Wednesday, February 7, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: At this time we will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling several legislative returns on a variety of matters.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have a number of legislative returns and other papers for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Report of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Recycling of Beverage Containers, Including Pop Cans from Five Rural Communities
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is my pleasure to advise Members of a new mandate for the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
As Members are aware, the corporation has for some time operated a successful deposit refund system for the beverage containers in which its products are sold. Although the refund first applied only to beer bottles, the system was expanded in April of 1987 to include beer cans as well as liquor and wine bottles. This expansion was a positive response to a recommendation of the 1986 Select Committee on Renewable Resources - a response which made the Yukon Liquor Corporation the first in the country to introduce such a comprehensive return system.
In May of last year, the deposit on beer cans was raised from five cents to 10 cents to encourage a higher return rate. Since that time, the return rate on cans has risen from 58.1 percent to 67 percent.
In recognition of the fact that the deposit return system is now a standard operating procedure of the corporation, its new mandate is to provide for the return and, where possible, recycling of beverage containers. This additional objective of the Yukon Liquor Corporation appears on page 375 of the 1990-91 budget estimates.
I am pleased to advise that the corporation has found it economically possible to recycle aluminum cans. The cans are crushed into bales at the Yukon Liquor Corporation warehouse and shipped south for sale to brokers.
Not only is this activity consistent with the new recycling mandate of the corporation, it is good environmental practice. Aluminum produced from recycled material uses 95% less energy than aluminum refined from bauxite ore. It is also consistent with the Yukon Conservation Strategy and the Yukon Economic Strategy, which encourage the use of non-renewable resources at a rate which assures a sustainable supply.
Incidentally, we are continuing to investigate the feasibility of recycling glass liquor and wine bottles, and are actively considering stock-piling crushed glass for possible recycling later.
Today, I want to advise the House that the Yukon Liquor Corporation is prepared to take its recycling objective one step further. Effective Tuesday, February 20, 1990, Yukon Liquor Corporation outlets in five rural Yukon Communities - Dawson City, Mayo, Faro, Haines Junction and Watson Lake - will accept 355 ml aluminum pop cans and pay a two cent per can refund. Ads announcing this new service will begin in Fridays newspapers.
The availability of this service in the larger rural Yukon communities complements the service offered by the Yukon Conservation Societys recycling centre in Whitehorse.
The recycling centre, now in a permanent location at 2nd Avenue and Ogilvie Street, is a Yukon Conservation Strategy demonstration project, helped on its way by a $20,000 grant from the Yukon Department of Renewable Resources Demonstration Projects fund.
That Yukon Conservation Strategy seed money has played a major role in securing additional financial commitments from Environment Canadas Environmental Partners Fund, the City of Whitehorse, the Whitehorse and Yukon Chambers of Commerce, and numerous other organizations and individuals. The recycling centre, which will have its grant opening this Saturday, February 10, is a fine example of what can happen when a committed group of individuals sets out to accomplish a goal. I commend the Yukon Conservation Society for its initiative and wish it well in their recycling endeavors.
It has been my pleasure to work with the recycling group to determine ways in which both the Department of Renewable Resources and the Yukon Liquor Corporation can best complement its recycling efforts.
The decision to have the liquor stores outside Whitehorse act as aluminum can recycling depots follows from several months of consultation with the recycling group and consultations that they in turn have undertaken with municipalities and community recycling groups.
It is estimated that between five and six million aluminum pop cans are brought into the Yukon every year. In the past, too many of these have littered our roadways and lake bottoms, or ended up wasted, buried under domestic garbage. It is my hope that combined efforts of the recycling centre and the Yukon Liquor Corporation will see many of these cans diverted from the waste stream into the recycling stream.
The two cent refund payable for aluminum pop cans offers a tremendous opportunity for a range of organizations in the Yukon community. Sport teams, recycling groups, service clubs all have the option of setting up recycling boxes or organizing clean-up drives with a guaranteed monetary return for an incentive. Their initiative will also be rewarded with the knowledge they are making a contribution to the Yukon environment by intercepting potential litter, and by helping to ensure that energy and raw material savings are gained by recycling aluminum.
Mr. Lang: I rise today to commend the government for its efforts in becoming involved in recycling. A special tribute has to be extended to the Yukon citizens who have so generously contributed their time and effort to start the recycling depot. I also want to commend the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Conservation Society on their sincere efforts to cooperate on this effort to clean up our environment.
The steps outlined in this proposal are a step forward, but we believe more can be done. We believe the refund for a pop can should be the same as for a beer can: 10 cents. We feel the environmental problems caused by a pop can are the same as those caused by a beer can, and the same incentive should be in place to encourage individuals to pick them up.
The next question is: who is going to pay for it? It is our opinion that the necessary steps be taken to add a deposit charge on to the price of a bottle of pop. The reasons for this suggestion are as follows:
1. This method of payment for the refund will ensure that the consumer is paying directly to help clean up the environment.
2. It will also ensure that the system of incentives to clean up our environment was not based on government grants.
3. A substantive incentive would be in place to encourage each and every Yukoner to help keep Yukon clean.
On page two of the comments made by the Minister, he states, The deposit of a beer can was raised from five cents to 10 cents to encourage a higher return rate. Since that time, the return rate on cans has risen from 58.1 percent to 67 percent.
It should be noted that, years ago, many of us received our spending money by collecting pop bottles and turning them in. Further, it is interesting to point out, when we were kids, we received five cents a bottle. I raise this point because there was a system in place years ago, so it should be possible to reinstate it.
We want to commend the government for its work with the groups involved, and we would request our recommendations be given serious consideration. I want to stress that the success of our environmental clean-up is going to be largely based on our ability to continue to encourage volunteers to participate in our environmental clean-up.
The recommendations I outlined previously will have to be discussed with the volunteer organizations to see how they can be implemented, to assist them in their efforts. I also want to point out that there are many other commodities that can be recycled, such as plastics, glass, et cetera. We, as a society, will have to deal with them, from the point of view of recycling in the years to come. Obviously, much has been done, but much more remains to be done.
Hon. Mr. Webster: First of all I want to thank the Member opposite for his compliments on this initiative by the Yukon Liquor Corporation and also for his acknowledgement of the work done by so many Yukon citizens. I must inform the Member that I certainly agree with him that if we want to become very successful in removing all the potential litter involving aluminum cans, we should eventually increase the deposit from the present two cents to 10 cents. We have discussed this quite thoroughly with the wholesalers of pop in the territory on a number of occasions, and for a variety of reasons that they have cited, they find that this is impossible at this time. In order to introduce a substantial deposit system on pop cans in the territory, legislation dealing with packaging is required.
I also agree with the Member that this is a commendable first step; it is in the right direction. It is our intention, in any way possible, to assist recycling groups - not only the one in Whitehorse but ones that become established in the rural communities, who affiliate themselves with the Yukon Conservation Society - to branch out, not only in dealing with aluminum pop cans, but it is hoped in the future, to include a wide range of materials that indeed can be reused and recycled. Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation regarding the Watson Lake sawmill. The government started a court action on January 5, asking for the appointment of a receiver/manager to safeguard the publics financial interests and the assets of the mill. This court case keeps getting adjourned, and Yukoners are concerned about the fact that the matter is still unresolved.
Can the Minister verify that the mill has been operating since January 5?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the Member probably knows very well the state of operations in the mill. Let me respond to the preamble, as well, by informing him that the money that was necessary to conclude the interim agreement that I spoke of in this House last week, has not been received. Accordingly, by decision of the Development Corporation board, the board confirmed yesterday they will be proceeding with the court action tomorrow morning.
Mr. Phelps: More than a month has gone by, and I am wondering if the Minister can tell us how much more money has been lost by the operation since January 5?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Of course I cannot answer a question like that.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister then verify that the sawmill continues to use up the inventory, and has been since January 5, that is to say the inventory of logs that are liened under the infamous $1.65 million debenture.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am aware of a number of matters, including the financial transactions involving the sawmill, but as long the matters are before the court, I am under instructions from our lawyers not to discuss them.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: Does that mean that the Minister will not tell the people of the territory, who really own the inventory, how much has been sawed and used up and has disappeared since January 5?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I have done before, I will take notice of questions. I indicated, just a moment ago, that the matter will be before the courts, in all likelihood, tomorrow. If a receiver/manager is appointed, then a number of consequences will follow from that, all of which are designed to see satisfaction for the creditors and for the Yukon investors in that operation.
Mr. Phelps: Is the Minister telling us that he will not tell us whether or not Yukon Pacific has paid off any of the $2 million or so worth of debt to trade creditors and small businesses?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have already indicated, last week, that there was an interim agreement reached that would see satisfaction on those accounts; the agreement was contingent on the money being forthcoming or being in our hands by a certain date. As I indicated earlier, that has not happened; therefore, we are proceeding to court.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us if T.F. Properties is still getting management fees, and has been getting management fees since January 5, for operating Yukon Pacific?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member well knows, the managers will not change unless and until the court appoints a receiver/manager or orders a sale of assets and therefore new management arrangements result.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: I got it. I got it; that was a yes. I am starting to catch on.
Can the Minister tell us if T.F. Properties or its principals are still getting a commission for selling lumber on behalf of Yukon Pacific?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I cannot tell the Member that at all. The Member has asked a number of questions before; I took notice and will be answering those questions as soon as I am able, as I will the ones today. I am going to err on the side of caution. I am going to be, if you will permit me, Mr. Speaker, or forgive me, excessively conservative in terms of the kind of questions I answer in this House so long as the matter is before the courts.
Mr. Phelps: It is high time he got a little conservative, I would say.
I am a little concerned that no logging has been going on on behalf of Yukon Pacific. Trees are not being felled and, in fact, we are advised that the main logging contractors and the workers have finally left Watson Lake looking for work in northern B.C.
Is the Minister going to be able to make an announcement fairly soon that will give some hope to the people of Watson Lake with regard to the outcome of the court case and the future of the mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Of course, I hope to be able to and I would have hoped to have seen the situation resolved before now. The staff and officials of the Yukon Development Corporation have been working extraordinarily hard the last few months to try to address and resolve this situation. As to the outcome of the court case, I assume that is really for the judge to decide, not for me, and I would say only that I wish the matter be resolved as soon as possible.
Mr. Phelps: All the court case is really asking for is that a receiver/manager be appointed for the operation of this business, which has been running at a loss since January 5. Who is going to come up with some operating capital to allow the mill to carry on and pay its trade creditors and pay suppliers and pay its workers?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Again, I am not going to get into speculating about what might result in the court or what new investors may or may not appear. I indicated last week there was an interim agreement, which would have satisfied the trade creditors and seen the operation continue with new capital, but that money has not yet been received and, accordingly, we are proceeding to court.
Question re: Mammography unit
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources. I asked the first question about mammography for Yukon women in this House back in December of 1987. At that time, we received a positive response from the previous Minister. In the February election campaign, the previous Minister promised that her government would buy a mammography unit. In April we questioned the new Minister, who told us it would be not too many months before he would have a decision about the unit. In the budget debate last spring, we asked about it, and he said although it was not in the budget it would most likely be in the supplementaries. We have just finished the supplementaries for $22.7 million, and there was nothing in there about the mammography unit.
I just have one simple question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources. Are we going to get a mammography unit for the women in the Yukon Territory or not?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I certainly hope we will be having a mammography service in the Yukon Territory. Discussions with the Medical Association, the British Columbia government and the people involved here are continuing toward that end.
Mrs. Firth: It has been over two years. Perhaps I could ask the Minister when we are going to have it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If I knew a definite date, I would have announced it already.
Question re: Mammography unit
Mrs. Firth: This is a very serious issue. The previous Minister of Health and Human Resources promised the women of the Yukon that we would have a mammography machine. She promised it during the election campaign. She talked about womens rights to medical services. The government has made the decision, according to the previous Minister of Health and Human Resources, that we will have the unit.
What is the hold up? He knows that the unit will cost $100,000. Women are phoning and asking when they will have mammography done here in the Yukon Territory.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I said before, we have decided that we are going to do it, but we have not determined exactly how we will do it. We have a number of options. The option in the case of installing a full-scale, screening operation at the Whitehorse General Hospital may involve the recruitment of technical staff, who may not be available in Whitehorse. We have established that in the case of the hospital in Yellowknife, it took many months.
There is still debate in the medical community about the right and appropriate kind of system for here. The debate is about whether we should have a screening or a diagnostic tool. It is fairly clear to us now that the option that was suggested by the B.C./Yukon Cancer Society is not going to be a realistic option for us. That service is not going to be available to us. We have had discussions with the B.C. government about that.
We are proceeding with the Yukon Medical Association and with the hospital and other officials here toward implementing this service. We want to see it as much as anybody. The discussions are now about how we do it.
Mrs. Firth: The talk has been going on for two years now. Talk and commitments have been going on for two years. There have been big speeches about rights of women, medical services and lots of patronizing comments. Is there money in the new budget for mammography unit?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have trouble taking seriously the Members assertion that she takes the matter seriously. It was not raised in the supplementaries or in the main estimates. The money cannot be specifically provided for until we know how we are going to proceed. We intend to proceed.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has just answered the question for all the women in the Yukon Territory. It has been the same thing for the past two years. The government knows how much it is going to cost. The Minister has just told us that it is not even in this new budget. It will not be in it for the next year. There is nothing identified in this budget for the mammography unit. That is what he said. It is pathetic.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There was not a question there. Unlike the Member opposite, who during her term in office talked about things but did very little, we are determined to do this. We will do it the right way, and we are going to do it within our means.
Question re: Bridge safety evaluations
Mr. Devries: Can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services advise the House if it is true that a number of evaluations of bridge capacities were conducted in December, 1987, and that several of the structures were identified at that time as requiring weight restrictions, and yet these restrictions were not brought into effect until December, 1989, two years later? Was the Minister aware of this peculiar situation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I was made aware of the situation approximately one month ago by the Member and simultaneously by the staff of the department. My understanding is that in 1987 there were restrictions placed on a number of bridges. That was communicated to the weighscale operators throughout the territory. For some reason, that communication does not appear to have reached its destination. In a subsequent period, there were some overload permits allowed on one bridge where there ought not to have been.
Mr. Devries: I would assume this letter was lost in the government internal mail. Would the Minister be willing to table the evaluation of the bridges that was done by the bridge engineer - I believe it was Mr. Gibson?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can undertake to investigate whether or not that is possible. The specific bridge brought to my attention a month ago, the Tuchitua bridge, is currently rated to standard load capacity and should not be allowed to have overloads without approval from the bridge inspector. It is possible to have overload permits, given that the bridge inspector, not the weighscale operator, reviews the matter. Specifically, I will undertake to see whether or not a specific report exists that is either tableable or that I can provide to the Member.
Mr. Devries: I am particularly concerned about the Tuchitua bridge on the Campbell Highway. Has any money been allocated in the mains to upgrade this structure so it can accommodate some of the heavy traffic that crosses it periodically. For instance, several Cats went that way this summer, and there will be a lot of traffic between Mt. Hundere and Curragh Resources shortly.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Tuchitua bridge was slated in our capital plan for reconstruction and upgrading in 1991. Given that there is anticipated to be increased traffic on that road, I am having that capital plan reviewed specifically for the Tuchitua bridge and will determine shortly whether we can do that reconstruction this year, rather that the following year, when it was originally slated.
Question re: Alaska Highway corridor study
Mr. Nordling: I have a question to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Last August the department announced a joint traffic engineering study on the Alaska Highway within the Whitehorse city limits. Last fall there was to be a public presentation at which the public would have an opportunity to comment upon proposed improvements. As far as I know, this public presentation has just been made in the last two weeks at the Guild Hall and at the Airline Inn.
How far behind are we in this study? Can he give us an update?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not aware that we are substantially behind. The Member is talking about the Alaska Highway corridor study. That is currently taking place. The public presentations have, indeed, just been presented. The results of the public presentation and submissions made will be reviewed over the next several months, and I expect to have something in hand by early spring.
Mr. Nordling: From reading the news release, a report with recommendations was expected by early December, along with an implementation plan. That was to be ready for presentation to the three levels of government by the end of December. When will we get a chance to look at this implementation plan?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can assure the Member that it should be available by early spring, approximately March or April.
Question re: Bridge safety evaluations
Mr. Brewster: I would like to follow up with regard to the issue of bridge safety raised by my colleague of Watson Lake, and a memorandum sent to the weighscales on December 3, 1987, that was not received until two years later.
Since this is now 1990, can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services advise the House if some of the other bridges identified in the memorandum, namely the Snafu and Tarfu bridges on the Atlin Road, have been upgraded and brought up to standard?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The memorandum the Member refers to was sent to all weighscale operators and to all enforcement people at the time of issuance in 1987, to my knowledge. As I indicated to the Member for Watson Lake, it appears that that information was not received at the Watson Lake station.
The Snafu and Tarfu bridges have not been upgraded since the time of the memorandum, to my knowledge, and I cannot tell the Member where they are in the capital plan.
Mr. Brewster: In view of the fact the legal load restrictions were likely exceeded in the two years it took this memorandum to reach the weighscales from the office of the bridge engineer, can the Minister advise the House if the bridges were subject to further evaluation and analysis to determine what damage, if any, has been done in the last two years?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Given that the matter was raised with me a month ago, I can advise the Member that the bridge inspector has been alerted to the potential of some overloads having occurred, at least on the Tuchitua River. As of this moment, he is investigating whether any other bridges have had the same traffic restriction not applied.
Mr. Brewster: In a handwritten portion of this memorandum directed to weighscale staff, drivers or companies who may object to the restriction are advised to contact the bridge engineer at their own expense. Is this a standard government policy?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure if I am totally clear on the question. Is the Member asking whether the operator who is moving equipment across the bridge is required to contact the bridge engineer at his own expense for an overload permit? The Member is asking if that is policy and has been stated in writing to weighscale operators and, subsequently, to truckers. It must be policy; I will check if that is firm.
Question re: Bridge safety evaluation
Mr. Brewster: Why do you have two policies? You have a toll free number that people are able to use to get to the government for information. Then the bridge engineer turns around and says you phone at your own expense. Which is the policy?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It would appear to me that there is some practical common sense in the Yukon. If the trucker is attempting to reach the bridge engineer at 9:00 on a Tuesday morning, he is going to use the toll free number. I am sure that is what is going to happen. As the Member knows, the toll free number does not work shortly after 5:00 and not before 8:30. If there is an emergency, I am sure the other part of the policy would kick in.
Practical sense tells me you would use a toll free number where possible, and call directly otherwise.
Mr. Brewster: I suggest that the memorandum does not say that. Would the Minister get in touch with the bridge engineer and find out just what the policy is?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have just laid out what would be a normal policy. The Member is just as privileged as I am to call the bridge engineer and get a clarification. I will certainly undertake to do that.
