Wednesday, October 31, 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?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have for tabling the annual report for 1989 for the Workers Compensation Board.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the Public Accounts from 1989-90.
Speaker: Reports of Committees.
Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
Risk Reduction in the Workplace Project Recommendations
Hon. Ms. Joe: In March 1990, a report entitled Reducing of Risk in the Workplace - An Occupational Health and Safety Strategy for the Yukon, was published and circulated to interested parties. The reports 36 recommendations were developed through a consultation process with employer and worker representatives. The consultation took place between October 1989 and March 1990.
Today I am pleased to announce the implementation of a number of key recommendations that are vital to the success of this project.
To provide an increased level of service, three positions funded by the Workers Compensation Board have been added to the occupational health and safety branch.
Inspections and other occupational health and safety activities are being targeted to priority areas, worksites, occupations and industries generally associated with higher risk of injury.
Comprehensive guidelines and support material are now available to employers to help them develop, implement and evaluate their health and safety programs.
Training courses for joint health and safety committee co-chairpersons and worker representatives have been developed by occupational health and safety branch. The courses are available on request.
A new Workers Compensation Board prevention merit rebate program is being developed. This will replace the existing claims cost merit rebate program. The prevention merit rebate program will be voluntary. It will come into effect January 1, 1992.
Amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act are being considered. When this phase is completed, a discussion package on the proposed amendments will be brought forward to the Assembly.
It was recommended that an information system be designed to meet the needs of both the Workers Compensation Board and Occupational Health and Safety. Together, they are developing such a system.
I want to emphasize, that all interested parties - employers, workers, health and safety committee members and labour organizations - will be kept informed of progress on the risk reduction project.
A quarterly bulletin will be published jointly by the occupational health and safety branch and the Workers Compensation Board. The joint bulletin will also contain information about scheduled training courses, upcoming events, current issues and many other related items.
Mrs. Firth: Five months ago I asked the Minister who has just made this announcement what the status was of the report on reducing risk in the workplace and occupational health and safety strategy for the Yukon. At that time I mentioned that it was a consensus report, simply requiring the approbation of the Minister and her colleagues to be implemented, a report that had 36 recommendations in it, a report that the results of which were not going to cost the government any more money and would not result in any increases in the assessment rates. At that time, she could not tell me what the status of the report was. We went around the mulberry bush about Cabinet looking at it, and so on. The Minister had given me some commitment to get back to me with an answer with respect to the report and after hearing nothing for five months, I guess this is her response.
I guess it is fair to ask why it took so long and to make the comment that it is about time that some announcements were made.
I would like to ask the Minister if she could clarify why only a handful of the recommendations were adopted. Is there some problem with the other recommendations that the government is having trouble accepting? I would like to ask the Minister if she could perhaps tell us when the rest of the recommendations are going to be responded to in one way or another. Perhaps she could be more specific this time instead of letting everyone wait for five months to see what the government is going to do next.
Hon. Ms. Joe: If I had the information five months ago I certainly would have given it to the Member opposite. A great deal of work had to be done to implement the program and the recommendations that were suggested in the report. We had to contact certain individuals with regard to the program. You cannot talk about risk reduction off the top of your head. It takes a lot of planning. It is a very important program and the Member recognizes that. That is why she did not get the report five months ago. That is why I am talking about the kind of things we have implemented today.
Further to her questions with regard to when the other recommendations are going to be acted upon, we have agreed to all of the recommendations in the report, and we will be implementing those as well. A program such as this takes a long time. It deserves careful planning. That is exactly what is happening. I will inform her on the progress of the recommendations.
Speaker: This brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. Phelps: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the decentralization policy. Over the past couple days, we said the first stage was done hastily; it was not well-planned or thought out. We said the $225,000 capital cost that is estimated to move 39 people from Whitehorse into the communities is unrealistic. Will the Minister provide us with the rough estimates government has with regard to stages 2 and 3?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is also on record yesterday as saying the policy was stupid, a statement I hope I will have opportunity to call him to account for in every rural community in Yukon.
Any estimates with any degree of accuracy about the second and third stage are quite impossible to provide at this point. It is reasonable to expect that costs in the second and third year will be at least what they are in the first year. At the end of this year, we will have the experience of knowing what those actual costs are, but precise estimates for year 2 and 3 absolutely depend on the positions slated for decentralization. While we already have a number of proposals before us, we do not have a decision yet from Cabinet about what positions and programs may be located outside Whitehorse.
