Wednesday, March 15 - 1:30 p.m.
Clerk: It is my duty pursuant to the provisions of Section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: At this time I will call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors?
Returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling the following: Facility Program and Feasibility Study, Traffic Assessment Report, Facility Programing Feasibility Study to accommodate the Departments of Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services, and Occupant Feasibility Study for Old College. These are the studies relating to the future use of the old Yukon College.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the following documents: the Business Development Advisory Board Annual Report, 1987-88.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Taxation, agricultural land
Mr. Phelps: The Yukon Livestock and Agricultural Association, which we all know represents farmers throughout the Yukon, is going to have its annual symposium this weekend in Whitehorse. One of the concerns that members of that association currently have is to do with the recent increase in property taxes faced by the majority of farmers in Yukon due to the recent jump in assessed values of land and improvements on farmland. That jump is quite remarkable for those farms located in Hootalinqua North. My question of the appropriate Minister is: does the government have plans to alleviate this problem, namely the large tax increases on farmlands and improvements being faced by these farmers?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As Minister of Finance, I will just briefly indicate what the government has been doing with respect to the matter the Member has mentioned. Firstly, as the Member knows, an increase in the assessment does not necessarily mean an increase in taxes. It is up to the taxing authority, whether it be municipal or territorial, to determine whether or not a resultant tax increase is levied as a result of an increase in assessments.
With respect to the issue of taxing properties outside of municipal boundaries, the territorial government is reviewing the situation with respect to taxes. As I understand it, though I will not speak for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and the Minister of Renewable Resources, the issue of taxation of agricultural property has generally come up as a matter of discussion with respect to the agricultural policy and is very current.
Mr. Phelps: Is the government looking at the treatment of farmland improvement in the provinces, which, as I understand it, is almost universally given special tax breaks or special tax assessments? Are the provincial jurisdictions being looked at in regard to forming a policy of taxation for farmland and improvements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The situations existing in other provinces where farmland and farm improvements are business related to the activity of farming have and are being analyzed by the Departments of Community and Transportation Services, Renewable Resources and Finance to determine whether or not it is appropriate for our jurisdiction. Certainly the topic is very current.
Mr. Phelps: Is there any interim policy being arranged so that, until a more global policy is finally agreed upon by this government, there will be some way of meeting the needs of the farmers hit by this huge tax increase due to the assessment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am sure the Member knows the territorial government reduced its tax rate as a result of the increased assessment for all properties within its taxing jurisdiction. Clearly, any increase in assessments by themselves would not have an unusual impact on property owners for areas outside municipalities. Certainly, the issue of taxation involves many different elements in an agricultural policy. There are many interrelated elements in the agricultural policy that will be affected by the issue of taxation. The Departments of Community and Transportation Services and Renewable Resources are analyzing those elements to try to provide for a taxation system that meets the requirements of particular industries, and especially agriculture, within the agricultural policy.
Question re: Taxation, agricultural land
Mr. Phelps: I thank the Minister for his answers.
I would like to know more specifically if the government is looking at ways to decrease the taxes that are going to be realized from farms and improvements on farms in order to encourage economic diversification and encourage the farming industry. Is that what he is saying? There is going to be a special treatment of farms and farm improvements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think it would be premature at this point to anticipate the results of the analysis done in other jurisdictions. I am not familiar with the details of that analysis, but I do know that it is current, and I do know it is part of the agricultural policy development. I reiterate that, with respect to assessments themselves, there is no interrelating factor between the increase in assessments and the tax actually paid outside the municipalities, because the Yukon government did compensate for the increased assessment.
Mr. Phelps: What the Minister is saying is not clear, because many of the farms affected had their assessment go up by 200 and 300 percent. Is the Minister saying that in those cases the tax rate has been reduced to one-third of what it was, where the increase was 100 percent greater, and that that is all they are going to do to compensate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are a number of things that can increase a persons taxes so, firstly, an increase in assessment, if it is not offset by a tax rate decrease, can increase taxes. An increase in improvements, also, can increase taxes. So if a farm, in the last year, increased the value of its improvements dramatically, then clearly those improvements would result in an increase in taxes.
If the Member is asking that, given the nature of the agricultural industry in the Yukon, should the farming industry receive preferential tax treatment over and above that which other commercial enterprises receive, then what I am saying is that that particular matter is being reviewed within the context of the agricultural land policy and is very current. The Member did ask whether or not we were considering the experiences of other jurisdictions and I indicated that we were. What I am saying to him, though, is that, with respect to that one narrow point that he is asking about, we have not yet reached a conclusion, and it would be premature for me to anticipate it before Cabinet approval.
Mr. Phelps: Would the Minister not agree that it really goes against the policy of economic diversification and encouraging improvements to land for farming to tax all the improvements in the regular way that improvements are taxed for residential owners and other businesses? Would he not agree with that point, that it is really a step backward to penalize people for developing their farms through imposing high taxes on farm improvements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for his representation with respect to suggesting that there should be preferential tax treatment for agricultural activities beyond what is currently received for other commercial activities. All the elements of the equation will be drawn into consideration during the review of the agricultural policy, and the agricultural land policy specifically, but at this time, as the Member knows, the status quo is that there is not that specified preferential tax treatment for agricultural improvements. That is the way it has been from the beginning. We are reviewing the situation now, and when the Ministers of Community and Transportation Services and Renewable Resources are prepared to release the policy, then we will be in a better position to indicate what our position is.
Question re: Taxation, agricultural land
Mr. Phelps: Could the appropriate Minister advise me when we can expect to see a policy released dealing with preferential tax treatment for genuine bona fide farmers in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to the issue of the property taxation that the Member mentions, it is being developed in the context of the agricultural policy and I would expect the agricultural policy to be out within a matter of months. I will have to check on that matter for the Member.
Mr. Phelps: Is the government working in close consultation with the industry, and primarily the Yukon Livestock and Agricultural Association, in developing a policy regarding preferential property tax treatment?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The policy is currently in a draft stage, being reviewed in conjunction with Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services, the departments responsible. The study is also entwined in the review of the policy. The Minister of Finance is quite correct in that the policy should be coming forward within months. I hope to be in a position with my colleague to present it to the agricultural community and to proceed with a public consultation process by this summer.
Question re: Territorial Court judges
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Minister of Justice regarding the Territorial Court judges. There are delays, backlogs and general breakdowns within the judicial system because the territory is without two regular judges. I understand that trials are not being held as early as they could be and as a result the public is not being served well, particularly in the communities, which rely on the circuit courts.
Are there some actions or decisions that the Minister could take immediately to indicate to people that she is going to be addressing the issue and that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel and that something will be done immediately?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I indicated to the Member yesterday that I was taking action through the Judicial Council. We will be discussing the issue of the judges that are needed here in the Yukon. There has been ongoing discussion between my officials and members of the Judicial Council. I am hoping to be able to sit down sometime early next week to talk about that very thing. In the meantime, there are certain periods of time where deputy judges will readily come to the Yukon to sit and that time is now which would relieve some of those backlogs. I also understand that the communities are being better served than Whitehorse. We are working on it.
Mrs. Firth: That does not resolve the issue. The issue will be ongoing.
There are some expectations of this Minister and perhaps she can consider my suggestions. Can the Minister call the chairman of the Judicial Council to meet instead of sending correspondence through secretaries to secretaries? Can the Minister call him and ask to meet as soon as possible? That would give an indication of immediate action. Could she not readvertise the position to get things rolling? Can the Minister not say yes to those things to indicate to the public that something will happen?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I have definitely picked up the telephone, and I have definitely spoken with the chairperson, and I have asked for a meeting, and a meeting has been set up.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us when the meeting is? I asked her yesterday and it had not been arranged. It is obviously a new development. Could she tell us when the meeting is arranged for?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: On Friday morning.
Question re: Territorial Court judges
Mrs. Firth: Obviously raising the questions has gotten some action.
The Minister raised an interesting point today about the deputy judges coming into the territory. I understand they have to leave their own jurisdictions and we pay the costs for them to travel to and from the Yukon, and we provide furnished accommodation and pay their expenses. There are also extra costs incurred in schedule cases through overtime for staff and so on.
Can the Minister tell us how much it is costing us over and above what it should be to accommodate the system?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: First, I would like to let the Member know that actions were taken not because the matter was brought up in the House but because they are a priority with me.
I believe the figure we have up to date for hiring a deputy judge is in the area of $169,000.
Mrs. Firth: Is the figure that the Minister has just given us a total figure including staff times? How does that figure compare to what we would have paid had we not required these additional services?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I would have to bring that specific information back to the House. I am not sure if this is the appropriate time to ask for it. We do have the figures and I will certainly make them available when I can.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to give the Minister notice that we will want that information before we begin the debate on the Main Estimates for Justice. I would like some indication of an accounting taken into consideration regarding the additional hours and overtime it has taken staff to prepare for the courts when the deputy judges have been coming.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I can do that.
Question re: Extended care facility, Whitehorse
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources with respect to an extended care facility.
Yesterday the Minister said that a $6 million facility will have a completed design cost of over $600,000 and that $648,000 was contemplated in the 1989-90 budget. What do we have to show for the money that we have already spent?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure we have some preliminary design work.
Mr. Nordling: Looking through the budget since 1985, it looks to me like we have spent well over $200,000, and have budgeted another $648,000.
Will the Minister table the studies and design work that have been done so far?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know if that can be done, but I would say that, if the Member knows a competent architect who would completely design a $6 million building for $200,000, I would welcome hearing about such a person. I will take the question under advisement as to what materials are available and what can be made available.
Mr. Nordling: What is the projected completion date for the facility?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That depends on when there is a decision about building the facility. No firm decision has been made by this government yet about a commitment to either the capital or the operating costs of that facility. We want to take a look at the final estimate on the construction costs and, when we have the design stage done, we will also want to take into account whether a federal decision comes down about a new hospital. All that will help provide the context for a decision about timing.
Question re: Extended care facility in Whitehorse
Mr. Nordling: Yesterday, the Minister spoke of the significant decision in terms of the capital costs and the costs of O&M. Again, he has mentioned it. Is the Minister saying we may not have a facility at all, depending on the results of this expenditure of $648,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the more accurate way to phrase the question is that we do not yet know when we will make the decision, and we will have to make the decision in the context, as I think we are constantly and appropriately reminded in this House, not only in terms of the capital costs but, also, the operating costs.
Mr. Nordling: I will be interested in finding out what has been done. I understood that had been taken into account when we started. Is the Minister saying we are back to 1985 in deciding whether or not we will even have an extended care facility?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, we are in 1989, and we are discussing when we are going to have the facility.
Mr. Nordling: What is the projected starting date for the construction of the facility? We do not know when it will be complete; we do not now know how much it will cost, or how much the O&M will be on it. I am worried about this facility. People in my riding and the rest of the territory have been looking forward to this government going ahead with an extended care facility since 1985. I would like a commitment from the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: You are going to get a commitment that we are going to look at the question very carefully. We are committed to seeing that facility built. Exactly when will depend on the capital planning decisions that we have to make. This year in the Capital Budget, we have committed $648,000 to do the design work, as is proper in such a project. Once we have the design work, we will face a decision about the construction.
That decision will be done in the context of a decision from the federal government, a much more urgent decision, about whether there is going to be a new hospital built here. It will be made in the context of the actual capital costs, which will be more precisely known at the end of the design period, and it will be done in the context of a decision about where we are going to obtain the $2 million to operate the said facility from.
Question re: Extended care facility in Watson Lake
Mr. Devries: There is also a need for an extended care facility in Watson Lake. When a rural community loses its elders, it also loses touch with its past. I am asking the Minister if he will commit this government to building such an extended care facility in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I apologize for hesitating a moment, because I thought that was a topic that was set for debate today, which would have made the question out of order, but I understand the proposed debate has been postponed.
As I am sure the Member knows, the subject of the need for an extended care facility in Watson Lake has been addressed in the recent facilities study in the community. We have recognized the need for such improvements there. The capital cost has been roughly estimated. We are going to consult with local authorities there, including the town council and the band. Of course, since the facility would be federally operated, we will have to negotiate with them about the money in connection with it. I would say, in anticipation of the text of the Members motion, that he had requested a report on the feasibility study within 12 months, and I would indicate to him now that there will be no problem in accommodating that request.
Question re: Old Yukon College renovations
Mr. Lang: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services, and it has to do with the renovations of the old Yukon College. What is going to happen to the old Yukon College has been an ongoing issue, as the Minister knows from in his previous life, that he does not like to refer to now that he is a Minister. There were figures as high as $13,000,000 and $8,000,000, and then we had an announcement on January 6, 1989 about an estimation of $6,000,000 in an article in the Whitehorse Star. Later on in that same article, it said that $5,500,000 was going to be the cost. Could the Minister inform the House exactly how much the renovations are going to cost for the old Yukon College?
Deputy Speakers Ruling re MPP No. 1
Deputy Speaker: Order please. It would appear to the Chair that the Motion for the Production of Papers No. 1 has been satisfied by the documents tabled earlier today and the Chair will therefore order the motion to be withdrawn from the Order Paper, so Mr. Langs question is in order.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In my anticipation that the motion was coming for debate, I would request the Member repeat his question.
Mr. Lang: In deference to the Minister being new, I will try to do this as slowly as I possibly can and as loudly as I possibly can.
Over the past year, the question of whether or not the old Yukon College should be renovated has been a topic of discussion inside and outside the Legislature. We had forecasts as high as $13,000,000 with some of the information that was provided here today and as low as $8,000,000. Then, out of the clear blue, the former Minister, who is going to take up organic farming on Vancouver Island, announced to the public that the renovations were only going to cost $6,000,000, and it was a real bargain for the people of the territory. In the article that we received, the former Minister said that it was going to cost $6,000,000 to renovate the old Yukon College. Later on in the same article it says it was going to cost $5,500,000. Could the Minister inform this House and the general public exactly how much money the renovations of the old Yukon College are going to cost?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Member can appreciate, the subject of the old Yukon College was indeed a matter of considerable public debate and considerable work by the previous Minister. The question has also been flagged by the Member for Riverdale South in the Estimates, and I have considerable information to provide the Members during discussion of the Estimates regarding costs related to the old Yukon College.
Mr. Lang: I either got up really early this morning or else the Minister is not awake. I asked the question of how much it was going to cost. Presently, contracts are being tendered for that particular project. The Minister says he has the information; surely he can confirm the figures here. Is it $5.5 million or $6 million for the renovations that are presently underway?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If that is all the Member is asking, I can certainly confirm for him that, to my knowledge, the latest figure for renovations is indeed $5.5 million.
Mr. Lang: A decision has been made to put the Child Development Centre into a government building. Were there any further studies done, over and above the ones tabled today, respecting the particular uses of that facility, because the Child Development Centre is not mentioned in any of these documents.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would expect that there may be some internal analyses done further to those studies, but those are all the studies that are available relating to future use.
Question re: Old Yukon College renovations
Mr. Lang: Going along with the openness of the government and the fact that it is prepared to make information available to the public, would he table those internal analyses for perusal by the Legislature, and would he make them available to us when we discuss this in the line items in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take the representation of the Member as notice, and I will be quite pleased to speak further on the subject in Estimates.
Mr. Lang: What is he telling us? Is he going to provide us with the information that I have asked for?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have said to the Member that I take his representation as notice.
Question re: Information, released to the public
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice regarding another issue within her area of responsibility. The Auditor-General has recommended to this government regularly that information should be provided to the public on a timely basis.
Can the Minister tell us why the sessional volumes of bills that were passed and assented to after December 31, back as far as December 31, 1987, have not been provided? We do not have the rest of the 1987 session or the 1988 spring session.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I would have to bring that information back to the House.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate if the Minister would do that because we have a concern for the public and the information that is available to the public. For example, the Minister of Health made an announcement prior to the election about an endowment fund and people who were trying to find out how the endowment fund is going to work had to refer to
Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Could the Member please get to the question?
Mrs. Firth: Yes, I will. They had to refer to the College Act, which is not available. If the Minister could tell us when the sessional volumes would be made available, we would appreciate it.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I will do that.
Question re: Anaheim Trade and Travel Show
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism regarding the Anaheim Trade and Travel Show that is held every year in Anaheim, California.
