Tuesday, April 12, 1988 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling legislative returns on questions raised in the House on the condition of Hospital Road; companies being sued by the Government of Yukon as a result of work carried out in Porter Creek C; an analysis of expenditures by highway camp for 1986-87 and Government of Yukon staff housing in Destruction Bay.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have for tabling an answer to a question raised during the Main Estimates.
Speaker: Are there any report of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Introduction of bills?
Are there any notices of motion for the production of papers?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by Ministers?
The Northern Oil and Gas Accord
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I promised some days ago, I would like to state this governments position respecting the transfer of oil and gas management responsibilities and revenue sharing with the federal government.
The federal government, through the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, announced in February, 1985, that management of northern oil and gas resources should be shared between the federal and territorial governments through a Northern Oil and Gas Accord. This was confirmed in the Frontier Energy Policy released in October, 1985.
Soon after it was elected, this government wrote the federal minister to state our interest in this issue. An initial Yukon government position on this matter was prepared, with the assistance of Intergroup Consultants, of Winnipeg. It was reviewed and approved by Cabinet in February, 1987, and our written position was transmitted to the federal minister. This devolution issue is a priority for the Department of Economic Development and an interdepartmental committee of deputies from Finance, Justice, Executive Council and Renewable Resource which was formed to coordinate our work on this matter.
The basic principles of the Yukon government position are:
- to obtain management and legislative responsibilities for oil and gas resources in the Yukon;
- to participate in the administration of the oil and gas activities in the Beaufort Sea;
- to set and collect royalties from oil and gas production in the Yukon; and
- to share in the royalties from the production of oil and gas from the Beaufort Sea.
Prior to formal negotiations, Mr. McKnight began consultations with the territorial governments last summer. The Department of Economic Development hired Ewan Cotterill in August, 1987, to provide us with advice and to participate in the discussions with Canada. As Members know, Mr. Cotterill has been a vice president with Dome Petroleum and an assistant deputy minister with Indian and Northern Affairs. Yukon territorial government officials have met on several occasions with those in the GNWT to discuss the main points of their position and areas for potential future cooperation. We have also met with the Canadian Petroleum Association and consulted with the Council for Yukon Indians.
The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs provided us with a draft of the federal discussion paper last December which addresses concerns raised by the territorial governments. This paper forms the basis for the submission to the federal Cabinet which seeks approval for formal negotiations. The main objectives of the federal position which are known at this time are:
- to transfer all onshore resource royalties and management to the territorial governments; and
- to share the management responsibilities and revenues from oil and gas production in the Beaufort Sea with the territorial governments.
At this time, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs does not have a mandate to begin formal discussions with us to reach an accord. It is expected the federal Cabinet will review this matter soon. Once a mandate has been received by Mr. McKnight, we hope to sign an agreement in principle that will outline the scope and method of formal negotiations for the accord.
It is in this accord that we hope the Yukons right to share in the resources of the Beaufort Sea will be entrenched.
Mr. Phelps: There is information in that statement that was not made available during Question Periods when the matter was being raised again and again in the House.
I would be very interested in having the opportunity to review the initial Yukon government position, which was prepared by Intergroup Consultants. Will the Minister make that available to the public? As well, I note on page 3 of the written statement that it speaks to the main objectives of the federal position that are known at this time, and it speaks in sharing the management responsibilities and revenues for oil and gas production in the Beaufort Sea with the territorial governments.
Would the Minister care to table anything that shows that it is the intention of the federal government that the Yukon government share in off-shore management responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope the Member opposite will understand if I take those questions under advisement. I will review the Intergroup report to see if there is anything in its publication that might compromise our bargaining position. If there is not, I would have no hesitation in making it public.
On the question of the federal position respecting the role of the territorial governments, I believe there may be public statements on the record that indicate the federal intentions in this area, and I will have that question researched.
I would caution the Member that we do know that this matter is under discussion in the federal Cabinet. We do know that there is not a unanimity of views among all departments of the federal government. When we say the position that is known at this time, that is the position of the federal Minister directly responsible for this area. Of course, we have no way of knowing yet what the product of the Cabinet discussions will be. Until we do, we may not be able to answer that question completely and fully.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/review
Mr. Phelps: I have a few questions about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. It appears to be subject to a myriad of management problems now coming to light, which have been coming to light over the course of the last 10 or 12 days. I listened this morning to statements made on radio by the Minister attacking the review which was tabled in this House at the insistence of that Minister during Question Period. The review was prepared by Doug Borrowman and Don Head of the Correctional Service of Canada, and it is dated January, 1988. It was the subject of very sharp criticism this morning.
My first question of the Minister is whether he would agree that this review was carried out at the request of this government and in particular of this Ministers department?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Yes, that is accurate.
Mr. Phelps: Could the Minister tell us approximately when he was first made aware that the request for this review was made by his department?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: It was in January sometime after the report was received. I saw a copy of it and discussed its contents with senior staff in the department.
Mr. Phelps: So are we to take it that the request was made without the knowledge of the Minister? He only found out after the report was sent to his department?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Yes.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/review
Mr. Phelps: I am curious as to what portion of the cost, or whether it was all of the cost - or did we pay travel expenses or pay these people as consultants - that his department paid to have this review prepared by Mr. Borrowman and Mr. Head?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I will take that question as notice. I am not aware of the precise amounts, but I believe there was no fee paid to these individuals. These individuals are officials in the federal penitentiary service, and I believe there was no fee paid to them.
Mr. Phelps: I would be interested to know what travel, if any, was paid. Does the Minister find it interesting that one of the main topics on page 4 of this report dealing with a suggestion that a clear philosophy for corrections in the Yukon must be developed and accepted by all staff from the ministerial level down? Does he find it interesting that that is on all fronts with minutes of a team leader meeting dated January 23, 1987? That also makes mention that...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: ...there is a fair amount of uncertainty about the direction in which the institution is heading?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The question is, do I find that interesting? The technical answer is yes, I find that interesting. It is also interesting that the report was asked for at the request, practically speaking, of the safety committee. It was primarily into the practice of the shift schedule at the institution. These other things that were commented on were not specifically asked for.
Mr. Phelps: Has the Minister made any comments regarding this report to people in his department? Is he prepared to table any memos or criticisms that he has had about the report in this House?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No. I am not prepared to table memos and the like, but I am prepared to talk about the discussions that have occurred. I do not believe that there is a memo as such that I have authored about this report. I have discussed it, and I may have jotted down notes that were never intended for publication.
The comments that I have made were generally to the effect that the federal penitentiary people are not the best people to ask about these important questions about philosophies in the correctional system. The federal penitentiaries are not the model that I would support that our jail should be modelled upon.
Question re: Yukon Utilities Board
Mr. McLachlan: Following the line of questioning I was asking yesterday, can the Minister of Government Services advise when he expects to have a full Yukon Utilities Board back in place?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I have previously told the House that appointments were imminent. That was some months ago - in November, I am reminded. I would hope that the board is brought to full strength very shortly after the regulations are passed, which will embody the governments general direction about rate equality.
Mr. McLachlan: Is it the Ministers intention to change the powers or to revise the legislation that governs the manner in which the board operates and governs itself?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: That prospect is under review at the present time.
Mr. McLachlan: One of the reasons the board was created in the first place was to allow some independence in making decisions and to be seen to be operating from government-free ministerial influence.
Why does the Minister keep insisting on having such a heavy hand on the operation of the board and the members on the board?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The Member opposite is wrong about the intention of the Public Utilities Act. This act clearly set up a quasi-independent board, or a board independent for some purposes, and not independent for some other purposes. That was clearly spelled out in the act. That question went to court here last winter, and the court clearly agreed that the board was to be guided by the legislation that set out the proper government role in establishing the general policies of the board. It is exactly that - establishing the general policies of the board - that the government must perform and will perform.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/administration
Mr. Lang: Over the past two weeks, more and more questions are being raised with respect to the Ministers involvement and the administration of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We are concerned that it be administered properly, and policies and procedures be put in place to ensure that things are done in a manner that is acceptable to everybody involved.
Is the Minister of Justice aware that, at one time in particular at least, one inmate has been kept in the institution for a period of time exceeding the particular sentence for being kept in confinement?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I am not aware of that. I would be interested in the date that this alleged incident occurred. It is interesting that I appear to be criticized for an involvement in the jail. What is occurring is that the jail is receiving - I would submit, for the first time - some political attention as to the philosophies that are followed there. The philosophy that is now followed is a work-oriented philosophy.
Mr. Lang: The concern on this side is that we have a death and various allegations regarding how the facility in question is being run, and I believe it has been said in black and white that, The Minister believes in much more of a hands-on approach to corrections than has been the practice in the past, and therefore he has been very much involved, on a day to day basis, in the way we understand the position he has taken, and, subsequently, bears a great deal of responsibility, directly."
Could the Minister please ask the staff how often inmates have been kept in confinement longer than required by their sentences?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: As is characteristic of the Member for Porter Creek East, he talks about one thing in the preamble of his question, and then asks a question about something entirely different. He was talking about a death. There was a death, and a coroners inquest, and that process is continuing. I am confident that we will get to the bottom of that to the satisfaction of all members of the public, in due course.
The question about people being kept longer than their sentence is something that is a matter of law, or the interpretation of orders by the court, and if the Member opposite has a problem with one incident that occurred in the past, I would welcome him informing me of that and I will look into it. If the question is, will I look at all of the sentences and incarcerations which have occurred, I will not do that.
Mr. Lang: There is at least one circumstance that happened in July, 1985. I would ask the Minister to review that particular situation. I would also ask the Minister to enquire of his staff how often it has happened that an inmate has been confined longer than his or her sentence at the Whitehorse Correctional Institute. If it has happened once, my question is: has it happened more than once? I would ask the Minister if he would make that inquiry of his staff.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: That is essentially the same question and I will give essentially the same answer. I am now aware of an alleged incident in July of 1985. There was also a law suit in 1979 about a person who was allegedly kept in the jail without legal authority, of which I am aware. I am now aware of those two incidents but I am not aware of any others.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/staff morale
Mr. Lang: I just have one question. Would the Minister make an enquiry of his staff as to how often this has happened in the past three years? That is the only question I have. Surely it must be documented if it has happened; hopefully, he will come back and say it has not happened.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I am absolutely certain that if things like that occurred there are lawsuits about them and they would be known. It is a wild fishing trip to ask the staff to look at sentences in the jail and to form an opinion about the legality of the actual time served. That would be a waste of time.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/female inmates
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice regarding the Correction Centre - the same question I asked yesterday regarding the female inmates. Can the Minister tell us now why the policy is being breached and why male guards are being assigned to the female wings for night duty?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: It is not accurate to say that the policy is being breached. There in fact have been judicial and quasi-judicial determinations in the country in the past few years about the RCMP and jails concerning the policy of female guards in a male population and male guards in a female population. There are obviously competing interests of privacy and equal opportunity for employment. There is no specific written policy at the present time, although there are practices; the present practice is that when there are females in the institution, the guards actually looking after them are females.