Question re: Mount Hundere
Mr. Phelps: The Minister is having a hard time today, so I will ask him some easy questions that have to do with Mount Hundere and the proposal to truck the ore from that mine, when it goes into production, to Skagway. The route will be down to the Carcross Cutoff along the Carcross/Skagway Road.
I understand that the company involved, the operator of Mount Hundere, wants the government to upgrade the Tagish Road so that they can turn off the Alaska Highway at Jakes Corner and drive through Tagish to Carcross and then to Skagway. Is it true that the officials have been discussing this possibility with the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Member is aware, all issues relating to the Mount Hundere development are channeled through a working group. I expect those discussions are taking place at that level. That was flagged as an intention at a recent meeting with an official from Curragh Resources. There has been no formal request on the matter. I am having it investigated and evaluated, but it is premature to suggest that anything is final or determined.
Mr. Phelps: Does the Minister have a rough estimate of the cost required to upgrade the Tagish Road from Jakes Corner to Carcross? We seem to be looking at $20 million to $25 million at least to upgrade that road for it to be able to take those ore trucks.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have sought some of that information from my department, having had the matter flagged by Curragh officials last week. I cannot provide the Member an expected cost for that upgrading. It appears that it would be substantial.
Mr. Phelps: Is it anticipated that the company will be willing to pay part of the capital costs? Has that been put on the table yet with the Ministers officals?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I trust the Member is clear that the company he is suggesting pay part of the costs is Curragh Resources. That was a subject of the discussions in the recent meeting. That is being raised at the officials level in the working group that is dealing with the various issues. It is premature to determine that anything is final. Our capital budget will not permit a $25 million expenditure without help.
Question re: Bridge safety evaluation
Mr. Phelps: The Minister has given us some information. The company is Curragh Resources, and I am sure he is familiar with that company. Going back to the questions that were being raised by the Member for Watson Lake about the Tuchitua bridge: could the Minister tell us when a decision will be reached about upgrading that bridge so that it will withstand the anticipated traffic from Faro down to Mount Hundere?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I should remind the Member that the Tuchitua Bridge is not in the immediate proximity of Mount Hundere. It will not be affected by the Mount Hundere traffic; I hope the Member realizes that. But, certainly the traffic between Hundere and north along the Campbell would be affected. I have directed the department, only in the last couple of weeks, to reexamine the Tuchitua River bridge upgrading. I expect that I should be getting an answer shortly. I can expect that sometime during budget debate the matter will arise again and I can identify more clearly what options are available to us.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to thank the Minister for his geography lesson. Actually, I worked at the bridge when it was being built. Speaking of bridges, the Tagish bridge would of course be on the route for those ore trucks and I would like to know if the Tagish bridge would require upgrading.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am struggling to remember all of these bridges. Is the Member talking about the Tagish bridge on the Tagish Road, or the Nares bridge on the Carcross Road?
Mr. Phelps: The Tagish bridge on the Tagish Road.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am again struggling to try to remember. I have to tell the Member that I must take notice and can advise him in budget debate tonight.
Mr. Phelps: Tagish bridge actually is, as the Minister should know, about 23 miles from a great fishing hole on Tagish Lake.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thank the Member for that informative suggestion about where I should go fishing next.
Question re: Tool shed demonstration project
Mr. Phillips: I am going to be fishing as well, but in a different area. I have a question for the Minister of Government Services about the famous $11,000 tool shed. I see the Minister is hiding his head in his hands and he is getting prepared for this question. This is the famous shed that was constructed beside this very building last year and moved to the Marwell area last spring. I would like the Member to confirm for this House that this $11,000, 12 x 20 shed, that was originally built so that it could be moved, cost the taxpayer an additional $3,200 to move it a couple of miles to the Marwell area.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I wish the Member could have given me notice so that I could have given him the precise detail. I have to tell the Member that I do not know what the move cost but I will undertake to find out if it was an additional cost and for what amount.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you. I would like to help the Minister by referring him to the contracts that he gave us, to a contract issued to McArthur Contracting for $3,200 to relocate the Yukon wood demonstration shed. I think we are very fortunate that this government did not decide that the shed should be moved to Haines Junction because, based on that contract, it would have cost the taxpayer $160,000 to move the shed to Haines Junction.
Would the Minister not agree that $3,200 to move this 12 x 20 shed, which was built to be moved, is excessive?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Until I can determine precisely what was involved in the move, I cannot comment about whether it was an appropriate amount or an excessive amount or perhaps even a low amount. It may have required foundations; it may have required some special additional work for the relocation. I cannot say that at this time so, again, I will undertake to investigate precisely what the $3,200 involved.
Mr. Phillips: I went out and examined the shed; it was built like the Great Wall of China, so I do not know what kind of extra foundations they would have had to build to put that shed on. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and to every other Yukoner, that the reason it cost so much to move is that they wanted to get it out of sight as fast as possible so they called up the first contractor available and had the shed moved. It cost us $3,200. I would like the Minister to come back and tell us why it cost so much to move this shed and whether or not they got any other bids to move it, when they moved the shed two miles down the road for $3,200.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would be delighted to provide the Member and the House the information on this important issue.
Question re: Trucking industry deregulation
Mr. Lang: I have a question to the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, and it has to do with the Motor Transport Board and the question of deregulation. Just to refresh the Ministers memory, he will recall that representation was made to him by the Transportation Association last spring with respect to the difficulties of getting licensing in B.C. and the fact that, with deregulation in Yukon, it would appear that we were competing unfairly with the Province of British Columbia. The Minister at that time undertook, in writing, to take up the issue with the Minister of Transportation in British Columbia and see what could be done to resolve the situation.
Could the Minister tell this House whether or not he spoke to the Minister of Transportation and whether they came up with any resolution to the problem of deregulation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can tell the Member that, with respect to the issue of deregulation, in British Columbia the matter falls under the office of the Attorney General. I did meet with the Attorney General. In addition, on a separate trip to Victoria, I met with two representatives of the Motor Transport Board. Since that time, there has been additional communication between our jurisdiction and theirs. At the same time, on a local level, I have not been advised by the trucking industry that matters have eroded in terms of permit issuance and points-to-points trucking, which was part of the issue last spring. I can tell the Member also that my officials and I spent some considerable time last summer and into the fall with the local industry, and at that time it appeared to me that we ironed out some of the concerns that were being raised, and I have not had the matter raised with me lately.
Mr. Lang: The question is whether or not we are working under the same licensing rules as British Columbia. The principle, basically, is this: can a Yukon trucker get a licence as easily in B.C. as a B.C. trucker can get a licence in the Yukon? In view of the fact that the Minister has had these discussions, is he fully satisfied that B.C. and Yukon are on the same footing in the area of deregulation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To answer the Member bluntly, I am satisfied that we have, in the Yukon, an opportunity to object to the issuance of points-to-points trucking opportunities by outside authorities. I have to tell the Member that the conditions in British Columbia are more restrictive to outside truckers than it is for those truckers in our jurisdiction; but the point in British Columbia is that it is equally difficult for any trucker to get new licensing and new authorities and new points-to-points haulage. Our appeal process provides the balancing to that, and that is part of what I spent considerable time in the summer and fall explaining to the industry. My officials advised me that, in subsequent discussions, there have been more appeals raised with respect to local authorities being granted, and it seems to be creating the balance necessary between the two jurisdictions who do not have a level playing field in the beginning.
Mr. Lang: My concern is about a level playing field. That is the purpose of deregulation nationally. Why does B.C. have different rules than us? It puts us in an unfair position because our industry is so small compared to British Columbia. Is British Columbia contemplating any changes to comply with the national policy of deregulation they had agreed to a number of years ago?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not want to try to speak for the Province of British Columbia, or the Attorney Generals office, or the Motor Transport Board of B.C. To try to answer the question quite honestly and openly, they are considering whether deregulation would be more injurious or more beneficial to them. They are under considerable pressure from the federal level to resort to the deregulation regime that exists in most other jurisdictions, as well as ours. I believe they are contemplating it, but it does not seem to be an immediate action.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the House Leaders I request unanimous consent to proceed directly to Motions Other Than Government Motions rather than calling for Motions for the Production of Papers and for the Motions to be called in the following order: Motion 75, which is Item No. 27, Motion 51, which is Item No. 14, Motion 74, which is Item No. 26, and Motion 73, which is Item No. 25.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 75
Clerk: Item No. 27, standing in the name of Mr. Nordling.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 27?
Mr. Nordling: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek West
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to re-evaluate the security and programming at the Na Dli Youth Centre.
Mr. Nordling: I bring this motion forward because of concern over what has been taking place at the Na Dli secure custody youth centre. Since its opening on October 5, 1989, there have been serious problems, problems that cannot be excused as simply growing pains.
Before discussing the problems specifically, I would like to talk a little about the history of the facility. When the Young Offenders Act was proclaimed, the Yukon was required to provide a facility to house young offenders who were sentenced by the court to secure custody. The expectation of the act was that the facility would be in place by April 1, 1985. The Conservative government of-the-day budgeted $2.5 million toward the construction of what I believe was to be a combined open-custody and secure-custody facility. A draft report was prepared, along with a site evaluation study.
In May 1985, just as the draft report was being completed, the government changed and Margaret Joe, the Member for Whitehorse North Centre, was appointed Minister of Health and Human Resources.
One of her first acts was to postpone the construction of the facility to undertake community consultations. At that time, the Minister was quoted as saying, We have the opportunity to design a program that truly reflects the needs of northern youth and communities, not just a carbon copy of southern urban programs. That was on September 25, 1985.
In March, 1986, the report of the Minister of Health and Human Resources, the hon. Margaret Joe, on the community consultation meetings on young offenders in the Yukon was completed. The government took the position that one large facility was not the way to go, and began looking at options. A consulting contract was given to Audrey McLaughlin for $55,000 for a young offender program planning service. That contract was given August 26, 1985, and extended on January 3, 1986.
I believe another contract for over $15,000 was given to Hector Mackenzie to develop wilderness programs. There may have been other consultants, from within the territory or without, of whom we are not yet aware. The present Minister of Health and Human Resources has offered to check the files and let us know.
On November 27, 1986, in a ministerial statement, the Minister of Health and Human Resources announced final plans for a young offenders facility in the Yukon, to be in operation by December 1987. The government estimate called for the project to be completed for $2.5 million. Apparently, the bids came in somewhere between $3.2 million and $3.9 million. The government decided that was too much and, on March 15, it announced plans to retender the construction, which had been redesigned to get the cost down to the $2.5 million.
One of the features removed in that redesign was the larger perimeter fence. In May, 1988, the construction contract was awarded for almost exactly $3 million. The facility finally opened on October 5, 1989, coming in at a total cost of approximately $3.2 million.
I go through this brief history simply to illustrate the point that there has been a lot of time for program planning and development. When the facility opened, the director of juvenile justice said the philosophy was to trust the young offenders and give them room to move. The Minister of Health and Human Resources said the name of the facility would be Na Dli, which means rebirth in Southern Tutchone. The name was to go along with plans to hold what the Minister called, and I quote, culturally aware programs for residents.
On October 5, we were optimistic that things were going to work, and that programs were in place that would be effective, both for the staff and to help rehabilitate our young offenders while keeping them here in the territory. It just has not happened that way.
Obviously, the government misjudged the people they were dealing with. The young offenders have not reacted positively to the programming and the philosophical approach that has been taken at the facility. In December, there were two young offenders who walked away from the facility by climbing the fence.
On January 3, there was the escape of all nine young offenders being housed there. I do not need to go into details of that escape; we are all well aware of it. The facility was closed for three weeks for repairs and upgrading of the security. There were investigators brought in from British Columbia to look at that specific incident, to make sure that it did not happen again.
The situation we are faced with now is that, after all of this time and the promises made by the former Minister and the optimism of the present Minister, either we do not have programming at the facility or it is not working. Since the young offenders were returned to the facility, at the end of January, there has been more violence, more damage to the facility, the RCMP have been called in and young offenders were again taken to the RCMP lockup.
I heard just today that last night there was more acting up at the young offenders facility. Apparently the acting up consisted of general misbehaviour and throwing excrement around. We have had an investigation and apparently we have recommendations. We do not know what they are; perhaps they have been tabled today. I received a package, but I have not had a chance to look at it.
There has been concern shown by the public, and now we have concern expressed by the Chief Territorial Court Judge, who is sentencing the young offenders for the escape. The judge is questioning whether the young offenders facility is doing enough to rehabilitate its prisoners. To the judge, it appeared that there are no significant programs for rehabilitation, things like treatment for sexual problems and counselling for substance abuse. The lawyer acting for the young offenders was also concerned about the programming and the treatment of the young offenders. Their lawyers said that the boys are angry at the way they have been treated and gave that as a reason why they wanted to escape.
Back on January 26, a new report started out by boldly stating, There is still no programming specifically designed for native people at the young offenders facility. Well, I do not know what has happened. We know that 80 percent of the kids who are sentenced to secure custody are of native ancestry. We know that all nine of the young offenders who escaped from Na Dli at the beginning of January were of native ancestry. This did just not come up since October 5; we have known this for years. This government obviously has not put the programming in place that it should have. I do not know what input there was from CYI, but if there was input, it was certainly was not evident when I toured the facility.
The only way that the government can turn down this motion is to admit that after five years of planning and tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, we have no programming that is ready to go. That cannot be the case. There must be programming in place. There must be guidelines. They are obviously not working. I am asking that this House urge the Government of the Yukon to re-evaluate the security for the staff and the programming at the youth centre.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member for Porter Creek West has talked about the history of the young offenders facility, and he goes back to 1985. He points out some very interesting things, but the first thing he did was to talk about the cost of the Tory plan. He talks about the Tory plan to build a young offenders facility that would include open and secure custody. The Member cited a figure of $2.5 million as the cost.
That is not a fact. The plan that they had would have cost, at that time, in excess of $7 million. That is a fact. That information has been tabled in this House. I would not say it to their faces, if it was not true. That information can be provided to this House. It has been, and it can be again.
We gave the Member for Porter Creek West the courtesy of listening to him. The things that he said were very interesting. It is a fact that I put a hold on that plan. I did it after much consideration. We proceeded with the plan that we had. As a result of the information that we had at that time, we decided that we would have a public consultation process. We set up a committee, that would have included a Member of the Opposition if they had chosen to accept - but they did not - to travel around the territory. They did not care at that time what was going to happen. They only cared that we had scrapped their plan.
We talked to people in every single community in the Yukon. We spent time with any group that wanted to talk to us. We heard from many families with children who needed the care that these facilities would give them. As a result of that information, we proceeded with a plan to put a young offenders facility in place. The first thing that we did was to buy a building that will probably be mentioned today in this debate. We purchased a building at 501 Taylor Street to house young offenders in open custody. That was done with much opposition from certain Members of the side opposite.
Before we bought the building we talked to everyone in that area. I talked to the people renting houses in that area. The former Minister of Justice talked to individuals who owned property there. There was some opposition, but in my round of talks, I found one person opposed to the idea and one who was not sure.
We went through the whole process of what is happening now with the secure custody facility. Many things happened. There were runaways, and that was brought up in the House. I had to defend the actions of those young offenders at that time. We looked back at the kind of things that happened in 501 Taylor, and they are very similar. There are certain times and circumstances that cause these things to happen. In every case, we believe and know that we are not dealing with the average kid on the block. We are dealing with young offenders who are there as a last resort. It is something we have always had to take into consideration.
A lot of information was given to us by families in communities and by organizations who cared about these young offenders. There was a lot of discussions in the department about those young offenders and the kinds of things we would hope to do through a program that would be implemented down the road. I was always very impressed with the dedication of those individuals, the youth services workers, who worked for Health and Human Resources and who dealt with those children daily. They all knew and proceeded to work on the fact that we are not working with good little kids, that these kids have problems. They worked toward trying to better the conditions and programs for those young offenders. That is still happening today.
It is happening daily. Each and every person who works in the young offenders facility, and each and every person who works in a group home or wherever else, is a hard-working person, and they are generally there because they want to do something. They want to be able to help through rehabilitation of those children who come into our care. The patience they had always amazed me, knowing that someday something might happen that would put their lives in jeopardy.
You cannot go into a job like that and not expect something to happen down the road. We have to be very aware of those things happening, and you are not always ready for them.
For the past week, I have listened to the side opposite talk about the many things that have occurred, and they continue to repeat the circumstances surrounding the incidents at the young offenders facility, Na Dli. I talked to a number of individuals this morning in regard to the publicity that is coming out as a result of that. It has been said, and it is known, that the majority of those individuals are aboriginal children, that there are possibly not enough people of aboriginal ancestry working there, and that is a fact. It is something we have tried to deal with. A committee was set up a while ago.
I am not exactly sure, but I am sure the Minister responsible for juvenile justice will enlighten this House about the programs that are available now, and the people who are involved, as well as the many other things they are doing. One of the things those people said to me in my discussions with them in respect to all the publicity, is that we are not doing those young kids any good by daily talking about the problems that occur. What they are doing is the same thing they did with 501 Taylor. It is a scare tactic. It is something they are doing to make brownie points. It is more serious than that.
The programs that are provided for these young offenders are things we are trying to put into place so they can be effective. Each and every time you do something new, you never know whether or not it is going to work. Whoever put a perfect program into place for young offenders and had it work forever? Nobody has ever done that. We know those things do not always work.
There were problems at 501 Taylor. They looked at how they could improve it, and they did. That is not to say there will not be another incident. I hope it does not happen, but it could. We always have to be ready for that.
The Member has talked about re-evaluating the problems at the young offenders facility. That is redundant. You are always evaluating and re-evaluating to try to improve. That is exactly what is happening now.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Joe: He will have his chance to speak again, and he can speak as long as he wants to.
What we are dealing with now is a condition we all have to live with. We have to take the responsibility for those young offenders in our care. We all know there has to be some alternative. We also know when those young offenders come into our care it is a last resort. Everybody expects us to fix the problem.
Things have gotten so bad in their lives, from 12 years old to 17 years old, that we end up with those children in our care. We have been criticized because we do not have this, and this, and this. It is no easy job. The people who work in those facilities know it is no easy job, nor do they expect it to be an easy job. I give so much credit to those individuals who have tried to make the system work, who have tried to make the programs work, who have dedicated themselves to spending time with those children and put up with the kind of behaviour they experience there.
He talked about a program that was not available to sex offenders. I know for a fact that there is provision to deal with those individuals: the sex offenders.
This morning, at a tribal justice conference, both in private discussion and discussion on the floor, they talked about the responsibility of the community and how the communities can get involved in trying to deal with a situation before it ends up in court. When I was on a diversion committee, we were able to sit down and deal with some of the young offenders on first offences. Very often, a young offender would be able to deal with their problem in a situation like that, before ever having to end up in court. Some of it worked, some of it did not.
I remember dealing with a young offender in Watson Lake when I was a Justice of the Peace. I saw how the community could get involved in trying to help that young offender. The court did not know what to do with him because he had gotten into so much trouble. The community took that little guy in hand and worked with him. They spent time with him, something he probably had not had at all. I commended that community for that. It was something we would like to see all communities do.