I understand that the Government of the Yukon sends a delegation to that trade show annually. The trade show runs for nine days. For the Ministers information, in 1988, the Yukon delegation had no brochures for the first four days of the show. They were not shipped early enough, and they got caught in the Christmas rush so all they could hand out were Yukon smiles. In this last year, the trade show was again held in Anaheim, California and the government did not have the proper Customs documentation on the brochures and the brochures, for a Saturday trade show, arrived on the following Tuesday after some mad scrambling through Customs to get the proper documentation. I would like to ask the Minister what steps are being taken to ensure that, when we attend these very important trade shows in the south, our brochures arrive there on the very first day of the trade show instead of four days after it begins.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not know precisely what steps will be taken to ensure we do not get ourselves in the same predicament, but I will get back to the Member as to what measures the department is planning in order to avoid that embarrassing situation again.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the Minister would entertain a constructive suggestion. When the delegation leaves the Yukon and goes down to the trade show, they could take eight or 10 extra pieces of baggage, which would include the brochures, with the proper Customs work done in Whitehorse before they leave. I think that if they arrived at the trade show with the brochures, that would be much more successful. I wonder if the Minister could take that advice and see if that could possibly be done?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will certainly take that suggestion to my department to see if that is possible.
Question re: Chief boiler inspector
Mr. Lang: I have a question to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. It has to do with the hiring of the position of the chief boiler inspector. On December 21, 1988, I wrote a letter to the then Minister of Community and Transportation Services asking whether or not it was the intention of the government to try to hire locally and whether or not it was going to be only advertised locally. The response I received at that time from the then Minister of Community and Transportation Services, Piers McDonald, was that it is the intention of the government to advertise only in the Yukon this position. Could the Minister of Community and Transportation Services inform this House why we are now apparently going to be advertising for this position outside of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is my understanding that the candidates who applied for the position were not eligible under the qualifications required for the position. The position was readvertised and is being readvertised both in and outside Yukon.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister aware that the one qualification that the individuals lack who have the academic qualifications and live in Yukon is that they do not have the full two years experience in applying the codes and standards as a boiler inspector. Subsequently, no one locally would be able to meet it because they have been working in other facets of the field as well as in this area. Could the Minister look at this required qualification to see if it could be amended, or perhaps even use the method of underfill, in order that some of the local applicants might be able to meet the rest of the necessary qualifications for this position?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take the Members representation seriously. I would caution that the position is chief boiler inspector, which is a very serious legislatively-authorized position. We will certainly look at it as the Member requests.
Question re: Skidoo insurance in Old Crow
Mr. Brewster: On January 9, 1989, the people of Old Crow sent a petition to the previous Justice Minister requesting that the government change the requirement for skidoo owners in Old Crow to purchase insurance. Since this requirement for insurance on skidoos imposes a heavy financial burden on the people of Old Crow and is not in keeping with their lifestyle, will the Minister of Justice see to it that this requirement is changed?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I understood that the former Minister had made some suggestions in regard to the possibility of that being changed. I would have to find out a little bit more about what is included but, certainly, there was a concern up there and we will be looking at the matter.
Mr. Brewster: Apparently this Minister has not responded to it and is not sure if the other Minister has responded to it. Would the Minister check this and table any documents that have been sent to the people in Old Crow?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: Yes, I will.
Mr. Brewster: Will the Minister undertake to solicit the support of the Member for Old Crow for this petition?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The Member for Old Crow has already lobbied us on behalf of her constituents in regard to that issue.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the House Leaders, I would request unanimous consent for the motions to be called in the following order. Under Motions Other than Government Motions, Item 8, Motion No. 13; Item 5, Motion No. 10; Item 13, Motion No. 18; Item 7, Motion No. 12; and Item 10, Motion No. 15.
Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 13
Deputy Clerk: Item 8, standing in the name of Mr. Nordling.
Deputy Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item 8?
Mr. Nordling: Yes, Madam Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Porter Creek West
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should take the lead role in locating and collecting all PCBs and hazardous chemical wastes in Yukon and relocating them away from heavily populated areas.
Mr. Nordling: The issue of hazardous chemical wastes and PCBs in the territory has received considerable attention in the past few months and, especially, since October of 1988. The issue also received a lot of attention, especially in my riding, during the 1989 election campaign.
I brought the motion forward today in order to give the direction of the Legislature to the Government of Yukon.
I am pleased that we have a new Minister of Community and Transportation Services and a new Minister of Renewable Resources. I was very pleased to hear in the Throne Speech, given just the other day, that the Minister of Renewable Resources will move quickly to put in place a hazardous wastes program. The safe collection, transportation, storage and disposal of these products is essential to protect the public.
With that statement, perhaps the motion is not really needed. I expect we will hear from the other side shortly.
What I would like to see is the political will necessary from the government side political will that we have not seen to date. I hope that the government side will not stand up in speaking to this motion and blame the federal government or assign all the responsibility in dealing with hazardous waste in the Yukon territory to the federal government, or make a speech that a former Conservative government did not do anything about it.
For the information of the other side, the issue that I am most interested in, the collecting and storage of hazardous chemical waste and PCBs, really only came to light in July of 1985 after the present government took office. The concern was brought to light in July of 1985 by Environment Canada which inspected the concrete bunker at the old grader station and found it to be unsuitable as a storage area, and also inadequate in terms of its size.
From that point, the process took over without a whole lot of action. By July of 1986, a committee had been formed called the Hazardous Waste Storage and Disposal Committee. That committee met on a fairly regular basis and had representatives from different levels of government, but as I have said previously, not a lot was accomplished. I blame it on the lack of political will.
In 1987 the Department of Renewable Resources undertook to bring a submission to Cabinet in the hope that there would be legislation to deal with hazardous wastes in the territory. In 1987 designs for storage facilities were looked at that would cost in the neighbourhood of $200,000. It seemed that we were making progress at that time, but it is now 1989 and not much else has been done.
In late 1987, I believe, and in 1988 Environment Canada did dispose of virtually all the hazardous waste chemicals in the territory, by shipping some of them to Ontario for disposal. Virtually the only thing left by July 1988 were the PCBs. There was a problem with the disposal of PCBs because there was not a place to dispose of them. It was found it would be at least three to five years before Alberta may take our PCBs for disposal.
What happened is that we have reached 1989, there has been another election held, we still have no legislation, and we still have not found a storage site nor have we begun building the storage facility.
This government has made an issue in fact supported by this side that we should be more independent than we are of the federal government. I would like to see this Legislature support this motion, show a little less dependence on the federal government, and take the lead role in locating PCBs and other hazardous chemical wastes in the Yukon and in relocating them in an area that is not heavily populated.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I agree with the Member that there has been a considerable amount of attention in recent months with respect to the disposal of hazardous chemical wastes. I would also agree that this government has taken a lead role. I would also agree that, indeed, the previous government did not do very much.
The disagreement I take with the Member is that there was a lack of political will to address the issue. As previously mentioned, there were considerable attempts to locate a site and considerable controversy. The Member knows that the Kulan Subdivision site was rejected. A site on the Whitehorse Copper access road was rejected. The Member also knows that this government has made a firm commitment toward addressing the serious problem facing us in the Yukon, and facing municipalities and communities across the country, in the disposal of PCBs and chemical wastes.
The approach this government has taken to not only deal with the hazardous waste produced by itself within various government branches but to address the more global problem of dealing with hazardous waste from other sources, is indeed taking a lead role. That is what this government has undertaken to do. The disposal of hazardous waste requires a seriously thought out program to completely deal with the problem.
In the first instance, we have to understand and define the problem facing us. We have, for example, had an intergovernmental municipal/territorial/federal committee that has been assessing the seriousness of the problem within and beyond government. There is an attempt to assess the quantity. We have done an inventory of PCBs that are held by various agencies, in conjunction with Environment Canada. There has been a study of hazardous waste generated by the Whitehorse General Hospital. There is a need to determine all of the wastes that are generated by various federal agencies, YTG, the private sector and household waste generated domestically.
Complicating the approach to the problem is the need to set up a safe system for the collection and transportation of those materials to any storage site that is selected. That regulatory mechanism has already been set up by the previous Minister of Community and Transportation Services through the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.
Once the knowledge is gained of the extent of the problem, a storage site will indeed have to be selected and constructed. I am sure the Members are aware that we have shown a lead role by direct budgetary commitment to the design and construction of such a facility.
The Members are aware of the problems relating to that. Some preliminary work on this has already been done, but any new facility will have to be able to handle Yukon-wide wastes. We have to come to terms with the location and deal with the not in my backyard syndrome. It is something that is facing us.
We have to provide the appropriate legislation and regulations that will govern standards relating to chemical discharge. Once we have the design criteria determined, we can actually lay out the site, when it may be chosen. I understand from my officials that we have identified 10 to 12 potential sites. Some of these are being examined closely. A number have been rejected. It is in a stage of progress.
I believe that it is going to be necessary to ensure that all levels of government and private businesses involved have a place to adequately store chemicals that are used. At the same time, we have to ensure that Yukoners are not only protected from hazardous wastes, but can be helped in the event of any emergency emanating from the handling of hazardous wastes.
There has been considerable cooperation on this among the territorial, federal and municipal authorities.
The Member mentioned the hazardous waste and storage disposal committee, which has met a number of times. The City of Whitehorse is involved, as well as federal departments, on the matter of hazardous wastes. I can give reassurance to the Member that I support the motion and it does provide direction in support of the steps being taken by the government.
Mr. Phelps: It would seem that this is going to be a motion that will be unanimously supported by all Members in the House. I am very pleased to see that that looks like it will come to pass. I am interested in the wording of the motion that is being supported. I gather, in supporting the motion, that Members opposite are saying that the hazardous wastes and PCBs will be located away from heavily populated areas, thus predetermining, in part at least, the kind of site that will be selected in the future.
A lot of political games get played by politicians, and there seems to be a predisposition on the part of the side opposite to attempt to paint the picture of Yukon as a place where their party was the first and only party to ever be concerned about the environment. That is not true, of course. The picture being painted is a false picture, and the Member for Mayo knows that.
The facts are that the previous PC government administration, prior to 1985, prepared a pesticide control act, an environmental protection act, a land use planning act, and were taking the initial steps, in cooperation with the federal government, in developing a Yukon conservation strategy. It was the PC government, in cooperation with COPE and the negotiations of COPE, that was instrumental in creating the first territorial park on Herschel Island. It was the PC government that enacted the Territorial Parks Act. The land use planning policy of the previous PC government was introduced and tabled in the Legislature in 1982.
The previous administration, the PC government, worked closely on negotiations on the land claims, land use planning and environmental screening and review processes which were included in land claims agreements. It worked closely with native groups and the federal government in taking the initial steps to create the Porcupine Caribou herd management regime that we now have protecting the Porcupine Caribou herd in Yukon.
All those things were done or were in process and now the government has stepped in and done very little in terms of action. They have talked a lot. Talk is cheap, but we did not see legislation. We did not see practical steps take place that were new initiatives emanating from that government. Those are the facts.
It is not an attempt to really try to take more credit than is due for the previous PC government but I think that people should bear in mind that all of these policies were in place. all of these agreements were negotiated and agreed upon and initialed and approved by Cabinet. These things happened I see a twinkle in the Government Leaders eye, I am not sure why. Perhaps he is agreeing that he has been caught out. These are documents of which I have copies. They are initialed and dated. They are there.
The Government Leader says read debates. I would rather read the actual documents and agreements that were put in place under the instructions of the government concrete steps, not rhetoric. That is all we are asking for right now.
The government is trying desperately to play catch-up to find out what kind of damage is being sustained by the environment, for example, what pollutants are in the Yukon River. Once they find out the level of pollution and appreciate the scope of the problem they will be able to finally, belatedly, come forward with some solutions. We would welcome that. They have our wholehearted support in their new-found zest to clean up and protect the environment. In fact, let me be the first to compliment them on their change of heart and their actual willingness to not just simply talk, talk, talk, but actually roll up their sleeves and do some work for a change.
I will be very interested to hear from the side opposite in the course of this debate just what locations are being contemplated by the government. We have been chastised, I gather, by the new Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the not in my backyard syndrome. That makes me believe that we can anticipate the storage site for PCBs to be located within the boundaries of the City of Faro. I think that is very noble of the Minister to take that lead role and propose that the economy of his fair city be diversified in this way. We certainly would support that. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to particularly thank the Member for Hootalinqua for his final remarks, as I know that the Member for Faro was already writing campaign literature for the next election, and it was topped off beautifully by the Members remarks about PCB storage sites in Faro.
I am particularly surprised by the motion, firstly, because I felt that the government had taken a very significant lead in the last few years in responding to the need for the storage and handling of PCBs and hazardous wastes in the territory. In fact, given the previous governments record, which I will discuss briefly, the remarkable difference between government activity between 1982 and 1985, with which I have some familiarity on the opposition benches, and in 1985 to 1988, of which I have some experience on the government side, would have suggested to Members that it was already very obvious that this government had taken a very significant lead and was moving far in advance of the activity that the previous government had taken.
The Member who sponsored the motion would like to leave us with the impression that attention to this issue has only taken place during the last 18 months, when the issue became very visibly public. I draw Members attention back to the days when the plans for the government to handle PCBs and hazardous wastes became public and to the rather vicious reaction from Members on the opposite side none of whom wanted anything to do with PCBs or hazardous wastes storage sites in their districts. That is what really created, or incited, the rather extreme public debate that has occurred in recent months. However, the government had reacted, as the Member for Porter Creek West indicated, in 1985, and for Members information, that was the very beginning of our first term. We reacted then to the need for the safe handling of PCBs and hazardous wastes.
The Member for Hootalinqua made a reference to games being played by politicians, and he made it in reference to something he thought the government side had done in the last few years, in trying to express its rightful leadership as the ones who are expressing the most concern about the handling and storage of PCBs and hazardous wastes. He cited the governments record of 1982-85 as being proof perfect that the government of the day was not only seized of the question but was taking significant action to handle PCBs and hazardous wastes.
One reference that the Member cited was to the pesticide control act, which of course never came to life. This was, I am sure, one of the previous policies in place and approved and cited by the Member, of which I could find no trace when I was first looking into the matter. He also cited the cooperative approach the previous government had with COPE, which is a little more than just incredible when you consider the debates in the Legislature and the rather vociferous remarks made by the Member for Porter Creek East, amongst others, about not only the COPE agreement, but about the COPE organization itself. The Member cited the land use planning act, which I do not recall as being the epitome of joint, cooperative action between federal and territorial agencies, meant to resolve issues such as the one before us, the handling of hazardous wastes. In fact, it was neither done cooperatively with the federal government, nor did it have anything to do specifically with the handling of hazardous wastes.
The Land Use Planning Act that was tabled in this Legislature between 1982 and 1985 was passed in this Legislature, and not mistaken by anyone as an act put in place to prevent the federal government from trying to establish its own role in land use planning in the territory. It was not worked out cooperatively with the federal government, and it did not address the issues of hazardous waste and PCB storage.
The references to the previous governments record as being proof perfect of their commitment to responsibly handle hazardous wastes and PCBs stands for itself. There was no record whatsoever. The only thing the Member mentioned that were even remotely germane to the issue, the pesticide control act, was never seen by anyone. It certainly was not approved by the Legislature, and never saw the light of day here.
If we want to be charitable about this, we have to take the Member for Hootalinquas word for it that the government was at least interested in planning to do everything, but actually did not get around to it. In the Members own words, Words are cheap.
Both Members have made reference to my responsibilities as Minister of Community and Transportation Services and have indicated the government has not been on top of certain issues that are of significant interest environmental issues, the handling of wastes and the motion that is on the Order Paper next about the Whitehorse sewage lagoon. The suggestion is that the government is playing catch up, and that it is only thanks to their representations in the Legislature that a pollution problem was discovered in the Yukon River. That is the farthest thing from the truth. The Department of Community and Transportation Services municipal engineers have been working with municipal engineers and Environment Canada on those very issues for a very considerable period of time. The territorial government, in the name of the Minister, in discussions with the Mayor of Whitehorse, indicated quite clearly their commitment to funding the municipal infrastructure to handle sewage and wastes through the block funding agreement the government had passed in the House, and money that was consequently transferred to the municipality.
We have not only been true to our word, but we have been true to the issue through our funding arrangements and have shown considerable interest, not only in the storage of hazardous wastes but, also, in the transportation of hazardous wastes or dangerous goods. It was this government that did pass the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, which was meant to respond to the more serious need of the transportation problem associated with transporting dangerous goods, hazardous wastes and PCBs. We passed the act and ensured there were resources behind the act to give it teeth.
At the same time, we indicated earlier on that we were interested in a storage facility, and we had done previous preliminary planning two years ago. We have put money in the budget to provide for the storage facility. Until this last election campaign and the debate in the House today, the only comment we have heard from the Members opposite is, Whatever you do with hazardous wastes, do not put them anywhere near where I live or anywhere near where any of my constituents live.
If that is the only constructive comment the Members opposite have with respect to the handling of hazardous wastes, we need a good deal more thought put into this, and we have to take the Member for Hootalinquas advice and not play the political games that he would not like us to play.
