Wednesday, March 7, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have a number of returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Land claims
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions regarding a new Minister being appointed, Mr. Siddon. A federal government spokesperson has said that the change in Ministers will not affect the March 31 deadline for land claims.
Does the Minister responsible for land claims believe that the March 31 deadline is realistic from where he stands?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have been asked to give an opinion, and I hope the Leader of the Opposition will understand that I do so with some caution. I think the March 31 deadline is achievable, but not without a tremendous amount of hard work and, I would say, probably some good luck, but also a very significant contribution of political will by all sides, but most importantly, the federal government. Both publicly and privately, I have expressed some concern about the timing of the appointment of the new Minister, especially as it may affect our land claims negotiations.
Mr. Siddon has spoken to me on the phone and assured me, as I gather he has the national media, that he still intends to try and meet that deadline. I have also indicated my wish to meet with him and, in a general way, he has acceded to a request for a meeting very soon. I believe there was a news report yesterday about his pending visit to this community. I guess that, since we are dealing with a matter of some considerable complexity, it is our hope that the Minister will prove to be a quick study. We know he has a PhD; that is no guarantee of being a quick study, but we hope that he not only warms to the challenge of his new post but also can be persuaded to feel some passion and some energy about its importance.
Mr. Phelps: I am still not entirely clear, and I am sure I share this lack of clarity with a lot of Yukoners, with regard to what the deadline means. If the deadline is not met, can the Minister tell us what the possible consequences might be?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me first of all explain that with every deadline that we have faced so far, there has been some slippage. Negotiators and lawyers associated with the process might well describe the slippage in the deadlines as being a consequence of drafting agreements that were made at the eleventh hour, which of course cannot be done in a matter of minutes. I understand lawyers sometimes take days to do these things.
I want to be careful in my comments. I believe the consequence of not concluding the essentials of an umbrella agreement by March 31 at midnight could be that the federal government will no longer fund or participate in negotiations in either the Northwest Territories, with respect to the Dene Metis claim, or here. The proposition has not been put quite as brutally as I am doing it now, but certainly I think the message is being sent that if we do not get to the umbrella agreement by that deadline, we could be off the list of six comprehensive claims the federal government is pursuing.
Having said that, and responding to the question of the Member opposite, I must say that I believe all parties are firmly resolved to get an agreement by that date. I know that our negotiators, as are the other parties negotiators, are working every weekend now; they are working seven days a week and they are working very, very long hours. I think they have a real challenge to complete the work by the deadline that has been set but, as my mother used to say, where there is a will, there is a way. I hope we will find the way to meet the deadline.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us now what the plans are with regard to the new Minister visiting Whitehorse? Do we have any firm dates or any knowledge about the length of his visit?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I have been specifically asked not to make announcements on the Ministers behalf in this respect, but I can tell the Member this - because I heard it on the radio yesterday, therefore my source is not just the Minister - a spokesperson for the Minister indicated on the radio yesterday that he would be coming here immediately prior to his attendance at the Globe 90 conference in Vancouver, for which he also has some ministerial responsibilities. I gather it is tentatively planned that he will be here on the weekend of March 18 and 19, at a mines ministers conference, which Mr. Cadieux had originally agreed to address on the 19th, which is a Monday morning.
Yesterday on the radio, there was a statement from Ottawa that he did intend to meet with CYI, the government and other groups in the time he was here. Mr. Cadieuxs visit was originally going to be twice as long as Mr. Siddons is now planned to be. Therefore, he will either be meeting with fewer groups or the people with whom he meets will have shorter meetings. I will have to leave it to him to announce the details of those arrangements.
In any case, we expect to meet with him and talk about the land claims issue, which is the most important question. There is also a number of other questions.
Question re: Land claims
Mr. Phelps: We know Mr. Reagan used to favour CNN for his news. I am tempted to ask the Minister what his favourite source of information is, but I will not.
The federal spokesman we heard on the radio stated the new Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has no intention of reopening discussions on the agreement in principle. Is that a restatement of the position that was earlier taken by his predecessor, Mr. Cadieux? In other words, is there no change from the previous Minister?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can assume that. I have only had the most cursory discussion about the claims with Mr. Siddon. I spoke with him on the day he was appointed and, at that point, he had not been briefed in any great detail. I assume he has spent much of his time since then getting briefed on these questions and that, when we meet in Whitehorse, he will be able to discuss the outstanding issues in some detail.
All three parties are operating within the context of the framework agreement that was signed last year, and we will all be creatively exploring the four corners of the agreement, as our chief negotiator says, to try to find a satisfactory resolution to any outstanding problems.
Mr. Phelps: Does the Government of Yukon have a position with respect to reopening discussions on the agreement in principle?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are negotiating on the basis of the framework agreement that we signed. We signed that agreement, as did the other two parties and those are the basis for the negotiations. We are trying to explore all the possibilities and to be as flexible as we can about the dimensions of that framework agreement to solve problems that have been identified by the different parties.
I believe that the most important outstanding issue for the first nations, and this a concern that we share, is the matter of entrenching self-government provisions. In the absence of any commitment from the national government, either to an First Ministers conference process, which is their stated preference for dealing with this question, there is bound to be anxiety about the federal policy on this score.
Mr. Phelps: Aside from the issues of constitutional entrenchment of the self-government provisions, does CYI have a position on the reopening of the framework agreement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Every conversation that I have had with Judy Gingell, the Chair of CYI, in the past several months indicated a willingness to explore the framework agreement to try to reach a resolution on any outstanding questions within the context of that agreement.
That is the basis on which negotiations are continuing. Mr. Cadieux, some time ago, communicated formally with the other parties to indicate that was the only basis on which the federal negotiations were proceeding.
Question re: Wood bison
Mr. Lang: We had a third debate on wood bison the other evening during the main estimates. When the government made the agreement to bring wood bison into the Yukon in 1984, it was with the understanding that it was to preserve a subspecies of the buffalo that was a pure strain.
My colleague, the Member for Kluane, has done a lot of work in this area and has brought forward various pieces of information from experts that this may not be true. There may be hybrids, and in fact, there may be very little difference between the various types of buffalo. We have faced many difficulties in the Yukon with the buffalo that have been brought in. Would the Minister of Renewable Resourses be willing to put off bringing more buffalo in while these experts sort out if the principle under which the agreement was signed is true?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would first like to obtain some information from Member opposite. If it were discovered that the wood bison was not a true subspecies of the buffalo family, would the Members opposite not want us to continue with the wood buffalo recovery plan?
Mr. Lang: I feel that my pay should be doubled if I am here to answer questions. The reason for the agreement was that the animals were supposedly on the endangered-species list. It is coming to light that it may not be the case, considering the opinions expressed by the other experts.
I would questions whether or not we should be bringing animals in under that agreement if it is not meeting the principles that were agreed to at that time.
If I could now ask the Minister a question, if that is permitted during Question Period - I notice the Minister is at a bit of a loss because his deputy minister is not in the House with him today - there was a report done in 1989, entitled The Management Plan for Wood Bison in the Yukon, that was never tabled or made public.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I will, but I had to answer the question first.
In the report tabled thus far, up to 1989, we have spent over $600,000 on the introduction of these buffalo into the territory. In view of the financial situation that Canadians are facing, and in view of the information that the Minister obviously feels has credence, in view of the fact that the Minister is now asking us questions, I am going to ask the Minister again: is he prepared to hold in abeyance the bringing in of further wood bison until this situation is cleared up?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member opposite for his answer to my question. He did answer it in a roundabout way. He did suggest that it is questionable that these are indeed a pure strain of some species or other, and that perhaps we should not be bringing them into the territory. We have already had a fairly lengthy debate on this matter while doing the budget estimates for the Department of Renewable Resources. I mentioned at that time that we were going to continue with the proposed recovery plan and that, as a result of that plan - the Yukon taking part in this national program - the wood bison have been removed from the endangered-species list. They are now on the threatened list.
Mr. Lang: Bringing forward various ideas and new information to the House can be very difficult. I am sure pleased that the side opposite is so willing to listen, especially when they are spending other peoples money.
In the document we received that had not been tabled in the House, called Management Plan for Wood Bison in the Yukon, it is indicated that $46,500 was spent in just one year, 1988-89, for managing the herd and providing hay and monitoring the herd. The other evening, however, the Minister indicated to us that only $10,000 was going to be needed for the purposes of managing the herd this forthcoming year. Can the Minister tell us why it cost $46,500 in 1989 and then in 1990, when we are bringing in more animals, it is going to cost even less, to a minimum of $10,000?
Hon. Mr. Webster: On the subject of money, I want to correct the Member opposite. It is not some other peoples money that is being spent for this national wood bison recovery project, it is the money of all Canadians.
In response to the Members question, we have already provided that information in a legislative return.
Question re: Wood bison
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Renewable Resources. In the report entitled Management Plan for Wood Bison in the Yukon, the Nisling River watershed is identified as a special wildlife management area for inclusion in the Yukon catalogue of key wildlife habitat and that land-use activities that could negatively impact on the buffalo and their habitat will be regulated. Can the Minister outline what measures the government plans to introduce to protect this range and what land-use activities would be prohibited?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I could come back with that information in detail for the Member opposite.
Mr. Brewster: I wonder if he would like us to send him a copy of this book? The book is printed by his department, Mr. Speaker. Since agriculture and grazing are not going to be permitted in this area, can the Minister advise the House if he has consulted with the Yukon Livestock and Agricultural Association, the Yukon Outfitters Association and the Yukon Chamber of Mines regarding the disposition of the Yukon wood buffalo range?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will come back with that information as to whether we have consulted with all those three organizations.
Mr. Brewster: I only have one strike to go. It looks like I am going out here. Can the Minister advise the House when, if ever, the associations and the Yukon public are going to be consulted about the range and has the federal government agreed to withdraw this land from other projects?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will come back with that information as well.
Question re: Emergency response contingency plan
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism, concerning the emergency response contingency plan with respect to future sudden closures of the Alaska Highway. I would like to ask the Minister if we now have such a plan in place?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would think that is more properly a matter to be referred to the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services and the highways system.
Mr. Phillips: Last year, on April 24, the Minister told this House that under the new Alaska/Yukon/BC marketing program, this group was developing such a plan. In fact, I quote the Ministers words, One of the undertakings under this new joint marketing program we have, this tripartite agreement, will be exactly to do that: establish a communications network, an interjurisdictional communications network that will alert travellers to potential problems and make them aware of the situation where they may encounter delays and for what length of time. This is something that will be addressed this year under the program.
I would like to ask the Minister if they addressed it under the program and would he table the plan?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I thought initially he was talking to some emergency measure organization master plan for dealing with emergencies on the Alaska Highway in case of another washout, but what he is referring to is some publicity that each jurisdiction would be using along this route to inform travellers of other options that they can take to continue their holiday tour.
A session will be held in Whitehorse in the first week of May for all people who man visitor reception centres in the State of Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon to discuss a number of matters related to welcoming our visitors to our area in a uniform format. This will be one item that will be discussed at that time as well.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister said last year that it would be developed in last years budget. Obviously, nothing has been done on it yet and will not be done this summer because they will just be working on the plan this summer. Can the Minister tell us if they will have such a plan in place and, if they develop such a plan, would the Minister table that plan in the House?
Hon. Mr. Webster: They do have a strategy planned in this fiscal year to bring forward at this May meeting to discuss with all people who staff visitor reception centres in the three jurisdictions. I am sure they would be willing at that time to make the information public; it will have to become public in the event, but we hope not, that some disaster occurs along the Alaska Highway.
Question re: Mount Hundere
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. During August of last year, I had some correspondence with the Minister regarding the establishment of an economic planning committee to assist in the proposed Mount Hundere mining venture. It is my understanding that the Government of Yukon has been negotiating with Curragh Resources on the development of the Mount Hundere project. Can the Minister update the House on any of these negotiations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Department of Economic Development, through the good offices of Mr. Lemphers, has been coordinating government activity with respect to the Mount Hundere property development. We have had extensive and ongoing discussions with the mining proponents as to their plans. We have also had discussions with the town of Watson Lake with respect to the potential impact of the development on the community and district. Further to that, we have also had discussions in the Watson Lake area with, not only the Upper Liard band, but also the Casca Tricorp, which is a corporation made up of interests from the three nations of the Casca people. Further to that, of course, there have been discussions with other departments concerning everything from the transportation options to any and all matters with respect to the environment.
The process as it stands right now is that the Curragh Hillsborough proponents are seeking financing and are planning to submit their prospectus to the Regional Environmental Review Committee in order to start seeking clearances, both from their banks and from the federal officials from whom they require approval.
Mr. Devries: The Minister is from a small town and is aware of the way in which small towns go. I went home last weekend and the town was afloat with rumours regarding this project. Would the Minister give the MLAs affected, which would be the MLAs for Campbell and Faro, some timely updates on any discussions wherever possible?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Absolutely. If the Member wants to have a briefing with me with respect to any elements of significance or importance with respect to the project, I will be happy to do so. Even though it is not our responsibility as a government, we have done our best to draw all interested parties together so all needed work can be done expeditiously.
We have also committed to the people of Watson Lake that, irrespective of whether or not there is a public review sponsored by the Regional Environmental Review Committee, we would like to proceed with one in Watson Lake to get the views of the people of the district who are not necessarily formally connected with the town, the Chamber of Commerce or the Indian bands, all of which have been consulted extensively.
Mr. Devries: Has the Government of the Yukon placed any special conditions or undertakings, or anything out of the ordinary, on the company prior to this project proceeding?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are trying to determine and ascertain what the conditions of the Watson Lake area are. Those are our priorities to address. What leverage the Yukon government has as a government will be applied, as much as we can, to ensure the priorities of the residents are addressed. We have no priorities, other than those of the communities to be affected. I will not consider it to be a priority that would outstrip all others. We feel that what we can do should be done for the community.