We cannot do anything about what is happening in private homes. We cannot go into homes and tell people to treat their kid right, bring your kid up right, because you never know if you are doing it or not. You never know when your kid is going to get into trouble. You can come from the best home in the country and your child may still get into trouble.
In many cases we have now, we know we are dealing with young offenders who have come from homes with many problems - many alcohol problems and physical or sexual abuse problems. We have to try to do the best we can in order to try to rehabilitate those kids. That is exactly what we are doing.
We will never lock them up and throw away the key. We will continue to look at programs that are available and we will continue to look for the best thing possible for those children.
As I said before, it is no easy job for a government; it is no easy job for the families and friends of those kids, and it is no easy job for those individuals who work there.
I would like to be able to say, a year from now, that things are a success, because, during that consultation process, I travelled not only in the Yukon but also to other jurisdictions to look at some of the facilities in British Columbia and Manitoba. I travelled into some areas where they had very minimal security for a secure facility. They had programs that sometimes worked, but very often there were runaways. There are always going to be runaways and the only way to stop that is by locking those kids up in a room and keeping it locked all the time, but you are not going to do that.
I also visited Willingdon. Willingdon is the place the Opposition told us we could not send our kids out to any more, that we had to have a facility here in the Yukon. I agree, because I saw the places that these kids were being sent to. As a matter of fact, I sat in a cell with a young offender at that time to talk to him about some of the programs down there and found out later that this kid - he was about 15 years old - was in there for hitting a family member over the head with a frying pan. That, apparently, was one of the most minor offences of the individuals who were in there at that time.
I also visited another secure facility in Manitoba that was not locked at all. There were no doors locked whatsoever. It was a secure facility; it was not an open custody facility. You look at the good and the bad things about programs that work and you hope you would end up with a program such as the one I saw in Manitoba - a secure facility that was not locked anywhere; there were no gates, no locks on the doors. The success rate was very great. I cannot remember what the runaway rate was, but it was very, very low. You would hope you would be able to have something like that, but it may not be possible, and it may be. It is just a matter of this government and whatever government happens to be in power continuing to believe that, some day down the road, the young offenders might be able to rehabilitate themselves, may be able to stand up with their heads held high and deal with situations as they arise. I believe this government is doing the best job it can in dealing with all the situations that happen. We have to remember that it is not a perfect program; it is not a perfect system, nor will it ever be. The only time it will be perfect is in a perfect world where nobody ever breaks the law; but we are in the real world. We have to live in it, we have to live with the things that happen and we have to do a job to the best of our ability. That is what the youth workers are doing, that is what the program is doing, and that is what this government is doing.
I do not think we have to re-evaluate something that is ongoing. The programs are ongoing. The evaluations are ongoing. You do not stop. We are continuing to do that. That is already being done.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make a number of observations. First of all, I have to say I am a little surprised at the comments of the Minister of Health and Human Resources - sorry, of Justice. I am sorry to bring up the past but she can take, at least in part, a good portion of the responsibility for the dilemma we are in today, in her previous capacity as the Minister for Health and Human Resources. We, on this side, will be the first to agree that it is not a perfect world out there. We also know that the juveniles who are being dealt with in the secure facility are of different ages, are in for different offences; obviously, each and every one is very different from the other, and some are going to cause problems. We are not raising this issue because we want to. We are raising this issue because it is of public importance. If there had been only one incident, there may have been a number of questions raised in this House, but that would have been it. We would have assumed that the government, with their programs, would be taking care of the situation and making the necessary adjustments if they had to be done.
Let us look at the facts; let us look at the reality and the facts of what has happened since October 6 when that particular facility was opened.
We are talking about four months that that establishment has been open. One of the juveniles attempted suicide. There was a break-out. There were not two youths who broke out; they all broke out. An employee was threatened with a knife. An employee was tied up. The same employee was hospitalized for a short period of time.
Since then, we have had a situation where the RCMP were called out - not one but four squad cars appeared - on a Saturday night to take two of the offenders overnight. Another incident occurred last night, according to the Member for Porter Creek West. If we add all this together, the side opposite has to admit that there is a problem. It is a problem for the government as well as for the public. The public is involved. It pays for the building, and it pays to run the building. It expects it to be run properly. That is our concern: is it being run properly?
Our submission is that it has not been run properly. We talk about the aspirations for this facility under the guidance and the good shepherding of the previous Minister for Health and Human Resources. I refer to April 20, 1988. I would like to quote from an article in the Whitehorse Star by Chuck Tobin. This refers to the numerous escapes from the facility. The recent upswing in escapes puts more emphasis on the need for a secure facility here in the Yukon, Clark said in an interview. She is the Director of Juvenile Justice. There has been much discussion about building a secure facility, which unlike Whitehorses open custody facility, would act as a jail for young offenders. But there is still nothing in place. Not only would a secure facility reduce the number of escapes, but Clark said, it would also provide the Yukon with a means of controlling the rehabilitation program for young offenders.
That was one of the reasons that the government gave for building the facility. Where were we? Not a month ago, we had a situation where all of the juveniles of the institution escaped. My question is: why do we have more escapes than we did previously?
The article also says, The majority are just mixed-up kids, and they need to be turned around. The main reason we need a facility here is to control the program from start to finish. I think by having control of your program, you are able to point out, at least, what works and what does not work. How do we rehabilitate these kids and prevent them from going on to the adult system. If you control your programs, you can find that out.
To date, it has been a dismal failure. That program is obviously not working. We can see the importance attached to the issue because it is just not being discussed in this House. I have had people take me aside while I was walking down the street to ask what is going on up there. This is supposed to be a secure facility. We build a facility with locks so that the juveniles can lock themselves into the rooms but no one else can lock them in.
I submit that the public is concerned. The public is really beginning to wonder if there is any leadership whatsoever coming from the government.
With good reason. When we ask a question of the notorious now Minister of Health and Human Resources we do not get responses of fact.
It is like the Yukon Development Corporation, where they are going to court and there is some other reason why he cannot answer questions. In this case he cannot answer questions because it would hamper security. We asked for facts and we got absolutely nothing except spiteful, vindictive remarks from the Minister of Health and Human Resources while trying to cover the inadequacies of the situation at hand. It is his department and he does have a responsibility to inform the public what is taking place where there are sometimes situations of danger to the employees and the juveniles in the institution, and to the public we serve.
Yesterday the Minister made fun of this side because he said they were not recklessly driving down to Johnsons Crossing. I presume they drove safely into the ditch. I am surprised that he did not say that in answer to the questions.
Another variable in this situation is the comments and observations made by the judge about the break-out that took place last month. He made the point that, There is no excuse for the government having failed to put in place regulations to regulate what goes on within those walls. Lilles also said, Inadequate staffing on the night of the escape was partly to blame for the incident. Two workers on duty could not be expected to maintain control over nine youths if something happened. That is a startling revelation, in view of the fact that we asked questions yesterday and the Minister assured this House everything was in hand, yet we have the judge, who is fully informed of all the facts, moreso than any Member in this House, who made a public statement of that kind. That brings into question once again safety, how the institution is being run and if it is being run properly.
The judge asked if the programs being offered in that particular institution were adequate or if it was just a storehouse so when they became of age we could take them up to the big house. That is quite a telling observation made by the judge, as well. One of the questions we have asked in this House has dealt with programming. In her comments to the motion, the Minister of Justice never talked once about programming or what was being provided.
That brings us to the point that we are concerned about the philosophy being put into place through the programs being administered by the government. Our position is that it has not been working. There has to be reasons why it is not working. We will accept that one or two incidents will happen. To see what has gone on is alarming to anybody, whether you are in the general public or an employee in that facility, or even the juveniles in that institution.
This is their one and only opportunity to be rehabilitated. I do not think there is any question that, by the time they get to be 17 years of age, and they have been in and out of that secure facility on an ongoing basis, society is going to have an ongoing problem with those individuals, as well as a very costly ongoing situation for the taxpayer in years to come.
I submit that this particular institution is very important from the point of view of putting these young offenders in a situation where there is security, as well as having programs in place that provide an opportunity for these young people to be rehabilitated.
In view of what has taken place, no Member on that side can stand there and tell us that, to date, these programs have been working, and that there has been any chance of rehabilitation for these young people. That should be of major concern to all Members in this House.
When the facility was opened, the Government Leader went to the opening and stated, Having this new facility does not mean we have an obligation to fill it. This facility has been in operation for four months. In less than three months, it was full. Unfortunately, although the Minister stated it was not an obligation, the reality is that the facility was full.
I want to make a point about obligation. The Minister of Health and Human Resources had an obligation, when he was Government Leader and now as Minister of Health and Human Resources, to build a secure facility and ensure it was built properly. That did not occur.
We not only witnessed a massive break-out, but we had a situation where there has been, thus far, over $43,000 worth of expenditures to correct the various aspects of the building that should have been built in in the first place; for example, putting in locks. Secondly, we were further informed that we are going to pay over $100,000 for more fencing.
Once again, the Minister did not meet his obligation. He said he was going to do it, but it did not occur.
The other aspect the Minister had an obligation to was the general public. That obligation was to ensure that that facility would keep those juveniles within the secure facility for the period of time they were incarcerated. That obligation was not met either. We have already spoken of the question of the jail break. Now, if there is an incident, the facility cannot cope with the juveniles who are acting up; they have to be taken down to the RCMP lockup. We failed in that, as well.
The Minister can be very proud of that. We have a secure facility that is so secure that, when something happens, we have to remove the occupants to someplace else. I would not be a bit surprised if one would find that, because of their ages, it would be against the law to put them in there for any period of time.
I think it is safe to say we do not have what the public was told they were going to have - a secure facility.
I am not going to delve any further into historical aspects of the facility - the fact that the government said it was going to cost $2.5 million when, in the last supplementary we dealt with, we are over $3.2 million and obviously we are going to be looking at further expenses as time goes on. I just want to say to the Members opposite that, for the sake of the public, for the sake of the employees and just as importantly for the sake of those juveniles who have to be held in those facilities, it is absolutely essential that the philosophy and programs that are being administered for that facility should be reviewed and obviously altered because they have not been working, it is not working and, if the government continues down the path it is taking, we are going to have a continuous debate in this House, which, quite frankly, I think we would all just as soon not have.
Mr. Phillips: I rise today to speak in favour of the motion put forward by the Member for Porter Creek West. This young offenders facility has been plagued with problems right from its inception. The former Minister of Health used to mock this side for its concept of the facility, claiming that their idea was much cheaper and the philosophy much more compassionate.
Let me deal first with the cost issue. I have to chuckle when I hear the Government Leader tell us in this House that, even with the recent vandalism and repair costs, this facility is still under budget. Who is he trying to fool? The cost of this facility has gone way over budget. The previous Minister gave us initial estimates of about $2 million to build this facility. Today, we are in the neighbourhood of $3.2 million and repairs are still being done on the facility and the costs are still rising. All this government has done is jack up the budget each year until now, in their wildest dreams, they try to claim that we are within budget. It is strange NDP economics, and I do not think the people of the Yukon are going to buy it.
The second issue is this governments philosophy. This is where they fell well short. They built a facility that was described by some, politely, as a unique facility. Now, in hindsight, some people interpret that word unique as a statement of, I wonder how such a facility could possibly contain the young offenders it was designed for? I think whoever described that facility as being unique was being rather kind.
We asked several questions about security and staffing, and the Minister-of-the-day proudly stood on her feet and defended her proposal. It is now obvious that our concerns were well-founded. This facility has developed a reputation, but it is not one we can be very proud of in this House. The only record it holds now is the fact that almost all of its young offenders have escaped at least once. Guards now work in fear simply because of the ill-conceived design and the programs put in place by this government.
To add to this shortcoming of security are the recent comments by a local judge who said, This facility appears not to be meeting any reasonable standards when it comes to rehabilitation programs.
I would like to turn for a moment to the comments that were made when this idea first came about, by the then-Minister of Health and Human Resources and now the Minister of Justice, when she stated that the difference in their philosophy was that there were going to be no bars. They were going to have more staff and they were going to have more programs to rehabilitate the youths.
What has happened? A local judge has recently told us that the biggest problem, and one of the reasons why that problem resulted last Saturday night, is because the centre was short staffed. That is in contrast with the philosophy that the government told us it was putting in place in that facility. Why was there a shortage of staff that night? How many other nights have they been short staffed so that the guards had to lock themselves into the control room to protect themselves from the young offenders?
The government also said that there would be more programs for rehabilitation. The Member for Porter Creek West very eloquently described some of the programs that should be in place and that are not. Again, the very same judge criticized this government for the lack of programs. That is inconsistent with this governments policy when the Minister announced that they would build a young offenders facility in Whitehorse. There are some serious problems with the ability of this government to carry out its policy on the young offenders facility. These rehabilitation programs would be the strength of this governments facility. They fell very short in this area.
One has to examine very closely what went wrong. Who was responsible? Surely the Government Leader who spoke out on this issue right from the beginning must be held accountable. It is he and his government who have to answer to the public on this issue.
I have had phone call after phone call. I have run into Yukoners all over the street, and I am sure that the Members on the other side have had the same thing happen to them. People have come up to me and asked, What in the hell is going on?
Yukoners are concerned about what is going on up there. Yukoners are prepared to accept the responsibility that we had to care for our young people who go amiss - young people who fall into criminal activities. They accept that we have to provide a place to house those people safely and that we have to have programs to rehabilitate them.
This whole thing, however, has been a disaster. It is nothing short of a disaster. This government has to accept full responsibility for this disaster. The Government Leader told us the other day in the House that things are well in hand. He is not talking to the same people who work there that I am talking to. These people are scared to death about what is going on up there right now. He had better address that issue before a serious incident happens at the facility. He cannot just stand up in the House and tell everybody that everything is in order. It is not in order, and I can assure the Minister of that.
Some of the people in that facility are not only afraid right now of their working conditions, but they are afraid to even speak out because of the statements made by the Ministers. They are afraid of the intimidation that comes down from this government. If a mistake is made, it is never the Ministers fault. If something goes wrong, it never the governments fault. It is always the civil servants or someone within the civil service. There is no responsibility on the part of that front bench. It is never their fault.
We had incident after incident occur at this facility since it opened. It is described by many people in the public as simply a country home. It is not designed to deal with the type of criminals or young offenders who get sent there.
Under the previous philosophy of the government, the guards were placed in extremely unworkable, unsafe circumstances. Their safety was compromised by this government, as evidenced in the guards being jumped, tied up and physically beaten. The responsibility for that has to fall on the shoulders of the Government Leader. He was the Minister responsible when these incidents happened, and he is responsible for that. He cannot point his finger at anyone else.
We just recently brought up two consultants from B.C. to examine the facility and the programs. Now they have made recommendations to improve the security of the facility. This is a little late. People out there, the guards, the general public have to be sitting back in amazement, or disgust, and wonder how this all happened. Did we not look at other facilities before we built ours? Did we not get advice on what programs would or would not work? Or did we just plow ahead with Mr. Peniketts unique experiment, oblivious to the real world.
The Minister of Justice talked about reality in a perfect world. I can tell that Minister that this government has not been living in the real world or looking at reality when it deals with this young offenders facility. That is where most of the problems are coming from now. When a judge decides that young people appearing before him need to be sent to a secure custody facility, he is saying the crimes that these young people committed are serious and the public should be protected from these individuals. At the same time, he is saying these individuals need programs to rehabilitate them - serious programs. By the time they get sent to secure custody, these young children are in a serious state of affairs.
This government is living in a dream world. All of us in this House would love it if it was a perfect world, but it is not. Some young people are led astray for one reason or another. Some crimes are much more serious than others so we have to deal with the reality of that. This government is not doing that.
Mr. Peniketts government is finally starting to see the light, but unfortunately it has taken several individual escapes, a mass escape, a beaten and tied up guard and extensive vandalism to a brand new $3.5 million facility before they saw the light.
We are very fortunate that a guard or member of the public was not seriously hurt in any of these incidents. This report that the government is going to receive from the B.C. experts will be very interesting. I wonder what discipline the Government Leader is intending to use when he discovers whose fault it is this time. I am sure he will deny that it is his fault.
The Na Dli facility is off to a very poor start. As a result of this governments policy, the guards have suffered, their safety has been put in jeopardy, the young offenders themselves have suffered, and the general public has lost confidence in the government to manage the facility. The time is long past where we should sit down and seriously evaluate the security and programming at Na Dli. I urge all Members to support this motion.
Mr. Devries: I have a few brief comments I would like to make on this important issue. First, I am slightly amused when the Members opposite keep saying: look what the Tories did. According to the financial figures I have studied since I was elected, the present NDP government had an additional $100 million per year to spend. They also considered themselves the champion of social programs.
I cannot believe the former Minister of Healths accusation of scare tactics. What we are asking is, look at your programs, listen to the CYI, listen to our suggestions, instead of attacking us for trying to bring light to weaknesses in your system. Show us you are sincere and caring for these individuals, and that your primary concern is to rehabilitate those children, not attack the Members opposite for attempting to help the government do its job.
There is nothing wrong with saying you have made a mistake once in a while and are learning from it.
The country of my birth, Holland, is known as a champion of rehabilitation in the world prison system. I would ask anyone to study the system used there. I realize that what is done there may not be adequate to meet the needs of aboriginal inmates, but there may be a lesson that can be learned from the Dutch system.
I am not an expert in this area of concern, and have only taken an interest in this subject during the last few years. I think we only have to realize that our whole Health and Human Resources system is in trouble, and rather than say we are doing fine, admit there are problems. Let us all sit down together and see what can be done.
This is not a time to try and say, look what we are doing. No, we have some serious social problems out there. We have a facility that filled up in four months. There are young people out there suffering, whether it be from lack of parental love, sexual abuse or whatever. Some of our programs are working; others are not.
More and more, it seems society is heading in an irresponsible direction at times. The traditional family is being eroded by a lowering of morals, drinking and a lack of respect for the elders. It is time to quit trying to act on an independent agenda.
Alone, the government cannot make that facility work. We need a team spirit, whether it be through the government, Opposition, native bands, church or community. Working together, it can be done. There will always be some who fall through the cracks but, but for every one we save, it will be well worthwhile.
Thank you. I truly do support the motion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thought I was going to be hearing what the Opposition had to say and then responding, but I understand some of them want to speak after I have.
Let me begin by talking about the philosophy and program that was adopted by this government for this facility. First of all, I want to draw the attention of the House to what we are dealing with here.
This is not the Kingston Penitentiary, it is not Millhaven, it is not Alcatraz, it is not Devils Island; it is a facility set up pursuant to the federal Young Offenders Act.
