Wednesday, May 11, 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?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have a number of legislative returns and some information concerning the regulation of the placer industry for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I have a return for tabling.
Speaker: Reports of Committees?
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 Minister?
New Regulatory Regime for Placer Mining
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I rise today to inform the House that a new regulatory regime for placer mining is now in place. This new regime resolves a long-standing controversy between the Yukons placer mining industry and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The details of this new regime were worked out by the Yukon Placer Implementation Review Committee. This committee is chaired by a Member of the private sector, Mr. Al Kapty, and includes representatives from Northern Affairs, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Yukon Government. We are very pleased that we have been able to help facilitate the resolution of this highly important matter to the satisfaction of all parties. The new regulatory regime, which is set out in a Fisheries Act policy, will provide the much needed legal certainty for the placer mining industry. At the same time, it will protect our valuable fisheries resources.
Under the new regime, which has the full support of our government, there will be:
1. No allowable discharge of sediment (above naturally occurring levels) from placer operations on salmon spawning streams,
2. Discharge of up to 0.2 milliliters per litre of settleable solids allowed on streams used by rearing salmon,
3. Up to 1.0 milliliter per litre of settleable solids allowed on streams with other fish of significant value, and
4. Up to 5.0 milliliters per litre of settleable solids allowed on streams with no fish or fish of no significant value.
The committee has reviewed the classification of all streams on which there is known placer mining activity, and the classification maps are attached to the new policy documents. consistent with the desired one window approach, the Placer Inspection Group of DIAND will perform all mine site inspections; accompanied by officials from other departments where appropriate.
The committee will review the performance of the new regulatory regime prior to the 1991 placer season, and will recommend changes if necessary. The committee will also handle appeals to review stream classifications that are considered to be inappropriate by either the miner or fisheries officials, and deal with requests for site specific authorizations in difficult circumstances. In all of these cases the committee will make recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
In conclusion, we are very pleased to have played a significant part in the development of this new and important policy which we believe will benefit all Yukoners.
Mr. Nordling: As with any new regulatory regime, I know that there will be a few individuals who will not be happy with it, but I am assured that, overall, the Klondike Placer Miners Association is happy with the package. I am personally pleased that there appears to be a solution regarding certainty for placer miners, and we are looking forward to seeing how it works. We are also pleased that the Implementation Review Committee will remain in place to monitor the progress of the new regime.
One concern I have is that the necessary resources are available to implement and enforce this new regime, and I would encourage this government to play a significant part in ensuring that the necessary resources are available. Thank you.
Elderhostel Program Through Yukon College
Hon. Mr. McDonald:I am pleased to rise today to announce an exciting new educational program that will be of direct benefit to the tourism sector of the Yukon. Yukon College has this year joined the Elderhostel of Canada Association, and will be offering courses about the Yukon to visitors who register through the organization called Elderhostel Canada.
Through this program, people who are over 60 years of age, and who want to enjoy education along with travel, can sign up for courses offered by over one hundred colleges and universities in Canada, including those that will be offered at the new Yukon College. Topics that will be available this year through Yukon College include Kluane geology, flora and fauna, the goldrush and construction of the Alaska Highway, sternwheelers, and traditional native life. In the future, many more learning opportunities will be added to the list, to respond to the interests of the potentially large number of elder students who are interested in coming to our college.
The interest in a Yukon destination is certainly there. In fact, our Elderhostel associates in Toronto already claim to have hundreds of people wait listed for the Yukon program.
In July of this year, Yukon College will host two groups of 20 people each. Following that, in October, we may be involved in the first international Elderhostel Program wherein older students will be able to take courses in both Whitehorse and Alaska, and perhaps on cruise ships in between as well. Our July registrations include people from Manitoba, Ontario, and British Columbia.
A special characteristic of the program is that participants will all reside in the college residence during the one week program. They are also being encouraged to come early and stay after the program is over in order to include other local activities in their travel agenda. It is anticipated that many participants will do this, and that this will draw new tourist dollars into the Yukon. We have been informed that an average Elderhosteller stays an additional four days in any city or area where courses are offered, and I anticipate that those who come to the Yukon will stay far longer than average.
Elderhostellers make their own travel arrangements, and pay for their tuition and residence. Fees are set as low as possible to encourage people at all income levels to take advantage of these learning opportunities.
A most attractive bonus for having involvement in the Elderhostel network is the tourism-related advertising potential gained for the Yukon. The programs are advertised in catalogues that are sent to these travelling students. In 1987, this amounted to over 140,000 people in over 40 countries.
This excellent form of community event permits individuals, organizations, tourism-related businesses, and the college to cooperate in a growing project that has potential to provide considerable economic impact on the Yukon, as well as education value for the participants.
I am very pleased to see the Yukon participate in the Elderhostel network, and look forward to seeing this program flourish over the years.
Mr. Lang: I want to take this opportunity to commend the government and, in particular, those people within the Department of Education and, as well, the Department of Tourism, for taking the initiative to explore and obviously succeed in getting the Yukon to participate in this particular program. This flows from our position on this side of the House and fits in well with the idea of the new college becoming a focal point for tourism programming. We are very pleased to see the initiative being taken, because I think it is going to bear fruit for everybody in the years to come.
Mr. McLachlan: I am very familiar with this program because of family members who wanted to visit the Yukon and take advantage of this course this past summer and found, as the Minister has stated, that parts of the course were full and had waiting lists. I am all for visitors from southern Canada and the United States coming to the territory and learning more about the Yukon, whatever their age or origin. However, I am hoping the Minister can shed some light on why this particular program is only being announced in the Legislature today, when it was known about a month ago in southern Canadian cities that people would be eligible to come here.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is the first time the program has been announced formally or in the Legislature or in the public in the Yukon. What has been requested of the department and college is to ensure that participation in the Elderhostel Program will be well-subscribed prior to final commitments being made. Clearly, we know the subscription to the program is going to be well over-subscribed. What we are talking about now is determining how much we want to expand it in the future. The program is first announced today, seeing it is such a beautiful sunny day outside and people are looking forward to the tourists who are coming into the Yukon. It is important that we do identify that some of them are going to be elderhostellers coming to the Yukon this coming summer. We will show them every respect and consideration.
Speaker: This, then, brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Territorial Court Act
Mr. Phelps: With respect to the Territorial Court Act and the press release we just received, issued by the Judicial Council, in November, the Minister of Justice acted irresponsibly when, in order to salvage his political career, he did something that is virtually unheard of in parliamentary democracy. As Justice Minister, he attacked the credibility of the chief judge in the territory.
In the course of events, it turns out that the credibility of the Minister was on the line. Finally, after many episodes in the House, the Minister referred this entire matter to the Judicial Council.
The Judicial Council states that the study shows an irreconcilable factual conflict in fundamental points. The council has concluded that the conflict can only be satisfactorily resolved by the examination of witnesses under oath. Will the Minister immediately invoke procedures that will allow for examination of all witnesses under oath?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: There is a difference between the treatment of this issue by this side of the House and by the other side. From the beginning, and consistently, we have been after an inquiry into establishing the truth or the facts. The Members opposite have been interested in attacking one particular side or one particular Minister.
At the various decision points in the past, I have taken the matter to Cabinet, and we have made a Cabinet decision. In light of this new development, I will do exactly the same thing. I will take the new development to Cabinet and get a decision as to what the next step should be.
Mr. Phelps: On December 3 of last year, and it appears in Hansard on page 183, the Minister said, There are many facts or occurrences around this issue. The appropriate course of action now is for an inquiry to be held to determine precisely what occurred. I have requested that that happen, and that is where it now lies.
Why did the Minister not invoke procedures that would have given the Judicial Council the power to cross-examine all witnesses under oath back then?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: There is a procedure in the Territorial Court Act, which involves the allegation of wrongdoing by a judge, and then an inquiry with certain powers of inquiry is laid out in the act. I said at the very beginning, and I have said throughout, that it is the intention of the government not to prejudge the issue, but to get at or inquire into the facts.
The decision was made to ask the Judicial Council to inquire into the facts, and that process, such as it has occurred, has occurred. That is the reason that we took the course of action that we did. At the time, the Opposition was calling for an inquiry by the Judicial Council, which occurred. It later changed its position, of course.
Mr. Phelps: Would the Minister agree with the press release which states, When the council was asked to conduct an inquiry, it expressed its concern that it does not have the power to secure examination or cross-examination under the section of the Territorial Court Act that was invoked. Does he agree that was the case?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The situation should be that I do not comment about the particular statements made by the Judicial Council. As I have stated, the Judicial Council is an entirely independent body, and we have asked them to carry out a process and they have answered to the extent of the press release. The next course of action should be, and will be, to the Cabinet. I will leave my comments at that.
Question re: Territorial Court Act
Mr. Phelps: I asked a pretty simple question, but the answer was convoluted as always. That is the nicest thing one could say about any of the answers we get from this Minister.
When the matter was referred to the Judicial Council, did the Cabinet know that the council had expressed its concern that it did not have the power to secure examination and cross-examination under the section invoked by the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: In order to avoid following a slippery slope about comments about this or that, and in order to avoid the concern about discussing confidential Cabinet discussions, the answer I will give is that this is a matter that will be brought to Cabinet for a decision as to what is the best next step to take.
Mr. Phelps: Is the Minister expecting the public of the Yukon to believe that he did not know at the outset that the Judicial Council would not be able to conclude this matter and not be able to determine who was telling the truth? Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No, that is not what I am saying.
Mr. Phelps: When can the Minister advise this House of the Cabinet decision? How soon will he tell the public what his decision will be?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: It will not be my decision; it will be a Cabinet decision. I have already sent the information to the Cabinet. As is customary in a parliamentary democracy, we will not be speaking about specific Cabinet agendas or specific Cabinet discussions, but when the decision is made the public and Members opposite will obviously be informed of that decision.
Question re: Territorial Court Act
Mr. McLachlan: Early last week, when it became known that the chief judge of the territorial court was resigning, the Minister was asked in this Legislature about the circumstances surrounding the resignation. He through up his hands and said, I do not know, I have heard rumours, but I only got a terse two-line statement from the chief judge. Based upon the circumstances that we now know, as of yesterday and today, about the inability of the Judicial Council to reach a definitive conclusion, because of the mish mash of circumstantial evidence, is there anything further that the Minister can tell this Legislature now about the resignation of the chief judge from the territorial court?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: No, there is not.
Mr. McLachlan: Is it not true that the Minister of Justice and the chief judge had irreconcilable differences of opinion, and that the Minister said to the chief judge that, in view of this circumstance, one of us has to go, and I am staying, at least for now I am staying, and you will have to be the one to depart? Is that not a more accurate reflection of the circumstances surrounding the judges resignation?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I say, categorically, that that is untrue, and for the Member opposite to phrase it with that kind of accusation puts it in the same irresponsible category as the Conservatives statements.
Mr. McLachlan: There are still circumstances surrounding the judges resignation that have not been answered in this Legislature or elsewhere. The Minister of Justice has a responsibility in this matter and in others.
In view of the fact that the territorial taxpayers have a significant investment in this judge, her moving expenses and training, and considering her knowledge of the Yukon, would the Minister have this judge back on recall to hear court cases in the Yukon? Is this judge up for rehire?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: After the Member for Faro has irresponsibly attacked me, he has now irresponsibly attacked the judge. That is reprehensible. The fact is that I have the capability here to defend myself. She does not. The Member opposite should be sensitive to that issue. It is a really a ridiculous question, as well, because after the judge resigns, she is no longer a judge, and it is impossible to have her back. One can only have appointed judges as deputies.
Question re: Territorial Court Act
Mr. Phelps: On the last day of November, 1987, the Justice Minister called a press conference and was asked a question on the air, which we all heard: Who fired Bill Thomson?
The Minister said: Judge Ilnicki.
The person questioning him said: You are directly contradicting her, then. Her letter says she did not.
The Minister then said: Yes, yes.
The public wants to know who is lying. They have a huge investment in this and they would like to know who is lying. Will the Cabinet take steps to have a full inquiry into this matter, in public, now that the chief justice is stepping down, so that all the officials and parties to this bizarre situation can be examined under oath, and the public can find out what is going on?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The Member opposite started his questioning 10 minutes ago or so, by saying that I was attacking the credibility of a judge. He is essentially rephrasing that question or that publicity.
It is important to say that I have a duty, as Minister, when asked questions in this House and outside the House, to tell the truth as I know it. I do that out of a sense of duty and responsibility, as unpleasant as it may be at times.
The situation here is ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The process we have started was designed to lay bare to the public particular facts. The next step in the process will be decided by the Cabinet.
Mr. Phelps: The issue here is whether the public has a right to know what happened. It was this governments Minister of Justice who called into question the veracity of the chief judge. He did this without ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question?
Mr. Phelps: I would like a new question, please.
Question re: Territorial Court Act
Mr. Phelps: The Minister rushed out and held a press conference as quickly as he could to try to save his political skin in November of 1987. It turned out that the facts, as he put them out to the public through this House, were extremely shaky with all kinds of contradictions. We can go through Hansard at our leisure in Question Period, day after day, if that is the wish of the side opposite.
Is there going to be a public process that will allow for the cross-examination of all those parties who are giving contradictory stories with regard to this extremely important issue?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe the question has already been answered. The Minister of Justice has properly apprised me of the representation from the Judicial Council, which he recently received and which has been made public by the Judicial Council. Cabinet will be considering the matter. Once Cabinet has considered the representation and made a decision, it will be announced.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Government Leader tell us whether the Minister of Justice apprised him about the Judicial Councils concern that was expressed to the Minister when it was first asked to conduct an inquiry, namely its concern about not having the power to secure examination and cross-examination under the procedure invoked by the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is asking questions that are about the nature of Cabinet deliberations. I am not at liberty to disclose in the House, that information.
The heckler from Riverdale North is making himself heard, but not with any content.
The representation from the Judicial Council will be dealt with seriously by Cabinet, and a decision will be made and announced.
Mr. Phelps: The Government Leader is being entirely selective about what he wants to tell this House. He will tell this House that the justice Minister has passed on the contents of the press release to him, but he will not tell us if, at the outset, the Justice Minister passed on the concerns of the Judicial Council. Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I find it hard to believe that a press release could be the subject of a legitimate Cabinet confidence. The discussions among Members about a particular matter in a Cabinet room are bound by rules to the oath of office, to which we all swear, and to which he swore when he was briefly a Minister.
Question re: Territorial Court Act
Mr. Phelps: This subterfuge will not work. All the public and I want to know is if Cabinet, in particular the Government Leader, was aware of this problem when the Minister first invoked the procedure back in December 1987.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would not describe an oath of office as a subterfuge. The Member is asking me again about discussions in Cabinet, and I am not going to provide him with that information. He wants to know what we may have discussed at the time a decision was made on this matter some time ago. I am not at liberty to do that.
The representation from the Judicial Council will be considered. They looked into this matter and found that there is - and I cannot quote them directly - an unresolved dispute about the facts.
Mr. Phelps: I am not asking the Government Leader to tell me anything that was said in Cabinet. I am not asking him to breach any oath of office that he may have sworn. I am asking him if he knew, when the council was asked to conduct an inquiry, that the council had expressed its concern to the Minister of Justice that it does not have the power to secure examination and cross-examination under the sections invoked. Did he know that at the time? I am not asking what happened in Cabinet.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot respond to the question because I do not know if the matter, in the terms raised by the Member, was the subject of a substantial Cabinet discussion or not. I do not recall, but the Member should know that Cabinet asked for the inquiry with the full understanding and the full expectation that the inquiry that we requested would be able to establish the facts into this matter. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, and we will have to consider where we go from here.
Mr. Phelps: Either the Cabinet did not know, which means the Minister of Justice did not tell the Cabinet about the Judicial Council concern, or the Cabinet is a bit concerned about the answer to the question: Who is lying?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would be concerned not only about the fact that a public official would be lying but also about an allegation of the same unless someone was prepared to stand in their place and prove it, which I do not believe anybody opposite is prepared to do. Let me say that in my capacity of a Minister of this government, been given second hand certain information about the facts. The information that I have at my disposal I believe to be true, but outside of an official inquiry I do not intend to make any statements here about who I believe to be in possession of the facts, or who has made an accurate statement of the facts beyond what has already been said.
Question re: Territorial Court Act
Mr. Phelps: After all that bafflegab, what follows is that the Government Leader is apparently saying he would like to get to the bottom of who is lying just like the public would. Is the Minister going to ensure that steps are taken so we can get to the bottom of the conflict in the evidence and get to the truth of the matter?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have always been interested in the facts of this case. That is why the original request was made of the Judicial Council. We remain interested in this question and, therefore, we will be considering the representation from the Council very seriously.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Government Leader give us one good reason as to why there should not be a public inquiry wherein all witnesses are compellable to answer under oath? Can he give us one good reason why there should not be such an inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In advance of hearing arguments pro and con or knowing whether there are other relevant factors other than the Members opposite, I cannot answer the question, but once my Cabinet colleagues have considered the matter I would be happy to answer on behalf of the Cabinet or with the assistance of the Minister of Justice.
Mr. Phelps: When is the public going to know the answer to this? When is the public going to know whether the Cabinet is going to do the right thing and not be involved in a cover up?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As soon as we can reasonably get to the matter.
Question re: Kimmerly/tenant deposit
Mrs. Firth: I, too, have a question for the Minister of Justice.
I have here a letter from a constituent of mine expressing a great deal of frustration at not being able to get any response from the Minister regarding the return of a security deposit that she was expecting back from the Minister when she was a tenant and he was her landlord. I would like to ask the Minister why he did not reply to the requests from the constituent of mine who was expecting her security deposit back?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I guess we are scraping the very, very bottom of the barrel now. The situation is that I had a tenant, we had a dispute about a broken window in the manner of $122.00. This is an entirely private matter, and I expect it will be settled by a negotiation between the two parties or in the Small Claims Court. It has absolutely nothing to do with public business and it is irresponsible of the Member opposite.
Speaker: I would like to remind the House that issues such as this should never be discussed here. This is a private matter between the Minister and a tenant.
Mrs. Firth: This is not a private matter. This issue presents a direct conflict between the Minister and his position that he represents in public. I have a letter here, from the Minister to the constituent ...
Speaker: I would like to tell the Member that in order to bring this sort of issue to the House, she should bring it in the form of a motion.
Question re: Kimmerly/tenant deposit
Mrs. Firth: These are questions to the Minister of Justice regarding his attitudes and his actions while he represents this government. These are questions that I am putting forward to this Minister, and I expect some answers on behalf of my constituent. I have every right to come into this House and ask these questions, with her consent.
I have a letter here from the Minister ...
Speaker: Order, please. If this continues, I have no alternative but to rule this out of order. We cannot handle this here in this manner. Any questions that are brought to this House should be concerning either administration or anything that has to do with government, but any private matters such as this should never be handled in such a manner.
Point of Order
Mrs. Firth: On a Point of Order.
Speaker: Point of Order for the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South.
Mrs. Firth: This question is directly related to this Member of this Legislature who is responsible in his sworn oath and duties to represent the public, to uphold the law, and this is not what is happening here. The Minister has to stand and answer these questions to preserve the credibility of all Members of this Legislative Assembly. We are all going to be damaged by this Ministers attitude and actions. He has to be accountable here in this Legislature.
Speaker: This matter still does not have anything to do with the conduct of the government administration, so this matter cannot be handled in the House. I stress that it is a private matter between the Minister and the person concerned. Any issue to be discussed here must be to do with government administration.