Mr. Phelps: If each of stages 2 and 3 are going to be at least as expensive as stage 1, then it is going to be a very expensive policy indeed.
We are also saying a signal of the haste of developing the policy is the lack of consultation with the communities regarding the 39 positions to be moved.
We understand that the final decision regarding the moves rests with the territorial government, but we do ask why the government did not consult the local governments before announcing the positions in such an arbitrary fashion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the Member, as I suggested yesterday, thought about this even for a minute, the logic of what he is suggesting would have us go down to city hall every time we established a position in Whitehorse to see if it was okay with the City of Whitehorse if we add a new accountant to the Department of Finance, or add a new teacher to F.H. Collins School, or consult with the municipal council of Dawson City when we want to locate a counsellor there. That has never been the practice of this government, nor of any other government in the country. The nature of the positions that we are locating in rural communities is an administrative decision for this government. The policy behind that decision was not, as the Member says, developed in haste. It was articulated many times in this House long before we came to government in debates and resolutions. It was certainly articulated during the Yukon 2000 process. It was part of the economic strategy and has been reiterated following our re-election by this government. We are implementing a policy that has been the subject of much discussion and much public comment, especially from rural communities.
Mr. Phelps: We are also concerned about the fact that the union was not consulted but simply told what the policy was going to be, even before the policy was released in this House. Why was the union not consulted during the final stages of development of this policy?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Members statement is not correct. The union, through the Yukon Federation of Labour, was represented on the advisory committee. Several Members of this Cabinet met with the Federation of Labour, including the Yukon Government Employees Union. Following that consultation, a minority report was received from the Yukon Government Employees Union for the development of the policy. Many weeks ago, as we were refining the decisions we were going to make here, officials of this government met with the leadership of the union to talk about some of the issues under consideration, mindful of the sensitivities of doing so at that moment when we were in bargaining. The first group briefed about the final intentions of this policy, in order to give them assurances that their previously stated concerns would be met, was represented by the Yukon Government Employees Union.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. Phelps: It is strange that the elements of consultation that the Minister has talked about with regard to the union do not seem to be necessary elements of consultation when it comes to speaking with the governments and the communities affected by the moves.
Yesterday the Minister contradicted what his senior official in the Public Service Commission, Mr. Besier, told the union about protecting term jobs. I am wondering whether the Minister had a chance to look into the policy with regard to the protection of jobs and whether he now has had a change of heart and does agree with Mr. Besiers interpretation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Leader of the Opposition alleges that the Public Service Commissioner and I are in conflict on this question, that what the Public Service Commissioner advised a group in the meeting was different than what this House was told. I said yesterday that I would consult with the Minister of Justice about that question and I am doing that. I think probably the most satisfactory way to resolve the question of our policy on that matter would be way of a written legislative return, which I am sure the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission can shortly provide to this House.
Mr. Phelps: We will look forward to the coverup.
I have some questions, as well, with regard to office space and the issue of decentralization and have a follow-up question to the Minister of Government Services with regard to that issue. I referred to a legislative return filed in this House by the Minister back in March of this year, with regard to 31 office moves planned over the next three years and the anticipated costs. At that time...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: I would like a new question, then, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. Phelps: At that time, the three-year plan called for a new development totalling 23,500 square feet. Since that time, and it has not been that long, we had the announcement of 30,000 square feet of new office space being built in Whitehorse for the government. As well, we have 100 positions moving away from Whitehorse. I am wondering what happened during the last three months that made such an unfortunate change in government plans. Why has the government suddenly decided it needs not only 6,500 more square feet in Whitehorse but that it will be able to fill the extra 6,500 square feet, despite that fact that 100 positions are moving away, which would surely account for 10,000 to 15,000 square feet?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I regretfully have to tell the Member that he is confusing quite a series of numbers and statements that were put forward in relation to the space strategy and the subsequent documentation of the space plan.
In the first instance, there is not 60,000 square feet of new space. What the space strategy outlines is a shortfall under the office space standards of 40,000 square feet that we will be beginning from in the space plan.
The other point the Member must have clarified concerns the 30,000 square feet relating to the convention centre that I believe he is alluding to, to replace the Department of Renewable Resources location of some 25,000 square feet. Throughout the entire space strategy, a number of program enhancements and devolutions are spelled out. As I stated earlier, we began from the starting position of a serious state of overcrowding under office space standards of some 40,000 square feet. To suggest that there is 60,000 square feet of new space is erroneous and he should not be propagating that myth.