It has to meet certain criteria and achieve certain objectives set out in that act. I want to come back to that point later on because there is a theme coming from the Members opposite that we must, I think, as I hear their representations, have a much tougher, harsher, punitive security system, and we must have more rehabilitative programs. There is a fundamental, philosophical contradiction between the views represented, say by the Member for Riverdale North, who seems to be arguing for the harder, tougher response, and those opposite, who seem to be arguing for more programs, and I want to return to that theme and that contradiction later in my remarks.
The Young Offenders Act, in its declaration of principles, recognizes that young people must take responsibility for their actions, and that in some circumstances the public will have to be protected from illegal behaviour of young people. At the same time, it clearly states that by virtue of their age, young people cannot be held accountable in the same manner, or suffer the same penalties, as an adult would.
That is the philosophy of the federal act. The federal act directs that as well as supervising and disciplining, the authorities have a duty to guide and assist young offenders. These principles in the Young Offenders Act are embodied in the philosophy of the young offenders facility, Na Dli, in its mission statement, which is public.
I would like to read it: To encourage the individual responsibility and development of young offenders in their sense of awareness, self worth, and their coping skills as accountable members of their family and community, being conscious of their individual rights, and the rights of society, as these rights apply to persons before youth court.
What we have is legislation and a facility that balance competing principles: protection of the public and assistance to young people. There are two principles: safety and rehabilitation.
The young offenders in this facility range between the ages of 12 and those approaching 18, and are in secure custody for a number of reasons. Some of these residents are violent, or might pose a threat to society. Some have no history of violence but are repeat offenders who have not been deterred by periods in open custody. Others will run away, or have run away, when kept in open custody, so must be kept in closed custody, even though their offences might not otherwise warrant it. Some of these young people will be in custody for a very short period of time and some for very much longer. They are all at different stages of development: physically, socially, academically.
This is not a school class with all entering in the new year in September and confident of getting out in June. In any given week, in any given month, there will be a different group of individuals in that facility, each one of them with different needs, with a different history, with different problems, with a different record, and with different proclivities. Na Dli, as a small facility for a small community, which is the Yukon, must achieve the very difficult task of trying to meet all the different needs of these young people all the time. These demands are going to always be very hard to reconcile. They are going to shift dramatically, depending on the young people who are resident at any given time.
Na Dli is a closed custody, secure facility. I have said before that it is a jail - that is plain. As a result of the recent escapes, steps have been taken to make it even more secure. It is true, and has to be admitted that the steps, to make it more of a secure custody facility, are almost certain to have some negative impact on the rehabilitation process that goes on at Na Dli. That is all part of the balance that we have to try and achieve between the competing principles at the core of the federal legislation and at the core of the program that we are offering.
There is barbed wire around the facility. There are locks on the bathrooms, and other changes have been made to the locking system in the facility. There is a holding cell for violent offenders. The jail aspect of this facility has been enhanced; it has been strengthened. We know that jails are not very good institutions to rehabilitate people. In that sense, it is unfortunate. I want to return to this theme, because it has to be recognized in the balance. The consequence of increasing the security system will probably have some costs on the rehabilitative side.
I say this as the Minister responsible to all Members of the House and to the public, We cannot have it both ways. We cannot enhance the rehabilitative system if we are simultaneously tightening up the security procedures. We are going to try and do both in this facility. We are going to try and have good programs; we are also going to try to have public safety. I would like to go into that.
The physical changes that we have made will necessitate an increased effort and a greater emphasis on the programs in place. I would like to emphasize that Na Dli is a secure custody facility under the Young Offenders Act. It is not a treatment facility. It is not designed to be a treatment facility. The federal Young Offenders Act does not contemplate closed custody, secure custody facilities being treatment facilities.
The act provides a range of options: a judge can send a young person to an open custody facility, a secure custody facility or a treatment centre. There are no such treatment centres in the Yukon for children who need treatment. The courts may send them there, but they will be outside the territory. That is a very important point to make.
Programming will be made available. It is made available to assist those who have specific difficulties such as drug or alcohol abuse. We have those programs. Of course, a secure custody facility is not a place to treat those with serious emotional disturbances. When a young offender with such a disturbance is sentenced, we will still have to look outside for treatment of that kind in a secure setting.
I mentioned that the people there are individuals. They all have different records, different histories, different personalities and different needs. The programming at Na Dli is centered on the individual case conference approach. When a young person comes to Na Dli, an assessment is made of his or her physical and emotional needs. Their education level is assessed. The reasons they got into trouble with the law are assessed. Individual programming, based on this assessment, is devised.
The programming is a product of consultation between youth service workers, a psychologist, a specialist in this field who makes visits to the facility and to the Yukon every six weeks, parents in some cases and a native liaison worker. Depending upon the youth involved, there may be input from other interested parties.
Members of this House must understand that, in any given week, there may be individuals in our care who have a whole range of needs, a whole range of problems; they may be people who have been sexually abused; they may have been sex offenders; they may have learning disabilities; they may be emotionally disturbed; they may have been physically abused; they may have committed violent crimes; they may have committed property crimes. They may have committed minor crimes but have consistently run away from open custody. Programming that is geared to the needs of the youth at Na Dli such as drugs or alcohol counselling or assistance with a learning disability will be provided. Programming that involves special privileges or benefits for youths will not be automatic and must be earned through a demonstration of good behaviour.
So, there are two kinds of programs: there are those that deal with the human needs of the person - physical, emotional needs - and there are other programs that can be earned by residents.
I think we must also recognize that at Na Dli there are some youths who are only being detained there pending disposition by the court. At one point, when I checked this fact, half the people in that facility were in that situation. Of course, in their cases, no programming will be instituted until the disposition of their case by the court, because they are in the facility only for a short time. Na Dli has been open for only a few months, as Members mentioned, and programs will be added as the experience indicates where it is most necessary and most beneficial for the youth in attendance. I want to stress that, contrary to the exaggerated statements of some Members opposite, the facility has indeed been functioning as it was designed to since it opened. It is the very nature of facilities such as this one that there are, from time to time, disruptions and regrettable expressions of anger by young offenders. We have to understand that the residents are often very angry individuals, but the situation at Na Dli, and the incidents the Opposition has taken pains to describe, sometimes in inflammatory language, is not, I submit, a crisis. We are not discussing the Kingston Rats and, without minimizing at all the seriousness of what has happened, I do not think it does anyone any good - the public, the staff or the residents - to engage in fear mongering.
Let me just review, as others have done, what has happened at the facility - the incidents that have become public. At the start of December, a youth escaped from the facility. The person was not considered dangerous during the period the youth was out of the facility. The second youth escaped on December 23, and was recaptured. That youth was not considered dangerous. He was not considered dangerous, I understand, by the staff or the people who worked with him.
The Member for Porter Creek West will have two chances to speak in this debate, but he has been continually interrupting everybody else who has spoken. Would he permit me to have my opportunity. Now the Member is making animal noises; let me say, I have never heard him more articulate than when he was meowing.
One of the young offenders was considered by the RCMP to be potentially dangerous and they, not us, went to court and had his name published. On January 3, as everybody knows, there was a mass escape. Not a riot, as some of the Opposition have insisted on characterizing it, but a mass escape. I am not minimizing the seriousness at all; I am trying to suggest that a little accuracy in the statements made in this House by the Members opposite would be desirable. A staff member was assaulted during the course of that escape, and tied up. This is a very serious incident, and we do not take it lightly.
Our concern was such that we immediately closed the facility. I point out that eight of the nine youths involved in the escape were apprehended within three hours. The other youth was at large for 24 hours. These people were held in the RCMP cells while repairs to the facility were made.
We also immediately ordered internal and external investigations. The internal investigation has now been completed by the B.C. Department of the Solicitor General. The investigation involved the director of inspection standards from British Columbia and the manager of special projects from the Department of the Solicitor General.
Our concern was for the safety of the public and the well-being of the residents. For that reason, the inspectors were asked to address the issues of security, staffing, policy and procedures. Even before we had the final report from the Minister of the Solicitor General, we relayed the physical recommendations to the Department of Government Services to follow through and implement.
There was another incident this weekend involving two troubled young people vandalizing their own cells. The Opposition seems to believe that what happened at Na Dli this weekend was some sort of culminating incident. The truth of the matter, as I have said, is that the two youths, locked securely in their rooms, began to vandalize the furniture and windows. The staff talked to the manager, called in the RCMP after confirming that that was the proper way to handle the situation, and they followed the procedures that are laid down for such a situation. That is why they contacted the RCMP. The manager confirmed that that was what to do, and advised them to contact the RCMP while the youths were removed from their rooms. The RCMP were contacted. The decision to send four cars to Na Dli was entirely the RCMPs and was certainly not motivated by tales of rampaging youths. They had conversations on the phone with the manager of the facility, at which time there was an agreement that, since the facility was full, it was best to take the youths to cells while repairs were being done to their rooms.
When the repairs were completed the next day, the two youths were returned. At no time was there a riot. In this case, there was not even a gathering of any kind. At all times, the youths were in custody, either in their rooms or in their cells. At no time did the staff of Na Dli lose control of the situation. The youths were taken into police custody so they could be kept in secure custody while their rooms were being resecured.
The incident at Na Dli this weekend was not the result of the previous escapes. Neither was it a product of lax security. At no time were the youths not in secure custody. It was an example of what happens in all jails, whether adult or youth facilities.
Jails are admission of societys failure. Jails are not nice things, and people who reside in them are almost never happy. They act out; they cause trouble. This is not an institution like a hospital or a public school. It is a facility for troubled, unhappy and sometimes violent young people. I say to the Member for Riverdale North, it is not a country club, nor is it a penitentiary. In his speech, the Member said it was a country club. If that is a country club, I never want to belong to it. I have never been invited to belong to a country club, but I would not want to belong to it.
The Member is proposing that it be made more like a penitentiary. This government and I think that is a very bad idea.
We, in this government, have not attempted, and do not propose, to lock up these young people and throw away the key. We are attempting to find the right balance to ensure both public safety and also enable the residents to participate in programs to help their rehabilitation. We are required by the federal government to have such a facility in the Yukon. We also believe that it is important that the Yukon have a facility like Na Dli so young people in trouble with the law can be kept closer to home and will have a better chance because they feel they are still part of their home community. These are important goals and we continue to believe in them.
Having a young offenders facility here in the Yukon means that Yukoners are sometimes going to hear about some of the incidents of unruly behaviour that are part of the routine of such facilities everywhere in the country. These incidents do not constitute a crisis. When a serious incident occurs, we have not hesitated to begin to remedy it. We have had the buildings and the operation at Na Dli evaluated by a team of experts. They have made recommendations for improvements to the facility. The most important of those changes have been made and all the physical changes will be completed by next summer.
I want to tell the House that the experts from British Columbia had no substantial complaints about the basic programming or the staff of our facility. They confirmed that the staff is professional and capable and well able to run the facility. We believe that the physical changes that have been made bring us closer to the balance I mentioned earlier between public security and the rehabilitation of the youth. This facility, as with similar facilities across the country, will never be totally without controversy.
The people who work in those facilities are dealing with very troubled young people. Unfortunately, from time to time there will be dramatic incidents - sometimes, regrettably, violent incidents. I do not think we can expect otherwise in a jail, whatever kind of jail it is.
Since some of the staff have been subject to criticism by unnamed accusers in this House, I want to say that I would like to commend the staff of this facility for the professional manner in which they have carried out their responsibilities since the opening of Na Dli. If Members will read again the documents that were tabled in the House today, the program statement and philosophy of the facility, which was tabled some time ago by my colleague, the present Minister of Justice, they will know that careful thought was given by this government to the role of the staff.
It was decided that the staff should not be guards, nor should they be social workers; they should be something in between. They are people who are to guarantee the security of the public, but they are to also be people who are there to provide programming for the young people - they are to provide security and rehabilitation.
The Member for Porter Creek West made mention of the proposal of the previous government to build the facility in my constituency, across from the Kopper King, a proposal that was highly unpopular with the neighbours. It was a facility that I can confirm, upon the evidence of the Minister of Justice, was estimated to cost about $7 million.
The Minister of Justice has referred to her consultation. The program that we have has not had sufficient time to prove itself. I hope that the facility will have a time to settle down and that we will have an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits as well the difficulties of operating such a facility.
The charge has been made that the government has misjudged the people we are dealing with - I think that that was an accusation of the Member for Porter Creek West. I do not quite know what he meant by that. He seems to be describing these people as some sort of amorphous group of people. We are dealing with individuals with individual needs. The programs that we are providing are a response to their individual situations. He said that we either do not have programs or they are not working.
Well, we do have programs. I suspect that a few weeks of programs, even if they had been operating in ideal circumstances, could not be fairly judged, especially if we are trying to deal with the consequences of many years of socialization, scraps with the law, family breakdown or other crises in these young peoples lives. We are not dealing with model children. Dealing with their problems is not something that can happen over night.
Dealing successfully with young people who have found their way into secure custody facilities will require extraordinary efforts. We are going to make those efforts, but they cannot happen in a week or two, or a month or two.
The aboriginal community provided advice. There will be more of that. It is already my stated intention to involve not only the aboriginal community, but also the staff, in an ongoing way with program advice in this facility. We do want to achieve rehabilitation. We do want the staff to be secure. We had a choice. The previous Minister had a choice. One of those choices was to go with a program like the ones outside.
One Member opposite asked if we had studied other facilities, and of course we did that. There are options. Some programs are all bars, locks, concrete and steel. Others are very heavy in terms of staff and personnel - a one-on-one type of relationship for 24 hours a day. We did not go either one of those routes. We tried to do something that is in between. We wanted a high degree of physical security with some good programming.
The Members opposite, including the Member for Porter Creek East, talked about facts. He listed a series of facts - incidents have been public, stories about the facility. He said that obviously there was a problem. The people who are involved in these incidents are the same ones who have been in this facility throughout this time. Many of these incidents involved the same people. People with those kinds of problems, with that kind of behaviour and who act in an extraordinary and aggressive way, are going to be a problem in any facility in any part of the country.
They are very difficult to deal with, very difficult to provide programming for, if they are a constant threat to security. Members will have to understand that. We have beefed up the security to try to limit the possibilities of them escaping. People who behave in that way in a facility are not always going to be in a position to take advantage of the programs we offer.
The Member suggested I have not answered all the questions. Some of the questions that have been asked have been quite ridiculous. I was asked the other day if I could tell what kind of conversation was held between two other people on Saturday night. I am sure on Saturday night in Whitehorse there are hundreds of conversations, and hundreds involving officials in my department. I could not be expected to tell people what somebody else said to someone else on Saturday night. It is not a reasonable question. I will always do my best to provide the information. My job here is to explain the policies of the government, and I will do that.
The Member for Porter Creek talked about the judges comments. He made reference to my remarks at the opening, where I said I hoped a facility like this would not be full. I agree with Judge Lilles that a facility like this is an admission of failure; a facility like this to be full is an admission of failure by society. I understand Judge Lilles gave a speech this morning, and there was a report of it on the news at noon. Judge Lilles is recorded as saying the current justice system is not working for native people in the Yukon. I think most Members of the House would agree with that.
Judge Lilles gave some depressing statistics on how native people are seven times more likely than non-natives to be handed a jail sentence in the Yukon. One particular concern of the judge is that a whole new generation of native kids are being thrust into the courts. We share that concern.
Judge Lilles urged people in the Yukon communities to find alternatives to jail for young offenders. He suggested taking youth out on traplines and, according to a quote here, he said, Two months on a trapline is worth six or eight months in a Whitehorse correction institute or young offenders facility any day.
According to this news report, the judge then called on the conference delegates to consider what they can do to keep native kids out of jail.
I would share the sentiments of the judge on that question. I have not had a chance to see the transcript of his statement in court, and I will look forward to reading it. It is the judges, not the government, who put young people in this facility.
I believe I said at the opening that if we lived in a perfect world we would not have any kids in such a facility. We obviously do not live in a perfect world. Nobody here is claiming we are.
Questions have been raised by a number of Members opposite. The Member for Watson Lake suggested we look at Holland as a model. That is an interesting model. As I remember the statistics, Holland is one of the countries in the world that uses incarceration least. Unlike Canada, young people who fall afoul of the law will often not be prosecuted. In the Yukon, it is certainly evident that kids get prosecuted here for offences for which they would not even be charged in southern Canada. That is one of the reasons we have so many in court, and why we have so many in jail.
It has been suggested the former Minister of Justice, in the last government, used to believe there was some relationship between the high ratio of police per capita we had here. I do not know if that is conclusive evidence or not. If you were going to use Holland as an example of what to do in the custodial field, I suspect we probably would not have anything like this young offenders facility. That country, with a traditionally much more advanced social welfare system than we have, is loathe to put people in jail, adults as well as young people. They regard it as a massive waste of the publics money.
In secure custody, in a penitentiary, in a maximum security jail, in an adult facility, there is no illusion anymore anywhere that rehabilitation goes on. People are warehoused; they are caged. You cannot talk about any statistics, whether you look at recidivism rates or look at the people coming out of adult facilities anywhere, and demonstrate a consistently successful rehabilitation program whatsoever.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Member that he has three minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Watson Lake said we had an extra $100 million to spend when we came in; the Opposition used to say it was $50 million we had extra, but I guess that is inflation. I want to conclude by simply saying that the young offenders facility has two principles: first, to provide a high degree of public safely; second, to provide some prospect of rehabilitation. The young people in there are deeply troubled; sometimes they are violent; sometimes they are very difficult. There will be always be some in the population from time to time who will act up dangerously. We have to deal with that difficult situation. These are the same people who are acting up and causing problems throughout society: property damage, physical harm, whatever. That is why the courts send them there.
We are not prepared to write off the young people and we are prepared to defend, here in this House and in public, the program and the philosophy we have for the young offenders program in the Yukon and particularly the program and the facilities we have constructed at Na Dli here in Whitehorse.
Mr. Phelps: I rise of course in support of this motion. I want to start out by saying that I was somewhat disappointed on Monday, when I asked for leave to enter into an emergency debate with regard to the concern over the obvious failings of the facility Na Dli. At that time, a lot of people out there were upset by recent events, the most recent being the Saturday night, just 48 hours before we were able to address the issue in this House. I was somewhat surprised that the Members opposite chose not to accept leave and talk about the problem. I was surprised because really we would have had an hour and a half in which to voice our concerns and fully debate the issues and then we could have gone back to the ordinary business of the House.
The mover of this motion, in his opening speech, spoke about the delay in building a facility, the cost of that delay, the cost of sending young offenders outside, both monetarily and socially. Most importantly, he went through the long delay in building a facility at all.
He was making the point that despite all that extra lead time, we are faced with a situation where there has been inadequate training for the youth services workers at the facility. There was and still is - because a fence is being built now, as I understand it - inadequate security at the facility. There is at least a strong suspicion that the programming is inadequate at the facility, and we have seen the obvious problems because they have been reported faithfully in the media.
The side opposite made a conscious decision not to have an open debate, or at least to try to stop that from occurring on Monday. There is the fact that they knew that we would be forced to raise it in Question Period, and indeed raise it today.
