherous in winter driving conditions.
Requirements for improvements and funding would fall into three distinct segments, each with its different requirements and priorities. Watson Lake to Ross River is by the far the longest at 370 kilometres and would require, by far, the greatest amount of work. Ross River to Faro is the shortest stretch of road, but one that has taken the greatest amount of pounding recently with the movement of coal on a regular basis from the pit near Ross River to the mine site at Faro. The section from Faro to Carmacks is the busiest by reason of the truck and passenger traffic to and from Faro and Ross River.
The main concern for most of the residents of Faro and Ross River is that the stretch with which they are most familiar has had little or no improvement to its surface since it was originally built 19 years ago. One ten mile stretch of road had BST applied to it when Mr. Ken Baker was chief engineer for the territorial government and was applied on an experimental basis in 1973. It has had relatively good success since then. Dust, fly rock and mud in inclement weather are the greatest causes for alarm.
The section between Carmacks and Faro was built in 1968 with the knowledge that it would be used by heavy truck traffic. I am confident that it will not suffer as badly as some parts south of Carmacks have with the heavier truck loads if BST was applied. I would venture to challenge the Minister to put a counter on this road and prepare the results of any other stretch of main highway outside of Whitehorse, other than the Alaska Highway. I am certain that the department would find the number factor and the load factor comparable to any other major highway in the Yukon outside the Alaska Highway. Surely, the Minister would agree that the maintenance and the type of surface that the highway receives are related to its usage.
There are eight territorial campgrounds between Watson Lake and Carmacks, so a conscious effort is being made to cater to the travelling public. It would be so much more complimentary to this effort if a little more attention was paid to the condition of the road. In the past year, and indeed in the past few months, indications of significant mineral occurrences between Faro and Ross River are more than just a topic of idle conversation over a cup of coffee.
One new gold producer will begin operation south of Ross River in 1988. Within the next three years after that, there are very good indications that another two operations could be in production by 1991. The immediate area between Faro and Ross River could become one of Yukons newest gold producing areas. Does this possibility alone not warrant some attention by government in the area of road development and related infrastructure where required?
Truck traffic supplying the new Canamax Mine at Ketza River would much rather come the shorter route north from Watson Lake than coming the long way around through Whitehorse, Carmacks and Faro. There is sometimes a great reluctance to do this in the winter because of the condition of the road.
I brought this matter to the attention of all Members of the Legislature as a result of discussions held at the September meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities, between representatives of the four communities. The idea was further discussed at a joint meeting in Faro on October 8, 1987, between the four communities. Preliminary ideas were presented to the Minister in Dawson City on October 18. As yet, no formal response has been heard from the Department of Transportation Services.
Two of the municipalities involved, Carmacks and Watson Lake, would still receive a high volume of traffic through their communities if nothing happened to the Campbell Highway. That is because of their proximity to other major arteries at the north and south ends of the highway. Yet, through all this, they have continued to give support to the sister municipalities of Ross River and Faro in this concern. Carmacks, for example, has a particular concern when it is raining and the Yukon Alaska trucks going south drop mud for ten kilometres, after turning onto the Klondike Highway from the Campbell Highway. It is not a major safety problem, just an aggravating irritant of having no BST on the Campbell Highway.
I urge the Minister to immediately begin substantial planning with a detailed time table as to when improvements can be started on this highway. It has certainly been a poor cousin to almost every other highway in the territory when it came to handing out the funding for highway improvements.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to speak to the motion today, although I should say at the outset that I would have felt the motion would have been more timely if it had been placed on the floor of the Legislature approximately a year ago. A great deal has happened in the last year to raise the profile of the Campbell Highway within the spheres of the governments planning process to ensure that the Campbell Highway is upgraded to proper highway standards, including proper surfacing for a road that has the kind, the type, the density, of vehicular traffic that the road does.
The Member for Faro suggested that the government should make it a higher priority and suggested that the government should immediately begin substantial planning. The government has already made it a higher priority and has already begun substantial planning.
There was a reference to the suggestion or allegation that the government had not responded to the Association for Yukon Communities nor had it responded to the committee that met with AYC, a committee of municipalities, in Ross River - Carmacks, Faro, Ross River and Watson Lake to discuss the future of the Campbell Highway. I did respond to the spokesman for the committee in November and did respond to the president of the AYC early in November, detailing the governments plans to upgrade the Campbell Highway in the future. I indicated not only had we thought about it, but we had decided at which areas to start first in the planning and the reconstruction of this project. This is not a minor decision to make; it is a major decision that this Legislature would be making, and would be making, of course, on an annual basis through capital appropriations. Once made, we are well and truly into it, I suggest, and we will be talking expenditures probably ultimately over a number of years in the neighbourhood of $40-45 million, voted by this Legislature, in order to complete the project. It is no minor commitment of this Legislature and of this government to ensure that the Campbell Highway to Carmacks, through to Faro, through to Ross River and ultimately to Watson Lake is brought up to Klondike Highway standards.
In November, as I said, I wrote - and I will table a copy once I have read it briefly into the record - to the spokesperson at the AYC meeting in Dawson. I also had a meeting with the group itself at the Yukon 2000 meeting in Dawson prior to that. It reads: Further to our discussion in Dawson City during the Association of Yukon Communities annual meeting, I reviewed the Department of Community and Transportation Services plans for the Campbell Highway. The Campbell Highway is a high priority for this government and engineering work is currently being carried out on the Ross River to Faro section. Further work will continue in the 1988-89 fiscal year and $102,000 has been allocated in Capital Budget for this purpose. Major road reconstruction is planned to commence in the spring of 1989 and will continue until the Ross River to Carmacks section is fully reconstructed and BST has been applied.
Let me assure you that the department will carry out the overall upgrading project to ensure that the maximum benefit is obtained as soon as possible with the available funding. It is also recognized that the eastern segment of the highway between Watson Lake and Ross River requires extensive work. Projects to upgrade this section beginning with engineering are planned to commence in 1989.
The cost to upgrade the Campbell Highway from Watson Lake to Ross River is expected to be well in excess of $25 million. I am sure you can appreciate that work of this magnitude will have to be carefully phased within the Highway Reconstruction Budget that is available each year. The decision to initiate the engineering and reconstruction projects on the Ross River to Carmacks section of the highway is in response to the constant level of year round traffic along this road, heavy truck traffic that has caused deterioration of the road structure, and many complaints related to Yukon Alaska Transports activity.
With respect to Yukon Alaska there has been some improvement in the situation since mid September due to mud flap height adjustments and changes to the style and position of the truck and trailer fenders. Nevertheless further improvements to the highway are necessary and will continue.
The Yukon government is committed to upgrading and improvement of all the Yukon highways in view of their important role in the economic development and fulfillment of Yukons tourism potential. I assure you that the Campbell Highway upgrading will continue within the departments overall transportation planning and development strategy as a high priority.
I am looking forward to meeting the mayor and town council. This is in reference to the swearing in ceremonies for the new Faro Town Council.
Much of the same message had been sent to Mr. Art Deer, president of the Association of Yukon Communities, prior to that in a letter dated November 6, that I can also table.
The reasons for the governments desire to upgrade the Campbell Highway are that the heavy truck traffic from Yukon Alaska Transport, the industrial traffic between Ross River and Faro, and the tourist traffic along the highway have all been increasing in recent years. Perhaps more importantly in many respects there is a large measure of local traffic that is specific to the communities of Ross River, Faro, Carmacks and Watson Lake that has been travelling the roads over a number of years and have been waiting for their chance to have a major highway corridor in their area upgraded. The chance has come. This Legislature will be asked to appropriate funds to upgrade the Campbell Highway to a standard which will accept BST from Carmacks to Ross River as the first step, and Ross River to Watson Lake as the second stage.
There are many good reasons for making this decision, many of which have been elucidated already.
Let me say this: the government has not brushed off the Campbell Highway with respect to its entitlement for highway upgrading. This Legislature, many years ago, made the conscious decision to upgrade the Klondike Highway. That was the Klondike Highway from Carcross through to Dawson City. I believe that that decision was supported by all Members of this Legislature, handily, over the course of better than half a decade. It was a major undertaking. Members of the Legislature who wanted to see work done on the highway, whose constituencies the highway ran through, were a little impatient at times. I was always a little impatient, because the Stewart Crossing section, the section that ran through my own riding, was scheduled last, but I always understood that there was a schedule, and that there was a time and place for the reconstruction to take place. The reconstruction happened, and the reconstruction will mean a paved highway now between Carcross and Dawson City, at the end of next year. I think that is something that Members of this Legislature should be proud of. It is a major achievement, and it is a very expensive achievement but a very necessary one.
This achievement is also beneficial to all the persons who travel the highway between the communities and including between Faro and Whitehorse, Ross River and Whitehorse, Carmacks and Whitehorse, or Faro and Dawson, or Ross River and Dawson or Carmacks and Dawson. The local traffic is heavy between those communities as shown by the vehicle per day standards. The work that is to be done this coming summer is going to include work on upgrading the portion between Carmacks pavement and Fox Lake. That is work that anyone who travels the road recognizes as being necessary, for all the reasons that this Legislature has gone through.
This Legislature has made significant contributions, over a long period of time, to highway development in this territory. This Legislature has made those commitments, but at the same time, it cannot do everything at once. If one were to ask a Minister of Highways ten years ago if they felt the Campbell Highway was going to be upgraded, they would have said that it would be upgraded. There are priorities and perhaps the Klondike Highway is the priority at this time. The Klondike Highway has obviously been a priority; the expenditures speak for themselves.
This government has made a commitment now to turn its sights on the Campbell Highway. I hope this will be the beginning of a major reconstruction program that will include all the communities along the Campbell Highway and make the Campbell Highway a corridor that is quite respectable in terms of its quality and engineering standard.
The expenditures to be made are going to be considerable. They will be made annually starting this year, and will be made over the course of the next five years or more. I am hoping that Members of the Legislature are going to give it the same kind of support that those same Members and their predecessors gave to the Klondike Highway.
The government is not restricting its work with respect to the improvements to the highway on Capital upgrading alone. Since last summer, this government has improved the road maintenance on the Campbell Highway and will be improving the road maintenance again this coming summer.
There have been a number of actions taken by the government, all recorded on public record, with respect to attempts to reduce the rock spraying that has historically existed with Yukon Alaska Transport trucks. If the Members wish, I can detail the very long list of activities that the department has engaged to try to resolve the rock spraying problem.
The government is committed to the Campbell Highway because it is the right thing to do. I am hoping that all of us will be in the territory to see this major reconstruction project come to a satisfactory conclusion in the near future.
I do want to point out that the government has made significant attempts over the course of the past year to make the Campbell Highway a higher priority and to begin the reconstruction of the Campbell Highway. Given the heavy level of activity and the understanding of this issue with persons along the corridor of the highway, it should be made clear that the government has already made this project a higher priority, and that the work we have announced will continue over the course of the next few years and will begin this summer.