Question re: Health and Human Resources, firing of deputy minister
Mr. Nordling: The deputy minister of Health and Human Resources was fired six months ago. Key administrators and staff are quitting and seeking other employment. The morale in the department is extremely low. What is the Minister of Health and Human Resources doing to address the morale in his department?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is no low morale in the department. As usual, the Member is only partially correct on any of the assertions in his preamble to the question.
Mr. Nordling: I would invite the Minister to take a tour of his department. These people work in very stressful and demanding jobs and need positive feedback and encouragement. To be more specific in my question, is the Minister doing anything to encourage his staff and to convince them to stay on with his department?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Most of the staff are staying on with the department. The Member is correct that many of them work in very stressful jobs. Some have been working in those jobs for a long time. Many of them like to change jobs after a period because of the nature of the work, and it is very common for people to change careers in this day and age.
I have a high degree of confidence in the people in the department. They are very professional, hard working, caring people. This government has always appreciated the work they do. At a time of increasingly tight resources, we are asking them to take on many new initiatives and programs for the benefit of the public. They have been fully involved in the development of those programs, and I think they are keen and enthusiastic about implementing the programs of this government.
Mr. Nordling: Unlike the Minister, I do care about the employees and what is going on in the department. We have seen what happened in the Department of Education: 26 people left. How many people have to leave the Department of Health and Human Resources before the Minister becomes concerned and accepts that there is a problem?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The question is argumentive. The Member asked how many people have to leave the department before the Minister does something or other. The Minister of the department is behaving properly. The department has always had many demands placed upon it. The Minister is asking the department, on behalf of this government, to develop a whole range of new initiatives. Those initiatives were described in this House. The people involved in that policy work are extremely interested and positive about their work.
I know that I can count on the support of the administration, the staff and the professionals in the department to carry out this governments policies.
Question re: Yukon College, communications employee appointment
Mrs. Firth: On January 22, in the budget debate, I asked the Minister of Education a question about the communications coordinator position at Yukon College. The job was given to an individual without competition. The Minister took the question as notice, and as usual I have not heard back from him. Could he report the details of this appointment to the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know if the comment, as usual I have not heard back from him is true. I do take great care to try to respond to questions of all Members. I also make an effort to respond completely.
The person was hired in September, 1989, by the Public Service Commission as a casual communications coordinator for one month. That was at the request of the department.
I indicated in budget debate that the request was made ultimately by me to get the communications strategy in place to undertake some of the important work that the communications coordinator would be doing. They did act quickly.
The position was advertised. The person was interviewed along with another candidate, by a board that included the Public Service Commission and the deputy minister. The person was offered to the now-incumbent shortly afterwards.
As far as I am aware, everything was handled appropriately according to the rules.
Mrs. Firth: I say as usual because I have asked the Minister about five things, and he has not gotten back to me with any answers for any of them. This issue is one of the five. I could list the others, but I do not think that I have time in my supplementary preamble.
When I first raised the issue, the Minister told me that an exception was made to allow this person to take this job by appointment. Now he says that it was advertised, that two people were interviewed and that it went through the normal process. I am looking at Hansard for January 22, page 836. The Minister said that there was an exception given to allow that person to take the appointment.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, the criticism the Member is levelling, that she never gets answers from me or that that is a usual occurrence, is entirely unfair given there are usually hundreds of questions asked and hundreds of questions answered. If she cites five answers that were not precisely given and she has checked them all out and she has the number down with precision, I still think that the assertion that she is not getting answers from me is unfair and uncalled for.
With respect to the person she referred to, I assume she was talking about the communications officer for the department. If she was referring to the communications officer position at Yukon College, the information that I did provide her was complete at the time, I believe, and did provide for the appointment by exemption. I did indicate in Question Period subsequent to that that, as I recall, it was requested that the position be offered by exemption. According to the rules, the exemption must be posted for a period of 10 days, if that is the request, to leave open the opportunity for anybody to appeal the exemption. As I indicated, an appeal was filed but was withdrawn before the 10 day limit was up. In that case as well, as I indicated before, upon review, the Public Service Commissions rules were applied and were followed, to the best of my knowledge.
Mrs. Firth: I was very specific in my first question about the coordinator position at Yukon College. Perhaps, if the Minister would not be so sensitive, he would hear the question properly. He promised to come back with answers to the five issues I raised. I know the Minister is sensitive about not doing his homework.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: Yes, I will, Mr. Speaker. The Minister told me at the time we were raising this issue that he did not have all the information, that he would take it as notice and that he would report back to me. I think I have waited an ample time and I would like to know when the Minister...
Speaker: Order please.
Mrs. Firth: I am just in the middle of the question, Mr. Speaker. I would like to know when the Minister will bring back a full accounting, as he promised, of this particular position that was given by appointment.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First I would like to point out that I could not believe that the Member was asking about the Yukon College communications coordinator, because I believe that I answered that question. Perhaps I was mistaken in assuming that the Member was asking about something that she had not already been given the answer to. However, I have provided the answer to the Member previous to today, with respect to the communications officer for Yukon College. I provided the Member with the full information and the full accounting with respect to that matter and consequently, I do not know what else the Member is requesting with respect to the matter. I did provide, I believe, the answer even in Question Period with respect to the matter, so perhaps it was a mental slip. I was assuming that the Member was asking about something that was new. It turns out that the Member was asking about something that I had already answered. I apologize.
Question re: Office space
Mr. Lang: I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Government Services. Last week I questioned the Minister about plans to move various branches of departments and departments around from building to building. We had been told a month previously that the major move was going to be to the newly renovated old Yukon College. I was quite surprised to find out last week that the Minister is planning 31 different departmental moves in the very near future. When asked last week, the Minister indicated to us that he would provide those projected 31 departmental moves. Could the Minister provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is correct about having requested the details surrounding the anticipated moves in the space plan of the government over the next three years. I pointed out to him at that time that those were the anticipated moves that would be subject to the principles of the strategy that I tabled here. They would be subject to financial analysis. They would be subject to consultation with the affected branches of the government. They would be subject to discussions with the private sector where private sector space may be involved.
In fact, this morning I signed a copy of a document that I expect to be tabling tomorrow that will outline this in detail.
Mr. Lang: We all know that any time you move a department or a branch of a department it is very expensive. It runs into thousands of dollars and, if you are the Minister of Government Services, you know it runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars as renovations are done and the various costs associated with the move are incurred.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not the projected costs of these moves are going to be included in that report as well?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The answer is in the affirmative; yes, the anticipated costs related to those moves, if they take place, are listed by move. Again, I emphasize that I have taken some considerable time - and that of my staff - to prepare a document that can be tabled. It is all in flow chart form and so on and it is now in its final modification and will be ready for tabling tomorrow.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the House Leaders, I request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed directly to Motions other than Government Motions, rather than dealing with Motions for the Production of Papers, and that the motions be called in the following order: Motion No. 81, which is Item No. 24; Motion No. 78, which is Item No. 23, and Motion No. 7, which is Item No. 3.
Also, we would request unanimous consent for Mr. Speaker to interrupt proceedings at 4:30 p.m., even if I should be in the midst of my 40 page speech on Motion No. 78, for the purpose of allowing a motion to be moved that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 24, standing in the name of Mr. Brewster.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 24?
Mr. Brewster: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 81
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Kluane
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to require that all cars and trucks registered in Yukon have two licence plates.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to start this off by going back to Hansard for a minute and putting this into context. I realized, after listening to the answers to some of my questions, we still had a chance to save the good Yukon plate and have it in both positions on our vehicles. This is what the hon. Mr. Byblow said, It was still the intention to issue one plate. It was announced, and that is the current plan. I should point out that it is on the advice of RCMP authorities during the consultation period prior to the development of the staggered licence plate system. I can tell the Member that there has been some additional information on the subject. We are currently in discussion with RCMP on whether or not that second plate is required. It is a matter of some discussion between the department and the RCMP now. We are examining other jurisdictions and what they are doing, because we looked at other jurisdictions when we made the decision on the single plate. It is fair to say our discussions have not been concluded. We may consider the issue of a single licence plate.
As usual, I had a little smart remark to make and as usual it turned out right. It is quite apparent that recent negotiations were between bureaucrats, and did not get down to the poor patrol officers who have to work the highways, and I have been hearing from the poor patrol officers who have to work the highways.
In speaking to this motion, I sincerely hope this is the last of the licence plate debate. I hope the Yukon plate is finalized, once and for all, and that it will be on both the front and the back of our vehicles. In so doing, I am tabling the last of my Save the Gold Panner, which completes it. We now have almost 6,000. We are short a few, but not very many. I hope the Minister would finally catch on that the people want the licence plate of Yukon left alone. I do not know how much more clearly they can get the message to the Minister than with what they are doing.
When I look at it, I am beginning to wonder if we have not already gone into the one licence plate. I will be very interested to hear the Ministers explanation of this. Last year, when I bought my new licence decal, I was given one. I questioned them, but nobody could tell me why. I see we again have one, so I am beginning to wonder if the plate I carry in front is legal, even now. It does not have a decal and has nothing about 1989 or 1990 on it.
Let us get down to some facts about these licence plates. I have been doing a little inquiring, and I am amazed this government would even consider such a motion.
I first discovered the governments ally, the former NDP government of Manitoba, went to a one-licence system in 1987. In 1986, they took the reflection off the licence plate. That is very peculiar. A couple of years later, here we are following.
I only hope this government continues to follow that government and goes right out the back end of it, just like that government did, because of foolish mistakes like this.
The Minister indicated that the police in the Yukon agreed to the one licence plate. This amazes me. I and other colleagues on this side of the House are not getting that perception from the police we have talked to.
The Yukon is still a snowy and muddy place. For many months at a time, conditions on the backs of vehicles are such that you cannot see the licence plate. This has been brought up to me by a number of policemen. It creates a great hardship for the police when they cannot find it. Right now, at least they still have the front licence plate to look at.
After these long, winter months, the other position is, quite often, one of the licence plates falls off. Right now, it is very easy for the policeman to walk to the other end of the vehicle to see if there is a licence plate on there. This has personally happened to me on two occasions. There was no ruckus about it. I was simply told to get another plate and put two plates on.
However, if you only had one licence plate and lost it, you would be producing identification, registration and everything else to prove you lost the licence plate, and that is not fair.
The argument they keep giving me is these people can split two licence plates. I have a hard time understanding that. Number one, if they split the two licence plates, with the present system of having to have two licence plates, they are illegal, so they have broken the law. I do not understand the difference between one plate and two plates when it comes to splitting. If you are going to take a plate off and put it on another car, it is much easier to take just one plate off than two. So, that does not make any difference.
The Calgary police stated at a hearing down there with the Western Canada Traffic Association, it is much easier to spot cars and turn around and pick up licences when you are coming from the opposite direction than trying to look at them backwards in the mirror.
Not long ago, on September 22 to 29, the Western Canada Traffic Association met in Whitehorse. In attendance were professional traffic engineers, law enforcement officers, traffic educators from the four western provinces and the Yukon government.
At this meeting, a motion was passed that clearly recommended the use of two licence plates per vehicle. This motion was passed without dissent from any person present.
I would like to read a couple of the remarks that were made in defense of that at this meeting. I am astonished that most newspaper reports said that only issuing one plate is supported by the RCMP because it will end the illegal practice of people splitting their license plates between two vehicles.
At the September conference of the Western Canada Traffic Association held in Whitehorse, a resolution was passed by nearly 100 delegates protesting against the action of Manitoba in eliminating the front plate. Experienced traffic officers, such as Sgt. Doug Meadows of the Brandon city police force and Dave Banks of the Manitoba Highways Department decried the loss of the front plate for several reasons.
These were some of the reasons: Identification of a wanted vehicle. It is almost impossible for enforcement officers driving along the highway to read the rear plate of the oncoming vehicle. Try it sometime. Even the effort takes attention away from the task of safe driving. To spot a wanted vehicle in a convoy of passing cars would be quite impossible.
Protection of police officers at road blocks. I am not referring to the Merry Christmas, Happy New Year variety. Police officers said that in many circumstances, for their own safety, they radio in the location, licenCe and the description of the vehicle they are stopping before approaching it. They radio in again once the vehicle is gone.
This was run past Sergeant Cameron, of the Whitehorse RCMP, yesterday. He said, Losing the front plate would make our jobs much harder.
This is the final one. Please look out the window right now and try to read the number on the licence plate of the vehicle parked or passing. With the snow and dirt on most Yukon vehicles, which licence plate is easier to read, the front or the rear?
At least three phone calls from RCMP in rural areas have stated the same thing.
In the Brandon police department in Manitoba, which has had the experience for two or three years, a motion was put forward for the safety of officers. Stolen vehicles, they claim, are much harder to find if they only have one licence plate. The reflectorization is very very important for parked vehicles. They urge that to remain.
However, in all fairness, we did phone the highways division here. I do not know whether there has been political interference, but they think that one plate is fine. The poor foot boys have one opinion and the bureaucrats have another.
We also phoned Canada Customs in Vancouver. Their preference is for two licence plates because it is easy to identify the country of origin and it is safer for customs officials when checking separate vehicles.
I do not think that I should have to say much more on that. It is a common sense thing. The cost is not that high. If it saved the life of one policeman who was working at a roadblock, it would have been paid for right there.
The Brandon police chief also pointed out that with one licence plate people are putting other licence plates on the front. He also pointed out that one person had a Yukon plate on the front and a Manitoba plate on the back. I have one on the front of my car that I can put a decal on. It has been sitting there for two years, but I have to put a decal on the back one. Is that front one legal? That is the question.
I urge everyone to use some common sense. Yukoners have that. This is a simple motion that does not need much debate. The cost will not be that much higher. It is almost unanimous that police and custom officials want two plates. The Calgary police made a statement. The Brandon police made a statement as well as the Department of Highways in Manitoba. They all disagreed. Let us not get into the same mess.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, hope that this is the last of the great licence plate debate.