It is interesting to look at this situation in context. There is no question that the public is upset and concerned. They are probably ignorant about what such a facility is supposed to provide. What did the Minister of Justice say in her speech today? She said that we should not be asking questions about the break out, about the beating up of a guard - the tying up of a guard - and about all the things that occurred. Why? That is because it will probably have some harmful effect on the kids up there. She thinks that we are completely wrong and that we are going after headlines by raising the issue at all in the House.
A few years ago, I would have been shocked by the absurdity of that proposition. I am not any longer; we are not any longer, because it is simply one more time that this kind of silly argument has been trotted forward by the side opposite. The press was doing a terrible public disservice, apparently, in writing about the Watson Lake sawmill, according to the senior officer of the Yukon Development Corporation, who represents the Government of Yukon. Why? They are scaring private sector money away from the Yukon. People are afraid to invest in the Yukon because of the press doing such a terrible thing as reporting on facts.
We were told that we should not ask questions about the sawmill. That has come up time and time again. Why? That is because of the court cases. They filed some writs in court. It is a terrible thing to ask questions under those circumstances.
We had the absurd spectacle of the Minister of Finance telling reporters that the Opposition should not comment on public waste - governmental waste and the over spending of government money. Why? That is because Ottawa might hear it. They read Hansard, you know, they might cut back payments to the territory. I have never heard anything as silly or as childish or stupid in my life.
The government is saying that it cannot table the documents surrounding the sale of public sawmill assets. Why? That is a very interesting question because of the very interesting answer that we got from the government and then from the Minister when I made application under the Access to Information Act.
I will read from that act. In chapter 6 it says, If the request for information is granted and the prescribed fee has been paid, the archivist shall make the information available and provide copies of the record upon request. Under exceptions it states: There is no right of information under this Act where access to it or its release... Then there is a list of 14 specific, different reasons that might give rise to an exception.
The reason that I got from the Minister as to why we cannot have the information was section 7", all of the above. There were no specifics. The government completely ignored section 8 of the act - the philosophy behind the act. This closed government ignored that. Section 8 states, If a record contained some information that cannot be disclosed, that portion of the record should not be disclosed and the remainder shall be disclosed".
This government is dead set on hiding anything they feel might be a political liability. They do not care about the publics right to know. The Government Leader wants to trot out something - ancient history - one example is once upon a time before he was in power, when he espoused principles of democracy, once upon a time when he believed in open government, once upon a time when he believed in the sanctity of this place, once upon a time long, long ago, he took an action under the Access to Information Act. He was not successful. Let us compare some differences between the previous administration of which I was not part and this one. Surprise, surprise, when his request was denied he was given a reason, a specific reason under section 7. The court case proceeded on that narrow issue. That is a considerable difference.
I would like to take an objective look at what the Minister of Health and Human Resources had to say in his speech because it was loaded with non sequiturs and enough emotional content to try to shield our eyes from the often misleading statements made. There seems to be an attempt to say that somehow rehabilitation is necessarily antithetical to securing the public safety. An attempt to say that a jail term, under no circumstances, will rehabilitate an individual, or that any kind of punishment or any removal of privileges from a person, child or adult, is not only not ever rehabilitative, but runs contrary to rehabilitation. That is simply not so. In law, judges, in handing down sentences, often impose punishment upon people to rehabilitate that person. They often take privileges away, whether it be from young people for wrongdoing, or a young adult, or older people. Often that kind of action rehabilitates a person. That is just fact. It is just law. It is one of the principles of sentencing in the Supreme Court of Yukon, the Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Making it easy for a youth to break out of a place like Na Dli is not rehabilitative. It is not going to rehabilitate the youngster. Saying it is great and making it simple to have a guard beat up is not going to rehabilitate a young person.
Buying extra games as a reward when they come back from doing all these things that are against the rules of the place - I do not understand how that rehabilitates the kids. We reward someone for wrongdoing? That is not rehabilitative? Ignoring wrongdoing and preaching all kinds of sloppy sentiments about goody-good stuff. That, of itself, is not rehabilitative. We all believe in rehabilitation and we want to see programs that are working. I am sure that virtually every citizen in the Yukon supports the concept, the urgency, the need to try to direct these misguided young people back so that they can coexist in society, so that they can make a contribution, so that he or she can lead a full, rewarding life. To try to intimate that, because laws impose penalties for wrongdoing, that whenever that happens, that necessarily reduces any chance of rehabilitation, is really sadly laughable.
The Minister loves to stand up and talk about misleading statements from this side, the thesis being that we are simply here to cause sensationalism when the government really is doing a wonderful job and what we are doing is not trying to get at the truth, not asking proper questions at all but simply being, I guess, rather despicable in trotting out these statements of fact.
I listened very carefully to what the Minister was saying here today. He said two people escaped prior to January 3 by going over a fence; neither of them was considered dangerous. Considered dangerous by whom? By his department. Then, when the break-out occurred on January 3 and the decision was made to go to court and get an order allowing the publication of the picture and description and name of the young offenders-at-large because he was dangerous - well, that was not the departments decision; that was the RCMPs.
It is true; the RCMP considered that person dangerous. If the Ministers department, as he was saying, did not consider that person dangerous, then I think the public and all of us have to be extremely suspicious about the good judgment of those who say these escapees were not dangerous. Time and time again we have the other side downplaying what happened on January 3: Oh, yes, our guard was beaten up and then tied up; it was the same guard. And somebody else was threatened with a knife. Then we find out what really happened: the guard was tied up and then he was beaten up - beaten up sufficiently so that he was taken to the hospital.
That does not seem to be what we have been told in the House. My concern is that the side opposite is attempting to exercise damage control on a political level. It is my concern that they want to become more secretive and will go to almost any length to try to cover up things.
I could understand the deep-seated desire not to admit that there have been some pretty bad screwups by the government, but they take that desire, and what is acceptable in politics, to an extreme. The people have the right to know. The people expect us to be debating this issue in the House. The people expect us to ask hard questions of the government, because that is what we are here for. The people expect us to expose government waste. The people expect us to be here and act as a check and balance on the people in power, because the people know that power corrupts, that it goes to peoples heads. It renders people who once believed in open government and access to information unhappy about any such disclosure.
I am pleased to enter this debate. I support the motion. I feel we on this side have been doing our job and performing our role. I do not apologize for the questions. I do not apologize for the attempt to have this debate several days earlier, and I am very pleased to support the motion, as I have said.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Nordling: When the facility opened on October 5, 1989, the NDP government had been consulting and planning for over four years. Programs should have been discussed, researched and ready to go, programs tailored to Yukon young offenders who are sentenced to a period of time in secure custody.
After four years, what did we have? On opening day, after over four years, we had the director of juvenile justice saying we have set up a native advisory committee to look into having some native programming in the facility, we will rely on the committee to come in and advise us.
That should have been said four and one-half years earlier. The Minister of Justice and former Minister of Health and Human Resources was very defensive in her speech, and so she should have been. To re-evaluate the security and programming is not redundant. It must be done in the interests of the public, the staff and the young offenders themselves.
I brought this motion forward today because the Minister of Health and Human Resources, who is also leader of the government, has refused to accept or admit that the problems at the facility are serious enough to merit a change in philosophy or a re-evaluation of programs.
Today, in an article on page three of the Yukon News, it states, A Yukon judge wants a review of the programs for young offenders in secure custody and thinks the present facility may be inappropriate.
Judge Heino Lilles made the comment during a sentencing hearing for one of the youths involved in last months mass escape from the Na Dli Youth Centre. I hope the Minister of Health and Human Resources, who obviously has great respect for Judge Lilles, will heed the judges request.
The Minister lectures all Members of this House on how difficult it is to handle youths of all ages and stages of development. We know that. We know that now and we knew that four years ago. We have had over four years to work at coping with these problems and putting policies and procedures into place. It does not appear that the policies and procedures instituted to date are working. The Minister can talk until he is blue in the face, but we cannot accept that nothing needs to be done, and that the events to date are normal and acceptable.
If there is no specific programming in place as yet, the Minister should admit it, and get on with the job of putting something into place. If there is programming in place then it should be re-evaluated. I would ask the Members of this House, who have listened to this debate, who have heard the concerns of the public, who have heard the concerns of the lawyer representing the young offenders, and who have heard the concerns of the judge, to support this motion and give some direction to the Minister of Health and Human Resources.
Some Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Disagree
Hon. Ms. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Ms. Hayden: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 7 yea, 8 nay.
Motion No. 75 negatived
Motion No. 51
Clerk: Item No. 14, standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 14?
Mr. Phelps: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should consider amending the procedure for conferring the home owners grant so that the grant will be deducted from the tax payable rather than paid out to the home owner after the tax has been paid.
Mr. Phelps: The home owners grant has been in existence since about 1974 or 1975. It was passed then at a time before party politics was established. I recall that the two Members who did support the home owners grant legislation were elected NDP Members, Mr. Berger and Mr. McCall.
The system is expensive to administer, since home owners must first pay their property taxes to the taxing authority. Then they file the necessary application with the government. Finally the government spends countless hours doing the paper work and finally gets the cheques out to each individual home owner who has applied for the grant and who meets the criteria.
This proposal would cut down on government expenses. In 1985, when I became the Minister of Finance for a brief period of time, I was being briefed by officials in that department. A change, as it is suggested in the motion, was supported by officials in the department. I am sure that there still is considerable support within the department.
In my riding of Hootalinqua there are a good many farmers, and people live on large tracts of land. A lot of people invest every possible cent they can lay their hands on in their homes, their land, their livestock, their fences and their lifestyle. Many of these people, as well as many residents in other ridings, find it a considerable hardship to try to have to scrape together the money necessary to pay their taxes in full each year. They have to pay all that money before they can apply for the grant. Then they have to wait four months to get their refund.
This issue has been brought to me as MLA for the area by my constituents, by farmers, by retired folks and by rural people who do not have extra cash. They feel that the present system presents a ridiculous, unnecessary and sometimes harsh obligation that they must meet. It is an obligation of scrimping, saving, borrowing and raising extra money to pay into the coffers of the taxing authority. In their case, it is the Government of Yukon directly. This is money that will be refunded in the ordinary course of events but not until a few months have gone by. This is a very real issue of unnecessary hardship on a lot of folks in the Yukon. This is a hardship imposed by the present practice.
That, in turn, raises a third point. It is unfair that government should have the use of this taxpayers money interest free for a few months while they spend a bunch of money getting people to sort out addresses and write cheques.
The fourth point I should mention has to do with mortgage payments. People with mortgages on their homes - and unfortunately most people do have mortgages these days - usually have to make monthly payments to their bank or financial institution, and the bank usually has the full tax payments rolled into the monthly mortgage rates. They hold this money and, when the time comes to pay it to the taxing authority, they pay it. The home owner normally gets absolutely no benefit of the interest that this money should generate. For many home owners, it amounts to $37 or so extra a month that is being collected by the bank or financial institute. If that $35 or $37 or whatever it is a month was not paid to the government just to be handed back but was directed to paying off the principal of the mortgage, month after month, year after year, a lot of people would be quite surprised by the reduction in the mortgage and how much more quickly most mortgages would be retired.
The Association of Yukon Communities has passed resolutions on two occasions that are similar in spirit and intent to the motion before you today. They passed one, I believe, in 1983 and again a few years later. The motion reads as follows:
Title: Home Owner Grant Delivery
WHEREAS the delivery system of the home owner grant is unnecessarily costly and complicated to a number of citizens and, as a result, some citizens are not benefitting from the program;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Association of Yukon Communities requests the Yukon Territorial Government to simplify the delivery process of the home owner grant program to provide for a tax credit system through the taxing authority."
The politicians and the officials who make up the local taxing authorities for the municipalities in question have been selfless enough to support this motion, which is really the same as mine, despite the fact that they will really be giving up the benefit of the interest-free money. It is a cost for them but they recognize that, in the public good, the spirit and intent of the motion I am putting before the hon. Members here today ought to be carried out. I would really be somewhat surprised if I did not have unanimous support for this motion.
It is interesting that in 1983, November 3, we have the following quotation in Hansard, page 582:
Question re: Home owners grants
Mr. Penikett: I have a question to the Government Leader in his capacity as Minister of Finance.
At its general meeting, the Association of Yukon Communities retained a resolution on the home owners grant deductions, which requested that home owners grants be amended to permit individual communities to deduct the grant at source and invoice the Government of Yukon for reimbursement. Since this would eliminate many unnecessary costs and provide the taxpayers with immediate benefits, has the Department of Finance reviewed the legislation in that light and has the Government Leader discussed possible changes to the legislation with the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Hon. Mr. Pearson: We have reviewed, and are in the process of reviewing, the legislation with respect to those recommendations. We have gone so far as to get information from all jurisdictions that we know of that use this type of system. We are hopeful we will be able to amend our legislation to make it easier and far more direct for people to get these grants.
On April 3, 1984, at page 147 in Hansard there is the following question:
Question re: Home Owners Grants
Mr. Penikett: I have a quick question to the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs. He seems to be enjoying himself so much today.
The Association of Yukon Communities has stated, by way of resolution, that the Government of Yukon should amend the home owners grant to permit individual municipalities to deduct the grant at source and to invoice the Government of Yukon for reimbursement with the view to eliminating unnecessary cost to the taxpayers and providing them with an immediate benefit. Could I ask the Government Leader, for the record, what his response to this proposal is?
Hon. Mr. Pearson: We have seriously considered the request made by the municipalities. After giving it a lot of consideration, we have decided that we should continue with the program in its present form. To change it now, we feel, would be counterproductive.
Mr. Penikett: That is a surprising answer.
Occasionally, I agree with the sentiments of the person who posed that question. The views he held back then, sometimes I suspect, have not changed. I understand the Minister, in his address to the Association of Yukon Communities, did make a very quick reference to this issue. He did say that perhaps he was reading through Hansard and used the old answer that his esteemed colleague got, that it was under advisement and they were going to review it, and all that good stuff.
I sincerely hope that his final answer will be different than the one his colleague got in 1984.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to say that I found the comments of the Leader of the Official Opposition interesting to say the least in his recitals of Hansard discussions from the early 1980s. I must make mention that it was a Conservative government in power at the time that declined to change the practice that we do have today. Not to be provocative, and to be typically congenial, as we always are, I want to tell the Member that this motion will be receiving support from this side for a number of reasons, but principally because we do agree with the intent and the principle of the motion.
The Member is quite correct that it was in the mid-1970s that the home owner grant was first introduced. It was specifically in 1976 and it was introduced at that time to provide for a grant to a maximum of $250. In 1978 that was increased to $300, and in 1981 it was increased to $350, and just this past year it was increased to $450 with a special $500 maximum grant possible for seniors.
As Members are aware, there are several rules that apply to that. There are several stipulations that apply to receipt of the grant, such as eligibility and occupancy of a home. People have been taking advantage of it on a fairly increasing frequency. The home owners grant is increasing by numbers of applications and by dollar amounts.
The matter is being looked at, as raised in the motion: the prospect of deducting the grant at source, or at the time of paying taxes. From my position, where I will no doubt be charged as the Minister to initiate this action, I am quite prepared to consider the investigation of a procedure that would allow that to happen.
I had the opportunity to review what other jurisdictions do. I find that five provinces and the Northwest Territories use the same method as the Yukon does for delivering the grant. British Columbia and Manitoba deduct the grant at the time of the tax payment, while Ontario distributes the grant by way of a credit on the personal income tax. Both Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have no form of a grant for home owners.
The British Columbia system is fairly complicated in that there is a grant application that is on the reverse side of a tax notice that is filled out and signed off at the time of tax payments. Municipalities grant a credit at that point, and then bill the province for the rebate. From listening to the Member for Hootalinqua, that is the sort of a proposal this motion suggests, and that is fine.
In Manitoba, the variance is that the grant is calculated right on the tax bill, so when you pay the tax, you pay with the grant already deducted. It shows that on the invoicing. There are a few complications that would arise in that case. In some instances, you might be selling your home or you may not have had occupancy at the time of the tax notice, or you may have procured the home later in the year, but still within the 184 day limit set. Nevertheless, there is a rebate system that kicks in for that.
It can be done. I can say quite comfortably that we are prepared to take a serious look at it. I can assure the Leader of the Official Opposition that thoughts of Members on this side have not changed on this score since 1983. We still believe the principle is a valid one and propose to pursue it as indicated in the motion.
From the Yukon perspective, there may well be a number of implications in trying to create a home owners grant deduction at source. As the Member has indicated, the whole purpose of the grant has always been to offset the high cost of home ownership, so you want that to be recognized.
The Member has already indicated that sometimes an onerous burden is placed on home owners to meet their obligations in relation to costs, taxes, repairs and maintenance. The tax cost is an onerous burden in mid-year. To provide that tax benefit through the home owner grant application at the time of payment does make good sense. It provides that cash flow relief to the home owner. I support measures that help people to meet the high cost of living in the north. That, however, is a subject for another debate.
I suggested earlier that there were a number of complications that may be raised as a result of this approach. We will have to take a look at those. AYC has supported such a measure, and the municipalities would have to take part in the administration of the program to provide the grant at tax time.
There may be some implications related to eight municipalities all trying to interpret the Home Owners Grant Act or all trying to administer the grant. Given the precedent we have in other jurisdictions, these can be worked out. I am sure that we can, too. It will be administratively more complex and difficult, but that is not an insurmountable task. It does provide for the improvement for the home owner to meet his tax bill. It provides for the home owner to meet his cost of living at the mid-summer period of tax time, and I would be one to support that.
In conclusion, I am sure that other Members will indicate their support for this measure. It makes sense to provide this type of relief more efficiently and more appropriately. It makes sense that we consult with the people affected. The municipalities have indicated their support. Accordingly, I support the motion to make the changes suggested to the system. In due course, I will undertake that - but I would not say shortly.
Mr. Brewster: People are questioning a few things but it is really peculiar that when we have something very sensible, very few people speak about it; it is just given the go ahead. I have learned one thing, and that is that I should never let my leader speak ahead of me. I am not sure if he sneaks into my office to read my notes but he steals my speeches all the time. I could suggest that two great minds think alike but that would not go over too well in the House.
This is something that is very dear to my heart. I suspect that it is one thing that I will be able to stay in the Legislature long enough to see. I recall fighting with Mrs. Hilda Watson many years before I was involved in politics. She was in the government and wanted all this money to keep for six months while collecting nine, 10 and 12 percent interest on it. I tried to tell them that it really did not belong to them; it belonged to the people because they were given this grant.