Mrs. Firth: The Ministers information is not accurate. There is a policy, number 9-23, which became effective May 1, 1984, and very clearly specifies that male officers are allowed into the common area but must announce their entrance to the inmates, and that exceptions are based upon emergencies only. Those emergencies are instances such as in a manner to preserve life and/or security of the centre person. Is the Minister saying that this policy is not in effect and, if so, when did it not become an effective policy?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The Members accusation that I gave wrong information is wrong. The policy has been changed over the years and there has been a fairly recent change. I do not have the precise date but I can get that. It used to be that we treated the jobs as per the policy quoted as equal opportunity jobs. That is not the case today.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister just a minute ago said there was no policy. Now after I read the policy to him he tells me the policy is changed. You cannot have it both ways.
I would like to know what the real truth is. Is there a policy? Is there not a policy? If it was changed, when? Where is it? Let us have it in this House. You cannot have two answers, two opposing answers. You cannot get away with that.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The practice of having either male or female guards in either section is changed and is presently under review. The practice presently is that female correctional officers are in the correctional centre when there are female people being incarcerated. The practical problem is the with the midnight shift because of the numbers of staff. The present practice is that when there are females in the jail, which is not all the time but frequently, we have female staff on guard over them on the midnight shift, which is a practical concern.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/female inmates
Mrs. Firth: The general principle of this policy states that the institutional services branch recognizes the changes in societys concept of equality for women and will ensure equal treatment for female inmates and opportunities for equal participation in programs offered at the centre. Exceptions are based on clear demonstrable security, safety or health reasons.
I would like to ask the Minister if it is now the policy that male guards will tend to female inmates and vice versa? Will he please table that policy for us? Where is that policy change written?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: That is essentially a rewording of the same question with a reading of policy 9-23 into the record, or a part of it. I have explained the situation as it exists. There are both male and female guards at the jail. For reasons of privacy or human dignity, the practice of having female guards look after females is being followed.
Mrs. Firth: The guards at that centre operate by this policy. If the Minister will check the occurrence book, he will see that there are male guards assigned to female wings to do night duty. If he will take the time to make that check, he will find that out. Could the Minister table the policy change in this House?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I have explained the situation as best I am able. The policies are published, and the Member already has them. If she does not, they are available publicly. There are some things that are under review, and this is the case with this policy. I have explained the practice that is occurring today.
Mrs. Firth: We have had everything now, from no policy to the policy being changed to the policy being under review. This Minister has turned himself inside out, contradicting himself. I will ask him again. The Minister of Health and Human Resources is yelling, Speech. She should be concerned about this issue. She should be very concerned about it.
Could the Minister table the policy change so that all of Yukon people, plus the guards who work at that centre, can be informed of this governments policy change and direction when it comes to male guards tending to female inmates?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I have already answered that question.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/staff morale
Mr. Phillips: Seven guards have now come forward and spoken to the media about the problems of the operation of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. More guards would like to speak, but are afraid to do so because they fear that they will lose their jobs. In view of all the troubles at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, would the Minister now establish an independent inquiry so that all people who want to speak can do so freely without fear of intimidation? Will the Minister let these people be heard?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: There were several questions, but the one that is most important is an allegation that there are people who are being muzzled or who cannot speak. The Member opposite is inconsistent because he is saying that seven people have spoken, but people are afraid to speak. Let me be very clear that if any guard, or if anyone connected with the jail has anything to say, let them say it. There will be no repercussions, unless they violate a law.
Mr. Phillips: The statement of the Minister is absolutely false. History proves the fact. In the last year, 50 percent of the guards have quit. They have been forced to quit, because some of them have spoken out. Clearly, the Minister is aware there are serious problems ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary.
Mr. Phillips: Surely the Minister is aware there are serious operational problems at the jail, and he will now accept his responsibility and establish a public inquiry.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Part of the problem here is that there is a false adversarial relationship set up by the Member opposite and his colleagues. No one is forced to quit; that is an irresponsible allegation.
The situation is that jail guards are governed by their oath of office and are governed by the laws of general application. Those things have always applied. The bulk of the public comment has been about an inquiry. I say publicly that it is important for the public to know the facts. The public will know the facts, and the facts will all come out in a legitimate way. There is no effort to try and muzzle anyone, although there is an effort by the Members opposite to try to embarrass a Minister ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Mr. Phillips: The only irresponsible person in this whole matter is the Minister of Justice, who is not accepting his responsibilities for his portfolio. Maybe we are asking the wrong person; maybe we should ask the Government Leader.
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to his supplementary.
Mr. Phillips: Will the Government Leader fire the irresponsible Minister of Justice and call for a public inquiry into the justice system, as there should be?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know who the Member opposite thinks he is impressing with his phony emotion, his phony outrage and his phony anger. I have sat here a lot of years and have never heard any concern expressed by any Members on that side of the House about the jail, about the justice system, about corrections, about the inmates, about the guards, nothing.
This is an opportunistic, ugly, disgusting attack by a group of people who do not give a damn about the jail or the people who work there.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/staff morale
Mr. Phelps: First of all, the public has the right to know. There is not one or two allegations; there are dozens of allegations being made by people who have just quit the jail, by people working there who are afraid to come out into the open. There are problems as to whether or not the public and the coroner were deliberately misled or not with respect to evidence about what was known, or ought to have been known, about the mental condition of the deceased, who committed suicide at the jail. There is conflicting evidence with respect as to whether or not the jail has a policy with respect to whether or not there is a ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the question.
Mr. Phelps: ... philosophical approach that everybody understands. It is the publics money, and I am asking the Government Leader whether he will not seriously consider a public inquiry into it. The public has a right to know.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Of course, the public has a right to know and the Minister has been standing here, day after day, willingly indicating his interest, not only in providing any information in reply to fairly serious questions that are asked, but also has said that if there are any unresolved issues, or outstanding charges, or new information that would cause a new inquest into the unfortunate tragedy that took place last year, he has indicated his full support for that to happen.
I have heard nothing here in the last few weeks in the outrageous attacks, irresponsible charges, and unfounded accusations by the Members opposite, that would warrant a public inquiry. I have heard absolutely nothing that would warrant a public inquiry.
Mr. Phelps: The things that have been brought forward have been backed up by people who are willing to, under oath, give evidence which directly contradicts the evidence that was given by the officials at the jail and at the inquest, by people who are willing to take the lie detector test, in concert with the officials who had given contradictory statements.
I again ask the Government Leader, in view of the circumstances, and in keeping with the principle that the public has the right to know: why can we not have a public inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Minister has already said, and I will say again, that if there are people who have evidence that should have been heard at an inquest, and have information that was not brought out previously and should be heard, then I say that the inquest should be reopened and all these fact brought out. The government has said that since the beginning.
Mr. Phelps: The only unfortunate thing about that - and I would ask the Government Leader if he would agree - is that the inquest focuses upon the very narrow issue - a very important one, a very human one, the death of inmate - and the allegations and the concerns over breached policies and all the things that have been coming forward cover a much broader spectrum than just the inquest. Would he not agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With respect, the Leader of the Official Opposition, for whom I have some regard, is a lawyer, but his colleagues continue to make accusations in this House without presenting any facts, any evidence. We heard some today that someone had been kept in jail beyond their sentence, but no dates were specified, no cases were specified. Even if they wanted to protect the identity of the individual involved, no evidence was brought forward to this House to justify a new inquest.
A request was made for the Minister to review every single case file. That is not a grounds for an inquiry; that is a fishing trip, as the Minister said, unless they present some evidence.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre/staff morale
Mr. Phelps: I have a memorandum that is dated the eighth month of 1985, the seventh day of the eight month, and I will have this delivered to the Government Leader right now. It is the written information that prompted the question by the Member for Porter Creek West.
As we get more information, we will be more than pleased to bring it forward in the House, but it seems to me, at least, that we have a desperate problem with morale at the Whitehorse Correctional Institute, and we have all kinds of allegations being made by people who used to work there, and people who work there now. I really do not believe, in my mind, that the Minister is managing the institution properly and I think that there are a lot of questions that have to be answered. It is the taxpayers of the Yukon who have the right to be answered.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: To state the obvious, the Member did not ask a question the Member made a statement. I will not respond to the statement at this time. He has given me information that I will make inquiries about, as will, no doubt, my colleague. Question Period is not designed for either a cross examination or the consideration of the departmental estimates. When we get to the justice estimates, which we no doubt eventually shall, the issues around the administration of our correctional system will no doubt be aired and debated fully. That is separate from the particular facts arising out of the unfortunate tragedy about which much of this debate has occurred.
Mr. Phelps: Luckily the democratic institutions in the Yukon have not really been changed and we do not have a dictatorship here. We have a situation where allegations have been made in the press almost daily, stories carried in the media throughout Yukon. A great many people are concerned about the Whitehorse Correctional Institute, and a great many people have friends, children or relatives there. I think it is proper that these things be aired in the way they have been aired. I think the time has come for an independent inquiry into the operation of the jail so that firstly the public would be reassured. I would ask the Government Leader if he would reconsider what he has just said and look into the feasibility and need for an independent public inquiry with regard to the Whitehorse Correctional Institute.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Of course, it is not permitted in the Rules of this House to comment on media reports and the Leader of the Official Opposition knows that full well. I want to tell him that there are a great number of people who are communicating with us who are appalled by the behaviour of the Opposition and have talked frankly on this subject.
The days of the dictatorship are now over. There is now democratic government in the Yukon and most people are very pleased at that development. If the Leader of the Official Opposition were to provide to me in a serious way - not with the wind, sound and fury that we have heard - a set of facts that he believes warrants the calling of an independent public inquiry into the operation of our judicial system or our correctional system, I would be happy to consider it seriously. That is not what I have heard from the Members opposite during the Question Period in the last few weeks.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Porter: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do not leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chairman: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue with the Executive Council Office, policy and intergovernmental relations, general debate.
Bill No. 50: Second Appropriation Act, 1988-89 - continued
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Last night we were talking about the federal relations office and at the moment we adjourned I was asked a question about a rent increase. I am confirming this, and have been told that the rent increase of approximately $2,000 a year is coming to us as a result of a new three year lease.
Policy and Intergovernmental in the amount of $366,000 agreed to
Mr. Lang: I asked in general debate with respect to the Second Appropriation Act concerning the dollars coming to this government from federal sources, and I have just received the information. I am wondering whether, with the consent of the Chair, we could get some clarification on the record here, if that is alright with the Minister in charge?
Chairman: Does this deal with this branch?
Mr. Lang: It deals with the same budget.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is an item that was asked about in general debate and I offered to bring back the information. It is here, but if we want to get into detailed discussion of the item, I think properly I would need a finance official here. I would be happy to wait, if the Member would, until we get back to finance to do that.
Mr. Lang: I agree, in the spirit of cooperation always exhibited by all Members of the House.
In this particular area, I am wondering if the Minister could tell us if, under federal relations, there is any contract work going on and, if there is, in what areas, who is doing it and at what cost?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not think there is any right now and I do not believe there has been any in the past year.
Mr. Lang: Do I take it that there is none planned for the forthcoming year either?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, not the way the office is running. I would have to check with finance to see whether there is any contract work.