With respect to the rural space needs...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will attempt to be very brief. The Member alluded to rural space needs being affected by decentralization. I indicated to Members this spring that we were doing a similar space analysis and strategy for the rural communities and I would be quite prepared to update him on that if he asks me another question.
Mr. Phelps: Actually, I would love to get a clear, straight answer to the first question. The legislative return, as signed by the Minister, says that this strategy accounts for 31 office moves...
Speaker: Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: .....thirty-one office moves, planned over the next three years. In that plan is included 23,500 square feet for the Department of Renewable Resources, the 31st step and 32nd step. What I am concerned about is that subsequently, and suddenly, we are faced with a demand for an additional 6,500 square feet and at the same time we have 100 positions...
Speaker: Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: Once again, I would like to know why these plans and these steps are suddenly not adequate at all and the plan has changed so dramatically with regard to office space in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has in part acknowledged the error of his first question, that in fact the new space is being accounted for by the dropping off of old space. I appreciate the Member clarifying that that is initially what he meant. I should clarify for the Member that the office space plan, beginning from the shortfall of 40,000 square feet, and identifying a series of moves to accommodate various program enhancements, various devolution programs that occurred with the federal government, in addition to the overcrowding conditions are spelled out in the 31 moves. We are again doing the same analysis for the rural communities and there is no dramatic change, there is no change in demands...
Speaker: Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow:...the space strategy outlines how we go about getting space, the space plan outlines our expected need for space and it outlines the space that we will be giving up, which I have indicated to Members previously will based on the preference of getting rid of less than adequate space first.
Mr. Phelps: The only mistake I made was in expecting to get a clear and straight answer from the Minister. I will ask the question he wanted me to ask, which is: will he table in this House his plans with regard to office space requirements in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will have absolutely no problem doing that at a point when I am prepared and comfortable with the results of the analysis being done by Government Services of space needs in the rural communities as affected by decentralization.
I indicated to the Member that we have done a preliminary analysis of available space in the rural communities. We are quite confident that adequate space needs can be met.
As I indicated to Members in previous debate, there are a number of permutations by which space will be ...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes, I will, Mr. Speaker. A number of different permutations will be utilized, everything from existing space we have on hand now, to acquired new rental space. In the case of Haines Junction, it will be encompassed in the devolution dollars of the airports program.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please conclude his answer.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. Lang: I hope I am a little more successful on the question of decentralization. I will direct my question to the Minister of Education, and I hope we can get a yes or no from that Minister because this policy has been so well thought out and planned. There should be no misunderstanding how the policy is going to be implemented.
I want to refer to the question of the disbanding of the career services branch, which served over 1,200 Yukoners a year, provided many visitations to the communities and provided an essential service to the general public.
Yesterday, the Minister of Education stated the following, and I quote, Yukon College and Canada Employment and Immigration Commission will be providing career counselling in the City of Whitehorse.
Can the Minister confirm that the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission was not aware that the career services branch of the YTG was being disbanded until it was publicly announced here by the government last week? Can he further confirm that Canada Employment and Immigration has no plans to provide the extended service that YTG provided through the career services branch?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the preamble to the question the Member pleaded for a yes or no answer. What I can do, for the benefit of the Member, is even better. I can give him a yes and a no answer; yes to the first question and no to the second.
First, we did not consult with CEIC about program offerings of this government or our plans to decentralize, not disband, the service to three rural communities.
We have received confirmation that, yes, CEIC does have a mandate to provide career counselling, and yes, they will provide career counselling. Whether they provide it to exactly the same extent as our career services centre in Whitehorse has yet to be determined, but they, along with what is offered currently by the four counsellors at Yukon College, would be providing that service in Whitehorse.
Mr. Lang: The Minister knows Canada Employment and Immigration Commission was as surprised as anyone else that this essential service was disbanded and is quite shocked that the government would take this move the way it did. I am quite concerned about whether or not we are getting answers to our questions that have been put in the House.
Yesterday the Minister stated, and he stated it here again today, that in the background of disbanding the career services branch that the four counsellors at Yukon College would provide some of that service. If the Minister has researched the question so much, why is he not aware that there are only three counsellors at Yukon College, two of them to provide services to the community of Whitehorse, and the third to provide services to the rural communities?
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: Can he explain to this House why is he telling the general public that this service has been provided by four counsellors when there are only actually two serving Whitehorse?