However, in fairness to this government, I can say that in progressive governments we have now gone down to where it is about a six-week stretch but, nevertheless, we still use home owners money for this. I think it is a very good grant, and to me it is a very simple business transaction in that you are not having two or three departments making out a bunch of paper that eventually goes into the wastepaper basket, and then you have to send it to the Treasury Board, then they write out cheques. This all costs money - where it simply could be deducted right off the taxes. The only excuse I have ever heard on this was a very stupid one given by a civil servant one time, when it was said that the average person cannot figure it out. I think if you have paid for a house you can figure out 50 percent or 75 percent or 20 percent. I do not think the average person who owns a home in the Yukon is that stupid. Maybe I can say that that is a typical bureaucratic remark that does not make much sense.
I am very, very pleased to support this motion and, as I have said, it is one thing I hope to see through this House before I leave it - and that is not an indication that I am leaving very soon.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will be brief in view of all the pressure I am receiving from both sides to have question called. I just want to lend my support to this motion. I believe very strongly that the procedure for administrating the home owners grant should be reviewed with a view to having it deducted at source. I agree with the points raised by both the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Member for Kluane, stating reasons why it should be reviewed and dealt with in a different manner. Certainly, it will cut down on government expenses. I believe that very strongly: the passing of paper. It is unfair for not only the government to take advantage of the free use of money for a period of a couple of months to either invest or to accrue some interest, but also because a lot of citizens do not bother to apply for this grant; that, inadvertently, provides the government with additional revenues. Again, also cited was the advantage of the immediate benefit to the taxpayer. I was interested to hear the Leader of the Official Opposition bring up the question raised by the now Government Leader back in 1983 and 1984 on this matter. Both questions were dealing with the possibility of having this deducted at source. However, when the matter was raised some years later by the Association of Yukon Communities, as correctly mentioned by the Leader of the Official Opposition, the wording of the motion at that time was to simplify the delivery of the home owners grant and to do this by providing a tax credit system that would be issued through the local authorities. The problem with that was that half of the local authorities did not know what that meant, and some interpreted it in different ways; many of them had the fear that this would end up in a bureaucratic nightmare for themselves, thus it was voted down among their own membership, as far as I recall. Since that time, the matter has been dropped. Now I am very pleased to see it has been raised again, and I am also very pleased to see that the Minister responsible for the grant has done some homework; he has investigated how it is done in other jurisdictions and I wish him well in coming up with a decision and bringing this into effect as early as possible.
Mr. Joe: I want to support the motion that calls for the government to consider changing the home owner grant system so that people can deduct it from their taxes.
With the recent news about the unfair way that the Government of Canada has undermined our budget by cutting transfer payments, the Yukon Minister of Finance will have to take a close look at what the change suggested in this motion will cost.
Still, I believe it is a more fair way to deal with the home owner grant. Many more people will be able to benefit from the grant if they can take the amount off their tax payable.
As New Democrats, we support suggestions that are fair to all the people in the Yukon. Some people do not find it easy to fill out the tax form, and then have to fill out more forms to apply for a grant to be paid to them.
There are also many people in Yukon who qualify for the grant but who do not know how to apply. These people find it difficult to read. They hear about the grant when it is advertised, but then do not know how to take the next step. Tax forms are not easy, either, but at least by having the grant taken off the tax, people do not have to face more than one hard-to-read form.
All in all, it is fairer and easier for people to deduct the grant from the tax they have to pay. It is a good idea, and the Government of Yukon should consider making this change.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Phelps: I was just going to allow question to be called, but I learned a lesson from the esteemed Member from Riverdale North that you never let a chance to conclude a debate such as this on a positive note slip by, even though you might be running out of time.
I would like to thank each and every Member who spoke for their comments. I am sure all people in the Yukon will be pleased to see the motion supported and, ultimately, the method of conferring the grant changed.
Motion No. 51 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 26, standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 26?
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 74
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the federal government should recognize the higher cost of living and cost of doing business north of 60°;
THAT the proposed Goods and Services Tax will impose an additional cost of living on northern residents and business; and
THAT the Government of Canada should increase the Northern Residents deductions section of the Income Tax Act to reflect the addition of the Goods and Services Tax, therefore, allowing northerners to be on equal economic footing with the rest of Canada.
Mr. Phillips: I rise today to present this motion on behalf of the people of the Yukon, who are going to be severely impacted by this proposed goods and services tax, even though it has been reduced from nine percent to seven percent. I had hoped the earlier motion of December 6, 1989, opposing the goods and services tax, that was subsequently passed as amended by this House, would have been sufficient. Obviously, the Government of Canada does not appear to be aware of the Yukons high cost of living and the other disadvantages we face when compared to southern jurisdictions.
Unfortunately, our previous message did not get through. That is the reason for presenting this motion here today. We have to be persistent. We have to impress on the Government of Canada that the current tax proposal will only serve to increase regional disparity in this country. Everyone who lives north of 60 knows that our cost of living is 20 to 30 percent higher than our neighbours to the south. We have to make the Government of Canada aware of these facts, even if we have to repeat them ad nauseum.
If we are persistent, we will prevail, as we have prevailed in the past. The federal government recognized our high cost of living when it allowed the northern residents deductions in filing our income tax. What was given then is being taken back by the proposed goods and services tax today.
The solution I am putting forward is to readdress the balance by increasing the northern residents deductions section of the Income Tax Act. This is not a perfect solution, as it will only offer relief to those Yukoners who file an income tax return, whereas the tax Yukoners will have to pay on goods and services will apply to everyone.
Many lower-income Yukoners do not file income tax returns, and they are the ones who are going to be the hardest hit. Similarly, it will do little to make Yukon manufacturers more competitive, reduce our transportation costs, or promote our tourism industry. The motion could be called a mitigative measure rather than an answer to all the problems that will be created by the imposition on Yukoners of this seven percent goods and services tax. We have to take whatever relief we can get, and there is a good chance the Government of Canada will look favourably upon the increase in the northern resident deduction, in view of the fact that Mr. Don Blanchard, of the Standing Committee on Finance, who looked into the goods and services tax, suggested such a measure himself.
Accordingly, I believe we should take the best of a bad situation, and I would like to call on all Members of the House to support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I rise in debate on this motion to tell Members that it does, indeed, speak to a general issue of some concern to most Canadians in the north. It is a fairly accepted fact that the cost of living in the north is recognized to be substantially higher than that in the south. Whether we are talking about transportation, the cost of food, the cost of housing or simple things like recreation or utilities, we have a higher cost in the north.
It is regrettable that these costs are not recognized by southern jurisdictions. It almost appears as if to be Canadian in the north you have to pay a greater price than southern Canadians. That price is more than just literally taken out of our pockets.
Transportation is an area that has to concern us all. The motion as presented talks about the higher cost of living and the higher cost of doing business in the north. Clearly, transportation has to be one of those things that cost substantially more in the north. With the imposition of the GST, that is going to be compounded. It is not just a straight seven percent across the board, it is going to be effectively tacked on at several points in the trail of various goods and services. For example, if we are trying to build a house and transporting those goods from the southern jurisdiction, and will pay that seven percent several times before that structure is under title and makes a family home.
I recall being at a transportation conference in Calgary last year where the whole issue of the goods and services tax was discussed at some length. I may have even stated previously that the Transportation Minister from the Northwest Territories and I managed to initiate a special study on the effect of the GST on the north. Every time I have travelled in any jurisdiction outside of the Yukon, the issue of the GST has been one of general concern with the public. When you talk about the application of GST to the north, it becomes a much graver concern as people begin to recognize the naturally high cost of goods and doing business here, compared to places south.
For example, the average Yukon family spends far more on air travel than the average Canadian. This is because we have a greater distance to travel to reach any destination in southern jurisdictions. Statistics Canada shows that the average Yukon family spends approximately $600 on air travel a year. The year in question is 1987. The average Canadian family spends $211. Residents in the rural areas of the Yukon spend even more than that.
When you start comparing the increased amount of the basic goods - that is, the travel - and add an additional seven percent to that, you have really compounded costs for people living in the north. If you are involved with bringing goods in for construction purposes, that seven percent has to be added two or three times along the way. There is no doubt in my mind of what GST will do to the cost of transportation for goods in the north.
The same thing is true in the area of telecommunications. We had a 10 percent application of a telecommunications tax in 1987; that is now at 11 percent. If you tax that additionally, because of the excessive amount of communication that takes place by people in the north, you have what amounts to a double whammy compared to people in the south. I agree with the Member opposite. It is a supportable position that people in the north have to pay substantially more, several times over, for the same goods and services.
At a municipal ministers conference, the GST was a major subject of discussion. Municipalities across the country are petrified over the complexity and anticipated burden that will be applied by GST. Those municipalities have infrastructure to construct. They have services to provide. If you start taxing an already small municipality with a small tax base and budget, and introduce to them a complex taxing regime, their problems will be compounded and will affect everyone who takes advantage of the service.
In the area of housing, we are going to see the increasing cost to building homes in the Yukon from what is happening on the GST side. When you apply the GST to the cost of goods and transportation, and then try and apply the rebate, you are in a loss position. It is something we will be severely handicapped by.
The whole issue is compounded even more when we look at the additional costs being placed on people in the north. It is not just a simple matter of saying the cost of living is high, that the GST is the only imposition that is being placed on people in the north, and that we should have a northern residents deduction benefit to compensate for the GST. It is not quite enough to say just that.
The cost of living and the cost of doing business is not limited just to the increased cost of things like transportation, housing, heating or food. It is extended to a much broader regime.
Certainly the recent formula financing cutbacks are an example of additional burden that is placed on the north.
Would Members like me to adjourn debate?
I was making the point that it is not an increased cost of living that is being brought upon us by the GST. A number of other things are happening as well. I cited the recent formula financing cutbacks as a recent example of the burden northerners are going to have to pay in the long run for certain actions. Formula financing is going to affect every citizen in the Yukon. You cut back $9 million in one year and some $80 million over several years, that is going to impact severely on the level of goods and services that is going to be provided to the people of the Yukon. It is not just the application of the GST that creates a burden on northerners, there are additional things. Formula financing is a clear example.
We find that there are a number of other areas where northerners are particularly taxed compared to southern jurisdictions. We take, for example, all the tax applications by the federal government that we see in the areas of telecommunications and tobacco and alcohol excise taxes. We look at the Canada Post cost increases. These are all increases that impact on individual northern people. These impacts are compounded because they are applied two, three or four times in a situation before the goods are delivered to the home. We find there is a growing tendency for this. Everywhere we turn there is a withdrawing of support for various programs that are critical to the territory. We find, not only in formula financing negotiations, but in other program negotiations, the federal government is withdrawing from a level of support they have historically provided and we clearly have been accustomed to.
I give an example of the police agreement and the EDA where the federal government is pulling back from its share of funding for these particular programs. What you have here is not only an increase of cost to a northern person for the cost of transporting his goods in, buying his food, building his house, but an additional burden is placed upon the people of the north from all these other areas where funding is no longer being provided. Members are acutely aware of the various and many services we all ask for in this House.
The fact remains, there is less and less money, not only to provide the existing level of services, but no money to provide an increased level without some form of repriorization. At the grassroots level, it is going to impact on the level of service being provided to every northern person. In that general context, the Member is quite correct and has presented a very supportable motion. Probably what the motion does not say is the very serious extent to which northerners are penalized for being in the north - not just by GST, but by a number of other initiatives and factors that are taking place.
The entire issue, I believe, boils down to one of needing a unified voice from this Legislature, and I think we should support that. I think what we should be doing is sending a message to the federal government that there indeed ought to be a recognition for the high cost of living and the high cost of doing business north of 60. I think we should be looking at telling the federal government of the numerous situations facing northerners where there are increased costs and that these costs have to be somehow mitigated.
The Member suggests in the motion that it ought to be done through the application of an increase to the northern residents deduction under the Income Tax Act - that that is the way to go. I think the message should be substantially stronger. I think we should be asking not only for the federal government to provide for an increased deduction under the northern residence clause, I think we should be looking at increasing the threshold for sales tax rebate under the GST. As Members are aware, the GST wage threshold, I believe, is $24,800 and, if you are under that, you would be eligible for a rebate. I think we should also be asking for consideration in that area for a tax credit for northern people.
Some Hon. Member: Tax free?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I could suggest to the Member that he may have precipitated a new debate. The side opposite believes in no taxes, but far be it for me to suggest that the Member is really saying that. I would certainly like to not pay any taxes either, but I recognize my Canadian responsibility.
The north has provided benefit, tax support and resource support to southern Canada for too long. I am a supporter of Canadians being equal in the burdens they must carry. Northerners certainly carry much too great a burden on behalf of Canada.
I move that debate be adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 51 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole back to order.
Ms. Hayden: In the gallery tonight we have members of the Fourth Whitehorse Scout Troop and their leaders Peter Graham, Larry Brown and Bruce Malerby. These scouts are working on their BP Woodsmans badge and the community part of that badge. I hope Members will join me in welcoming them to the Legislature.
Bill No. 19 - First Appropriation Act, 1990-91 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Brewster: I was cut off rather abruptly because it was time to leave. I did not get an answer as to whether or not the government would make the people using the Dezadeash dump haul their garbage for a 60 mile round trip. There seems to be some bureaucratic mess. They should put the dump closer for them as well as for the Champagne/Aishihik Band who are in there in the summer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Dezadeash dump was closed. The Department of Renewable Resources has closed it due to safety and burning problems. The residents are accepting that, for the moment; they will be hauling their garbage to Haines Junction. Until we and the municipality determine another resolution for the area, that is how it will be.
One of our priorities is to address a solid waste disposal approach to rural communities. We are initiating that in-House. I will be calling on the special waste committee to address it later, as well. At the same time, the municipality and we are in discussion about the Haines Junction dump.
Mr. Brewster: We keep going back to the Haines Junction dump. I am talking about the Dezadeash dump. I would like to know who advises the Minister of that. This weekend a rather irritated group from that area told me that nothing was being done. I am a little sick and tired of the Minister telling me that he is advised by someone. I would like to know who is giving him this advice.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Maybe I could jump into this conversation and add some recent information. We have secured some $20,000 from DIAND for a study to look into the handling and management of solid wastes in the greater Kluane area. This group is trying to project the needs of the residents in the greater Kluane area. They will be looking at the best approach to handling all their solid wastes.
That report is expected to be completed by the end of March.
Mr. Brewster: I am not sure whether I should address this question to the Minister of Magic or the Minister of Mystery; we seem to have a conclusion, and this is what I have been pointing out for four years. We have two departments: Magic Mystery and Magic Magic; the Minister of Magic and the Minister of Mystery, and we do not seem to be able to get together and do a simple thing to look after people. We tell them they have to haul their garbage 60 miles and things like that, and nobody really seems to know who is running this department. Let us get it together so that somebody knows where dumps are going and they know where they can go to complain.
A good example happened just now. I am talking to one Minister, and another Minister gets up and answers. One Minister tells me that they are satisfied; the other Minister gets up and tells me they have another study going.
I would like to know what the devil is going on.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As far as I am aware, there have not been a great deal of complaints from the residents down by the old Dezadeash dump area. Those people acknowledge that they have some responsibilities to take care of their own garbage, much like most people who live in the country do. They are not making demands of the government to open up a brand new dump for the benefit of seven families.
Mr. Brewster: I guess I will talk to the Minister of Magic, here. I wrote a letter of complaint on this. It is quite apparent that it was his department and his people out there who, in cooperation with Forestry, closed down their dump, which they were pretty well maintaining themselves. We are not asking for any help. The bureaucrats came in and closed all this down and said, You will now take your garbage into town, which is a 60-mile round trip. The Minister of Magic knows that I wrote him; he has never even had the decency to reply to that letter. That was done last June.
Hon. Mr. Webster: My department and I have written back to the Member for Kluane, who is representing his constituents in this matter. I repeat, I have not had many complaints from the residents who used that former dump in the Dezadeash area. The reason why it was closed, incidentally, was because, when they rerouted the road in that area, the dump was situated too close to the road. As I said earlier, I think the residents in that area, the seven families, acknowledge their responsibility to do something about the dump and to handle their own garbage and that is what they are doing.
Mr. Brewster: I hope I can get back to the Minister on this debate because it does not make any sense at all. I presume that there is still a possibility that there will be a dump. There are quite a few families in there; seven kids come out of there now, and we have to put a school bus in because of the number of people down in that area. It would be appreciated if we got answers to the letters. I must say that the Minister of Transportation has answered the letters we sent to him.
I would like to go on from there and ask what is the meaning of the severe terrain hazard zone?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Could the Member repeat that? I did not hear what zone he was talking about.
Mr. Brewster: What is the meaning of a severe terrain hazard zone?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would beg the Member to provide more context for the expression. I could provide my definition of it, but it may not be in the context of what the Member is drawing it from. Could the Member elaborate? I am glad the Member did correct the record that I did answer all his letters.
Mr. Brewster: If I knew what it meant I would not ask him to try to clarify it. You are asking me to give you the answer that I am trying to find out from you. The letter from Community and Transportation Services simply says, The area has also been identified as a severe terrain hazard zone in the Kluane terrain hazard mapping study. Surely the Minister must realize what this is.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am sure the Member is not entirely unfamiliar with the meaning of the term. The term would speak for itself. It is the kind of terrain that is unsuitable for development, and in the context of whatever subject matter he is citing from: in the context of dumps, it would refer to terrain that would not be suitable for developing dumps; in the context of village or community development, it would not be conducive to residential land development. The Member has to be a little broader in his question. Terrain that is marked hazardous in a particular zone would mean just what it says. It is labelled as such in the planning exercise for the area.
Mr. Brewster: I wrote to the Minister on January 23, 1990. I guess like the letter that went to the weighscale, it will take two years to get there. One of his did take 10 days to get downstairs to me.
What I am concerned about is why they would allow an individual to build in a hazardous area. Why are they allowing a pipeline corridor to go through there? Why do we not put the pipeline corridor somewhere else? If this is a severe hazard area why are we putting all this through this area?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not know the full context of what the Member is talking about. When I do not know the answer, I undertake to investigate his inquiry. The Member is citing from a reference on a map in a planning exercise of an area. I am not clear precisely what types of development would be hazardous in that area. The Member says there is human settlement and there are pipeline corridors through this alleged hazardous zone. I will undertake to investigate that and provide the Member with a full answer shortly.
Mr. Brewster: I appreciate that and I suspect the letter will probably come a little faster after this debate today. We have means of getting letters and if we cannot get them one way, I am sure we will get them another way.
Now I would like to, if I could, go back to my favourite subject, or one of them. The Minister was good enough to give me the homestead policy of Yukon, which of course I had and read, and I have read it again and we still have some problems. It states that every lot in a homestead division will be on a road. If you pick up the Mendenhall subdivision study, which I am sure everybody has seen, it states the same thing. However, if you take the map out and look at it, there is absolutely no way that you can get into lot 23, which is sold to a young lady, because it is linked to a power line; you also state that you will not be allowed to use the power line for a road. Now I have brought this up before and apparently nothing was done so I am bringing it up again. I have all of the maps here and I have studied it. I see absolutely no way that you could put a road in there if you do not bring it down the power line. Why was this lot sold to this woman under these conditions?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to tell the Member that with respect to this particular issue, this is the first time that I am aware of his bringing it to my attention and I do appreciate that. I take it the Member is talking about the Mendenhall homestead subdivison, and lot 23 in that subdivision. My understanding of the development at Mendenhall is that road access was provided through the general property and that that road was accessible for all lots. Now if the Member is saying that one of the lots is in no way accessible, I would like to view that and undertake to investigate why that lot was released. It would appear to me that the road must run nearby. It would appear to me that some road access was deemed feasible in the planning exercise, when this was done, two or three years ago. It would appear to me that if that is not the case, then we do have a problem, but the Member has to be sure that there is no road access near the property.