Mr. Lang: I want to ask about one area that was covered by the Bureau of Statistics. Last year, the Minister I believe talked about an equalization study - not on electricity, but it had to do with the financing of the Government of Yukon by the Government of Canada leading obviously to the agreement that was signed. Just to refresh the Ministers memory, it had to do with the general financing of the Government of the Yukon Territory. Is he in a position to table that study which I believe was undertaken in conjunction with the Federal Relations Branch and the Bureau of Statistics?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not sure exactly what study the Member is referring to. The Bureau of Statistics is the next item. I will take the question as notice. There are two studies I know of. There is one about the tax burden on Yukoners, which is a confidential background study that was prepared for us in connection with negotiations for the formula financing agreements, which talks about the relative tax burden of people here versus people in other jurisdictions in the country, but I do not recall a study on equalization. There may be something similar that went by another name.
Mr. Lang: I was referring to the Fiscal Equalization Project. I refer the Minister to page 61 of Hansard, on April 2, 1987. That is the value of Hansard.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will have to take that question as notice and get back to the Member. I do not recall the particulars of that study at all.
Mr. Lang: For the record, it is Fiscal Equalization Project. At that time, the hon. Mr. Penikett said, This is a study reviewing the territorys public financing, taking a look at our fiscal position and in preparation for our negotiations on formula financing.
Chairman: Anything further on federal relations?
Policy and Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $532,000 agreed to
On Office of Devolution
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In the general debate, Mrs. Firth asked me a number of questions about devolution, as did the Leader of the Official Opposition. I answered questions at that time and covered most of the ground I would have done in an introductory comment to this function.
I would like to explain that there is an increase here over the forecast for last year of $77,000. The $49,000 is represented by personnel costs for the second devolution officer, a position that was vacant for 1987-88 and not yet staffed. The other $28,000 of the $77,000 is $6,000 for travel and $22,000 for contract services, such as research, negotiations and legal contracts in connection with devolution.
Office of Devolution in the amount of $210,000 agreed to
On Internal Audit
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to mention two things about the Internal Audit Branch. As the Members all know the offices of this branch provide independent internal audit of the government according to an internal audit plan for all the branches. In this fiscal year starting April 1, the Internal Audit unit will assume responsibility for program evaluation activity. As well, Management Board has authorized the transfer of this responsibility from the Department of Finance to the Internal Audit Branch. We will be shortly developing and approving a work plan in this area for the Internal Audit Branch. The establishment of this branch remains at four person years. There is a decrease in the budget allocation over the forecast of $10,000, which is represented by an increase in personnel costs of $11,000, resulting from salary union increases and so forth, and a decrease of $21,000, which is reflected for the most part in a reduced use of contract services being budgeted for in this year.
Mr. Phelps: Just for clarification, you say that in the evaluation of government programs for efficiency the lead role is being transferred from finance? I understand there were a number of department heads on that committee.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The committee still functions. It is just that the delivery agent is no longer the Department of Finance but the Internal Audit Branch. After a lot of discussion it was decided that there is a better marriage of activities within the functions of the Internal Audit Branch and program evaluation than with the day to day duties of the Department of Finance.
Mr. Phelps: Are we going to receive any overview during budget debate with regard to what took place with the evaluation programs, such as what departments were evaluated?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me because I do not know what actually transpired on a day to day basis in the Public Accounts Committee, which the Member chaired. I had anticipated that some report would have been requested by, and some report given to, the Public Accounts Committee. Let me say to the Member that some report can be given of program evaluation, but I must emphasize that reports themselves should not be made public because, among other things, they contain personnel evaluations and statements that I think should not be tabled in this House.
Mr. Phelps: I have no problem with looking at the program through the Public Accounts Committee process because of the need to shield the individuals names and so on from public scrutiny.
Internal Audit in the amount of $275,000 agreed to
Total in the amount of $275,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I explained, in general debate, the change in staffing for this branch as a result of the retirement of the NOGAP positions and our creation, in this budget, of one permanent and one indeterminate position to carry on the work that those three people were doing. That is reflected in the $127,000 increase in the department, which is made up of $129,000 new salary costs. That is involved with the new term position, the indeterminate position and the union increases for the other people in the office.
There has been a $2,000 reduction in the other category, which I think Members will see here. That summarizes the large amount of new money here on the personnel side for the two new person years.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister outline his plans for this area for the forthcoming year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The branch has a very long work plan. Perhaps I could just run through the highlights of it for Members, and that will take a moment of two. There is an internal project on the major upgrading of the existing work on the file system, the data administration files. There is some policy implementation work and financial information system revision on the management information project that consists of conversion upgrade of internal financial system.
There is an internal program review stage one, and this is where the director will begin a systematic review of the bureaus objectives and program design, the purpose being to internally evaluate the bureaus activities, strategies clients and products. There is a management information system revision, as part of this review process, modifications to the present managment information system. There is the development of a draft survey policy for the Yukon government. This policy will deal with standards and procedures and the administration of surveys by the Yukon government.
In the area of publications, there will be four issues of the Yukon Statistical Quarterly and a series of other bureau publications will be undertaken and completed during the fiscal year. Included this year are four issues of the Yukon Statistical Quarterly, a fact sheet and the annuals publication. There will be approximately four or five of those. There will be special publications, the economic accounts, the census 86 series and information sheets on other topics of four or five.
There is a product reporting and evaluation system that is a systematic program of reporting the distribution of printed products as well as ongoing evaluation of user satisfaction that will be initiated during this fiscal year.
The objective is this: to monitor the demand, cost, distribution of the bureaus products - some of them I mentioned above. There will be information updates, secondary data, the ongoing data series, several major updates that will be concluded this year. These require both the acquisition and data development activities to make available statistical information to bureau clients. The major updates include: family allowance data for communities, June to December; Revenue Canada income data for the Yukon; administrative records of labour and income; energy distribution and consumption, a series of ongoing data received monthly, quarterly, and semi-annually; user information services, a project to develop computer access for the information developed by the department.
The object is to, within the government, where we can, replace the printed information with electronically-available information to users within YTG. There is an information referral service developing a limited and focused service for referring available statistical data to a number of policy and plan-related users. Census data service is a single source of census material and advice will be implemented. This will include computer-based tabulations, hard copy publications and a series of simple, brief summaries of available information in the Yukon.
Community information data base: priority has been given to the creation of a single data base of information available to the Yukon communities. This monthly updated table will be made available electronically and will gradually expand as more community-level information is developed. Bureau overview sheets are a development of a simple summary of what the bureau does, the services it provides and the resources available from the agency. There are various analysis projects that will be done by the statisticians that cover demographic and social data. This would include Yukon visitor exit survey analysis; migration review; government employment information systems; CIC information; population estimates review; population projection model; special price imputation estimations; various areas in the economic area, which is the input/output analysis on the economy; Yukon economic accounts, which were mentioned earlier; the export project, the feasibility of working with Statistics Canada on the development of import/export data will be undertaken.
Several major development surveys will be undertaken this year, including the work history survey, and this will be a major activity for the bureau during 1988-89. The project includes the design, administration analysis, a major survey on the work patterns of Yukoners. This will be jointly sponsored by Statistics Canada - a senior Statistics Canada methodologist will be part of the research team from design to analysis and will undertake a technical evaluation of the entire operation.
The Yukon employment survey: an ongoing program evaluation survey will be conducted. Each industrial sector will be thoroughly reviewed each quarter. This project will also include co-sponsoring of a yearly census of businesses with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. We are going to be trying to assist them in producing the Yukon Business Directory.
There will be a Yukon hotel/motel survey, at the request of the Department of Tourism and consistent with the wishes of the hotel industry. A pilot survey will be conducted this year on the availability and use of hotel/motel and other accommodations in the Yukon.
There will be production surveys, which are ongoing activities. The existing surveys will continue. These include: real estate survey; rental survey; community spatial price survey; community temperal price survey; and, various departmental surveys. There are some consultative projects, including federal-provincial liaison activities.
That is the summary, in short hand, of what the branchs work plan is for the year.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister explain what happened to the branch plan to go ahead with the Yukon Hotel/Motel Vacancy Survey, in view of the fact that he announced that study on April 1, 1987?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know that that study was not done. It may be the same study that is referred to on the list I just gave, which is not just about vacancies but the uses of accommodation in the Yukon, but I will take the question as notice and find out for the Member.
Mr. Lang: It seems to me that if the government keeps doing these studies, the end result is in case there is some reason that tax has to come in all of a sudden in some given year, and it is really nice to have that information on hand to calculate the bottom line.
The other area I would like to ask about is the CIC Data Automation Project that was taken last year. Could the Minister update us on what took place there?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Again, I will have to take that question as notice. I may have some information here with me on that but, if I do not, I will find out. I will have to get back to the Member tomorrow.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister update us with respect to the Model Feasibility Study that was undertaken last year? Does he have information on that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am just checking to see if I have that information with me. If I do not, I will take the question as notice.
Mr. Lang: I take it the information is coming back, and we will have the opportunity to debate that in the supplementaries. I want to impress on the Minister that it should be done in the next couple of days so we have it when we go into the supplementaries and can deal with it at that time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am quite happy to give an undertaking to have the information before we get to the supplementaries.
Administration in the amount of $128,000 agreed to
On Information Services/Data Dissemination
Information Services/Data Dissemination in the amount of $133,000 agreed to
On Data Development and Methodological Support
Data Development and Methodological Support in the amount of $239,000 agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Office of the Commissioner
Office of the Commissioner in the amount of $109,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Support
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We did discuss this a little bit at the outset of this debate. As I indicated, in the area of cabinet support there are 13 employees. The salary costs have increased, as I pointed out in my opening statement. As a result of extending benefits to these employees similar to the union increase, the Members will note that, while there is an increase in the area of personnel, the other costs - which are substantially those in the area of travel - are reduced in this budget. It is felt that, notwithstanding the possibility that we may be appearing at the Prince Edward Island, Manitoba or New Brunswick legislatures this year, the attendance last year by Ministers and ministerial aides as various federal, provincial and ministerial conferences was much higher than usual because our Cabinet made a decision that we were going to use opportunities provided by federal and provincial caucuses and interprovincial caucuses to lobby our ministerial counterparts on the question of Meech Lake.
There were a number of such conferences last year that we might not otherwise have attended, given the nature of the agenda, but that we did travel to because of the importance of trying to get our message across on the Meech Lake situation.
Mr. Lang: How much money are we talking about for travel?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If you notice, in the other area there is a substantial reduction and that is largely travel, but there is an increase in personnel of $52,000; so the reduction in travel budgeted for this year over the forecast for last year is offset by the salary increases.
Mr. Lang: I do not understand. Is this not called false economy? My question is: where are you going to get the money to travel to Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia or wherever else?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry, I did not put it well, but the point I was making is that ministers do not always travel to ministerial conferences with aides. This budget covers the political staff. I have a practice of taking a political staff person with me to a first ministers or premiers conference but not to every single ministerial conference I attend. If I go to Prince Edward Island or Manitoba, for example, given that I would essentially be making the same statement that I made on a number of occasions before, this would not necessitate the taking of an aide. If I am going, as I did, to the first ministers conference, where not only is there a presentation for the conference, but there is also a large media presence surrounding it - dozens of interviews and so forth. Having an aide along is useful and necessary.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to argue with that. On the question of travel, the overall expense of government, what is the outside travel in total throughout the government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I apologize that I can not give that number off the top of my head. Perhaps the next best time I could probably have it - because these are the people who would get it - is when we get to the finance estimates. I am sure we could then talk about what the cost of some standard objects are. The Member should know that, as a matter of budgetary policy, in this year the amount of money for travel across the government has been frozen. In this budget, no increase has been allowed for travel over last years amount; in some areas, such as the one we have before us, there is, in fact, a reduction.