I think I want to begin by recapping some of the discussions that have taken place with the RCMP in respect to the single-plate issue. The Member dwelled on that for a large portion of his presentation, and I want to set the record as straight and as clear as possible. When the government undertook its investigation into the staggered licensing system, it had numerous consultations with the RCMP at the time. This goes back to about a year and a half prior to my assuming this office. At that time, there were communications with the RCMP and those communications requested that a survey be done among the force to determine the attitude about the single-place issue. That took place in 1988. A member of the force actually undertook, as a commitment, to survey other members. The advice that was given back to the department at the time was that no significant concerns were perceived with the single-plate issue. The point of view at that time was that a single-plate issue might be of some concern in a major metropolitan area where enforcement was much more rigorous and where vehicle infractions were more persistent. In that case there may be value in having two plates. The opinion that came back from the RCMP at that time was that, here in the Yukon, they saw no serious concern about going to a single-plate issue. They understood the economics of it. They understood that a single plate would not pose any hardship to them doing their job. So that was the response at the time.
When I undertook the reinvestigation of the staggered licensing system last summer, besides designing a new plate, I had asked the department to make sure that in fact the single-plate issue was accepted by the RCMP. The department again communicated with the RCMP and the confirmation came back that there were no significant concerns. A couple of people who were surveyed within the force did raise objection to going to a single-plate issue, saying that it would be more difficult to enforce vehicle infractions of rules but, overall, there was no problem. Clearly the majority, short of two objections in the survey, generally agreed that going to a single-plate issue was an acceptable move, so the decision was made to proceed with the single-plate issue.
The Member quoted from Hansard in response to questions raised in Question Period about the issue. Subsequent to making the decision and subsequent to the two major consultations with the RCMP, a letter was received from a senior staff member of the RCMP suggesting that the single-plate issue would indeed pose problems for enforcement purposes. That gave me some rise for concern because it was, essentially, a change in their position; it was not the position of a year and one-half or two years ago, it was not the position of eight months ago. This constituted a new position for the RCMP.
I asked the department to spend some time with the RCMP to clarify this matter once and for all. Meetings were subsequently held with the RCMP and I believe, as of this week, the advice came back that, having been consulted and having raised their concerns, the RCMP felt a single plate was quite acceptable, that the decision of the government to go to a single-plate issue would not be objected to by them; they felt they had provided adequate input to raise concerns and that they could deal with it.
In responding to the concerns raised by the enforcement agencies, I feel quite comfortable that a single plate is not going to pose problems that will cause any enforcement difficulty.
The Member spoke at length on a number of other reasons why two plates should be provided. He cited one reason as being that it would be beneficial when you lost one plate. My response to that is that if the reason for having two plates is because you may lose one, I do not find that rationale very strong. We have to look at what is happening across the country and across the North American continent on the issue of a single plate versus two plates. It is no secret that three of the provinces in Canada use a single plate - it is not just Manitoba; it is also Prince Edward Island and Quebec. They have been with a single plate for some time and it appears to be working quite adequately.
Another interesting thing that is occurring is with the auto manufacturers: recognizing that jurisdictions are going to a single plate, they are now beginning to manufacture cars without the normal space allowed for a plate on the front. That is a fact. Cars are now already coming out without a space in front on which to attach a licence plate. If you do want to attach one on some of the new cars, you would have to create a mount of your own on the bumper or you would have to drill holes or provide some other accommodation to attach the front plate. So, it is an acceptance by car manufacturers that a single-plate issue is becoming more acceptable, is becoming popular, and they are accommodating their manufacturing of vehicles accordingly.
My colleague, the Minister of Tourism, has indicated, in previous discussion in the House, the value of placing a commemorative plate where there is a place to put a plate on the front. We have a number of anniversary functions coming up in the territory over the next while. A number of commemorative plates are being prepared. I have had people approach me and ask about what the steps are to produce a commemorative plate, as if I am the expert. It is something that is going to be quite a popular commercial exercise and economic activity for plate manufacturers to produce these commemorative plates.
Not only do three provinces in Canada have a single-plate issue, I understand our colleagues in the NWT are also looking at that right now, so we may well have a fourth jurisdiction; fifth, if we include ours. I also understand 19 states in the United States have a single-plate issue. These range from jurisdictions in the south through to the north. Other states are also considering it. These are jurisdictions where the number of vehicle registrations far exceeds the registrations in our jurisdiction. Florida has gone to a single-plate issue. Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia are some of the other 19 states that have moved to a single-plate issue.
It is not something that is foreign or new. When the Member raised the question in Question Period, I already indicated that the issue of plate splitting was one that would be eliminated by a single-plate issue. In the two previous consultations, not the most recent one with the RCMP, in 1988 and the summer of 1989, it was cited that that action would be prevented with a single-plate issue.
The Member indicated he did not completely understand how that could happen. It is quite simple. If you get two plates, you obscure the location for one of them on the vehicle and put the other plate on another vehicle. If you are asked where your missing plate is, you say, Well, I lost it.
Well, you had better get another one.
The Member gave the very example. To extend the example the Member gave, if the missing plate was stolen and put on another vehicle that was not registered, which gave it some authority to drive on the road, albeit illegitimate, that is an example of the plate splitting.
The RCMP did cite this as being an action that would be eliminated with the single plate. The only thing I do not know - and I will be fair and honest with the Member - I do not know the extent to which this is practised. I tried to find out from the RCMP. I was unable to procure any statistics of the extent to which plate splitting may be taking place here in the territory. Certainly the simple fact that you do not have a second plate to play with would reduce the risk of people operating uninsured vehicles and unregistered vehicles on our highways with this stolen or transferred plate.
The Member raised the issue of whether or not we are already on a single-plate issue basis, by virtue of the single decal that is being issued. That has already been the case for some time: that you are issued one decal upon your renewal. You place that on the rear plate so, technically speaking, by the absence of a decal on the front plate, it is splitting hairs but it is arguable that we have already moved to a single-plate issue. The legal plate is technically the rear plate with the decal on it; I can tell the Member that if the front plate were missing today, he would not be driving illegally, simply by this change that has taken place in the issuance of decals.
Under the staggered licensing system, the only time that two plates would be issued is when they are issued on a personalized basis. As Members know, the motor vehicles branch does take applications for personalized plates. For a special extra fee, you can have that plate produced. Because there is a fairly substantial cost attached to it, they do issue two plates, on a personalized basis. I personally question why two are needed but I suppose that would be a decision of the applicant, of whether they wanted the second plate or not.
I think a factor that has been quite overlooked on the business of one plate versus two plates is indeed the economic factor. The Member suggested that it would not cost much more to produce the second plate. The fact is that it would. I had asked that a most recent check be done of the costs of producing plates, prior to todays debate, because our numbers that were used in previous debates were numbers used of that time. Given that costs fluctuate and change, I wanted to use the most current and most recent figures. During the great licence plate debate of December and January of this year, the figure that we had for a single-plate issuance was $2.32. We checked again this week and we found that the manufacturing cost for the same plate, today, is $2.92.
Should there be a second plate issued, the cost would move not to two times $2.92, but slightly less: it would cost $5.60 to produce two plates. So there is a fairly significant cost factor involved. It is almost a doubling of the cost to produce a second plate, and this is the word from the manufacturers.
Similarly, within the government we anticipate that a number of plates do get damaged and do get stolen and have to replaced during the course of a year. Historically, we had two plates issued and, of course, none in stock. If you had to produce another plate you had to go back to the manufacturer and have that plate produced. Of course, that was a cost. We currently budget about $40,000 for replacement plates, and we have done that on the basis of having to reproduce a single plate. It would appear to me that if we had two plates we could anticipate having to increase that amount we have to budget for the replacement of damaged and stolen plates.
In summary, it appears to me that we do not have an adequate justification to go back to two plates. To put it another way, we do not have adequate justification to retain a two-plate system.
It appears to me that going to a one-plate issue on the one hand saves considerable money and allows for adequate enforcement and support by the RCMP. As well, we have an elimination of the plate-splitting potential. We have the potential now to take more advantage of the commemorative plate issue that would come as a result of any available space for displaying plates on the front of a vehicle. The point should also be made that auto manufacturers are now considering the elimination of a space for a second plate - but I certainly would not hang my hat on that being the reason; I just point it out as a matter of fact and interest.
I am going to recommend to my colleagues that they reject this motion. I have been adequately persuaded that our original decision to go to a single-plate issue is based on sound reasoning, sound economics, adequate and supportive consultation with the RCMP, and I am quite prepared to proceed on that basis and would encourage all my colleagues in the House to support that position.
Mr. Devries: I must say I am somewhat surprised that I have to speak to this motion today. I had thought the Minister would have had a change of heart and be supporting the motion by the Member for Kluane.
After this subject came up during the past month or so, I talked to several RCMP officers in Watson Lake; some of them have a tendency to also hang around my house for some unknown reason. They basically did not have anything good to say about it.
One made the comment that he thought this was the most ridiculous idea he had ever heard. You could look at my pickup right now, and I am sure that the back plate is so plastered with mud you would have to walk around to the front to determine the province I come from. I could blame it on the Ministers roads, in that I had to drive through two inches of mud and slush around Swift River for quite a few miles.
During the winter this year, I often cleared the headlights and licence plates of snow but 10 miles down the road I am sure they would again be invisible. This seems to be the main concern of the RCMP officers I talked with regarding this issue.
In talking with them, I assure the Minister that, if he went to a one plate system, he had better watch his driving in the next few months. Every traffic officer around Watson Lake would be on the lookout for him because of this ridiculous idea.
I do not think there is much I want to add to what my colleague from Kluane had to say regarding this issue. The Minister has not convinced me we should go to the one-plate system. In an effort to show support for the safe and efficient enforcement of our highway regulations, I would persuade all government Members to support the motion the Member for Kluane has put forward.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I rise today as Minister of Tourism. A couple of weeks ago in the House, as the Minister of Tourism, I was asked my opinion of having just one licence plate on a vehicle. I said I thought it was a good idea. Some people brought to my attention that it provided an opportunity for displaying special commemorative plates on the fronts of vehicles, especially events such as the 1992 Alaska Highway 50-year celebration, the 1996 discovery of Klondike gold, and the 1998 Gold Rush 100 anniversary.
This is not a new idea. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services has already mentioned that the same one-plate system is presently being used in three Canadian jurisdictions and in 19 states, and more are thinking of going that way.
There is some advantage to having a one-plate system. In addition to having commemorative plates to promote special events, there are a number of other items that could be used by vehicle owners to promote a variety of things, such as Yukon symbols. You could have plates in the shape of ravens, a stand of fireweed, a sternwheeler, a dredge: all of which have been proposed before by artists in putting forward their ideas on the design of our new licence plate.
The residents of Yukon communities could put their own plate on the front of the vehicle, such as Mayo being the heart of the Yukon, or Dawson the home of the real Klondike. I have heard Watson Lake described as the gateway to the Yukon and Haines Junction as simply 1016.
It could also be used for humorous purposes. For example, I can see on the plate of the Member for Whitehorse North Centre, the saying, I would rather be fishing; or of the Member for Kluane, I love our wood bison. There are many opportunities that people could use to put a little humour on the subject.
For example, entrepreneurs could be promoting their businesses with the companys logo or slogan. Myself, I have a 1956 Chevrolet, and I plan to use the front plate space to put on a 1956 Yukon licence plate, which contains the slogan, Land of the Midnight Sun.
There are a variety of ideas that can be done, given the opportunity to have one space available for a special plate. It presents an opportunity to the entrepreneurs to provide these plates. It does create some economic potential.
As the Minister of Tourism, I am in support of the proposed position of the government at this time of just having one plate on vehicles for the reasons that I have just brought forward. That gives us lots of opportunities to promote special events, our history and special attractions in communities of the Yukon.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Brewster: I will not even comment on some of the stupid things that the last speaker said. It is absolutely ridiculous. A police force is trying to work. Over 100 delegates have told us, who did a study in Whitehorse, that we should not go to a single-plate issue.
That so-called Minister, who cannot answer any questions, makes a stupid statement like that. That just about takes the cake and puts him just about where he should be.
I cannot understand. It is funny how we spend thousands of dollars to get studies done and to bring experts in. There were 100 traffic experts here. We have statements from the police chief in Manitoba. We have a statement from people in the Department of Highways in Manitoba. These statements say that they want to go back to having two licence plates. Not here.
We should have known that the government, being NDP, would not come to their senses anyway. It is quite apparent that they will not. They have their own little kingdom all designed. I do not even know why they waste time with this. The Minister has already admitted that our front plates have been illegal for two years. Why did they not own up to that? Why did they not tell the people? Is that another hidden thing like the little gold panner deal that they tried to get away with?
This is a free, open government that is going to look after everything. Oh yeah, uh-hmm. The Members on the other side think it is a big joke. Some day when a policeman dies because he could not read a licence plate, they will wonder what they are talking about.
I did not go to the police; they came to me. They phoned me and talked to me on the street. It is apparent that a lot of them are not happy. I do not know why we get into debates when the Member for Klondike says something like that. It is ridiculous. He probably dreamed this up to get rid of the front plate because he wants to put his little Klondike thing on there. That is his attitude.
Motion No. 81 defeated
Clerk: Item No. 23, standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Speaker: Is the Hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 23?
Mr. Phillips: Yes.
Motion No. 78
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North
THAT this House commends all the businesses, groups, organizations, communities and individuals that made the Yukon River Jungle Safari such a success in promoting tourism in the Yukon during the winter season; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to support such initiatives in the future.
Mr. Phillips: I am very pleased to introduce this motion to the House today. The Yukon River jungle safari can only be described as an overwhelming success. What I would like to do today is take this opportunity to ask all Members in this House to publicly support the efforts of the individuals, the businesses and the communities, who went all out to make this project a success. I would like to do that by describing to all Members of this House the events that led up to this project and to then describe to you the very full agenda that all participants enjoyed.