Mrs. Firth: If I may, on the Point of Order, I would like to stress that the Minister has a responsibility to account publicly. I will examine your ruling very carefully, and I will read very closely what you have told us this afternoon, and I will follow up with what direction you have given us in this House this afternoon.
Question re: Home owner initiative program
Mr. Lang: I will change the direction of the questions. The Minister of Justice does not seem to want to answer any of the pertinent questions of the day and will do anything to avoid it.
With regard to the lease purchase policy that was announced yesterday, could the Minister inform this House what income levels this particular policy program is available to?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not have the exact specifics in front of me. The income levels are in the modest level, approximately $25,000 to $35,000 or $40,000 range, depending on the size of the house and depending on the financial commitments that would have to be made under the program to determine whether or not the person could support the ultimate goal of home ownership in the end.
Mr. Lang: Will the government be recovering the interest on the money paid out for the purchase of these homes over the period of time that they will be holding the outstanding mortgage?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The intention is to recover all the costs of the borrowing of money and all the costs of operating the unit for the period of the lease, at which time the option will be encouraged to be given to the person leasing the unit to seek private bank financing to purchase the unit in their own right.
Mr. Lang: At one stage, there was discussion about the prospects of helping people with their initial down payment so they could meet their 10 percent requirement in order to get into housing. I gather this is an option to that particular program that could have been put into effect.
How much money is going to be designated for this program? From what existing program within the government has the money been taken from?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The money will be borrowed from private lending institutions. It is expected to be fully recoverable. We are projecting the take up will be between $1.6 million and $2 million this fiscal year.
With respect to the question of the difficulty of requiring a down payment, we believe this program will meet the difficulty the Member has mentioned and that we have identified in terms of acquiring a down payment, and that home ownership can be achieved by persons through the features of this program.
Question re: Venture capital program
Mr. Lang: I would like to move on to the other program that has been announced: the venture capital program. How much money is allocated for that particular program? The Minister made it very clear in his ministerial statement that money was going to be taken from within existing budgets. How much money is involved in the venture capital program and where is the money coming from?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The short answer is that $500,000 has been secured from the capital budget of the Lands Branch, and $300,000 has been secured from Yukon Housing Corporations capital budget. The $300,000 was from the amounts that had been dedicated to land banking.
Mr. Lang: Are we correct in interpreting that this venture capital will permit financing of apartment blocks and condominiums?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The main purpose of this program is to encourage the construction of new units for resale. There are combinations of projects that could involve both the construction of units for resale and for rent. The primary goal is for units for resale because the purpose of the program is to encourage home ownership.
Mr. Lang: I have to register my concern respecting this. If a good portion of this is not available for apartment buildings, we really do have a problem in Whitehorse particularly for those who cannot or do not want to buy. Is the government introducing another program or a policy that will put incentives in place for developers to build apartments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are a number of things worth mentioning at this point. Firstly, the joint venture capital program can incorporate a combination of rental and sale units, the primary goal being units for sale, whether they be condominiums, townhouses or single family homes.
Secondly, the programs that the government already has, including the rent supplement program, allow the Housing Corporation to engage, on a contractual basis, with a private developer to develop rental apartment buildings.
Thirdly, the government has announced, through the Minister of Economic Development, that there is a joint venture capital program that has designated the construction of multi-family residential units, apartments, as being a priority under that program. There are financial incentives, bridge financing, for private investors who wish to construct rental accommodation and apartments in the Yukon to get the job done.
Question re: Venture capital program
Mr. Lang: I take it then that the program essentially does not meet that need. Since the land is mostly owned by the Government of the Yukon Territory, is the government going to be selling serviced lots and other lots to private developers at market value?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is quite right that the program is dedicated to home ownership. However, there are features of the program that do encourage construction of rental accommodation as well. As the joint venture fund denotes, the government is interested in encouraging private land development. Not all the land in Whitehorse, nor in the Yukon, is owned by the government. Some of it is in private hands and can be subdivided. I do know there is considerable interest in that field of endeavor already - not necessarily as a direct result of this program, but as a result of the desire to subdivide and develop land. We have been encouraging that.
The sale of land to the public will be done in a manner that is consistent with our land sale regulations. If the zoning is appropriate or does conform to a developers aspirations, through this program and the lands program, we will encourage private development of land.
Mr. Lang: I still have not had my question answered, and it is fairly important. When the government develops land, the purchaser does not pay for the land, they pay for the services being provided on that land. If a new developer comes in and wants an acreage area for the purpose of developing lots, is it the policy of the government that the land be sold to that developer for market value or will it be transferred for $1 and then they develop it for resale?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thought I answered the question. I assumed the Member understood when I said that the land would be sold according to land development regulations. We will be selling the land at market value because that is what the land development regulations happen to say.
In the case of residential development, what has happened in the past is that we have tried to sell land at development costs. Development costs have historically been above market value, so we have called it development costs in the past. To answer the Members question, yes, the land will be sold at market value.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Mr. Lang: On behalf of the House Leaders, I would request unanimous consent for the motions under Motions Other Than Government Motions to be called in the following order: Motion No. 32; No. 43; No. 37; No. 29; No. 53; No. 51; No. 49; No. 45; and No. 17.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
Motion No. 32
Clerk: Item No. 18 standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 18?
Mr. Phelps: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the present tax rates often do not reflect the fact that many rural commercial properties are not located in towns or villages and receive little in the way of government services;
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to investigate ways to reduce such taxes in order to reflect this reality; and
THAT the Minister of Finance should report progress in the House on this motion from time to time.
Mr. Phelps: This motion is being brought forward as a result of numerous discussions with people who have small businesses outside of any town or village, or really any service area, and most particularly with regard to owners of tourism-related establishments along the Alaska Highway and other main highways in Yukon. The complaint that these businesspeople have is that they pay huge amounts of money in property tax to the territorial government bu they seldom get much, if anything, in the way of services. Many of these establishments have to provide their own water, their own electricity, their own everything. They feel that they are being gouged by government in the high rates of taxes that they pay.
Tax incentives are a tool used by many governments, to encourage certain kinds of business activity. There are many facilities outside of organized communities, or even unorganized communities, for that matter, that serve our tourism industry and local people extremely well. It seems to me that what this government ought to do is to examine the issue of the taxes paid by certain commercial businesses in rural Yukon and look to see whether or not the government feels that these establishments are being gouged, when one balances off the services received from government. In addition, the government should look and see whether or not it might not prove extremely beneficial to us all in Yukon to offer tax breaks to such establishments.
I look in my own riding and think of the Lakeview Marina, for example, at Marsh Lake, which is a tremendous facility. It is a really nice facility that is great for tourists and for local people who use the area for recreation. It is great for government and businesses to use the establishment for conventions, business meetings, and that sort of thing. They are faced with huge taxes. Most of their profit is eaten up by taxes that are based on the money that they have put into this facility that serves Yukon so well.
All kinds of people up and down the Alaska Highway have bemoaned the fact that they really cannot afford to make substantial improvements to their facilities - and I am speaking primarily of lodge operators and establishments that offer lodging, food, and other services to the traveller - because they are afraid to put much money into their businesses because a huge tax is exacted from them each time they improve their place of business.
In a very real way, the present tax regime acts as a disincentive to the improvement of facilities for the travelling public. That very fact is worthy of examination by this government in order to determine whether or not there could not be a tax break that would encourage the improvement of facilities, rather than quite the opposite: discouraging people from improving their tourist-related businesses.
Those are the very simple reasons behind this motion. The reasons for putting it forward, and the arguments made by people in the industry, are straight forward. I do not think that ought to detract from the value of the motion and the value of the government and all Members passing this motion so the issue could be examined very carefully. Therefore, I commend this motion to all Members in this House, and anticipate that all private Members will approach the issue with an open mind and support such an examination.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The only reason I stand first to speak to this motion for the government side is that, as Members may be aware, the responsibility for property taxation has been transferred from the Department of Finance to the Department of Community and Transportation Services. For that reason, I, as Minister, am responsible for the matter the Member brings before the House this afternoon.
I listened with a great deal of interest and anticipation to the Members motion. Normally, even in the great majority of cases that the Member for Hootalinqua brings forward to the House, there is a great deal of research done and, usually, a very convincing case is made by the Member. I must say there have been times when I have been swayed by the Members motions. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. It appears to me that the case has not really been made, at least not in the Members opening remarks. I do appreciate that people do not always wish to pay their taxes. I, as one politician, have had representations from commercial property owners, from residential property owners, from persons who own no property but pay income taxes, that they would like to see their taxes reduced. That is not a new thing for politicians to experience.
When you decide to give preferential rates to any particular group of people, you have to do so with a great deal of care and understanding of the consequences.
In this particular case, we have to understand a few things from the beginning. Firstly, I think it is recognized that the government is and has been, for a very long time, very supportive of rural commercial property owners through the tax structure.
People outside of organized communities currently face the lowest general tax rate in the territory. Not only that, but the commercial property owners have an especially low tax rate education - even below the residential property owner - in recognition of the special condition of life that the rural business faces in the conducting of his business.
I certainly personally recognize the value of the services provided by the businesses that the Member for Hootalinqua cited as being examples of commercial operators. I recognize the value of these businesses, in terms of their contribution toward the territorial economy and toward the safety of, and services for, the travelling public - both tourist and residential. I am very supportive of ensuring that the system does not work against their interests. I do recognize that, in comparison to municipal commercial operators, they do have a comparatively low level of service by government, whether it be a municipal or a territorial government, or whatever government does provide services for them. I think that this is already reflected in the tax rates. The rates themselves are less than half than what is charged to the municipalities currently.
It is important to note that the vast majority of businesses, in dollar terms - just taking the highway lodges that the Member mentions - are paying annual property taxes in the neighbourhood of $500 to $2,000 per year. This is presumably the huge amounts of money - the huge gouging - that the government is inflicting upon the businesses. It is important to note that the majority of highway lodges - just to take them as an example - pay the same taxes as a business as a single Whitehorse residential taxpayer.
It is also important to note, in order to put this in the proper context, that property tax rates in the Yukon are, on average, amongst the lowest in Canada. Rural tax rates in the Yukon are the lowest in the Yukon, and the commercial tax rate for rural commercial properties is the lowest in rural Yukon. It is the lowest of the low in Canada, on average.
One important factor that we have to bear in mind - I would be interested in hearing the Member for Hootalinquas thoughts on this - is whether or not there is evidence that rural commercial property owners should receive additional reductions, moreso than non-commercial. Should they have a bigger benefit or a more significant differential than residential property owners currently receive in rural Yukon? It is important to review that factor because the same hardships that are faced by commercial property owners are faced by rural residential property owners, and that is reflected in the property assessments and ultimately in the taxes that are to be paid.
Most municipalities would be interested in this motion. They have expressed, as probably their first priority in most discussions that I have had with them, interest in the level of tax rate in rural Yukon. They are concerned with high municipal taxes and very low rural property taxes levied by the Yukon government.
This has had the effect of dramatically altering the development patterns in the territory, which creates hardships for municipalities, in their view, at least. It creates an unfair situation between properties that are immediately inside the municipal boundary and those that are outside the boundary. The government has addressed that matter on a number of occasions, but it goes without saying that the municipalities would be opposed to further lowering the tax rate.
The case that the Member made today does not demonstrate satisfactorily that the government is gouging and inflicting huge taxes on rural commercial properties. The tax structure currently recognizes the difference between rural and urban properties and between rural residential and rural commercial properties. The amounts actually paid are, on the average, in the $500-$2000 per annum range. This demonstrates that all property owners are prepared to pay for services.
We already recognize the difference in structure between the conditions that they face in operating and living in rural areas and the urban areas. Unfortunately, a case has not been made that the tax rates should go down even further. If we were not to put a great deal of thought into the matter, and if we were not to analyze it even further, property taxpayers would be coming to our doors looking for general tax reductions across the board. That would mean cuts in services as well as additional burdens on those taxpayers who did not get a break.
Unless the Member has something further to say, I am afraid the case - at least in my view - has not been made this afternoon. For that reason, we cannot support the motion.
Mr. Brewster: I was not going to speak on this motion, but having had a lodge and gone through the miseries 24 hours a day I am a little amazed that the Member woul say these things. You put your own electricity in and lots of times it costs $8,000 to $10,000 for a light plant. You have to have a stand-by to stay in business so there is $16,000 or $17,000 right there. You have to watch those light plants 24 hours a day. You put in your own sewer and look after it yourself. You drill a well and the average well costs anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000. Then you have the one other problem, which is a ridiculous problem, and happens all the time, but the Department of Highways continually plugs your driveways and you have to clean that out at your own expense. In fact I defy the government to tell me anything they do to help those lodges besides tax them. Every time they put a light plant in they have to put up another building and the government runs around looks at the building and puts the taxes up again. This goes on continually. They get very, very little help, but they are there all the time, they are needed all the time, and they should be getting some kind of break.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If I could be permitted, I would like to enter this debate for a few minutes as the MLA for Whitehorse West rather than the Government Leader. I know the motion is addressed to the Minister of Finance, and I think that is a mistake since the responsibility for this particular area of taxation has been transferred some time ago to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. I do not want to niggle about that detail. I want to respond seriously to the concerns that have been identified by the Member for Hootalinqua and the Member for Kluane.
In my experience, it is almost generally true that almost nobody believes their taxes are too low. In fact, almost everybody I talk to believes their taxes are too high. Almost everybody I speak to in my constituency believes that in some respect they are getting an imperfect deal with respect to someone else. They are paying more than someone else and getting less services or are paying too much for the services they get, or do not get enough services for the taxes that they pay.
On the south end of my constituency, the more rural part that borders on the constituency of the Member for Hootalinqua, this grievance is felt particularly seriously because there are people who operate businesses in that area who argue with passion that they receive no more services than businesses just a little distance away in the constituency of Hootalinqua, but pay far higher taxes and have a far higher tax rate. I believe the Leader of the Official Opposition would also recognize that this is a feeling felt by individual citizens and home owners as well, people who believe that in some cases they not only receive no better services than people who live just outside the city, but in some cases receive inferior services to those enjoyed by people in some rural communities. I do not have to cite the case of whether it is water or fire protection or others, there are plenty of people in my constituency, within this city, who live a rural life style, who believe they pay taxes that are urban when their situation is rural. There are people who claim they do not enjoy the benefit of services enjoyed by people who life, if you like, in town or the developed area of town, and their situation is much closer to people who live outside the city limits and their tax rate ought to reflect that realistically.
At the same time, there is a strongly held view with which I know the Leader of the Official Opposition is acquainted, which is held by some people in the City of Whitehorse, among them the mayor, that there are people who live outside the city limits who enjoy services provided by the city but contribute nothing in the way of tax revenues towards their upkeep.
I think this is a debatable point, because you could certainly make the argument that the transfers from the territory, which are supported by the taxes of people who live outside the territory, go towards providing services in the city that are enjoyed not just by the rate payers of this city, but also of people who live not only around the city but all over the territory. I do not want to join either side of that discussion, other than to remark that there are some deeply held differences of opinion about the justice of various peoples situations, about levels of taxation and the levels of services. I hope the Leader of the Official Opposition, who is nodding assent, would agree with me that those feelings should be held equally as deeply by people inside the city boundaries, inside my constituency, who pay a far higher rate than, say, many of his constituents do, receive no better services but have an even heavier tax burden.
This subject is a matter that has been the subject of discussion for as long as any of us here have been alive, and much longer. It was the subject of a lot of heated discussions when I was an alderman in this city. I recall discovering that, at the time the first country residential subdivisions were developed in the city in places like MacPherson and Wolf Creek, that the particular structure of property taxation then worked a real hardship on those people, many of whom were to have quite modest homes because of the burden it placed on land, rather than improvements, or the tax burden on land versus improvements. At that time, some changes were made.
One suggestion that was offered at the time of that debate, namely that there could be variable tax rates within cities like Whitehorse to deal with the different situations, different classes of property and different levels of services. At the time, there were not. I still think it is an idea that has some merit.
On behalf of my own constituents, I do recall arguing very strenuously that it was unfair for garbage collection inside the city to be financed out of general revenues when not everybody in the city received the garbage collection. At that point, the city decided to make it a utility charge. It was included in the sewer and water charge, and it is only the people who use the service who pay.
Particularly on the borders of municipalities, everywhere I go in the territory I hear concerns like those I experienced as an MLA and as an alderman about the levels of service and the levels of taxation. I do not buy the specifics of the Member opposites motion. I do believe these are fit subjects for work by this government. The Minister responsible, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, has previously indicated there will be a tax study done into these questions.
That is necessary before we can properly deal with the kinds of problems that the Members have identified today. I would urge upon Members, who are going to be entering the debate and have not yet spoken, to be a bit more precise about the kinds of situations that they believe need remedying. My experience with these issues over the years has led me to believe that we need to clarify the issues much more precisely if we are to deal with them successfully, and we have not always done that.
The reason for that is that we can go anywhere in this country, and perhaps anywhere in the western world, suggest that taxes are too high and get a round of applause. If one is a politician who suggests that taxes can be lowered for any or all groups of citizens, one would probably be congratulated for suggesting the same.
As a purely practical matter, if we are to do justice to complaints, and there may be many legitimate ones, we have to put them in to context. We have to consider them in the context of the whole picture. We have to consider the need for revenues to pay for the services that people are receiving, and we also have to make sure that the taxes they are paying bear some relationship to the services they are receiving. We have to make sure that they are in proportion, that there is equity and that there is justice.
I submit that we live in an imperfect world, from this point of view. The kind of work for which the Department of Community and Transportation Services is responsible will hopefully lead us closer to a situation that is defensible everywhere in the territory.
Mr. McLachlan: I have a couple of ideas that I would like to bring forward in the Legislature. One is already being practiced, and one in which I empathize the ideas brought forward by the Members for Hootalinqua and Kluane. It is true that a person in business, particularly in the rural areas, has to put in a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours developing it. When the tax bill is received in June, it is felt that a lot of that hard work goes for naught.
There are two situations that I would call rural and rural-rural. The second one, the rural-rural one, is the one that the Member for Kluane referred to in his speech and is at the toughest end of the list, where the highway lodge owners put a lot of hard hours in and have sell a lot of cups of coffee at one dollar a piece to make it worthwhile. There are many days, I am sure, when it is not worthwhile to put the coffee on. Those are the cases that should get the ultimate in any eventual tax break discussed by Community and Transportation Services.
The second one concerns those in the Yukons rural communities. I did not catch all of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services reply to the motion. However, I would like to remind him that this principle is already enshrined at Faro, although this is municipal taxation, in a country residential subdivision that pays a reduced tax rate based upon its three and a half miles from town. It does get the grader services. It gets the fire truck if it gets there in time, but it may not get the grader as much as everybody else.
That fact was recognized, in law, and passed by the Department of Community and Transportation Services when the municipal council passed third reading in 1977 and 1978. I believe that the education taxes are probably still the same but the general tax rate levy is less for those properties in that area, and I believe that that principle enshrines the idea brought forward in the motion by the Member for Hootalinqua, and perhaps should be further looked at or expanded upon when the department does its taxation review. The precedence has been set, and it exists now in law, at least within that municipality.
Speaker: The hon. Member will now close debate on his speech. Does any other Member wish to be heard? The hon. Leader of the Official Opposition?
Mr. Phelps: I listened with some interest to the remarks from the side opposite, and to the remarks of all Members. I feel that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against this motion by the side opposite, because it was not really intended to be a government-bashing motion at all. It was brought forward to look at the plight of certain sectors that operate outside of any municipality or town, that have very little in the way of services, and that provide huge benefits to all Yukoners. It was for that reason that the motion was restricted to commercial businesses and commercial properties in very rural areas of Yukon.