Mr. Lang: I have one other question on cabinet support. Is there any money here for contracts for consultants or anything like that, or is it strictly salary dollars?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is just the salary, travel, communications and, of course, there is a little money to allow for casuals; but, no, there is no contract money in this budget.
Cabinet Support in the amount of $749,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Tours
Cabinet Tours in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
Cabinet Support in the total amount of $778,000 agreed to
Mrs. Firth: Just before we leave this perhaps the Government Leader could tell us when the next Cabinet Tour is going to be since there is quite an increase for Cabinet Tours.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It would depend very much on how long this sitting of the Legislature will last. I would expect there would be at least some; it might not involve all Ministers, but I am sure as soon as the House is out it would be my intention to get out to the communities.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister indicate to us who will be accompanying the Cabinet on that tour?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is impossible to say at this time. Also, under this item this year we have budgeted for our Cabinet to visit the Northwest Territories for a joint meeting. The meeting occurred last year, but they came to us so there were not the same expenses involved.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Government Leader tell us when they are going to visit the NWT?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once again we cannot possibly make arrangements until we know when the House will adjourn. We would not consider doing it while the House is sitting so if the House finishes in June it will be after that; if July, it will be after that.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that there is no definite date set or is he saying that as soon as the House is out they will be going on a Cabinet tour and will be visiting the Northwest Territories? I am not asking for him to visit while the House is in session, but is it something that is going to happen immediately after the House is in session?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have been invited by the NWT Cabinet to meet with them in Yellowknife. We have told them that we cannot make a decision about when we can accept the decision until we know when the House will rise.
Mr. McLachlan: How much of the $29,000 is inside the territory and how much is outside the territory?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not have a breakdown on that basis.
Mr. McLachlan: Is Yellowknife the only out of territory trip?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is the only occasion on which the entire Cabinet will be going outside the territory, yes.
On Executive Council Office Secretariat
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe, as all Members know, the Secretariat includes the deputy ministers secretaries and three Committee clerks who collectively provide the secretarial support services to Cabinet, Management Board and all the sub committees of both. It also includes the regulations clerk who is responsible for the maintenance of legislative regulations, orders-in-council, appointments and related matters. The reduction of one person year reflects the transfer of a person year to administration with the creation of the position of assistant deputy minister, which I referred to earlier in general debate.
Members will note that there is a small decrease of $4,000 in this item, which is made up of an increase of $28,000 in the personnel costs that I have described elsewhere and a reduction of $32,000 in the Other category, which is in the main a reduction in the use of contract services in the coming year.
Mr. Phelps: I have a hard time following this. It seems that the personnel costs have gone up by 16 percent despite the fact that there is one less person there. Could the Minister tell us who got the huge raise and why?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The reason is that the person year that was transferred to create the assistant deputy minister position was vacant. The comparison between the forecast and the estimate for 1988-89 is a reflection of the personnel cost increases that I described.
The forecast for the year reflects the fact that there was nobody in the position and it was the person year for that vacant position that we moved to cover the new assistant deputy minister position in the department.
Mr. Phelps: If the senior position was moved out and became the assistant deputy minister position, I am a bit perplexed as to why personnel in this branch would jump by 16 percent, or $28,000.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There were five people who were working and who were paid last year. There are five people being paid this year. There is, for the increases in the personnel area and reflecting for those five people, a total of $28,000.
The breakdown for the amount of $28,000 is: $13,000 of union and merit increases, $7,000 for fringe benefits and reclassification increases; and $8,000 is for casuals for summer vacancies.
Mr. Phelps: Is it not also true that the department probably lost the senior person in that complement of six people if that person was moved and got a slight step up to assistant deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. It was a clerk position that was vacant and had been vacant. The request for moving a person year is essentially a minor reorganizational request. It went to Management Board to convert that vacant person year in the department to an assistant deputy minister position with the new salary dollars for the position that occurred in the first branch of the department presented in this estimate.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister update the House as to what contracts were entered into in this particular area, what contract dollars were available, what was done last year and what is proposed to be done this year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The contracts that were done last year include a study on Yukon employment, a legal opinion on Bill C-72, a legal opinion on the proposed Highway Act, a legal opinion on a certain situation in Ross River, about which there were some questions in the House, and some other work on placer guidelines. The most significant contract last year was for a sum of $10,000 or so, and it was the study on Yukon employment.
Mr. Lang: Is it possible to get a copy of the report? I think it is of interest to all Members.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The study on Yukon employment? Let me check with my Cabinet colleagues, but I do not know any reason why that report could not be tabled.
Mr. Lang: How much money is proposed for contract work this forthcoming year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is $80,000 proposed to be budgeted this year for contract work. There was $114,000 spent last year.
Mr. Lang: Have there been any contracts entered into or any work under progress in this particular area?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not believe so, but I would like to check.
Mr. Lang: I take it you are going to come back to the House with that information.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I said the most substantial item there was the report on Yukon employment. Actually, the most substantial under here this last year was the Meech Lake contracts about which I spoke earlier
Mr. Lang: Is it correct that the contract we are talking about is the legal expenses with the firm from Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In this budget year, the legal expenses from Meech Lake will now be the responsibility of the Department of Justice and provided for in the legal services of the Department of Justice as I explained during general debate.
Mr. Lang: The Minister of Justice will be pleased to hear that.
Chairman: Anything further?
Executive Council Office Secretariat in the amount of $286,000 agreed to
On Public Inquiries
Hon. Mr. Penikett: One public inquiry that is being provided for in this estimate is the fuel prices inquiry and I would like to say a few short words about it. As Members are aware, the inquiry was established to investigate the pricing of refined petroleum products in the Yukon. Throughout various public meetings, including Yukon 2000, the cost of petroleum products was repeatedly identified by industry associations and communities as a major impediment to economic development. Based on these concerns, the Government of Yukon did conduct some research on the supply of refined petroleum products into the Yukon, and I believe I have made mention of that before in this House. This research indicated that Yukoners would appear to be paying higher retail prices than is necessary. However, to get all the necessary information and to look for practical options for reducing fuel prices, more detailed investigations were required. Given the importance and complexity of the issue, the government decision was to utilize a public inquiry as a mechanism to pursue the issue.
To facilitate the inquirys work, the government has produced a report that summarizes the results of the preliminary research that was done on fuel product prices in the Yukon. I can provide copies of this report to Members; unfortunately, I only have one copy here, and I would either have to get it photocopied or find out if there are other copies that I can table, but I will make it available to Members today. This report is being submitted to the inquiry for its use. In our view, it identifies the issues that our initial research raised and some possible solutions that the inquiry may wish to consider.
In preparing this report, the government was conscious of the fact that the effectiveness of the fuel inquiry is related to the level of public input it receives. To provide Yukoners with an opportunity to consider all the issues related to fuel prices, we have attempted to make this report as non technical as possible and we are also going to try to make sure it is distributed publicly to ensure all interested parties have access to this information.
Since some questions have been raised about the cost of the inquiry, let me tell Members that, as they know, $25,000 was budgeted in the supplementary, which we had not yet debated; $200,000 is provided here, but the budgeted estimate of the work of the inquiry is $309,000. The remainder of that will be absorbed by the Department of Economic Development. I must emphasize to Members, though, that it is impossible, in the experience of people who have conducted these inquiries, to accurately forecast the actual eventual cost of the inquiry, but the $309,000 is the estimate that the inquiry has requested of us and has been approved by management board.
Mr. Phelps: I am a little surprised that we have only heard mention of one inquiry, which is partially paid for by this item. How about the inquiry into Operation Falcon? Is that being considered?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The reason there is normally a one dollar vote provided for under inquiries is to give us the authority to be able to conduct public inquiries. As Members know, the Department of Economic Development is the principal interface with this inquiry, and the costs associated are being absorbed by that department. As a result of the motion of this House, if the federal government concludes that it cannot, or will not, conduct an inquiry then, if I remember the motion in this House, responsibility falls to us. That initiative would be undertaken by the Minister of Justice. Again, the authority provided by the one dollar vote here would provide that.
Knowing nothing of the costs of such an inquiry, and not knowing yet whether we will have to do it or whether the federal government will have to do it, I do not think it would be prudent to budget for it just in case we found ourselves having to conduct that inquiry.
Mr. Phelps: Could there be a cross-reference to where the additional monies are picked up in the Department of Economic Development? Does he have a page and an item?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, it will be cross-referenced in a supplementary this year when the inquiry is completed. By restraining expenditures to the extent necessary in its budgeted areas, the department has indicated we will be able to absorb the $80,000 or so that is projected at this moment to be budgeted to meet the cost of the inquiry.
Mr. Phelps: The person heading the inquiry is from the Department of Justice, or is being paid under the Justice vote. Is there an additional cost contemplated, since the judge will have to be replaced by somebody from outside when he is spending time on this inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: My understanding is that, if there are costs associated by way of deputy judges, those will be absorbed by the Department of Justice being, if you like, an indirect cost of this inquiry, rather than a direct cost.
Mr. Phelps: Is there an item specifically set out in the Justice vote to show the additional expense necessitated by this inquiry on that department?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I do not believe there is.
Mr. McLachlan: Is the judge drawing full salary as a judge and full salary as a commission head?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, he is drawing full salary as a judge, period.
Mr. McLachlan: If the Ministers figure of $309,000 is correct, then we are looking at somewhere in the neighbourhood of $84,000 in the Department of Economic Development budget? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes.
Mr. McLachlan: One of the costs that puts the cost of the commission up is the travel away from Whitehorse, and I notice the Economic Development bulletins put out said that the commission would travel to communities that requested it. I presume that is a reference to the Yukon public, because the Yukon public certainly did not request them to go to Ottawa.
Does the Minister know if there have been any requests for the commission to go Dawson City, or perhaps Old Crow because, in the Member for Old Crows Reply to the Throne Speech, we heard her talk about the high price of fuel in that community? Does the Minister have any information on this?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know the precise answer to that question. I might call for assistance on this matter, as I am not a lawyer. I think there is a limited extent to which, having established an inquiry and giving it the authority, I am competent to answer questions about the way in which the person conducting the inquiry chooses to conduct it, in terms of their travel plans or the particular hearings.
I would take the stated intentions of the inquiry to respond to, where there is a wish from a community to hold hearings, that that would be done. I would also assume, for the sake of efficiency, if there was one person from a community who wishes to appear, it may be deemed to be more cost-efficient to bring the person to the inquiry, rather than the inquiry to the person. Those are not matters in which I would choose to interfere. That would betray my sense of the independence of the inquiry.
Mr. McLachlan: Does the Minister have anything further to add on a completion date of the inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. We have talked about six months, and I hope that will be sufficient time to complete the work of the inquiry. I understand there are already indications that all the major companies involved in the Yukon market are going to be sending top guns - in terms of very high-priced legal talent and expertise - to appear before this inquiry. How long the cross-examination of those kinds of witnesses and the presentation of those witnesses will take, and how many citizens will want to make representations, is something that I can only guess at.