The first thing I would like to do is point out that Stu Wallace, from Tundra Graphics, kindly donated his free time and prepared a logo for this Yukon River winter jungle safari, and I will table this so that all can see it. This one is in black and white, but I do have a host pin on that all members received when they arrived in Whitehorse. It says, the Yukon River jungle safari and on the bottom it says, I will swear the tour agent said Amazon. I will table that so all Members can have a copy of that.
The project was initiated by the White Pass Corporation, namely, their executive vice president, Dave Tait. Mr. Tait was ably assisted by Michael Brandt and none of this could have happened without the financial commitment of White Pass Corporation itself.
The idea was suggested to several Yukon businesspeople and the concept literally took off. The concept is that we do have something special to offer tourists in the winter months. A process of selective marketing was used. The group that they wanted to target was the type of tourist who wanted adventure, had a limited time for travel, and was willing, on future trips, to pay a good dollar for the winter experience. White Pass Steve Hites from Skagway was very instrumental in identifying this type of client. Initially, 200 people applied for the trip. Included in this number were travel wholesalers and adventure travellers, with an equal mix of men and women of all age categories, from the early 20s to senior citizens. This group was narrowed down to 87 people and finally down to the 17 adventurers and the three tour wholesalers. For example, one of the types of people selected was a doctor, who recently decided he wanted to go skiing in Europe. This individual spent two days flying to Europe, one day skiing and two days returning to his home. The cost to him was not so much the question; it was the value of the experience he was seeking.
The only unfortunate aspect to the selection was the 66 people who were not selected but still wanted to come. In fact, plans are now being made for a second trip.
One of the objectives of this trip was to expose these visitors to as many activities common to winter in Yukon as we possibly could and then, through a very thorough and professional marketing analysis, provide the best program for future adventurers.
The cost of this trip was underwritten by local businesspeople, in most cases, and in this promotional trip, the participants only responsibility was their food, beverages and any shopping purchases, which, I might add, were quite significant. The group worked closely with Yukoners from all walks of life. Everyone involved, with the exception of one group, were taken up with the excitement, as you will see later on. The people themselves, the Yukon people, became our most valued attraction.
Steve Hites, the U.S. host, was exceptional with his knowledge of the Yukon gold rush and his ballads that he would sing on the bus as the group was transported from event to event.
I have to say that probably the single individual who had the most impact on the trip and on our visitors was Joe Jack, the Yukon native host. Joe Jack spent many hours informing visitors of our Yukon native history, our native culture and gave an added perspective on the natural beauty of Yukon.
I would just like to take a moment to repeat some of the comments that our guests made in the final survey.
I think the first comment says it all, and it is one we can be very proud of. I will read these comments. The people were asked, on almost a daily basis, to make comments on how they felt the trip went and here are some of the comments. On the Yukon as a host, they said:
The people made the difference. Yukoners were knowledgeable. All have gone out of their way to be gracious hosts. Yukoners are a major attraction; outgoing. Joe Jack as a guide was terrific. Surpassed any conceivable expectation. Yukoners seemed truly interested in knowing us. Individualistic, spiritualistic, charming, real and hospitable. Truly red carpet treatment. A little too good to be true.
Those are very complimentary comments from the people who were involved in this endeavour.
I would like to take you now through the jam-packed itinerary of the Yukon winter jungle safari and, at the same time, thank the many people who helped make this happen: first of all, Canadian Airlines International and their manager, Phil Dyke, who assisted greatly in providing significantly reduced airfares to all participants. The group arrived in Whitehorse on February 2 and were met at the airport by many of their Yukon hosts. The snowshoe can-can dancers thrilled the guests with their death-defying dance. Joe Becker from Atlas Tours provided a motorcoach for the 20 adventurers for the whole trip - that is a bus driver and a bus for four days at no cost, and a big thank you has to go out to Joe Becker and Atlas Tours for their contribution. From the airport, the group was whisked to their hotel, the Gold Rush Inn, compliments of Doug Thomas, and treated to a complimentary lunch. I should mention that Mr. Thomas became very involved in the whole project from the planning stage to acting as a personal chauffeur for our guests around the City of Whitehorse.
At lunch, the guests were given a how to dress for the cold demonstration - or, as others have described it: a cold weather strip by Yukons Ione Christensen. Ione came clothed in about five layers of clothing and gave a very colourful description of its use as she removed it layer-by-layer, stopping of course with her demonstration of appropriate longjohns for the north. Extra cold weather clothes were provided by the organizers for anyone who forgot to bring their winter clothes along for the journey.
At 3 p.m. the same day, the group boarded an Atlas Tour bus for a tour of the parka factory, who not only conducted the tour but contributed financially to the project. David Moyle was the special host and tour guide at the parka factory.
Then it was off to the MacBride Museum so that our adventurers could see how Yukoners coped with Yukon winters years ago. Joanne Meehan gave our visitors a very impressive tour - in fact, so impressive that the MacBride Museum was to receive a special surprise that I will elaborate on later.
The very first evening it was time to gamble, sponsored by the Rotary Club and their many volunteers. A special thanks to Bill Rain and many other Rotarians for their efforts.
On their way to the casino night, our guests were taken past the SS Klondike where Grant Lake from Yukon Electric had turned on the lights of the boat for the special occasion.
That was the end of the first day, but it got busier as the tour progressed. On Saturday, the adventurers were on the road early heading toward Carcross where they witnessed the start of the Southern Lakes Classic dogsled races. Back on the bus for their next stop: the hot springs where Irwin and Mary Kreft hosted the tour. This area became the staging area for the day. A swim in the pool was a must. Yukon host Haakon Arntzen outdid himself with his cross-country ski demonstration, and many of the participants took part. Joe Jack demonstrated in his personal way the art of snowshoeing. Eddie Leschart and John Pattimore thrilled their southern friends with dogsled rides organized by Pam Buckway.
Carl Zei of Helidynamics provided a helicopter for short sightseeing trips of the area. As you can see, there was not much idle time. Surprisingly, though, that is what our guests wanted: lots of activity, excitement and precise organization, and that is what they got.
The day is not over yet. They then boarded a bus again to see two of the Yukons newest attractions. Stella, Tim, Darold and Robert Gregory of the Northern Splendor reindeer farm hosted our visitors as they photographed, petted and fed the many reindeer at the farm. Some of the lucky ones rode in the sleigh pulled by one of the reindeer. Danny and Ule Nolan of the Yukon Game Farm provided an excellent opportunity for our adventurers to see northern wildlife in the most natural setting possible.
A rather full day, but it is not over yet. After dinner, the days survivors were treated to a Yukon pub crawl to end the days activities. I am tired just thinking about it. I must say, one of the highlights of the Yukon pub crawl was their visit to the Taku bar, the new site of the Yukon government news conferences. It was also known as the historic location where the Yukon had its gold panner and the Klondike rightfully restored to its licence plate.
It was up and at em on the third day. Dressed in their full winter garb, it was off to the Kluane area. After a brief stop at Champagne, and many great Steve Hites ballads and traditional Joe Jack stories, our group arrived at Pine Lake, near Haines Junction. There awaited an amazing, organized, friendly and helpful group of Haines Junction residents. People from all walks of life in Haines Junction contributed 150 percent to what some of them said was the highlight of the trip.
All of them said it was the highlight of the trip; I stand corrected by the Member for Kluane.
Northwestels Anne Granger arranged for a special tram ride up Paint Mountain, and Trans North Air and a first class pilot, Doug Makkonen, flew them back down to the lake from the lookout. Pine Lake was a hub of activity on this day. A fixed wing airplane was donated by Jamie and Barbara Tait of Summit Air in Haines Junction for sightseeing trips over the beautiful Kluane Park, an outstanding highlight of the trip.
Residents of Haines Junction had a large bonfire going on the shores of Pine Lake when the adventurers arrived. About 50 residents provided snow machine rides, set up tents in the ice, dug holes for icefishing and instructed our guests on how to catch the big one.
Parks Canada and Brent Little were very cooperative in offering a tour of the parks facilities and presenting a special showing of the famous Kluane Park slideshow. Lunch was provided by the good people of Haines Junction on the lake, and the best was yet to come.
In the evening, Rhoda Istchenko and the residents of Haines Junction, along with the Champagne/Aishihik Indian Band, prepared an excellent wild game homecooked dinner. This gave our guests an excellent opportunity to mix with some of the locals, the part of the trip everyone said was a standout.
The people made the different. A very special bouquet must go out to the Champagne/Aishihik Indian band, the village of Haines Junction, Mayor Eric Stinson, the Haines Junction Chamber of Commerce, namely Terry Madley, Tish Tomlin and coordinator Enid Tait. They made everything run like clockwork.
Our guests were professionally instructed in the afternoon in the art of curling by Haines Junction resident, Martin Eckervogt and others.
Last but not least, the gracious volunteers of Haines Junction should be thanked. Some 50 of them gave of their free time to make all of this happen.
The tour group was so impressed with the spectacular beauty of Haines Junction and the friendly nature of the people that they strongly recommended that in future trips more time be given in this area. That tribute alone says it all.
After a full day in Haines Junction, it was back to the hotel in Whitehorse.
The fourth day was a day of R and R with activities planned around Whitehorse. It started out with the gold panning demonstration in the Gold Rush Inn. We should thank Doug Thomas for this display and especially Bill and Katherine Hedges who led the gold panning demonstration, with special thanks to Alan Nordling and Joe Jack who participated in demonstrating the art of gold panning.
The group had the opportunity to visit several Yukon businesses, and they started with a tour of the Polar Seas Fishery led by Rem Ricks.
For lunch this day, Bill Mueller and the Westmark went all out in a complimentary lunch at Charlies. Many of the business people and senior executives who made the trip possible mixed with our Yukon guests at this lunch.
The afternoon was spent touring the Yukon Gallery and Murdochs Jewelry Factory. Daniel St. Jean of the Yukon Gallery changed his total gallery display to reflect northern artists as well as contributing financially to the trip. Mr. St. Jean took down every piece of art work in the gallery that was not northern and replaced it with northern art work. That is a significant contribution on his behalf.
Murdochs Marg Dunn, yet another Yukon host, guided the tour at Murdochs Jewelry Factory, and Murdochs was a financial contributor to the trip as well. The wind-up dinner was again hosted by Bill Mueller and the Klondike Westmark. Whitehorse mayor Don Branigan gave a well-received speech to our special guests. Entertainment was provided by the Westmark in the way of special Robert Service readings.
To wind the evening up, the guests were treated to a home video of their activities courtesy of Scott Thompson of Images Video Productions. Participants could acquire a copy of the video if they wished.
All their activities, right from the beginning, were videoed by Mr. Thompson. He put together a very good video. Some Members had an opportunity, at Chamber luncheons, to view that video. He put together a great video with some comments from the people. That was very well received by all people who participated in this tour.
On the last day, many of the Yukon hosts took the time to go to the airport to say goodbye to our friends. This exercise has exceeded the organizers greatest expectations. The volunteers became very personally involved in their efforts and the participants from the south were left with lasting memories.
One of the reasons for putting this tour on was to learn from it to see if it could be done and to discover what we could do to make it better.
That job was the responsibility of Michael Brandt of White Pass. Mr. Brandt prepared daily questionnaires that the participants filled out after each activity. In the end, these were all compiled, analyzed, and copies of each activity were given to the respective group or business so they knew how they were graded, what people liked, disliked, what they wanted to do more of, and what they could do better the next time. Everyone who participated was extremely pleased with this in-depth and professional analysis.
Before I wrap up, I would like to say a few words in an area that was a disappointment to all parties involved. That area is the commitment the Government of the Yukon gave to this project. I have to say that most were very disappointed at the lack of support from the Minister of Tourism. Let me take you through a chain of events that led to this disappointment.
Initially, Tourism was asked to sit on the planning committee. That committee had four meetings. The Minister decided his officials would only attend the first one, and they were very skeptical about the success of this venture. They did not bother to send anyone to the other three planning or wrap-up meetings.
The Minister was invited to attend the Monday night banquet, but he said he was unable because of other commitments. I believe he was in the House. If he had asked, I am sure we could have accommodated such an important dinner. Instead, the Minister arrived at a luncheon on Friday, unannounced, to speak. He crashed the party, so to speak.
I guess we should not complain too loudly. At least he showed up once. He must have introduced himself as the Minister of Tourism because, after he left, many of the new visitors wanted to know which church this Minister represented. Some suggested it might be the church of the holy traveller. Obviously, the Minister was not taken very seriously, and that is unfortunate.
That is a serious comment made by people who were at the luncheon when the Minister spoke.
I personally met four times with some of the organizers as the Tourism critic, because I was interested in this initiative by the private sector. In fact, I put together a small package of pins and flags for the individuals of the tour because the organizers had not been offered anything from the Department of Tourism.
I even attended at the Ministers office to ask for some ties and ladies scarves to add to the package. The Minister told me he would take care of that part. I guess the Minister of Tourism was starting to feel guilty because they had done so little.
Listen to this. One of the areas that is beyond belief is when the organizers approached the Yukon government for complimentary fishing licences so the guests could icefish for two hours, if they wished. Besides the fact that everyone else in the Yukon who was involved in this trip could see the value in this, and had donated their goods and services free, the Minister of Tourism could not. His answer was purely bureaucratic. He said he could not issue a free licence because we do not have a policy.
We are talking about $500 that this government wanted this group to pay for fishing licences. It is almost unbelievable. This is the same government that throws millions of dollars at almost anything and everything, but cannot find $500 for a tour group promotion that will spend every bit of its time in the Yukon.
This is the same government that does not have a policy about giving out free fishing licences. At the same time, they could approve a hydro project in the Ministers own riding for $110,000, also without a policy.
Perhaps I could suggest something to the Minister, since there seems to be a lack of imagination on that side of the House: why could the Department of Tourism not have purchased the licences from the Department of Renewable Resources, chalk them up as promotion, and then donate the licences to the individuals?