One problem, as I have already said, is that as these businesses are there to serve us and make better the enjoyment of tourists, and the quality of life of us all in Yukon, that as they improve their facilities, they are penalized by the present taxation system. That being the case, there is a huge disincentive on many existing tourist-related facilities to really upgrade these services that they are providing to the public.
This government likes to spend money generously by way of grant and low-interest loans to businesses, for various purposes, but it seems to me that there is an area in which the judicious use of the property tax system would reap great benefits to Yukoners. There are other sectors that benefit from tax regimes. Agriculture, for example, is encouraged through the judicious use of tax breaks on income, tax breaks on property taxes in virtual all jurisdictions throughout Canada.
For the mining industry, all of us in this House strongly supported the retention of tax breaks for investors who put up risk capital for mining exploration. It seems to me that surely the area of tourism, and particularly those who work so hard for so little, with such little support from government, ought to be given the same kind of careful consideration by the government.
We are only asking the government to investigate ways to reduce such taxes. We are asking very clearly that one or two sectors in rural Yukon be examined in this motion. The Member for Whitehorse West...
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On a Point of Order, I think it is under chapter 14 in Bourinot and Rule 1453 in Beauchesne but I may be wrong in that. I wonder if the Member would permit me by way of a Point of Order to ask him if he would consider a friendly amendment on his feet to substitute government for Minister of Finance. In which case I think this side might find the motion that he is now presenting more acceptable.
Mr. Phelps: I am very pleased that my arguments are carrying some weight with the Member for Whitehorse West. Perhaps he is listening very carefully and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is not, but certainly I would be very pleased to consider such an amendment and would be quite pleased to move such an amendment.
THAT Motion No. 32 be amended by deleting the words Minister of Finance and substituting therefore the word government.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to substitute the word government for Minister of Finance?
All Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
Mr. Phelps: I hope I have not opened up a can of worms with this, but I am very pleased that that very minor amendment will satisfy the side opposite.
In Question Period we were chided for asking questions about what goes on in Cabinet, but if the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is as mulish in that forum as he is here I can imagine there are some very hot and heavy debates indeed.
There are some brief points I would like to make with respect to the issue of residents within Whitehorse West being upset because the people across the boundary receive little less in the way of services and, yet, pay less in taxes. One thing that has been pointed out by the Member for Faro is that there is the ability in Whitehorse to zone different areas and adjust the taxes on that basis. Perhaps they will pay heed to the comments made by the Member for Whitehorse West and realize there are people in the far reaches of this vast area known as the City of Whitehorse who have a justifiable complaint in that they do not receive much more in the way of services than people just across the border.
The comments that have been raised by the Association of Yukon Communities - the first resolution that taxes be raised on residents within a 40 mile radius of any municipality - have raised the hackles and brought a gush of saliva to the mouths of virtually every resident in Hootalinqua who felt imperiled and endangered by the rather unwise comments made by certain civic officials.
It was not my intention to get into that debate, which would take a good deal of the Houses time. I am simply restricting my remarks to commercial enterprises and trying to make the case that there may be good reason for all Members to support this motion in an attempt to encourage better facilities in rural Yukon for the travelling public - not only tourists, but Yukoners.
Once again, I would appeal to the logic and fairness of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, whose record has been so good in listening carefully to the arguments that this Member puts forward, and in supporting good and rational policy initiatives from the Member for Hootalinqua, and not by making a rash judgment at this time to spoil such an excellent record that not only myself but my immediate family and many friends around the Yukon applaud whenever that good Ministers name is raised in polite conversation.
Motion 32 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 43
Clerk: Item No. 24, standing in the name of Mr. Lang.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 24?
Mr. Lang: Yes.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the home owner tax refund known as the Home Owners Grant should be increased by an additional $50.00 per year.
Mr. Lang: I hope that there is some commonality of view from the side opposite on this motion and the obvious significance of it. I hope to see unanimous support of the motion that I have presented.
As Members can see, there are two motions on the Order Paper. One recommends an increase in the Home Owner Grant, and one recommends where the money could be found. In view of the fact that the government might have difficulty in finding money in that area because of the political philosophy of the government, it might find that a reason to vote against the motion put forward to the House.
Therefore, I brought forward a much simpler motion recommending that there be an increase in the Home Owner Grant of $50.00. There are quite a number of us in the House that represent significant urban ridings, all of us to some degree.
There is one situation confronting the home owner in a community such as Porter Creek East. The people living in Porter Creek East are lower to middle class wage earners who pride themselves on working consistently in contributing to the GNP, on providing a home for their families and looking for a little assistance from government.
At the same time, over the past three years, they have experienced is an increase in taxes on cigarettes and liquor and some inflation, although not as great as in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their ability to spend their weekly wage as they please is becoming more and more difficult for those on fixed incomes or have lower-paying jobs.
These people see the government building homes. I have raised the question in the House, I think legitimately, where on one street a house is built for $112,500, and that does not include all the appliances and other things that have to go into it, and adjacent to it, are homes valued at less than half of what it is costing the government to put this home in. People will be put into a better home than they can afford, yet at the same time they are being asked to pay for it. They see a situation where millions of dollars are spent on studies and consultants - some very questionable studies and questionable expenditures by the government. The people out there who are working are watching this. They are similar to people in Dawson City or Watson Lake who are having difficulty meeting their monthly financial obligations.
The motion that I have brought forward is to offset at least some of their costs. In some of the urban ridings in Whitehorse, and also in some of the communities, such as Mayo and Watson Lake, there are some significant local improvement charges coming into play, as we try to improve the quality of life in our communities. There are people in Porter Creek who are going to be facing an additional $400 on their tax bill for the local improvement charge for some water and sewer changes, as well as pavement. That is significant to these people, on whose behalf I now speak.
As I said at the outset, I rephrased the motion for the purpose of debate here so that we might discuss the merit of the increase of the home owner grant, as opposed to looking at where the money should be coming from. I can give a number of other ideas regarding how to pay what I estimate to be an additional $150,000. How might we pay for that? We could perhaps not fill three government positions that are now vacant. In some cases we probably would not even notice if they had not been filled. Perhaps we could refrain from hiring outside legislative counsel to draft our legislation. Perhaps our people within government, who are being paid top dollar, could do that work on behalf of the Legislature.
In view of the Public Accounts Committee Report, an all-party report, lists s various strong recommendations of how to control costs on capital projects. If that is implemented and enforced, then I would say that we would come up with significantly more money than what would be required to meet this particular request that I have before the Legislature.
There are all sorts of areas that money could be allocated from for this expenditure. One that comes to mind, that we are in the process of debating, is the Human Rights Commission, the commission that was going to cost $70,000, according to the Minister of Justice a year ago. It is now budgeted at $242,000. Let us knock it down to $100,000, and leave $30,000 for the Minister to slash.
There are areas of government where this money can be found within budgetary allocations. We receive a transfer of dollars of approximately $250 million from the Government of Canada; there is no reason why the home owners in the Yukon could not see an increase in their home owner grant. These people are spending 12 months of the year here, paying a fuel bill for 12 months of the year, paying taxes for 12 months of the year and raising their families here. It is that group of individuals within our society who seldom gets any recognition whatsoever. They are the silent majority: those people who mind their own business and pay their own bills. It seems to me that, not just here in the Yukon but through the western world, we are now comprised of interest groups. If you are a vocal enough interest group you get paid, you get paid well in grants and whatever; you name it and it is on its way, no matter how good or bad the project is. That is the way the world of politics works today.
This request is in recognition of those people who own their own homes, and we want them to stay in their own homes. How do we do that? Try to keep the taxes down to an acceptable level. When you get people paying $1,200, $1,400 or $1,600 in taxes in a year, they start to question how much they should pay. People are not opposed to paying property tax, just as was in the earlier motion; it is a question of what services and how much. I maintain that we, as the parent government of the municipalities, can assist those particular homes owners within and outside of the municipalities with a recognition of a $50 increase in the home owner grant.
I hope the Minister of Community and Transportation Services gets the support from his Cabinet colleagues to proceed with this particular initiative. I hope we do not see the indecision that we saw earlier. I am looking forward to unanimous support on the initiative brought forward to the House today.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have been told not to make long stories out of short stories. The Member makes it extraordinarily difficult to agree with him no matter what motion he puts forward. He certainly does do a lot to provoke a negative reaction so any person reading the speech would wonder if the Member actually did want the motion to be passed by the government side of the House or whether the Member simply wanted to make a statement in the Legislature. That is not something I like to address at particular length.
I will thank the Member for at least trying to make a good case for the motion. I do appreciate that, because it is an important feature in the legislative debates. When the Minister is asked to respond to any particular motion of this nature, it is always very helpful that there are good rational reasons to support any motion in the House. I am happy the Member tried to make the case.
I do not agree with all the case that the Member made, but I will sift out what I think is valuable and what is the chaff.
Clearly the government believes that home ownership should be encouraged and that is the basic rationale behind the Home Owners Grant.
We have just announced a new home ownership program with various new and exciting features that are going to encourage home ownership. It is important that people do not lose sight of the fact that this home ownership program - this financial incentive to own your own home - has been in existence for a very long time and has always indicated the governments commitment to home ownership, and this governments commitment, too. The Member for Porter Creek East made it sound as if only in the last three years has something happened to erode the governments commitment to home ownership and this grant. Nothing could be further from the truth, given not only what weve done recently in terms of the new home ownership program announcement but, also, what the government did with respect to the Member for Faros community to encourage home ownership and lower the cost of living.
The Member has made some remarks with respect to his suggestions for where the money might be found. I could have a lot to say about that. He even included what we might term as a very broad bootleg comment in this debate, which is something that is a fascinating departure from the subject at hand. We will get into that issue when we get into the Motor Transport Act discussions.
The argument the Member has made with respect to taxes planning is a decent argument. For that reason, and that reason alone, if the Member had simply stopped there, he would have certainly received my support and the governments support.
The municipal taxes in the territory have, generally, done an upward climb over the course of the last many years. The municipalities would argue, quite rightly, that the services they provide have also increased and that the tax rates they have levied are justifiable, given the level of service, and given their financial commitments. I will not be passing judgment on their tax rates. I will merely mention the fact that taxes are going up is something that should be considered as a component to this question on what the proper level of a home owner grant should be.
As Members know, the grant is determined as a percentage of the general and school taxes - 50 percent of general and school taxes - to a maximum of $350. I presume the Member is suggesting it should be increased to $400. I am not convinced the dollar amount the Member has provided is the proper one. The original home owner grant, begun in 1976, went to a maximum of $250. It was increased in 1978 to $300. It was increased to $350 in 1981. This is 1988, seven years later.
There may be an argument to make to protect the real dollar value of this grant in any change. A number of things have to be considered, given that there is a percentage qualification in determining the grant, as well as a dollar limit. The effect on property taxation throughout the territory ought to be taken into account.
Given what happened in the last motion, it is important to get a plug in that the Yukon government does levy the lowest tax rates in the territory, but I will not repeat that too many times. Obviously, it has absolutely zero impact on every other Member in the Legislature. It is important to note that the dollar value has been constant for the Home Owner Grant, and the tax has been levied as a percentage of the assessment. Because assessments have increased, the value of the Home Owner Grant in real dollar terms has decreased.
Therefore, there is good reason to give consideration to raising the amount. I am going to propose an amendment that, basically, has the effect of agreeing that the dollar amount of the Home Owner Grant should be increased and that, ultimately, we should be reviewing a grant that more accurately reflects the real dollar terms that it was originally intended to provide, in terms of a rebate.
It is important to note that, in order to have no apprehensions about this, the grant ought to be increased for next year. The proper review ought to be done to ensure the real dollar value of the grant should be protected.
THAT Motion No. 43 be amended by deleting the expression by an additional $50.00 per year.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services
THAT Motion No. 43 be amended by deleting the expression by an additional $50.00 per year.
Mr. Lang: I was quite surprised by the move of the government. They want it both ways. They want to agree, but they do not want to make a decision, and they will review it. I suppose it will probably cost $150,000 to get somebody to come in from Toronto to give us an evaluation of what we should be doing, as far as home owner grants are concerned. The request is very simple. I think to leave it that open-ended would be irresponsible on behalf of all Members of the House. The reality of the situation is that there should be a finite amount of money and the taxpayers should know what is available through that particular mechanism. It is built in legislation. Therefore, the only real request by the House is to determine what that amount is.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister say he felt what we had proposed was not enough. I was trying to maybe be too conservative in my recommendation to the House in trying to ensure we would get support from the other side. I would not have seen any problem with the Minister providing this House with an amendment that would have increased the total amount that could be made available to the Home Owner Grant.
The other aspect of the amendment put forward here today is that it does nothing for this year. It delays the inevitable for next year. I guess the idea is that the NDP do not form the government, they will not have to make a decision, in any event. My point for raising the question this time is that people in my riding are facing increased tax bills. The Minister was quite right in providing information to this House that there had not been an increase in the Home Owner Grant for eight years, yet we have seen a steady increase in municipal taxes through the years because of the improvements that have been provided in the communities. Nobody is going to argue that aspect of it.
I think it should be clearly on the record that we, in this House, want to do everything we possibly can to ensure that steps are taken this year. I want to provide an amendment to the amendment that would provide the Minister and the government with the direction to take appropriate action this year in respect to this. First of all, I would point out that I am more than prepared to recommend to the House that the amount to be made available be increased by an additional $50.00 over and above the recommended amount to $100. I saw the thumbs down from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Would he like to raise that thumb up a little bit higher so everybody can see it, or is that just Cabinet talk down underneath and it cannot be divulged?
We have a choice to make in this House. I would like to propose an amendment to the amendment. Mr. Speaker, you will have to bear with me because the amendment just came forward. I was given no notice, or anything like that.
I would move the following amendment:
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 43 be amended by adding the following expression:
and by adding the expression:
by an additional $100.00 per year effective the tax year 1988-89."
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 43 be amended by adding the following expression:
and by adding the expression:
by an additional $100.00 per year effective the tax year 1988-89."
Mr. Webster: I have a couple of comments on the subamendment put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East. He described his riding as one that contains many lower to middle class wage earners, which surprises me, having driven through the new Porter Creek C Subdivision.
The Member for Porter Creek East seems to be against this, as it suggests that a consultant would be required from Toronto and would cost $150,000. I would suggest that we have an organization here in the Yukon known as the Association of Yukon Communities that could provide us with some kind of reasonable increase suggestions for the rebate. I do not think that it is necessary for us to go outside to Toronto to get this consultant. That is why we have this organization here.
When he says that it is irresponsible if this Assembly does not proceed at this time with this $50.00 increase, I find this very difficult to believe, having heard the Members introductory speech that presented this motion, since nowhere did he present any justification for that figure of $50.00. Why not $60.00, or $40.00, or $30.25. I did not hear him say that he had received pleading telephone calls from his beleaguered constituents at all hours of the night, as the Members opposite are fond of citing, urging him to bring forward this motion. It did not come from the mayors of the communities, or from the AYC, itself. As soon as he said that we would be irresponsible if we did not proceed immediately with the $50.00 increase, he suggested $100.00 in his subamendment. Talk about being irresponsible - it sounds like an auction.
He dismisses it as another delaying tactic by the government, in making the amendment proposal.In the original motion it was not proposed at all that this be done in the next year.
Finally, for the subamendment to suggest that a certain amount of money be spent in this next budgetary year, it is entirely out of order. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I feel bound to point out that since we have a budget before the House, what the Member is proposing is an amendment to the budget by way of a motion, which I think would be somewhat unusual. If the Member is interested in a bidding war on the amounts or some kind of entertainment like that, I suppose that will become clear in a few minutes.
I think the Member is serious about this proposal and has been dealt with seriously by the responsible Minister. I think he would do the appropriate, honourable and serious thing by withdrawing his subamendment and allow us to debate the very constructive and very helpful amendment of my colleague the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and then the House can vote on this matter.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The subamendment put forward talks about amending the budget that we are still in the process of passing. That would be highly inappropriate. It is important to note that when we went through the Main Estimates for Community and Transportation Services there was not a peep or boo from the Member for Porter Creek East, nor any of the other Members, about an increase in the home ownership grant. They had all kinds of opportunities to speak to the question at that point and the opportunities were not taken by the Opposition, especially the Member for Porter Creek East.
I am not certain, given the character of the bidding war and the flippant remarks by the Member for Porter Creek East that he put as much thought into the $100.00 figure as he did into the $50.00 figure, which was none. It was completely thoughtless and makes me nervous about passing such an subamendment. I think it would be highly irresponsible for the government to engage in decision making in this way. So, in the name of common sense, I am not going to be supporting the subamendment.
Certainly, I would not be party to passing a motion of non-confidence in the Budget, either. It is unfortunate the Member did not take this opportunity to make his thoughts known during Committee debates, and of course this is a highly political exercise to engage in this flippant and thoughtless political posturing.
I think that the proper approach to the home owner grant, as the Budget announced, is to make changes in a responsible manner and in a fashion that protects the original intent of the program.
The style of decision making practiced by the Member for Porter Creek East is a form of decision making that I find abhorrent. It is highly irresponsible, and I will not participate in it. Some thought and consideration has to be given to this proposal in respect to where we stand on the Home Owners Grant in a responsible fashion by a responsible government.
Mr. McLachlan: Most of the material that I have fits better with the main motion, but I cannot help but comment on a couple of the things that the Minister has brought forward that he provided in his discussion of the main motion. The principle under which the formula was established in 1976 was valid then and is valid today. It was a consideration to relieve home owners of some of the burden of increases to taxes and to assist those who paid their taxes on time.
The Commissioner, who was a Minister, at that time brought the legislation forward in 1976 and established it at $250. By the Ministers own admission, the estimated increase was $50.00 per year year every third year, except for the two year increase in 1981. If he would have followed that logical progression of keeping pace with the higher taxes, we probably should be at $500 or $550 in the year 1988.
The increase to $100.00 is not necessarily flippant, out of line or unreasonable if one projects taxation and rebate increases in the first two revisions since 1976. I appreciate the feelings of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to want to examine this, but I expected to hear the Minister say that the assessment increase that the territory has gone through would probably disappear through this proposed home owner rebate.
I do not think that the $100.00 is out of line, given the rate at which the increases have been made since the program was established in 1976. I just wanted to throw that out for consideration by Members in the Legislature. It was established for a reason, the reasons were valid, and we have had increases twice
Mrs. Firth: I rise to speak to this subamendment to substantiate what my colleague from Whitehorse Porter Creek East has said about his concern with this government putting off doing something until nothing has ever been done.
I listened to the previous speakers with a great deal of interest, particularly the Member for Klondike, who had some difficulty in getting his bearings in the Yukon at first. He made some crack about phone calls in the middle of the night or something. That is terribly amusing because some of these Ministers do not have their phone numbers in the phone book, so they are not going to get any phone calls in the middle of the night.
Yet, if we try to phone them at their offices, we get three or four executive assistants or special assistants. These people do not even talk to the public any more.
How would they know what people out there are saying? You have to make an appointment, and the media cannot even go in and speak to them; they have to make an appointment to have a viewing with one of these Ministers. I get quite tired of listening to these self-righteous pronunciations from the other side of the Legislative Assembly.
Then we have the Minister of Community and Transportation Services stand up here and say, you know how we feel about the Home Owners Grant; everyone knows. Let us get it on the record what the NDP position is about the Home Owners Grant. I have the policies and constitution of the Yukon New Democratic Party in my hand. This booklet was published in August of 1980, and it talks about Home Owners Grants. It says here, Be it resolved that the Yukon NDP oppose the Home Owners Grant, as proposed by the Yukon territorial government.