Mr. McLachlan: The Minister seems to leave open-ended the sum total of $309,000. It sounds suspiciously like that is an open cheque book. In fact, it could go over $309,000. Is that the implication that the Minister is leaving with us?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is obviously not an open cheque book. We have given a task to an independent inquiry. I am sure the Member has, in his time as an interested citizen, observed inquiries that have been held in the Yukon and elsewhere over the years, and will know that, given a task, they will start on the task and complete the task. They will not stop once the budgeted money runs out, any more than they would in a court case, a civil action or a murder trial.
The system of doing this kind of serious inquiry does not work that way. I understand the sensitivity about costs, and I also understand that there are some costs that are not avoidable. I know that is the case in terms of the courts, or an expensive trial, or an inquiry. There have been several prominent ones that have caught the national media in the last year, some of which have cost millions. I would suspect there are some inquiries federally that cost millions that are, in my view, dealing with issues that are of less importance than this.
I am not suggesting I would want to see inquiries here that cost millions of dollars, but I think to do the job well is very important. The impact of this issue on the Yukon economy is in the tens of millions annually. The issues the inquiry is dealing with are very important. I hope the inquirys findings and recommendations will give us the kind of information we need to be able to do something about the problem.
Mr. McLachlan: Of course there is a sensitivity about the cost, but there is also a sensitivity about exactly what the Minister will be able to do with the results that he gets? If it were simply a case of covering the costs, it would be easy to calculate how much we could decrease the tax that we impose on fuel of 4.2 cents a litre to cover the $309,000.
I still am not sure of what exactly the Minister intends to do with the results and how he intends to use those results to the benefit of all of us who buy fuel oil, gasoline and diesel fuel in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is asking me what I am going to do with the results, and I do not know what the results are yet. It is classically a hypothetical question. The report that the government will be submitting to the inquiry some questions about not only the causes of the unexplained discrepancy between prices here and in the south but also suggests some areas where there may be some possible action by the government.
The prudent thing to do is wait for the results of the inquiry, see what kind of options the inquiry suggests for dealing with the problem, to see to what extent the problem is defined and quantified. I have indicated, and the government has indicated that if there are some clear alternatives and clear recommendations, we are prepared to act and do something about the problem.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask a few more questions about the fuel pricing inquiry. The first one is regarding the report that the Minister mentioned about the summary of the initial research that he said was going to be made public. Is that report completed and is it available for the Members of the Legislative Assembly?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I just indicated, I have one copy here in my hand. I was going to find out if there were other copies available. If not, I will have it photocopied and make it available to Members this afternoon. If somebody who knows whether or not there are copies available or if someone knows how to use the photocopy machine can make them available, I will do that.
Mrs. Firth: I just wanted it clarified. I was not sure whether or not we were going to get it.
Does the $309,000 include the office space and equipment that is going to used for the inquiry.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Are we to understand that the fuel pricing inquiry people bought new computers? If so, what kind of office equipment did they buy and how much did it cost? How much space are they renting? How many people do they have employed in that office right now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the Member would like a complete breakdown of that information, I will ask the inquiry to provide me with the information so that I can provide it to the House. I am almost certain that they did not buy office equipment.
They are renting space. They will, of course, have to pay for printing, postage and other communications. There will be some advertising costs associated with the inquiry. There will be transcription costs associated with the inquiry as there always is. There will be some travel costs associated with the inquiry; there will be professional fees associated with the inquiry. If the Member would like a breakdown of those items, I will put the question to the inquiry and get the details.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that information. I look forward to receiving it from the Minister.
I would like to ask if the amount of money was given to the inquiry on the same basis that the money was given to the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training? Was there a similar arrangement? Was it in the form of a contribution? What kind of accountability is there? What kind of budget requirements are there? How does the inquiry report to the government their expenses, and are they allowed to write their own cheques? Do they have to tender things out? I would like some idea about the process.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all let me say to the Member that this is an independent inquiry. We will not be telling them on a day-to-day basis how the business of the inquiry should be conducted. The expenses of the inquiry, according to the budget that has been approved by Management Board, have to be submitted to ECO and approved as would government expenses. So the expenditure control system is totally different from what I understand was in operation in respect to the Commission that the Member mentioned.
Mr. Phelps: Who was responsible for preparing the budget of $309,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The judge.
Mr. Phelps: I notice that there is nothing allotted for personnel. Does that mean other includes contracts for professionals, secretaries and office staff?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, including one person who the judge requested be seconded from the Energy Branch of the Department of Economic Development who is an energy economist and who was seconded to the inquiry effective February 1.
Mr. Phelps: Is the salary of that person included in that $200,000 or the $309,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe it is but I will have to check.
Mr. Phelps: In coming up with this figure, was there an estimate as to what the cost would be for the commissions lawyer, because obviously there is going to have to be a lawyer acting on behalf of the Commissioner when you have all these lawyers coming up from outside.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I promise to come back with the detail on that, but my recollection is that there was an item that provided for professional fees, which included the lawyer. Conceivably there may be some accounting expertise required for the commission as well, and I believe there may have been some other professionals contracted for a specific task in the commission. I cannot speak to that, but it does include an item for professional fees including lawyers and others.
Mr. Phelps: Has there been any public advertising as to the nature of the formal hearing at which the oil companies and their lawyers will be present and the duration of those public hearings?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not believe there has been any advertising yet, but I understand the budget provides for advertising and there will be advertising about the hearings. I am almost certain, from some informal knowledge I have, that the commission staff, such as it is, have been in communication with the major potential witnesses already, but I am sure formal communications by way of advertisements will be forthcoming.
Mr. Phelps: That hardly addresses my concern. It seems to me that forecast items such as this would be premature without getting some kind of understanding with all the parties, who will be represented by lawyers, as to the issues to be covered, the number of witnesses and the timeline the inquiry would take. Is a schedule set out now as to the dates and times for public hearings?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe the budget requested by the judge to conduct the inquiry is based on the groundwork he has done on estimating the number of days of the inquiry, the number of witnesses who are likely to be called and the number of days it will take to examine and cross examine and pass judgment on the issues put before it. It is my understanding that both the budget and the timetable are anticipated in the requested budget.
Mr. Phelps: In the Alaska Highway Pipeline Commission, the practice of the senior government was to provide monies for research on behalf of non profit intervenors, so that there was quite a large number of groups who received funding from the federal government in order that they could properly intervene in the Alaska Highway Pipeline Inquiry hearings. There was money from the federal government for those groups such as the Conservation Society to hire lawyers and the like. I wonder whether or not this budget takes into account such monies to be granted to non profit organizations that may want to do research, hire consultants, hire economists and, indeed, hire lawyers to represent them at the hearings?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, this budget does not, so far as I know, do that, and I do not know the thinking of the judge on this subject, but I know from some informal discussions with my colleagues that the nature of the issues being dealt with here and the kind of input from citizens as to their experiences with fuel costs and fuel consumption in the communities would not require the kind of expert assistance spoken of by the Member. In the recent Yukon 2000 process, of course, the department did provide assistance to a number of groups and individuals to assist them in preparing for that process. That dealt with very complicated and comprehensive issues about the total Yukon economy. I think the task of this inquiry is much more specific and the kind of public input we in Cabinet at least anticipate would not, I think, require the kind of expert assistance the Member is discussing.
Mr. Phelps: As a policy statement of a position, the Government Leader is telling us this government will not be making monies available to consumer groups or non-profit organizations for the purpose of research or representation at the formal hearings. Is that a clear policy statement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As a general proposition, we would be prepared to consider representations of that kind, but I believe, in this case, it would be up to the judge conducting the inquiry to make a determination of the appropriateness of that. I do not know if he has considered that possibility. I do not know if anyone has made any such representations. If Members would like, I would invite them to put the question to the inquiry, or I will, on the Members behalf.
I am reasonably sure that the budget requested by the judge does not contemplate that kind of subsidy to public interest groups.
Mr. Phelps: I hope the Government Leader is aware of the concern from this side. When you get into formal hearings with high-priced economists from the private sector, the case may quite possibly be made by any number of non-profit organizations - such as from the local Chamber of Commerce, tourism associations, consumer groups, and so on, naturally there is the potential for one or more different lawyers and economists to be required in order to put those groups on an equal footing with the oil companies.
This has been our experience in the Alaska Highway pipeline hearings, which went for three months. It was the experience in the Berger hearings, the Mackenzie Pipeline Inquiry, and it can get extremely expensive. Without any limit placed on the timeframe, it is really open ended.
While I am on my feet, I strongly recommend that there be a very strict limit placed on the time for the inquiry. If he cares to review what took place, comparing the hearings on the Alaska Highway Pipeline Inquiry, as opposed to the Berger hearings, he will find that the local hearings accomplished pretty well as much as the other hearings in 10 percent of the time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand the two points being made by the Leader of the Official Opposition. I would like to explain how I see this issue as slightly differently.
It is almost certain that an ordinary citizen in this territory is not equipped to take on oil company lawyers, oil company accountants or oil company economists in a confrontational situation. That is a given. The ordinary citizens do not share the same amount of information, they do not have access to the same amount of information, and they certainly do not have the ability to get it.
The reason we are having this public inquiry is that the inquiry, with whatever expert help it can man from within the Yukon, will on behalf of Yukoners try to establish the facts as to the situation about the pricing of petroleum products in the Yukon. That is not to say that representations from citizens would not be welcome in the inquiry. Indeed they would. A lot of very useful information can be obtained from people in business or consumers of fuel products of one kind or another.
Our purpose in creating this inquiry was that the inquiry itself would have the powers and the staff necessary to get the facts from the people who have them, who are, for the most part, the oil company personnel and people involved in transporting, storing, wholesaling and retailing petroleum products. I am not at all misunderstanding the point made by the Member, but I want to make the argument with him that the model of this inquiry is slightly different than that of either the Berger Commission or the Lysyk Inquiry, of which he was a part.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to put everything into context. We are here to vote on a sum of money and to discuss an estimate that has been set at approximately $309,000 for this inquiry. Our concern is that we not open Pandoras box and have maybe ten times that amount spent by this government. I would really like to wait to see what kind of answers the Government Leader can come back with regarding the broad issues that have been raised here before we clear the item.
This is only because some of the issues raised have very serious ramifications if the inquiry is open ended. There are going to be groups appearing that engage their own independent experts and professional advocates. If those concerns are answered, we will certainly not take up much more time when we do come back.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Before we conclude the debate today on this item, I would like to make two small observations of my own. I would like to pass on from Judge Lilles an invitation that he has extended through me to MLAs to meet with him to discuss the conduct and the role of the inquiry. I would also like to express some inhibition that I want to be frank with the Member about. As a Minister of this government, discussing the conduct and business of the inquiry in too great detail once it has been established and is under way - and I believe that the Leader of the Official Opposition would accept the notion that having established the inquiry and it having done its work - there would be something improper about me, as Minister, or us as a Cabinet, or even us as a Legislature, attempting to direct it, if not on a day to day basis, but give it changing instructions as it is going on. That is not my sense about the way inquiries are normally conducted in the British tradition. I think it would be a somewhat unusual process and a potentially compromising process were we to begin that.