Speaker: Order please. I have asked the Member to get to the supplementary question.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My information is that there are four counsellors at Yukon College, but if the Member has different information I will have that checked because, unlike the Member opposite, I do care about the truth and am prepared to have the matter checked thoroughly.
The service is being decentralized. It is not being disbanded. We had to make some decisions with respect to the prime service delivery that we were intending to target. We considered the original mandate of the career services centre, which was to provide services to those people most in need, which were the rural communities. Consequently, in order to improve service delivery to people most in need, we made a decision to decentralize these to the communities. I am sorry the Member does not like the idea of decentralizing these services to the rural communities. It is something they are in great need of and is something they have had to ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please finish his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ...it is something that they have had to deal with at long distance, and it is hoped that the service will be better delivered now that the career services centre in Whitehorse, the one element of career counselling in Whitehorse, will be decentralized to rural Yukon.
Mr. Lang: We were told that the policy before us had been well thought out and well planned, and I am very concerned that the Minister has, to my knowledge, misinformed the House in saying that there were four counsellors. I am pleased to see he is going to double-check it.
Can the Minister confirm that of the three counsellors at Yukon College - two of whom serve only Whitehorse proper and one of whom serves the rural communities - one of those positions is proposed to be transferred to Mayo?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, I have no knowledge of what Yukon College may want to do with their own employees. As the Member may remember, we passed the College Act and we devolved the college to a board of governors.
I must correct the record because I have just been told that I should be correcting the record with respect to the consultations with the CEIC regional director. There was consultation with the CEIC regional director and the local director and manager, on September 10; so yes, there was consultation in this particular case. The Member, I guess has mistook the position of the government when making the allegation that there was no consultation.
Question re: Decentralization
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up with the same Minister with respect to the same issue. The people in the career services branch - and we are talking about people here, not just some warm body or top performer - have been treated in a most cruel and underhanded way by this Minister.
Let us look at the case against the Minister. Let us look at what he has said over the last six months with respect to this program. The Minister gave assurances to the union six months ago that the program was not in jeopardy, but was secure. In this House, he said the jobs and, thus, the career services program was not in jeopardy. He said he was going to work with these people to resolve the morale problem.
There is a letter of reassurance from the previous assistant deputy minister that the program was secure.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please get to the question.
Mrs. Firth: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am just about to ask the question and reinforce the cruel and underhanded way these people have been treated.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Member of Guideline No. 7 regarding the main question and supplementary questions. I have been trying to enforce this during this session. I would like to remind Members of guidelines No. 7 and 9. I am trying to apply this to both sides and, from now on, you will be getting more interruptions. Please be aware that you will be getting more of this. Does the Member wish to continue?.
Mrs. Firth: We respect Mr. Speakers ruling. I would like to ask the Minister why he did this, obviously with no alternate plan, to these people six months later. Why did he make all these commitments then, six months later, turn around and annihilate this program?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am certain the use of the words cruel and unusual punishment, annihilating programs, and words like vindictive will sensationalize the issue enough. Perhaps with a clever twist of a phrase or two, the Members might even get their quotes into the newspapers. I am sure that is how they are directing their language.
The program was not in jeopardy. The program is being decentralized to rural Yukon. It is a fascinating proposition that, because a program is being decentralized to rural communities, it is somehow now being annihilated. This is a territorial Legislature. It is to serve all the people of the Yukon, including rural. Because a service is better provided by being closer to those people, it does not equate with a program being annihilated.
The people who are involved in this program, like all others involved in decentralization, have job guarantees that are absolute and thorough. Nothing is being done to any employee of this government that is not being done in a civil and humane manner.
Mrs. Firth: Well, the greatest deception here is that this program has been annihilated under the disguise of decentralization. The Minister had a problem; he got rid of the problem. That is what has happened here.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will table, tomorrow, in this Legislature, the complete rationale for this programs annihilation. I would like him to substantiate that rationale with an analysis of the communities who were complaining that they were not getting a good service with documentation...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member...
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Speaker, you interrupted me in the middle of my question.
Speaker: The Chair would like to remind the Member of guideline 7 again. A one-sentence preamble is allowed in each case of supplementary questions. At this time I would like to ask, in view of what has been said, if the Minister could answer what has been said so far. Does the Minister wish to answer the question?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I will first of all interpret the question. The program is not being annihilated; it is being decentralized. Because positions are being removed to another community from this community, this does not mean the program is being trashed. It does not mean the program has been abandoned. It means the program is closer to the people who need it most. Not only have I been to the communities myself and heard from people that they wish for better service delivery, but the department has heard so as well. The act of decentralization is an act of improved service to the rural communities, not an act of abandoning the program.