Are we not just marvelous? Are we not representing the common person on the street? What absolute rubbish. These people are no more concerned about home owners than they are about a man going to the moon. What a hypocrisy.
Let it be clear what the position of this party is regarding Home Owners Grants. We will wait for them to use their ample majority to push this motion through the Legislature - you know, the big mandate they have to do everything that the Government Leader always talks about. The Yukon public can make up their minds. They are going to have a choice come election day in this territory next time around. We will see how fast they respond to this issue.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I am not going to speak so much to the subamendment as I am going to speak to the speech just made by the Member for Riverdale South. She expanded the topic substantially, in that the motion was about the amount of the Home Owners Grant, and her intervention on its face talked about the policy of the grant itself. She is trying to get it publicized that she thinks the position of this party is that we are opposed to it. I think it should be put into perspective.
The policy of the party comes from the point of view that it is bureaucratically unnecessary red tape to ask people to pay taxes and, then, apply to get a portion back later. I happen to know that that is the motivation for that particular provision of the party policy of the New Democratic Party. It is an effort to reduce the bureaucratic red tape and to eliminate some of the inequities of the system.
Just as an example, the grant is paid to those who apply, but not to those who do not apply. In all years, there will be some people who could have applied, and should have, but did not for some reason or another. There is a more practical and a better way to administer the intent, or the goal, of the whole program. I think that it is necessary to put that on the record. However, I said that only to correct any misapprehension or wrong impression that might have been incorrectly suggested by the Member opposite.
The motion here is not about she was talking about; the motion is about the amount. The debate has taken a peculiar course. I refrain from taking any more time in adding my comments about the particular amount.
Mr. Nordling: I will be brief. I would like to make a few comments on the subamendment, and on the speech by the Minister of Justice. It is strange that this government has been in for three years, and the Home Owners Grant, as it now stands, has remained absolutely untouched. Today a motion comes forward and the Minister for Community and Transportation Services says, I do not want to be committed to anything specific. Just leave it with us and we will look at it. Then, the Minister of Justice stands up to justify the NDP position, which is against the Home Owners Grant as it now stands; period. The Minister muddies the water even further, and the only thing that comes through, loud and clear, is that the NDP is opposed to the Home Owners Grant, as it now stands.
I will sit with interest and watch this NDP government put through whatever motion their hearts desire, because they have a majority, and we will watch very carefully the swift action that they take to do something with this Home Owners Grant. I am sure that, in the next election, they will be judged by their actions and by their position.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the subamendment?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Order please. Just to be clear, I would like to read the subamendment to the House.
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 43 be amended by adding the following expression:
and by adding the expression:
an additional $100.00 per year effective the tax year 1988-89."
Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagreed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagreed.
Hon. Mr. Porter: Disagreed.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: Disagreed.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Disagreed.
Mr. Joe: Disagreed.
Ms. Kassi: Disagreed.
Mr. Webster: Disagreed.
Mr. Phelps: I own a house. Agreed.
Mr. Brewster: Agreed.
Mr. Lang: Agreed.
Mr. Nordling: Agreed.
Mrs. Firth: Agreed.
Mr. Phillips: Agreed.
Mr. McLachlan: Agreed.
Clerk: The results are seven yea and eight nay.
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Amendment agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion as amended?
The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Nordling: I am going to be very brief. I am speaking to this motion now. I am sure it is going to pass as it is, and that is that the Home Owners Grant should be increased.
The reason I am speaking now is because I have a motion on the Order Paper that I am sure we will not get to this Session. That motion also discusses the Home Owners Grant. I will read it into the record for the Members.
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should consider a grant based on property taxes, in addition to the Home Owners Grant which is presently available to all Yukoners, for seniors who own and occupy their own homes to assist them to live independently and to encourage seniors to retire in Yukon.
What I am going to ask is that the government, in looking at increasing the present Home Owners Grant as it is, also look at a provision in the new and increased grant to further increase the tax rebate for senior citizens who own and occupy their own homes to assist them to live independently and to encourage seniors to retire in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I shall be as brief as the Member for Porter Creek West, but I want to respond to both of his recent speeches on this topic.
The Member opposite was making a false accusation in response to the Minister of Justice with respect to the policy of the party I represent here on the question of Home Owners Grants. I know he likes to mine Hansard for old speeches of mine, so I am sure he will be able to find the many occasions when I have put my partys policy on this subject on record. The concern about the Home Owners Grant was exactly as articulated by the Minister of Justice. We are concerned whether it is the most efficient way of delivering such a tax benefit: to collect it first and then hand it back. The Member wonders why we have not done this. It is a matter of priorities and, if the Member ever is in government, he will discover that you are not able to do everything at once. We have hundreds of things we want to do, and we have done many of them, and we have many left to do.
Given that we have been challenged today to raise the priority of our particular policy in this particular area, I am sure my colleagues and I will want to take that challenge very seriously in considering it in terms of the crafting of the next Throne Speech, as we will also want to seriously consider the suggestion made by the Member for Porter Creek West about the further assistance to senior citizens. Even though the motion has not yet been debated or considered by the House, I am sure the sentiments behind it are applauded by everybody on this side.
Mr. Webster: I would like to address my comment to the Member for Porter Creek West. I should apologize for mixing everybody up in the Porter Creek East and West. I do know where Porter Creek C Subdivision is located, and that is in the riding of Porter Creek West. I want to thank the Member for putting on the record his motion concerning the consideration of bringing forth a grant to help seniors stay in their homes. I think it is a much more responsible position than laid out in this motion put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East, because it asks the government to consider it and, also, it does not place a specific figure in the motion.
I also like it because it is a very reasonable suggestion. In fact, it has been taken up by the City of Dawson who, indeed, does offer a $200 grant for seniors to enable them, just as your motion does suggest, to live in their homes and stay in the Yukon year-round. I thank the Member for Porter Creek West for reading that into the record.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Lang: Remind me to invite the Member for Klondike to be the guest speaker in Porter Creek East next time around so he can find the constituency boundaries. It is very interesting to note that, apparently, last night he was the guest speaker in Porter Creek West, in the MacPherson Subdivision, and he obviously does not know where the constituency boundaries are. It is nice to see such an informed Member. I would have liked to have listened to his speech; I am sure it was very well presented, and it probably had a lot of substance.
There are a couple of points I think have to be brought forward. It is interesting to see the side opposite scrambling to say they are all for the Home Owners Grant, when their party says the opposite. Be that as it may, it is amazing to see what the world of politics forces people to do, depending on the timing and the issue and how it is going to be presented to the public.
Now we have established that the NDP do support the Home Owners Grant and are prepared to stand up on the roofs of the home owners in Whitehorse and the communities to explain to the general populace this change of policy - not only within the caucus, but within the party. I would like to raise a couple of points that I think are important.
First of all, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services said that it was irresponsible bringing forward the motion, due to the fact that we had not raised it in debate earlier in the Session. One of the reasons that I brought the motion forward and let it sit on the Order Paper for three weeks - for three weeks, not three days - was to allow the Minister and his people to seriously evaluate the implications of the motion before us, and see what they might bring forward.
If they read Hansard tomorrow, they will find that one of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services criticisms of this side was that we were not asking for enough of an increase to the Home Owners Grant. He was careful, though, in his frontal attack, not to mention a figure, despite having had three weeks to look at it. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services felt that he did not have enough time to seriously look at the numbers, yet he said that it was not enough of an increase. I do not disagree with that. That is why I brought forward the subamendment: to perhaps allow for a more substantive amount of money to be brought forward for the purposes of the Home Owners Grant. I would have thought that the Minister would have been more than happy to support it.
The other point is that it is no problem for the government to put this into effect in the 1987-88 year. For the Government Leader to arrogantly stand up in this House and say, You should withdraw that motion because I do not agree with it, is totally, in my judgment, against anything the Legislature stands for. What I am getting tired of is, if you do not agree with the king, and his front bench of disciples, then you are either a bigot, a redneck, or else you are just misinformed. As a Member representing the public, I thought that there was still freedom of expression, the freedom to express your views on any given subject. I want to put that on the record.
In order to justify the $50.00, I made it very clear that we have seen a substantial increase in our taxes over the years in all the municipalities, and outside of the municipalities as well, as assessments are done. The one question that I perhaps did not put on the table, but that the Member for Faro did, was the question of the new assessments that are going on throughout the territory. It is going to have an effect on every home owner throughout the territory. No matter what the municipalities say, we all know that when there is a new assessment - even though they may make efforts to lower the percentage levy - very seldom does the assessment come down to exactly what it was the year before.
In the information provided to us on page 68 of the 1988-89 Main Estimates, the average Home Owners Grant that was paid out was $309 in 1987-88, to 3,250 households throughout the territory. This year it is estimated to be 3,400, and it is going to be $317.
It would make a difference to those people if the Legislature approved an increase this year. I do not understand why we are delaying implementation of this particular additional expense, especially in view of the fact that yesterday the Minister responsible for housing stood up and announced a multi-million program, with no problem reallocating money from anywhere within the budget.
I am talking about people who own their own homes and could use the assistance. It is not as if the government does not have the financial wherewithal to proceed with it. I want to register my concern on the record in deference to the side opposite obviously from the press gallery one can see the scrambling going on for the political purposes they are trying to achieve.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amended motion?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
The motion as amended reads: It is the opinion of the House
THAT the home owner tax refund known as the Home Owners Grant should be increased.
Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Porter: Agreed.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: Agreed.
Mr. Joe: Agreed.
Ms. Kassi: Agreed.
Mr. Webster: Agreed.
Mr. Phelps: Agreed.
Mr. Brewster: Agreed.
Mr. Lang: Agreed.
Mr. Nordling: Agreed.
Mrs. Firth: Agreed.
Mr. Phillips: Agreed.
Mr. McLachlan: Agreed.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, nil nay.
Motion No. 43 agreed to as amended
Speaker: Before going on to the next item I would like to inform the House that I will now order the Clerk to remove Motion No. 23 from the Order Paper. As the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East has noted Motion No. 23 deals with substantially the same subject matter as Motion No. 43. It would, therefore, be out of order for it to be called for debate.
Motion No. 37
Clerk: Item No. 22, standing in the name of Mr. McLachlan.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 22?
Mr. McLachlan: Yes.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Faro
THAT it is the opinion of this Legislature that the Yukon government should take the necessary steps, through the Department of Education, Canada Employment and the territorys private sector mining interests, to develop a program that will recognize the classification of underground miner as a trade and, in so doing, relieve a chronic shortage of skilled underground labour in the Yukons mining industry.
Mr. McLachlan: The concern that I brought forward in this Legislature today is simply a case of demand outstripping supply. The demands have been generated by a resurgence in underground mining due again, in no small part, to the successful use of flow-through share financing for a number of mineral prospects across Canada.
To the credit of the underground mining, it is indeed a worthwhile situation to have full employment. Obviously, the balance has been tilted in favour of employee opportunities to the point where their cup runneth over and to the detriment of the employers and the industry, in general.
The situation is not unique to the Yukon. It is, at the moment, particularly serious in the northern Ontario mining regions. The situation is now at the point where new mineral prospects cannot be opened and existing ones are having difficulty finding enough experienced miners to expand their operations. It is often a fact of life in this type of operation that the development miner, usually employed by the contracting firms, is a little easier to find. That fact of life is usually fueled by longer hours of work and higher wages.
It is the production miner who usually is in short supply, some of them having gone to work for contractors, and in times of high demand there are never enough production miners, regardless of whom they have gone to work for. For one company to simply alter its wage and benefit package to attract miners from one operation to another does not solve the problem either. Rest assured that if we steal someone elses crews, someday someone will steal them away, leaving only bare and coveted skilled personnel. The usurper simply becomes the usurped, and nobody wins in this dangerous game.
This is the Yukon situation. There are currently three underground producing mines, two in gold and one in lead-zinc-silver. Together they employ 159 underground personnel. There are also two underground contractors working on four various development projects around the territory, employing 55 miners. One gold producer has recently announced a cutback in production because they simply cannot find people to work for them. This is hardly conducive to productive industry. When the wheels of industry begin grinding more slowly, it falls upon government to act in situations where it can, in this case by addressing shortages of skilled help by turning its attention to training programs and the judicious use of funds available to it under national schemes for training. To do nothing is tantamount to fiddling while Rome burns.
That is precisely where this government and this Minister must come in. The government will have no problem, I am sure, of supporting a motion of this kind because the Government House Leader spent a great deal of time in replying to the Throne Speech telling us about Cabinets love affair with the mining industry.
One of the ways of attracting some stability to the industry is to give a little more recognition to the classification of the underground miner as a skill.
It is an ongoing subject of debate in Ontario and British Columbia and, at the moment, is a reality in Manitoba. Far beyond that, sometimes less than complimentary remarks about needing only a strong back and weak mind to work underground, and amid classic ballads about the industry entitled Sixteen Tons, it may be difficult for the public to envisage why such work should be classified as a skill.
If you examine the end part of the spectrum, it can take almost as much as a full three or four years to take someone who is completely new in underground work in the areas of drilling, blasting, timbering and working with heavy machinery at close quarters to be fully familiar with all the dangers and intimacies of the job. That length of time and level of skill training is recognized in other skilled occupations. Why not this situation? A degree of recognition for ones skills that is not available in all jurisdictions can be of some help in keeping skilled workers.
I realize there are some problems inherent in developing such a program. The small numbers of mines in Yukon do not provide a diversity of exposure that is normally associated with varied training programs. There is no way to get around that on a local basis for the moment, until more operations open up. However, it is changing slowly but positively upwards. This system does not preclude the need to send some people out for further training, in the same way that other tradesmen are sent outside the territory for practical and theoretical training.
Another major disappointment that the government has exhibited in recent months is the failure to complete the area of Yukon College that was dedicated for mining support in the area of education and training towards the industry. The room sits unfinished, unused, the concrete slab unpoured. It is not a good tribute to the relationship the Government House Leader referred to in his Throne Speech reply.
I believe it is incumbent on government to tell industry what their plans are for the area and, in so doing, demonstrate a show of faith in the educational commitment towards the industry.
When Cassiar Asbestos goes underground in three years, the need for underground personnel will become even more acute. Like it or not, that area will probably be served by the supply of underground personnel, in no small way, from Whitehorse. There are some new underground mines in northern BC that will take help from this area.
I realize that the Yukon government cannot do it on its own and it needs help from the federal Department of Employment and Immigration. It would need help in the area of training funds. We can designate Yukon as an area that is under-served and qualify for mobility money. The other area that is often thought about by people in northern Ontario who are short of miners is that they want to import miners from such areas as Cornwall, England. At the moment, that effort is being resisted by federal Department of Immigration.
Had I a choice in the situation, my personal preference would be to train more of Yukons native help in this area for they, historically and traditionally, do not migrate from Elsa, Carmacks, and Whitehorse to areas in northern Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Traditionally, native help stays in the territory, by and large. I believe this particular area is under-served in these employment opportunities. I have personally seen raise mining teams in Manitoba of native descent around the Barrens River area and found them to be excellent quality help.
I would like to distribute a description of a similar program that is used for training people in the Noranda Group area. This document will serve as most help for the Department of Advanced Education and Manpower. In such a case as this, employees must undergo an eight week training program and, for this, they are paid at the salary of $13.00 an hour. Fifty percent of that is supported by the company; 50 percent of that is supported by government, although I am unable to determine whether it is the provincial government or whether it is the federal government.
I know it is a long way road and often takes an extensive program of improvement, modification and writing to develop such a program, but I have a great concern for Yukons future in this area if steps are not taken, and not taken soon. Recognizing that the occupation of the underground miner, as a trade with necessary skills upgrading to go with it, may be one such area in which we can move in order to possibly relieve what I perceive will be a drain of experienced personnel from the territory in the next few years as more and more underground opportunities open up in Canada.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is a subject which I believe that my background makes me uniquely qualified to address. I am in the enviable position, I suppose, of understanding a great deal about underground mining having experienced many years of underground mining, and also having experienced the effects of various training programs that have either been inflicted on the mining industry or encouraged by the mining industry in at least the last 12 or 15 years.
I will be speaking to the motion from that perspective. I am not going to identify those areas in the Members remarks where I think there is perhaps a lack of total familiarity with this subject, because I recognize that the Member is putting forward what I think is a good motion, and certainly some of the details do not detract from the intent of the motion. I will not nitpick this motion, because the issue of training underground miners is near to my heart. The certification of miners is something worth discussing as well.
Let me respond to a couple of thing that the Member said, and I will do so in a nonpartisan way. There was a veiled criticism of the colleges failure to complete its mining trades area, or the area that had been originally designated as the mining trades area and leaving the room empty for the time being. That was done after a great deal of thought. It did not require a lot of consultation with the mining industry, because that was not the kind of training that they were looking for at all. They were looking for on-the-job training or job-familiarization training; they were not looking at trying to imitate what Haileybury does right now at a time when such sophisticated institutes as Haileybury are winding down their operations.
To compete with the mining trade schools, which do not train underground miners, would be a mistake unless you are compared to go all the way and provide a full, sophisticated program to compete for the students you require to justify the program.
You would have to go into it all the way on the understanding that there is a fairly limited market for persons going through that particular program, at this time. That is evidenced by the fact that other mining trade schools are not in an expansion mood right now. They are in a mood to cut costs and to consolidate their programs.
The mining trades school that had been anticipated for the college some time ago does not address the training needs for underground miners at all, of course. It was a technical trades course for persons who would be geologists, surveyors, mining engineers - the practical element of mining with underground equipment, which is the need that I believe the Member was addressing. It is something that has to be addressed in other ways.
I think that to tell the industry what our plans are in the area would be a reversal of the position that the government has recently taken, that we would like the college and our training programs to take direction from the mining industry. That is the reason why we established the Mining Training Institute, which has terms of reference this time, so that the mining industry can indicate what specific training requirements it believes there to be. At that point, they would indicate what kind of resources or help they want from the government. It is industry-directed training initiatives, rather than having the Department of Education or Yukon College indicate what they are prepared to do. There is a slightly different orientation here, which I think is certainly welcomed by the mining industry. I think that it would be welcomed by the mine workers, and I think that it is ultimately welcomed by the Yukon College, too, because they do not want to be expending resources where there will be no practical effect. I think that they would like to...
Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order No. 11(7), we will now proceed to Bills Other than Government Bills.
BILLS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT BILLS
Bill No. 101: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 101, standing in the name of Mr. Webster.
Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No. 101, entitled An Act to Amend the Highways Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Klondike that Bill No. 101, entitled An Act to Amend the Highways Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. Webster: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the Member for Mayo. I just want to briefly thank all Members opposite, with the exception of the Member for Faro, for supporting this bill. I think clearing up this oversight is long overdue. Now everyone is aware, especially the law enforcement officers, that it is indeed not only a crime to litter our highways, but now there is an act with which to prosecute people.
Mr. Phillips: I rise today to speak to this bill and to ensure the Member for Klondike that we are going to support it. I would like to make a suggestion to all Members. I had the opportunity yesterday at lunch time to go outside and enjoy our very beautiful weather that we are having presently. When I went for a stroll in the sun, I wandered down by the Yukon River. I noticed all kinds of litter there, in the bushes and all the way along the river right from the bridge, past the government building and some all around the government building.