We have seen dozens of references to the not in my backyard syndrome from the opposite side. It starts with social housing, it moves to garbage dumps and waste chemical sites. There is a particular pattern here that is unmistakable.
I will not tar everyone on the opposite side with the same brush, but it is an unmistakeable pattern with certain members of the opposite side, that the only constructive comment they have on such difficult issues, necessary issues to address, such as the storage of hazardous wastes, is that they do not want to have it anywhere within their eyesight. That is not a responsible approach for this Legislature to take.
This government has taken the lead. This government will be providing for the handling of hazardous wastes and PCBs, but the commentary from the opposite side, whether it is not in my back yard or whether, in the case of the Leader of the Official Opposition, of the air quality in his office has to be substantially more constructive than it has been to date.
It is absolutely useless to claim that simply because they have raised the matter in the Legislature that whatever facility there should be should not be in their own constituencies or their own communities. If that is going to be the only constructive comment they have, it is not going to lend anything to the debate that is useful and positive.
As I have indicated, we have budgeted funds to provide for a hazardous wastes site, and, as previous Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I do know that it is a difficult proposition to choose an appropriate location that not only takes into account population, but takes into account transportation needs, soils, and all the technical data. That is a difficult equation to resolve and it is absolutely incumbent upon every single Member of this Legislature to understand the complexity of that equation, to understand the need to deal with it, and not to simply make the cheap political points that have been expressed by the Members opposite, which are easily made but are not constructive for any debate in this House.
There has been some suggestion, even by the Member who has moved the motion, the Member from Porter Creek West, that the Cabinet has, in fact, chosen the location for the site; that is manifestly false. I will not call it a lie because that is unparliamentary, but it is manifestly false. In fact, what the previous Minister me was doing prior to the election, was attempting to work with the city and work with officials to try to determine the optimum location for a PCB and hazardous chemicals storage site. The discussions have been ongoing and I am sure that my successor will continue those discussions to a positive conclusion.
Let there be no mistake about the records between governments. They are absolutely crystal clear. Let there be no mistake about this governments commitment with respect to the handling of hazardous wastes and PCBs in this territory. That commitment is absolutely clear. When certain Members of the Opposition decide they are going to deal with the issues themselves and not simply take a not in my back yard approach, which is, for Legislators, irresponsible, then I think the debate will be constructively concluded. The site will have been chosen. The need to resolve not only storage but transportation, which we have already completed, will complete the circle, and citizens of the territory can rest more easily that this concern of all of ours has been resolved.
Mrs. Firth: I rise today to enter this debate and to make representation on behalf of the constituents who live in Riverdale South. I do not claim to be the first politician to debate this issue or to raise the issue publicly, and I do not claim to have all the answers. The issue is that we have a problem in the Yukon Territory with the storage of hazardous wastes, particularly PCBs, and that something has to be done to address this. I do not think it is constructive for us to get into a debate about who is going to address it first, or who did, or who did not, or who has more money. Frankly, I do not think the public cares. They just want something done about the issue.
There are people in Riverdale South, mothers who are home during the day and homemakers, who listen to the news and are very well informed about this issue and have a great deal of concern about the lack of action. Whose fault it is is not the issue. The issue is the lack of action and they want to see something done.
I have had communication with this government regarding the storage of PCBs, in my colleague from Porter Creek Wests absence. When the issue came to the attention of the public, I made some inquiries. Let us all, as politicians, be honest. There was a disaster in Montreal last fall. A fire resulted in PCB contaminants being released and hundreds of homes having to be evacuated. There was a lot of information on the news about it, and many people were extremely emotionally upset by the fact that that could happen in their own backyard, right here in the Yukon Territory, where we take our pure water and clean air for granted and that we do not use a lot of pesticides, herbicides, contaminants and hazardous wastes. People do not generally know about the hazardous products that are passing through the territory every day. To them, this was a real concern and a real danger and a real problem. Let us face it, that is when we, as politicians, all decided to get involved. Let us not try to pat ourselves on the back and say we were the first ones to do it. That was when the issue came to the attention of the public and the public started to demand some answers.
At that time, this government was still proceeding with the decision to use the controversial herbicide, spike. It was only after an issue was made that a management decision was made and that the department official withdrew the spike and said, No, we will not use it if there is the smallest measure of danger to the public. That was in September of 1988. That was not years and years ago. It was recent. There was every intention that the spike that had been ordered by this government, and I assume paid for, and distributed to the communities was going to be used. This government was still in its infant stages when it came to determining what hazardous wastes and products were going to be used. The decision was made that it would not be used, after some public expressions of concern. I believe that the company that was still going to use spike has since said that they will not be using it as well. That is the White Pass Railway. In September, 1988, the decision was made not to use spike in the Yukon Territory. It would be interesting to find out what happened to the purchase of that herbicide. I suppose we can ask those questions later.
At that time, we were talking about the PCBs in the Yukon Territory and where they were stored. It was found out, by the public, that most of the PCBs were stored in areas that had high concentrations of population here in Whitehorse and in some of the communities like Faro and Dawson. At that time, I wrote a letter to the then Minister of Community and Transportation Services who was the Member for Mayo. That was in October of 1988. At that time, I received correspondence from him saying that in the Yukon the regulation of the storage and disposal of PCBs is the responsibility of Environment Canada.
Generators of PCBs wastes must provide storage facilities in accordance with federal regulations. He was informed that Environment Canada inspects the facilities periodically in accordance with the nature of the wastes stored. In that correspondence, he in no way indicated that his government or his department was taking any steps or any responsibility to handle the storage, disposal or anything to do with PCBs. It was all Environment Canada.
When the officials from Environment Canada were interviewed about how frequently they inspected the storage sites, and when we made recommendations that perhaps one central storage site would be better, there was some discussion that that might not necessarily be the answer. But at least we were trying to come forward with some alternatives and some constructive solutions.
As opposition members, we did not just beat away at the government saying you are not doing anything. We tried to provide some constructive recommendations. Perhaps we could locate all of the PCBs in one location where they could be stored and inspected on a regular basis.
Frankly, when I read the comments in the paper that had been made about the inspection, I did not feel any more at ease than I am sure a lot of people in the territory did. We were told at that time that inspections were carried on twice, or so, during a year. In some of the areas, there were inspections at least every two years. That did not give anyone the impression that we were dealing with the concerns that the public had when it came to the storage of PCBs here in the Yukon.
The government sent representation to a conference that was called by the federal Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Tom MacMillan at the time, and it was an opportunity for the provinces and the senior level of government to discuss PCB storage and hazardous products, and it was partially in response to the crisis that occurred in Montreal.
This government did not send a representative to that conference. It sent an official from the department to represent it. I am simply raising that as a point of interest. My preference would have been that the Minister had gone to make representation on our behalf.
At that conference it was indicated that it would take at least two or three years for us to even expect to begin to remove PCBs from the Yukon Territory, to put them in someone elses back yard, as the Minister of Education has said. In the meantime, we had to assume some responsibility and take a lead role in dealing with this issue ourselves.
I do not want to go on and on at any length because I do not think there is a terribly great amount that can be said about this issue because we are still unclear as to what the governments position is and what its plans are to deal with this issue.
I do recall, however, reading an article in one of the local newspapers that the government had made a decision as to where the PCB storage site was going to be built. I believe it was in the Yukon News in October. The site that had been chosen was the Kulan area. I distinctly remember reading that article. I believe it was on the front page of the newspaper. Other people had obviously read it because there were some cartoons published in the newspapers and people definitely raised issues about the storage site being in the Member for Porter Creek Wests constituency. I believe that during the election campaign the candidate who was running for the New Democratic Party was very vigorously trying to defend his partys position, saying that his government was not going to put the storage site in the constituency of Porter Creek West. I believe that is a fact that came to light, although the Minister of Education had said that no decision had been made.
I am simply responding to this motion because I want something to be done. I would like the government to be up front and honest and specific with the public. We were promised in the first Throne Speech that there would be an environmental protection act. We were promised in the second Throne Speech and I am talking about the two most recent Throne Speeches that there would be environmental measures taken. It is a habit of this government to make announcements two, three or four times, and yet is nothing is done.
The Member is saying that it is going to cost I do not know how many dollars he was muttering. I think that on the open-line show that I certainly listen to, people were calling in and saying yes, we are prepared to pay extra as Yukoners, as citizens, to clean up the Yukon, to clean up our environment and our water.
What do we have to hear as politicians? Do we have to have a disaster here in the Yukon before we wake up and say that the public is concerned about this and that it wants us to do something about it? I think the public is concerned; I know my constituents are. They want us to do something about it. Politicians all over the world are having to respond to environmental issues. The world is having to respond to environmental issues, and you yourself, Madam Deputy Speaker, have stood up in this Legislature and given many speeches about how the people in your community are concerned about what is happening to Gods earth, and what is happening to our environment and our clean air and our clean water.
I do not think that we should be making light of this issue. I think the government should be up front with the public and should tell them what its plans are. If they are not the most magnificent plans in the world, that is fine. If the government can only give $100,000, which is what we hear has been identified, that is fine, but let us get on with it. Let us see this government take a leadership role and not wait for Environment Canada to do it and not wait for someone else to do it.
Let us address the issue. Let us look at what we are going to do about the storage of PCBs in the Yukon for however long we have to keep them here before we can either send them somewhere else to be disposed of not to be stored somewhere else in someones backyard, but to be disposed of. I recognize that we may never have those kinds of facilities here. Let us do something and let us indicate to the public that all of us as politicians have good intentions regarding this issue and that we are taking it seriously, and that our foremost concern is the safety of the constituents and citizens of the Yukon that we were elected to represent.
Hon. Mr. Webster: In some ways it is a complex motion that we are debating at this time because it is dealing with three different issues: locating, collecting and storage of both PCBs and hazardous chemical wastes. With respect to locating PCBs, the first issue, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is quite correct. There is an inventory. An inventory has been compiled by Environment Canada identifying all of the PCBs in the territory.
As the Member who introduced this motion knows, quite a few were found in the Dawson area in the old transformers that were used by the Yukon Consolidated Gold Company. Those PCBs have been collected.
The use of PCBs in electrical applications is a well-known fact and the Yukon Energy Corporation inherited PCB equipment with the transfer of NCPCs assets here in the Yukon.
In January, 1988, the Yukon Energy Corporations board of directors instructed its manager to begin replacement of all such equipment. By September of that year the PCB capacitors previously located in Curragh, at Faro, and at Aishihik had been removed. The only other equipment in the territory known to contain PCBs at this time are the three transformers at the Whitehorse diesel plant. Replacements have been ordered and it is anticipated that replacement equipment will be installed within a matter of months.
Collecting is still going on. As far as storage goes, PCBs are presently stored at the Whitehorse rapids plant. I think everyone is aware of that fact. The storage facility at the Whitehorse rapids is approved by Environment Canada, which confirms that all regulatory and safety precautions are met. The site is located at the plant because of the presence of staff 24 hours a day, which of course adds to security.
Respecting hazardous chemical wastes, I think it is fair to say that these could be found just about anywhere in the territory. Hazardous chemical wastes such as cleaners and waste fuels, paints, and toxic materials do exist everywhere, provided by governments and the private sector, as well as the public. Collecting these hazardous wastes will be no small chore. What will be the best approach still has to be determined. I know, for example, that in some of the provinces all agencies work together in cooperation. The province of Ontario, for example, funds, with the municipalities, on a cost-sharing basis, various days that they set aside two or three times a year, where everyone brings in their toxic materials and hazardous chemical wastes. At that time it is sorted and handled. Some of it is recycled. After that, it is moved to a proper storage site and destroyed.
I would like to think that something of that nature could also work here in the Yukon. As I say, it requires the cooperation of all agencies and governments and I think that can be easily achieved here.
With respect to the storage of hazardous chemical wastes, I would hope that this matter is decided soon. There certainly is going to have to be some legislation about the selection of an environmentally-sound site that provides some security. That will have to be worked out soon.
The principles involved will be that studies will still be undertaken to determine appropriate sites and operations, but any site will be approved by municipal governments and by the public during a consultation process.
That brings up the matter of the suggested site in Porter Creek West. There is definitely not any decision made by the previous Cabinet about the storage of PCBs and hazardous chemical wastes in Porter Creek West. It has been alleged that they are being stored in the Kulan Industrial Subdivision. If that is the case, it would have to have been approved by the city or it is illegal. I would appreciate seeing some evidence of the fact that they are currently being stored there or are planned to be stored there because Cabinet certainly did not make a decision on that location for storage.
I want to thank the Member for Riverdale South for her constructive comments. I quite agree with her that there is a job to be done. It is not a matter of saying who is negligent or which politician can scream the loudest. The job has to be done so let us get on with it.
This government will be showing some leadership. It has already been mentioned in the Throne Speech that we will be working on a Yukon conservation strategy that will involve the introduction of an environmental protection act. As the Minister responsible for that task, working in cooperation with other departments, I can assure you that it is one of my top priorities.
In line with that, I also mentioned that we plan to introduce in this Fall Sitting legislation dealing with control of pesticides. All Yukoners certainly are concerned. There is a job to be done. This government has plans underway and certainly has made some commitments in the budget and will be giving this matter of protecting our environment and handling of PCBs and hazardous chemical wastes our top priority.
Deputy Speaker: It is my duty to advise the Assembly that if the hon member now speaks he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to speak?
Mr. Nordling: I would like to thank the Members of the Assembly for the unanimous support expressed for my motion and I hope that the support expressed is sincere and will be lasting.
We have heard a lot of talk from the government side, and in particular from the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services, in general terms, and from the new Minister of Renewable Resources, in more specific terms. The fact remains that four years ago, in July, 1985, Environment Canada said that the Yukon needed a new storage facility in a new location. Four years later the fact is that we do not have the site picked for the storage facility nor the legislation, to have been done by Renewable Resources, that was discussed in 1987. I look forward to those specifics being announced by this government in the very near future.
Motion No. 13 agreed to
Motion No. 10
Deputy Clerk: Item 5, standing in the name of Mr. Lang.
Deputy Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item 5?
Mr. Lang: Yes, Madam Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Porter Creek East
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of the Yukon should immediately negotiate an extra-ordinary financial agreement (over and above Capital Block Funding) with the City of Whitehorse to meet the planning and construction costs that will be incurred to make the sewage lagoon meet acceptable environmental standards.
Mr. Lang: It is timely that a motion of this kind be discussed, in view of the fact the new government is going on to a new mandate of three to four years. I think it is absolutely essential that issues of this kind be met and dealt with, as far as the principle of who it is going to cost share and pay for some of the projects that have to be put in place over the next number of years.
The City of Whitehorse is facing some major problems with the Porter Creek sewage lagoon, which was built in 1976. That particular lagoon is now over its capacity in its ability to cope with the inflow of raw sewage from the suburb it serves.
I did take the time to make some calls regarding the outflow and how it was contaminating the Yukon River. The information I was provided with is that, in the last biological oxygen demand count that was done in December, it came out at 92 milligrams per litre and, at the present time, the water licence calls for a maximum of 50 milligrams per litre.
Granted that has to be qualified. The Members should be aware that the reason for such a high count could, in part, be caused by the fact that a portion of the lagoon had been disturbed this last fall. At the same time, it has consistently been over the maximum count allowed by the Water Board licence over the years. It is important that we realize that the present lagoon and sewage treatment system cannot meet the water licence requirements the way it presently sits.
As far as looking at the sewage lagoon and what further sewage treatment can be put into place, I have been provided with the information that there has been a technical committee set up between the three levels of government that is working at trying to find various technical solutions to the problems the city faces.
There is a number of treatments that can be put in place primary, secondary and tertiary to meet the requirements of the community. The City of Whitehorse, as was stated yesterday at the city council meeting, would like to be able to not only meet the requirements of the water licence but, also, go much further and be able to meet a much stringent standard, if required.
If we are going to do that, we are going to have to put into place the necessary financing to be able to meet those demands. It is important to realize that what I am asking for in the motion is for the Government of the Yukon Territory, in principle, to agree that this is an extraordinary financial burden upon the City of Whitehorse and, subsequently, that the Government of Yukon would be prepared to negotiate, in principle, a financial cost-shared agreement with the City of Whitehorse to meet the construction and planning costs of the treatment plant.
I do not have any figures to present to the House at this time. We have figures varying from $6 million to as high as $20 million. Yesterday, I heard a figure of $9 million.
There are plants that have been put in place over the past number of years in communities similar in size to our own, such as Grande Prairie. That particular plant cost $17 million. I am here to tell you that, as an MLA and a city taxpayer, I do not think the people of the City of Whitehorse can afford substantial increases in their property taxations to pay for such an installation. I am sure the Member for Whitehorse West will agree that we should be doing everything we possibly can to keep the property taxes down to an absolute minimum.