If we were to leave them with the impression that now we are going to make it an even higher priority, which is difficult to fathom given the high priority that we have given it at this point, it would be misleading to people along that corridor. For that reason, I move an amendment,
THAT Motion No. 23 be amended by deleting all the words after the expression Government of Yukon and substituting the following, to continue the systematic development and upgrading of the Highway.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services
THAT Motion No. 23 be amended by deleting all the words after the expression Government of Yukon and substituting the following, to continue the systematic development and upgrading of the Highway .
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have explained at length the reason - I am sure the Members do not want to hear it again - why the government feels that it has given the Campbell Highway the highest priority. It has made the ultimate commitment, much similar in character to the commitment made to the Klondike Highway, to upgrade the Campbell Highway to pavement standard.
Mr. McLachlan: I accept at face value most of the remarks that the Minister has made. There are a few things that are not 100 percent clear. One is the intention of when exactly the work is going to start. The Minister had previously indicated that the work on the Klondike Highway was in its final year. As we have seen by budget commitments, there are approximately $1.1 million going into the Silver Trail this year. It seems to have a higher priority in 1988 than the Robert Campbell Highway.
It is also a little unclear that the figure that the Minister mentioned in his opening remarks of $40 million to $45 million of continual upgrading and improvement work, is not specifically referred to as whether that is the entire stretch of the highway, if that is the highest usage stretch of the highway, or exactly what it refers to .
I will accept the amendment and voice my support for the amendment put forward by the Minister. In so doing, I would like to ensure him that we will be watching and continually monitoring that systematic development. That stretch of highway does pass through four ridings represented here in the Legislature, Tatchun, Faro, Campbell and Watson Lake. There is 25 percent of us here who are directly affected, and it is a very high economic development area of the territory.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Amendment agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion, as amended?
Motion No, 23 agreed to as amended
Clerk: Item No. 10 standing in the name of Mr. Lang.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with item No. 10?
Mr. Lang: Yes.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Porter Creek East: THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Housing Corporation should not proceed with the construction of the two duplexes on Bamboo Crescent designated as social housing.
Mr. Lang: Thank you very much. The issue before us is not a new issue. It was brought forward at the beginning of December, to the attention of the government, and I want to go through the historical steps that have taken place here.
First of all, the way the people in the area and the people of Whitehorse first heard or first knew there was going to be two duplexes built on Bamboo Crescent was when the Yukon Housing Corporation advertised for construction tender calls for those particular dwellings. Once that was brought to the attention of the people in the area, I took it upon myself to write a letter to the Minister of Housing to find out exactly what the intentions of the government were insofar as this type of housing going into the Crescent. Over the period of that time after the letter was written and sent, a number of startling revelations came forward to the general public. I refer specifically to the situation in Teslin, where a senior citizens complex was built for the purpose of housing seniors. We found, all of a sudden, there were no senior citizens and subsequently it was arbitrarily turned into social housing. The reason I use this as a further substantiation of concern by the residents in the area is that the initial response I received was that three of the units were going to be senior citizens units and the remaining unit would be used as social housing. Then we found out, after the furor over the vacant fourplex in Teslin, that the chairman of the Yukon Housing Corporation stated publicly that it would be their intention, if there were no senior citizens to move into those particular homes, that they would convert it into social housing.
I do not think there is any question that, in view of the obvious position taken by the government, if those homes do go ahead at the expense of the taxpayer, it is going to be social housing.
In that initial tender call, there was also a tender call for a single social home to be built on Redwood Street. You will note, in all the discussions in this House, I have not raised the question of whether or not that house should go ahead. The reason the people in my area have raised the legitimate concern of the construction of the two duplexes on Bamboo Crescent is the question of density and the question of how many social houses should be on one particular street. The reason that that question has been raised is because there is already three homes owned by Grey Mountain Housing Society that meet the social housing needs, and there is also another house on the next street owned by Grey Mountain Housing. In effect, on that particular street, there are already four homes that could be referred to as social housing.
The Minister was made aware of the concerns of the residents in that area by letter on December 10, 1987, where the chief concern was the number of social houses being built on the crescent. It was expressed clearly and succinctly. I quote from the letter: My concern and objection is to Yukon Housing building two low cost housing duplexes on this crescent when we already have low cost housing on the street. This low cost housing I refer to is in the form of a duplex and a half owned by Grey Mountain Housing. These units are located at No. 6, No. 22 and No. 24 Bamboo Crescent - No. 6 having been purchased just over a year ago, and No. 22 and 24 having been purchased within the past.
What I am doing here is establishing the fact that the government knew on December 10 that the chief concern of the residents of the area was the number of homes on this particular street in question. If we go ahead with the two duplexes, we are going to have almost 50 percent...
I may as well give this speech out on the street. Is the Minister of Housing listening?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member was asking me a question. The answer is yes.
Mr. Lang: I want to state on the record that I object to the smug and arrogant manner that I am being listened to at the present time. I am speaking on behalf of 91 people out there who have a very legitimate concern, and I am speaking to the concern that the Minister raised in this House when he spoke to the petition, when we sat on Monday. The reason I am highlighting the question of density is because it is the issue that the Minister said was not of concern to the residents in that area.
The reality of the situation is that we are going to have 50 percent of a small crescent dedicated to social housing if these four homes proceed. The concern of the people in that area is very basically this: the number of homes dedicated to that purpose, as far as a local, suburban street is concerned. They recognize that there is a requirement for social housing. They have accepted the fact that there are three homes on the street that are dedicated to social housing, but they have a real problem accepting the principle that there should be another four units, dedicated to social housing, being built on a crescent of 20 homes.
I think it is a legitimate concern because what we are going to have - and I wish the Minister would pay attention to this - if they go ahead with the plans that they presented, is, effectively, row housing on the top of the crescent in question. There will be three duplexes, side by side, dedicated to social housing. I do not think it is good for the people who are living on the street, and, quite frankly, I do not think it is in the best interest of the people who are going to be housed in those homes. The reason I say that is - I go back to the words spoken by the Minister in the debate and in the Whitehorse Star and I agree with this principle - he was quoted as saying: I believe the general process for approving more social housing units in a community is to first of all integrate within the existing subdivisions and not ghettoize social housing.
Well, this is my point. Because of the lack of knowledge of the Housing Corporation, that is exactly what is taking place. It is going against the policy of the government and against, I believe, all sides of the House, as far as dedicating one area of town or one street, specifically for the purpose of social housing.
The Minister came in in response to the petition that I filed on December 15, 1987 and I spoke at that time to the petition - not loudly. I just presented it and I gave some very short, succinct reasons for the petition.
I felt that the Minister, in response to the questions I posed to him the following day, would seriously consider the very major concerns brought forward by the residents in the area. The chief point I made at that time was, and I quote from page 293 of Hansard, I would like to say to the House that the question the people of the area have is how many public housing units should be permitted on a street. The street in question presently has four units within a block and a half and now the government is proposing to put another four social housing units on the same street. That was the issue: how many government owned homes should be put on a suburban street, in this case Bamboo Crescent which is a very small street as far as streets are concerned. In reply to the petition, the Minister came back with a response two weeks later, when we reconvened, and stated the following in the House, Similarly, the expressed concern does not relate to the density of the houses to be built, nor to their quality and design. That, I think, is where the Housing Corporation, in what it feels is its mandate to accomplish, has for one reason or another chosen to overlook. It is the question of density that is the issue here, and it is a very serious issue to these people.
I want to go back to the question of what is going to happen to those people with property on that street. I think there is some question of what is going to happen to the values of the properties; that is an intangible. You just do not know.
The other question I think we have to ask is, does it conform to the policy of the Minister of Housing who stated, and I want to quote again, I believe the general process for approving more social housing units in a community is to first of all integrate it within the existing subdivisions and not ghettoize social housing. Does it fit into that category? The point is that 50 percent of that street is going to be social housing if we permit it to go ahead.
In answer to the petition, the Minister made a very, very major statement in that he said the density in the whole Balsam/Cedar/Bamboo Crescent area has gone from seven percent to 15 percent. That is true if you take the whole area. I am surprised we did not include Redwood and Tamarack and Evergreen Crescent. If they were distributed right over to Balsam Street, maybe right over to Evergreen, we would quite frankly not be having this discussion. That is not correct. The reality of the situation is that the density is 50 percent on one street. Those are facts.
If the Minister goes ahead with the project, what we are going to get is a situation where we are basically going to have gone against government policy: we are going to ghettoize social housing. That is a tragedy.
The Minister of Housing, when talking some time ago about housing and how he wants to work together with the people of the territory, stated in an article in the newspaper: As we work together with Yukon people on improving quality of life through better housing, my caucus colleagues and I welcome your comments. Please feel free to know your point of view. We have been presented in this House from a Conservative riding - and that may have a bearing - 91 signatures put on that petition of all the people who live in the area. They have asked the Members of this House and, in particular, the Minister of Housing to seriously reconsider the decision to proceed with the duplex in question.
The Minister indicated to me that, once he had received the petition, he had also spoken to the City of Whitehorse. I spoke to the City of Whitehorse and contacted a number of counselors with respect to this issue. Those who were in town were asked about whether or not some social housing should go ahead in town. The interesting aspect of this is the question that was put, which is as follows, and I will read from a memorandum that was made available to the aldermen. They were to give their opinions to the mayor the following day so a decision could be made with respect to the citys position. It reads as follows, Yukon Housing has approached the City, advising us that they will be constructing duplex housing, one on Redwood Street, and one on Balsam, during the coming construction year.
Maybe I have been misinformed. My understanding was that the one on Redwood Street was not a duplex. There is no multiple residential zoning for that street. I may stand to be corrected. Secondly, I believe the same applies to Balsam Crescent, and my understanding is that there are no more lots available.
So, the city councilors were asked to give some thoughts on two buildings to be constructed when there are no plans to build a duplex on Redwood or Balsam. Obviously, there is something wrong when you have information like this being disseminated throughout the various levels of government. It would seem to me that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.
I will qualify my remarks. I do not blame the Minister of Housing with respect to that particular error. It is obviously an error by the city administration. The point I am making is nobody seems to know what is going on, yet at the same time you have people we all represent who are going to be very much affected by a decision of this kind. I feel very strongly that the government has a responsibility to review what they are doing in this area.
For the purpose of this debate, I have confined myself to the question of these houses being built on the crescent. I recognize that the government has a social problem that is being presented to them, but the Minister knows that this side differs philosophically and differs, therefore, on how one would go about meeting - at least in part - those obligations in terms of policy. I would expect that, during the Yukon Housing Corporation debate on the Mains, that we could go in depth on this.
I want to end by emphasizing again that the question is the number of social units on the street. We already have three, effectively four, on the street. With the government proceeding with an additional four, we will have eight homes out of 20. To me, that does not meet the policy objective neither of the side opposite, nor of this side.
I would therefore ask, on behalf of those people who have signed a petition - and I have reinforced that the purpose of that petition was the question of density - that the government go back to the Housing Corporation and reconsider the decision that was taken.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am happy to speak to the motion today. I think it is a motion that is important for a number of respects. It is important with respect to the airing of an issue that has been brought forward to the Legislature, with respect to the placement of two duplexes in a subdivision in Whitehorse, and it is important with respect to airing an understanding of how this Legislature feels about social housing.