We have an opportunity to not only pass this law, but to show by example, that we really do care. I am going to issue a challenge to all Members of the House, including the Member for Klondike, the Government Leader and you, Mr. Speaker, to join with me on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. I will provide the litter bags, and in about half an hour, all Members of this House can set a good example by starting at the bridge and working our way down to the corner of the government building. They can join in the litter campaign and kick off Clean-up Week with a very good example.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would be pleased to accept the challenge personally, but the Member may know that I already have a commitment out of town at the time that he is proposing on Friday. Perhaps we could negotiate later if he could meet me at 6:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. for carrying out the litter patrol.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 101 has passed this House.
Hon. Mr. Porter: I request unanimous consent of the House to return to Motions Other than Government Motions and to continue with these until 5:30 p.m.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to return to Motions Other than Government Motions?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 37 - continued
Clerk: Item No. 22, debate adjourned, hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The college would like to facilitate training that works because they have resources that are limited, and they would not like to miss the mark in terms of establishing the goals, priorities and programs that would help the mining industry meet its needs.
The needs that have been identified in this motion are required for underground mining. The issue before us is the need for training, certification and recognition of the shortage of skilled underground workers.
Personally, and on behalf of the government, I strongly support the need for training for underground miners. I know there is a shortage of skilled underground miners, which has to be addressed, and I would love to see my trade recognized officially to be certified as a trade.
However, as much as each one of these goals is important to reach, satisfying one does not necessarily lead to resolving another. For example, certifying mining as a trade will not resolve the need for more miners in the short term. In fact, there is an argument to make that it will do exactly the opposite and create a shortage of certified workers.
We must also understand the difference between the certification process and the more elaborate training process. The two are not necessarily linked. The Department of Education has had discussions with the mining industry for some time now in terms of establishing mining institutes and, also, in trying to identify those areas where the mining industry feels there is a shortage of skills. In so doing, they have successfully come to some conclusions about the mining industry training institute. They have also come to the realization that the mining industry has some very specific needs they would like to see met through increased emphasis on underground training.
I, too, have had meetings with the Chamber of Mines and other industry groups and miners unions with respect to training requirements, and have come to the very obvious conclusion that what is required is on the job training; what is required is practical experience; what is required is training that meets the needs of particular mines. What may not be known to all Members is that the underground skills between the mine at Elsa, for example, which mines lead and zinc in certain ground conditions, differs fairly dramatically from mining techniques required for the underground mine at Canamax. Both those mines differ from underground mining techniques at Mount Skukum.
There are supportable skills among those three mines, but the mining techniques differ dramatically, and training has to go on, so those people are uninitiated in the techniques of any one particular mine.
When I started mining, the production mining the Member for Faro referred to involved drilling jacklegs and long-wall stope, all-track mining, and mucking from the track. Even in the short time I have been in the Yukon, the mining techniques at United Keno Hill Mines have changed substantially. While they still mine long-wall and still mine with jacklegs, they also mine with scooped rims and rubber tire vehicles. The stoping has gone from square set stoping to cut and fill. These are very dramatic changes in the life of any miner, and it also presents some very specific and quite unique problems to those who are interested in training underground workers.
The problems that have been identified by other jurisdictions have certainly been identified by this one.
The point to make is that the certification or training process is a very complicated matter and has to be sensitive to the mining industry otherwise it is pure window dressing and nothing else, and every dollar spent is a dollar wasted. What is essential here is to get from the mining industry and workers the kind of training that is going to effectively produce miners with the kinds of mining skills that are seen to be important.
The Member made some very good points with respect to the problems associated with a shortage of miners, and I will elaborate on those and add a few points in a few minutes.
Let me talk first about the role of Canada Employment and Immigration Commission. I have been a fairly vocal critic of the Canadian Job Strategy, both in this Legislature and in the councils of Ministers of Education. I have never been a fan of the Canadian Job Strategy and never indicated that it has been anything but a problem for the Yukon, both for the college and the training that is required for various industry needs in the territory. However, it is important to give credit where credit is due. It is important to state that CEIC has responded positively to identifying underground mining as a designated skill shortage and has indicated its preparedness to dedicate resources under the skill shortages program to support the training initiatives of the mining industry. This particular program is uniquely designed to ensure that the training can take place at the work site, that it can meet the needs of particular mines working in particular conditions, and if the mining operators are at all serious about undertaking effective training then this program is as good as they come in the country to providing the kind of resources that are necessary to encourage the mines to undertake training.
I do not want to give CEIC too much of a plug because they might misinterpret my remarks as being a blanket approval and that would be a mistake. In this particular case we have to give a good deal of credit to CEIC for finally designating underground mining as a skill shortage in the Yukon.
I have mentioned briefly the work that the Yukon government has done to establish training priorities for the mining industry. This was one of my first priorities when I took office. It was fairly clear that the underground mining industry was beginning to pick up in 1985. It had always been a source of frustration to me to not have the kind of government support for mining training that other industries enjoyed.
Part of the reluctance to provide that training, as I have indicated, is that the government has never really understood the mining industry. They have supported it, but they have not understood what the industry is all about and what its needs actually are. The discussions that were held from the summer of 1985 onwards did assist the government in understanding what real training needs for the industry were and what the mine operators felt they needed, in order to remain competitive in the market place in order to continue to sell ore in a cost-effective way - develop it and sell it.
The message that was delivered to the Yukon College and the Department of Education was that the mining industry had to take a lead role, not only in terms of developing a particular program, but in terms of establishing priorities. This is an initiative I whole-heartedly support because, as I will indicate in a few minutes, the rather late attempts at underground mining training that have taken place in the past have not produced the kinds of results government had intended. A pragmatic approach, and an approach that is led by people with practical experience, is the approach we should be supporting.
The Yukon College did offer a mining training course in the mid 1970s. It is an example of the kind of course that was filled with good intentions and yielded negligible practical benefit. Now that we have a more sophisticated understanding of what the mining industrys needs are, I think it is incumbent upon us not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The room at the college is not going to meet any needs that I know of for training in the mining industry of underground miners. That is very obvious to the mining industry, and they have made it very plain to us what they expect of us.
The mining industry wants miners with skills that are affordable, because they do recognize that, despite their best intentions, miners are going to move from one mine to another. Despite the wages, despite the skill experience, miners will still move from one mine to the next over the course of their working lives. This is something that has been proven through practical experience for decades, even in times when there was a surplus of underground miners. There have been periods of surplus, even in the short time I have been a miner in the Yukon.
It is important, in this particular case, that we design programs that are going to have practical effects. As a personal anecdote, I remember being given partners, when I was first mining, who had been through the Whitehorse school, who had never worked in real mining conditions, who had never faced deadlines, who had never understood what it was like to work in a different environment every single day of their working life.
They have never experienced ground conditions that I was used to and who only barely knew how to handle equipment like a jackleg. That person had not achieved the kinds of skills that were effective in terms of support for the mining team. Secondly, the person had developed certain skills and habits that were difficult to break. This made the practical experience that they were receiving in the stope, the drift or in the raise much more difficult for the miner.
Miners, over the period for which the school was issuing graduates, had a very dim view of the quality of training. They did not at all knock the enthusiasm and ambition of the graduates, but at the same time, they felt that the training was a typical example of where governments good intentions can get in the way of good practical results.
The issues that the Member brings forward are very valid. I do not agree, however, that the certification of miners is going to produce the results that the Member thinks will happen in the wording of the motion. It has put me in to a bit of a difficult situation here because as much as I agree with the component parts of the motion - the need for more training, the need to recognize the shortage of skills and the desirability of certification - unfortunately the three do not necessarily tie in a neatly to resolve problems as one would think. I do know that there are miners in the territory who would expect me to know better. It puts me in a difficult position in terms of supporting the motion.
There certainly is a shortage of trained personnel. The Member for Faro hit the nail right on the head. It is bad for safety. Miners work with heavy equipment. They work in confined spaces. They work in a dangerous environment. The work in the dark, and they work in conditions that are usually very very wet. It takes years to feel comfortable in an environment like that, and to develop a sixth sense about ones safety and a partners safety and to know ones limits.
Training means better safety. It is good for operations, as the Member for Faro pointed out quite eloquently. People are many times more productive as trained miners than they are when they are untrained. Expensive mistakes can be made if untrained people put their hands at the controls of expensive equipment, and these are problems that mining companies would like to avoid.
Training is important, not only to provide for a safer environment, but it would also be more satisfying for the workers. Knowing what one is doing makes the job easier and makes it more satisfying. Consequently, it is more productive for the mine operator. That is the financial bottom line. I do now know if mining will continue to be a significant contributor to the territorial economy that it is.
I, for one, have always liked the idea of the certification of miners. I am more familiar, probably, than anybody in the Legislature - not as much as some people in the territory, but certainly more familiar than many - about the difficulties associated with trying to develop a certification process for underground mining. The experience in Ontario has not all been good. There are some things that we can learn from Ontarios situation and, ultimately, produce a certification process for the Yukon.
I think that it will be good for miners because they clearly want skills that are portable, they want to be able to move from one mine to the next, they do not want to be tied down to any particular mine, they want to be free to choose operations within the generic mining industry, and they do not want to depend entirely upon their last employers recommendations in order to get a job in the future. They do want a piece of paper that they can carry with them that identifies their skill and experience levels. That is a natural expectation of any working person, and it certainly is with the mining industry and with many of my miner friends who have always indicated a desire for a certification process.
A system that would ultimately catalogue how many hours a person has worked on a particular piece of machinery, in particular ground conditions, in a particular work environment, is a system that ultimately can produce the kind of practical certification that will have a good effect for the miners in the industry. Generic testing will have some desirability, in terms of the blasting licence, the use and handling of explosives, and other things that may be appropriate, such as the repair of diesel equipment, or the care and operation of various drills, whether they be jumbo, jackleg, long toms, or any other piece of equipment that they may be expected to us. There could be some generic testing done and some training to encourage certification, which would provide more portability than simply a catalogue of how long you have worked in a particular area.
Having said that, I think that it is very obvious - certainly everything in my record has indicated it - that I would very supportive of a certification process and of a modularized training program. I am convinced that effective training has to take place, not only for the underground mining industry, but also for the placer industry and for the open pit mining industry, as well. I am convinced that there is a shortage of miners currently. I have personal knowledge of the extent to which this is affecting operations in, certainly, three mines, and a great deal of personal knowledge of how it is affecting the mine in my home town.
It is incumbent on us to support the intent of the motion. However, I think that it is also important to demonstrate that we do understand what is at stake here, and what the tie-in is between training, certification, and the need to fill a skill shortage.
Whereas I thank the Member for bringing forward the motion, and think the Member has taken great pains to understand the details, I think it would be appropriate at this time to move an amendment which better identifies the role of the mining industry, given that they have indicated very clearly to us that they want to be in the drivers seat, and the role of the mine workers and others in the certification process.
Perhaps what I will do is read the amendment into the record and allow Members a moment to think about it.
THAT Motion No.37 be amended by deleting all the words after the expression Yukon Government and substituting the following:
should continue to take the necessary steps, in coordination with the Mining Training Institute and the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, to address current urgent training needs for underground miners, and in so doing, work to relieve the shortage of skilled underground mine labour through appropriate training among Yukon residents; and
THAT the Department of Education should discuss trade certification options for underground miners with the Mining Training Institute, mine operators and the mine workers."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services
THAT Motion No. 37 be amended by deleting all the words after the expression Yukon Government and substituting the following:
should continue to take the necessary steps, in coordination with the Mining Training Institute and the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, to address current urgent training needs for underground miners, and in so doing, work to relieve the shortage of skilled underground mine labour through appropriate training among Yukon residents; and
THAT the Department of Education should discuss trade certification options for underground miners with the Mining Training Institute, mine operators and the mine workers."
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The amendment is fairly straight forward. I think it captures what the Member for Faro was looking for in the motion. It recognizes the role that the industry is expected to play, wants to play and is demanding to play in identifying training needs. It recognizes that we should be looking at trade certification options with the industry. Their cooperation is essential as it is to the apprenticeship program and other programs if we are to see certification come forward. On a personal note, it would be highly desirable from my perspective for the mining industry in the Yukon to accept the certification process for miners. Even I would like to walk away from the mining trade upon retirement with some identified skills that I have had the honour and ability to learn in my life.
I think I speak for many other miners, whom I have worked with over the course of the last 12 years. They probably number in the hundreds. Most are itinerant miners who have gone from location to location, usually beaten and bruised by mid-40s, early 50s, and end up without the recognition they deserve as a skilled tradesman when their working life is over. Unfortunately, in most cases, they do not have the kinds of resources to allow them to live in relative comfort in their older age. In their name, I would love to participate in a system that encourages certification and champions certification, and I would encourage the Mining Training Institute, the mine operators and mine workers to work towards that goal.
I realize we do not debate the subject of underground mining very often in this Legislature. It is very unfortunate, given the significant role underground mining has always played in the economic life of this territory. We spend a lot of time fixating on how many person years work for government, and do not spend enough time thinking about the needs of the many people who allow the government to operate and allow the graders to roll. They do so at great expense to their own personal safety, in many cases.
I would like to congratulate the Member for Faro for bringing the motion forward. This discussion is long overdue, and I would actually hope that we would find good reason in the future to single out underground miners for recognition and to deal with some of the issues and problems they face in the future. As a government, perhaps we can play a greater facilitators role in meeting their needs.
Mr. Phelps: I want to add a few words to what has already been said. I also want to thank the Member for Faro for bringing forward the original motion, and I would like to thank the Minister, the Member from Elsa, for his lengthy comments on the issue and for bringing forward his experience in that profession.
Before today, when I heard the Member characterized as an underground miner, I thought people were talking about his political and social habits a few years ago. Now I know it is er, and we are dealing with a person who really has worked underground, and in a mine with a great history, and one that many long-time residents of the Yukon have worked at. Both my father and my uncle spent several years at Elsa working underground. I have been receiving urgent signals from the Member for some part of Porter Creek.
I am not sure what the signals are supposed to convey to me. In any event, it is appropriate that I give my support to the motion as amended and say that it is an issue that has a great deal of importance in the riding that I represent. We have heard the problems enunciated by the management of the Skukum Mine regarding a lack of trained underground miners. We have the Omni underground mine opening up in an area about five kilometres from Mt. Skukum. We also have, in the Hootalinqua riding, the mine on Montana Mountain that was known as Arctic Mines, and before that, Big Thing - the Venus Mine, which is being actively worked on right now by United Keno Hill Mine. It is hoped that they will find enough valuable ore to warrant the reopening of the Venus Mine.
I would be remiss if I did not chastise the mover of the amendment a little bit for the words that he has used, should continue to take the necessary steps. If all the Member for Faro was asking was that the government continue in whatever it is doing now, which is not very much, he would not have bothered bringing the motion forward in the first place.
However, having chastised him for the unnecessarily defensive posture, the rest of the amendment makes good sense, and I will be pleased to support it.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the amendment. It is only appropriate in this debate that very briefly that we hear from former asbestos and nickel line workers who do not always have the dubious pleasure of working underground.
It is appropriate and noteworthy that the Member for Mayo, who has the most experience of all of us of working underground, should have addressed the House at such length. It is a noble, but a perilous occupation, in which he was engaged, and one that has also been an old Celtic tradition, and among one of the most dangerous of occupations. It is work that is often, while rewarding, unpleasant and a career that is often short. That is one of the reasons why mines have had trouble attracting people to this kind of work in good times because there are, for educated people, often more pleasant kinds of jobs out there.
We are going through, in the international markets and in the mining industry, some great changes right now. That is having an impact on the industry. My colleague has indicated that just a very short time ago we were hearing from representatives of the industry a call for very site-specific, on the job training. The industry has been rethinking its needs because of the current skilled labour shortages. They have begun to want to talk about the long-term training needs of the industry much more so than they have in the past.
The instrument that has been developed here under the sponsorship of the Minister of Education - the Mining Training Institute - is the right way to go. It provides an appropriate interface between the industry of government and the workers in the field. That is the appropriate body in which to be discussing some of these issues on an ongoing basis.
I would wholeheartedly support the views expressed by my colleague, the Member for Mayo, the Minister responsible, and I would also want to thank the Member for Faro for bringing the motion before the House and for giving us the opportunity to discuss this matter. As the Member for Mayo says, all three of the points in his motion are, on their own, worthy, but I think the amendment proposed by the Minister of Education perhaps describes the steps we need to take better. For that reason, I would suggest the amendment is an improvement on the motion, and I would be supporting it.
Mr. McLachlan: The whole thrust of the motion was to address the shortage of this particular skilled occupation in the territory. The amendment does not neuter that or subtract from it in any way. I mentioned in my speech that it is difficult to adapt a program for certification skills in the same way that one does for a welder, or a steam fitter, or a pipe fitter, or a sheet metal worker. It is an area that would require a great deal of work and, probably, a great deal of study in the years to come.
It is certainly a fact of life in this territory that the Yukon must compete on the international market for some of our underground metals. It is to no uncertain credit that the way of doing this, and proceeding properly, is with a work force that is qualified and can complete their days work on time and on schedule, without what is referred to in the industry as botch-ups.
I think that the amendment addresses my concerns and those of the industry that I wanted to draw attention to in proposing this motion, which is the situation that is engulfing the rest of Canada and which, I fear, will certainly raise its ugly head in the territory in a few years to come. I have no problem with the amendment the Member for Mayo has brought forward to address his concern in the territory at present.
Amendment agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion as amended?
Motion No. 37 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 29
Clerk: Item No. 15, standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 15?
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North
THAT is it the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should investigate the feasibility of operating the Whitehorse Fish Hatchery year round;
THAT, in the event that it proves to be feasible, that the Government of Yukon should work co-operatively with Federal Fisheries and the Yukon Development Corporation to have the fish hatchery operating in the off-season to produce rainbow trout and grayling for restocking Yukon lakes; and
THAT the Minister of Renewable Resources report progress on this resolution to the House.
Mr. Phillips: I brought this motion to the House today, and it is one that is dear to my heart. I have been concerned for many years about the fishery and the state of the freshwater fishery in the Yukon.
Today in this House, we are going to show all Yukoners how important we feel the freshwater fishery resource is to Yukon.
It is time to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. All this motion will do is to ask the Yukon government to investigate the feasibility of operating the Whitehorse Fish Hatchery year round. The Whitehorse hatchery is currently operated for approximately 10 months of the year for the purposes of raising chinook salmon. The interesting thing is that, during these 10 months, only parts of the hatchery are utilized.
In August each year, eggs are taken from adult salmon and placed in incubation bins. They remain in these bins until mid-January. The fry hatch and are placed in the larger holding tanks until the end of May or early June, when they are released. So, for almost half the year, certain areas may be available for other species of fish.
I am told that when the salmon are in the larger bins there are two separate water supplies and there is no possibility of contamination of the other stocks, so it is quite possible to utilize the hatchery in the off-season. This is a first-rate fish hatchery. It was designed for future expansion. This can be looked at in the study, as well.
The Whitehorse hatchery is now the property of the Yukon Development Corporation, which is owned by the Yukon government. All we have to do is work out a reasonable agreement with the Yukon Development Corporation and the federal Department of Fisheries to extend the operation period of the hatchery.
I should point out that the idea of this motion is not in any way to deter from our limit the current use, which is to produce chinook salmon.
This government has talked about fish enhancement in Yukon as a priority. We do not have to wait for the transfer of freshwater fisheries. We can start the ball rolling right now.
We know we have a major problem with our freshwater fisheries in Yukon. I would like to commend some of the organizations, specifically the Fish and Game Association, for the recent announcement of the largest rainbow trout stocking program ever. I am sure that all Members here will agree that the 120,000 fish we put in 19 pothole lakes throughout the Yukon will go a long way to take pressure off our indigenous species.