I realize the Government of Yukon transfers to the City of Whitehorse, through its capital block funding, are in the neighbourhood of $4 million for the city to do various capital works. If the position of the Government of Yukon is that that money has to be taken solely out of the capital block funding, then the government has a responsibility to tell the people and the City of Whitehorse that there are a lot of other projects that cannot be done over the next five to 10 years, such as waterfront development and the arts centre.
Another problem facing the City of Whitehorse is that major upgrading to the water and sewer system throughout the community is required, especially in the downtown area. Those are all capital projects required to be done in the immediate future in order to meet the everyday needs of the citizens of this city.
In the motion before you, I am pointing out that it should be a cost-shared agreement. I do not believe anyone is asking for anything for nothing. It is important to recognize that, in some of the smaller communities, with their tax base, these installations are being put forward with no requirement for cost sharing and over and above the communitys capital block funding. It is important that the project we are speaking of will require Government of Yukon involvement and, if possible, federal involvement. We can only go back to the federal government for so much money. As the Members across the floor know, the people of the territory have experienced a window of opportunity here, as far as financing is concerned, which is unparalleled in the Government of Yukons history and is through formula financing. That formula financing was put in place partly to make finances available that would assist projects and programs of this kind.
I do not see a need for a lot of debate in respect to the motion in front of us. All I am asking is that there be a general consensus within the House that it is not just the City of Whitehorses responsibility but, also, a territorial responsibility to confront a very real problem facing us. I think Members will recall that we on this side of the House were quite taken aback when there were announcements made in the budget initially presented here in January that environmental areas of concerns were a major priority to the government. We did not quarrel with this. We were taken aback when we found there were no monies allocated for even the planning side of reconstructing or redesigning with respect to the sewage lagoon in Whitehorse, which is causing a lot of problems, especially downstream to people in the Laberge area.
We have an opportunity here to make some significant moves, in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse and in cooperation with the federal government, to put a plant in place that will not only meet todays demands but, also, demands 10 or 20 years down the road. One of the elements required is that the Government of Yukon be prepared to cost share with the city over and above capital block funding, if we are going to get such a plant. If the City of Whitehorse is required to finance such an installation totally by themselves, then it is not going to meet the needs 10, 15 or 20 years down the road. It will be a makeshift situation because the City Council is going to be hesitant to make major increases in property taxes when people are now paying as high as $2,000 per year, depending on where they live and what they have.
The motion is pretty straightforward, and I hope we can have support from all Members of the House in respect to the principle that we have enunciated in the motion.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am going to be relatively brief and moderate at the same time in response to this motion. As a new Minister, I am particularly interested in the views of Members of the House respecting the motion before us and the ramifications therefrom.
I would like to address in general terms a sense of responsibility that I feel on behalf of the government respecting the entire issue of environmental concerns brought forward through this motion, specifically the effluent discharge by the City of Whitehorse. At the same time, I would like to talk about it in terms of the responsibility I feel to all communities, and I would like to say that I believe we have a responsibility as a government to support those initiatives that will encourage safe water, clean water and sewage disposal systems. It is a commitment I believe this government has. It is a position I believe I would like to reinforce. We encourage communities to develop safe water and sewer systems. I would suggest to the Member opposite that we have valiantly carried out that responsibility.
For example, in unorganized or unincorporated communities, we directly provide for water and sewer facilities and upgrading of any system that is in place. That is a direct expenditure incurred by this government. In municipalities, and the Member has flagged it both in the motion and his speech, we have put in place block funding. My predecessor laboriously presented a very successful approach for providing funding for organized communities that would allow them to meet their obligations relating to water and sewer systems.
I believe in Question Period yesterday I did advise that, in the past four years alone, we have directly provided $14 million for the installation of various water and sewer systems and upgrading of those systems. On top of that $14 million, the block fund was put in place. The block fund, which can be for projects, construction and facilities beyond just sewer and water, amounted to $23 million more in the past three years since it was put in place. The City of Whitehorse alone, over the three years the block fund has been in place, will have received over $12.5 million. The block fund that has been put in place to meet many of these obligations now constitutes a substantial portion of the capital funding available to the department for which I am responsible.
The point I stress, and I would encourage further debate, is the sense of responsibility that exists to all communities to meet the obligations for improved water and sewer services. For example, Dawson City has virtually no sewage treatment at all. Carmacks claims their facility is less than adequate. Teslin trucks their sewage.
In organized communities and municipalities, the responsibility for developing sewage and water systems clearly rests in a supportive responsibility on our part but, through the funding mechanism, an avenue is provided. I am sure the Member is aware of the complexity of the fund and that, where a municipality may not be able to afford a particularly large project, we assess it on the basis of the formula provided. If a single project exceeds by two and one-half times the amount of the block fund, this government will address funding requirements for such a project.
I might point out to the Member that is established in legal financial authority. The Municipal Infrastructure Grants Act sets that out. I draw attention to the Member that this may be suggesting, depending on interpretation, that additional funding be immediately allocated or be immediately negotiated, which, in fact, would require legislative change. There may have to be some clarification on the motion and its financial intent.
I would like to consider the motion to mean that should the City of Whitehorse be unable meet its financial commitment to provide adequate sewage treatment within the limits and guidelines that are provided for under the block funding arrangements, this government will entertain negotiation to meet whatever financial arrangements are necessary.
At the same time, I would like to express my concern about responsibility, in that currently, under the Northern Affairs program, as the Member has pointed out, the city is regulated under regulations established by the Yukon Water Board. Yes indeed, there have been a couple of studies done by the city respecting its effluent discharge. Yes, it appears that the effluent discharge in many instances is exceeding those limits set out in the water use licence. I procured a copy of the water use license for the city and it extends to 1991. It is monitored by the Water Board.
It is a problem that has been facing us for a number of years and I sincerely sympathize and understand the gravity of the problem facing us. I guess what I am trying to assess is the extent of financial responsibility that falls on this government, partly because a considerable amount of funding is provided and I do not know the extent to which the city is able to meet that financial obligation.
I think I have already mentioned to the Members in Question Period that I will be meeting with the city later this month. I have not had a formal presentation or specific communication from the city that they indeed want additional funding, other than that I understand a motion was passed the other night at City Council. My approach to this is to entertain whatever discussions are necessary to meet the financial requirements, but from a sense of responsibility I agree we have to deal quickly and responsibly with the problem that is before us. Certainly the matter of effluent discharge not meeting basic standards set in the water use license is a matter of some concern to me.
Mr. Phillips: I do not plan to speak at length on this motion, but I do have several concerns that I would like to express to the House.
Because we live so far away from any major centre we sometimes feel we are exempt from the problems of pollution. In fact, this is exactly the opposite. We live in a very sensitive environment in the north and I think we must realize how fragile this environment is, and we must try to protect that environment in the best way we can.
In the past several years, the City of Whitehorse has been exceeding its limits with respect to the effluent being pumped into the Yukon River. This problem has to be addressed and it has to be addressed immediately. It is interesting to note that, in the past three and one-half years, the current government has made little or no effort to address this specific problem. I commend the government for the efforts they made in other communities. With this specific motion, we are talking about the problems of the effluent being pumped into the Yukon River. We have known this for three and one-half years and the Government of the Yukon has done very little. In fact, I was concerned that the lack of the commitment was evident in the budget they tabled in January and in the same budget that was tabled this session.
I would like to commend the government on some of the initiatives they are taking in the budget to address the Yukon River upstream pollution, but again there was nothing in this budget to address the largest single pollutant, the City of Whitehorse. I hope the past election campaign has given this issue a much higher profile and the government will see the importance of addressing this issue now.
We have an obligation to ensure that we have clean air and pure water for the future, and especially for the future of our children. There is another area I am personally involved with that relates to this matter. Not only is the Yukon River a major source of many Yukoners drinking water, but Yukon River purity is most important because it is a salmon-bearing river. Many thousands of salmon migrate up the Yukon River every year and fan out into almost every other river in the Yukon Territory. My personal involvement as a member of the Yukon River salmon negotiating team and as coordinator of the Wolf Creek Salmon Project, that I might add should see returns for the first time this year, has reinforced my strong concern for the need to provide and ensure that there are strong environmental safeguards put in place to protect the purity of all Yukons waterways.
To remedy this problem is going to take a lot of money. We should all be working together, territorial, federal, civic and environmental groups, to come to an agreement as soon as possible. I would like to go on record that the sole cost of this project should not be borne by the City of Whitehorse. I would hope that all three levels of government would sit down and come up with an agreement that would begin to rectify this serious environmental problem as early as this summer. I urge all Members of this House to support this motion.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In my opinion, the motion before us this afternoon is not a motion expressing the need for sewage facilities in Whitehorse. We know there is a need for sewage facilities in Whitehorse. Dawson has a need for sewage treatment. Mayo has no sewage treatment. Teslin trucks its sewage out of the community. Anybody who has been listening to the news and watching city affairs for the last few years knows there is a need for a sewage treatment facility in Whitehorse. Anybody who lives downstream of the City of Whitehorse knows that Whitehorse has to treat its sewage better. That is obvious.
In my view, this is a motion that strikes, in a very real sense, at the heart of where this Legislature is going to go. To give the Member for Porter Creek East his due, he did identify the equation properly. First of all, he said the funding was going to be $6 million or more, and he made a real point. Four years ago, he would not have let me be so cavalier as to bring a motion to the House requesting funding of that magnitude. Everybody in this Legislature, who was here when we were discussing block capital funding, should make note of that point.
Some years ago, we said there were certain things that should be a municipal responsibility. When I first became Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the only way to get a capital project in this territory, big or small, was to make friends with the Minister. At the beginning of the term, we committed ourselves that we were going to reverse that trend, that the money this territorial government votes for Watson Lake, for Carcross, for all organized municipalities, should be delivered to those municipalities fairly. There were going to be big and small projects, and those municipalities, as responsible agents in and of themselves, were not only going to be given the funding to do what was absolutely necessary for them to do, to not only build sports complexes but, also, to build the essential water and sewer systems necessary for those communities, and they would also take responsibility for the planning. That was the obverse side of this equation, that you are given the resources and also the responsibility for planning.
The Member for Porter Creek East put it correctly when he said that maybe there are now projects that should not go ahead in the next four years, because this is the highest, or a high, priority, and it supersedes other priorities dedicated to the City of Whitehorse. It had been my hope, as Minister of Community and Transportation Services in the last three years, that we could give that responsibility to the municipalities; they take the decisions, they take responsibility for the decisions, and we provide the funds. That was the principle of block funding. I believed it, and I believe it now, but I can see the whole principle being eroded on the basis of this one issue.
We gave the communities responsibility to plan their futures in things like water/sewer projects. I do not know if Members will remember, but in 1984-85 the total fund for municipal infrastructure that included all municipalities and all communities was in the $4 million range. For everybody. People in Old Crow, Pelly Crossing, Beaver Creek, Burwash, Destruction Bay, Keno City, Elsa, Mayo, Stewart Crossing, Dawson City, Faro, Watson Lake, Ross River, Carcross, Whitehorse all communities received a total of about $4 million. This year we are voting, I believe, $4.6 million for the City of Whitehorse for block funding.
Block funding, itself, to municipalities, is now fully one-third of Community and Transportation Services net budget; one-third of the biggest departments capital budget in this government. When we passed the act that provided for block funding, we assessed the total block fund by legislation at one percent of total municipal assessment. We all knew that municipal assessments would climb. They climbed to the extent that now we are obligated to vote $1.5 million more than last year for municipal works. So what we did at the Legislature, consciously, was to deliver over our capacity to provide for municipal infrastructure to the municipalities. It was a gesture by this Legislature to say that municipalities are ready and responsible enough to take over responsibility for their own futures not just the sports complexes, but also the water and sewer projects.
In that bill there was a clause that said that for those projects two and one-half times an annual block fund, the Government of Yukon will give consideration to cost sharing the project with the municipality. In fact, they are being cost shared. Any ones that are in the works are being cost shared.
The understanding between me and the mayors of all the communities, when we sat down and hashed this out, was that there are some communities that are so small that they could not, given their economies of scale, reasonably handle a major project. Some of those communities have 100 or 150 taxpayers in the entire community. They do not enjoy the benefits of the economies of scale that the larger communities, and the largest, can enjoy. So the understanding was clearly that those small communities needed an outlet and in future years, the government of Yukon could respond. That was the understanding.
What we have now is unfortunate. For me this is a sad day because we had, for three years, committed ourselves to this principle. It required discipline by this Legislature, to maintain the principle, delivering over our capacity to provide for important things like municipal infrastructure to communities. Because the fund is growing so dramatically, because municipal assessments are growing so much, we knew that it was becoming more and more a commitment every year. Proportionally, it was outstripping any funding arrangement we had for any other particular area. This was a commitment by this Legislature to do it.
If we are saying now, that if a project is less than two and one-half Whitehorses block fund, but because MLAs have decided that Whitehorse, as a matter of principle, has superior needs to other communities, then we are saying that the Municipal Infrastructure Grants Act has to be changed and we should return to a system where this Legislature decides priorities for municipalities. I think that is a wrong move. I find it objectionable; I thought the Legislature was going in a responsible direction. I thought it was a wonderful achievement by everyone who supported that bill, and I understood that everyone did.
The issue of the sewage treatment facility for Whitehorse, as I said at the beginning, is unquestionably a priority issue for the residents of this town and for all persons affected by it. We are a little more unique than other jurisdictions, because we have turned over our capacity to pay for municipal infrastructure in the main to municipalities. So the easy suggestion that it is the joint responsibility between a whole lot of governments is less relevant to this jurisdiction than it is to anywhere else largely because no other jurisdictions do what we do. We trust local decision making far more than other jurisdictions do. We trust their ability to plan and to develop their infrastructure much more than other jurisdictions do. Go to another jurisdiction and see if you can find an equivalent of our Municipal Infrastructure Grants Act. Go to another jurisdiction and find an equivalent to the financial commitment that we have provided to municipalities.
Right now, the Municipal Infrastructure Grants Act guarantees every year is one-sixth of our net Capital Budget one-sixth. If any other group of municipalities in any other jurisdiction had that kind of treatment and that kind of faith in the operations that this Legislature provides to our municipalities in local decision making, they would be more than overjoyed.
If we were to have maintained block funding it would have required some discipline by this Legislature to say to municipalities that there are projects you have to save and plan for. That is what is what was happening until today.
There are municipalities besides Whitehorse that have sewage treatment needs. Some of them are very small. Some communities that are not even municipalities, such as Carcross, Old Crow and Ross River, also have sewage treatment problems to address.
This is a territorial government; this is not a city council. The territorial government has already turned over responsibility and the financial capability to the municipalities. What are we saying if we say that we are going to second guess that now?
The Member for Porter Creek East made a good point with respect to the revenue picture of the government. Perhaps by April 6, our revenue picture will not be as rosy as we have enjoyed in the last few years. Yet, the block funding for the municipalities will continue to grow. Their ability to do things important to them will continue to expand. Our ability to respond to the Carcrosses, the Ross Rivers and the unincorporated communities, and the rest of the territory, will be diminished. That is obvious. I appeal to all Members of this House who have an interest in the whole territory to understand that.
The City of Whitehorse has expressed a need for a sewage lagoon and all power to them. They have expressed a need for better facilities and all power to them. The territorial government has provided the Municipality of Whitehorse, like other municipalities, the wherewithall to plan and to do the job if that is a priority. As a municipality it has the responsibility to do the planning and to make the tough decisions, given that we have turned over the financial capacity to do these works to them already.
If the Member for Watson Lake stood up, would we have a list of speakers who are as compassionate about the issue as the Member for Watson Lake? Or if the Member for Old Crow stood up? The other MLAs would agree that yes that Member has a problem and I hope something can be done about it, but would we have a whole string of speakers? This government has already provided the capacity for the City of Whitehorse to do the job, to do the right thing.
The right thing is to improve sewage treatment in the City of Whitehorse. If we are going to proceed, we have to understand the consequences of what we are doing now. If we are to proceed with a project that is less than two and one-half times the block funding, we are going to have to change the legislation. That puts us right back to pre-block funding days. The Member for Porter Creek East will have won, and I will have lost, that battle in this Legislature. And that would be too bad because I do know how that Member feels about block funding.
If it is more than two and one-half times the block funding, that would be one of the most significant commitments this government will have ever made on any particular municipal project. I would suggest, given that the government did support the motion, that would mean a fairly tight restructuring of capital commitments that the government may have already made. It will mean a downsizing of expectations that the public of Yukon already had in other areas. The Member for Hootalinqua next week will be talking about building a $10 million school south of Whitehorse and I hope he will understand that this is being made a priority today so that when we come to make the tough decisions that we have to make, he will respect that. That goes for every other capital expenditure that we make.