The Member for Porter Creek East began his remarks by suggesting that it was important to put this question in context, given that, in his view, there were problems with the construction of a unit in Teslin.
He has implied, on a number of occasions, that the Yukon Housing Corporation, was suspect as a vehicle in the delivery of social housing. He finished his remarks by making it clear that the Conservatives feel differently than the government in the delivery of housing. I, too, believe that it is necessary to put this debate into context, and I will do that.
The Member did write a letter to me in early December, 1987 on the Bamboo Crescent issue. Within days I responded with the Yukon Housing Corporations plans. The Member whispered that I responded on December 20, 1987. The letter that the Member for Porter Creek East sent to me was dated December 3, 1987. My letter was dated December 11, 1987. It provided him with full information on the Yukon Housing Corporations plans. The Member was informed of the plans, and subsequently a petition was circulated in the neighbourhood - not just on Bamboo Crescent but on streets around Bamboo Crescent. The signatures and the addresses on the petition show that. They protested the placement of social housing units on that street.
I regarded the petition as being a serious expression of public thought on an issue. It is worthwhile understanding the reasons for the petition being put forward, and the circumstances under which the petition was circulated. I always treat persons who make expressions to the Legislature, either through a petition or in writing or verbally or otherwise, with the greatest and the deepest respect.
The first responsibility of the Minister was to fully investigate the situation with the Yukon Housing Corporation, to understand the climate under which the petition was sent and to respond carefully and deliberately to the petition through the Legislature. That was what I did. I responded deliberately and responsibly and in detail to the petition.
In so doing, I tried to understand the concerns expressed by the petitioners, prior to addressing the conclusions that they drew. We made contact with various people in the area, including some of the petitioners. We made contact with persons who were aware of the petition and who were requested to sign the petition - some who did, some who did not.
Then we tried to determine how the petition was presented because it is a fairly stark statement of intent. The climate in which the petition was presented was one where the person on the doorstep was told, oftentimes, that this was the thin edge of the wedge: that Yukon housing in your neighbourhood now has social housing and that you would not see an end to it. There was the stark statement that, ultimately, property values would drop. The Member has some expertise and knows and said so today, that that was an intangible, and that you just do not know. At the same time, it was definitely made clear to the people that property values were ultimately going to drop, and also that the Yukon Housing Corporation had a reputation for poor housing. People responded to the petition in that light, that context.
The Member quite rightly points out that the petition does not refer - and to my knowledge, no one has ever spoken directly to me, or expressed any concern amongst the petitioners about the tenants who were projected to move into this housing. With respect to the people who are projected to move in, it is interesting to note that the Whitehorse Housing Authority had identified a need for seniors housing in Porter Creek and asked the Yukon Housing Corporation to respond. That was what the Yukon Housing Corporation was attempting to do.
The Yukon Housing Corporation, having, I believe, three units in Porter Creek at the moment, was to add a total of five further units in Porter Creek, for a total of eight social housing units in Porter Creek. The Whitehorse Housing Authority had said, and has said, that the concentration in units would be primarily downtown, because that is where the need exists, through their analysis of the situation but that they require seniors housing in Porter Creek. They had identified a need for seniors housing in Porter Creek. The Yukon Housing Corporation was responding. Then the government tried to understand - I tried to understand - the reasons why persons would be nervous about the Yukon Housing Corporation putting housing down on Bamboo Crescent, and I was concerned about the issue of density. The Member said that the issue on the floor right now is density.
I did contact the City of Whitehorse; he is quite correct. I did ask the mayor to ensure that the mayor had the city administration on his side, or to ensure that the mayor had all the councilors on his side. I asked the mayor to respond on behalf of the City.
The mayor responded to me and to the chairman of the board of the Whitehorse Housing Authority, and there was absolutely no confusion in his mind as to what we were talking about. He says, Your request for permission to construct two duplex housing units on Bamboo Crescent in Porter Creek was referred to the city administration and council for feedback. I am pleased to inform you that these plans are not in any way in contradiction of city planning and that we are quite happy to allow you to proceed with this project.
The units to be constructed were duplex units, of which there are other duplex units on this street. I referred to the matter subsequently in Question Period, and the Member was not quite so moderate in his tone of voice at that point. I indicated to the Member the density of social housing in that neighbourhood and the decision as to what it is to be a neighbourhood. We can take a small portion of a street and play with percentages. The petition itself recognized that there was a neighbourhood involved and went around the neighbourhood and included people from streets other than Bamboo, recognizing that there was a neighbourhood involved. If you take a look at the density of the people of the social housing units in the neighbourhood, including Grey Mountain, I indicated that the percentage had increased to 15 percent. It is all in one neighbourhood, and the petition recognized that we were talking about a neighbourhood.
I indicated at that time that, given the relatively low density of social housing in the area, and given the fact that the houses were similar in character and quality to other houses on the street, and given that the Whitehorse Housing Authority and the Yukon Housing Corporation had given significant attention to the environment in that neighbourhood, I naturally drew the conclusion that it could not be the issue of density, and the conclusion could not be the issue of design.
What was expressed to the people receiving the petition, or who had the petition put in front of them by the organizers of the petition, was that Yukon Housing Corporation could not manage housing stock, that Yukon Housing Corporation would move in with other social housing units and drive your property values down, and that there were concerns that, when Yukon Housing moves in, you know no end to it and your property values will drop. That intangible was made tangible by the people who presented the petition to the person who was taken away from their stove to sign the petition at their doorstep.
Clearly, upon investigation, there was a concern about Yukon Housing management. This government did not ignore the petition. We are very respectful of the people who signed the petition. We wanted to understand what their concerns were. One legitimate concern they might have had was with the way Yukon Housing Corporation has historically managed its stock. There have been problems in the past. There are problems that the Corporation has been trying to rectify. The policy of the previous government was to allow the Corporation to slide; the policy of the previous government was to allow the housing stock to decline. The management of the Housing Corporation was cited by the Auditor General many times. There was no preventative maintenance program. There were, and are, many good reasons why the Yukon public would naturally believe that the Corporation, once involved in their neighbourhood, might create or manage units improperly. That is exactly the issue that the government has been trying to address over the course of the past two years.
Giant strides have been made to improve Yukon Housing Corporation management. The first step - a step that is constantly laughed off irresponsibly by some Members of this House - is a step to return the Corporation to its legal status as a Corporation established by legislation passed by Members of this House.
The Management Board of the previous government knowingly acted contrary to legislation. The government, very nervous about the fact that the Housing Corporation - contrary to the legislation - had been dismantled and blended in the department, in effect making it administratively unworkable, had to act immediately to try to rectify that situation. That did take time, but we did feel it was a major obligation: to abide by the law. That is what we did.
We undertook immediately overhauls of the Financial Administration Manuals and other operating policies of Yukon Housing Corporation management. The reports from the Auditor General over the years, when the Corporation was having serious trouble, are notorious. Those reports were front page news for years during the early 1980s.
The Yukon Housing Corporation had to improve its management ability and technique so that they could manage the stock and do the job that was expected of it. The government did that. The government tried to ensure that there was a management information system that allowed the Yukon Housing Corporation to do much of that which Members of the opposition are demanding that the Yukon Housing Corporation should be doing in order to make sound decisions. None of that was in place when the previous government was responsible for the Corporation.
We also began a review of the role of community groups in the delivery of housing. We also, probably more importantly, given this discussion, developed a comprehensive, preventative maintenance program that allowed inspections to be regular, renovations and repairs to be immediate and to ensure that the Corporations stock was maintained to a standard that was acceptable to the community. We also ensured that there were extensive check in and check out procedures for tenants in those units to encourage more of a responsible attitude toward the units in which the people resided.
Furthermore, we, jointly with the federal government, did a very thorough needs analysis of what the needs of the territory were with the recognition that there would be follow up analysis done by housing associations on an ongoing basis to determine and to accurately reflect the needs of the people in the communities.
The Yukon Housing Corporation and the government were confident that they could minimize the kinds of problems suggested by the people who signed the petition. We were certain that their property values would not decline because Yukon Housing Corporation was committing itself to keep up the units and to ensure that they maintained community standards. That was a change of policy from the previous government.
The petitioners are making a decent and legitimate point about past government activity. This government and this Corporation are taking great pains to ensure that the Yukon Housing Corporation, as a management tool, was efficient enough to maintain the units and that the resources were given to the Corporation in order that it could maintain the units to a standard that was acceptable to the community.
The analysis was done in Whitehorse, and, as I have said, the Whitehorse Housing Authority recommended that seniors housing in Porter Creek was desired. The Housing Corporation was asked to respond; the Housing Corporation did respond. An analysis was done on houses in this neighbourhood and it was obvious that, of the houses in the neighbourhood, the increase in social units in the neighbourhood would be increased to 15 percent. The number of rental units would be increased from 17 percent to 24 percent - that includes private sector rentals - so very much retain the character of the neighbourhood into which the housing units were being placed. There was every respect for that neighbourhood given.
The fear mongering that was part of the public relations surrounding the petition - that the Yukon Housing Corporations initiatives here were the thin edge of the wedge - is and cannot be substantiated and is, in fact, not the case. Yukon Housing Corporation houses in the city of Whitehorse have been undergoing renovations and the proof of the pudding is in the improvements that have been made to the houses in downtown Whitehorse, to show the public that the Housing Corporation and means business when it says that it wants to improve its stock, and keep the stock more in tune with the character of the neighbourhoods in which it is placed.
We were concerned that people might feel that, because of poor management, their property values would drop. The Housing Corporation was committed to ensure that management was more than adequate - was superior - to ensure that the houses maintained the high quality that currently exists in the neighbourhood.
The government, in the past couple of weeks, cognizant of the issue of Bamboo Crescent, has been faced with accusations from the Opposition that the social housing activity in the city of Whitehorse is doing a number of things: that it is disturbing neighbourhoods; driving up property values; disturbing the housing market; driving down property values; that Yukon Housing Corporation activity - yes, exactly, the Member from Porter Creek East has said it himself, that the government has been accused of buying all the houses, that the activity that the government has undertaken - has been unwarranted. In the face of the fact that there have been clear expressions of need from many people in our community - people who live in squalid condition, in crowded conditions, who have low income, who do not have the kind of income required to own a home, who do not have the income, to own a home or a trailer, do not have the income to own - the government has been attempting to respond.
At the same time, allegations are thrown across the floor, shots are thrown across the bow - and this is common in this particular Session - and, when proven to be wrong, the Opposition shuts its mouth, sits down, and tries again. They are not concerned about whether or not the allegations they make in Question Period are true or not; they do not care about the effect they might have on the Legislature, or on the community. They just throw the allegations across the floor. The fact that the Yukon Housing Corporation has purchased seven houses out of 298 sales in one year, driving up the property values in the City of Whitehorse; this is ridiculous. Ludicrous, suggesting that, because the Yukon Housing Corporation is buying units, it is driving up property values. As I indicated in a Legislative Return today, the Yukon Housing Corporation has purchased units in the City of Whitehorse, all but one of which are below the appraisal of the unit - done by independent appraisers. Can the Yukon Housing Corporation be reasonably charged with the accusation that they are driving up property values? No, they cannot. But the accusation has been made, and the accusation is in the press. The impression has been laid. Do the Members of the Opposition care about the responsibility? No way. They do not care. They have made the accusation. The Member for Porter Creek East has made accusations about houses in Ross River, abandoned and worthless, all of which is quite untrue. Nevertheless, the impression is laid, and the media buys it every single time. Every single time.