I was pleased to hear that the Government of Yukon has made a more reasonable offer in the take-over of freshwater fisheries.
I am concerned over the actual commitment of funds that will come from this government. It appeared from the Ministerial Statement that the only commitment of funds from this government is coming from the raising of licence fees. I would have hoped that there would have been a much stronger commitment than that. I will be pursuing that further in this session.
I would like all Members to think for a moment what we could do if the operation of the hatchery proved feasible. First of all, the current capacity of the Whitehorse hatchery is 500,000 fish. This means we could quadruple the amount that we are stocking this year, and this is our largest year ever.
We can involve many local community organizations throughout the territory. Some of these programs could even be turned into school projects, and I can tell you if we were to teach people to understand the wise use of our resources there is no better place to start than with our children.
As well by stepping up the stocking of pothole lakes in and around Yukon lakes we would better the quality of community life and encourage tourists to stay a day longer for the excellent fishing.
I mentioned in the motion that the government could look at the possibility of utilizing the hatchery for the production of grayling. It is my understanding that Arctic grayling production has proved very successful in Europe and some Scandanavian countries. Could you imagine what we could do if it proved feasible to stock the many streams that run next to our highways and what that could to for our tourist trade and again, for the quality of life for Yukoners?
As you can see, there are many opportunities to explore and we will never know them unless we investigate these possibilities. I urge all Members to consider the long term benefits of this motion should it pvoe feasible to utilize the Whitehorse fish hatchery to its fullest capacity.
Hon. Mr. Porter: In view of the time that we have left on the clock I will be very brief with my remarks. I feel I have to address some of the comments made by the Member for Riverdale North.
Respecting the opening statements, he said that it is time to put our money where your mouth is. I guess that is an accurate assessment of this debate because that is usually where the fish end up. It also probably is equally important to look at it from the point of view that eventually the plan is to develop the fish stock so you can put hooks into the water for the fish to be caught. That is a problem in the Yukon right now, as everyone in the Legislature knows. We have a situation where we have a declining resource. We have very clearly stated our position that there has to be redress to that unfortunate question and we think we have bargained in good faith and had put forward what we thought were the best efforts of this government, taking into mind we were not going to put ourselves in a situation where we accepted a responsibility without the necessary resources to be able to meet those responsibilities.
The Member stated that he is of the opinion that this government should be taking funds from within the budget to allocate to freshwater fishery. The question is a hard one because in order for us to be able to fund the Freshwater Fisheries independently or even on a cost-shared basis, would mean that we have to take dollars from other areas of wildlife management. That means that other species of game that we now harvest and manage, like caribou and moose and other small game responsibilities, will lack for resources once we have taken funds from there.
It is a very difficult question. We approach it from the basis that the senior government has a responsibility to manage. They should realize that responsibility, and we should not let them off the hook on what it must cost to fulfill that responsibility even though, in the end, we may become the managers and the administrators of that responsibility on their behalf.
We will support the motion. The future use of the hatchery is currently the subject of discussions among the Yukon Energy Corporation, which owns the hatchery now, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which operates the hatchery and the Department of Renewable Resources, which has an interest in fisheries generally.
We should be cautious about our support. We have to realize that the increase of fish production in any species would require an expansion of facilities, and that expansion will necessitate increased water supply. There are times of the year when some of the facilities are not being utilized, but there is a difference of opinion. He states that, for the most part, it is six months of the year for the usable portion of the hatchery. My information is that we have approximately two months.
One of the biggest problems in hatchery questions has been that of disease. Because this is a serious problem in hatcheries, we have to examine very carefully how we make this decision. In order to prevent disease, each species of fish must have separate water flow and holding tanks to prevent the spread of disease, which could easily wipe out a seasons work. In other words, the same equipment that we are using for salmon simply cannot, in the off time, be turned over for use with other species of fish.
The rainbow trout have a highly variable spawning season, anywhere from November to May, depending upon the stock. A three month minimum incubation period is required before the eggs might be expected to hatch. In the end, depending upon the parent stock and on water temperature, it could take up to six months for rainbow trout eggs to hatch.
Another question that the Member raised is that his information about the experiences in Europe or Scandinavia regarding the production of grayling in hatcheries has been highly successful. The information that I have received from the department is that the efforts to raise grayling in hatcheries has been not so successful, but that there has been a great deal of failure with at species.
Although, on the face of it, we are supportive, we do not want to hold out any false hopes. We will take the spirit of the Members motion, and we will investigate the possibility of utilizing the hatchery. We will also look at the cost of raising rainbow trout.
In view of the time, we are prepared to vote.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Phillips: I thank the Members on the other side for their support. In closing, I would like to talk briefly about the expansion of the hatchery. I would like to remind the Minister that this will not be the first hatchery ever; it has been tried before and it has been successful in some areas. I think that we would get more than our dollars back if we could put a lot of fish back into Yukon creeks and streams. I thank all Members for their support.
Motion No. 29 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Porter: I move that the Speaker 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 now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
The time now being 5:30, we will recess until 7:30.
Bill No. 50 - Second Appropriation Act, 1988-89 - continued
Public Service Commission
Chairman: The Committee of the Whole will come to order. Justice, continued.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I was advised that we would be going immediately to the Public Service Commission.
Chairman: My mistake.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Public Service Commission is responsible for the recruitment, training, compensation, classification, labour relations, employees assistance, employee records, pension and positive employment program. It administers these programs under provisions of the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the labour relations sections of the Schools Act.
The proposed staff complement will consist of 29 full time permanent positions, two half-time permanent position, one one-year term position, five two-year term positions and 9.53-year term positions. This represents, in this budget, an increase of one permanent position, which is one recruitment officer; one one-year term, which is one Labour Relations Officer to conduct competition appeals; and 2.53-year term positions, one a Coordinator of Program Transfers and two one-half person years, each for Personnel Clerk, Position Control Clerk and a Classification Analyst.
The Positive Employment Program has nine trainee positions plus three staff. Six trainee positions are presently allocated to various departments and staff as community operations advisor, fire inspector, social worker, deputy court clerk, probation worker, library and archives program coordinator. The remaining three training positions have recently become vacant and are now being recruited.
Collective bargaining with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Government of Yukon Government Employees Union was completed in October 1987. This settlement was for three years with a wage settlement of $1,300 in year one, $1,350 in year two and four percent in year three. Negotiations with Yukon Teachers Association were concluded in April 1987 and resulted in a three year contract that gives the teachers a wage settlement of 3.5 percent and a wage reopener in the third year. The wages in the third year will be subject to further negotiation. Other issues are settled in the contract.
The final set of JES conversion appeals was completed in April of this year, and this should speed up the process of handling the regular classification requests from these departments. The Branch is also finalizing a dental plan for Yukon Government Employees Union and Yukon Teachers Association members that resulted from the last set of contract negotiations, as well as a dental plan for other employees.
As I mentioned, a three-year term is now being requested to allow for a coordinator of program transfers. This is a devolution position arising from the volume and complexity of the personnel issues with which we are dealing in some of the devolution negotiations. As Members will recall, we have found need in a number of central agencies, including the Department of Finance and the Public Service Commission, for staffing in this area.
The Commission continues to work towards a computerized Human Resources Information System. The first two phases, position control and employee information, are now in place and functioning. It is anticipated that the next phase, leave accounting, can be designed and implemented during this coming fiscal year. This phase will provide information to departmental administrators, Finance, and our auditors on the various leave credits owed to employees. Instead of making an estimate and then having to correct by Supplementary Estimates, we will have be able to have more accurate information, earlier, as a result of that.
On April 1, 1988, the competition appeal process came into effect, as a result of the new collective agreement with the Yukon Government Employees Union. The Public Service Commission has, and will continue to provide training to government officials to aid in this process.
During the debate on the Supplementary Estimates, there were a number of questions asked to which answers were promised, and I would like to file now Management Board Directive No. 1584, which is the interview and relocation expenses directive, and because some questions were asked about precedent in this area, I would also like to file at the same time the directive it replaced, which was dated June 26, 1984. To assist in the understanding of these two documents, I am also tabling a single page attachment, which summarizes the 11 particulars that describe the revisions to the old moving and expense directive, and the differences between the new and old one. As well, I want to file the policy that goes back to 1982 about real estate commissions, because I understand that this was the subject of some discussion in Committee when we were dealing with the Supplementary Estimates.
As well, I would like to file as information for all Members a fact sheet on the dental plan, about which there were questions in the Supplementary Estimates. I have a single page sheet that summarizes the provisions of that plan. I have some detailed information on the moving contracts for the last year. In summarizing this information, you will find listed on this sheet the amount of the contracts - which was $415,000 - and the amount actually used, which was not the full amount of the contract, but was $307,334. There were amounts accrued in 1986-87 but spent in 1987-88. In other words, the 1986-87 expenses, not relevant to 1987-88, total $28,776. The total mentioned of all the 1987-88 expenses for all the moves by YTG was $278,658.
The Members were provided with an answer that described the amount paid for by the Public Service Commission, which was for moves from outside the territory. There were moves inside the territory that were paid for by the Public Service Commission, and they were $12,142 on top of that. In addition to that, there were moves paid for by other departments in the amount of $75,054.
I have a break-down of that amount, which I will also provide to the Members.
Mr. Phelps: There is a lot of information being tabled, and it takes a while to read it. Perhaps we could get copies as soon as possible. We may have to go back for questions arising from debate.
The Minister mentioned they had completed the JES appeals. Is that what I heard?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is the conversion appeals of JES. Of course, there will be ongoing appeals about classifications, peoples positions relative to other positions, or whether the duties described in the position are as the people are doing them, or whether a position is classified properly. There will always be appeals about that, but the conversion appeals on the new system are now completed, of which we originally had some 400.
Mr. Phelps: Do we have the information as to how many appeals were filed and what got to whatever level?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There were 414 appeals received. There were 51 first level appeals withdrawn or canceled. There were 247 appeals resolved at the first level; 116 second level appeals received; 27 second level appeals resolved prior to the hearings; 8 second level appeals withdrawn; and there were 81 second level board appearings completed. At this point, there are no second level appeals outstanding.
If I understand his question, the Member also asked how many were won or lost. I am not sure we could describe the results in exactly those terms. Is the Member asking for a break-down about how many complaints against the classification were upheld?
Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Penikett: I am advised that in most of the second level appeals, the employer was sustained, but if the Member would like a breakdown of more detail on that statistic, we could come back with it; I do not have the information here.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps we could get a return filed later as to that information, in rough terms. I am just interested in whether it was the employer 99 percent of the time, or was it sustained 51 percent of the time. There is a difference, I am told.
Is it possible to get a total cost to the government of the Job Evaluation System appeals? Is there a budget breakdown?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would be quite willing to try and provide a breakdown of the costs of the second level appeals. The first level would be quite hard to account for, because it is an internal process involving people who are full-time employees. To go back and do a historic capturing of how much time they may have spent on appeals as opposed to other duties would perhaps cost more than the information was worth.
Mr. Phelps: It would be fine if we got that information.
My next questions have to do with the affirmative action workshops. There is some statistical information on page 219. Can we find out the purpose of these affirmative action workshops?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In general terms, the workshops, among other things, introduce people to the positive employment program and the mandate of the positive employment program. They cover the purpose of the affirmative action programs that we have and explained the general objectives of the government in terms of our intentions about affirmative action, specifically the native training corps, why we are taking steps in this area and how we are doing it. As the Member knows, there have been workshops in many communities - almost all of them, I believe, if not all of them. The attendance has varied from workshop to workshop. They have been offered twice - in the spring of 1987 and in November 1987. There were also workshops given on how to apply for a job at YTG, particularly in rural areas where people may not have known how to get information about jobs, or how to put in applications. These were given on a request basis to community groups, bands and community learning centres. They were basically done by the same people.
Mr. Phelps: Are the workshops compulsory for certain groups of employees?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No.
Mr. Phelps: Does the Human Rights Commission play a part in these workshops?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Not to my knowledge, although I am occasionally surprised at these questions.
Mr. Phelps: We were occasionally surprised, too. How do the cross-cultural workshops relate to the affirmative action workshops? Are they pretty well the same process?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: They are being done through the Public Service Commission, but they have a different purpose. The cross-cultural workshops are designed to try to assist people working in a cross-cultural environment. That is a slightly different purpose from talking about the personnel policies of the affirmative action program of the government, which was the other reason for the original affirmative action workshops, which will be dumped.
Mr. Phelps: How does the cross-cultural workshop program relate to the Yukon College program?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This program is carried on for our employees. Recently there have been many requests for more cross-cultural workshops and programs, and we have heard calls from various quarters in the public. My colleague, the Minister of Education, can best describe what is going on at the college, and what that department is planning to do. This department is principally concerned with operations for our own employees - not so much teachers, but public employees in the mainstream of the public service.
Mr. Phelps: So the Yukon College program is for teachers only, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Again, I will have to ask my colleague, the Minister of Education, to describe exactly what the Yukon College program is, but I do not have the details. I will be pleased to take that question as notice. The Public Service Commissioner advises me that we are in communication with the Department of Education and the college people. There may be ways in which the activities are coordinated, but I am not sure that I could describe that coordination at this moment.
Mr. Phelps: Could the Minister tell us who is handling the JES appeals now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The people who handle the first stage are the officials of the Public Service Commission. The board or the chairman who handles the second stage ones are all people from outside the territory, who are mutually agreed upon by the parties.
Mr. Phelps: In previous debates on the Public Commission Service budget there was discussion about contract consultant who came back and forth from Newfoundland. Is that person still working for us?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That was a case of a former employee who came back to deal with a number of appeals, but that person is not one of the three people we are talking about at the moment.
Mr. Phelps: The next area, just to touch briefly on it in general debate, has to do with the issue of moving expenses for people who are being brought into the Yukon and being moved out of the Yukon. Does the Government Leader intend to review policy and examine issues such as paying people for the loss that they might sustain on the house they have to sell in Toronto to take a job up here? Is there an intention to review the limit on the amount of stuff that is to be moved to the Yukon by new employees?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have provided some information, but the Member will not have had time to read it. It compares the policy now in place with the policy in 1984. The policy respecting the real estate question is one that goes back to 1982.
I must confess that I am troubled by the sums of money involved. For that reason alone, and for other good reasons, I would want to do as much local hiring as possible. I would also want to find out if we are paying inappropriate sums or are paying too much to move people for jobs here. That cost is a cause for concern even given the relatively small number of people involved. It is a very very significant expense and one that troubles me considerably.
Mr. Phelps: I am very pleased to hear that. This is an area that the government ought to look at. I am concerned about the amount that new employees are allowed to bring north in the private personal areas. If a person has to move a long distance, they tend not to take nearly as much as they would if someone else is paying for it. There is the economy of the amount that people are allowed to bring.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand the point that the Member is making. The Member will also understand that our arrangements are not as generous as they are in the federal government. Sometimes when we are trying to attract a very capable or skilled person from the federal public service to our public service, that can be disincentive to attracting someone we would want. The arrangements for a federal employee are better than they are for us. I also take the point that they are much better for our employees than they are for many private sector employees.
The best answer to the problem is probably that, in the percentage of local hires that we have - last year it was over 96 percent - there are always going to be certain special skills that we cannot recruit locally. They do not exist here. We find that all the time in many professional fields. Trying to hire certified accountants or people with certain kinds of computer skills or engineering skills locally is difficult. We look, we advertise, but we do not get any response from anyone who is qualified in a whole number of occupations.
Mr. Phelps: In the foreseeable future, there will be a need to bring people in from outside the Yukon. Obviously, it would be a lot cheaper if we did not have to do that. My experience has been, and I have seen this with federal personnel moving in from Ottawa and Toronto, that they bring all kinds of stuff that normally would not be justified if they were paying for the move themselves. I really feel that this area is a cause for concern, and I hope that there will be a review. Does the Government Leader have any idea of the time frame in which that will be done?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The policy that we now have in place came in in January 1988. In that policy, there is a weight limit for the amount of goods that people can bring in. I am sure he would agree that that is appropriate. We get into a much more difficult area when there is a weight limit that is an enforceable guideline. If someone wants to bring extra stuff, and they have a lot of furniture beyond that weight, they pay for it themselves or leave it behind and buy new stuff here.
We are on dicey ground, however, if we start to tell people that, for example, they cannot bring their stuffed poodle when they are only asking to bring 3,000 kilos of stuff, where someone has 6,000 kilos of expensive furniture. To get in to auditing what are acceptable items can be a costly and time-consuming thing. We do need to look at it because the costs are so great.
Mr. Lang: I want to echo the concerns of the Leader of the Official Opposition. I think one way around this is to go up to a maximum amount of dollars that is prepared to be paid by the government. When we see bills of up to $20,000 to move an individual into the territory, I have to question how much we need the position filled, to start with.
I looked at the information provided, and I gather there is only one copy of the Management Board material, which is unfortunate. Is the maximum weight limit of 13,228 pounds rigidly enforced? I see there is an area for the Management Board to disallow or overrule that particular policy. Has the Management Board ever overruled that particular policy, as far as allowing an individual to bring in more than the directive has called for?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am almost absolutely certain the Management Board has never overruled this weight limit during the time we have been in office. The problem with setting a total dollar figure is that it would have the effect of saying we were restricting our recruitment area to western Canada, or something like that. There are some occupations - like the difficulty of recruiting French Immersion teachers - that they are much in demand and you do not find a surplus of those kinds of teachers in western Canada. For the most part, they are in eastern Canada. That is in the Education area rather than here, but the problem is that if you had a dollar figure, you would effectively be reducing your recruitment area quite considerably. We would have to think very hard about the wisdom of that before we did it.
Mr. Lang: We are just trying to throw some ideas around here. I know I am not a consultant so, possibly, my ideas will not be taken seriously. It seems to me to be areas where one could make limits. If it is going to cost all this much, then maybe we should be doing more advertising in areas closer to Yukon to recruit. I find it amazing we are paying $20,000 to move somebody here. It floors me. Here we were arguing today about whether or not we should give a $50.00 Home Owners Grant increase to the taxpayers; in seven moves, we have it paid for. I think there is a legitimacy to the concerns being expressed.
Is it rigidly enforced by the Public Service Commission and the departments involved that, if the 13,228 pounds are exceeded, the individual involved pays the difference?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Absolutely. Government Services will check the invoice and the bill and, if one is trying to move more weight than is allowed, that would be billed to the claimant.
Mr. Phelps: Does the government know how often the limit is exceeded and paid for by the employee involved? That would be an interesting test.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I could check but I would be absolutely sure that it is not often, because people are told at the time of the interview, and they are told before they make the move. I think, given the costs involved, there are not many people who would make the move from Toronto and pay the extra, unless it was goods that they valued very much. We will check, but I am sure that it is not very often.
Mr. Phelps: It is not to be argumentative but it just seems to me that if almost no one ever exceeds the amount, then an argument could be made that the weight is too much. If almost everyone is exceeding it, then it is fairly close to the mark.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I take the Members point. The figure was not established arbitrarily, it was established as a result of consultations with the moving companies and with other governments and people who move employees as to what was the weight of a typical family move. I can see the point that if the number is rarely reached, and never exceeded, then maybe there are some essential economies to be achieved by reviewing it.
Mr. Lang: I want to move on to another area of moving: the number of vehicles that are permitted to be shipped here, at the taxpayers cost. My understanding is that a person moving to the territory can ship as many as two cars, and the people of the territory pay for that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If you were shipping cars that would be part of the weight limit previously mentioned, so it would not be over and above that, it would be part of the weight load.