Mrs. Firth: The program was annihilated. The people in that program were given three hours notice that was going to happen. I would like to repeat my question since I was not allowed to finish it. I would like to get a commitment from the Minister, yes or no, if he is prepared to table tomorrow the complete rationale for this program being annihilated in the way it was, including where the service was shortfalling the communities and all the communities that requested that this service be transferred and changed. Will he do that tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First, the members of this particular unit were given as much notice as any other public servants were who may have been affected by the decentralization move; they were.
It is an impossible task to ask me to provide a rationale for why the program was annihilated because the program was not annihilated. I cannot provide that information tomorrow or at any other time until the program is disbanded. We are not planning to disband the program; we are planning to decentralize it.
Question re: Decentralization
Mrs. Firth: I thank the Member for Porter Creek West for allowing me to follow up on that.
I would like the Minister to table the rationale tomorrow for whatever they have done to the program. Will he do that? It should exist because a change has been made and it is part of the plan. We would like to see it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have been stating exactly the rationale for the decentralizing initiative. If the Member wants something that is written down I cannot promise it for tomorrow, but I can promise it for some time during this session, certainly during this sitting.
The Members wanted to know why there was a decision to improve service delivery in rural Yukon. I have indicated why that is and have also indicated that the service will still be provided in the City of Whitehorse. I absolutely, totally and utterly reject the proposition that because service is now being delivered from rural communities the program is being annihilated. That is terrible.
Question re: Extended care facility
Mr. Nordling: I will also be looking forward to the Minister tabling the rationale for that particular move with career services.
My question is to the Minister of Health and Human Resources with respect to the extended care facility. Last February the Minister provided this House with a construction time line for the extended care facility. Are we now on schedule? More specifically, has preliminary site preparation been completed, and will construction start at the beginning of April next year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I want to thank the Member for Porter Creek West for the question.
The physical and operational planning for the facility is complete. An architect was selected earlier this year. We have a conceptual design and as we previously announced, ground-breaking will occur. I am hoping that it will be done in this fiscal year, but the construction of the facility will begin next spring and we are looking forward to an opening in the fall of 1992.
Mr. Nordling: I was not there so I will use my supplementary to ask if the Minister is confirming that actual construction of this facility will start at the beginning of April 1991?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member knows, I cannot give an absolutely firm date about construction starts because weather can have some impact but the work to prepare for the substantial construction work on the building to be done in the next construction season is underway now. If all goes well, we will be starting in the spring and it will be complete and occupied, it is hoped, by the fall of 1992.
Mr. Nordling: So what I can conclude the Minister is saying is that we are on schedule with the time line presented last February.
I would like to ask if the change from Health and Human Resources doing this to the construction being done by the Yukon Housing Corporation and the looking for funding from CMHC will cause any delays as time goes on?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, because there is some excellent work and some excellent cooperation between the several agencies involved in this: CMHC, the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Workers Compensation Board and the Department of Health and Human Resources. The Member is quite correct that we have added rehabilitation capacity to the plant and also in the design, anticipating enough space to allow for expansion. That will not cause any delays because in fact the actual construction will be managed by the Yukon Housing Corporation but the project planning is a cooperative effort by these different agencies.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. Lang: I would like to get back to the question of decentralization and how decisions were made with respect to which positions went to which community. The one that comes to mind is the municipal advisor, who is now slated to go to Dawson City.
It has come to my attention that it is common knowledge among the civil service that the position of municipal advisor was initially supposed to be going to the community of Mayo. Can the Minister of Education confirm that this is true?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure I understood the question. The Member is alleging he has heard some rumour about how a decision was made respecting decentralization. I am not prepared to comment on rumours. If the Member has a substantial question, I am quite prepared to give him a substantial answer, if I can do so.
Mr. Lang: This is information that has been provided to me. I want to confirm whether it is true or not. I want to know how these decisions were made.