Do you know what happened? Parks Canada heard the Yukon government was the only group that was going to charge for services. They stepped in and said, if you want to fish free, we will give you licences to fish in Kathleen Lake in the park, and you will not have to buy a Yukon fishing licence. They could see the value in this venture.
The Yukon government then heard that Parks was going to supply free licences and decided to save some embarrassment. They would propose a new scheme. Well, here it is: the group pays $500 for the licences and then, if they write a short report on the trip afterwards and give it to the government that did nothing to help, the government would pay this group $500 for the report.
It is almost unbelievable. This is our Minister of Tourism and his idea of supporting the venture. To add insult to injury, the community of Haines Junction had to come up with the $500 for the licences.
One must really wonder where this Minister of Tourisms head really is. We are spending thousands of dollars marketing Destination Yukon and if this is not Destination Yukon I do not know what is. They were brought in by local people, they were entertained by native and non-native hosts, they were exposed to Yukon history and native culture and they spent every second of their time in Yukon. They were not on their way to Alaska or some other destination. Their destination was Yukon, and it took local entrepreneurs to pull it off despite having to buck government red tape all the way.
To top it off, these guests were brought in during our off-season, a time, we are told by the Minister of Tourism, that we have to target. Hotels are empty and winter tourism can benefit many people. We hear that from that Minister all the time. The last thing the government did not do was that, when the organizational group made an offer to the Minister to use these tourists and their experience to analyze the market, the government refused the offer. They told the organizers of the group that the size of the project was too small to be useful - too small to be useful. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the imagination of the Minister of Tourism is the only thing that is too small to be useful. I guess it was not his idea and that is why they did not support it.
That is very unfortunate, because it did work and it worked because of the drive, the excitement, the imaginations of the organizers and the personal touch of the Indian bands and community organizations that pitched in. I might add that many of these people have expressed similar concerns over the attitude of the Minister of Tourism. These groups learned a great deal from this experience. All participants, especially our guests, had a great deal of fun. There was a strong feeling that the Ministers department fell well short in its endeavour to help.
There is a feeling that the government should spend more time in building or assisting a support system for this type of off-season and winter experience.
The other day, to add insult to injury, I opened up the Whitehorse Star and saw a letter from the Minister, titled Minister takes his hat off to White Pass. The Minister says, I read with interest your article entitled Winter Tourism Experience A Success. He goes on to say, The success of this tour confirms my belief that the Yukon should be marketed as a year-round destination.
Where was the Minister when this organization was going on? Where was his support then? The Minister had to wait until he read another article in the Whitehorse Star; everybody and his dog were congratulating the group who pulled this off and the Minister thought, I have to get on this bandwagon; this looks like a positive thing to do.
This Minister had better wake up to what tourism is all about in this territory. We have a lot to offer: first and foremost is our people, both native and non-native. Joe Jacks involvement was absolutely outstanding. I would like to have you listen to a few more comments our guests made about the trip; these relate to accommodations, food, shopping, scheduled events, hosting and staff planning and organization:
One of the best trips ever, due to diversity and efficiency.
Way beyond expectations.
Emotionally moved by people, scenery and events.
Very impressed with the professionalism and the organization.
I couldnt have had a better time.
A remarkable display of organization.
People were the friendliest I ever met.
Planning and staffing were absolutely tops.
All of these adventurers, as you can see, were very impressed with the Yukon and many are going to return. Some wanted a little more time to shop, but they did not do too bad.
Of the three to three and one-half hour time that they had in their busy schedule, they spent an average of $512 a person. That is quite significant when we take into account that everything else other than Yukon government fishing licences were free.
Let me give you an example of the appreciation that our southern guests demonstrated. Before they left the Yukon, they donated $500 to the MacBride Museum. That is more than the Government of Yukons contribution.
The Yukon River jungle safari was tremendously successful. Our southern guests had a unique opportunity to experience our northern winter and to enjoy our famous northern hospitality.
Its success can be attributed to business people, the individuals, the Indian bands and the communities that became involved. Their spirit, their friendliness, their sense of Yukon history - native and non-native - was the catalyst to the secret of its success.
As I said in the beginning, it was the people, Yukoners themselves, who made the difference, who made this event so special to our guests. It is these Yukoners to whom we owe a special vote of thanks. All Members will be doing so when they vote for this motion today.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would like to add my congratulations to all those involved in the Yukon River jungle safari. I have already offered my words of congratulations in a letter addressed to the editor of the Whitehorse Star, which was dated February 13, although it appeared in the Friday, February 23 edition of the paper.
The press wants things right away when they want a story, but when we have something to provide in the form of a letter to the editor, it may take as long as 10 days to get it in there. I raised that point because I did not wait to see the responses from other people and then jump on the bandwagon and offer my support.
The letter begins as follows, I read with interest your article entitled Winter Tourism Experiment a Success. Mr. Tait and his colleagues and the White Pass Corporation, together with the many individuals, companies, groups and associations who actively participated in this experiment are to be complimented for a job well done. The success of this tour confirms my belief that the Yukon can and should be marketed as a year-round destination.
I had the pleasure of playing a small part in this safari that was, quite oddly, not mentioned by the Member opposite. He did say something about me showing up at the lunch uninvited and crashing the party. Unfortunately, the comments that he made about that luncheon and my involvement and the allegations that he made thereafter have just destroyed his credibility with everyone who was associated with this safari.
I was invited to that luncheon. I was on the agenda to speak. I did speak. I introduced myself as Minister of Tourism. I told people who had just recently arrived to the territory a little about the history and tourism in the territory. The theme of my speech I recall very clearly, was how fortunate these people were to arrive here in the Yukon in the wintertime, a beautiful time of the year. They were fortunate in the sense that they will be able to get a really good opportunity to meet with Yukoners.
I clearly remember saying that in the summertime there are a lot of tourists in the territory. I gave them the figures. As a consequence, most Yukoners were very busy in their lives and they did not have a lot of time to give to tourists. However, in the winter-time, knowing the list of activities that were planned, knowing the character of Yukoners, their hospitality, their friendliness, I mentioned to them that they would find Yukoners and their visit here to the Yukon most enjoyable.
I am pleased to see that one thing that the Member for Riverdale North has said and read into the record are the comments from the visitors stating this very fact, that they found the people to be genuinely friendly and accommodating.
His remarks about the visitors asking what church the Minister is a member of are a little exaggerated. I personally went around and introduced myself to every visitor at the luncheon. I personally handed to each visitor a gift as a memento of their visit to the territory. I gave all men in this group a Yukon tie, and all the women received a photography book on the Yukon. They were quite pleased to receive that gift, and were enthused and looking forward to a unique Yukon vacation. It got off to a very fine start.
Again, I want to repeat that I did not show up uninvited and crash the luncheon. It was true I did not show up at the banquet that evening. I was in the House. As far as the comment from the Member opposite that all I had to do was ask and I could have had the evening off to join this banquet, I find it unusual that that offer was not made to me by the Member opposite. Perhaps we both could have gone and enjoyed ourselves that night and played host to these visitors to the Yukon.
I will get on with my speech, but I would like to correct some of the false statements the Member for Riverdale North has made, which have cost him a lot of credibility in the community.
With respect to his comments about the Government of the Yukon not becoming involved and the council of Haines Junction having to pay for the fishing licences, to the best of my knowledge, that is not true. The fisheries branch of the Department of Renewable Resources agreed to pay the licence fees for the visitors in exchange for providing some information on a survey. I would like to hear him comment further on that.
The people of the town of Haines Junction, who hosted this group for snowmobiling, icefishing, the flight over Kluane, among other activities, entertained the visitors royally, and it became a community event. I want to especially thank the people of Kluane and Haines Junction for their participation in this event.
There is no doubt the Yukon winter has many attractions for the adventurous traveller. For a number of years now, a variety of individuals and businesses have offered wilderness dogsled trips with some success. Winter events, such as Rendezvous, has attracted visitors year after year for 26 years. The networks of cross-country ski trails in the Whitehorse vicinity, Kluane Park, and around most of our rural communities offer almost limitless options to the cross-country skier.
Downhill skiing in Watson Lake and Dawson City may not compete with what is offered at Aspen or Whistler but, for folks who have already made it to the Yukon, it is still more to do during a Yukon winter.
As I mentioned earlier, snowmobiling and icefishing were also featured as part of the winter jungle safari, appealing to those less physically active persons.
The point of the matter is there are attractive Yukon products and activities to offer the winter tourist. There is a market in the south for Yukon vacations.
In recognition of the fact Yukon products and activities can and should be marketed successfully in the south, the Department of Tourism has developed Destination Yukon, a marketing and tour packaged program designed to sell the Yukon as a destination in its own right, rather than simply as a stopping point on the way to Alaska.
Destination Yukon is planned to provide just the sort of support for the Yukon tourism industry that the Member for Riverdale North is seeking in his motion. Forty-five thousand dollars is budgeted in the current year and $295,000 is allocated for 1990-91, making this initiative a major part of our marketing efforts.
This amount will be increased substantially by the tourism businesses that are buying into the program. To date, 21 Yukon companies, many of whom participated in this winter safari, have committed themselves to the program. They want their tourism products and services to be part of the package of year-round attractions and experiences which Destination Yukon will offer to markets in the south.
Destination Yukon has also attracted a number of major corporate sponsors, such as Canadian Airlines International, Air Canada and Air BC, and a number of tour operators and wholesalers, including Westours, Princess Tours, Rainbow Tours and Horizon Tours.
The real challenge to the Destination Yukon program is for participants to put together attractive packages of Yukon activities and experiences that can consistently be offered at competitive prices.
The overall intent of Destination Yukon is to offer potential visitors an appealing choice of year-round, Yukon experiences. When Destination Yukon is formally launched in the fall of 1990, the adventurous traveller will be able to sit down with a travel agent in Toronto and put together a Yukon vacation package to suit his or her taste: from skiing the trails of Kluane one day to soaking in the hot springs the next; from exploring Whitehorse specialty shops to dog-sledding and snowmobiling.
Tourism Yukon is confident that we can market a Yukon experience capable of competing in the world. With the continued cooperation of the Tourism Marketing Council, which guides our marketing efforts, the enthusiastic participation of our major corporate sponsors and with the increasing sophistication and professionalism of Yukon tour operators, we should be able to repeat often the success of the winter jungle safari in the coming years.
I am pleased to support this motion. I would like to take the opportunity to encourage Yukon tourism operators who have not taken up the Destination Yukon challenge to give the program their full consideration.
Ms. Kassi: It is certainly a magnificent day today: the sun is shining, there is snow on the ground and the temperature is just right for skiing, my favourite sport; and Margaret says the fish are jumping. This is a perfect time to debate this motion dealing with the promotion of winter tourism. It is really what we are talking about - winter tourism.
I want to speak about what attracts tourists here to the Yukon in the winter in the area of recreation and also touch a bit on what is needed. I will make no bones about it. For me, there is no enjoying life here without being able to enjoy all the seasons. I love the winter. It is a time when plants and some animals take a break and have a rest, and where people tend to slow down a little bit and have a look at things around them; a time of endurance for many of our people as well, and a time to enjoy the ice and snow.
Each year we receive a little more publicity about the activities people enjoy here in the Yukon. The Yukon Quest has made the news in many parts of the world. The annual Sourdough Rendezvous attracts many people and it is scheduled at a time when it is really needed, after being in the house during the cold months of December and January.
Last year, the Vachon Cup included the Yukon on its national circuit. Hockey tournaments brought people in from all over western Canada. The Arctic Winter Games also received national coverage. Winter biathlon competitions have been held here. But the Yukon is also open to those who are not competitive athletes.
In all our communities, families can enjoy activities together without having to go much further than their own backyard. Even here, in Whitehorse, the lengths of greenbelts and protected areas mean that open spaces are not far away. Curling is popular, and bonspiels can be set up to bring people in from other parts of Canada, and even other parts of the world.
The Minister of Tourism has spoken about Destination Yukon, and I must say the whole project sounds exciting. Business groups, the organizations, communities and individuals who pulled together the initial winter holiday will, no doubt, have a lot to offer in the development of the Destination Yukon marketing strategy. The Tourism Marketing Council is also vital to the success of this program.
This will be a wonderful experience for the private sector and the government to cooperate in the building of a significant industry for the Yukon. For myself and the Yukon, it means a lot of skiing, a lot of outdoors. I ski at Mt. McIntyre on the incredibly well-groomed trails, and I ski in isolated areas where there are a few trails. I also like it when there are no trails or people around.
I follow the snow north. When it starts to melt in one area, I move on to the next, until I end up on Old Crow Flats, my traditional homelands, in the month of May, where I can ski for miles. I sometimes do 20 miles in one day. During that trip, I would run into herds of caribou. I would ski after them and follow them for a while, then turn around. I would see a moose there, or a grizzly crossing over the tundra. I also run into a lot of migratory birds heading to the coastal plain, along with the caribou. It is beautiful.
Back here in Whitehorse, Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre also offers curling. The speed skating oval is not far away. There are skating clubs in the Yukon where figure skaters are prepared for competition, and recreational skating is very popular. Arenas are also used for hockey tournaments, including the womens hockey tournament we just recently had, and the native hockey tournament that attracts teams from the Northwest Territories, Alberta and British Columbia.
The arenas are packed with spectators, and it is really exciting. We bring in our drums, and it is very exciting. It brings a lot of friends and relatives together every year.
Tourists who come to the Yukon in the winter could also get out on skidoos. There are clubs here that promote responsible skidooing, not just hotdogging around the city streets. There is also snowshoeing. I go out snowshoeing with my partner and my kids on Schwatka and Chadburn Lakes. It is not very far from here. There is a tremendous feeling of peace with the world when you are out there on the ice where one can really be spiritually connected, where wise decisions are made, and you really think about things. You have to do it to know what I am talking about.
We have to be able to market the sense of this kind of experience. It does not do much for the soul to say that it is fun to snowshoe. We have to be able to get across what an incredible experience it is. We have to be able to let people from outside feel the space and openness of our wilderness during the winter when the snow goes on forever, and we learn not to avoid the outdoors, but to respect nature and work with it.