Given the context of what we are talking about here, the fact that the Yukon Housing Corporation is trying to deal with the needs of low income people - being perhaps referred to by the Leader of the Opposition as a socialist disease, it is gross. The government has provided the Yukon Housing Corporation with clear policy direction and policy principles; the Members have asked for it and the Members have got it. The Yukon Housing Corporation has had direction given to it with respect to capital standards. The Yukon Housing Corporation itself, through the good auspices of the volunteers on the board and the hundreds of volunteers around the territory - both presently on boards and who have been on boards of housing associations around the territory - have given a great deal of their time and effort to ensuring that the housing needs of people in the territory are addressed in a manner which not only meets those needs but is sensitive to community concerns.
The Members opposite have, on a number of occasions, suggested that the government is acting only to support social housing. The government has repeatedly stated that it has a balanced approach to housing, and it is essentially linked in three parts. We voted that housing should address, as its top priority, the needs of those who need housing most. We do not apologize for that for one second. That has been our top priority. A government does not have half a dozen top priorities. It has one. People who need housing the most has been our priority.
We realize that there are other initiatives that we have to undertake, and we have been undertaking them. We have been making efforts to develop land and to provide support for the private sector in a variety of ways, which I will make clear. The policy is balanced between the social needs and the needs of the private market. It is always recognized that there is no single, magical answer to the needs of people who require housing, either low income people or people who have difficulty getting mortgage insurance because they are in a rural area.
There is no magic here. There is a lot of hard work involved. There is the delivery vehicle to get into shape. There are the resources to provide. There is the time it takes to do the job. We feel that our housing program is balanced to meet a variety of needs, and balanced over several budgets because of limited resources. It is balanced among income groups and among regions. It is a balanced policy.
The Conservative opposition, exclusively, believes, as a matter of philosophy, that social housing creates dependency on government. The needs that people have had that existed prior to our housing program are there whether or not the Yukon Housing Corporation builds housing. The problem was that the previous government just ignored them. Unfortunately, there is several years backlog of need. There were 80 units sold in 1983-84, in two years. I wonder if there was any discussion in the grand halls of the Cabinet in those days as to whether the selling off of 80 units in two years was going to have any impact on the market.
Probably not. The Members have suggested on numerous occasions that the government should not compete with the public sector and, on the face of it, this government believes that you should not compete with the private sector. The private sector is not building social housing. It is not providing social housing in this territory: that is obvious, that is absolutely obvious. Even when the government has made it clear that they are prepared to go into partnership with the private sector, through a rental supplement program, there have still been very few to limited to no takers.
Social housing is for people who cannot afford decent housing. It is for seniors, for single parents, and other low income families. This housing does not compete with the private sector; it complements the private sector. If there is a private sector housing market there for construction, if it were meeting social housing needs, then all power to the private sector - the government will step back because the needs will be met. Unfortunately, the needs are not being met and that matter is conveniently forgotten, or ignored, or intentionally dropped by the Members opposite.
All Members on the opposite side have suggested that the government has failed to consider home ownership options. That is not true. The government - this Minister - has been in conversation with the Housing Corporation board over the course of the past year and there will be government action in terms of programs this year - one year later.
It is important to remember that one of the reasons for the housing crisis today is the fact that the economy is so prosperous. The economy is very prosperous: all economic indicators show that this economy - our Yukon economy - is one of the fastest growing economies in the country, and it has consequences. Housing is one of them and the government is attempting to address these needs.
In concert with the need to develop home ownership options - recognizing the difficulty some people have in owning a home, or getting the mortgage if they want a home, in the recognition of the various difficulties that people have in supporting the cost of home ownership with their incomes - the government undertook a survey to look into the details of home ownership. The survey is now complete as we speak. It is to go to the Corporation board and the government within the next month.
The Members of the Opposition have suggested that the government has not done enough to encourage private sector housing.
Two of the three elements of the governments housing policy, which are land development and market support, are to do with private housing. The government has continued to develop housing land at the same rate as the previous government. This government has developed at least as many lots as the previous government, 230 lots in 1986-87, and 120 more due in 1988, 200 more due in 1989: a total of 550 in four years.
The previous government developed a total of 377 lots in three years. Half of these, Porter Creek C and Willow Acres, have been released during the current governments term.
Some Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member makes reference to the fact that we have to be speaking to the principle of the motion. He began his own remarks by suggesting that we have to put this motion in context and referred specifically to the seniors complex in Teslin, referred specifically to the fact that he disagreed with this government with respect to housing, and wanted to make sure that the territory knew in what context he was placing this motion on the Order Paper. I am responding to his motion on the Order Paper in the context under which he placed it.
There are many things that this government is doing to encourage private sector housing. The Housing Corporation under this government has introduced home improvement grants which, incidentally, are fully one third of the Yukon Housing Corporations Capital Budget for l988-89, in order to improve housing for people who own their own homes. Home Owner grants are $1 million a year.
Some Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Porter Creek East says: come to me and give me money. That means he does not support the program, it is a giveaway program, and I will take that as nonsupport.
All the time that we have been bamboozled by the Member on this question the Conservative opposition has indicated to us that the government has done nothing to deal with the Whitehorse housing shortage. Despite the fact that there is economic prosperity in the territory and a shortage in the housing market, when the government respond on the social housing side to the very limited extent that it has, it is too much.
To address specifically the issue that seems to be of concern to the petitioners in the neighbourhood around Bamboo Crescent about the quality of Yukon housing, it is the Yukon Housing Corporations goal to improve the housing stock in the territory. It is their goal to ensure that the housing stock - not only in the future Building plans - but also the existing units, are brought to a standard that meets community standards.
That is the governments commitment. The government, through the Yukon Housing Corporation, has made it clear that the needs of the people in the territory who require adequate and decent housing are going to be addressed through the governments housing programs. The government has made it clear that it is going to support the private sector through land development and through home ownership options. The government has a balanced approach to housing.
There have been many times in this Legislature when I have stood here and listened to Members on the other side of the House complain that the government is not doing enough for the upper income earners in the territory, that they should be doing more for them as a higher priority. The fact that the government has decided to meet the top priority, which is for the low income and people who simply cannot afford their own housing, seems to be objectionable to the Members opposite.
I will make a literary illusion with respect to the difference between the Conservative opposition and the NDP government. The NDP government responds to the needs of the people of the communities sensitively, in accordance with the needs of the community and in a manner that I have already made clear. The Conservatives, to make the literary illusion, take a more Scrooge-like approach. This is Christmas and a time when we ought to be making literary illusions about Scrooge and about Jacob Morley and perhaps what you do with orphans and people who are homeless. Scrooge, when asked about people who were in need, asked whether or not there were any prisons, he asked whether or not there were any union workhouses, whether or not they were still in full operation. That sums up, in cogent terms, much of the innuendo and the underlying moral judgment that had been passed by the Conservative opposition.
This government does not share it. Not only does this government not share it, it is proud of the priorities it has set. It is proud of the budgets it has set with respect to ensuring that the needs of our community are met. It does not back off one iota for the actions that have taken place. There will be minor difficulties given the level of activity, but the general direction in which the government is going and the general direction set for the Yukon Housing Corporation, is a direction of which we are proud and will stand by.
There will be situations in the future where the Opposition will stand up and be concerned, perhaps about the Teslin seniors complex, a complex which Mr. Speaker was very instrumental in trying to see built in Teslin many years ago that would serve the people of Teslin over a quarter of a century. I am referring to the Teslin fourplex.
The government is responding to the needs of the people of the territory. They are going to respond in a manner that is consistent with the Corporations stated policies and objectives and the governments stated policies and objectives. They will meet those needs. They will not ignore the needs of the people who have expressed those needs through housing associations time and time again, and will address those things through our Budgets and through the policies that we enunciate in this House.
I am proud to have been the Minister of Housing at a time when the needs could be addressed by this Legislature. In final reference to the petition, the government took great pains to understand the concerns of the petitioners, to understand that which caused them to put their name on a petition to express the view that social housing units should not be built in their neighbourhood, and we tried to understand all the ramifications of pulling back from a housing commitment, of saying no to these housing units and denying people who need these units at this time. We took all of that into consideration, and I believe we have taken the wise decision that is sensitive not only to the needs of the people who need the housing, but also to the community and this neighbourhood in which these housing units will proudly be placed. I am hoping that the Members in the Opposition will understand the Yukon Housing Corporations decision. The government supported that decision. I hope they will understand and recognize the need for social housing on Bamboo Crescent and in the city, will understand and recognize the need for seniors housing in Porter Creek, for all the reasons that went into making the decision. I am hoping they will do the civilized thing and withdraw the motion.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks.
Mr. Lang: Time is passing us by. I am not going into a long harangue, a filabustser. The Minister responsible for housing did not effectively dealwith the problems presented to him by the petitioners of Bamboo Crescent and the surrounding areas. It is an unfortunate when the government says that they are going to consult, hear peoples opinions and then make decisions.
Here is a situation where the Yukon Housing Corporation, this well managed, oiled, mean and aggressive machine did not even know how many homes were owned by the Grey Mountain Housing Association on that crescent. This is the government that said that they were involved in planning and are now going to go ahead and put a housing program in place for all Yukoners. The civilized thing for the side opposite to do is to vote for this motion, admit that they made a mistake and withdraw.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon Member: Division
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Porter: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Mr. Webster: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Clerk: The results are 7 yea, 8 nay.
Mr. Lang: The House Leaders have agreed to extend the time allocated to Motions other than Government Motions by one hour. This requires the unanimous consent of the House. I therefore request unanimous consent for us to continue at 7:30 p.m. with Motions other than Government Motions until 8:30 p.m. tonight.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Consent is unanimous.
Order please. The time now being 5:30 p.m. I will now leave the Chair pursuant to the direction of Standing Order 2 until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Pursuant to the direction of the House, we will now return to the debate on the amendment to Motion No. 26.
Mr. Phillips: As you ruled my first amendment out of order, I would like to take another kick at the wood stove, so to speak.
I listened closely to the comments from the Minister, but I am afraid I cannot agree with his attempt to rationalize this law with this amendment. It is still very clear that all we have here is a law for the sake of having a law.
The Minister did not produce one shred of evidence to prove the need for this legislation, and the Minister appears, for the second time, to ignore a petition of concerned Yukoners. This time, the petition had over 600 names on it. Not only are there 600 names, but there are names from all over the territory, with a great number of them from the Members own riding.