Mr. Lang: If that is the case, does it not give more credence to the point that the Leader of the Official Opposition raised regarding the weight limit? It would seem to me that if somebody is moving to the territory they should be driving their own vehicle. If they wish to fly, then they should fly and ship their own vehicle, and pay for it. One or the other. When the cost goes as high as two vehicles and people are told that if they stay within their weight limit they can ship 10 vehicles - that, to me, deserves to be scrutinized very closely.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure that you could not get 10 vehicles for 6,000 kilograms. I would ask the Commission to look at the experience on this score and see what kind of traffic in vehicles from the south we have had. I do not know what the pattern has been. I do not know if there are people who have been bringing up two vehicles on a move and having us pay for them, but I will seek the answers to those questions and provide them to the House.
Mr. Lang: I would appreciate if those answers could be transmitted as soon as possible.
Mr. McLachlan: I understand the regulations about the weight. Does the government move luxury items, such as skidoos, boats and motors, motorcycles, or does it not matter, just as long as it falls within the 13,000 pounds?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Could the Member look at page two of the directive. I asked to have copies made. I apologize if they are not. I have one other spare copy here, which I can lend to the Member. Page two refers to household effects, including: personal clothing, furniture, kitchen appliances, playground equipment, and other items used in the principal residence and/or domestic gardening. It excludes: any commodities that, by law, tarrif or restriction cannot be moved as household effects.
I have never had occasion to ask whether a skidoo is a luxury item, or whether it could be included, but again, it would be covered by the weight class. Let me just mention to the Member the problem of having a very specific list of what you can and cannot have. There used to be such a situation here and the problem of monitoring and reviewing and auditing that was, in fact, an awful lot of trouble and an awful lot of bureaucratic work. We had to go over everybodys list of move items and say, Well this is allowable and this is not and then arguments about whether it was an allowable item or not. That is why there was a move to the weight limit, as being something that was easier to monitor and easier to enforce.
Mr. McLachlan: When there is a particularly expensive move that is unavoidable, such as moving a teacher in to Old Crow - and perhaps there is a situation where a skidoo would be worthwhile - do we move furniture into situations where air transport is the only method of transportation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This department does not have a lot of recent experience in moving teachers to Old Crow because the Department of Education does that. If we were moving a social worker to Old Crow, these regulations would come into effect, and furniture would depend upon the housing situation, on whether or not housing was provided with furniture in it.
Mr. Lang: I always thought that one of the responsibilities of the Public Service Commission was to ensure that the policies that were undertaken were enforced. Moving employees in and out of the territory is one of its responsibilities of recruitment. Now I find that in Community and Transportation Services, Government Services, Justice and Education, there is a total of $75,000 over and above $300,000 that was identified in Government Services. Could the Minister explain why we are allowing this to happen in the other departments?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In this past year, the expenditures under this departments budget, at some period of review, appeared to have the potential of going over budget. The Minister responsible for the department then went to Management Board and proposed to disallow any further outside hires in an effort to try to keep the department within its budget.
Following discussion with Management Board, a decision was made that the Public Service Commission would not pay for any nore outside hires for the balance of the year, but departments, where they felt it was absolutely necessary, might absorb those costs within their budget themselves, if they could.
Mr. Lang: That is a rationale that I do not understand. Why would we be signing contracts worth $415,000 and only using $307,000 of it, and then have to go to the departments for further money. That does not make any sense.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: When we sign a moving contract, we do not know what the final amount will be, in many cases. This department has not had a habit of going over budget. When the variance reports indicated that there was a danger of that, we felt that rather than going over budget, we would deal with the matter by saying that we would try and put a restriction on this kind of expenditure.
Departments that felt a very strong and powerful need to recruit outside and could absorb the costs within their budgets were given the authorization of Management Board to do so.
Mr. Lang: I do not want to belabour it, but it seems kind of funny that we would be signing contracts worth $415,000 and then let the department say that it did not really mean to spend that much. I can understand the reason for signing the contract and leaving it open with maximum amounts. The government seems to be winging this one.
How much is the dental plan projected to cost per year as part of the Collective Agreement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The total anticipated cost for a year for all classes of employees is $250,000.
Mr. Lang: I think we are going to have a rude awakening down the road here. Has the YTA become part of this plan?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Both the collective agreements with the YTA and the YGEU have this in their three-year agreement that we are now under.
Mr. Lang: Did the membership of the YTA agree to take part in the plan? It was my understanding it was under discussion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: They voted to do so.
Mr. McLachlan: With respect to tuition-sponsored employees, when an employee of the government takes a leave and goes outside for further training - ostensibly for training that will benefit him and this government in future service - do we tie that employee to a contractual obligation when he returns from his upgrading at university and resumes work?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes. If we are subsidizing the leave; if it is paid educational leave, yes, there is a contract. They have to enter it for two years. In such a case where they may be away for a year, they might be required to come back and work for two years following that year away as part of the understanding.
Mr. McLachlan: Are there different levels of that type of leave? That is, one may go to Yukon College for a term, which is four months, and another may go to university in eastern Canada for nine months.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are proportional amounts, but it can vary depending on the nature of the training taken by the person and the value of that training for this public service for this government.
Mr. McLachlan: Does the Public Service Commission keep something I will refer to as a turnover rate amongst government employees? I do not mean those who move up, because that is still within government service, but those who quit and must be replaced. Do we have a turnover rate of 10 percent, 20 percent?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not think we have done a calculation for the past year, but it has historically run between something like seven and ten percent in the Government of Yukon. I believe it would be possible to do a calculation for the past year, but I do not have that number handy.
Chairman: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The major reason for the substantial increase here, as I described earlier, is the salary and benefit costs for the three full-time branch staff, the Public Service Commissioner, and the 2.5 term person years for program transfers, which I mentioned earlier. The 40-some percent increase is largely due to the additional staff and the economic increases in the collective agreement.
Administration in the amount of $413,000 agreed to
On Recruitment and Training
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This number represents salary and benefit costs for seven permanent full-time staff for the recruitment section of the branch, and for the director. The increase is primarily due to an additional recruitment officer and an additional auxiliary clerical staff. This is necessary to cover the staffing appeal process, as well as economic increases. That is the principal reason.
Mr. McLachlan: I want to ask about employees of this branch going into the field to recruit for openings in specific locations: Dawson City, Mayo, Carmacks, Faro and Ross River. Will it be a policy of the department to go to those locations to conduct the interviews, when there is a possibility of filling the jobs locally, rather than have potential employees compensated for travelling to Whitehorse for interviews?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It depends upon what is the most economic situation. As you know, most interviews are carried out in Whitehorse for most jobs here. There have been occasions, though, when we might have three applicants from Vancouver. Commission staff would then travel to Vancouver to do the interviews, in that case. It was the same score when we hired people for one position not so long ago in Dawson City and Watson Lake. Most of the applicants were local, the interviews were done locally, the interviewing committee met locally, and the decision was essentially reached in the local interviews. It would depend upon the situation, but if we had a job where, say, there was one applicant in Faro and four applicants in Whitehorse, we would more likely hold the interviews here.
On Recruitment Administration
Mr. Phelps: A 24 percent increase?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That was what I explained a few minutes ago. This is due to the additional recruitment officer and the additional auxiliary clerical support necessary to cover the staffing appeal process, which is provided under the new collective agreement, as well as the economic increase as a result of the collective agreements.
Recruitment Administration in the amount of $458,000 agreed to
On Recruitment Operations
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This covers costs for the placement of ads in local newspapers for competitions, advertising costs for competitions for which outside recruitment has been authorized, and interview costs once a position has been advertised and the people are shortlisted and called in for interviews.
It can also cover the cost of moving newly transferred or promoted employees and their families.
Recruitment Operations in the amount of $818,000 agreed to
On Training Administration
Hon. Mr. Penikett: These are salary and benefit costs for two permanent full-time staff for the training unit. During the previous year, the managers position was vacant for six months, which is why the salary dollars were down for that year. This also provides funding for the other national conferences, shipping expenses, telephone rental charges and activities related to the promotion of health and safety among public servants.
Training Administration in the amount of $104,000 agreed to
On Training Operations
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This covers training costs incurred in providing opportunities for all levels of employees, but it can include such things as tuition assistance, employee travel, professional service contracts, non-employee travel for instructors, and so forth, program materials and such like.
Training Operations in the amount of $194,000 agreed to
On On-the-Job Training
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This activity provides for government employees, through temporary training and work assignments, to acquaint themselves with job content and skills for positions other than their current positions. It also provides for persons with disabilities or other disadvantaged residents of the Yukon through training assignments in the public service to increase their job skills and employability. The funding also provides for salaries of casual employees who replace individuals on special work assignments, or are the disadvantaged or disabled trainee.
The increase represents our contribution to the potential of this program to contribute to the development of local talent, including target group members of the Positive Employment Program, particularly disabled people.
On-the-Job Training in the amount of $67,000 agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: On the statistics in the recruitment area on page 209, the projection for 1988-89 is 1,650 casual/auxiliary appointments. This represents almost half of the entire work-force of casual/auxiliary appointments for the current year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is talking about appointments. You can have someone appointed as a casual to work for two days. Someone else might be appointed for another four days somewhere else, and there might be someone appointed for a whole season. There are a great number of casuals who work for a few days at a time.
Mr. McLachlan: There are also some who work for the entire summer in the Department of Transportation. This is non-contract employees. These are paid for under government payroll.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: These are recruitment activities, not full-time positions. There may be dozens of people who work in a casual position the total equivalent of one person year, or one full-time year. For the most part, auxiliaries are seasonal summer people.
Mr. Phelps: The Member for Faro raises a good point about these statistics. Surely, there could be some more meaningful and less confused than these to get some idea of what the quantity is. I know there are comparisons year by year. Surely, that could be translated into person years or some averages given of length of the job.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take the point about more meaningful information under advisement. The difficulty, and I am not sure how we can show this on record, is that we may have a casual who may be recruited several times in the course of a year for a few days at a time. Each one of these recruitment actions is recorded here. I admit that the bare statistic is confusing.
At some point, we had 800 auxiliaries as of a certain date on our list, but as of a particular date, April 6 for example, there were only 232 who were actually working. It seems as if the Member is asking for a further breakdown of these kinds of numbers into data to be translated into information that he could talk about on the street and have people understand.
Mr. Phelps: I suppose that is one aspect of it. How is this information meaningful from a management point of view? Part of the idea of having the statistics is not just so the person on the street can make some sense of it but so that management can.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: From the management point of view, this is detail about the recruitment and training session. This describes activity by the Recruitment and Training section. This is the kind of work that people will have to do in terms of bringing in a casual person. There is an activity involved in that as well as a recruitment activity. This describes the level of that activity.
If the Member is looking for detail about the make-up and the profile of casual work in the territory or work done by auxiliaries, that would be a different kind of statistical information, and we would have to provide it in a different section of these Capital Estimates. It would be valuable, but it would come in a different place.
Mr. McLachlan: What is the complement to this figure then? Is it the number that are non-casuals, non-auxiliary and are on payroll for a full year without requiring any effort on the part of the recruitment division?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the Member is asking how many people are doing this work, there are 400 permanent positions that we are estimating this year will be recruited. It is estimated that there will be 70 transfers and 70 in- service appointments or promotions, all of which will involve action by recruitment people. In addition to that, there are 1600-plus activities involving casuals and auxiliaries.
Mr. McLachlan: That is not the question. How many are non-casual, non-auxiliary who are virtually on staff for the full year and require no activity whatsoever on the part of the recruitment division. These are people who are in the positions for the full year who do not change.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Previously, I told the Member how many people were working for the Government of Yukon. I gave him breakdown information on that regarding terms, indeterminates and auxiliaries. We discussed that at the beginning of the Main Estimates.
Mr. McLachlan: That gives a total payroll force. Even if we take that number that he mentioned at the beginning of debate and subtract 1650, that still does not give us the total non-moving employees in the Government of Yukon during a one year period who are of no expense to this government or to the recruitment staff because they did not leave their position. Is that 1,300, 1,000 or 1,600?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not quite sure what the Member is asking. We have a certain number of permanent employees. The Member asked earlier what the turnover rate was for those. Whenever positions turn over, there will be a recruitment action. The permanent employees, unless they have a promotion, and some of them will have bid on a promotion and will be involved in the recruitment activity. If they have a transfer they will be involved in recruitment activity. What we are saying is that the vast majority - if the Member is asking how many in the past year - went through no change in their status whatsoever. They were not hired, fired, promoted, transferred, they did not go from being a casual auxiliary. I guess it would be possible. It would simple be an arithmetical exercise. We could provide the information but I do not know what it would show, in terms of meaningful data.
It is not true that there will be no costs, because you may have people who did not experience a change in their status, but may have bid on several jobs during the course of the year, so it does involve a cost to the Public Service Commission if they in fact applied for jobs and went through some activity involving making an application and being interviewed.
Mr. Phelps: The figures here relate to the work done by the Public Service Commission, with regard to the recruitment and training of casual auxiliary employees. Do the departments do a lot of their own, such as Department of Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member knows, there is some devolution or some decentralization of this function in terms of departments that have high volumes of casuals. There still will be activity in terms of their records and the formal applications, and all of those kinds of things, which would involve the Public Service Commission, even if there is hiring of a casual done out of a field. There is still activity for this Branch.
Mr. Phelps: So the body would show up in these figures?
On-the-Job Training in the amount of $67,000 agreed to
Recruitment and Training in the amount of $1,641,000 agreed to
Chairman: Is it the wish of the Committee to recess at this time?
No? Dashing on, then, to Employee Records and Pensions, page 211.
On Employee Records and Pensions
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The principal increase here is for salary and benefit costs for Branch staff as a result of the new collective agreement and economic increases. Funding is provided here for purchase of federal government forms and information pamphlets for mandatory superannuation and insurance coverage, used in the documentation and administration of those plans, and the production of employee hire change forms that are used in the employee information system, the new computerized system. There is a provision here for telephone rental charges, long-distance charges, and so forth.
Administration in the amount of $247,000 agreed to
Employee Records and Pensions in the amount of $247,000 agreed to
On Labour Relations
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The amount in this budget provides for salary and benefit costs for two permanent full-time Branch staff and one year term position for Labour Relations officer, and dollars for the auxiliary clerical support. The increases are due, of course, to economic increases in the new collective agreement, an addition term position, and the auxiliary deals, a deal with the new competition appeal process, provided for in the collective agreement.
The reason why we are doing a term here is that we have to have someone to deal with the competition appeal process, which is new in our collective agreement, but it is a term, because we do not know if this will be the appropriate staffing for it on a permanent basis. We have no way of knowing what kind of volume of appeals we will have. The Minister and Management Board deemed it prudent to approve a term, rather a permanent position in this area.
There is also funding provided for the direction of Labour Relations to attend the national conferences in this area, funding for the purchase of medical supplies for the first aid room, and optometrist fees for pre-employment annual inspections. The Labour Relations Branch is also responsible for the administration of the Video Display Terminals policy. There is funding for the usual telephone and other expenses here.
Mr. McLachlan: After telling us that the JES appeals were completed and the Government of Yukon contract has been successfully tabled, it seems rather ironic that the labour relations budget is up 61 percent. Is the YGEU Administration person paid for for a full year out of a government salary?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is asking for the other part of the Collective Agreement that is the portion of the full-time person of the Yukon governments employee union. That is covered in the next line. This line covers the provision in the Collective Agreement where the candidates for a competition who can appeal if they feel that there is a flaw or error in the process of competition not the conclusion of the competition.
It also covers the funding for the term position here for someone to deal with those appeals - the competition process, not JES. It is a term because we do not know if that will be needed on a full-time basis or if it will be adequate because we do not know anything about the volume of the appeals until we have some experience.
Mr. Phelps: Could we have a brief description of what the appeal would be? Does this mean that if a person applies for a competition, they can appeal the final decision of the competition board?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The appeal process, which came in to effect on April 1 of this year, ensures that any bargaining unit employee who is unsuccessful on a competition or a job that is covered by the bargaining unit above the entry level position and feels that the process flawed has a formal avenue of redress. The time frames are tight to minimize the potential delays that could result in an appeal and to ensure that the employee receives a quick response to their concerns.
There are certain procedures about the posting of jobs, about time periods, about qualifications, short listings and so forth. This is not like the federal appeal process, where a person can delay the final staffing of a position by an appeal process that might take a year, appealing the conclusions of the people who make the decision. A person can only appeal about whether or not the process was carried out as it was supposed to have been under our procedures.
Mr. Phelps: Presently, there would be no appeal over the adjudication of the panel of the most qualified person. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is no appeal of the adjudication on such an issue. Once it is appealed and a decision is made, there is no further appeal. The only thing that can happen is that the staffing action will be held until such time as the appeal is heard. Once it is heard and a decision is made, staffing action will take place.
Mr. Phelps: Is this process based on another jurisdiction or is it unique to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe this is a much more simple process than most of the jurisdictions we looked at. It is one that most resembles Saskatchewans, and we had people up here from that province to look at what we were going to do here and advise us on how to do it effectively.
On Labour Relations Administration
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The explanation I just gave a few minutes ago was about that.
Labour Relations Administration in the amount of $192,000 agreed to
On Yukon Government Employees Union/Public Service Alliance of Canada
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This line provides for professional adjudication services for adjudication of grievances and appeals as required under the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act, as well as the Yukon Public Staff Relation Board expenses. The expenses in this activity encompass the following areas: adjudication of grievances and appeals, the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board, the cost of negotiations. There are no funds allocated for this activity in this year, but that is the normal place it is found. In this year, we are paying $35,000 towards the cost of the full-time officer of the Yukon Government Employees Union, which is an arrangement similar to that which has been used by the teachers for some years. As well, it provides fees for the competition appeals arbitrators, and I just talked about the appeals process, which I was just describing.
Yukon Government Employees Union/Public Service Alliance of Canada in the amount of $110,000 agreed to
On Yukon Teachers Association
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is an activity that deals with the adjudication of grievances and appeals under the Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board and the expenses pertaining to staff relations matters.
Mr. McLachlan: Why is this line not under the Department of Education budget, where they handle their own teacher appeals?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is because we deal with the labour relations questions involving teachers.
Mr. McLachlan: To what level? I understood that teachers could appeal through the principal and through the regional superintendents and deputy ministers on their own labour problems.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: What we provide funding for is the staff relations board in Ottawa that deals with these matters. That is the ultimate court of appeal.
Yukon Teachers Association in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Managerial/Confidential Exclusion
Mr. McLachlan: What is at the level of managerial/confidential exclusion? Is it the director level and above who is not in the union?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If you will recall, when we were discussing the Public Service Commission Act amendments dealing with casuals, we had quite a long debate about who was on exclusion and who was not. That is the place to find the list of who is excluded. I do not believe there has been any substantial change in the last few years as to who is and who is not. It includes directors, as well as a lot of other people as well.
The money in this line is to deal with the legal expenses involved with negotiating separation agreement, or whatever, with people who are confidential or management exclusions.
Mr. McLachlan: Why was it $28,000 in 1987, and has gone way down to $5,000 and $5,000 in the next two years?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That would have been because there were actual costs or actual legal expenses in that year involving the separation of someone in this category. It was probably budgeted for less and came in at this as an actual.