We can also promote downhill skiing, as the Members previously mentioned. There are the hills in Watson Lake and Dawson City, and there is a hill in Carcross where skidoos take you to the top of the hill, instead of a tow, and you ski down, and it is lots of fun.
We can promote icefishing. We do a lot of that around Old Crow, and a lot of people do that here in Whitehorse. There are dogsled rides. I agree with the Minister that we must put together attractive packages of Yukon activities and experiences that we must be able to consistently offer at reasonable prices.
I just listened to an interview done with Joe Jack about his experiences with the winter tourism group that the Member for Riverdale North spoke quite lengthily about in his presentation.
In his interview, Joe Jack explained how very interested these people were in the true history of the Yukons indigenous culture. He stressed how important it was to open those doors, to share support for the development of more exposure to the aboriginal cultures of the Yukon. He also stressed how excited he was in working toward developing an entertainment package of native cultural components. Training aboriginal guides was also one of his ideas. He recommended home visits where traditional foods and arts and crafts could be available. Certainly, this tour had opened a lot of doors and with support of the government and the people of the Yukon, we can do this together.
There are so many other activities to enjoy in the Yukon winter. Even a simple thing like a picnic of tea and bannock prepared over a fire on top of the snow is a new experience for many people. When it is time to move indoors here in Whitehorse, we have the swimming pool, complete with a jacuzzi and sauna. We have dances. When it is too cold to go outside, we have dry dances held at the Indian centre in which many aboriginal and nonaboriginal people are participating. It is a very fun night.
We have exercise, fitness outlets and racquet courts. The Yukon is a beautiful and dynamic place. It takes a lot of endurance to live through the winter sometimes; however, we are a part of it. We are used to it, and a lot of people can get used to it.
We invite others to share its beauty. We also ask that people who come here keep it that way, to keep it beautiful and be responsible for its cleanliness for future generations to share.
I would like to extend my congratulations to the team that is working to pull all of this together and promote the wonderful world of the Yukon to the people beyond our borders. We have been the best-kept secret in Canada in this area for too long.
Mr. Brewster: I am beginning to think that my friend from Riverdale North has learned a few things. I would just like him to use a little more colourful language and he would be away.
In speaking to the motion, I agree with everything that he said. There is no question in my mind that the Department of Tourism is in a rut. It has been there for a long time, long before this Minister came. It is about time someone shook it up and got it into the modern world.
As the superintendent of national parks said in a Commonwealth parliamentary meeting in Calgary, the national parks live in the 18th century and they had better smarten up and get into the 20th. That same thing applies to our tourism department.
A real good example is, in the Committee of the Whole yesterday, the Member for Riverdale North brought up the subject of the ferries changing schedule. It was quite apparent that the government and its officials did not even know that this was being done, yet they are in tourism, and the ferry is one of the most important connections we have with tourism. They did not know about the change.
The Minister suggested that we should bring it up with the Alaskan delegates when they come this weekend. We will do that. It is a little late now. The schedules are all finalized. Tourism groups have finalized that their buses will run a certain way. The government did not bother to worry about it.
The department missed the boat on that one. The department missed the boat on the Yukon River jungle safari; they missed the boat on the possibility of getting the movie - it is now down in Haines, Alaska. In fact, they not only missed the boat, I think they found a hole in the ice and fell through. I think they disappeared. When it comes to Haines Junction and the banquet we had out there, I am presuming they drowned because they certainly never showed up. In fact, it was mentioned by a number of people there, including some of them, that I was the only politician there; and if that is the best politician they can get there, they are not doing very well.
I am getting a few comments - I do not know if I am supposed to sit down or not.
I would like to remind the Minister of Tourism that he is responsible for that department. That department goes where he goes and, quite frankly, he had better shake it, and shake it very hard.
I am very, very proud of the business sector and the private people of the Yukon, led by White Pass - a company that has quite often got kicked around, and kicked around pretty bad. I, myself, when I was in business, I sold gas gas, and I used to kick them around. They did a tremendous job of getting businesses and private companies together, not only here but in Vancouver. They have now gone beyond that - there are things I cannot say that they are now working on. They are hoping to get another one done. They have done this all in a short season and they made a great success of it. They proved something that took 40 years in Banff to learn: that you can have a winter tourist industry besides a summer one.
To put the whole thing into five words, what the safari tourists are asked to do - I think this is one of the best compliments we could have: people, experience, comraderie, efficiency and knowledge. That were the five words they used. I think they are very good.
I am very, very concerned. I do not know where Tourism was during this time. I have no doubt they were invited to these meetings; why they did not show up, I do not know. Maybe their noses were out of joint because private business picked this one up before they could make a run for it.
There certainly were none of them around Haines Junction, none at all. It reminds me of a time when Mr. Fitzgerald was our game department official. He used to meet every plane that came with hunters; to this day, when hunters come in and look me up, they ask how Mr. Fitzgerald is doing. He has passed away. They remembered that one little visit he made to that airplane to meet these guys. He did not know them or anything else, but he went up. That is a true representation of what the Yukon people should be doing.
When they were asked to donate fishing licences, they bumbled around and did not do anything; they made it plain that they did not have a policy and did not know how they could get $500 out. I thought there was something wrong in this attitude. I phoned National Parks, and within 15 minutes National Parks phoned back and said they would give us fishing licences on Kathleen Lake; they will be donated and we will put people out there to help you. In fact, a great number of the Kluane National Park people were on the committee and were very important in making the trip so successful at Haines Junction. That is what can be done if you work between government and the private sector. It can work if they want to try it.
Yes, they did tell us that we can get our $500 back now; if the White Pass takes a pile this big of figures they would have - they would give this to the Department of Tourism and get back $500. I have sat in this House and watched study after study come in here, all up in the three, four and five hundred thousand dollar range.
It is a private company that used its own money. Now, to get back $500, they are asking them to donate. There is something wrong with a department that acts like that.
They sent cards out for their statistics. They love the little machines you can punch all these things on. They sent these cards out in magazines. There was a place to put your name and address, so you can write back and they will send a brochure. They are very nice brochures.
They count them and say: we sent so many out. It would be very interesting to find out how many of those people actually came here. There is a difference between the number you send out and the number that come to the Yukon. I know this because, in my hunting business, I had thousands of brochures sent out every year, and I was lucky to handle 14 hunters a year.
University students get them. Children in schools write for them on school projects. People write for them, and the prettier and nicer your brochures, the more people write for them. I sent 12 out in the last three weeks for people who saw one that my daughter had in High River. They are not going to come up here, but they want the brochures because they have never seen what we have in those brochures.
It would be interesting to get these statistics to see if we are going the right way. These people are sending for the brochures, but how many are coming as a result? It would be interesting to know.
I am still very concerned that they turned around and said they have a 1.7 percent tourism increase. They did not take into allowance well over 4,000 to 5,000 workers who went to Valdez who were Americans who crossed the border both ways. These were people who were certainly not tourists. Go ask any of the lodges how much they had to help these people. You knock that 4,000 or 5,000 off, and that one percent is gone. It does not work.
The other type of tourist they are counting in their figures are people from Haines, Skagway and Juneau. I guess you could call them tourists in one way, but I call them friends. They spend a lot more on average than any tourist will ever spend. They did not need a brochure to get here. They live right next door to us; they know what we are; we are much the same as they. They did not need any of this fancy advertising. They are counted as American tourists because they cross the border at Pleasant Camp and Fraser. It brings your figures up, but it is not really the truth.
Tourism missed the boat on getting a movie shot here. I can recall the Minister saying they went and talked to them. That was a $5 million bonanza, and we did not get it. Why did the department not go after these people? I can assure you, and I am experienced at this, if it had been B.C. or Alberta, the Minister and every one in his department would have been after those people, wining and dining them. Yes, it might have cost them $20,000 in concessions, but they would have had that $5 million in one of those provinces. They understand the tourist trade. The tourist trade is wicked and you have to go after it. We do not understand that at all.
For instance, why did the department not say, look, you want pictures of Dawson, take them. There are no mountains, but take the rest of them in the Kluane area. We will help you; we will give you some concessions. In the winter when we need it, $5 million would have looked pretty nice. Now, we have a false Dawson City going up in Haines, and the Americans are going to get all the money. That is where our Tourism is letting us down.
In finishing, I will comment on a few things in my life. I was born and raised in a tourist family.
People used to think that my great uncle and my grandfather were crazy. When buses pulled in, the first thing that was asked was what their tips were. Everybody used to wonder who took the tips. They knew that if those tips stayed over $20 to $25 for every one of those trips, that was good money.
That was a lot of money in those days because they were university boys. They went to university on what they made on their tips. If the money dropped to $10 to $15, that driver was not on there the next day. He did not look after those tourists. My grandad has always said that the money is there, you have to go get it. If you do not get it, that is your problem and nobody elses.
People used to think that he was a little goofy, but he was quite successful. As a little boy in Banff, I remember the three bus companies side by side, all competing for the same people. Guys that we used to call hucksters were on the street, and before these people knew it, they were on one of those buses spending seven or eight dollars. They did not know what bus they were on but they were on one. The competition ran up and down the street. That is the type of people who bring tourists back. Not only were the buses full, but in most cases they were overloaded.
Some people would ask my grandfather about starting a business. He was rather blunt, and he used to say if we want to bark with the big dogs, then quit piddling like a puppy. This government is piddling like a puppy.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member for Kluanes bark is worse than his bite. There is another one that comes to mind that might be appropriate for the Member, given all that I have heard from him over the past year and times before that.
Mr. Brewster: We are talking about tourists.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It was a tourist who told me that for the lead dog, the scene is never the same. The Member reminds me of the one behind the lead dog, where the scene never does change.
I had originally looked forward to an enlightening debate on this motion. I had hoped that it would be a positive, upbeat debate about encouraging and showing some appreciation and commendation to people who took the initiative in a tourism way here in the territory.
I thought that we would be extending, as the motion indicates, special thanks to all the participants who helped the safari happen. Having listened to Members opposite, particularly the mover of the motion, the Member for Riverdale North chastising the Minister and the government on several fronts about the safari, it makes me wonder about the purpose of the motion. Probably more importantly, it makes me question the movers entire accuracy.
He makes the point, emphatically, that the Minister gave no support, this government gave no support - he did not even give any gifts - and he is wrong. He is wrong. That is not accurate. He said that the Minister crashed a party, uninvited and unwelcome. Again, he is wrong. He talks about a willingness to pair, to have allowed the Minister to attend a portion of the function. Again, we know on this side what the Members opposite have stated as their position for pairing. They would not permit that to happen.
So I have to question the movers intentions on this motion. I have to question the accuracy of what is stated but I certainly do not want to detract from what I believe the intent of the motion to be. The intent of the motion is to express a commendation to participants who helped the safari happen. I think I would like to support that. I think the initiative is a good one. I think, as Members have stated on both sides of the House, we have a lot to offer in the Yukon beyond a summer tourist season. I think the argument that is put forward by tourist operators in the territory and by the government, that we must take advantage of our shoulder season, is a perfectly legitimate one, and the safari helps endorse the success of working toward that principle. We have much to offer beyond the summer season. We have countless activities to take part in. We have numerous scenic landscapes and environmental features that people from other parts of the world and the country would give their eye teeth to see. This initiative supports that. I am encouraged to see it happen. I think the fact that it occurred on the initiative of the private sector says a lot about the interests in developing this in the territory. I think it has a lot to offer for people locally as well.
I see a parallel here in taking advantage of the shoulder season for tourism in the Yukon with what Yukon people have been doing themselves for a number of years. Those of us who have been here for long periods of time have had many occasions where our friends and relatives from other parts of the country have visited us in the wintertime. One of the first things that comes to mind is, what can we show them? What can we do with them? What can we show them that is special about the Yukon that they will remember? As individuals, we have, on many occasions, gone that extra mile to take our friends and our relatives, who visit us from other parts of the country, on a fishing trip, on a special trek into the mountains, to a particular waterfall that is iced over but still flowing in the wintertime - spectacular scenes in the Yukon that you can only find, in many instances, in one place in the world.
I see the safari as an extension of a Yukon natural experience to those of us who live here. We have done this, and to see the private sector taking advantage of it, to encourage it on a greater scale, wrapping around it an economic initiative is not bad. As long as we have the respect for the environment, for the Yukon wilderness that we so deeply cherish, I am encouraged to see this happen.
I recall over the past 20 years or so on many occasions - and the Member for Watson Lake will appreciate this, and perhaps you, Mr. Speaker - on many occasions I was involved in tourism efforts to see the Campbell Highway corridor developed more for tourism purposes. So often people from Watson Lake along the highway to Ross River through to Faro and Carmacks feel they have been deprived of a useful tourism benefit because that corridor is not encouraged, is not advertised adequately, is not developed enough for tourists to come down that route and take advantage of what it has to offer.
I am quite pleased to see that that route has, over the past 10 years, increased in tourist frequency, and the businesses along that route are encouraged by it. For the people who have travelled that route, and I have spoken to many of them, are awestruck by the spectacular scenery and beauty of that route. It is comparable, I am sure, in parts to some of the scenery we witness around Kluane - the home country of the Member for Kluane, who just spoke.
We have every opportunity, I believe, to encourage the kind of off-typical-season tourism that Yukon has historically built its reputation on. I think we can pave the way to an increase and an expansion of tourism opportunity through the winter period, as this safari has demonstrated.
I recall sitting on a subcommittee of the Campbell Highway tourism committee when it was agreed that this entire issue of tapping into the shoulder season of tourism activity in the Yukon should be promoted. I have been involved over the years as well in direct tourism promotion through the hotel industry. I do not question at all the desire of people to come here in the off season. I have been involved in that kind of promotion myself. You get somebody from a European country, somebody from the United States, visiting the Yukon in the winter climate; they fall over themselves at the beauty of the place, at the skiing opportunity, at the landscape they witness, and they want to do more and stay longer. The obvious question is: what else is there to do?