This law affects rural Yukon most. I am totally surprised at the side opposites reaction. I am even more convinced that they would pass any law or regulation that bureaucrats would put on top of their desk. This law does not only add a huge expense to the garage owner, but it also fails to take into account that a wood stove, which works on the principle of radiant heat, is totally inefficient.
It is time when we should come back to earth and use a little thing that most of us are blessed with, and that is common sense. I would like to remind Members of an old saying: If it aint broke, dont fix it. The wood stoves in garages in the Yukon are not a problem.
As I thought about this debate today, and read and reread the Ministers amendment, the more frustrated I became.
We came to this House with what we felt was a reasonable motion and this government wanted to water it down and wash it under the bridge. My message from Yukoners is crystal clear: they do not want this law. I am not prepared to play word games with the Minister. I have a petition in front of me and it clearly says, and will I read from it. It is addressed to Piers McDonald, Government of the Yukon, re: Order-in-Council 1987/39, Building Standards Act: The undersigned hereby petition to have this Order-in-Council dealing with garage wood stoves repealed.
I think we should honour that request from the people of the Yukon.
At this time, I would like to table the petition so all Members in the House can have the opportunity to read through the names of the responsible Yukoners who have taken time to sign this petition.
I believe that this law is totally and absolutely unnecessary, and for that reason I would like to propose the following amendment:
THAT the amendment to Motion 26 be amended in the first paragraph by deleting the words private residential; and
THAT the amendment to Motion 26 be further amended in the second paragraph by deleting all the words after Government of Yukon and substituting therefor the following:
to repeal Sections 3 and 4 of the Garage Solid Fuel Fired Appliance Regulations.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North:
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 26 be amended in the first paragraph by deleting the words private residential; and
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 26 be further amended in the second paragraph by deleting all the words after the Government of Yukon and substituting therefor the following:
to repeal sections 3 and 4 of the Garage Solid Fuel Fire Appliances Regulations.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am truly disappointed in the attitude that the Member has taken. It is unfortunate that the Member, who says that he has listened to the remarks that were made this afternoon neglected to understand that the action of the original Motion and the subamendment simply will not do what the Members themselves want. The fact of the matter is that there are two Acts involved: the Building Standards Act, under which the regulations were passed, and the Fire Prevention Act, which gives the fire inspector the authority to order that unsafe installations and unsafe environment must be rectified and, in so doing, can essentially ensure that the use of wood heat in an unsafe environment is banned.
The point of the regulation that we had passed last February was an attempt to make legal and make possible the use of wood stoves in garages safe. What we had agreed to a couple of months ago, after some considerable thought, was that we could work on the gradation of what was considered an unsafe environment, starting from private residential unit garages, which were considered to be low activity, low danger environments and that we would seriously review those guidelines and make them far less rigorous than they are today.
There still remains a safety hazard in commercial garages; for example, in those where there are motor vehicle mechanics working regularly with combustible and flammable gases and liquids, for which there may be a need to put in a wood stove and to do so safely. It was that situation that I was attempting to continue to address through the amendment that I put forward. I was not playing with words. There was an identifiable need. It has been identified by the Canadian Standards Association as a problem that is to be addressed in 1990 in the five year review. It is on the agenda to be reviewed for the National Building Code as well. It is identified as a problem, and the government was attempting to address it. Unfortunately, the Member feels that he has a petition in hand and wants to do a political act rather than a responsible act.
I do respect the concerns that are expressed by the people who signed the petition. Some of the concerns are not well-founded, given that some of the petitions are under the assumption that this regulation applies to all garages, irrespective of whether or not there is a motor vehicle involved or whether or not there are motor vehicle repairs or if there are gaseous substances. That is not the case. It is incumbent upon the government to inform them of that fact.
The government is prepared to make amendment for private residential - basically for low risk environments. That was the very significant move that the government has indicated that it is prepared to make. Unfortunately, this neither does the trick, in terms of doing what the Member wants. I believe it is an irresponsible act, and I cannot vote for it.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the subamendment?
Some Hon. Members: Question.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Porter: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Mr. Webster: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Disagree.
Clerk: The results are 6 yea, 9 nay.
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Mr. Phelps: I, too, carefully considered the amendment as presented this afternoon, and I really cannot for the life of me understand why the Minister found it necessary to come forward with the amendment. It was our opinion that the original motion was reasonable in the circumstances. It was our opinion that this did allow the government to look at Sections 3 and 4 and develop less rigorous and more reasonable regulations to govern the installation of wood stoves in garages.
Now the problem is that we did come forward with what I thought, and my caucus obviously feels, was a bottom line and reasonable position. The amendment as put forward by the Minister has flaws that I personally cannot accept and vote for.
The first of these flaws has to do with the words, restricting it to only private residential garages. Now, the Minister seemed to indicate that he had some sympathy for - particularly, rural home owners - but all home owners, I take it. I take it from his message this afternoon, with regard to the obvious problems and flaws of the regulations, that he was prepared to look at their situation.
How about all the other commercial situations where people are carrying on businesses in what, by definition under the regulations, would be a garage? Commercial garages are not just the local Petro-Canada or Esso station that a person drives into with his car. Throughout Hootalinqua, throughout rural Yukon, all kinds of people are carrying on commercial business in what would be, by definition under the regulations, considered to be a garage. These people deserve the same consideration.
We have businesses that have been carried on for quite sometime in a very safe manner. We have the Air North hangar in Whitehorse, Atlas Travel and Atlas Tours that heat by wood. We have all kinds, as I have already said, of small businesses operating out of garages using wood heat.
So, firstly, I object very strenuously to this restriction placed upon the original motion. Secondly, I find it unreasonable that this amendment would water down the wording unnecessarily.
It is a weak kneed, bureaucratic kind of wording that is unnecessary. If the Minister agrees that restricting it to private residential garages is unnecessary and would actually unnecessarily penalize all kinds of Yukoners of every walk of life, then surely he would also agree that words such as reviewing the regulations to determine if alternate requirements could be adopted are all weak kneed, bureaucratic qualifications that are not necessary. The original motion was straight forward and would surely accomplish the objectives that the Minister had in mind. On a careful reading of the Motion, it allows the flexibility that he was seeking. For us, it was a bottom line position that was brought in.
Frankly, a good many Yukoners will never be satisfied with any regulations in this regard. We are still prepared to take the position that was set forward in the original Motion, which we thought was reasonable and would be easily accepted by the side opposite.
Mr. McLachlan: I have listened to the arguments on both sides of the House today, and I can appreciate the concern on both sides: cost, safety, protection of the public. I rise because I have some experience with this situation, having myself contemplated it in 1984 for the very same reason: to reduce the cost of heating. When I inquired of the territorial government at that time, I was told of this situation. I was somewhat aggravated at the time at what I would have to go through, not so much for the cost, because I knew it would be expensive, but for the amount of work that was required: concrete floor, eight inch concrete blocks and tie into a ducting that was already at an eight foot ceiling level.
When I thought about it further, I began to see some of the merit that the fire inspector had proposed in this area. I had seen similar situations flame - propane gas, diesel fuel, gasoline. I had seen the fumes drawn to a wood burner that the sides were heated up to.
The Leader of the Official Opposition made reference in this afternoons debate on what the difference is with an oil burner as opposed to a wood burner that has an open flame. All the oil burners I have ever seen had the fire box encased by galvanized steel, and an air box around it. They do not generate the heat that an open wood burner does.
We are also hearing the same arguments put forward this evening that were put forward the first time someone proposed a sprinkler system in a commercial building. How do you know it will work? How do you know it is needed? Show us the demand. It is not warranted. None of that is heard anymore, and the sprinkler systems are required for 5,000 square feet or more.
The Department of Protective Services at the moment has two investigations under way on fires and commercial operations. One that occurred in Ross River two days ago and one for which the answers are still not known in Watson Lake. There is a possibility, but it will not be known until the investigations are completed, that the damage was caused by exposure of a spark to the stove. As I understand, most of the complaints from the Conservatives, is mostly the problems are associated with those individuals who have to go to the extra $2,000 or more to provide the separate furnace room ducting and an outside entrance. I believe that the amendment that has been proposed by the Minister addresses the problem and the private residential concerns, and it is because of that I would support the amendment as a moderate avenue between the original motion and the subamendment.
Mr. Brewster: I was not going to get up and speak on this one but I would like to go home, back to the Kluane area, and I do not want every lodge and every lodge owner there to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars building furnaces. They have heated their places for years with wood; they were encouraged by this government and the former government and the federal government to get off oil and get into wood. They did it. They did what they were told. They even got grants, some of them, from government. Now, all of a sudden, some bureaucrat comes along and wants to change things. We have done enough of that; let us get straightened up on this. I think it is very, very stupid, because some bureaucrat went up the road and saw something he did not like, that all of a sudden everybody has to change. The governments and the federal government and everybody encouraged these people to put these woodstoves in. They pleaded with them to put them. Think what happened over in Riverdale: they pleaded with them to put them in their house, then they saw smoke. They did not look ahead. Now, all of a sudden, they are going out in garages, and they have some very good furnaces out there. I can see these people being very upset. The Member for Faro said a couple of thousand dollars. You do not build any fireproof house for a couple of thousand dollars. The cement alone costs a couple of thousand dollars.
I will tell you another thing that nobody seems to think of, and I will agree with the Minister, that the woodstoves do suck in when you open the door. That is just when you feed it. The oil stove is sucking with a fan. It is always low to the ground and it is drawing. Did the bureaucrat not think of that one? It is continually sucking. I am sick and tired of going around like we wasted time today, fooling around and lobbying on this thing. Let us go out and vote on this thing and get it over with.
Mr. Lang: I want to make one comment. I was not voting to repeal the regulations. The regulations are still in effect and will be in effect for sometime to come. There are people all across the territory, in the City of Whitehorse and in all the other municipalities who are going to have to abide by it, and everybody is breaking the law. The Minister better realize it.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk will you please poll the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Porter: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Agree.
Ms. Kassi: Agree.
Mr. Webster: Agree.
Mr. Phelps: Disagree.
Mr. Brewster: Disagree.
Mr. Lang: Disagree.
Mr. Nordling: Disagree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, six nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main Motion as amended?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I was not intending to speak to this Motion, but after the Member for Porter Creek East spoke on the amendment, I feel I should speak because he gave the House wrong information which was a misinterpretation of the law as it would be. There are many nonconforming uses about many building standards around the Yukon. What he said was inaccurate. In order to get a building permit for new construction, it would be necessary to comply with the regulations. This regulation applies to new construction and the fear mongering on the other side was wrong information.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Phelps: I am very disappointed, of course, that the original motion was unnecessarily amended; really, it was amended to a point that I find completely unpalatable. I cannot understand the reasons for the side opposite, or our good friend from Faro, for taking the stand that they did. This has really been highly restrictive. It is going to mean, unnecessarily, that people with commercial enterprises that are operating out of garages are discriminated against and will not have a chance, under this Motion, for any kind of relief.
I listened to the inane remarks that were just made by the Minister of Justice. There is fear mongering with regard to those who own structures that have wood stoves in them and are technically garages, as per the definition section in the regulations. Insurance rates are presently going up because of these regulations over some of those garages; we have proof of that.