Mr. Brewster: It depends what you mean by nearby. If you want to mean nearby, where there is lot 22, 14.19 acres, if you mean she can walk from there over to her property, yes, there is a road. If you mean on the other road, lot 24, 16.6 hectares, if you walk from there there is a road. Then it states right here, The NCPC right of way is not an access road and residents do not have permission to use it for access to any property.
The map is very plain and I can read maps. I am a little dumb on some things but I can read maps, and I defy anyone to show me how they are going to get into that lot. I defy anybody, here or anywhere else, to get into that lot without using the power line or going through somebody elses property.
Chair: Mr. Brewster, I have to remind you to address your remarks through the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am working at some disadvantage because I do not have the Mendenhall maps in front of me and I am sure the Member will provide what he has to me. I certainly will undertake to try to determine why, if that is the case, road access is not possible to a particular lot, in this case 23. The Member has to accept my undertaking to investigate that and provide him with a reasonable answer.
Mr. Brewster: I am going to accept that but I will also point out to the Minister that we went through this once before and I showed you pictures. Yes, Madam Chair, the Minister is shaking his head but if he goes back in Hansard he will find out that we went through this before. Apparently nobody even bothered to check their own book; the map is plain in there, as plain as day. To finish this one off and get onto something else, I would like to know just what a minimum road is. It states very plainly in here what a minimum road is and that is not what they have there.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member raises a subject that has been discussed at some length in the past. I believe he and I have entertained a discussion in the past. The Member is talking about Mendenhall subdivision. He is asking about what the minimum road standards are for rural homestead subdivisions. I believe the policy statement spells out some terminology that calls for a roadway to be a certain width of a cleared surface, and a road that is passable, at least for a portion of the year.
The Member is quite familiar with the problems in Mendenhall. The problem is that residents did not feel the roads were constructed to an adequate standard, and that became the subject of some dispute.
The Member has to remember that the whole principle of homestead subdivisions was based on an absolute minimum cost to develop that land to be made available for people to apply for. In the case of Mendenhall, the lots were established, minimum development work was done, and it was kept at an absolute minimum in order that prices would be kept down.
The Member is also familiar with the homestead policy where you can gain an equity breakdown on your property. In the case of Mendenhall, the roads that were put in place were challenged as not being adequate according to the policy. Again, the Member is quite familiar with the round of discussions we had last spring and summer among him, me and my department and the residents of the area. I undertook, at my discretion, to do some upgrading of those roads, because the matter was being so vociferously challenged.
To give the Member a short answer, the minimum standard for a road is one that provides access for a portion of the year. That means there are times when it is expected it may not be passable. The width has to be cleared; where it is reasonably possible, ditches can be constructed and some road surface material can be applied if it has an inadequate natural roadbed.
I do not know if that answers the Members question. In the context of Mendenhall, the Member has to appreciate that I took the initiative and spent some additional $20,000 on upgrading those roads. That work was not charged to the property owners, so that is a substantial benefit to those residents.
If any additional work has to be done, we would have to look at a means to recover the money.
Mr. Brewster: When those individuals bought the lots, these were the two things they gave them. It states very plainly in here what type of road should be there, what type of road there was. That was never done. Here it states that there be a minimum road into everyones property. That was never done. We are not asking for anything that was not in the agreement when they signed agreements to go on their property. We are not asking for anything else except what was in the agreement.
The homestead policy is very good, but it does not have everything in it. If you study the book, which those people did, it says how much gravel should be on those roads. That road should be 36 feet wide. Are you disputing me? Is the Minister disputing me?
The right-of-way should be grubbed on each side with ditches. It is in black and white in there.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not want to get into a major argument with the Member, largely because I have such an esteemed reverent respect for the Member.
In the homestead subdivision, we were attempting to provide land at the lowest price possible. We provided a minimum standard road. There were questions about that minimum standard. We upgraded it. If the Member is saying that we should be upgrading roads and subdivisions that are created for homesteads to a standard that meets certain highway specifications, he has to realize that those lots will not sell for $4,000 or $5,000 like we were able to do at Mendenhall. They will cost something like $10,000, $12,000, $15,000 or $20,000. That will make the lots prohibitive. That was not the intention of the homestead lot. The intention behind homestead lots was to provide cheap land with minimum services to people.
Mr. Brewster: We were not asking for a great big highway. We were simply asking for everyone to honour what they put in this. Did the government tell the people that it would not live up to the standards of the Mendenhall subdivision study? If the government told them this before they signed the contracts, I would have no problem.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To my knowledge, all the people who applied for and got Mendenhall lots got what they paid for and knew it at the time. They knew the lay of the land, the condition of the roads and the designations of the parcels of land. In their agreements for sale, they took the property on an as-is-where-is basis. I accepted their case last spring that the roads could be at a better standard in some sections, and we upgraded those sections.
The policy statement on the homestead subdivision does describe the minimal standard road. It speaks to the standard of road that would be put into a homestead subdivision. It does not, as the Member suggests, call for ditches in all cases. It does not, as the Member suggests, call for a gravel surface throughout the subdivision. If the Member reads the policy, he will find that the policy does say that that may be the case where necessary. It is not necessary where there is a natural road subgrade.
I am just looking at some notes on Mendenhall. The road right-of-way was cleared to the appropriate width. A good one-third of the roads in the subdivision was a natural road network. The Member and I had a dispute one time about where that road led to. It was upgraded to a four-metre wide gravel surface, in most cases. Where there was severe erosion and subgrade deficiency, we upgraded it last spring. I am not sure what the Member is after. If he is telling me that we should be upgrading these roads to a highway road standard, he has to accept that the cost will not come in the same.
Mr. Brewster: I will not carry this any further. I have the Minister on record, and the people at Mendenhall will have this shortly. It rather confuses me because the Minister talks about one road. Yet, there are two loops. As well, the Harrison Road goes the other way. There is no one on that so we would not have to do anything with it. I understand that the government will look into seeing that the young lady gets a road. I will be very interested to see how they are going to put it in.
The Minister was talking about the grubbing. There is nothing in the policy about that. It is all in the study, and this is what they took for the gospel truth. It does say gravel in the report. It does say pit run. It is here in black and white, and I will close it off at that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Just to properly close it off, the document he is referring to is not the document of the policy, and the policy addresses the road standards. The brown book in front of him describes what the road standards ought to be. I conclude by saying we did the best we could to bring those standards up to a level that we thought we could live with on the expenditure side and that we thought residents would be satisfied with, without affecting the price of their land nor having an improvement charge applied.
Mr. Phelps: I have some discussions with the Minister as well, because the other homestead subdivision is in my riding, at Robinson. It just seems to me - and I understand the Minister is trying to duck out of a sticky situation - that these people bought lots under the policy of this government. One would think that the government is acting in good faith. It is the integrity of the government that is really on the line here. It is not as though we were walking into a second-hand car lot on Kingsway, or some place in Vancouver, and were expected to kick tires and check brakes and so on. They were told there would be a road to a minimum standard into the lots. Well, there is not if they cannot pass it. Surely, it implies that the road is passable, with an ordinary vehicle, during the year? What has happened is that, in both cases, they could not drive into their lots and from their lots on this road. If the Minister was operating a used car lot on Granville Street, or managing the Watson Lake sawmill, perhaps he could get away with this kind of shoddy behaviour, but one expects, when one is dealing with the government, one is dealing with people of integrity. A minimum standard road means it is accessible under normal circumstances. A maintained road is a different issue. One does not expect to have to go across half a mile of swamp when the spring thaw comes, and the government goes, Ha, ha, ha, we fooled you. You just do not expect that from the government.
That is the problem we face. The government did repair a lot of the problems on the Robinson access road, which was appreciated but expected. The government has repaired some of the problem with regard to access to the Mendenhall homestead lots, and that was appreciated, but expected, because you are supposed to be people of integrity. They are saying there is a minimum road, which implies it is passable with a vehicle, but when it thaws, all of a sudden you are in a creek because there is quicksand there or something or a ravine that was covered with snow.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member who just spoke may consider himself an experienced and professional car dealer, and he should know that if you buy a Volkswagen, you get a Volkswagen; if you buy a Cadillac, you get a Cadillac. If the Member would read the policy, the policy says: a minimum standard road that would be accessible. Incidentally, the accessibility described there is for a 4x4 vehicle. That is not a normal condition. I guess what the Member is saying is that something here in the development of the homestead policy and the subsequent subdivisions that were put in place, lacked credibility. I dare say the Member is dead wrong. A number of lots were put on the market inexpensively and people scooped them up pretty quick. The Member, in his own riding, has the Robinson subdivision. The Member recalls some road problems that were there. The Mendenhall subdivision lots sold for an average of $3,200 a lot. That was because there was a minimum amount of work done on the roads.
That is a costly item in any kind of subdivision development. Robinson lots sold for $8,800 or $8,900; that was over twice the cost because the road standard was higher than the standard at Mendenhall. That is a fact of life. Those were the goods presented and sold. It is not a case of some shoddy presentation, or some incredulous, deceitful approach by the government. That is not the case, and I resent that kind of expression. Mendenhall was sold inexpensively, with poorer standard roads than Robinson to keep the price down to $3,200 per lot. That is a reasonable price. The residents from the area came forward and told us that some of the roads were not meeting the policy, some of the road was not accessible by 4X4 year-round. So we went in and upgraded those sections, so the road does meet the standard minimum requirement; it does have the 12-metre right-of-way clearance; it does have a road surface; it does not have ditches. It does not call for ditches in all cases; read the policy. I am not sure what Members are after. If they are saying they are opposed to homestead land subdivision development, then they should say so. We have put two developments onstream. We have had some problems; we dealt with them; we delivered the goods. The people are on that land, and if we have to do further upgrading, we will do that, too. From here on in, residents can anticipate that we will have to recover the cost.
Mr. Phelps: I will read from the policy. This is the one, is it, the brown one?
On page three under definitions: minimum standard road - a 12-metre cleared and grubbed right-of-way... the Minister says that was done; I am pleased ...with a drainage ditch and a layer of gravel where existing soil is inadequate. All we are saying is that when the purchasers of the lots come along in the spring and the drainage ditch is not there where it is needed, or there is no gravel, or the road is inadequate, they are entitled to have the road brought up to standard. They should not be built on a mud swamp where the vehicles are buried out of sight. They are dealing with the government. They can expect at least a minimum standard. Minimum standard means the road is at least passable to an ordinary vehicle. Where necessary, there will be a drainage ditch that actually works and gravel so that the road is passable. That is the only issue. That is why some of these people are upset.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: With the Members last comments, I do not see us at a tremendous variance. I think the Member is recognizing that the policy does have a certain requirement for road standard. For the most part, we have met that standard. I have gone into both subdivisions and spoken to people who were setting up their homes. There are, in Mendenhall, areas that have not been grubbed for the full 12-metre width. That is part of the rationale I used to go back in to do some upgrading. In the case of Robinson, I believe it is all 10- to 12-metres wide in grubbed and cleared right-of-way. In Robinson, the road was fully gravelled in excess of what the policy standards called for, but it was reflected in the price. In Mendenhall it was not to that standard. I accepted that we could bring up those standards. If that is what the residents want, we are prepared to discuss it and do it.
Mr. Phelps: There is not much difference between us. The thing is that these people bought the lots and went to meeting after meeting with officials, and were turned down and denied. It took a long time before they finally got action and got the minimum road service that they were promised in the brochure.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to get the Ministers word on one thing: when they figure out how to get the road into lot 23, the young lady will not be charged extra, because that was in her agreement. I am sure the Minister is honourable enough not to do that. How he is going to get the road in there without using the right-of-way, I do not know. However, that is his problem.
I would also like to point out that the work that was done in there last year was very much appreciated. They did that work on Cranberry Road, and they did not do all of it. They did one small part, I would say less than two miles. The rest has not been touched.
However, after listening to the Minister, it is quite apparent that he has said if it is not up to standard they will bring it up, and I will accept his word on that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: What the Member is seeking is some commitment to investigate and ensure that lot 23 has road access. I give him that undertaking. Until I know what that means, I cannot go any further. I have to look at a map to see what the road configuration is like, what the network is like, what work we have done, and take it from there. I can give the Member the undertaking to fully investigate, as I usually do on any difficult issue. I will probably deal with him in the process.
Mr. Brewster: I thank the Minister for that. However, I still do not have a commitment. It is quite possible she will be charged for this road. She is sitting in the centre, between lot 24 and 26 on one side of her and lot 22 on the other side. As I understood it, the agreement was that there would be road access to every lot. Surely, she will not be charged, and I would like the Ministers commitment that she will not be charged for getting the original road into her property.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot give the commitment that no charge may be involved. I have been in the business long enough to know that the resident may not want the installation of a road the way it was expected in the plan. The resident may want a different approach for the road. There may be different costs involved. There may be cost-sharing involved. I cannot predict that. I have to tell the Member that I will fully investigate the matter. It seems unreasonable to me that the person would be left without road access. I have to go back into the plans; I have to study the maps, and I will deal with the Member on any developments on that score.
Mr. Brewster: I am through with general debate, unless somebody else has some things to say.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister a question about the organizational chart on page 67 in his budget. Where in that organizational chart is the new assistant deputy minister position that is to be filled by a woman, going to be placed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to send over by the page a copy of a revised chart that would ordinarily replace the one in the budget. That is only because the decision respecting the ADM position was taken well after the budget preparation.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to explain the rationale then. Why does the ADM position, that was filled by the woman, not complete the line of ADMs, so that there would be three ADMs in line, and then the policy and planning and administration and communications come under the assistant deputy minister position, as opposed to the departmental land claims and communications? I take it from the chart that that position reports to the deputy minister, not to that assistant deputy minister. So really the only part of the department that reports to that assistant deputy minister is human resources, finance, and policy, planning and evaluation. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe what the Member is saying is correct. I think the Member was making several observations bordering on questions. The ADM position that is identified is essentially as it shows up on the organizational chart; it is largely a responsibility relating to a central administrative function and unit. The communications and departmental land claims are high-activity programs that are going on at this time and reporting to the deputy minister. I am not sure if the Member has a more specific question or if I have answered it.
Mrs. Firth: I have quite a few questions after receiving this. I would have anticipated that the assistant deputy minister position would have completed the lineup, that the two, policy, planning and evaluation and communications would have come under that. That would have been 23.16 person years, and then the combination of the two allotments of money under there probably amount $3.1-some million. That is my first observation. I would have anticipated that. My second observation is: where did this other stuff come from? Where did the departmental land claims come from, all of a sudden? It is not even on the other chart. Where did corporate services come from; it is not on this chart, either.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To clarify it for the Member, I would like to point out that the policy and planning and administrative unit, with the 21 person years, described in the existing budget book, is what primarily constitutes the corporate services of the ADM position. In other words, policy and planning and corporate services are much the same. The communications unit is separate from the policy and planning unit and remained separate in the ADM structure that was developed. I guess what I am telling the Member is that what reports to the new position is the policy and planning and administration unit, now called corporate services.
The Member also, I believe, raised the question about the departmental land claims. The Member may recall that, during the course of last fall, we established two additional persons in the municipal services branch, if you will, to work in land claims. The Member will recall discussion in the House relating to the position of a land claims coordinator who works in conjunction with our departments, coordinating land claims activity and working in conjunction with the communities, particularly the Association of Yukon Communities.
In addition, there is a lands researcher. Those two new positions were created this past year. They report directly to the deputy minister.
Mrs. Firth: Are those two positions presently filled? When were they filled?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The lands researcher position is under recruitment. It is not filled at this time but should be shortly. The other land claims coordinator has been filled for nearly two months. That person is on staff and at work.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister provide me with the job descriptions of those two positions along with the salary ranges? He is nodding his head indicating yes. I see the finance and administration branch. Finance and systems support is nothing new. Policy, planning and evaluation comes under the policy planning branch. What is human resources? Does that replace the personnel and administration section?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is dead on.
Mr. Lang: In general debate, I had asked the Minister of Finance to give us the gross total of the O&M costs as a result of the capital projects in the budget. The department of Community and Transportation Services has a substantial number of capital projects. Could the Minister give us a total for the O&M costs once these projects are completed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do have all that information available. It would be difficult to provide in a total because it is broken up project by project. It would take some time to compile that for the Member. There are two things here. I hope the Member is not talking about multi-year capital project costs. That is identified in the budget book on page 105. I think the Member is talking about the O&M costs of capital projects in subsequent years. We do have that broken out in every capital project item as we go through line-by-line. If the Member wants a total, I will have to bring it back.
Mr. Lang: I would appreciate it if the Member would come back with that. I am trying to get a handle on what this budget is going to cost us in the long term. I am surprised that we do not have a total for each department. We can forget the individual projects because the Minister of Finance assured us that these were taken into account when the budget was put together. Yet, no one can come up with a figure for me.
Could I also get the totals for the Yukon Housing Corporation, Government Services and any other department that he has reporting to him? This is a question that we will ask about each department. We would like to know the projected O&M costs for the capital projects for each department.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can provide him totals of each branch and each project. They are just not tallied up in the documentation I have with me today, but it would not take too much to provide that on a branch-by-branch break-out; a project-by-project break-out would take a little more time but it can be done, it is available, as is the total figure for the department. In every one of our projects we calculate our O&M costs on an annual base and we have that in terms of projections down the road. I am not sure how far down the road but, as it gets further down the road, it is harder to estimate, as the Member realizes. All the O&M costs are, of course, built into this budget for the current projects in place and for projects that are going to be developed throughout the year.
Mr. Lang: That is fine; I will look forward to getting the information as outlined just previously by the Minister. I think it is important we become a little bit more conscious in this House about the life-cycle costing that was recommended to the Public Accounts Committee, and take it very seriously because we keep hearing various comments being made about the financial squeeze the government is in. Our government, I do not believe, has felt the financial squeeze yet; I think it is going to be coming down the road, by the look of it, if what the Minister of Finance has indicated is going to take place because of the financial formula. We had better be fully aware of what we are doing here and be able to project where the money is coming from. Unless we are very careful, the government is going to be forced to have to go to the taxpayer and I do not think the taxpayer is going to be very happy after they witness how we are spending their money on their behalf.