People get involved in the promotion of that activity. It is similar to what was done here on the safari exercise.
It is a very logical activity that the safari demonstrated. It is done on a larger scale than we, as individuals, do with our friends and family who visit. It is probably the first large-scale operation that was done by any private sector initiative, and I expect it to happen much more. I would lend my support to what I believe to be the intent of the motion, and that is to applaud the participants who made it happen, and encourage it to happen more.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As one Member, I am thankful for the opportunity to discuss winter tourism and for the chance for the whole House to promote winter tourism activities, from the Legislatures perspective.
From the outset, I will admit the Member for Riverdale North, who moved the motion, makes it very hard to support the motion, given his comments respecting the participation of the Government of the Yukon. One has to look at the intent of the motion, being to support the private sector groups and community groups, and all the individuals who participated in this particular activity, and to also recognize the efforts by the people who wish to promote tourism generally. Knowing that, I do not think it would be appropriate to put the Member for Riverdale North in his place by denying this motion.
I will briefly respond to the Member for Riverdale Norths latter comments first, even though I do recognize the Minister of Tourism has set the record straight in some respects.
I would like all Members and the readers of Hansard to understand that, despite the personal attack on the Minister that turned out to be quite unjustified, in the end, the remarks the Member was making about the Yukon winter jungle safari were much appreciated. I got the impression we were almost listening to a booster speech for a sports event. We had an event-by-event accounting. I am sure all the individuals who participated in the event were duly recognized and thanked for their participation and enthusiasm, and the fact they had come forward to offer some volunteer time toward the project.
The latter remarks respecting the Minister of Tourisms participation in this whole affair were unjustified. Having checked some of the facts myself in the time between when the Member first spoke and now, I am all the more convinced the Member was off base and had no right to be.
The Member has accused the Minister of Tourism of being invited to participate in the event personally, and then, failing to do so, showed up uninvited at a luncheon, crashing the party, disturbing everybody and basically muscling in where he did not belong.
The facts are, however, that the opposite is true in every respect. The Minister of Tourism was invited to the events. He did participate, as he was requested to do. He not only spoke to them and welcomed them to the Yukon, but he provided gifts to all the participants who took the time and trouble to come to the Yukon to have a look at the potential for winter tourism. He did what he could to provide moral support and even financial support.
None of that was recognized in the Members remarks. It simply appeared to be a thin excuse to attack the Minister and to try to pursue a political theme. It is not gaining any kind of momentum in this Legislature that the Minister of Tourism does not care about tourism. The reason that it is not gaining any momentum is that the facts speak for themselves on this issue and on others that have come forward in this House.
First of all, the Minister was invited to the luncheon. The Minister attended the luncheon. The Minister was invited to speak and he did so. The Minister was expected to greet every participant and did that. The Minister was encouraged to provide gifts. He took it upon himself to provide gifts. He even indicated to the Member for Riverdale North beforehand that he intended to provide gifts.
All these things, according to the Member for Riverdale North, did not take place. They did take place. The Member for Riverdale North insists that I should get my facts straight. The Member for Riverdale North walked into this Legislature and delivered a blistering attack on the credibility of the good Minister for Tourism that turned out to be completely and totally false.
The Member for Riverdale North should be absolutely ashamed of himself for having taken a good motion with a good intent and delivering a completely false attack on the Minister for Tourism. That makes no kind of sense whatsoever.
The Member took a couple of selective facts about the provision of fishing licences and hung the major part of his case on the fact that free fishing licences were not delivered to the participants. The Minister for Tourism, and I checked this myself, said that while the request was made, it was the intention of the department to accommodate it as much as the department could.
When the request was made for free fishing licences, the Department of Renewable Resources quite rightfully indicated that regulations under the federal act did not anticipate the provision of free licences.
Quite rightfully, the Ministers office attempted to do what they could to try and accommodate the situation at the appropriate time by finding whatever method they could to provide for the cost of the licences so people could participate in this event for free.
They signed an arrangement with the organizers of the event to ensure that, for the small service of the filling out of a one-page questionnaire about their participation in the Yukon River jungle safari, in return the full cost of the licences would be reimbursed by YTG. To my knowledge, the organizers of the event have never criticized the arrangements as being unworthy, apart from the Member for Riverdale North. I would think the arrangement was quite innovative, given the fact the desire was to help and was delivered in concrete action.
I find that particular charge unfair. What ultimately caught my attention was when the Member made the charge that the Member for Klondike could simply give up his responsibilities in the House on the simple request for pairing in order to attend an evening gathering, and that all he had to do in order to acquire the pair was ask. This is after the Member and I have had numerous conversations about how the Opposition would not be agreeing to pairing, except for Members responding to personal tragedies in their families, or for First Ministers Conferences.
Now, the Member is saying, you had the majority all along but before, in defending his criticism, he was saying all the Member had to do was ask for a pair, when he knew the policy of the Opposition party was not to permit pairs, and certainly not to permit Ministers to attend banquets.
In this otherwise decent motion, and I hope decently motivated motion, it astonishes me the Member for Riverdale North will use the excuse to criticize the Minister of Tourism at some length. The Minister was aware of the event and was also prepared to innovatively assist in terms of the cost of fishing licences. As requested, he participated to provide remarks and gifts to the attendees. The Member criticized the Minister for not showing enough attention to this event and suggests the Ministers department should have shown much more support for the event in the beginning.
I am informed the Minister had a meeting in September with the organizers of the event, along with the Department of Tourism. At that time, the kernel of the idea was presented before the Minister for consideration. After a general explanation of what events might be for the promotional tour, a request for funding was made. The request was for approximately $50,000 in public funds to support this event. When asked how much the event would cost, the reply was about $50,000. So when the Minister was first entertaining this particular idea in September, the request was to fully fund at the taxpayers expense.
The Minister would clearly be skeptical at such an arrangement. At that point, he would not have afforded us all the opportunity to congratulate the businesses who have ultimately taken advantage of the increased winter tourism, or to congratulate them on the donation of their efforts, and their enthusiasm and their participation. He would not have had the opportunity to congratulate the many individuals who volunteered their time and effort to see this come off and make it a community event, which we are celebrating this afternoon.
It is a community event and public participation has made this event such a special occurrence for the Yukon. It is not only the fact that the event took place. It is not only the fact that we want to encourage winter tourism. It is especially the case that Yukon businesses and individuals took part and made it what it is through their own initiative, with the assistance, the active participation and support of the Minister of Tourism and his department.
That is one reason why the government is incensed by the unfair attacks, and these attacks came right out of the blue because we knew about the Department of Tourisms support. We knew about the Ministers personal support. The so-called facts and the order in which they were put by the Member for Riverdale North came as a complete surprise to us. That was not only because we knew they were not true, but we assumed that the Member for Riverdale North had done his homework.
I have been accused by the Member for Riverdale North of not showing up at events and important engagements when it was not true. I thought that because this subject was near and dear to the Members heart, and because he had given us notice with such fanfare that he was going to give us a wonderful speech supporting this event, I assumed that the Member had done his homework. He did not.
That is really too bad. The Member asked me to wait. I waited expectantly for proper ordering of facts from the Member for Riverdale North. I sat here patiently waiting for them. I did not get them. Now the Member criticizes the Minister of Tourism for showing up at a luncheon, which the Member for Riverdale North did not show up for, when the Minister was invited. He was concerned about the Minister not providing gifts when he did provide gifts.
The Minister indicated he personally provided the gifts by hand to the participants. The Members credibility has completed evaporated, at this point.
That is not what we are here to talk about. It is unfortunate the Member spent half his speech trying to keep up the momentum of criticism toward the Minister of Tourism. We are here to talk about winter tourism. Despite the provocation by the Member, I am going to stand up and talk about winter tourism, because I strongly believe there is tremendous potential in that for this territory. As Minister of Economic Development, I am doing what I can to promote winter tourism activity.
I had a recent conversation with a representative for Peat Marwick Thorne, who is doing a review for a private firm of tourism possibilities in the Yukon. I happen to know this fellow from long ago, and we talked about winter tourism. This particular fellow has a great deal of experience with what we would now refer to as very sophisticated tourism activities and facilities in southern British Columbia. He was one of the people who participated in the ...
Some Member: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Madam Chair, the Member for Hootalinqua is accusing me of filibustering, when it was they who put the motion on the Order Paper to discuss winter tourism. As soon as the Minister for Economic Development starts discussing tourism, after responding to the completely false allegations, the Member for Hootalinqua suggests I should be denied the opportunity to talk about winter tourism.
I am going to talk about winter tourism, because I think there is useful potential, and I have something to say that is every bit as legitimate as every Member of this Legislature with respect to this matter. In fact, I think I know some things about this that may be useful.
This particular person indicated ...
Speaker: Point of Order to the Member for Hootalinqua.
Mr. Phelps: I want everyone in this House to know I am a great proponent of the freedom of speech. I enjoy and am listening and dwelling on every word the hon. Member for Mayo is enunciating in the House.
I think it is very unfair and a really unhappy thing to have to sit here and have this personal attack directed against me by whom I formerly thought was my good friend, the Member for Mayo.
Speaker: Order please. I find there is no point of order. Would the Minister wish to continue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, but I must point out that we are still friends, and I will do my best to make it up to the Member in any possible way that I can, especially after the Member indicated he was dwelling on every word I said. I would not like the Member to think I was in any way disrespectful.
As I was saying about the information provided by the representative from Peat Marwick, the person indicated quite clearly that, even though Yukoners do not have fancy facilities to match those at Whistler or those at Banff or Lake Louise, even though we do not have the history of tourism, he mentioned that Yukon today, in his view - and he specializes in tourism marketing for the British Columbia area - has some of the greatest potential for winter tourism marketing, if it is done properly, of any jurisdiction he knows of in this country.
He indicated a number of factors that we should take note of, I think, that are useful to note. Some Members mentioned that there ought to be a proper combination of factors in order to encourage winter tourism, that it should be adventure-related, that it should be short-term and that we should be appealing to those people who can fly to the Yukon. All those things are true. We have to recognize firstly that most winter tourists will not take road trips, will not spend large amounts of time in travel or in transit and will not take the opportunity to travel by road.
We have to assume that these people are travelling by air and are well heeled enough to do so.
The Yukon has adventure tourism. The Minister stressed most importantly that the trips have to be properly packaged. There has to be an adventure trip that every hour should be prepared for. Every event should be well planned. That is one of the secrets that was proven by the Yukon winter jungle safari. Every element of the tour has to be planned in advance with activities that take full advantage of the strengths that the Yukon has.
It has to take advantage of the things that the Yukon has to offer, especially to those people in Vancouver, for example, who are within a days flight from any place in the Yukon.
Speaker: Order please, the time being 4:30 p.m., pursuant to the direction provided by the House, I must interrupt debate or allow the motion to be put, resolving the House into Committee of the Whole.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a five minute break.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 102 - An Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act
Chair: Today, we are dealing with Bill No. 102, An Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act, and I have received a certificate requesting the witnesses, Linda Engels, acting president of WCB, and Crawford Laing, actuary and president of CEL group. Is the Committee agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I would like to welcome the witnesses.
Is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Joe: On January 24, we received prior information in regard to this bill. We asked for it because we wanted to know what the cost would be if they were to agree to it. At that time, the late president of the Workers Compensation Board gave us statistical and financial information and many questions were asked of different Members in the House as to the accuracy and reasonableness and the probability of the information given. At that time, the late president, Mr. Booth, agreed to review all the estimates with the actuarial firm that the Workers Compensation Board deals with and to report back to us. As a result of the tragic death of Mr. Booth, we were unable to get that information.
I would like to ask if we could receive information on that request, to find out whether or not a review has taken place and whether they can report back to the committee.
Ms. Engels: I do not personally have the expertise or experience to comment knowledgeably on the cost projections that have been provided. For that reason, I have asked Mr. Crawford Laing of CEL Group to be with us today. The board has met and consulted with him, and they are fully confident that he can answer all questions of a financial nature regarding projections to the board.
Mr. Laing: Yes, I will be prepared to answer questions.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to ask Mr. Laing to tell us what costs would occur if we were to agree to this proposed amendment. I think we need to understand first if there is going to be any direct cost to the employers and, secondly, if there will be any costs to the Workers Compensation Board.
Mr. Laing: There will be no direct cost to the employers from this proposal, because it can be covered out of the provisions already made in the rates. As to the direct cost to the fund, that is probably what the Minister is asking about, we spoke last time about 23 cases. Since then, my researchers with the staff of the board have discovered another 23 cases.
I have gone through these with the adjudication staff of the board, and applied reasonable probabilities to the fact that CPP benefits may be paid; it is not absolutely certain in every case that benefits will be paid. If they are paid, there is the possibility that they will not continue until age 65 in every case.
There are three cases at the moment who are receiving CPP benefits. Those are offset from the Workers Compensation benefits. Only two of these affect the compensation fund. The other is the responsibility of the self-insurer. These two involve an estimated cost of $173,000, if they go to 65 and if this offset if removed. The other one is age 64, so the cost to the self-insurer is only about $9,000. These are the specific costs of the known cases who are now receiving CPP and having it offset from their workers compensation benefits.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Could Mr. Laing tell us what the specific costs to the fund are of the known beneficiaries eligible for the CPP benefits?
Mr. Laing: With the other 20 out of the original 23, and with the new 23 that we discovered, there are no specific costs as of this date. They have not been granted CPP benefits yet. It is still a moot point as to whether or not they will be granted them, and it is not within the competence of the board staff to decide on that question. That matter is adjudicated by the CPP adjudication people.
However, I have looked at these cases with the adjudication staff of the board. We have estimated the probabilities of them receiving CPP eventually. We also estimated the term for which those CPP benefits might be payable, bearing in mind that a person has to be unable to work in a gainful occupation in order to obtain CPP benefits and in order to continue to receive them.