Most people who are selling their homes, or their homes with commercial workshops, in such places as Golden Horn subdivision or the Mayo Road, are going to find themselves forced, as many people are now to upgrade the existing buildings to meet the new regulations in order to sell. That is just the way the real world operates, it is the way that private enterprise operates and is something that I know is far beyond the ken of that particular speaker.
I am disappointed. I know that a great many Yukoners, from all walks of life, from all parts of the Yukon, will be disappointed, and that is really all I have to say on the subject.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amended motion?
Are you agreed?
Motion No. 26 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 24
Clerk: Item No. 8, standing in the name of the Mr. Nordling.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item 8?
Mr. Nordling: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek West
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the economic development in many rural areas of Yukon is dependent upon the price of power; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to develop and implement a power rate equalization scheme throughout Yukon without raising the power rates in Whitehorse.
Mr. Nordling: I am going to be very brief. I hope we get to vote on this motion within the next 23 minutes. The motion is brought forward at this time because the government is looking into finalizing a rate policy. The Minister of Justice told us that, on November 10, 1987, in this House when he announced that appointments to the Yukon Utilities Board were imminent. My concern, and the reason for bringing this motion, is to urge the government to look at power rate equalization to stimulate and maintain economic development in rural areas.
The rate freeze will be in effect for another 15 months, which should give the government plenty of opportunity to consider this issue fully. I have purposely made the motion very open, as this is a difficult issue and there are many ways of dealing with it.
The issue of rate equalization has been talked about since at least the early 1970s, and I know the Government Leader will be able to tell this House a lot more about the history and pitfalls of power rate equalization schemes than I can. He has taken part in the debate since at least 1979 and, in fact, every volume of Hansard back to 1979 contains references to rate equalization and subsidies.
There have been schemes in the past, one of which began in 1969 and involved the returning of income tax paid by Yukon Electrical to consumers. This electrical rate equalization plan was suspended in November, 1980, because of funding problems. I do not now know what has happened with that particular program, or what is being done with the income tax money paid by Yukon Electric and returned to the Yukon government.
I believe there were hearings in 1984 on rate equalization, and I know we have a rate equalization program in place at this time that equalizes rates on up to 700 kilowatt hours per month for residential users and up to 1,000 kilowatt hours per month for commercial users.
The situation has changed now, in that we own a power company. I would like to see this program looked at, particularly from the point of view that 1,000 kilowatt hours per month for commercial users may not be high enough. I am not sure what specific scheme will accomplish our goal. However, I have no hesitation in stating specifically what I do not want to see, and that is a windfall for government.
What I mean by that is that the government is a large user of power in rural areas, and I do not want to see people in Whitehorse subsidizing power that is being used by the government in rural areas. I do not want to see the government building in rural areas with electric heat to take advantage of the subsidy at the expense of other users who pay for it out of their own pocket.
The takeover of the assets of NCPC has given us in Yukon an opportunity to be masters in our own house. I remember the speculation that, when the Development Corporation took over NCPC, power rates would drop immediately. This, of course, did not happen because, as part of the takeover, a two year freeze was put into place. I hope that, under this freeze, we are building a surplus of money and that, combined with the debt write off that took place, we will be in a position to lower rates 15 months from now. What we are asking is that, before making an across the board reduction in rates, the government looks at using money which becomes available to assist the economies of rural areas. I know that once above 1,000 kilowatt hours a month the power rates in, for example, Watson Lake are considerably higher than Whitehorse and extremely high when compared to northern British Columbia, and Watson Lake businesses must compete with businesses in northern British Columbia. That is one example of our concern.
I am going to conclude now, and I look forward to hearing the views of other Members and I look forward to support for this motion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the opportunity to debate this question, which is created by the presentation of the motion by the Member opposite.
I am going to have to try to talk very quickly in order to respond in any kind of substance in the time that is left, so I would ask the Member to understand that I am going to circulate an amendment that I hope is, from his point of view, inoffensive and constructive. If I can move that amendment, Mr. Speaker, I will then explain why it is, in fact, helpful to his proposition.
I would like to move: THAT Motion No. 24 be amended by deleting all words after the expression Government of Yukon and inserting the following in their place: and the Yukon Energy Corporation to continue to develop fair and equitable power rate and subsidy schemes for the benefit of all Yukon communities.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader: THAT Motion No. 24 be amended by deleting all words after the expression Government of Yukon and inserting the following in their place: and the Yukon Energy Corporation to continue to develop fair and equitable power rate and subsidy schemes for the benefit of all Yukon communities.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The first point I would make about the amendment is that I am sure the Member for Porter Creek West would concede this because he specifies no negative impact on the City of Whitehorse. Of course, I think it is proper that we should also include communities like Mayo, which now benefit from low hydro rates but which could potentially under some equalization schemes be adversely affected, and I am sure we would not want any discrimination against a community such as Mayo or other communities that may now or in the future be on hydro.
The second thing I think I want to do in my amendment is make a clear distinction between rates and subsidies, because it is very important to the representation the Member is trying to make. If we were not to do that, I think we would run the risk of confusing the issue.
To clarify the difference, the rates are set by public utilities boards or other regulatory bodies elsewhere in the country usually on the basis of the actual amount it costs to generate, transmit and distribute power. In determining the rate, regulatory bodies, such as our Public Utilities Board, often take into account only those objective factors, in other words, what the economic cost is. This means that since the actual costs are higher in outlying communities than in Whitehorse, the power rates charged to residents in those communities is also higher than that charged to residents in Whitehorse.
Over the years governments have recognized the great burden that a rate structure such as this places on residents of many smaller communities. To help alleviate this, we subsidize the rates so that for a specific number of hours, those mentioned by the Member opposite, a resident of an outlying community may only pay the same rate as a resident of Whitehorse would.
The subsidy is calculated directly. In the case of the Yukon situation, it is now made by the Yukon Energy Corporation for individual power users. In the case of businesses, actual rates are paid; however businesses can apply annually to have the subsidy remitted to them. We have to, for the purposes of this discussion, distinguish between rates and subsidies in talking about energy or power costs. I will explain further why that is important.
The transfer of NCPCs Yukon assets to Yukon control was, in our view, just the first step in what would be quite a considerable journey towards equitable costs for all Yukoners. The Transfer Agreement ensured that power rates are frozen until March 31, 1989. This ensures a saving of five percent increases in rates that were planned by NCPC for this year. It means, though, that we cannot, for the two year period mentioned, either raise rates or lower rates.
Let me remind the House that restructuring the power rates, as an objective for the transfer of NCPC announced in this Legislature on February 5, 1987, is a priority. We indicated at that time that rate structures will begin to be reviewed immediately with the intention of trying to remove some of the present inequities an anomalies. The freeze in power rates enables us to take the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive study of all of the options available regarding the reform and restructuring of rates.
As well, as I announced during the debate on the Estimates, we are presently studying our options on reformation of subsidy structures. We expect that study to be completed in May, 1988. Any new rate structure must not only establish a regime that achieves the goal of using power rates as a tool for economic development but also provides equity to our rural residents while maintaining fairness to those who live in Whitehorse. Our new rate structure must take into consideration the distinction between power costs and subsidies. This issue will be carefully considered by the Energy Corporation and the government.
Any rate structure must also include the objective of conservation of a scarce resource. The financial package of the transfer agreement specifically made the distinction between costs and subsidies. The federal government provided an equity grant of $19.5 million of their previous obligations for the subsidies.
The Yukon Energy Corporation has ensured the continuation of the old subsidy arrangements for equalization. The current subsidies, that were not guaranteed by the federal government and were approved on an annual basis, ensure that Yukoners pay the Whitehorse rate for the first 700 kilowatts of consumption of each month for residential users, as the Member opposite mentioned.
The cost of that program to us is about $1.3 million right now, which is paid by the energy corporation. As I indicated earlier in this session, our officials are now studying the subsidy arrangements in the Yukon in the hope that, in a matter of months, we may announce some improvements. The important point about the amendment I want to make to the Member is we cannot do anything about the rates for the two year period, but I do not believe there is a prohibition on us doing something about the subsidies. In other words, we may be able to restructure the subsidies in advance of the rate changes, and that is why I wanted to make the clear distinction in the amendment I put before the House. Without knowing yet what our capacity to make changes is, it is my expectation that we will be able to consider those in May of 1988, whereas we will not be able to deal with the rate question until a similar period in 1989.
I also want to make another point about rates. Even if we did not have a two year freeze, it would be irresponsible for us to establish a new rate structure before the new utility had a period of time in operation with some time to consider the results. As Members know, we have only had ownership and control of the system for about eight months. After one year of operation, the energy corporation will be in a relatively good position to forecast its revenues and costs based on this experience, and the energy corporation as well as its private sector manager, are developing their business plan, which includes this development financial forecast.
After this business plan has been finalized, we may be fairly confident that the Yukon Energy Corporation will have the financial ability to carry through the rate restructuring and to guarantee the appropriate and stable rates. Rate stability is, of course, absolutely important to present users, as well as potential investors.
Naturally, our planning for a new rate structure will be carried out in consultation with Yukoners and groups such as the Association of Yukon Communities, the City of Whitehorse, major industrial users and other interested parties, and will take into consideration the financial impact of major power consumers.
The utility must also have the financial capacity to carry out Capital projects that require major investment, such as the Mayo dam, the North Fork development, and must continue to grow to serve the territory, in addition to paying for restructured rates.
As some Members may know, we have also been involved in examining other methods for reducing energy costs for Yukoners, such as: cheaper alternatives to diesel and thermal generation from waste wood in Watson Lake are being explored, several additional hydro sites are now being assessed, improved and expanded transmission of power from existing hydro sites is being investigated, wood central heating systems in Whitehorse, Faro and for the Champagne-Aishihik Band in Haines Junction are under investigation and, as the Minister of Government Services indicated yesterday, there are micro hydro possibilities being examined in the territory - in addition to the actions of the energy corporation.
In conclusion, let me say that the energy corporation has already initiated the analysis and the work on new options for rate structures. We expect the board of directors will make their decisions when they have the ability to do so, based on some relevant experience. I have also indicated to the House that, ahead of a final decision on rates, we may well be able to make a decision about subsidies. I have asked the corporation to have a proposal about subsidies to Cabinet by May, 1988. Of course, decisions on both subsidies and, then, on the rates, will be announced as they are made.
I thank the Member opposite for presenting the motion and allowing some debate on this question. I hope all Members will see fit to support the amendment I have proposed, which I believe does not in any way damage the principle of the motion presented by the Member.
Mr. Nordling: My concern in adding the line without raising the power rates in Whitehorse is, as the Government Leader pointed out, that the present subsidy costs at approximately $1.2 to $1.4 million a year, and the Government Leader said approximately $1.3 million. I accept his figure; I do not have them in front of me. If there was a complete equalization, my understanding is that it would cost in the area of $6 million a year which would be much more difficult to manage and would result in increases in power rates in Whitehorse of up to 20 percent. That was my concern.