I have dealt with the City of Whitehorse over the past few years about the sewage problems. The officials from Community and Transportation Services have been working with the City of Whitehorse to review the sewage output. In most meetings with Environment Canada, the territorial government, as far as I am aware, has been present and has participated and has provided advice.
It has always been my greatest hope that we could provide all municipalities with financial wherewithall to perform the work that is necessary for them to operate as a municipality. I think it would be sad if our whole commitment to block funding was undermined by this. It would be truly a sad moment.
In saying that, I am faced with the choice of either compromising the principle of block funding or facing a project that is greater than two and one-half times the block funding, and thereby facing a very significant financial commitment. I hope that all Members of the Legislature will be cognizant of the choices that will have to be made now. They will have very serious consequences, both on the policy side and on our capacity to meet the needs of not only the City of Whitehorse but the needs of the other communities. I have nothing more to say.
Mr. Phelps: I want to say that I am following one of the strangest speeches I have ever heard in the Legislature even from the Member who just spoke. It is a little beyond me as to exactly what his position is on the motion. He seems to be against it, but he is going to vote for it. I guess we will have to wait to see.
With regard to the present situation, confronting not just the citizens of Whitehorse, but the people throughout the Yukon, particularly downstream, we do have, as a fact, a situation where the water license of the city is being breached daily, and breached significantly daily. It is not a new problem. The problem hit the headlines and was very topical a couple of years ago when sewage was poured directly into the Yukon River while they changed the sewage system changed lagoons and put a line across the Yukon River at Whitehorse. At that time I was inundated with complaints from residents who live in Hootilinqua down river and at Lake LaBerge. Indeed, we have been consistently receiving complaints from these residents, who, after all, live there largely because of the lifestyle and because of the wilderness and their utilization of the wilderness.
They are faced with the situation where they do not know what is in the water. The level of pollutants, aside from simply raw sewage, contains chemicals, oil, other hazardous wastes about which nobody seems to know how much and from where all this is coming from.
I know te families who live at Shallow Bay on Lake Laberge, where their children used to swim in the summer, close to home. Now, parents do not allow their kids to swim in those waters because they get rashes and infections and colds and various things that are attributed to the lack of purity in the water itself.
The problem does not go just into part of my constituency, it extends all the way down the Yukon River. Pollution is a problem on the Yukon River, and has been a problem for some time. I recall quite a few years ago talking to a friend of mine, now deceased, Alan Innes-Taylor, who used to write books about river travel in Yukon and survival and those kinds of things. I recall him remarking to me that no longer could tourists and other people traveling down the river to Dawson draw water from the river. It was not safe and they should use the tributary streams when they were camping and so on. That was his advice in the books he was writing back then.
Of course, the Yukon River is a major drawing card for the tourism industry and a lot of people from outside our boundaries travel here to travel our rivers. Whether it be the Stewart River or the Pelly River, or the Hootilinqua, now called the Teslin River, they put in part of their passage on the Yukon River, because most of them proceed on downstream to points on the Yukon River where their journey ends, normally Dawson, but sometimes, of course, Carmacks or Minto. The point that I make is that is a situation that is not simply a municipal problem.
It is a problem that we all share in Yukon. It is a problem that is becoming, I think, critical, and the time has come now to take steps to overcome pollution of our great river. We hear time and time again how tourists who travel down the rivers are disgusted by the raw sewage that pours into the river, by the sewage that can be found in Lake Laberge and the other unsightly things they see on their way down: garbage along the rivers, unclean campsites, and so on. These are things that are really affecting a vital industry in Yukon. I repeat: it cannot be categorized simply as the last speaker would categorize it as a municipal problem, something that only the residents of Whitehorse need be concerned about. It is a problem all of us face, and a problem that all Yukoners would like to see resolved. The benefits of the clean up will not only accrue to people in Whitehorse, but they will accrue all the way down the river, and accrue to businesses and industries that are not located and do not pay taxes in the capital city of Whitehorse.
I would like to get into the passionate speech that we just heard, regarding, as I understand, whether or not block funding will remain, that this is somehow or other going to completely cave in the act that was brought into the House by that Member when he was Minister. It was a passionate speech; unfortunately, often passionate speeches are not founded on logic and unfortunately, this speech is not an exception to that rule. It seems to me that by looking at this as an emergency situation, and a situation that affects all of Yukon, to make an exception for this kind of need, is not to wipe out and destroy forever or rip asunder the act that was passed with regard to block funding. That just does not logically follow as a necessary consequence of the motion passing and the government taking steps in accordance with the motion and negotiating with the City of Whitehorse for the establishment of an appropriate and proper treatment facility.
I would suggest that the act could be amended from time to time without destroying our social fabric in Yukon. I do not think that many Ministers would insist that their pet legislation is sacrosanct and cannot be amended in any way, for any reason. I am sure that when cool heads prevail and the Municipal Infrastructure Grants Act is looked at that there may be some minor amendments required from time to time. I do not think that I for one would shed a tear if that took place here.
The previous speaker, the Member for Mayo, went on and on about the block funding arrangements that we have with some of the jurisdictions. He kept wanting to throw the Municipality of Carcross in, but that is not an organized municipality and does not receive block funding. He made the point that jurisdictions here receive a lot more generous treatment than municipalities in the south do from the parent government. That is true. Of course this territorial government receives a far more generous level of assistance from the federal government than do most southern jurisdictions. For many of the same reasons we have to pass some of this largesse onto the municipalities.
It seems to me that we have to look at some issues faced by municipal governments and consider whether, logically and morally, the municipality ought to bear the entire burden out of its tax revenues and out of block funding for every single thing that we tend to lazily categorize as an area of municipal control and responsibility. It seems to me that very often we, as a senior government, provide assistance and facilities to a municipality when there is no clear distinction as to whether or not it falls within the normal municipal area or senior government area. I would think that situations such as Yukon College, the new arts centre and all kinds of structures that are built are not covered by block funding because, for some reason or other, they are felt to be the responsibility of the more senior government. I do not want to attack this in any way, I just think we also have to see and recognize circumstances where the impact of facilities may have a great bearing on the quality of life in other parts of the territory other than the municipality itself.
It is my firm belief that this is a situation that, as far as I am concerned, justifies special treatment and, as far as I am concerned, I believe that most people throughout the territory would be willing to make some kind of a sacrifice in terms of a postponement of some of their priorities to see this issue resolved now.
I am completely comfortable with supporting this motion. I did not really understand the previous speakers comments about a school south of Whitehorse, whether it was a threat that, tit for tat, they would fix me for even suggesting, horror of horrors, that we might tinker with the block funding arrangements and somehow or other destroy those arrangements. I would hope it was not a veiled threat. My motion speaks to a school being built at Mary Lake as a priority over the Granger subdivision, simply moving some of the funds that have been identified for the Granger school. That is a different motion and I will not pursue it here except that I do not think it is appropriate to make veiled threats by removing your priorities when the motion was not meant as being mischievous at all. It is a priority of this party to see that steps are taken to clean up the environment and prevent future pollution.
We intend to be consistent in our approach. It is consistent with a promise we made in our election campaign, and I think it is consistent with the concerns and views of the vast majority of the residents of all of the Yukon, not just Whitehorse. I fully support the motion, and I look forward to unanimous support. I would like to assure everyone here that I do not see this as some kind of precedent that would destroy, forever, the block funding arrangements that have been entered into over the course of the last few years.
Ms. Hayden: I appreciate the intent of todays motion because it indicates to me that the Members opposite share my concern about the quality of Yukon River water and the pressing need for sewage treatment.
I believe that Whitehorse residents and all Yukoners are entitled to clean, pure water. It is a vital part of our heritage and all levels of government must share in the responsibility, not only for the problem, but for the solution.
I am pleased to see that the Member for Porter Creek East is not, as the text of his motion suggests, suggesting that the City of Whitehorse receive a blank cheque from this government without taking any responsibility for the problem that it has created. I believe it is time for the City of Whitehorse to do some long range planning and to lead the way in providing adequate sewage treatment facilities for Whitehorse.
One of the reasons behind capital block funding is to give Yukon municipalities some security about funding for projects of this kind in the long term. But let us look at a few facts. After the Northern Inland Waters Act was legislated by the federal parliament in the early 1970s, pressure was put on the City of Whitehorse to build a sewage lagoon. The city took the position that it was a federal act and the facility should be paid for by federal dollars. Ottawa agreed and that is what took place. It was done, however, with the clear understanding that the city would pay for the upkeep and improvements that were necessary. For years it has been known that the citys facilities are inadequate. Yet for years, as the Member opposite indicates, the city has done little to meet the requirements of its water licence, let alone plan for the future.
Since 1985, the city has benefited from a considerable increase in capital block funding, not from Ottawa, but from the Yukon government. They receive that funding so that they may fulfill their responsibilities to the residents of Whitehorse, including the provision of proper sewage treatment for this community.
If I may be permitted a question, it may be worth asking one of the Members opposite just how much the city has spent on sewage treatment upgrading since block funding came in? From what I understand, the city has spent little, if any, of its budget on sewage facility upkeep, repair or upgrading. I think we have to remind ourselves about the attitude of the city when, in 1987, as the Leader of the Official Opposition indicated, it condoned the illegal dumping of millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Yukon River, in violation of its water licence, and it continues to violate that licence.
If the City of Whitehorse asks for full funding from YTG for its sewage treatment facilities, we should look carefully at the request, especially when this government has been more generous than any other government in the history of the territory. This problem is not just one governments problem, but the problem of all governments municipal, territorial and federal. We should all share some responsibility, and that means contributing to a positive, well thought out solution, not a hastily drawn blank cheque. Whitehorse residents expect us to act, but to act responsibly.
Downtown residents, and I suspect people throughout Whitehorse, believe the city has a basic responsibility to be a partner in the solution to this problem and the solution is not just to look to senior government, but to begin some serious planning themselves with the funding already provided to them and to do it soon. The role of senior governments is to help, not to solve the citys problems for them.
Deputy Speaker: It is my duty to advise the Assembly that if the hon. Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Lang: I am a little at a loss with respect to the position of the side opposite as to the principle that is enunciated in the motion put forward for debate. The Minister of Finance gave a very passionate speech on the merits of capital block funding. The Member for Whitehorse South Centre has done a full frontal attack on what she deems to be the mismanagement of the City of Whitehorse. Yet, at the same time, we have not had a clear, definitive statement from the side opposite as to whether or not they support the motion presented for debate. I want to put it all into the proper context and perspective. The Member for Whitehorse South Centre and the Member for Mayo, the previous Minister of Community and Transportation Services, stood in this House and told all of us and the people of the territory how they have been Santa Claus all by themselves, with no help from anybody, in transferring dollars to various communities throughout the territory. What they forgot to mention, and it was brought to their attention by the Leader of the Official Opposition, was that the money they had been granted has been given to them by the Government of Canada. I would suggest that when they speak of the largesse and generosity and the spirit of willingness to cooperate, they had better remember who Santa Claus really is.
The Member for Whitehorse South Centre, in attacking the City of Whitehorse, should look back over the citys budget for this year where they spent over $100,000 alone in attempting to meet some of the concerns that have been brought forward because the lagoon was not in working condition. In the previous year, they allocated taxpayers dollars to do the same.
I would submit that, although the City of Whitehorses record is not perfect and neither is the YTGs I think all parties are trying within their financial capabilities to meet their responsibilities. The reality is that we could well be looking at a treatment facility that could cost in the neighbourhood of $17 million, such as the one that was installed in Grande Prairie.
With respect to the plea from the previous Minister of Community and Transportation Services, he has forgotten that, over and above $9 million for block funding to be voted by us in this Legislature to the various communities, on page 95 of the same budget are projects for: Old Crow, a water supply line and pump house for $1.3 million; Teslin, a sanitary sewer extension for $238,000; Mayo, a sewage treatment facility for $1.5 million; Klondike Valley waste disposal, for $780,000. The list goes on.
If you compare the City of Whitehorse to the community of Mayo, we are asking for nothing exceptional over and above the capital block funding. The reality of the situation is the question of the ability of these communities to pay. I do not know where the Members opposite were going door to door, but I know that the residents paying taxes are starting to question how much they can pay out of their disposable income. When you start getting a bill on July 1 for approximately $1,500 or $2,000, it is a lot of money out of your net income.
In the motion before you, I am not asking this Legislature to have the City of Whitehorse abrogate its responsibilities. It does have a responsibility, as does each and every resident in the city. I am talking about our ability to pay. In that context is the reason why the motion is before us.
I would ask all Members to support the motion before us and to give direction to the government to sit down and begin negotiating in principle an agreement with the City of Whitehorse to meet the short term, as well as the long term, needs of the community in this very expensive and technical area that not only affects the City of Whitehorse but also many other areas of the Yukon as well.
Deputy Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Members: Division.
Deputy Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Ms. Hayden: Agree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Clerk: Madam Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Deputy Speaker: The ayes have it; I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 10 agreed to
Motion No. 18
Clerk: Item 13 standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Deputy Speaker: Is the Member prepared to proceed with Item 13?
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Madam Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Department of Health and Human Resources should give immediate consideration to hiring a full-time physiotherapist and a full-time occupational therapist to be shared by Macaulay Lodge and the Yukon Home Care Program to meet the urgent and pressing need for such services.
Mr. Phillips: I am very pleased to be able to introduce this motion today on a very agreeable day in this Legislature. So far, all the motions that have been introduced have been agreed upon by all Members of the House, and I hope that this one follows the same pattern.
I speak today on a motion that is very close to my heart. The need for a full-time physiotherapist and occupational physiotherapist in the Yukon is long overdue. I was first made aware of this problem several years ago when my own father was admitted to Macaulay Lodge. At that time, about 10 percent of the seniors at Macaulay Lodge were in need of this service. Today, over 50 percent of the residents in Macaulay Lodge need to be provided with this type of extended care.
I would like to take a moment to explain to all Members of this House exactly what a physiotherapist and an occupational physiotherapist will do. I think that it is important to not only point out some of their duties, but also to list some of the minor things they can do that mean a great deal to some of our seniors.
A physiotherapist is essentially involved in the area of mobility and the area of movement restriction. For example, the physiotherapist would set up a program where they would first establish the seniors walking strengths and then determine the proper type of exercises to allow the senior to continue a more active life. The types of people who could avail themselves of these programs would be stroke victims, people with arthritic problems, someone with a pinned hip or some other kind of accident, or simply someone whose mobility is restricted basically because of age. Because most of us in this House are reasonably physically fit, we seem to take a lot of everyday activities for granted.
We have a social obligation to assist and take care of our elders and seniors. After all, they are the ones who have given us the guidance and support for us to be where we are today. The physiotherapist shared by Macaulay Lodge and the Home Care Program would offer many interesting alternatives. In the case of the Home Care Program, a physiotherapist could design exercise programs for the home, thus keeping the seniors in their own homes longer. This is not only more cost effective but, as well and more important, it has proven to be far better for the peace of mind and dignity of the senior to be able to allow them to stay in their own home, which is much more desirable all around.
As well, a physiotherapist who could go to a seniors home is far better than having to hospitalize the individual for that very treatment. The idea of this whole program is to keep these seniors and elders more active as long as possible. An occupational therapists job deals with the activities of daily living. Some examples would be the occupational therapists abilities to make splints for seniors for a wrist or an ankle that would assist them in a more active life. I think a good example of that might be a small splint on the wrist that would afford the senior the ability to play crib or shuffle board. This is just a minor thing to you and I, but very important to them, and it is something we should recognize.
As well, foot prosthesis design is extremely important for senior citizens. A small foot prosthesis inserted into a shoe could improve the ability of a senior to walk and, again, improve their mobility wherever they may live. An occupational therapist would go to seniors homes and assist in determining what could be done to assist the senior in their own home. Some examples are raised toilet seats and bars in bathtubs. They could teach the elders and seniors new cooking skills to assist them in coping with their difficulties.
An occupational therapist could look at the seniors car and recommend ways the senior could get in and out of that vehicle easier, or even recommend a minor adaptation to the car so the senior could remain mobile. Something that most of us do every single day and take absolutely for granted is getting dressed. Some seniors, who have had strokes or other types of physical disabilities, cannot do that any longer, and this occupational therapist would instruct the seniors in ways to make their lives easier.
These are all examples and functions that occupational therapists and physiotherapists can carry out, and there are many more. I felt it was important to give a few examples to all Members to help them appreciate the problems faced by many seniors.