Mr. Phelps: It is my experience that, first of all, there is nothing wrong with establishing certain things before the process commences, and one has to do with the issue of interveners and whether the government is prepared to fund them or their professional assistance. That is one issue that ought to be determined up front. The second issue has to do with the time frame of the inquiry itself and when the report is to be made back to this government. Again, it is my opinion that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the government setting a deadline on that issue, and that occurred during the Alaska pipeline inquiry. It was a difficult target to meet, but it did happen, and saved the government perhaps millions of dollars. In the course of those inquiries there were representations made from time to time by the commissioners with regard to more money for interveners, but the policy was set strictly up front and I think that that is what is required here, in both cases.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask, before we abandon this question: is it the view of the Leader of the Official Opposition that if money is not now provided for interveners in the budget - not withstanding the observations that I have made about what I think the inquirys task is, in terms of its role on behalf of the public - that it would be the Leader of the Official Oppositions view that we should be funding or supporting or subsidizing in some way citizen interveners?
Mr. Phelps: I am not sure. I do not have in my head exactly the format that is proposed, and I do not really know yet whether various groups want to intervene. I think that it is an issue that ought to be explored by the government, and they have to be satisfied before they conclude what a reasonable budget would be, and, as well, what the time frame ought to be. I think that it is of the utmost importance that that be written in stone.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The only thing that I have to add is that I now have enough copies of the report to make it available to every Member. I do not know if I can formally table it in committee or not, but I will do that, and it will be made available.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up on a question that I asked the Minister earlier about the inquiry; it is about the control system. The Minister said that there was a control system on the expenditures. I would like to know if any submissions have been made yet to the department, and whether or not they have been approved.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: My information is, at this point, that there has been an advance payment to the inquiry of $50,000. Of course, all of that has to be accounted for, and the inquiry staff will be accounting for it, but I have not sought, nor have I had reason to seek, an audit or an accounting of the inquirys expenditures to date.
Mrs. Firth: I want the Minister to be very serious about this. The answers are less than serious. The Minister said very specifically that there was a control system in place, expenses would be submitted and approved. He referred to it as a control system for the expenditure. Now he tells me that $50,000 has been advanced. I am very concerned about the way the money is being distributed. I was of the impression that in order for them to get that money, they would have had to submitted a reason for being given that money. Therefore, the Minister should know whether they have purchased new equipment; I am sure money would have been allocated for office rent and equipment purchases, so perhaps the Minister could answer that question.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is treading on very dangerous ground. She understands that she is talking about a judge of the Territorial Court.
Mrs. Firth: No, we are not.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, we are talking about a judge of the Territorial Court who is conducting an inquiry. Management Board has approved certain expenditures, a budget for the inquiry. Fifty thousand dollars has been advanced to the Department of Economic Development who will be receiving the expenses from the inquiry as it goes on, but the inquiry is an independent inquiry. I will not, as a Minister, be monitoring the expenditures of the inquiry on a daily or weekly basis. It is an independent inquiry and will be responsible for doing its own accounting and accounting for its expenditures according to its budget as would any other similar such entity.
Mrs. Firth: I am not talking about a judge. I am simply talking about an accountability procedure. I raised it in the context of how the money had been given. I never questioned the judges ability to spend the money. I am looking from the point of view of a member of the Public Accounts Committee. We had some problems with the money that had been allocated to the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training. The Minister tried to reassure me that that incident could not happen in this case because they had a control system in place. I am not even talking about the judge, I am asking what this control system is. Has money been given? He told the House expenses had to be submitted and approved, and he told us $50,000 has gone out so obviously some expenses have been submitted and approved and, therefore, he should be able to answer some of the more specific questions about what that money is for. I am simply looking at the accountability for the expenditure of funds.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The accountability for funds is carried out in accordance within the provisions of the Financial Administration Act. All procedures for normal accounting and approving of expenditures will apply as they would for a line department or any other activity. There is not a contract management arrangement as there was for the other body that the Member mentions. The monies approved in this budget will be advanced to Economic Development who have to approve and process each invoice as they would for any other government activity. They submit them to ECO, and they will be approved against the advance. The same government procedures that would operate, the same procedures that are provided for in the Financial Administration Act and the same financial manuals apply. There would be nothing irregular, nothing unusual about the way payments will be processed or about the way expenditures will be incurred.
Mrs. Firth: I take it, then, that the money has to be approved before it is spent. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. The budget has been approved. If the inquiry decides to rent office spaces within the amount of the budget, they do not have to come to me to approve the office space. If they choose to do some photocopying, they do not have to come to us for approval. When the budget has been approved, legitimate expenditures according to the budget for the inquiry will be invoiced to us through the Department of Economic Development and the Executive Council Office against this vote, and they will be approved and paid in the normal way.
Mr. Lang: I want to express my concern here at the outset. The formal announcement made about the public inquiry said it would cost $200,000. A week hence or two weeks hence, we come into this House and it has not even started yet we are told it is costing $309,000 - and that does not include the salary of the individual conducting the inquiry. We have to include that as well; so, if we allow $40,000 for the salary, we are up to $350,000. I want to share with you, Mr. Chairman, and the Minister this cause of concern for all Members in this House. We have not even started and we have seen an increase of approximately $150,000 over and above the statement made to the general public, which was given great distribution, that the inquiry would cost in the neighbourhood of $200,000.
I think the Minister would share the concern with me that anybody who is listening and watching will be observing the obvious escalation in costs. That is one side, and I do not think the Minister should get irritable with us for cross-examining and basically getting down to the financial ramifications to the general public.
The government called the inquiry. When you call an inquiry, there are certain terms of reference given for the calling of an inquiry. All we have had is a ministerial statement with respect to what they are going to look into. I would like the Minister to table for us the instructions that were transmitted to the individual who is conducting the inquiry. Or were there any instructions given over and above the ministerial statement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe the ministerial statement described quite well the instructions for the inquiry, but I have no hesitation whatsoever in tabling the precise instructions in the House.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister table for us a breakdown of the $200,000 and the other $109,000 projected - understanding that there is some room for flexibility in there, the budget had to come forward with various breakdowns of how those dollars can be allocated. Could the Minister provide for us a breakdown of how the government, in conjunction with the judge in preparing the budget, break down those dollars? I have not heard precisely what they are.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have already taken notice on the question of the break down of the budget for the inquiry. The Member must not misunderstand me. This is the first time we have discussed the budget in detail. I previously indicated to the House that we had new money in the budget. We had forecast $25,000 in the supplementaries and $200,000 in the estimate. The judges estimate of the cost of the inquiry is $309,000. The balance of that amount will be absorbed by the Department of Economic Development, by decision of Management Board.
Mr. Lang: I am not arguing that. For example, are the costs for the document that was tabled here today, but done some time ago, included in the $309,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, because they are not part of the inquiry costs. They are costs associated with a witness to the inquiry, which we will be.
Mr. Lang: The taxpayer will bear the cost incurred by the government to hire and contract expertise in order to appear as a witness, and that will be over and above $309,000. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes. The Member knows that you cannot do an inquiry about a serious matter, an inquiry about a multi-million dollar matter, on the cheap. The reason the particular person doing the inquiry was selected was because we judged that this person had the skills, knowledge and competence to be able to conduct a good inquiry. The mandate of the inquiry was set by Cabinet. In the normal course of things, the inquiry came back to us and presented us with a budget for conducting the work.
As I said earlier in the debate, it is impossible in any inquiry to accurately predict the actual costs of the work. The Member talks about the cost to the taxpayers. The report we are about to distribute to Members, which indicates the cost to the taxpayers of over-charging on fuel products, amounts to many millions of dollars every year. The cost to the taxpayers is massive. The necessity of dealing with a very serious, substantial inquiry into this matter is very clear to us, and the costs of doing it well are, in my view, perfectly justified.
Mr. Lang: I do not view $200,000 as being on the cheap, and I do not view doing something for $350,000 plus other costs incurred to the government as being on the cheap.
I object to the manner in which this is being presented here. They seem to wonder why we would even question it. We are concerned about the question of where we are going and how we are getting there. I want the terms of reference, so it is clear to us why it was called.
As far as the over-charging part, I am not in a position to say whether that is an accurate statement or an inaccurate statement. I thought that was the role of the inquiry. It would be wrong for us to make assumptions until we hear exactly what has been presented to the inquiry, in one manner or another.
Perhaps the Minister should read, tomorrow, what he stated. I take it that we will have a breakdown of the budget for the $309,000 that will also identify salary costs for the people and the commissioner in charge of the inquiry.
Mr. Lang: My understanding is that Public Inquiries is to be stood aside until we get that information.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Some minutes ago, when the Leader of the Official Opposition indicated it was his wish to stand the item until such time as certain information was provided, either directly or indirectly, I gave him an indication or undertaking that it would be acceptable.
Chairman: Public Inquiries will be stood over.
Public Inquiries stood over
Mr. Nordling: Since the preparation of this budget has there been any thought given to there being any plebiscites this year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: None that I know of.
Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: With regard to public inquiries information and the changing of the number to an 800 number, is it the idea of the government to make this number available only for public inquiries for residents of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes. It is a Yukon service. I did announce it yesterday in the estimates.
Mr. McLachlan: I am asking because an 800 number suggests it is reachable all across Canada as a toll free number. I presume that the Government Leader is saying is that this service is trunked out of Whitehorse and nobody may call from Toronto for tourism booklets or anything like that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As far as I know, it is designed as a Yukon only service.
Recoveries in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
On Grants Contributions and Other Transfer Payments
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could update us with respect to the Asia Pacific Foundation Grant.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Asia Pacific Foundation Grant has been renewed for this year, I must say, with some trepidation. There is no doubt that the Asia Pacific Foundation does valuable work. I have seen some of the publications, am aware of some of its education programs, and I am aware about such matters as potential trade missions to Asia, particularly those places where we have substantial sales, such as Korea and Japan, and that the Foundation can do useful work and give us useful advice and provide briefings.
To be frank, this Cabinet has continuing doubts about the value of this grant to the people of the Yukon. I suppose that you could argue that it is one dollar per person. It would be very hard to know whether we get one dollar per persons value from it.
We have said to the commission, in renewing the grant for this year, that we would expect the foundation to demonstrate some clearer benefits to the Yukon than it has in the past. At a minimum, we would like the Asia Pacific Foundation board to hold one of its meetings in the Yukon this year. It normally meets in Vancouver. We have asked that, should the foundation do that, that it have a meeting not only with our Cabinet, but perhaps with other interested groups in the community. Specifically, if they do come here and have a meeting with our Cabinet, I think our intention would be, on that occasion, to have a very frank discussion about the continuing value of this grant. In the total budget of the foundation, our $25,000 is not a large sum of money. They get much more from other governments and from other sources.
There are many, many requests for us to make such grants and contributions - everything from the Confederation of Tomorrow Annual Festival, in Charlottetown, to the Banff School of Fine Arts - one thing after another, we get dozens and dozens of requests. Some of my colleagues, from time to time, identify groups and organizations, perhaps sometimes Yukon-based groups and organizations, that they would regard as more worthy for the contribution, but we did make a decision to renew it this year. Before we make a decision to renew it for another year, I think that there will have to be a meeting with the board of the foundation and they will have to persuade us that this grant is of use to the Yukon and that the work of the foundation is of sufficient value to this community to warrant the continuation of the grant.