Can the Minister confirm that the municipal advisors position was initially slated to go to the community of Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is attempting to try to track a decision-making process with respect to decentralization. He suggests that, somewhere, there was an initial effort to locate a position in a particular community. The Member has to be more specific and clear on what he is asking. With respect to decentralization, the decentralization initiatives that have been taken are a product of considerable discussion, internal analysis, assessment of various community needs, the ability to accommodate within those communities ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will try to conclude. A number of factors went into the decision-making process that was ultimately concurred in by Cabinet.
Mr. Lang: It is safe to say we did not get a reply to the question. I am asking whether or not the municipal advisor position, now to go to Dawson City, was initially slated to go to the community of Mayo. I want to know how these decisions were made. Is there a problem? Was it initially supposed to be going to Mayo and, all of a sudden, appeared in Dawson City? How was that decision made?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is a rare thing that the speaker opposite has us puzzled over here. We do not really know what he is getting at or what he is talking about. There were literally dozens and dozens and dozens of proposals that came from the public service about decentralization. All of them came through recommendations that were studied by Management Board and Cabinet. Cabinet made certain decisions. The decision in respect to this position was Dawson City. That is the decision. It was not reconsidered. Based on all the information we had and all the recommendations we had, that was the decision that was made.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. Lang: Yes, I guess there is something to the common knowledge that is being discussed among the civil service that the municipal advisor position was initially supposed to go to Mayo and all of a sudden arrived in Dawson City. I am concerned about how the decisions are made in respect to how these positions get to a community. I want to know if anybody in the front bench can confirm that the incumbent in the municipal advisors position asked to go to Dawson City when he was told he was going to Mayo. And further, if that is the case, is that the way the decision was made? The people get to ask where they can move to, as opposed to programs being moved into communities the way they are supposed to be.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know what discussions have gone on internally in departments and I am not sure that would be subject for debate normally anyway. I do not even know what the Member says when the decision was made that someone was supposed to go to Mayo. Does he imply that there was some decision made? By whom? No Minister had made that decision. The Cabinet had not made that decision. As I just told the Member, we had dozens and dozens of proposals. After looking at the numbers of positions we were trying to locate to rural Yukon over the three-year period of phase 1 of decentralization to create an equitable distribution of the jobs in rural communities, we made the decisions that have been announced in this House.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now hear Orders of the Day, Motions and Production Papers.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Motion for the Production of Papers No. 1
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item One?
Mr. Phelps: You betcha, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT an order of this Assembly be issued for copies of all studies produced by or on behalf of Yukon Development Corporation and of the Yukon Energy Corporation regarding potential hydro sites in the Yukon.
Mr. Phelps: I regret I have to bring this motion forward at this time, but we are speaking about corporations that are owned by the citizens of the territory. We are talking about studies done with money from the public purse and money that has been paid by the consumers in the Yukon to the Yukon Energy Corporation. It seems that I am in the position once again of being forced to go to extraordinary lengths to get this closed government to open up and provide Yukoners with information.
There are many other examples of the reluctance of this government and their cherished Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation to provide the public with information or, indeed, even committees of this Legislature with information. I am particularly concerned that we have to go to this length with regard to this corporation. After all, the Yukon Energy Corporation is the cash cow of this government. It is the corporation that provides all this wonderful money to the Yukon Development Corporation, which makes all the neat political moves with money raised from hard-working Yukoners throughout the territory.
I am on record as asking for this information previously in the House. I asked for it on March 8, 1990. I asked again for it on May 3 of this year. The Yukon Energy Corporation has held public meetings in various places in the Yukon Territory earlier this fall. In September, there was a meeting in Whitehorse, and the Minister responsible was asked what rivers might be dammed in future hydro projects in the territory. It seems that while the corporation has been asked to, and apparently has made clear that various sites be protected under the land claims; nonetheless, the corporation and Minister refuse at this time to make public the studies done by the corporation with regard to hydro potential of various rivers, lakes and water storage sheds in the Yukon.
On March 8, I asked for the information, and the Minister seemed rather apprehensive about providing the information to the people who have the right to know.
You have stated, and I quote from page 1463 of Hansard, March 8, 1990; The assessment will become public at some point. I hope the Leader of the Official Opposition will understand that there are complications that can arise on all sorts of fronts from premature publication of sites one is assessing, especially if, in the end, we are not prepared to proceed with, say, site X or Y. This is particularly so if, from a public relations point of view, we have to start dealing with the NIMBY reactions that you will inevitably get with any conceivable site nowadays. As a matter of policy, we would have liked to refine our alternatives to the point where we really have a handful of options and have them clearly ranked in terms of our degree of interest in them, before we go to the regulatory bodies or make our plans public in that area.