I would like to move to another area, if I could. It is, once again, the question of the Alaska Highway, which the Member for Kluane raised earlier. Could the Minister indicate to us how much money is being identified by the federal government for Alaska Highway upgrading for this forthcoming year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The best information I have at this time is for 1990-91, which would be the coming construction season: $15,000,000 has been identified by Public Works Canada for the highway. This is in comparison to a historical average of $27 million, $28 million and $30 million in the early 80s. Of that, as I believe I advised the Member for Kluanes colleague, $6 million has been identified for the Yukon. So, it is $15 million for the entire highway; $6 million for the Yukon.
Mr. Lang: Did the government ask for a little larger share on behalf of the Yukon, in view of the fact that $15 million had been identified? If so, did he do it by letter, or how did he do it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think I tried to explain that to the Member for Kluane yesterday. As a result of, I believe, a series of happenings. We can all take the credit for persuading Public Works Canada to repriorize their funding for the Alaska Highway for this construction season; I think it is the result of the letter campaigne by the Chamber of Commerce; I think it is the result of motions in this House; I think it is the result of correspondence from individuals; it is the result of the efforts of all of us, including the meetings I have had with Mr. MacKay and Mr. Bouchard and Mr. Cadieux on the subject. The decision to start repriorizing money for the Yukon was taken some time this summer. At the official level, there is considerable effort as well.
So, to answer the Members question, I could take credit but I think it more properly should be shared with the entire lobbying efforts of the Yukon people, to have Public Works Canada shifting the money back to the Yukon, at least on a more equitable basis than it was previously.
Mr. Lang: Has the Minister indicated to the Government of Canada what areas are a priority to the Government of the Yukon for upgrading purposes?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The entire highway has been lobbied for upgrading at a personal level. At an official level, where the more technical expertise rests, Public Works Canada and our department work together in doing an analysis of the highway and pick the worst sections for priority treatment. Without my notes, I cannot tell the Member where the $6 million is being spent. I will have to come back. It is as a result of the technical work done at an official engineering level where those sections are deemed to be the worst, most unsafe, and where the money will be spent.
Mr. Lang: I am a little disappointed that the government has not taken an official position on where those funds should be directed, especially in view of the representations made by the MLA for Kluane. I had the misfortune of driving to Anchorage a year ago last Christmas. It is safe to say that the worst portion of the highway is the Beaver Creek section. I have driven the highway all the way do Dawson Creek this summer. Is the Minister prepared to take an official position on where they want those dollars allocated? It is one thing to have the technical people looking at various areas for upgrading, but somebody has to make a decision on where that money is to be spent. It is crucial that the lions share be spent on the north highway. I would like to hear the views of the Minister on that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I could not agree more. I have driven that section of the highway and was appalled at the 1943 version of the road that still exists. I have indicated to Mr. MacKay verbally that the Beaver Creek border section is the worst section. I did not put that forward as an official government position for funding priorities.
The Beaver Creek border section is the section that is still part of the Shakwak project, which is not dead. I would want to be very careful about promoting that for the $6 million funding when there is still a likelihood of American support for that section of road. It is a difficult position, and I appreciate the Members point. I will take it under advisement and continue with the efforts we are all engaged in on the Alaskan front, at the federal level and the Public Works Canada level, and certainly with the Province of B.C., as I indicated yesterday.
Mr. Lang: That is why I am asking the questions. The Shakwak Valley project may take care of that portion of the road so we will not do anything up there. I do not believe the Shakwak Valley project is going to be resurrected the same way it was in the past. It is no secret that dollars on the American side are short and becoming shorter. The other day, the Minister indicated it was a long shot, if not a zero chance, that any dollars would come our way through that method. The one method that might come our way is that the Alaskans may decide that it is important enough to them because of their transportation network through Haines that they may go into some sort of arrangement themselves.
I would recommend we use this situation. We know we have $6 million. Ask the Americans if they are prepared to match us so we can get a fairly good start on this old Shakwak Valley project.
Otherwise, we are going to be sitting here and be a lot older five years from now. I speak from experience when I say that stretch of road is a disgrace now, bar none. I can imagine what it is going to be like in five years if there is no serious upgrading and construction. As a Canadian in the Yukon, when I drove it I was just amazed. I believed my colleague, the MLA for Kluane, but after I drove it, I not only turned into a true believer, he could not describe in words how bad that road was. I would like to hear the Ministers comments on that suggestion.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think I have indicated that Public Works Canada is in communication with the Americans and we are involved. There are discussions going on now to try to revive the project. The Member can appreciate that, in these kinds of international discussions, if you will, there is a lot of talk as people articulate their positions.
We have had an indication from the Americans that they are prepared to go, on a 50/50 basis, with the construction of the section from Haines to the border. At this time, the federal government, through Public Works Canada, is not prepared to accept any portion of that offer. What the Member is suggesting is essentially a negotiating position. I am confident that that is being contemplated. In fact, I know it is. I cannot advise the Member what overriding influence we can have at the table, or in those discussions, but it is my view that we should not reject any offer from the Americans to upgrade that road. The Members suggestion of using the $6 million on a cost-sharing basis for Shakwak is not unreasonable, and it is being discussed.
Chair: Committee will now take a break.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Lang: The sewage lagoon for Whitehorse is probably one of the worst environmental situations that the Yukon faces. The city is entering into a contract to see what options are available to it. How is the Government of Yukon involved in this?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: During the break we took a look at the O&M costs. Before we adjourn tonight I will provide the Member with a sheet of totals of the O&M costs on all the capital projects. The Member will actually be quite surprised in that the O&M costs on the current years capital projects will reflect a net gain. That is largely because of the highways surface treatment savings on the O&M side for maintenance.
The Member is probably aware that the City of Whitehorse is undertaking an engineering study of the sewage lagoon. It is expected to cost in the area of some $300,000 to look at the options available for sewage disposal. I agree with the Member that the situation facing Whitehorse is serious. There is a problem. It is likely to get worse. They may be meeting water standards now but the level of those standards is being questioned.
If we ever participate in an sewer and water project directly with Whitehorse, we would be cost-sharing the study on the same basis. The City of Whitehorse is fronting the engineering study. We will determine viable options from that study to deal with the sewage problem. At that point, we will be determining if we will be participating in direct cost sharing.
The city does receive substantial block funding, which is intended in part to provide for those kinds of construction activities. We put out just under $10 million in the block fund in this budget. Whitehorse gets $5 million, and it has been getting block funds proportionately over the past several years. Whitehorse may well be able to finance a project itself.
We do not know the level of funding expected for the project because we do not know the nature of the project. I have to flag the wetlands sewage treatment because I have been very impressed with it. That will be looked at for effluent discharge, particularly from the Porter Creek lagoons.
The city is conducting the engineering study and that will present options. Those options will obviously be costed and decisions will be taken as to which one to proceed with. At that time we will be determining whether we will be directly cost sharing or whether the city is able to go it alone. It is expected to be done by this summer.
Mr. Lang: The government seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth. It will help solve all the environmental problems, but then it comes back saying it provides block funding so in this case the city can pay for it. It will be a substantial bill facing the Whitehorse taxpayers.
Is it the position of the government that if the project comes in for $11 million or under that the City of Whitehorse will have to pay for the total sewage lagoon?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is my position that if any single project comes in under two and one-half times what they get in their block fund, then the obligation falls on the city to meet that cost. It is not a case of the city being incapacitated to do it. It is not legislatively permitted for us to participate without changing legislation. That is what the funding arrangements currently describe in law. The two and one-half times the capital block fund is the provision for major projects in any community. The Member knows we did assist on that basis in a couple of communities this past year. I believe Haines Junction was one where the project was in excess of two and one-half times, and we did participate with direct capital assistance. It was a 90/10 sharing over and above the block fund, over and above the two and one-half times.
In the case of the City of Whitehorse, it is premature to say what our position would be should the project exceed the two and one-half times. We would be obligated to cost share. What level would remain to discussion and negotiation.
Mr. Lang: We are finally starting to see exactly where the government is coming from, because they danced around on various motions in this House. I recall the commitments during the election, but elections do not matter once the votes are counted. I remember the up-front commitment the NDP made to the Whitehorse sewage situation, how much of a problem it was and how they were going to assist. I cannot see how the government has made any major commitment when they tell the City of Whitehorse that all the $12.5 million in block funding will have to be spent on that project, if that is what it comes to.
It seems to me the city can cancel a lot of projects, such as the waterfront development, city water and sewer projects in the city, or anything of a substantive nature, if that is the position of the government. I want to make the representation as a taxpayer and as a representative of a riding that I think that is unfair. The city is prepared to assume some responsibility because they have indicated that already in view of the fact that they funded the $300,000 study to look at the options available. I find it difficult to believe that any Member on the other side of the floor can say to their constituents, the taxpayers they represent, that their taxes can be doubled because they will have to pay for that sewage lagoon to a maximum of $12 million before we will look at cost sharing. I do not think that is realistic. It is going to be one hell of a long battle. If I was on city council and that was the YTG position, I would say that it is federal and territorial legislation I am being asked to abide by so you fix it. That is exactly the kind of situation we are getting into. It is a sad day and sad commentary. There is a very real problem that should not be a political partisan problem. We should solve it cooperatively. If it is a situation where the city is going to be held up for ransom it is going to be a long, drawn out battle. It does not have to be.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think it is entirely unfair of the Member to suggest that the City of Whitehorse is being held up to blackmail or that this government is clearly denying living up to its responsibilities to the City of Whitehorse. I think the Member is out to lunch when he suggests that this government has not provided to all communities substantial funding for major water and sewer projects. In the case of Whitehorse, not only is it unfair to suggest that this government is abrogating any responsibility, it is entirely premature to predict what the case is going to be for costs related to sewage disposal for Whitehorse. We have an engineering study under way. We do not know the options that will come forward. There is a possibility - and the Member has been in the business before; he knows - that we may well have costs far less than $11 million or $12 million. We may have a phased project. We may have an application of the wetlands sewage treatment process, which is extremely cost effective and very cheap.
It is simply premature to predict that the costs are going to be high, that the system is going to be a Cadillac mechanical system, that the Government of the Yukon is not going to participate according to its legislative mandate.
We certainly do provide substantial funds currently, in block funding; the City of Whitehorse is not required to spend its entire block funds on such a project, as the Member suggests. Financing arrangements are made by municipalities for major projects and that could very well be the case here. Again, we do not know the amount of that cost; it is a premature debate. The city and I have had discussions on the subject. We may not totally agree but we have an accepted arrangement to do the engineering study and take it from there.
Mr. Lang: We will wait and see what the outcome of that study is, but we can see, if the worse case scenario does develop from it, there is going to be a major battle and it will be a battle; I can assure the Member opposite it will be a day-to-day battle, minute by minute, hour by hour, because I am prepared to stand in my place and stand up for what I believe to be right, as far as this particular project is concerned.
I want to go a little further on the question of the sewage lagoon, because the Minister refers to the wetlands project in Teslin, to the point that YTG even sent out a press release. Obviously, a lot of work has been done. I want to ask the Minister this: is he satisfied that this process is going to work satisfactorily in our climate?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Member is probably aware, it is a fairly new technology, if you will, for the north and it is, in part, experimental. From the known data on its application in northern climates, it does work. It does not work year-round because part of the reason it succeeds is because its effluent discharges at a certain standard into normal ground conditions. It eventually filters through the natural environment and comes out as very clean and safe water. Clearly, in the winter time it is not going to work and it may be only applicable for a portion of the year. In the case of Teslin, that is exactly how it will work. It will work only for a certain season of the year.
The situation in Teslin is one where the storage lagoon is going to contain the effluent through the winter, and it will be discharged through the summer on a graduated basis. That will be a cycling process happening every year. It is extremely cheap, because it does not cost any amount of money to speak of.
Unfortunately, I do not have my notes with me to tell you what communities in northern areas it has been applied in. Where it has been applied, it has been extremely successful. Where it has been applied, the valley basins that were used for the wetlands treatment became vegetation areas, where there were crops grown in that area.
It has a spinoff benefit as well. I am quite impressed with it. I was down to Teslin to see the area where it would be working. I was down to talk to the consultants who helped with it. I spent time with the council on it. I was sold on it, and I have certainly insisted that Whitehorse take a serious look at that option.
Mr. Phelps: I wanted to follow up on that a little bit. We were given some of the documentation when the consultants came out to Carcross and discussed options there. It looked extremely experimental to me. They were not sure about how successful Teslin was going to be. One of the variables that is extremely important is where you have low volumes of discharge, and Teslin fits nicely into that category. Other variables are where you have large areas of wetlands and adequate storage areas.
I do not know about Whitehorse, or where you would be able to find suitable areas in Whitehorse and contain the rest of it during the winter months. It sounds great, but I would be surprised if it were to be the iron-clad solution for the extreme volumes that you are going to be looking at in Whitehorse.
I personally would express a great deal of reservation about the concept until we have seen it under various conditions. Haines Junction has a situation where its plant capacity, in terms of lagoon size, far exceeds the requirements of the village. They will be in that position for a long time. They have not even had to try to discharge any of the effluent. They have not even filled up the lagoons in three years.
I understood Teslin was in much the same category, because they built it looking ahead for 20 years of population growth. In the initial years, everything is great, because they do not have to discharge anything. As far as I am concerned, it is extremely premature to think it is the be-all and end-all and the only solution. I would be pretty nervous if that were to be the proposed solution for Whitehorse, not that I am an expert, but I would want some second opinions pretty fast on that one.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I could not agree with the Member more when he says he has reservations of it being the be-all and end-all for sewage disposal, and he is correct when he talks about low volume discharge being the most optimum condition for wetlands to work successfully. The smaller communities lend themselves to application of the wetlands treatment more than Whitehorse does. That is not to say that Whitehorse does not have the potential to use the wetlands system as a part of a sewage disposal system. From the Porter Creek area, I am told the whole Laberge basin lends itself to that potential. That is easier said than done. There would be complications to try to immediately do that.
I believe some considerable portion of that land is settlement land. Testing would have to be done. There are a number of factors to be taken into account.
By no means am I suggesting that wetlands is the only solution. Because Whitehorse has a large volume of discharge year round, we would need some form of mechanical lagoon system to complement a wetlands treatment. The Member is quite correct, and I appreciate his comments.
Mr. Phillips: Could the Minister take a little time to explain exactly how it works? I have this vision of a system pumping sewage into a wetlands area. Do they pump it into a diked area? Do they haul it there in a honey wagon? How do they get the sewage in there?
The Teslin area is a major staging area for ducks and geese in the spring and the fall. The area that the Minister is talking about on the far side of Lake Laberge is not only a major staging area for ducks and geese, it is also a major nesting area. There are large swamps on the far side. What kind of effects will pumping this sewage into these wetlands have? I know it will make the plants grow. You can pour your honey bucket on your garden if you want, and it will make your garden grow. I do not know if anyone would want to eat from the garden or if any animals would eat it either after that kind of honey was applied to the area.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will circulate a copy of the O&M consequences of our capital budget for the next year.
I am not a technical expert on the treatment process. I am reasonably familiar with it to the extent that I know that Ducks Unlimited, at a national level, endorsed this sewage treatment in areas that ducks use as a habitat. It enhances the growth and feeding capability of those swamp lands for the birds.
The process requires primary treatment before the effluent is released into the wetlands area. There can be a secondary treatment as well. Primary treatment includes a major discharge into a lagoon. A settling takes place. The overflow can be treated again by putting it through a second lagoon for aeration. A natural aerobic action takes place. That discharge can be released into the wetlands.
The wetlands provides the treatment capacity to a tertiary level. That is the last level of cleanser-to-effluent that effectively restores it to a drinking water standard. The system needs a lagoon for primary treatment. It can be discharged into a wetlands system at the secondary level, or it can be put through a secondary mechanical level. That would mean another series of lagoons. It does not matter if it is released into the wetlands at a primary or secondary level. The wetlands system will reduce it back to a drinking water level.
Essentially, it amounts to releasing the waste slowly into the grades and slopes of a basin where it percolates and filters through the soil and the environment. It makes its way into whatever water discharge comes out of that basin as clean water. That is the simplicity of it. There are more technical aspects to it, and I would be happy to provide all Members with some of the background information that I have collected, in relation to Teslin in particular.
Mr. Phillips: I would be interested in receiving that information. I share some of the concerns already expressed on how well it would actually work in a northern climate. The Minister has told us of experiments in other northern areas. That has been one of the major problems with our sewage lagoons. It just sits there for 11 months of the year and the one month it is warm enough to be active is when it starts to break down.
I know now if you go to the golf course on a hot and sunny day it sometimes can be pretty rank if the wind is blowing right from the sewage lagoons in Porter Creek. The Minister of Justice laughs, but it can be pretty unpleasant for someone who buys a house for $100,000 and the prevailing wind blows into their back yard; it is not pleasant. All these things should be taken into consideration when we are doing this. When the affluent reaches this stage is it odour free, or is there a strong smell from it? Many people in Porter Creek can smell the sewage lagoon on certain days.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The wetlands sewage treatment process minimizes what the Member is talking about. What happens is the sewage is first flowed into a lagoon and it builds up over the winter. The discharge is done late in the summer after some aerobic or bacterial action to create some secondary treatment in the heat of the summer. It is released in a controlled fashion into the wetlands basin; it slowly filters in on a steady stream and saturates into the ground, essentially disappearing from the surface. In essence, there is no visual exposure of this secondary-level treatment. Downstream from where the discharge is taking place there is no odour at all because there is no exposure. There is still odour at the lagoon of course.
I move that you report progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, First Appropriation Act, 1990-91, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Opposition House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled February 7, 1990:
Takhini River (Elk) study; Yukon Wood Bison Recovery project re calves (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, pp. 938,939
Study and planning for Rampart House (Webster)
Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) (Webster)
Nacho Nyak Dun/Mayo District Renewable Resources Council pilot project (Webster)
Tests by federal veterinarian of cattle and elk for brucellosis and tuberculosis (Webster)
Inuvialuit Final Agreement - 1990-91 Budget (Webster)
Cost of bringing in investigators from B.C. re Na Dli Youth Centre (Penikett)
Contract with Jodi White, Ottawa, re strategic advice on dealing with the federal government (Penikett)
Jobs reclassified to ADM positions re Land Claims (Penikett)
Land Claims related courses (Penikett)
Salary ranges for employment contracts for three Land Negotiators (Penikett)
Status of individual completing work on constitutional development report (Penikett)
Job description of Community Liaison Coordinator (Penikett)
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 7, 1990:
Young Offenders Facility Planning - Statement of Philosophy, Dept. of Health and Human Resources January, 1986 (Penikett)
Young Offenders Report - Planning for Young Offenders (prepared by Audrey McLaughlin, August, 1986) (Penikett)
Secure Custody Facility - Concept Paper (Penikett)
Young Offenders Secure Facility - construction considerations (Penikett)
Young Offenders - References (Prepared by: A. McLaughlin, September 1985) (Penikett)