I see the occupational therapist and physiotherapist working very closely together for the benefit of all seniors. By having a Home Care Program included, I feel that not only Macaulay Lodge in Whitehorse would benefit but the communities as well. The intent of this motion today is not to blame anyone, but to realize and act now on a growing problem. Up until last month, Macaulay Lodge has had a part-time physiotherapist. This position is now vacant, but it was not adequate to address the needs. I believe the government understands this.
I would like to say a few words about the people who work at Macaulay Lodge and in the Whitehorse Hospital, not only the nurses but, as well, the physiotherapists who work at the Whitehorse General Hospital now. All these employees are taxed to the limit at this time. There is a great deal of pressure on them to cope with the situation as it is building. Many more seniors are deciding to make their home in the Yukon, and many more seniors are in need of this type of care. Every single one of the people I met in Macaulay Lodge are absolutely dedicated to the job and are real friends of the residents of that lodge.
This type of work is stressful and takes a high-quality person to carry out these duties. I think we in this House should recognize the importance of the people working in Macaulay Lodge, the people working in the Whitehorse General Hospital who are taking care of not only the regular patients but a great many extended care patients and, as well, the physiotherapists in the Whitehorse General Hospital who are taking care of a lot of the seniors who now have no other way to receive this care.
I believe that this workload tends to lead to a sense of frustration, because so much more could be done. I think that we would find that if we attacked this problem head on and looked at the motion we have here today and we did hire a full-time physiotherapist and occupational therapist, we would find that we would not only solve a lot of our problems, but we would also reduce the ongoing costs that we have with the way the situation is now.
A full time physiotherapist and occupational therapist could address a wide range of problems faced by Yukon seniors and would help fill the gap until we have our new extended care facility. I believe that a program such as this would not only give peace of mind and a better quality of life to the seniors, but also would be much less expensive, keeping them out of such institutions as hospitals.
I believe, as well, that by having Macaulay Lodge and the home care program share these services, it would be more challenging for the therapists themselves. I understand that, when dealing with senior citizens as a physio or occupational therapist, there is a rather short burn-out period for the physiotherapist because of the nature of the work. A lot of times you do not see such rapid results as you would see in younger people and I think that it would important for us to recognize this. I think that, by having a physiotherapist and occupational therapist share some of the workload and by moving in to the home care program, they would have a variety of dealing with the home care and Macaulay Lodge and it would help relieve the stress.
One other issue that I think is extremely important to raise here today is that many Yukon families have the responsibility now of caring for seniors and elders. I think we must recognize the dedication of these families. A physiotherapist and occupational therapist in the home care program could give these families a much needed break as caregivers. That is something we must not overlook. Many families now are providing this care and it is quite stressful. The physiotherapist and occupational therapist could lessen that stress by coming in at certain times and working with the elderly.
In closing, I would like to ask all Members to consider the points I have made here today. We do not now have an extended care facility and it seems, after today, the building of one is a long way off.
We need these two positions right now. In keeping seniors in their homes, it is far better for the dignity of the seniors and is more cost effective. We take our mobility for granted far too often. It is time to appreciate the contribution that the seniors and elders have made to our generation and accept the responsibilities we have to them in their later years to provide them with dignity and a reasonable quality of life.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: While I might argue with the wording of this motion, we have no problem with the sentiment it expresses. I would like to thank the Member for presenting the motion and for his speech on the subject indicating his deep conviction and concern about this matter. I know, therefore, that he will be pleased to know that rather than giving immediate consideration to the subject, consideration has already been given to the matter and decisions already made prior to the presentation of the motion.
The department is in the process of hiring a full-time physiotherapist for Macaulay Lodge. Recruitment for the half-time occupational therapist in the home care is expected to proceed soon. The position at Macaulay Lodge has recently been expanded from one half time to a full-time position and home care is presently developing the occupational therapists program component and it will be ready for implementation shortly.
In the matter of the immediate future it is expected that there will be one full-time physiotherapist, one full-time recreational therapist, one half-time occupational therapist. These resources will be shared across the Macaulay Lodge and home care programs. I hope these resource levels in physiotherapy and occupational therapy will be adequate to meet the present needs, given the present scope and mandate of the home care and nursing programs.
The Member may know this already and it may be the genesis of his motion but all of the actions that the department has already taken in this area and that I have indicated today arise from an evaluation study done in the spring of 1988 that was done with the staff of the facility. The decisions that I am announcing here are as a result of the evaluation study and the departments response to that evaluation study.
Mr. Nordling: As critic for Health and Human Resources, I am pleased to speak to this motion, and I am pleased to hear the announcement by the Minister that there will be a full-time physiotherapist as well as a half-time occupational therapist and a full-time recreational therapist. The services provided by these positions will be very beneficial to Yukoners and especially seniors. I have long been an advocate of having more seniors retire in the Yukon and an advocate of assisting them to remain in their own homes as long as possible. I believe these positions will realize that goal, as well as make life in general a lot more comfortable for those served by the physiotherapist, occupational therapist and the recreational therapist. I am pleased to see that these positions will come into place.
The department has a huge budget and I would hope that in getting control of the department through the analysis of services now provided, the required funding for these positions can be found within the existing budget.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I would like to thank the Member for Riverdale North for bringing this motion to the floor. His concern has been well noted in the Legislature over the years, and I understand Macaulay Lodge is in his riding. There have been a number of improvements at Macaulay Lodge over the years. There have been a lot of renovations and different programs offered to Macaulay Lodge. To complement that, the Home Care Program was implemented to keep some of the seniors at home.
The additional person years mentioned by the Minister were in the stages a few months ago as a result of the study that was done, and the recommendations were taken very seriously. The fact that the seniors are continuing to stay in the Yukon speaks for itself because the programs offered to the seniors in the Yukon, I understand from talking to many seniors who have gone and come back, are far superior to other jurisdictions. We have a lot to be thankful for because we have offered our seniors the programs they have been able to take advantage of. The commitment to the seniors has been far-reaching throughout this Legislature and I am sure we all have that same commitment.
As Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission I can say that we are in the process of hiring the people to staff these positions. I am pleased to be able to speak on this motion today.
Mrs. Firth: I want to raise one issue during the discussion of this motion we are debating today about the full-time physiotherapist and full-time occupational therapist. As the former critic for Health and Human Resources, I am very pleased to hear the announcement by the government. I had asked the previous Minister of Health for a copy of the study that was done regarding Macaulay Lodge and was unable to receive one. I believe at the time it was an internal working document. My colleague can follow up on that and see if we will have access to that document.
We must not lose sight of the fact there is still a tremendous burden being put on the staff at Macaulay Lodge and the Whitehorse General Hospital in the medical ward. They are required to care for the extended-care patients. Although the addition of the physiotherapist and occupational therapist will help lighten their loads somewhat, it still leaves an outstanding decision to be made regarding the extended care facility.
On the medical ward, it is not uncommon for there to be 11 extended-care patients taking active medical beds and putting an added burden on the nursing staff. The residents on the main floor of Macaulay Lodge are usually those requiring extended-care services, some of whom are in the terminal stages of illness requiring constant nursing care. The staff are extremely good and creative in adjusting and adapting to those kinds of conditions.
This positive announcement will lighten that burden. The more important decision that has to be made is whether or not we are going to have an extended-care facility to accommodate these people and to give the physiotherapist and the occupational therapist, as well as the nursing staff, a new environment in which to look after these people.
We will be pursuing further debate with the new Minister of Health and Human Resources regarding the extended-care facility and when the Yukon is going to be provided with that service for its people.
Ms. Hayden: I have some considerable personal admiration for health care professionals. I am certainly concerned that the people who live in Macaulay Lodge receive the best possible care. That means sufficient nursing care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, and other support services. People who are confined to their homes much of the time, whether it be in the lodge or their own homes or apartments, need these resources to enable them to maintain some, if not all, of their independence.
The sense of isolation and depression that can, unfortunately in our society, become part of growing old and ill is greatly alleviated by the kinds of caring and sharing given by these professionals. They not only provide good physical care that enables good health to be maintained, they provide that extra morale boost that is so necessary when people have to learn to cope with a world that becomes, for many, an increasingly difficult place to be.
As I have said before, I am proud of this governments support of older Yukoners. Our record is good, and I believe it will continue to be so. Since the Minister of Health and Human Resources is already in the process of hiring a full-time physiotherapist, expanded from the half-time position recently available, and are also hiring a half-time occupational therapist and recreational therapist, it seems the motion may be a bit redundant, but I thank the Member for bringing it forward. I see that it is an important part of our system.
Home care, I am pleased to note, is also including occupational therapy as part of its program. By physiotherapy, occupational therapy and recreational therapy, people will be given a full part of the resources available to Macaulay Lodge. That is important. Not only for people who live in Macaulay and those who maintain their own homes, but for the therapists themselves who, as the Member spoke so eloquently about, require some flexibility and diversity in the provision of their services in order to maintain and build on their skills. I really do not have anything more to say other than that I do support the motion.
Deputy Speaker: It is my duty to advise the Assembly that if the hon. Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Phillips: I would like to thank all the previous speakers for their support of this motion. I am pleased to see that by raising the motion here I prompted the government to make these announcements today. I have been pushing for this for awhile.
I have talked to the previous Minister of Health and Human Resources on this issue. It sometimes takes a little pushing to move government and I am pleased to see that by raising the motion today in the House they have accelerated the process. I do have one concern and that is that I am getting about three-quarters of what I asked for. I am pleased to see a full-time physiotherapist and a recreational therapist in the lodge and in the home care program as these are needed.
Last time we had a half-time physiotherapist and part of the difficulty was the physiotherapists work load. The other problem was that it was a half-time position. These are very highly trained people who are very hard to come by because of the nature of their business. You may not be able to find a half-time person in the Yukon. If you cannot do that, who will come to the Yukon for a part-time job?
I think that is a strong concern that must be expressed from this side. I know that the workload for an occupational therapist is not half-time. It is full-time. An occupational therapist is much more needed in the home care program. That is where we can utilize a home care therapist. The government should go back and think it through again, and seriously consider hiring a full-time occupational therapist.
We are in the process of talking about transferring the federal hospital over to the Yukon government and we will then obtain three more physiotherapists from that hospital. I would suggest to the government that they seriously look at rotating those physiotherapists with the ones at Macaulay Lodge and the home care program. I think that the rotation of all these physiotherapists would provide challenging experiences for all the physiotherapists and occupational therapists. It would also reduce the stress on all of these particular individuals.
This is a motion that will not ring bells or get front page coverage in the newspaper, but I can assure every Member in this House that the senior citizens and the elders of the territory will appreciate what is being done here today.
Motion No. 18 agreed to
Motion No. 12
Deputy Clerk: Item 7 standing in the name of Mrs. Firth.
Speaker: Is the Member prepared to proceed with Item 7?
Mrs. Firth: Yes, Madam Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale South
THAT it is the opinion of this House that provision should be made for an annual appearance by the Human Rights Commission before this House in order that an opportunity is provided to Members of the Legislative Assembly to call the Commission to account for its expenditure of public funds.
Mrs. Firth: I do not anticipate a great lengthy debate regarding this issue. The government will either agree with it, or they will disagree with it. I hope I will be able to benefit from the positive responses that we have been getting today, as my colleague from Riverdale North did.
I have been raising this issue since the passage of the Human Rights Act and the formation of the commission. The amounts of money that have been identified for the commissions budget have created some concern, both with Members of the Legislative Assembly and with the public in general.
The reason that I have brought this motion forward is twofold, the first being that last year we had some debate and controversy about getting the annual report of the Human Rights Commission, in which it was supposed to reveal its financial statement. We were finally successful in getting an account of the expenditures and what the money had been spent on. I know that the commission is presently working on its annual report. I do not know when we will have access to that, whether it will be available at the end of March, or not; therefore, I do not know if we will be able to see it before we finish sitting in this Legislative Assembly.
I have also raised the issue of what I have perceived to be a departure from the Financial Administration Act. The Human Rights Commission does not have to go through the same tendering procedures and abide by the same rules and regulations that other departments, agencies, commissions and corporations of the government have to. I have raised this issue before with the Minister of Justice and also with the Government Leader, and I am still not satisfied with the answer that has been given to me. That answer is that the Human Rights Act excludes the Human Rights Commission from having to follow those same procedures because it supersedes any other act, whether enacted before or after the Human Rights Act. I believe that the Financial Administration Act prevails unless another act contains special provision in it that it does not have to abide by the Financial Administration Act. Of course it has been pointed out previously that the Human Rights Act does not contain that kind of clause or provision.
I was further concerned when the Human Rights Commission launched a community grants program in 1988-89 and was given the ability to give out grants to non-profit organizations, and fund non-profit organizations for programs to educate the public about human rights. I received some sketchy information about the purpose of the program, the eligibility, the priorities, and the criteria, but I was not completely satisfied that all proper financial steps and procedures were going to be followed. So, I felt that there was no other alternative but to call the commission before the Legislative Assembly in order that we have the ability, as Members of the Assembly, to ask it specific details about its tendering procedures and about its grant program and the distribution of the monies. This being a government that advocates accountability and openness, I anticipate that the Members across the floor would perhaps agree to this motion and to this new procedure.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The Member has brought a motion to the House today, and she is asking to have the commission appear before this House to answer certain questions. The subject, I am happy to say, has been brought up in the department during the last couple of weeks. I had a discussion with a member of the commission at least 10 days ago on this very subject. At that time we spoke at great length about the commission appearing in the House, so that has already been done. It was something that we had considered and had discussion about.
The commission has informed me that they would be pleased to appear in the House to answer questions during debate. Their fear would be that there may be political questions that they may not be able to answer. They would be there to answer financial questions and, of course, we will be here as well. They have also informed me that the annual report is not expected until April. However, as we did last year, there may be a draft report that could be available to the House if the final copy is not ready before we have adjourned. They have made a commitment there.
There were other issues that the Member for Riverdale South brought up in regard to the FAA versus the Human Rights Act and of course that will probably be debated again. It has been debated at length in the past, and I suspect that it will be again. For the information of the House, they have agreed to this over a long period of discussion.
Deputy Speaker: It is my duty to advise the Assembly that if the hon. Member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any Member wish to be heard?
Mrs. Firth: I am very pleased to hear that the commission will be appearing before the House to answer questions regarding their financial situation. I think my reputation would hold me in good stead that I will be asking questions of members of the commission strictly of a financial nature and not of a political nature.
Perhaps, just as some advance notice, I could indicate to them that we will, of course, be looking for their financial statement and accounting of funds, the tendering procedures and how they award contracts and a list of the grants that went out and how they made determinations of who got grants and who did not. I am sure that will be indicated in the financial accounting that we are presented with.
We were given quite a lengthy Human Rights Commission financial statements document from a chartered accountant firm, and I would anticipate that that may be made available to us as well.
Just to finish up, we are looking forward, on this side of the House, to having the commission appear before us and justify their expenditures.
Motion No. 12 agreed to
Motion No. 10
Deputy Clerk: Item 10 standing in the name of Mr. Nordling.
Deputy Speaker: Is the Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 10?
Mr. Nordling: Yes, Madam Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Porter Creek West
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, during its review and renegotiation of the Canada-Yukon Economic Development Agreement and the sub-agreements, the Government of Yukon should advocate a revolving fund which would be utilized to provide low interest loans rather than grants.
Mr. Nordling: In view of the time, I will be very brief. I realize this motion may have come too late to affect the outcome of renewal negotiations that are presently concluding; however, I feel it is important to restate our concern with the present system of outright grants.
A similar motion to this was debated in October, 1985. It advocated that 50 percent of the Tourism sub-agreement money be put into a revolving loan fund. The Minister of Tourism at that time, Mr. Porter, said that the government had no problem philosophically supporting the motion; with a technical amendment the motion was agreed to.
As critic for Economic Development I pursued the opinion expressed in this motion with the former Minister of Economic Development and felt at that time that my suggestions were falling on sympathetic ears. I bring the motion forward today because the Throne Speech in January of this year mentioned the renegotiation of the Economic Development Agreement with no mention of any changes or anticipated changes in the terms of the agreement. I hope the new Minister will not stand up and say that the terms of the EDA are unchanged and that the Yukon government has caved in again to federal bureaucratic expediency.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will be short with respect to this particular motion because I really want to make myself popular with the other side of the House.
The Member is correct in assessing that the negotiations on the Economic Development Agreement are well advanced. The Member suggests that the Government of Yukon has not tried hard enough to seek changes to the agreement to include such things as low interest revolving loan funds through the EDA. That is not true. The government has tried on a number of occasions to negotiate such a fund within the framework of the agreement and has been unsuccessful in seeking approval from the federal government ministers who sign these agreements. It certainly is not simply a matter of caving in to federal bureaucracy because it is the federal minister who ultimately signs the agreement with the territorial government respecting the terms and conditions of the Economic Development Agreement.