Mr. Lang: I want to pursue this a little further and I would share the Ministers concern. My understanding of the purpose of the foundation is to ensure that western Canada, and Canada as well, get their fair share of the Pacific Rim markets.
In the past year, were there trade missions by this organization and if so, was the Yukon invited? It takes two to play the game. Did the Government of Yukon - primarily through the Department of Economic Development, I assume, or the Executive Council - make overtures to see how we might become involved and gain a higher profile in those countries?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As far as I know, the Asia Pacific Foundation itself does not do trade missions. What it would do, if we were doing a trade mission to, say, Hong Kong, in the next year to meet some potential investors in the Yukon - because a lot of people are trying to get money out of Hong Kong - the foundation would assist and direct us, as would the External Affairs people. It probably would give us some contacts, give us some names, arrange some meetings in advance, and so forth. They do not actually do trade missions themselves. They would provide advice to jurisdictions that are doing it.
They have some very senior, very experienced people involved in the foundation. I doubt very much if Alberta, which has its own office in Tokyo and a well-established presence and sister province relationship with Hokkaido, and British Columbia - I was talking to a minister from British Columbia who said he had been on 16 trade missions to Japan during his very short time in office - would learn very much from the foundation. What the foundation does have is educational programs, programs for journalists, and things like that. These are not, for the most part, things which we can access very well, given our distance from Vancouver, but it is these issues we would want to discuss with the board if they do come here and if they do meet with us.
Chairman: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
On the Department of Community and Transportation Services
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The estimates for the Department of Community and Transportation Services total $46.3 million, which represents a six percent increase over the 1987-88 Main Estimates. The departments major initiatives will further this governments accomplishments in the key areas of land claims, economic survival and community support. I would like to elaborate on how the departments activities will contribute in each of these important fields.
In land claims, the department will provide expertise and support for the claims negotiations through the Lands Branch, and advice and support on land selection and management, which will be extensive. The Community Services Branch will provide information and advice on local government issues. The Transportation Branch will be available for consultation on any aspect of negotiation that will affect the future transportation corridors.
The attention of the department is now shifting into the implementation phase of the Yukon Economic Development Strategy. Of principal concern to the department is provision of the strategys infrastructure component. In this regard, the following are some of the initiatives planned for 1988-89.
Negotiations will conclude on the devolution of B and C airports. Control and development of airport services will promote economic development, air transportation and communication links between communities. Further development of an air transportation policy is planned. Implementation of the transportation capital planning process will proceed. Increased maintenance is planned for the Dempster Highway. Land availability will continue to be an important component of the economic activities of the Yukon and an important role for this government. Twenty-six more parcels of land have been transferred since April 1987. These transfers total 4,542 hectares. This represents a significant increase in the number of parcels transferred from preceding years.
In the Lands Branch, client services will also continue to be improved, with the continued implementation of support of land applicants and through a computerized land information system. A two year term position will be added to the Lands Branch to manage the land availability process and to enhance communication with Indian bands, the federal government, residents and interest groups. The bands will be invited to participate in the revamped Yukon Lands Advisory Committee. Land planning and development will focus on the development lands for housing in both urban and rural Yukon.
The most decentralized department, the Department of Community and Transportation Services, will continue its strong support for increased employment in all communities throughout the Yukon. Departmental operations will continue to be carefully examined for opportunities to decentralize.
The following actions are being considered for the coming year: the first is establishing a building inspector in Dawson City; establishing a position in the mechanical operations section in the transportation division in Dawson City; establishing an area superintendent for highways maintenance in Ross River or Faro; establishing a mechanic position in Watson Lake; and training in hiring rod and chain staff from local communities for surveying work.
Skills development training at the community level will also be a major initiative in this Operation and Maintenance Budget. Training will be undertaken in coordination with the Association of Yukon Communities for municipal administrators and Indian band officials. Training will be arranged to upgrade qualifications for volunteer fire fighters. Training will be arranged to upgrade qualifications for volunteer ambulance attendants. Training will continue to improve the development of volunteers and professional personnel developing programs in fields of sports, arts and recreation. Training under the heavy equipment operators training program will raise the skill of community residents in the Carmacks area to allow the increased participation in the departments road reconstruction program initiatives in the area.
The Communications Branch will direct its resources to ensuring a satisfactory level of broadcasting and telecommunication services to Yukoners through the following initiatives: improvements to the community radio and television system; the replacement of the VHF mobile radio system, which will result in improved voice and data transmission services to a number of public agencies - the new VHF system will also improve the territorys emergency communication; extension of improved telephone service to rural Yukon; and creation of new services and new jobs, which may result in continued monitoring and new technology.
As with other government departments, the Department of Community and Transportation Services will continue to pursue devolution initiatives that will contribute to territorial control and constitutional development. As previously mentioned, the transfer of Arctic B and C airports from the federal Ministry of Transport is one of these initiatives. This year will also see the beginning of the inter-territorial road capital program transfer negotiations. The views of the public will continue to be sought and responded to as a matter of regular practice.
Lands Branch will continue to engage in community planning, land development, area development regulation, land availability, band consultation on land initiatives and squatter and grazing policy implementation. Municipal advisers will continue to consult with and assist municipalities, communities and bands through community visits and ongoing communications, which foster close working relationships between government and communities.
A new initiative of the Municipal and Community Affairs Division will explore options for local representation in rural fringe and unincorporated areas of the territory.
The Transportation Capital Planning Branch will continue, through an ongoing program of consultation, to ensure that future transportation infrastructure developments meet the future needs of Yukon communities and economic development.
The department, as Members can guess, is advancing on many fronts that will contribute to the economic and social development of the territory.
I would be more than happy to start general debate now and we can perhaps pursue in some detail some of the major initiatives, and, as per usual, get into line items.
Mr. Lang: My first question is the question of the deputy minister position within the department. I understand that through circumstances that have taken place that the deputy minister has left. Has that position been filled, and if so, by whom?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The question is appropriately directed at the Government Leader, who makes the appointments, not me. As the Member correctly mentioned, the deputy minister who was appointed in November, 1985, resigned officially as of April 1 this year. The person who is acting in the position of deputy minister is Roger Graham, who will be acting in that position until such time as a competition is undertaken. Perhaps a question about when the competition will be undertaken could be directed at the Government Leader.
I would like to have an idea when the Government Leader or the Minister expects the position to be filled. It has sometimes taken a year for the deputy ministers position to be filled. What is the projected time frame for that position to be filled?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot answer that question yet. Mr. Graham is acting indefinitely in the position with the full authority of the deputy minister. The Member is quite right that deputy minister competitions, especially if we go to national competition, can take a long time, even months.
In making a decision about whether or not we have an internal competition, a local one or a national one, I have not faced that question, but I will be doing so.
Mr. Lang: When does the Minister expect to be confronting that question so that a decision can be made?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry, I cannot give a precise answer. I have a fairly large number of decisions on my desk, and with my duties to the House to attend to, I expect I will be dealing with it soon. I cannot, however, give a precise date as to when I will be making that decision. I am sorry.
Mr. Lang: I will not belabour the point. This is a very large department, and one that necessitates some pretty firm direction in respect to the top executive positions being filled very soon. Otherwise the public reaps the repercussions of it if those decisions are not made.
I would like to move to the question of the availability of land. I would like to clarify the land use planning program. I am primarily about the area outside of Whitehorse, North Hootalinqua. This is not a new experience. The people went through the same thing in 1978 or 1979, and I assume a great deal of work was done at that time that should accommodate and help the process come to a speedy conclusion.
When does the Minister expect firm decisions being made on how the land is going to be utilized in that area?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, to allay any fears that may be in the Members mind, the person who is holding the deputy minister position at the present time is first class, in my view. I am sure that the leadership that that person provides to the department will be done in his usual competent fashion.
The Member, in prefacing his comments on land, spoke initially of land availability and the land planning process. I would not want to leave people with the impression that the two are necessarily linked. The Member suggests that we cannot get one unless the other is done. The Member suggests that we cannot get any until the other is done. I do not like to say that that is not true, but the Member probably will not believe me.
The North Hootalinqua plan covers a different planning area than the Whitehorse West plan. This planning was done seven or eight years ago. The terms of reference are different. We have gone through all this before.
The North Hootalinqua planning process is scheduled to wrap up this spring. Recommendations on the preferred land use for the area are scheduled to be delivered to the government and the Minister at that time. There is still a further step, with the plans being laid before the public at public meetings. I am sure that will take place shortly. A lot of effort has been made in contacting the various communities in the North Hootalinqua area to ensure they are fully informed as to not only what is going on in the process, but also to give their feelings about land development in their area. That was something the communities in North Hootalinqua felt strongly about in the initiating process, and it is something they still feel strongly about today.
The steering committee, made up of representatives from the district, has been very good at steering the process to ensure the community interests are respected. They have made recommendations to the government from time to time as to how things should go, and we have been as accommodating as we can to ensure the people have faith in the planning process to ensure that it works.
Mr. Lang: For example, I will use the planning process in Dawson City. I think it is the Klondike Valley Land Use Planning Process. Until that particular planning process is completed, is it not true that no agricultural land is being made available?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No. In the Klondike Valley, the government had made it clear they would not necessarily stop land transfers or stop dealing land that is in the Klondike Valley, but we would try to ensure, at all possible costs, to keep the steering committee in that particular area informed of whatever actions we were anticipating taking in getting incumbents on those actions. That was understood from day one.
Mr. Lang: I am a little confused here, and I will have to check my files. I believe I corresponded specifically to at least one land application with respect to the Dawson City area, and the Minister responded to me that nothing can be done as far as that application is concerned until the land use planning process has been completed. Is he telling me something different here today, that he will process this with no problem, and that a person can apply for land and get their application agreed to?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would have to note what the situation was for that particular land applicant in the Klondike Valley. There may have been some particular idiosyncrasy about the land application which disturbed the planning process moreso than was warranted. For that reason, it may have been held up. I cannot remember the details of this particular application the Member has, and maybe tomorrow he can bring the letter forward, and I can ask Lands Branch officials to comment on the particular application. In general principle, however, we have not frozen the land that we control in the Klondike Valley, but we have given an undertaking to the Land Use Steering Committee, to keep them informed and to seek their opinions on land alienation, prior to the final plan being implemented.
Mr. Lang: We seem to talk around in circles here. Could the Minister tell me this: has there been any land released for agricultural purposes in the Klondike Valley since the start of this land-use planning process?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have absolutely no idea whether or not land has been released in the area. I will ask the Lands Branch to check into the files to see whether land has been released in the planning area. The policy - I am not speaking in circles - is exactly as I stated it.
Mr. Lang: There seems to be a bit of a problem, and I think that it is throughout. Perhaps that is why the Minister is faced with the motion on the floor that talks about the difficulty in obtaining land, because if the Member of this House are not clear about how to get land, how is the general public going to be clear?
We have had a great deal of fanfare from the Minister, who has stood up for three years and told us what a great job he has done. In fact, the only problem that he has had is that his arm is not long enough to reach around and slap himself on the back.