Managerial/Confidential Exclusion in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Employee Assistance Program
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This covers the salary and fringe benefit costs for the permanent half-time coordinator of the Employee Assistance Program. The increase is largely due to economic increases. The funding for the Employee Assistance Program provides confidential assistance to employees of all levels who may be experiencing personal problems that affect their work and, and in order to ensure confidentiality and accessibility, the Yukon Family Services is retained as an agency outside the public service to provide the assessment and counselling and referral services to employees, including teachers and employees, both urban and rural. This provides for the Yukon Family Services fees, as well, and funding for training and promotional materials and workshops.
Employee Assistance Program in the amount of $76,000 agreed to
On Long Service Awards
Long Service Awards in the amount of $39,000 agreed to
Labour Relations in the amount of $427,000 agreed to
On Workers Compensation Payments
Mr. McLachlan: Even though the Minister has filed a Legislative Return on this, I still find it rather awkward that the Ministers of Finance, Justice and the Executive Council Office still have a line item in their budgets dealing with Workers Compensation. From a simple point of administration, why is it not more advantageous to have one department, one minister, and one team looking after the payment of settlement funds for Workers Compensation? I do not understand why we have it in three different ways.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope it is not a long forgotten mystery. I suspect there was a reason at the point it was decided to do this. If there is, I have forgotten it, but I will take the Members question under advisement. I think it is a good question, and I will take a look at whether it really should remain this way. I take it from the Members question that he understands the difference between the obligations under the old system that we had and the obligations under the current system, but I will take a look at the question as raised.
Mr. McLachlan: It seems we can simply code it all by an account number in and out and run it all through one system, one computer and one department manager.
In this regard, there was a recent death in Dawson City, for which the government must pay a compensation settlement. Fortunately, we do not have a lot of those. Prior to that one, when was the last time a settlement was made for a fatal accident to a government employee? Is there any recollection of that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Public Service Commissioner does not know off the top of his head. We would have to go back a number of years to check, but I will have that checking done and report back.
Mr. McLachlan: The fatal accident can be hard on the compensation fund. If we do not have a record loss in this area, how do we establish a premium? If we do not establish a premium high enough, then it hits the fund particularly hard when it does happen and thus, the argument for boiling it in with the master overall plan of private industry, which is more able to bear up under the blows when these things do happen.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We do not pay premiums. What we do is we pay the extra award. It is true that we budgeted a certain amount, and I think that in almost every year that I know of, they have not spent the full amount. The money cannot be assigned to another area. We are in a year, however, where, because of the fatality mentioned by the Member - and I pray that it will not be the case, but it is always possible that there could be another one in the course of the year when, as a consequence, we would over expend the budgeted amount. That would have to be addressed in the Supplementary Estimates.
Workers Compensation Payments in the amount of $307,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This line provides for the salary and benefit costs for seven full-time branch staff and one part-time auxiliary person. The increase is due to economic increases and to the fact that in the last year the directors position was vacant for about half the year.
Operations in the amount of $396,000 agreed to
On Classification Appeals
Classification Appeals in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
Compensation in the total amount of $456,000 agreed to
On Positive Employment Program
Mr. Johnston: Under the Positive Employment Program, I see that there has been a large increase. Will some of this money go to the outlying communities, such as my riding of Campbell, and to the people of Upper Liard, Ross River, and Teslin? If so, how do they go about getting one of these positions, especially so that they might work in their own home communities?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for the question. The main reason why there is an increase in this area is because of the change in the policy of the department, which is actually a government policy. There was a concern with the first group of trainees that they might be in positions that were - if not dead-end jobs - positions that would not lead to promotions and advancement in the public service. The trainees that we are now bringing in will be trained for positions at more senior levels, and will lead to positions where they can, it is hoped, become decision makers and role models for other aboriginal people, who may wish to enter the employ of the Government of Yukon, which of course is the biggest employer in the territory.
To date, we have only had two of these training positions for positions outside of Whitehorse. One of them was a conservation officer in Old Crow and the other was a social worker in Mayo. We had a recent competition for a corrections officer in Teslin, where seven out of the 12 applicants were native people from the area.
In that case, there were four people hired, two of whom were native. As I mentioned earlier, there are three positions now in the process of being recruited. There may be some people who are from the communities mentioned by the Member who may be eligible, but we have made an effort to get out to the communities and provide the information to people in those communities about how to get work with the Government of Yukon, how to apply and how to be considered. This program will be providing more activity and more information in assisting people in that area.
It is a source of modest satisfaction that, as a result of this program and also as a result of the signal sent by the program, the number of native people in the Yukon government service has risen from four percent, which is what we established it was when we first looked at this program to the point where it is 9.5 percent of the public service at this point. I think that is substantial progress.
Mr. McLachlan: Some of his answers are worse than the questions. They lead to a lot more is what I mean. Why is the Positive Employment Program employing 12 people making it 20 percent larger than the recruitment and training division, which is recruiting for the whole work-force of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: When a person is in a training position, they are paid for in this branch. Because there are people training for more senior positions now, the salary for those positions are higher; therefore the costs to the branch are higher.
Mr. McLachlan: That is the salaries. It does not quite answer the numbers question. Is the number of 12 those people who are employed in the PSC who administer the placing of the native people?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are nine trainees; three people who are employees of the branch; the three people who are employees of the branch are all terms; the training positions, I think, are still terms as well.
Mr. McLachlan: So the 12 we see here may be static for only one month unless those training positions last for a whole year. Is it not true that those things fluctuate up and down during the course of the year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are not talking about short-term training positions here. The training assignments may last for two years. They are not for one month or two months. Training positions are for normally one to two years. I think about half of the first six we had were for 24 months and the other half were for 12 months.
Mr. McLachlan: The Minister mentioned two positions outside of Whitehorse; is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is correct.
Mr. McLachlan: The Renewable Resources position in Dawson City and a social worker in Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The social worker in Mayo is training; the conservation officer in Old Crow is a graduate.
Mr. McLachlan: What was the status of the economic development officer in Ross River then?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is not part of this program. The people hired by this program are not the only native people hired by the government, but the people in these training programs are in the departments I previously mentioned.
Positive Employment Program in the amount of $531,000 agreed to
On Schedule A
On Public Service Commission
Public Service Commission in the amount of $4,022,000 agreed to
Chairman: We will now have a brief recess.
Chairman: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
On Department of Renewable Resources
Chairman: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Porter: In the opening remarks on the Department of Renewable Resources, I would like to highlight changes within the department since the last Operation and Maintenance Budget debate. At the outset, I would like to point out, for the assistance of the critic, a couple of corrections in the material that has been given. The departments organizational chart on page 224 in the budget book shows COPE reporting to the Agriculture Branch, when it should be reporting to Policy and Planning. On page 229, there is listed under expenditures for the Fish and Wildlife Branch an activity called Technical Planning. This title was changed a couple of years ago, and it is now known as Habitat Management and Research.
The Main Estimates for the Department of Renewable Resources call for $8,574,000 to be spent on this operation for 1988-89. This is a 14 percent increase from the spending forecast for the past fiscal year. Balancing this, hon. Members will note that about half of the increase is offset by increased recoveries. These have more than doubled because of contributions from federal government and other institutions for new or expanded programs.
One of the new programs is the area of land use planning. There have been negotiations for approximately seven years concerning this particular issue. It is a negotiation that has concluded in an agreement in the last year.
This government sees the land use planning agreement as a vital instrument for the wise management of resources. It will allow for rational, equitable planning and disbursement of land. It will also be an open and public process, something I think this government stated it likes all its departments to conduct its business on. Eight regional planning commissions will be set up with local involvement to prepare land use plans for the eight regions identified in the Yukon.
This budget provides $415,000 for land use planning. This has allowed the government to enter into a contribution agreement for an initial period of 2.3 years to implement the land use planning agreement. This money is fully recoverable from the federal government.
As a means of supporting and building a self-sufficient agricultural industry in the Yukon, we are proposing a nine percent increase in the budget for the Agriculture Branch. This increase will largely be devoted to speeding up the approval process for agricultural land and grazing leases to meet the increasing demand. An additional $15,000 has been proposed for management reviews on agricultural land, and another $5,000 for the evaluation of grazing leases.
The Wildlife Management Board is another instrument through which Yukoners can advise this government on policies regarding game and game management. This board replaces the Wildlife Advisory Committee and has been given some new duties and responsibilities as part of the change from committee to board status. As the Minister of Renewable Resources, I am committed to using this board as an effective voice for Yukoners in the development of policies and legislation regarding wildlife. I believe the recent ad in the newspaper indicates the kind of change of role this advisory body has undertaken.
Because this board will be more active than the former Wildlife Advisory Committee, an additional $20,000 has been approved in this budget to cover an increase related to meetings and related expenses of the board. This department has responsibilities under both the agreement with Ottawa and the NWT and under the international agreement on this contributed to its effective management. The department, however, has had no internal base funding with which to carry out this mandate; $42,000 has been allocated in this budget for this management task.
I would like to take some time to talk about the person year allocation for the Department of Renewable Resources. Over the past few years, this department has seen a significant growth in the task that is required to perform. Land claims, land use planning and preparation for the devolution of responsibilities from the federal government, all initiatives supported by Member of this House, have placed a particularly heavy burden on departmental staff.
These initiatives and responsibilities of the department have led to an increase of positions within the department. Hon. Members will note that there has been no increase in permanent, or what is called indeterminate person years, in the last year. There has been an increase of 12.3 person years in term positions. Roughly, half of these positions are slated for land use planning work and other new initiatives. The other half are positions that have been converted to term positions from contracts.
In the Parks, Resources and Regional Planning Branch, four contract positions have been converted to term positions for three years. Four new term positions for two years have been created for the implementation of the land use planning process. An eight month term position has also been eliminated for a total of 7.3 person years. In the Fish and Wildlife Branch, three technician positions that were on contract have now been converted to three year terms. Three new habitat positions were added last fall for a project that was being funded by ourselves and the Wildlife Habitat Canada. This represents a 1.5 increase from last year.
With regard to the implementation of the Inuvialuit final agreement, a person year for park planner authorized under the Capital Budget has been converted to an operation and maintenance term position for a park ranger on Herschel Island. This accounts for total increase of 12.3 term positions.
Those are the opening remarks surrounding the Operation and Maintenance Budget for the Department of Renewable Resources for the fiscal year 1988-89.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to thank the Minister for the legislative returns that he brought. However, they also brought a few more questions into focus. There is the question of the agreement between the University of BC and the Yukon government. It states here that the location of the study would be within the location of the Kluane Game Sanctuary. It states that the site is located near mile 1048, and it says that there is map attached. There is no map attached. I would be very interested in seeing it because in driving up there I noticed activity on the opposite side of the road. That is not the Kluane Game Sanctuary. Why was that map not attached to this document?
Hon. Mr. Porter: We will ask the page to bring us a copy.
Mr. Brewster: I also questioned collars being left on some of the small animals in the area. The Minister said that he would get back to me on that and he did not get back to me. I would like to quote a saying that a biologist told me, who works in those areas: It is surprising what cruelty occurs for the sake of science.
Has anyone checked whether these collars are being left on these small animals to fall off, or not?
Hon. Mr. Porter: With respect to the collars on wolves, the practice of the department is not to take those off. The reason is that there is usually a high rate of mortality with wolves and other animals, and that usually the studies have found that, within the first year of collaring, the animals do, in fact, end up being found dead.
Mr. Brewster: I have a little bit of a problem with this. I read about what they said in Alberta about them choking. The little white wolf that I talked about a year ago was in my yard again last year and still has the collar on. It is undoubtedly the same wolf because he or she went right back to the same place to see if she could see if she get something to eat again. Now you tell me that you have not collared any wolves since 1985. That means that that wolf has been running around with that collar on for three years. He or she was certainly not in the condition to die. It was quite active and came back around to check for more food. I am concerned that we leave these collars on and say that these animals are going to die. I think that is a very stupid attitude for a biologist to have.
Hon. Mr. Porter: We can check on the specific program that was conducted by the graduate student in Kluane to determine the fate of the animals that were, in fact, collared. I do not have the information related to that particular program.
Mr. Brewster: As an individual who likes animals, I am very concerned when a biologist makes a statement like that to me. I know that this happens. You can be very cruel to animals when scientifically studying them. For instance, we choked a horse when we were supposed to be snaring wolves. How the hell we did that, I do not know. That has never been explained to me.
Two wolves, the one that I saw and another one up at Kluane Lake, still have collars. I think that it is the responsibility of some of the people who are running around collaring these animals. When I look at the budget I am going to be asking an awful lot of questions, because you are collaring a lot more animals. Are you just walking out and leaving these animals?
We brought this up before. This is not the first time. In game zones seven to nine we asked if you were going to take them off. We got some answer about how I was dancing around. I am not dancing around, I am asking some simple questions about what you are doing. I can point out a Dall sheep that they took pictures of for years that was collared. He had run around with that collar all of his life. These collars do not always fall off. If they are not assured of that, then they should be picking up these animals and getting the collars off.
Hon. Mr. Porter: In the specifics of game zones seven and nine, regarding the grizzly collars, we attempted to remove those collars. I believe that we removed 9 out of 18, and we could not find the remainder of the animals that were collared. Either the animals were dead, the collars were not working, or else the animals had moved out of the area.
Mr. Brewster: The budget for chartering aircraft for collaring comes in over $500,000. We are now apparently running all over the Yukon collaring bear, moose, I guess every animal there is. We have no control over whether these are being picked up. We say we do not know. We found n9out of 18. We do not know where the others went; maybe they died. Somebody has to have some responsibility for what is going on here. It is quite apparent that the biologists have a field day going now with $500,000 to fly all over the Yukon. We have wolf management, game managment, caribou, moose, sheep, goat and bear. Somebody is going to have to take responsibility, and it is up to the Minister to be doing this.
Hon. Mr. Porter: In the work that is undertaken by Renewable Resources, there is always going to be a situation where we spend money on aircraft use. Primarily, that is the only way we can get into many of the remote areas of the Yukon. There will always be a history of the Department of Renewable Resources expending a great deal of capital on acquiring the use of helicopters and aircraft for the necessary studies undertaken. For example, in one particular area where, just to transport the fuel on one particular research project, - this is before we even start the studies - it cost the department $21,000 in aircraft flights. When you are in the middle of nowhere, it is very expensive, and it is the only way you can get the fuel in.
Mr. Brewster: I am not arguing that. I am arguing the point that you are not being responsible. You are collaring these animals and, apparently, when the program is over, you take the money and go somewhere else and leave these animals collared. I have already produced a letter, and I guess I should have tabled it, where they have actually proven these collars do choke animals. Nobody is getting excited, yet we go through these contracts and you are collaring animals all over the Yukon. I think somebody better take some responsibility to see to it that some of these collars are taken off of these animals.
Look at what has been going on with our animals in the last eight or ten years here. For example when the pipeline was going to go through, they went around and collared animals all over. Now, with all this money to run around and collar animals all over the place, nobody is making any provision to take some of these collars off, and do not tell me that they fall off, because I have already proven they do not.
Hon. Mr. Porter: Going back to the grizzly question and the information I gave earlier, 9 out of 18 were the wrong figures. In the spring of 1987, 11 of the 18 bears that were known to be collared were located. The remaining seven bears had either left the area or else the collars were no longer functioning.
Mr. Brewster: How many moose have been collared that you have not gotten the collars off of?
Hon. Mr. Porter: We do not have the detail on that particular question.
Mr. Brewster: Will the Minister get back to me with it?
Hon. Mr. Porter: Yes, I will ask the department to give us its numbers.
Mr. Brewster: How many sheep are collared? Will the Minister please get back with that?
Hon. Mr. Porter: I have no knowledge of any sheep that are collared. We will check on that question.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to go back to the map that was turned over to me. As I understand it, the Kluane Game Sanctuary is on the Alaska Highway so A and F are in the park. E, C and B are not. Three of these sites are completely out of the park. The department signed an agreement that says it is going to be responsible for this.
Hon. Mr. Porter: Unfortunately, the map that the Member has is not the correct one. We have sent the page out to get the map that is referred to in the agreement. We will have it shortly.
Mr. Brewster: They just sent it over to me. I will be very good about this even though I am having a little trouble. I asked a question in the Supplementary Estimates when the department changed the conservation officer around. Was there any difference in the amount of charges? The Minister told me that he did not think that there were many. I see now that there was 71 percent more. Occurrences show 11 percent more. Warnings show 43 percent more. It is quite apparent, although we fought like the devil to have the government put people there on the weekend, it must have paid off.
Hon. Mr. Porter: As a result of the staggered weekends, there was an 11 percent increase in occurrences. There was a 71 percent increase in charges and a 43 percent increase in warnings.
Mr. Brewster: It cost $110,000 for the Native Harvest Study and to get the questionnaires from the licensed hunters. The Minister projected $12,000, but only $4,000 was spent. Then he says there is a little more for envelopes and other things, but it is still well below $12,000. Yet, the other one cost $110,000. Can the Minister explain the large difference between those two?
Hon. Mr. Porter: With respect to the hunter questionnaire process, it has been refined over the years, and it is all computerized. The questionnaires are sent out regularly. Usually hunters in the Yukon are regular hunters, and they receive this on a regular basis. They comply with it. This year is the first year in the history of the Yukon the Native Harvest Study has ever been done by the Government of Yukon. In this instance, we went into six communities and hired individuals in those communities and did house-to-house interviews with the hunters of those communities. It was not simply a mail-out type program. We had to hire people to be able to go in and try to obtain that information. We have to be able to obtain that kind of information if, in the long term, we are going to be able to manage game in the Yukon efficiently.
Mr. Brewster: I agree with that. How successful was that at a cost of $110,000?
Hon. Mr. Porter: We felt the program was a success. We are going to continue with it and do the additional seven bands in the Yukon in the future.
Mr. Brewster: When will those studies be completed, so we can actually see how many moose and caribou are being killed in the Yukon, not just by the licensed hunters?
Hon. Mr. Porter: We do not have a full report. We would like to do all the communities in the Yukon. We have only done six. A draft report has been prepared, and it is being discussed within the department at this particular time.
Mr. Brewster: As I look at this map, you still have two study areas outside the Kluane Game Sanctuary, which means that nobody is living up to the contract you signed that you were going to police and look after so well.
Hon. Mr. Porter: The contract only applies to the reserve indicated on the map.
Mr. Brewster: Could I get that answer repeated, please? I did not hear.
Hon. Mr. Porter: The contract only applies to the reserve that is indicated on the map.
Mr. Brewster: In other words, you are telling me that they are illegally doing it on the other side of the road?
Hon. Mr. Porter: The map is very clear. It shows the Christmas Creek study area in the left hand corner, and the dotted rectangular shape is the study area that is covered by the contract.
In view of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 50.
I move that the Speaker do now resume the chair.
Chairman: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Chairman of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Webster: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 50, Second Appropriation Act, 1988-89, and directed me to report progress on the same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chairman of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 11, 1988:
O&M Estimates - Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business, applications under Yukon Home Heating Oil Subsidy Program (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 408
O&M Estimates - Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business, success of Geddes Resources underground exploration (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 406
Hyland Forest Products, price of products (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 35
Purchase of Polar Industries under Special ARDA (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 313
Territorial Agents, bank deposit pattern (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 447
Yukon Liquor Corporation, office renovations (Kimmerly)
Oral, Hansard, p. 394
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 11, 1988:
Yukon Fisheries Protection Authorization, Government of Canada, April, 1988, Applicable to Placer Mines in the Yukon Territory (Penikett)
The following Documents were tabled May 11, 1988:
Moving expenses paid by Yukon government, 1987-88 (Penikett)
Dental Plan Fact Sheet (Penikett)
Management Board Directive #15-84 regarding interviews and relocation expenses (Penikett)