The government has tried, and has been unsuccessful, in securing the revolving loan fund under the current EDA. It is not a matter of caving in because we are major partners in the agreement. The federal government does provide the lions share of the funding under the agreement and its cooperation is not only essential but mandatory in coming to terms on renegotiation.
The wording of the motion is acceptable to the government in that it states clearly that the EDA and sub-agreements include a revolving fund and are not solely dedicated to having funding come through a revolving loan fund, but indicate that the inclusion of a revolving loan fund is a worthwhile goal and the government basically agrees.
The government has tried to negotiate and will continue to try to negotiate a revolving fund. When the federal Minister agrees, there will be such a fund in the Economic Development Agreement.
Motion No. 15 agreed to
Bill No. 62: Second Reading
Deputy Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 62, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Webster.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No. 62, entitled Freshwater Fisheries Agreement Act, be now read a second time.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 62, entitled Freshwater Fisheries Agreement Act, be now read a second time.
Deputy Speaker: Does the House wish to recess until 7:30?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 7:30 p.m.
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Speaking to the Freshwater Fisheries Agreement Act, second reading, I am pleased to speak today to this act. The passage of this act will allow the transfer of management responsibility for this important resource sector to our government. It is particularly gratifying to see this transfer approach a conclusion, since so many Yukoners, including the Members opposite, have supported the initiative to secure a stronger and more responsive management of the Yukon freshwater fishery in the Yukon.
The Canada\Yukon Freshwater Fisheries Agreement, enabled by this act, is similar to the fishery agreement act Canada has with the western provinces. While constitutionally the responsibility for the management of freshwater fish stocks is a matter of federal jurisdiction, the federal government has delegated the administration of freshwater fisheries to the provinces. The effect of this arrangement is to a transfer defacto operational management responsibility for freshwater fisheries to the provinces.
The implementation of the transfer agreement will lead to a major enhancement of the conservation and development of the freshwater fishery resource with improved benefits to Yukoners. The result will be a direct expenditure of at least $3 million during the next five years, as opposed to the current level of expenditure of less than $60,000 a year. Approximately half the expenditure will be funded by the federal government as a result of the transfer agreement, with the balance funded by increased licence revenues.
Surveys indicate Canadian anglers are willing to pay for fishing opportunities if they can be assured that the increased fees are committed to fisheries management and enhancement programs. That is our commitment. The revenues from increased fees will still be amongst the lowest in Canada and will contribute directly to the cost of improved management of this resource.
A new fisheries management section in the Fish and Wildlife Branch will be a unit with minimal administrative costs. Most of the budget will be dedicated to management and protection projects undertaken by management specialists under contract and by user and interest groups. We look forward to involving the communities, Yukon first nations and special interest groups, such as the Yukon Fish and Game Association, in a range of research and management activities.
Our government, with support of the federal government, has already begun work toward developing a strategy for the management of Yukons freshwater fishery. A study of economic development options for the resource is presently under public review. Accelerated population surveys are being planned for lakes receiving heavy harvest pressure. The program will be fully operational early in the new fiscal year.
It is expected that subsidiary agreements will be negotiated with Canada in the future with regard to aquaculture and fish habitat management. We look forward to the implementation of a full, vigorous and innovative fisheries management program in the Yukon.
Mr. Lang: I move that debate do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved that debate do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Bill No. 33: Third Appropriation Act, 1988-89 - continued
Deputy Chairman: The Committee of the Whole will now come to order. At this time we will continue with Bill No. 33. We are dealing with Community and Transportation Services. We are on capital expenditures, page 19. We will proceed line by line. Starting with highway construction.
On Planning & Engineering
Planning & engineering in the amount of $120,000 agreed to
On Klondike Highway #2
Mr. Lang: Could I ask the Minister to explain what the over expenditure is and then we can see whether or not we have any questions?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The explanation I can give is that the $258,000 is due to increased engineering costs, requirement of additional excavation due to unforeseen conditions and substantial changes in quantities from the tendered amount.
Mr. Lang: I do not quite understand. Is this one big contract or was this a number of contracts and if so were we over on a couple or what was the situation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that it involves several contracts. Clearly, one of them is one that I was familiar with, having driven through it quite regularly near Fox Lake. There were a number of road conditions there that were quite extraordinary in terms of underground streams and major excavations and rebuilding was needed to correct that section of road in the rebuild.
On Klondike Highway #2
Klondike Highway #2 in the amount of $258,000 agreed to
On Tagish #8
Tagish #8 in the amount of a recovery of $135,000 agreed to
On Silver Trail
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $176,000 was due to tenders received that were higher than estimated. Some extra work was added to the project to improve the access to the Mayo boundary. A portion of the overage was covered by a revote.
Mr. Lang: Was there not a major error made by the Department of Highways with respect to at least one hill that was to be reconstructed? It was partially reconstructed and then it was found to have permafrost and subsequently they did not proceed with it. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe that the Member is referring to Eleven Percent Hill. I am advised that there was some design work and some clearing on it, but apparently it did not amount to any significant dollars.
Mr. Lang: My definition of significant sometimes varies from the definition used by the government. We are talking about significant dollars. Was this work done on a contract basis or on a rental basis?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that the contract was indeed let and subsequently canceled, so on that contract, there was no specific money. I will undertake to produce a specific figure of any monies expended on that.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could undertake to give us written detail on just exactly what did take place there.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will attempt to provide what is available.
Silver Trail in the amount of $176,000 agreed to
On Bridges - Numbered Highways
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
On Freegold Km 0 - 60
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My understanding is that there was a $207,000 deficit that was due to tenders being higher than estimated, some training costs for heavy equipment operators and an increase in required engineering costs.
Mr. Lang: Do you want to give us a breakdown of just where the costs were incurred?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To the best that I can determine, the construction costs amounted to $507,000 of which pre-engineering and reconstruction design was $42,000 and pre-engineering was $10,000.
Mr. Lang: In fairness to the House, we voted $300,000. You are asking for double the amount that was spent on this project. The previous Minister assured this House that it was going to cost in the neighbourhood of $300,000. Now we have double the amount, and I would like to know why.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am sure the Member realizes that an additional $200,000 over an originally budgeted $300,000 is not quite double. I can only tell the Member that I will have to come back with more refined information.
Mr. Lang: What kind of information do you have there? I would assume you would have a breakdown of why you have cost overruns and a breakdown of why they are there.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have already told the Member that the costs were due to tenders coming in higher than expected, or higher than estimated. I told the Member that the costs involved training costs for heavy-equipment operators, on the job, and an increase in engineering costs. To refine it further than that, the information is definitely available, and I will undertake to bring it back to him.
Mr. Lang: We are not going to hold up the budget for it. I will hold the Minister to his undertaking in the understanding that, at this portion of the Main Estimates, if we wish to debate that item, we can resurrect it if we feel it should be further reviewed publicly.
Freegold Km 0 - 60 in the amount of $207,000 agreed to
On Crow Mountain
Mr. Lang: There was a fair amount of debate on the subject yesterday, I believe, and I would like to know if the Minister has all of the information that was requested by my colleague, the Member for Riverdale North.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe information was requested respecting studies. I have taken some time to inquire of the department the extent to which studies were taken; indeed, there were a couple of internal studies done, a feasibility study and an engineering study.
The road was requested by the Old Crow Band, in a formal band council resolution, in June of 1987. It is the route used by the people of the village the people of Old Crow traditionally for access to Old Crow Mountain and beyond for hunting and trapping purposes. It is a trail that is quite clearly delineated. Its previous use was primarily in winter and its use was restricted because six kilometres of the road goes through swamp land and so was unaccessible for good portions of the year, which, in part, was the justification for the request. The upgrading of the road will provide year-round access to that traditional hunting area and, as requested by the band, and by the studies done internally, it is proceeding.
Mr. Lang: I see it is in the Main Estimates. Can the Minister undertake to table the studies that were done in respect to the particular item? We can then discuss it further when we get into the Main Estimates.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can make the inquiry if they are available, and the Member can raise it at that time.
Crow Mountain in the amount of a recovery of $140,000 agreed to
On Annie Lake Surfacing Km 0 - 8
Annie Lake Surfacing Km 0 - 8 in the amount of a recovery of $56,000 agreed to
Mr. Lang: When we get into the Main Estimates, could the Minister provide us with a list of what these other roads are?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Could the Member define more specifically what roads he is talking about now?
Mr. Lang: There is a broad statement here called Other for $436,000, and you are asking for an additional $5,000. Other does not really give a clear explanation of where the money is spent. Could the Minister tell us?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe I can provide that information now. The other roads include: a surplus of $16,000 on the Fish Lake road, which was due to BST and the hydroseeding costs being lower than estimated; Duncan Creek Road had a surplus of $14,000 due to clearing being less than estimated; Dome Road had a deficit of $42,000, which was due to the reconstruction of kilometres three to seven due to a slide and some permafrost problems. In part, a revote helped offset that, and there was an additional surplus of $2,000 due to less than anticipated costs of culverts at Little Salmon. When all those numbers are costed through, it comes out to a shortfall of $5,000.
Other in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Regional Resource Roads
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In anticipation of the Members question, that $120,000 is simply due to an under subscription to the program.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to ask the Minister if that has anything to do with the Cassino Road.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Of the total amount under regional resource roads, the $2,380,000, yes, the Cassino Trail constitutes $384,000 of it.
Mr. Brewster: I am wondering if the Minister is aware of the recommendation of the Yukon Chamber of Mines and their comments on your Cassino Road?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to admit that I would prefer to be more fully briefed, but I am advised that they removed their support and we will not be proceeding with that road until that support is restored.
Mr. Brewster: I will just read it into the record so that we have it. I am very pleased that finally the government has smartened up and will start listening to people who know what they are talking about: Cassino Trail Update, December 1, Yukon Chamber of Mines Report.
In the long saga of the Cassino Trail, Peter Percival, Project Engineer with the Department of Community and Transportation Services, once more has reported to the chamber on this project which has been managed by the Government of Yukon under the Resource Transportation Access Program. The road now provides access for 39.6 km beyond Gutter Junction. This represents 20 km of access beyond the point at which basic industry access existed prior to the inception of the current project. The project has now cost a total of $1,300,000.
This chamber can not support further work on the Cassino Trail in the manner in which it has been managed. If further work is to be done, a private sector proponent must come forward to make an application for funding under the Resource Transportation Access Program. In this way, the financial resources which government can contribute may be applied with the efficiency available to private enterprise.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Very briefly in response, I am advised that a private sector applicant has come forward and some discussions are taking place. I am sure that the Member is aware that the program was originally conceived in conjunction with the Chamber of Mines.
Mr. Brewster: It is probable that the Chamber of Mines had not had experience with the government running things and now they finally have smartened up. It spent $1,300,000 to go less than 20 miles. The Alaska Highway would like some of that money.
Mr. Lang: I do not quite understand these figures that the Minister has just quoted to us. Did he say the total amount that was spent was $376,000?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The total was $384,000
Mr. Lang: Well that is in the Supplementary, is it not? I just want to get this clear in my mind. It seems to me that we were given information last year that $681,000 was allocated to the Cassino Trail. Over and above that, there was $74,800 for an environmental study and $106,000 for engineering. I do not quite understand how the Minister can give us a figure of $376,000.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Perhaps I may have to come back with some further figures. I am not sure. What I clarified was that the entire expenditure on the Cassino Trail this year was $384,000. I said that that was a portion of $2,380,000 of the revised vote.
Mr. Lang: The Cassino Trail was a concern raised at the Game Management Board meeting last evening. There was a question of the depletion of game and whether or not there should be a corridor or if various other things should be done in the line of game management along that corridor. I noticed that there was a $74,000 environmental study down there. At least money was voted for that. Does the Minister have that study, and if so, could he make it available to us?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to take the Members question as notice. I cannot answer that. I would prefer to be most accurate and fully briefed before responding further.
Deputy Chairman: Shall the decrease of $120,000 carried?
Mr. Lang: We will let it carry under the assumption that that information is going to be made available. I would assume there will be a total breakdown of the $2,500 and then we will know exactly how it was spent.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes, that is an undertaking.
Regional Resource Roads in the amount of a recovery of $120,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Camp Facilities
On Miscellaneous Branch Facilities
Miscellaneous Branch Facilities in the amount of a recovery of $90,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Warehouse
Mr. Brewster: I would like the Minister to explain to me why this started out for $600,000 and now we are voting almost double that, half again.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My information is that the deficit is due to tenders being higher than estimated. However, there were monies transferred internally in the amount of $210,000 to cover that.
Mr. Brewster: Is this a common practice of the government, when a tender comes in for this, to double the money and not think anything of it and then, not to give us any information and then expect us to vote these things through? I am a little sick and tired of this.
Mr. Lang: This is embarrassing for all Members. If the idea is for us to come here in the evenings and give the government a blank cheque? All Members have equal rights to vote here. Are we to say that we just have an overrun of 50 percent of what we estimated and not to expect any answers to our questions? I would suggest that maybe we just adjourn and let the Minister get briefed and then we can come back. I am not going stand here and let it go on any further. We have gone through at least five line items where there have been significant differences and all we have got is a bunch of bureaucratic explanations. No real, concrete, substantiated reasons. Obviously, in some cases, it would really beg the question of mismanagement, and if there was, why? I think the Minister would agree with us.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would have to tell the Member that the information that I have provided to him was totally accurate and provided the answer. My understanding of the situation in this case is that the tenders came in significantly higher than anticipated. It is probably quite fair to say they were probably underestimated and there was probably some error of judgment somewhere, but I know that when tenders are received you make a judgment call after talking to the contractor or cancel the project. In this case a decision was made to proceed with the project. I have every assurance that everything was appropriately done and accounted for. I would take issue with any suggestion of mismanagement.
Mr. Lang: I wish the Government Leader were here. It seems to me that once again this is one of the major weaknesses that the government has: financial management. I do not understand. If I walked into my home and said we are just over budgeted by $100,000 and never really questioned it or examined why, I think that everyone in this House would say that Mr. Lang is totally irresponsible. Here we have a situation where, if I recall correctly, it was questioned whether the warehouse was needed to begin with. We were told that it was going to cost us $600,000, which at that time seemed like a lot of money, and now we are up to $1 million. Could the Minister tell us why this particular project was tendered out in October of last year? Could some of the overruns be due to the fact that it was done during the winter? If so, I would like to know how much is attributed to that. I would also like to know why it was so late being tendered.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have the reason why it was tendered at the time it was. I am sure the Member will understand that these budget figures are something I have only been familiar with for a couple of weeks. I should point out that the $375,000 has been covered internally. It is not asking for additional funds. It is identifying the amount of the project.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister trying to tell me that he is such a good manager that he was able to finish the Whitehorse warehouse for an additional $375,000 and saved a lot of money? You know how he saved that money? He did not go ahead with the Ross River garage, so he had $435,000. To his way of thinking, we ended up $50,000 to the good, so we must all be good managers.
Do not stand up and tell me that it was covered internally so we should pat you on the back. Why did this particular project cost as much as it did? Did we build a bigger warehouse? If we built the same warehouse that was projected under the estimate of $600,000, why were we $375,000 over and above the estimate given in the House? It is almost like the tail wagging the dog here; the civil service must really be laughing. We are throwing out a quote of $50,000; call it a day, and when those jerks come in here eight months down the road, they will just approve it without even asking, even it it did cost an extra $1 million. What is $1 million nowadays?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can only tell the Member that a project that was estimated at $600,000 came in at $975,000. That was what the tenders were. If the Member is asking why, I cannot tell him, because I am not a contractor. I can predict that someone either estimated low or that the tenders had costs in them someone did not calculate. It is pretty obvious why something comes in higher than was estimated.
Mr. Brewster: Any contractor can come in here and give you a bid and, even if you have figured it out, you can turn around and accept his bid. Have you ever turned a contract down?
It is not only the politicians who are objecting to this. I just got through reading to you what the Yukon Chamber of Mines has said. This organization would no doubt like roads into its areas, and it is so ashamed that it has bailed out on you because of the misspending. There is only one here but, every time we turn around, there is another one. There is something wrong with the way you are bidding, or you are not turning them down when you should be.
Mr. Lang: I suggest we set this aside. We have the Supplementaries to go through, and maybe the Minister can report back and give us actual reasons why we have had an increase of $375,000. There has to be some other reason than the tenders came in higher than what they thought. You cannot be that far out in estimating a building, unless you are building a bigger building or something.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not know how much more information I can provide. The project scope was not changed on this particular facility. In fact, it was reduced. Someone obviously has not calculated a proper estimate of the project in the first place.
What more can be done a year after the fact?
Mr. Lang: I guess the point is: what are we sitting here for then?