My concern has been this: in the Speech from the Throne, the Government Leader - and I assume the Department of Community and Transportation Services was involved - indicated that, at some given time, the Minister of Renewable Resources, and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services were going to get together and come up with an agricultural policy. Then I have correspondence that indicates that, at least in one particular case - and I think that the Member for Kluane and I am sure that the Member for Hootalinqua have correspondence from the Ministers desk - that says that land cannot be had, because there is a planning process going on. That causes me concern. I am talking about the availability of land. We cannot have it both ways. The perception is that if you say it often enough, people will believe it. My concern is that I have people asking me questions, and I am not able to tell them what the policy is. I am told that there is a backlog of, what is it, 400 applications now.
What is the backlog for agriculture applications in the department at the present time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Members go on and on about the difficulty of acquiring land from this government when the land transfers that have been achieved by this government have far outstripped, by miles, the very limited success that was achieved by the previous government. We inherited 200 applications right off the bat. Then within weeks, the Members opposite were demanding that the government get off its backside and do something about the wonderful inheritance that was given them. There were hundreds of applications dumped on our laps, and suddenly we were supposed to do something about them, lickety-split.
I am looking forward to the agricultural land motion. I am going to enjoy it as much as anybody else or maybe a good deal more. When an application comes in and the issues are dealt with, it is hard to draw certain generalizations. If we deal in generalizations, we are not going to understand the process. I have told the Members clearly what the policy is on the Klondike Valley.
Very recently there was a freeze applied to agricultural applications in the North Hootalinqua area, and there was a press release that indicated that that was the case largely because there was not enough of the land around that was being requested. People around Whitehorse are going to have to accept that arable land within commuting distance of Whitehorse and near hydro power just is not that easy to find anymore. That is one of the realities that they are going to have to face.
The situation from 1985 has not gotten any better given all the agreements for sale that have been entered into primarily around the Whitehorse area. Yes, we are developing a comprehensive agricultural land policy to address some of the problems that have been associated with a rather rough hewn policy that was developed some time ago. The policy before was simply that all agricultural activity had to be land based. It did not make sense when we talked about other kinds of farming that people are now interested in getting into.
Market gardening is one area. Game ranching is another. These are kinds of farming that do not require large parcels of land. We are going to be sharpening our skills and policies with respect to agricultural land.
Chairman: Order, please. There is only 20 minutes left.
With respect to the period from 1987 to 1988, YTG has reviewed and approved 39 applications. There have been 17 agreements for sale entered into. There are currently 134 land applications left on file.
I think I will give the information tomorrow, when people are more tuned into receiving it.
Chairman: Is it the wish of the Members that the Minister give the information?
It is desired.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Of the applications on federal land that remain active, 76 are for agriculture and 34 are for grazing. On Commissioners land, 16 are for agriculture and eight are for grazing.
That is the record so far, with respect to agricultural land. I do not think it is shabby at all.
Mr. Lang: I am assuming the 17 agreements for sale are from a number of years ago, when people applied for their land, did their particular improvements, then applied for an agreement for sale. For example, these could be agreements that date back four or five years. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No. The ones that date many years ago were signed as agreements for sale many years ago. These are agreements for sale that are initiated and, then, the person is expected to do five years worth of work. These are brand new agreements for sale.
Mr. Lang: We are talking about a total of 134 land applications for the territory, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is it.
Mr. Lang: Is there a discrepancy? The information we were provided with was that there were in the neighbourhood of 400 land applications. Maybe there are some that go to the federal government. Does the 134 include land applications to the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is a single-window approach to agricultural land applications. One of the problems we faced in 1985 was that people were applying for land from both the federal and Yukon governments. The communications between the two were not the best at the time, and that is the reason why we amalgamated the services. In terms of administration, the agreement had been struck that YTG would be the single window for agricultural land applications when they took over the agricultural land program in 1983. There is only one agricultural land program in the territory, and YTG is the agent.
Mr. Lang: I would like to get into the question of the land freeze in the Hootalinqua north area. I notice the Minister did not stand up in this House with a ministerial statement. Now that the Minister has accomplished, through a ministerial fiat, a land freeze and, secondly, announced that he and his colleague are going to get together to develop an agricultural land policy, could the Minister indicate to the House and the public how long this is going to take? When can we expect an announcement on this fine-tuned land policy as opposed to the rough-hewn land policy that the Minister has been responsible for the past three years?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know. The Member is talking about land use planning then about the agricultural land program. They are two different issues altogether. He indicated that the land use planning process for Hootalinqua north would be finished by this spring. I believe it is the end of April that the recommendations from the steering committee will come to the government with respect to the land use plan for this particular area.
With respect to the agricultural land program, over the course of the year the government, primarily Community and Transportation Services and Renewable Resources, will be developing an agricultural land program that takes in a variety of interests. There have been motions tabled in this House that have asked for certain elements of an agricultural program to be adopted. One was to allow for small portions of land to be considered agricultural. I believe that parcels of less than eight hectares could be considered agricultural.
The ultimate intention is that we allowed it so we may move away from traditionally soil-based agricultural activity and also allow non-soil-based activity, which does not take up valuable agricultural land. Market gardens, hydroponic activities, and sometimes feed lots or egg production do not require prime agricultural land in order to undertake an operation. So there are a number of other activities that we hope we could support through the agricultural land program, which means basically low cost land to support the economic activities, instead of simply concentrating on those activities that are exclusively relying on good soils to survive. So there are other areas that we would like to support through low cost land under the agricultural land program. To do so requires,basically,a change in policy.
Mr. Lang: Are we talking about a one acre or two acre parcel like a country residential type of program being put in place outside city limits and municipalities? Is this what we are looking at when we talk about hydroponics, or a small feed lot? I want to hear where the Minister is going on this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The idea is that, where you can specifically define what is agricultural activity - which is the hardest test in the policy development - and where you wish to support the agricultural activity through a land program - this means you do not sell land for market value, the way you do normal commercial land. There will be cases where legitimate agricultural activity can be supported through the sale of land. There are some hard policy decisions that have to be made. You have to identify what is a legitimate agricultural endeavour that is non-soil based. You have to determine whether or not the sale price for the land is reasonable, given the economic endeavour. In so doing, you have to recognize that most of these agricultural activities would like to be intertwined with existing residential areas. Sometimes it is not a perfect fit.
For example, a hog farm with a feed lot does not require a large land base, and does not require arable land at all. I would venture to guess that, if the hog farm was placed up against a residential area, there may be people who would object. You have to take that into account, in terms of policy development.
The current policy is that certain parcels of land are available, primarily 20 acre to 160 acre lot configurations. So much has to be arable land. You have to clear so much, irrespective of whether or not your operation needs it. This creates an artificial activity out there. We are forcing people to do some things that do not make sense to their operation, but they need to do it in order to get the land in order to undertake that operation.
There is a need now to fine tune this so we do not force people to do things that are ridiculous in order to qualify for agricultural land. How you define that is a difficult policy - how you define agricultural activities, so you can separate them from normal, commercial activities. Commercial land is sold at market value. How you define that is the test.
I would like to see an agricultural land program that is very flexible, so it allows for people to undertake their operations, as all operations are unique, and to take advantage of the expertise. That is the dilemma, and that is what we have to resolve as soon as we can.
Mr. Lang: I want to get into some specifics about land availability in Hootalinqua. Is it the position of the government, in view of the statements have been made in the area, that the Flat Creek homestead subdivision will not be going ahead?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We never anticipated that that would be a homestead subdivision. We did hope that some agricultural land use could be resolved by allowing people to purchase agricultural lots there. There was a grass-level opinion in the north Hootalinqua area, and, specifically, in the area near Flat Creek, that suggested that they do not like that kind of subdivision development, albeit very large pieces of land. There was also a feeling in that particular area that some historic uses of the land ought to be respected, even though there was no formal land tenure in place, by the people who were using it. The government indicated last year that even though it would like to provide, as much as it can, for the needs of the people who have put in agricultural land applications, and who may wish to move to an area like this to undertake agricultural activity, people there felt very strongly that an agricultural subdivision development in this area was not desired. The government then said that it would halt development - which we did - and it would wait until the North Hootalinqua Plan is complete, at the end of April, before proceeding any further with any plans at all.
It is to be hoped that we can respect the land use plan. I would not like people in the area to think that they are going through the planning exercise for nothing. I will do everything in my power to respect the plan.
Mr. Lang: Another question concerns the Pilot Mountain subdivision. I understand through various sources that there is a possibility of an extension of the subdivision in that area; those are 15 to 20 acre parcels of property. I do not know if the Minister recalls it, but I will refresh his memory. There was a commitment made, by the previous administration that that would be the size of that particular subdivision, in order to try to keep the number of people down to an acceptable level, for those who wanted that kind of a lifestyle.
Is the Minister going to respect that policy decision and that commitment that was made both to the Legislature and to the people who were living in the area?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, as a matter of general principle, I would like to maintain some continuity, irrespective of how I feel about positions that have been made by the previous government. I like to maintain some continuity between commitments that have been made publicly by government, in order that the people have faith in their government. In general terms, there are no plans for an extension to the Pilot Mountain subdivision, though there has been a reserve put on the piece of land next door to Pilot Mountain. There has been a reserve, a YTG reserve, in case the politicians change their minds. The one thing to bear in mind here is that the North Hootalinqua Plan will, it is hoped, help us determine where the best land development might take place. One thing that I tried to make clear to the steering committee was that it would be nice to maintain a wilderness setting all around Whitehorse for the next 50 years. Unfortunately, there are very severe land pressures, demands for land and places to live, and it is not going to be possible in all cases to maintain a perfect wilderness lifestyle around Whitehorse. The pressures are too severe. They are very severe. The Hootalinqua planning process is going to help us determine what the best use for land is, including the area adjacent to Pilot Mountain, but until such time as we get direction from the plan, we will respect the commitment made by the previous government.
I move that the Chairman move progress on Bill No. 50.
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. May 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. 50, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1988-89, and directs 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 Hon. Members:Agreed
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
I would like to inform the House that we are now prepared to receive the Commissioner in his capacity of Lieutenant Governor to give assent to certain bills that have passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
Speaker: Mr. Commissioner, the Assembly, at its present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of this Assembly, I respectfully request your consent.
Clerk: An Act to Amend the Municipal Finance Act; An Act to Repeal the Dawson City Utilities Replacement Act; An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act; An Act to Amend the Insurance Act.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
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.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 12, 1988:
Condition of the Hospital Road in Whitehorse (McDonald)
Hansard, page 27, Nov. 12, 1987
Companies being sued by Yukon Government re Porter Creek C Subdivision (McDonald)
Hansard, page 178, Dec. 2, 1987
Analysis of Expenditures by Highway Camp, 1986-87 (McDonald)
Hansard, page 152, Dec. 1, 1987
YTG Staff Housing in Destruction Bay (McDonald)
Hansard, Dec. 14, 1987
Charts contained in Budget Address booklets for 1987-88 and 1988-89: Revenue Inflow Sources (Penikett)
Hansard, page 144
The following Document was tabled April 12, 1988:
The Pricing of Refined Petroleum Products in the Yukon (prepared by the Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business)