The amendment itself clarifies to a certain extent what I am trying to get across and, with the amendment, the power rate scheme will be looked at. In the interests of having the Motion passed, I do not believe that we will vote against it. I would just like to make the comment though that in the amendment we have the Yukon Energy Corporation continuing to develop a fair and equitable power rate and subsidy schemes. I do not know what they have done so far. If the Government Leader is stuck and continued to give himself a pat on the back, I will let that go, too, in the interest of getting a motion passed unanimously in the House to look at fair and equitable power rates and subsidy schemes for the benefit of all Yukon communities.
Mr. Phelps: I am going to be very brief because I see we are almost out of time. I do want to see us voting in support of the amendment. I would like to say that it is a situation of great concern to Members on this side. Places such as Watson Lake and Dawson, and all the outlying communities are really paying a huge amount for electrical energy, and in many cases not being far away from BC centres and areas that are in competition and paying only what is paid in Vancouver.
With that in mind, I am pleased to support this amended motion.
Amendment agreed to
Motion No. 24 agreed to as amended.
Speaker: The time now being 8:30 p.m., pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 11 and the direction of the House, no further business may take place under the heading Motions Other than Government Motions.
May I have your further pleasure?
Hon. Mr. Porter: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Chairman: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 5 - First Appropriation Act, 1988-89 - continued
Chairman: We will continue with general debate on the Department of Government Services.
Mr. Lang: Before we get back into the value added concept, does the Minister have the figures for all the moves that have taken place? The Minister was supposed to get that for us.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No, I do not. It is still being prepared and calculated. I will have it as soon as it is ready.
Mr. Lang: I am a little concerned, because I am left with the impression that he is waiting for us to get out of the House. Is there a possibility of having it tomorrow morning?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I believe so, but that is not a commitment or a promise. The commitment is that I will deliver it as soon as I get it.
Mr. Lang: I assume that that will be available tomorrow morning. Getting back to the value added concept. There was a question left with the Minister, and the Minister said he was going to check when he finally made the decision that he was going to go ahead with the value added policy in place. He said he did not, so he was also going to find out who gave the order to attach it to the young offenders tender documents.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: On the last question, it was contract administration, or Dave Parfitt. On the first question, I did not give a commitment to give a precise date. It was exactly the opposite. I said that a decision was taken. It was in the course of various conversations among various people. It is simply impossible to pinpoint a date.
Mr. Lang: Did the Minister ask his deputy minister to refresh his memory when he gave him the direction to implement this policy that is going to have such a very wide and grave consequence on the contracting business?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I have already answered no.
Mr. Lang: I do not understand this. There was a commitment made in this House, and I am getting the impression the Minister is not prepared to answer the question because he gave the direction to the department prior to us recessing, and he is not prepared to tell us that. I find it very difficult to believe. I have a lot of respect for the people in the contract administration area of the government. They are very hard working and considerate people who try to do a very good job with what, at times, could be described as limited resources, depending on the time of the year.
Who gave Mr. Parfitt direction to put the value added concept addendum on the young offenders contract?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The direction stems from the decision made by Management Board. I believe the date was May 26.
Mr. Lang: I find this very difficult. Once again, we were told in this House, on December 10, or whatever date it was - December 7 - that the Minister could not supply this House with the policy on the value added concept, because he had to go back and have further discussions with the value added committee struck by the contractors and he was going to have to go back to his government, which I took to be the Cabinet, and that is why he could not divulge to us this policy.
Did the Minister just tell me that it is up to Dave Parfitt, the contract administrator, to pick any day to put this policy into effect? He could have done it on May 27 - is that what the Minister is telling us?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I answered this repeatedly for an hour yesterday and I will answer again. There was a possibility - and at some periods of time a probability - that there were going to be changes made in the policy. We did not have a policy until January 1, 1988 in fact. The last effective possible date to change it was December 23. I have explained that. I cannot explain it any more than I have already explained it, and that is the situation. The Members have the policy now, I am informed. The policy is now available and, in fact, it is the same one which was approved for consultation in May. I have explained this several times; that is all I can do.
Mr. Lang: The difficulty I am getting into here is the question of the reason for the Legislature being here - the cornerstone of the Legislature is telling the truth and providing information to all Members of this House. I find it very difficult that, every time I deal with this particular Minister, I never seem to get a straight answer. I would have liked to cleared this particular area of the Budget a long time ago. It took us a half-hour to find out that, to administer this particular new program, it was not only going to be two people, it was going to be four. He smiles to himself in his benign way of how simple the people are. Maybe this question should be put: is the Deputy Minister or the people in your administration at liberty to tell us exactly when - if asked - they were instructed to proceed with the policy, outside this House?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I have already answered. They will answer that their authority came from the Management Board on May 26.
Mr. Lang: This is almost like the Justice of the Peace case. Who gave them the authority or the direction to proceed with the policy accepted on May 26. Who gave them the direction to implement it: you, the deputy minister or whomever?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Management Board.
Mr. Lang: How come you told us, the last time we discussed the Budget, that you did not go back to Management Board, neither did you go to Cabinet - you made the decision yourself and gave direction to the deputy minister to implement the policy.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: What the Member is refusing to understand, or failing to understand, is that it was not necessary to go back to Cabinet or Management Board. It might have been simpler if it had have been, but it was not. The decision that was made in May was sufficient. It was possible to go back, and it was contemplated at some stages, by myself, to go back to Management Board. However, a decision was made - and a final decision only because of the passage of time - just prior to December 23, which was the last opportunity to not go back and to have the policy come into effect as it was.
Those are the facts and I have explained it several times.
Mr. Lang: I beg to differ. No, he has not. The question is very simple. I would like to know when the Minister gave direction to his deputy minister to implement his policy of May 26. What I want to know is because, in deference to this House, when we were sitting the Minister asked us to vote x amount of dollars under the pretext that he did not have a policy in place, and he could not produce it for us. Then we find out a week later, that direction had been given some time in that period of time - it could have even been the same day; it might have even been an hour before he walked into the House and told us he could not give the policy. I do not know. My question to the Minister is: if he cannot remember, will he give his blessing - if anybody from the media or any Member here were to ask the Deputy Minister or his associates or whomever was directed - if the question was to be put to them, when direction was given to implement that particular policy. Are they at liberty to give us that date?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Yes.
Mr. Lang: Would the Minister describe to us now exactly what would be required of a contractor to bid on a territorial contract under the new value added concept? Who will make the decision, when they are comparing tenders, of which contract has more value added concept over another?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The easiest way to answer that is to read the policy. The Member opposite already have the policy. They also have tender documents with the policy requirements attached. There are statements in the sense of forms that are to be filled out. It is a matter of filling out the forms. I cannot answer any more exactly than that.
Mrs. Firth: We are going to discuss the policy now that the Minister was so eager for us to discuss, and I am assuming that he knows the policy inside out and that he knows exactly what a contractor will have to do when they get this addendum attached to a tender document. For example, this addendum has been attached to the tender for the young offenders facility. The Minister has just told us that the bidders on that contract will have to fill out a bunch of forms. They have to fill out a bunch of forms anyway. I would like him to give us a dry run of what this is going to involve.
How many meetings will the contractors have to attend with the department officials who ask for invoices and for information on who the suppliers will be and about the employees. I expect the Minister to have all that kind of information at his fingertips.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: For a general contractor, the form is on two pages. For a subcontractor, it is on one page. It asks for the general to list the subcontractors and the value of the subcontracts. It also asks for a list of the number of Yukon residents expected to be employed. It is a very simple procedure. For a subcontractor, it asks for the suppliers and the number of Yukon residents employed. It is all on one page.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us how much time it is going to involve with the business people, the additional time that is going to be involved in complying with this new policy directive of the government?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: In filling out the form I would estimate that it would be a matter of a few minutes.
Mrs. Firth: We will see about that because it is not the message that we are getting, that it will take a few minutes to fill out these forms. Surely the Minister must realize that in all logic and common sense the additional information that is going to be required to be given to the officials by the contractors and subcontractors is going to take them more than a few minutes to comply with. We have had contractors give us examples of having to call to get clarification and to take their forms in and come back and redo them, and this is going to compound those already existing problems with filling out and complying with the many requests for information that contractors are now going to have to comply with under this value added concept.
Mr. Lang: I would like to know who makes the decision. After these poor contractors who have enough to do now have 15 different forms to fill out, and they all go for value added, who is going to make the decision of who has more value added over who has less value added?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The decision is made in exactly the same way that decisions are made under the business incentives policy.
Mr. Lang: Who are they?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: They are contract administrators.
Mr. Lang: A contract administrator, by himself, will make the decision of who gets the contract based on this concept, is that correct? He is the final decision maker?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: He makes the decision, - he or she - but the final arbitrator is always the Management Board as per the contract directive.
Mr. Lang: I want to follow this thing through. I have six guys from Whitehorse working for me and I am contractor A. Contractor B has five people from Whitehorse and perhaps he feels he has some expertise and has a guy from Dawson Creek who has come up and is on his payroll. When these two A and B contracts are put forward, then the contract administrator will make a decision which particular contractor will get the job and recommend it to Management Board, is that correct? The final decision is a political decision, then, and Management Board will make that decision? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No, it is not. The contract administrator would make the decision, and the award letter would be sent. They are sent exactly as they have been for years, by the deputy minister. The decisions are made as per the directives, and there is a possibility for the civil servants to send the decision to Management Board under certain circumstances, which are all specified in the directives.
Mr. Lang: Local hire is always an area of contention, depending on who you talk to. Was it a Cabinet decision to decide that three months was sufficient to be eligible as a Yukon resident?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The policy, as it is now, went to Cabinet, and the Cabinet delegated the decision to Management Board, and Management Board made the decision.
Mr. Lang: Management Board is now the Cabinet, as we know it: the political arm of the government. Everything seems to go back to Management Board. Maybe that is why we are having some of our problems; it seems like the civil servants, in some cases, are trying to run the government. To get it clear for the record, it was Management Board that made the decision that three months was acceptable for the purpose of the definition of a Yukon resident?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Yes. That definition was in the policy, which was accepted by Management Board.
Mr. McLachlan: Is it the anticipation of the government that the 92 percent of contracts awarded locally last year will rise to 95 or 96 percent with the value added concept?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Very possibly, yes.
Mr. McLachlan: Does the government have a target percentage that they are eventually shooting for? Is it 99? Is it 100? Is 95 regarded as acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: On the day I was sworn in as Minister, I was asked exactly that by the media, and I said the goal was 100 percent, provided the expertise and the materials, et cetera, are available here. There are some cost effective considerations, but the goal is exactly that: a complete Yukon hire.
Mr. Lang: I have to take exception to some degree with what the Minister has said. It is going to get to the point that nobody is welcome to the Yukon, and I do not know if that is the kind of Yukon we want. It seems to me that we are pitting community against community and, now, we are going to have a situation where a contractor versus contractor with respect to trying to curry favour with the government, saying they are going to hire these people and give them lip service and go about doing the business once they have the contract, knowing that the penalty is much lighter than what the rewards are going to be. If one looks at the policy of charging 10 percent, it could go under the guise of the value added concept. You could go about your business and not have to worry about it and just turn around and pay the penalty. You may have a $50,000 edge on a contract.