I think that this goes back to the Public Accounts Committee and the recommendations that they put forward and the concerns the Members on both sides of the House had in respect to planning and how you were going about doing your Capital programming and estimating. I just cannot accept the Ministers explanation. Do you mean that we made such a good deal that we got an increase of $375,000 and reduced the size of the work? I would like to know how much smaller the warehouse is than when it was estimated to cost $600,000.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will undertake for the Member to try to determine more specifically why this particular project did indeed cost $375,000 more than estimated. I will do my best.
Mr. Phillips: I would just like to ask the Minister to put it into the perspective that a businessman would say, a businessman who owned a hotel in an outlying community in the Yukon, who wanted to build on to his hotel and added a $600,000 addition onto that hotel. Then the bill came in at $975,000. I wonder if the Minister could think about it in that business context and then come back to the House with reasonable explanations of why that building cost so much more than the estimates he was given in the first place. And, in fact, now the hotel is a little smaller than was planned. I wonder if he could come back with that information.
Whitehorse Warehouse stood over
On Drury Creek Staff Quarters/Garage
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The explanation that I have for that is that the deficit is due to tenders again being higher than expected, as well as a reduced contribution expected from Energy Branch.
Drury Creek Staff Quarters/Garage in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Ross River Garage
Hon. Mr. Byblow: This facility apparently did not proceed because design work was not completed in time for a safe construction season. As previously indicated, $210,000 of the resulting surplus was transferred to the project of the central workshop warehouse in Whitehorse, as well as another $225,000 to the Whitehorse ambulance station.
Mr. Lang: I want to raise an area of concern. We discussed this item in the debates in the fall a year ago and the Member for Mayo will remember this. I appreciated the comments that the Minister of Finance raised today, in respect to Capital and how, if we are going into other significant, major projects, it could have an effect on other projects throughout the territory, and that is a fact. You can only cut the pie so many ways and so many times. I pointed out at that time that $435,000 for a shop was a lot of money, especially when it did not include the price of the land, nor, I believe, did the price include the fencing.
I recited my own experience of an individual who just built a shop last fall and built a very good, sound heavy industrial shop in the neighborhood of about $100,000. My question to the Minister is: if the design work is done, what is this particular project projected to cost?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To answer the Members question specifically, as far as we are aware, it is still $435,000.
Mr. Lang: Could I ask for an undertaking by the Minister to look into this particular shop and see whether or not some other ideas from the private sector could be sought and see whether or not we could bring a building in to meet the needs of the highways department but bring it in at much less cost? I am trying to provide an avenue where perhaps the department could take some time and effort to see whether or not they could save some money.
Maybe what we should do is take the tactic here that we are only going to vote $200,000 and that is what the building is going to cost; we are going to design the building to meet that fixed cost. It just seems to me, because it is government, we can just over design it, over engineer it, do all the various aspects of it to ensure that it costs as much as possible. My point is that if we can build a shop in Ross River for $200,000, maybe there is $200,000 that can be transferred to do some other project in the community of Mayo or Haines Junction. I think we have to start looking at our Capital Budget from that perspective.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could clarify something for us. Maybe it will get him off the hook a little bit. Could he tell us who did the estimating for these projects? Was it his Department of Community and Transportation Services or his Department of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: For the Members information, the estimating is done jointly between the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Department of Government Services. I have both of the Ministries.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the Minister is going to have a discussion with himself when he gets home, because, being a member of the past Public Accounts Committee, I believe we had great discussions and there were a lot of questions raised in the public accounts hearings about project management and this was one of the problems identified. The estimating most times was under estimated and projects were continuing to come in far above what they were supposed to cost.
Just for the Ministers information in regard to his comment about moving the money within his department, I believe there was also some problem about money being moved around within his department without proper authorization and getting authorization from the Minister for amounts over a certain amount. He may want to check that out when he brings the information back to us. This is something that the Public Accounts Committee has identified as a problem. Obviously, after the hearings that the Department of Government Services and the Department of Community and Transportation participated in, it would appear that nothing has really changed and projects are still being under estimated. I think we had better determine who is at fault and get it cleaned up because we can not continue to have projects coming in here for approval of what sometimes is double the amount budgeted.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the Members comments and the spirit in which they were intended. I can give her every assurance that I will certainly do my best in streamlining any deficiencies that may exist.
Ross River Garage in the amount of a reduction of $435,000 agreed to
On Swift River Staff Quarters
Mrs. Firth: When were these four projects added? There is nothing in the Capital Budget for them, so they were obviously added after the Capital Budget was passed. Could the Minister enlighten us as to when the decision was made to do these projects and why we found ourselves with over $1 million extra we could spend on them?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: For the Members information, all those items are revotes. They would not have shown up in the Capital Mains of the year under review. They were revotes from the previous year and are being completed this year.
Mr. Brewster: I understand those Swift River staff houses were the famous metric inch ones that did not meet in the centre. They were brand new. That seems to be a large repair bill of $425,000 when they are not quite a year old.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My understanding on the Swift River staff quarters is that the $425,000 represents the completion of the contract after the original tender was canceled.
Mr. Phillips: How much did the original tender cost us? Did it cost us any money? I know the original contract was around $400,000 and, then, there was some difficulty with the metric and imperial measurements, as well as a few other difficulties, that brought that project to a halt. We now see this $425,000. What is the actual cost of the whole project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that, under the original contract, we paid about $175,000 for the materials and the work done. That would be in addition to the $425,000 here, so it was in excess of $600,000 overall.
Mr. Phillips: Did we recover any funds from the contractor, who the government alleged had made the mistake? If we did, how much was recovered?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure what the Member means by recovery. Work was paid for that was legitimately done. The materials were paid for, then the work was finished. What recovery is he talking about?
Mr. Phillips: The previous Minister of Community and Transportation Services told us at the time that there was a dispute with the contractor on the work that was done, that there were difficulties there, and that it was not going to cost the Government of Yukon anything for this mistake. He assured us this would not cost the Yukon taxpayer anything. Today, you are telling us it did cost the Yukon taxpayer $175,000 to pay for the original contract.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The circumstances in that particular contract were such that the $175,000 paid on the original contract was for work done and materials recovered. That was all that was paid on the first portion of the contract before it was canceled. It then had to be retendered. The second tender was $425,000. This would be a year, or two years, later. In terms of the Yukon taxpayer paying anything extra, that is hard or impossible to determine because of the nature of the project. We paid for legitimate work done and a contract delivered.
Mr. Phillips: I beg to differ with the logic of the Minister opposite. The initial estimate of that project was around $450,000. We paid $650,000. That is $200,000 more that the taxpayer paid for that project.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I beg to differ with the Member. The total is $635,000. The original estimate may have been $400,000, and here again we get into estimates and time frames. It was tendered on that basis. Two years later, it had to be retendered, partially done, and it came in on the second tender in the amount of the original estimate or tender. Given the fact that it was two years later and it was fixing up a job, it is hard to say what additional costs were actually incurred by what happened. The work was done and adequately done in the end.
Mr. Phillips: Here we are, two or three years later and a couple of hundred thousand dollars more, and the Minister says that it just cost more because it took longer to do. No problem. My last question is: when the building was completed, was it completed in metric or imperial?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Is the Member serious? Metric.
Mr. Lang: This is very confusing for all of us. We are trying to find out what the original estimate for this particular building was. Could the Minister tell us exactly how much was estimated for this building when we first voted for it back in 1986-87?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, I would prefer to get back to the Members respecting the original estimates. It appears to me that the original estimate was in the magnitude of $800,000 or $900,000. When the award came in at $400,000, there was some debate in the House. I only have a vague recollection of it. I will undertake to provide the original estimated amount on that project. I think, in this particular case, the estimate was considerably more than what it took to eventually construct the project. I will confirm that.
Mr. Devries: The hon. Minister mentioned that the building had been completed and that the work was adequate. Could he tell me if the people who are moving into the building are happy with the quarters?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot specifically answer that question, but I will undertake to find out. If the Member has some additional information on the subject I would be pleased to hear it.
Mr. Devries: The other day I drove by the building and there were 20 foot icicles hanging off the roof. It would appear to me that someone forgot to put insulation in the roof. I know several workers at the Swift River Camp and they refuse to move into the building. They say it would be worse than moving into a prison. The rooms are so small, the windows do not seem to be adequate, et cetera. They are very discouraged with the building.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the Members comments and information and I will certainly undertake to add that to the information I will be providing his colleague.
Mr. Lang: We have stood over one other. We might as well stand over this one because we are going to have to come back to the vote in any event. I am a little concerned if we just let everything pass by. All of a sudden we will get this information at the end of the session and we will not even get a chance to really get back into it and debate it in any length and come up with some constructive observations. We have stood one section over. I cannot see why we cannot stand this one over.
Swift River Staff Quarters stood over
Deputy Chairman: If it is the wish of the Committee we will take a short recess.
Deputy Chairman: Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue with the Swift River Garage.
On Swift River Garage
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister tell us if it was $210,000 or $210,000 plus?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes. It remained at $210,000 from the revote in 1987-88.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister tell us why we can build a garage in Swift River for $210,000 and the same garage will cost $435,000 in Ross River?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am led to understand that the reason is because the garage in Swift River was, to a great extent, a reconstruction of an existing facility. The Ross River one is new.
Swift River Garage in the amount of $210,000 agreed to
On Teslin Pumphouse
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister just give us an idea what the $450,000 was for and maybe give us a little outline about why we have to have a revote on it? Was that the total amount for the project? I would also like to know if the property taxpayers in Teslin had to pay something towards the capital costs?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To my understanding, the total cost of the project was indeed $450,000. It was a revote from 1987-88. It was essentially to provide for a facility to replace one where water was being trucked and it is complete and in the hands of the Teslin village now.
Mr. Lang: I want to go back to the general question that was asked before, and I do not see anywhere, in the information that we had in 1987-88, for example, where the Teslin pumphouse was identified. For that matter, I do not recall ever discussing the Swift River garage. Perhaps when the Minister comes back to the House, he could tell us on what page and from what budget these particular items were voted. You have to vote authority before you can go ahead with the project. I want to make sure that vote authority was granted through this House for the purpose of what we are now revoting. Could the Minister take it as an undertaking, to identify all these four projects, and what page and where we voted the money for them?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can certainly make the undertaking to come back with that information. I may even be able to provide the page in Hansard where previous debate took place on these items.
Teslin Pumphouse in the amount of $450,000 agreed to
On Mayo Grader Station Upgrade
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister give us the total cost of moving the station and reconstructing it, including the cost of land?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will undertake to come back with that. The reason is because the project was spread over two years, and I just have the one years information here, which is the $130,000.
Mr. Lang: For further clarification: Did we build the new garage or did we take the existing garage and then put it back up again?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I understand we built a new one.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The move involved the removal of an old garage, plus the construction of a storage garage behind the garage that was moved.
Mayo Grader Station Upgrade in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction E.S.A.
On Klondike #2
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My understanding of the monies involved is that, related to some additional projects on the highway, there was approval obtained from DIAND prior to proceeding. It is totally recoverable.
Klondike #2 in the amount of $627,000 agreed to
On Dempster #5
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My understanding of the decrease is that it relates to an intended rip-rap erosion protection project and the reason it did not proceed is that federal approval was not able to be attained.
Dempster #5 in the amount of a recovery of $2,022,000 agreed to
On Top of the World #9
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, this is a similar situation. It was an intended project deferral because there was no federal approval for the work to commence this year.
Top of the World #9 in the amount of a recovery of $1,061,000 agreed to
On Nahanni Range Road
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The extra expenditure was a request by DIAND to do some additional grade raises on the roads and culvert replacements between kilometres zero to 34. This is fully recoverable.
Nahanni Range Road in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On M.O.T. Airstrips
M.O.T. Airstrips in the amount of a recovery of $10,000 agreed to
Deputy Chairman: We will move on to Lands, beginning with Development.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The deficit item was the result of Callison stage two in Dawson. It is a revote of most of that amount.
Industrial in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The deficit is primarily due to the project acceleration in the Granger neighbourhood. Most of it was utility work.
Residential in the amount of $898,000 agreed to
On Rural/Country Residential
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $116,000 is comprised of a couple of projects, including one in the Dawson area that required a site suitability study and mapping for west Dawson and Rock Creek. That was $40,000, along with an additional $75,000 for survey and site suitability work in the subdivision at Mayo.
Mr. Lang: Why are we doing this at Mayo? Were there not some country residential lots left over from the existing country residential subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that the previous Minister might wish to help me out. The work involved some available land in the country residential and rural residential area of Mayo. It was preliminary site and survey work. There are several country residential lots currently available.
Mr. Lang: I thought I heard that the figure of $40,000 was spent. For that amount, did we not get any land subdivided? The money was just to study it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The money involved was for the survey work as well as the purchase of the property.
Mr. Lang: What property did we purchase?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The property that was purchased was approximately 150 acres adjacent to the town boundaries of Mayo. It is the only developable land in the area for future residential development in the district. It is immediately adjacent to the village boundaries. It was cited by the village council in 1983 as land worth purchasing for future boundary expansion and future lot developments in the community.
Mr. Lang: How much was paid for it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that it was $50,000.
Rural/Country Residential in the amount of $116,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The surplus appears to be the result of $5,000 of a project deferral in Carmacks and $335,000 of a surplus relating to the Kopper King commercial development.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister telling us that the development is going to cost about $335,000? What is the actual cost going to be for the development of that property?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The total cost is estimated at $760,000. Some water and sewer work was done this year. The balance of the project will proceed next year.
Commercial in the amount of a recovery of $340,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $246,000 surplus is comprised of several projects. There was a surplus of $96,000 at Pine Lake development in Haines Junction due to a project deferral to 1989-90. Forty-five thousand dollars of that, incidentally, was transferred to the Carcross residential development.
The second project of surplus was the Mayo cottage subdivision surplus, which is deferred to 1989-90. There is an additional $20,000 surplus due to a development that was not completed at Lake Laberge. There was an additional surplus on the same basis at Watson Lake and at Morley Bay in Teslin. There was an additional $22,000 on some road work in cottage subdivisions of several other projects.
Recreational in the amount of a recovery of $246,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe this was the item the Member from Kluane was raising earlier. The reason for the $241,000 surplus again appears to be several projects. Thirty-five thousand dollars is the result of savings from several projects that were reduced in scope and will be completed next year, so will end up being a revote. There was $61,000 saved on agricultural intended for the Whitehorse area due to the Hootalinqua district plan. Specifically, it was the Flat Creek development.
In Watson Lake, a surplus of $125,000 was generated from a project cancellation due to a lack of adequate site availability. On the Annie Lake Road there was an intensive development deferred to 1989-90. That totals $241,000, as a result of a number of projects downscaled or, for various reasons, deferred.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to ask what the $125,000 cancellation was for.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that it was an extensive agricultural development in Liard. Proper siting for it has not been made. It is simply deferred until a better land selection can be made.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister give us the intention of the government with respect to the proposed Flat Creek Subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Flat Creek development at the moment is in a holding pattern until we adopt the Hootalinqua North plan. As the Member may be aware, there is an area defined in the Flat Creek area for intensive agriculture. It is my position that we cannot begin that development until we complete the consultation process that we have committed ourselves to. We should be done within the next month or two, when there is an adoption of the plan.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister indicate to us how much money has been spent on this already?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure if he is referring to the plan or Flat Creek. The amount of work in Flat Creek has only been $2,000 or $3,000 worth, essentially mapping and surveying.
Agricultural in the amount of a recovery of $241,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That amount is essentially required to complete projects relating to hydro-seeding of quarries. It is essentially rehabilitation work that was undertaken.
Quarries in the amount of $12,000 agreed to
On Central Services
On Community Planning
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Two major projects created the deficit: the Klondike Valley planning exercise had a deficit of $15,000, due to various contract terms that required an increase in payments; and, Takhini Valley planning required an additional $32,000, largely because the contract terms were expanded. This relates to the Hootalinqua North plan.
Community Planning in the amount of $47,000 agreed to
On Planning and Engineering
Planning and Engineering in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 33.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Deputy Chairman: It has been moved by the hon. Mr. McDonald that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Chairman of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Joe: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 33, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1988-89, and directed me to report progress on same.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
May I have your further pleasure?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 15, 1989:
Facility Program and Feasibility Study for Yukon Government Services Office Accommodations, June 1987 (Byblow)
Old Yukon College Conversion Traffic Assessment, Preliminary Report (Byblow)
Facility Program and Feasibility Study to Accommodate the Departments of Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services (Byblow)
Occupant Feasibility Study for Old Yukon College, June 1988 (Byblow)
Business Development Advisory Board, Annual Report, 1987-88 (McDonald)