The possibility is that someone who is disabled now and is unable to work for a couple of years may recover sufficiently to be able to work at gainful employment. At that time the CPP benefits would be discontinued.
Applying what we hope are reasonable probabilities to these two factors, we estimate that only eight of the 20 cases will have a likelihood of receiving CPP benefits. Bearing the probabilities in mind, the total estimated cost is of the order of $600,000 for these eight.
Out of the other 23, only six will be likely to receive CPP benefits, in our estimation, and not all of them would go to 65. In round figures, the estimated costs for these others is $200,000.
The total of these three categories is $985,000, give or take. That is our estimate of the total cost to the fund of removing the CPP offset that is imposed by section 50.
Hon. Ms. Joe: What are the projected costs to the fund of all current beneficiaries who are, or may become, eligible for Canada Pension disability benefits?
Mr. Laing: That would be the $985,000 figure that I have just given.
Hon. Ms. Joe: What effect will the proposed amendment have on beneficiaries?
Mr. Laing: It will have a different effect on different people. If we take a person who is entitled to the maximum compensation benefit because they were earning $40,000 or more before the accident, without the deduction they would be entitled to three-quarters of that - 75 percent of $40,000, or $30,000 a year; $2,500 a month. Currently, the CPP benefit is $709 for 1990, but it was $681.23 for 1989.
It is $709.52 in 1990. I should point out that it is not a case of a percent of disabilities. If somebody is entitled to a CPP disability benefit, they either get it or they do not. There is no percentage disability for CPP, as there is in the case of workers compensation.
If somebody is deemed to be entitled to the CPP disability benefit, they would get that $700 a month. The deduction and impact on the beneficiary is that the $2,500 a month WCB benefit is presently reduced by about $700 a month.
Hon. Ms. Joe: What factors make a claimant eligible for Canada Pension Plan and the disability benefit?
Mr. Laing: The Canada Pension Plan Act says the disability must be severe and prolonged, or likely to lead to death. I have a quotation here from the CCH booklet, which I would like to read to the Committee. It clearly states the answer to the Ministers question.
A contributor is regarded as disabled if an examination reveals a medically determinable impairment in which physical or mental disability is so severe and prolonged that he or she is unable to regularly pursue any substantially gainful employment. This means the disability must seriously affect the contributors ability to earn and must be likely to do so for more than a temporary period.
I understand the internal guidelines issued by the CPP to their staff is, in this case, that a temporary period means a year, so it must be likely to last for more than a year before they will even consider it.
Mr. Phelps: I understand the passage of this bill would not result in additional costs to the employers. We have been talking in terms of additional costs to the Workers Compensation Fund. Not to quibble too much, but I suppose the impact would mostly be for the two categories - the category that amounts to $600,000 over the period of time for them to attain 65 years of age, and the third category, $200,000 for the other 23 potential collectors.
I take it that what we are saying is that the Workers Compensation Board, rather than paying more, would not be entitled to those benefits. That would reduce their payments by those amounts. In other words, when people now eligible for pension become eligible for CPP, WCB gets off the hook for the amount of money being paid in the future by the federal government.
Mr. Laing: That is what happens now because of section 50: there is a reduction in the WCB benefit.
Mr. Phelps: We understand that the fund is quite amply funded. The impact of the bill on the fund is that they may not be entitled to make deductions, reducing their payments to certain people who are fortunate enough to be eligible for the CPP money.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In discussions with the Minister and with Mr. Brewster, it is obvious that we would like to pass this amendment, and we should do it this afternoon. I only have a few questions about the fund and the affordability of the provision.
When we last heard evidence from WCB, we understood that this would cost a substantially greater sum than the $985,000 that is now the appropriate cost. Given the actuarial methodology, I am more than prepared to believe that $985,000 is the correct figure.
I am somewhat disturbed about the move from $3 million to $985,000. We should, however, take comfort in the fact that the amount is down. We should also be concerned about the significant change.
I think it is a comfort, as well, to know that the fund can withstand an increased cost of $985,000. I am presuming that we should take comfort in that because obviously we would like to pass this provision. The obvious question is why, and for how long, has the fund been capable of being able to absorb a figure of this magnitude?
I guess I would like to get a general idea. I am not talking about specifics and I am not asking for dollar values. I realize that you probably would not be able to provide those. I just want to get a general explanation so that I can get a better understanding on what has happened to date, a general explanation of how we have come to where we are with an affordable cost in the neighbourhood of close to a million dollars. I want to discuss briefly the size of the fund and its excess capacity to determine how much excess capacity there is and to get a sense of whether or not we have reached the limit of our excess capacity or, in fact, whether or not there is more. Again, I am not asking for precise dollar figures because I think it would be unfair to ask that. I would just like to get a sense of where we have come from.
Recently I was told that when the act was passed in 1982 - the new act - that the government-of-the-day consciously ensured that the rates were high enough that the funds would in fact be healthy enough to accommodate a number of things. Now we have come to a point where the funds appear to be healthy enough to withstand a one million dollar expense. I am not sure I understand exactly how all these funds act.
We were told by the late Mr. Booth that, by law, we would have to fund this amount in one year if we were to add it on. Let me put it another way: if a fund was at its capacity and was reasonably funded - not over funded and not under funded - and that if we had to bear this cost, we would have to determine, actuarily, how much it would cost and fund it all in one year. I would like to hear your comments about that, not that I dispute what Mr. Booth said, but I would like to understand what is expected of the fund, how much excess capacity there is and how we came to where we are.
Mr. Laing: I think I would have to go back to the 1982 position. At that time, when the act was changed to bring in the wage-loss system, Mr. Booth and I went to Saskatchewan to talk to the board there and to see if they could give us any help on what the impact would be from introducing a wage-loss system instead of a pension system. They did not have very much experience to help us with at that time and of course we in the Yukon had none, so a slight reduction was made in the provision for future claims costs at that time but no specific reduction was made for the fact of the CPP offset, because we had no evidence from anywhere as to what the reduced cost would be because of that offset. There has not been enough experience in Yukon since then to get any closer handle on the cost of that offset.
It seems to me that, since we have not made any specific reduction because of the offset, we can hardly - or I can hardly, as the actuary - come along and recommend to the board that they should make a specific increase because the offset is taken away. The way this estimate is done is on a statistical basis, not on a case-by-case basis, and we have just completed a three-year review of the funds.
The one that is particularly important here is the reserve for future claims in respect of accidents that have already happened up to the end of 1989. We have looked at the experience as it has developed over the last six years since 1983 - seven years including 1983 and 1989 - and we have estimated, from that, what the costs are likely to be in the future. Actuaries, as you know, always drive with their eye on their rear view mirror; that is all we can do: look at past experience, look at trends and try to determine from those where it is going to go in the future.
In doing that, we have looked at it and made some allowance for future trends. That particular fund is in a very healthy state, even after all the allowances we have made, and I do not think I am breaching any confidence with the board in saying that we have come up with a surplus. The actual amount is subject to refinement once we get all the figures put together, but the future claims reserve is in surplus at the present time. We are not at the end of our capacity to deal with future eventualities. In fact, the reserves have been based on the fact that things like changes in legislation will come along after the year of accident and the board has to be able to cope with them, because they are not usually able to go back to the same employers and raise extra assessments in respect of past years accidents.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I wonder if I could ask one question through you of Mr. Laing? Lest there be any danger of us judging you a manic depressive, sir, I want to get your assurance that the actuary cited by the witnesses in the last appearance here was either not yourself or what we had was no actual actuarial evidence but, rather, hearsay or incomplete information. Could we have an observation on that point?
Mr. Laing: Yes, I think both you and Mr. Phelps had it right - they were actuarial figures, but they were not prepared by an actuary. I, myself, was out of the country at the time. We answered the question that was asked: what is the cost of the total CPP offset if everybody on this list were to get it? That is the question we were asked and that is the question we answered. My staff are trained in my absence not to argue with clients; I reserve that right to myself.
Mr. Phelps: I suggest that part of the problem was in the upside-down logic as presented by the previous witnesses - the chairman, Mr. Wright, told us that we had to have a fund that assumed the worst-case scenario. Of course, the worst-case scenario would be if no one collected the pension plan, in which case if we are covered for that, then we are already covered for the impact of the bill before Committee right now. It was a backwards view and logic that was the problem and caused the confusion, I suspect.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of comments. I am still having a bit of trouble understanding the actuarial science. Perhaps it is not necessary that I do understand it, but I always envisaged that there be an analysis of probability rather than a worst-case scenario. An analysis of the worst-case scenario, it seems to me, would be the responsibility of clerical support rather than an actuarial science. I am confused about that, and I am not asking the witness to comment about that, either.
Nevertheless, I would not mind asking the witness the one point again about the necessity of funding something, a new burden, all in one year, and whether that is rigorously applied in all cases. If a situation such as this happens again, and there is a desire by the Legislature to increase the pension or, in some way, increase the costs of a provision, what is the standard practice with respect to funding this arrangement?
Mr. Laing: The practice is that once you get as far as asking the actuary, he capitalizes all the costs and puts them into a pot and says that is your total liability. The recent history has been that all the liabilities are only valued by the actuary every three years, so the impact would be delayed by three years. It is when you get to an actuarial evaluation of liabilities that all of these costs are capitalized.
The concept of meeting the costs in one year comes from new costs for new accidents in the current year. Because there is no opportunity to assess employers after the year of accident in respect of these costs, you then have to make a provision at the end of the year for all the future costs that will arise from these accidents that have happened.
It is in that sense the costs have to be met up front out of the assessments for the year. It would have been invidious if, in the past, we had less than adequate rates in the Yukon and a lot of accidents had happened, perhaps from some other activity - something like a pipeline - we had not been able to fund them all in advance, the activity died down, the employers that had come in to do the work went south again, and the costs would have to be transferred and met by the remaining employers in the Yukon.
In a small fund of this sort, it is not possible to rely on intergenerational transfers of costs. They have to be made up front in the years that they happened. In that sense, it is quite correct that you have to meet them up front.
Mr. Phelps: We have been given the figure of $985,000 as the cost to the fund in terms of lost savings by pensions being paid by Canada Pension. Is that capitalized, or is that just the total gross payments until each of the people in question attain the age of 65?
Mr. Laing: It is the capitalized present value of these future costs on as best an estimate as we can give in the circumstances. It is very subjective.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Mr. Brewster: I move that you report Bill No. 101, entitled Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act, without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: I will dismiss the witnesses at this time.
Bill No. 19, - First Appropriation Act, 1990-91 - continued
Tourism - continued
Hon. Mr. Webster: Before entering further debate, I want to apologize for not providing Members with new pages for the estimates book at the beginning of my Tourism estimates. These pages show the revised totals for both the heritage and the marketing programs as a result of moving the $25,000 from heritage capital for an historic resources centre to the marketing capital for the visitor reception centre.
On Page 333, the new total of heritage capital is $1,056,000. That replaces $1,081,000. The new total for heritage capital operation and maintenance is $1,601,000. On page 340, the new total for marketing capital if $69,000, which replaces $44,000. The new total for marketing capital and operation and maintenance is $3,066,000. That replaces $3,041,000.
This does not change the total for the requested capital expenditures of the Department of Tourism of $1,124,000, as it appears in Schedule A.
Chair: Are there any questions?
We are continuing with line item Regional Planning Implementation, $40,000, on page 336.
Development - continued
Regional Planning Implementation - continued
Regional Planning Implementation in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Canada Tourism Subagreement (CYTSA)
Mr. Phillips: What is the status of the subagreements?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The status of the subagreement was fully explained by the Minister of Economic Development a couple of weeks ago. It is his department that is handling that matter. That of course is the new, long-range, multi-year tourism-development agreement. In the short-term, however, the interim agreement for this coming fiscal year is still a matter of negotiation. I have met with the federal Minister of Tourism and Small Business on three occasions. We have a commitment from him to put in place an interim agreement for this one fiscal year and I am confident that he can convince his Cabinet colleagues that the money will be forthcoming for that.
CYTSA in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Capital in the amount of $225,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any other questions?
Development in the amount of $563,000 agreed to
On Operations and Maintenance
Operations in the amount of $761,000 agreed to
On Public Relations
Public Relations in the amount of $96,000 agreed to
Mr. Phillips: Is that something to do with the Alaska Highway celebrations or is this just an increase in promotion?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, the Alaska Highway celebrations was the first item under administration. This deals with transfer payments, primarily for the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council Agreement, $300,000, the TIA convention program where we contribute a maximum of $75,000 each year, and Destination Yukon $295,000 and Tourism North this year is $273,000.
Promotions in the amount of $1,073,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of $1,067,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $2,997,000 agreed to
On Visitor Reception Centres: Television Equipment
Television Equipment in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On new line item: Visitor Reception Centre Development
Hon. Mr. Webster: This is the place in the estimates, under capital/marketing, under the subtitle Visitor Reception Centres, where the VRC development for Whitehorse, $25,000, fits in.
Visitor Reception Centre Development in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Production of New Films, TV Vignettes, Distribution and Versioning
Production of New Films et cetera in the amount of $34,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Capital in the amount of $69,000 agreed to
Tourism - Marketing in the revised total of $3,066,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any other questions on the supplementary information?
On Schedule A
On Operation and Maintenance
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $4,630,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $1,350,000 agreed to
Tourism agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move you report progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 102, entitled Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act, and directed me to report progress on same without amendment.
Further, the Committee has considered Bill No. 19, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1990-91, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 5:25 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled March 7, 1990:
Young Offenders: treatment and assessments outside Yukon (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1285
Na Dli Youth Centre: number of visits by RCMP since February 3 (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1285
Mayo Wilderness Summer Camp: costs and program (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1316
Yukon young offenders: possible secure custody facilities outside Yukon; agreements with Alberta and B.C. (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1411
The following Filed Document was tabled March 7, 1990:
Petition entitled Save the Gold Panner re proposed licence plate (Brewster)
Yukon River Jungle Safari poster (Phillips)