That is one side of it. Any policy that is there, if a person takes enough time, they can find their way around it. I just think it is a tragedy that we are going away from a low tender and going to this idea of political decisions.
What safeguards are in place to ensure no political porkbarrelling takes place?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Exactly the same safeguards as have always existed. The preamble the Member made demonstrates how little he understands this concept. The objectives here are: to maximize employment to Yukon residents; to encourage and promote Yukon employment opportunities in the construction industry with manufacturers and suppliers of goods and services; to encourage new construction firms, manufacturers, and suppliers; to establish a permanent operation in the Yukon; and to encourage companies to maximize their presence in the Yukon. I should emphasize that the existing Yukon contractors, or many of them, have a vested interest in not allowing anyone else in, which the business incentives policy aids and abets. This policy would allow new people to do business here as long as they hire Yukoners and maximize their presence here. It encourages new people to establish here much more so than the business incentives policy.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister some questions about his policy. I am not satisfied with the answer he gave about how much time it is going to take the contractor and some of the extra work that the contractors are going to be put to. In the policy, when we talk about the contractors being monitored during the performance of their contract to ensure that they are complying with Yukon content, there are three forms that the monitoring can take. The first is random checks by the Business Incentives Office, and requesting copies of invoices for materials used on the project, and requesting lists of employees employed on the project. Can the Minister give us some idea of how that procedure is going to work? Could he tell us exactly what the people who are monitoring are going to be doing? How many are going to be monitoring it, and what are they going to be doing exactly?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Not with precision, because we have yet to have that experience. The intent is to do what may be called spot or random audits, as the employment standards people presently do.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I gather then that the contractor has to comply with all of the requests of the department officials. Are they going to be classified as inspectors? It is a policing activity. What are these individuals going to be called?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I have already gone through all of the job titles. They are clerks in the Contract Administration Branch. We debated at length the personnel already, and I explained all of the job titles.
Mrs. Firth: The clerks have jobs to do here in the building. These are monitoring inspection functions. Spot audits and random audits are procedures that require a certain amount of time on behalf of the civil servant who is going to go to the business. Do they have the ability to do this just whenever they want to? From the looseness of the policy, I gather that they can do that. If a clerk is sitting in an office one day and suggests that they need more data to substantiate whether or not our contractors are keeping the law and are keeping in tune with this value added concept, he could decide to go out and inspect a few of them. The next thing the contractors know is that they have a couple of clerks on their doorstep making a spot audit or making a random check or two, or to wanting copies of invoices to prove that the materials they are using were purchased locally or to see if they are complying to their value added concept. Is that what the Minister is saying is going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No. The procedure will be very much the same as the procedure for the progress payments on contracts that now occur. It is the same kind of procedure. The contractors supply information to the government.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is trying to gloss it over now, and says tha everything is going to be the same. That is not so. This is a drastic change in the way that the contractors and businesses will be doing business with this government.
First of all, we have the inspection process for monitoring. A clerk can drop in on a contractor at any time and do a spot audit that will only take the contractor a few minutes to comply with out of their busy day. Section B talks about substitutes to the Yukon content. Does this mean that when a contractor, during the performance of the contract, requires substitutes, that they will be of equal value or better than originally stated, that they must make a request for these substitutes in writing to the business incentive office who will then provide written notice of approval and will either accept or reject the request.
This means that if someone is building a wood building and is using lumber from Hyland Forest Products, which runs out of lumber, they cannot just go and get more to continue on with the project. They have to write to the government. They have to ask for permission. They have to wait for the permission before they can buy more lumber to continue on with the project.
Meanwhile, they are going to be penalized because they do not comply with the contract deadline. That, essentially, is what is going to happen. I want to know if the Minister can confirm that.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No.
Mrs. Firth: How can the Minister say no, then. Can he tell us what will happen, because I just read the detail right out of this policy, so could he tell us how it is going to work?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No, not specifically, I cannot.
Mrs. Firth: So, is the Minister telling us that he cannot even tell us how his own policy is going to work? Is that what we are getting? I mean, has the Minister even read it, so that he knows that it is not going to be more than a few minutes? That it is going to be involved in this policy, in this concept that he was so eager to discuss. If that is not how it is going to work, and he cannot tell us how it is going to work, who can? Where is somebody who is going to tell us, so that we can discuss this great new initiative?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The answer to the first question is no, the answer to the second question is yes, and the answer to the third is that I can explain the policy as I am doing. The Member opposite has put forward a specific example. I will try and get as specific as possible a response from the administration for her.
Mrs. Firth: That is just absolutely irresponsible. The Minister really likes to shy away from examples. It is not even shying away from it - he just does not want to discuss it - because you know what happens when you discuss an example: everybody can relate to it and then they can understand exactly what this government is doing to them. The Minister does not like to do that.
Now it is very clear here in his policy as to what is going to happen, and when you apply it to an instance like that, how else can it be interpreted? It cannot be interpreted any other way.
Mr. Phillips: Let me try another example for the Minister and maybe he can bring this information back to us.
I have been involved in the past in the contracting field and I feel I have a little bit of an understanding of what happens. I am interested to know what happens, first of all, when the government awards a contract to a certain contractor based on their Yukon content, and part of their Yukon content is Yukon employees - hiring Yukon employees. Sometimes through the contract, when you are working on a contract, people quit or leave your employment, for one reason or another. What happens to the contractor when the inspector comes in and the contractor, who has a deadline to meet, has been forced to hire other people who may not necessarily be Yukoners at the time. Is he penalized then?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No he is not.
Mr. Phillips: This is right from the policy; if the contractor does not provide or refuses to provide Yukon contact as per terms of the contract, the government has the following options: the government can fine the contractor. That means he is penalized. The Minister says that he is not penalized. Are we reading this wrong, or does the Minister just not have a clue what he has done here?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: What is happening is the Member opposite is using a ridiculous example, or is trying to bring into question a policy by interpreting an absurd example. The policy is, as all policies are, general guidelines. They are applied sensibly by the contract administrators. The policy needs to have some method of enforcement. It has that. The intent here is clearly to be reasonable as we are in the substitution of materials in specifications and all those kinds of specific and practical things that occur on all construction sites.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister has clearly shown this whole House his total ignorance of what contracting is all about out there. Many times contractors in the Yukon run out of materials, almost on every single job, and they have to use substitute materials or get other materials at a moments notice. He says you cannot use these silly little examples. That is what is going to happen, and the contractors are concerned that if they have to change employees, if they have to have qualified people or if they cannot meet deadlines set up by this government they will be fined. Maybe the Minister should go back to his people and sit down for a couple of hours and find out what the real world is all about.
Mr. Brewster: I am listening very carefully because I really do not know what is being said in here at all. There are a lot of comments being made that are ridiculous, especially by the other side, but then coming from the Minister I can understand that. It is quite apparent that he and I live in completely different worlds. I should not say that he lives in a lawyers world, because I get kicked in the shins for that. He lives in a complete dream world. He just finished saying, and correct me if I am wrong, that everything is so simple it is one form. We have asked two simple little questions, and I know that this happens in every business there is. I have worked for big outfits and he says he cannot answer them and wants bureaucrats to answer them. It is quite apparent the bureaucrats are running the thing and maybe they should be here so we can understand what these poor contractors are getting into.
I would like to point out another thing. There are some rather big Yukon companies that go outside. They are working sometimes in BC and sometimes here. They are telling me every time they come back here they have to get rid of their employees that they have had for years and hire Yukoners or they will not get contracts, yet they have been here a lot longer than the Minister has been around this place.
Mrs. Firth: I know what the problem is here tonight. It is that the Minister does not have a clue what this policy is going to do, other than achieve some philosophical objective and goal that this government has. The Minister does not have a clue how this policy is going to impact on the contractors and what kind of misery it is going to put them through as individuals and as contractors. He does not have his expert here to tell him what to do or how to interpret this, so that is why he cannot respond to the examples.
Basically, what this policy does is give this government and the bureaucracy - who seem to be the experts, unlike the Minister - complete control over the supply and distribution of both goods and services in the Yukon. That is what the Ministers goal is. That is the philosophy of that government. That is what he wants to achieve, and that is what he is doing with this policy.
We on this side disagree with that.
Chairman: Any further general debate?
Mr. Brewster: I can recall on April Fools Day of last year that we got up and told the Minister that he was wrong on his lottery program. He did not listen to us and, just about a year later, we are back here. I suspect we will be back here an awful lot faster with this one when the contractors start to get wrapped around. I suspect we will be facing him again, and I again suspect that he will turn around and hide and debate things and avoid things, because he certainly does not know what he is talking about.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the record to show that the Minister is not responding to our questions.
Chairman: Any further general debate on the Department of Government Services?
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister telling us that he is going to bring back some response to our examples that we gave tonight, after his experts tell him what to say? Will he give us some shred of commitment to do that?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The record will speak for itself.
On Schedule A - Government Services
Government Services in the amount of $7,532,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Human Resources
Chairman: The Department of Human Resources is on page 49 in your schedule.
Hon. Mr. Porter: I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Porter: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Could the House have the report from the chairman of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Webster: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 5, First Appropriation Act, 1988-89, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the chairman of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Porter: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn. Do you agree?
Some Members: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled January 6, 1988:
Government of Yukon, Protective Services (Fire Marshall) Annual Report, 1986 (McDonald)
The following Legislative Return was tabled January 6, 1988:
Yukon Housing Corporation purchase of houses on the Whitehorse market (McDonald); Oral, p. 349
The following Filed Documents were tabled January 6, 1988:
F.D. No. 9
Petition signed by Whitehorse and area residents to Hon. Mr. McDonald, Minister of Community and Transportation Services, regarding Order-in-Council dealing with garage wood stoves (Phelps)
F.D. No. 10
Petition signed by Dawson City residents to Hon. Mr. McDonald, Minister of Community and Transportation Services, regarding Order-in-Council dealing with garage wood stoves (Phelps)
F.D. No. 11
Letter dated December 28, 1987 from John Obstfeld, Whitehorse, to L.R. Sherman, Vice-Chairman, CRTC, re Telephone Service on the Mayo Road (Phelps)
F.D. No. 12
1) Letter dated December 10, 1987, from Jim Edwards, Member.P., Chairman, Standing Committee on Communications and Culture, to L.R. Sherman, Vice-Chairman, CRTC; and 2) Letter dated December 18, 1987, from John Obstfeld, Whitehorse, to L.R. Sherman, re Telephone Service on the Mayo Road (Phelps)
F.D. No. 13
Letter dated Nov. 30/87 from Piers McDonald to Dave Power, Manager, Town of Faro, re Campbell Highway (McDonald)
F.D. No. 14
Petition signed by Yukon residents to Hon. Mr. McDonald, Minister of Community and Transportation Services, regarding Order-in-Council dealing with garage wood stoves (Phillips)