We know that the energy corporation has caused studies to be made of various hydro sites. We know that now is the time for the protection of those hydro sites in the land claims process. This is information that has been gleaned from studies done using monies that have come from the public purse for this publicly owned corporation. I think it is only fair that the studies and the information be made public once and for all.
I say that on behalf of those who pay the bills and feed the Ministers cash cow, the Yukon Energy Corporation. I say this especially because consumers in Yukon are becoming more and more alarmed about the provision of cheap, electrical energy. They are concerned because of the many power outages we have been experiencing over the past year or so - all the brownouts and all the blackouts occurring on the main grid. They are concerned because they know we are using more and more diesel in order to keep up with demand. Yukoners know that this is not an environmentally acceptable option, yet it is one that the Yukon Energy Corporation has been moving toward more and more as time goes on.
It is an urgent issue as well because power rates are going to be going up and people will be paying more for power in a few months than they have been over the past several years.
Without sounding too frustrated or alarmed, I would like to suggest to this House that this is a motion that commends itself to each and every Member here. It is a motion that is consistent with principles of open government, government for the people and by the people. I do not expect this motion will have any difficulty in passing.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite said he regrets bringing forward this motion. I was interested in that comment, because nothing in the observations he made following that statement seemed to indicate much regret. I am going to proceed to respond on the basis that it was not malicious or mean-minded, but was a well-intentioned effort to have some discussion in this House, and ultimately some public discussion, about the energy supply questions that face this territory.
He did say a couple of things I have to take issue with. I hope he will not mind my saying that I found the statements were larded with a little rhetorical excess. I hope he will forgive me for making the observation; there was a touch of the humbug in his statement about having to go to extraordinary lengths. I am assuming that was just a light-hearted observation in the course of parliamentary debate.
The Member refers to earlier debates this year. He will note in those debates, if he reads the complete record, that I had previously given an undertaking in this House to come forward and make presentation in this Legislature by November, a month that begins tomorrow.
In his speech, he says he is on the record. So am I, and I have every intention of living up to the commitment that I made in the spring.
Now, just before I comment a little more on the substance of the motion, I do want to clarify one thing for the Member, because he is an intelligent fellow, but he does seem to have confused a couple of things that I am actually surprised that he confused. I want to make this quite clear so that he does not attempt to barrack me on the question again.
The question of the potential hydro sites that are protected or going to be protected under the land claims agreement, once it is ratified, is a different issue than the sites that are under consideration for imminent development. In other words, the sites that are anticipated for the protection of the land claims agreement are substantial sites that anticipate the energy needs of this territory for a long, long time to come. The sites that are under investigation by the Energy Corporation at this point is a different list of more modest projects. I want to be clear on that point because when the Member is asking for information, I want to be clear to him that they will come in two different forms.
Let me explain to the Member that there is a point at which those sites, as a result of the land claims negotiations, have protection, and I will make them public. As a former land claims negotiator, he will understand perfectly well why they cannot be made public before a certain point in those negotiations. However, the handful of options, since he quoted me, the list of energy supply options that we are considering development on now is in the process of being refined. As I said this spring, at a certain point in the refining of that list, it is always necessary, I think, for a public utility to come forward and make its intentions known.
Lest there be any confusion in anybodys mind as the result of the intervention of the gentleman opposite, I want to put a little bit on the record of what the Energy Corporation has been doing. Time would not permit me to describe everything they have been doing, but I do want to describe some of the corporations work.
I also want to address the implied criticism in a number of the observations of the Members opposite, including observations in this House. This criticism may have been unintentional, but the impression has been left by the Opposition Leader that the Energy Corporation has not done any work to address the supply situation whatsoever. I want to address that and remind the Member that at the point we became responsible for that corporation and the hydro assets in the territory, we were only using something like 85 percent of the supply.
As a result of the work done by this government to develop the economy, along with the federal government and private sector, that situation has changed radically in the last few years to the point where the demand now exceeds the supply.
Nonetheless, I want to say that if the statements of the Member opposite are genuine on this account, then we respect the impetus behind this motion: the desire for information and the opportunity for community input. We find that wholly admirable. I must say, though, that there are good reasons for looking very carefully at the precise text of the motion the Member has presented for us today, and the sweeping nature of that motion as it is presented.
I have to tell the Member that I reject absolutely the implication of the motion that the Energy Corporation is not doing anything in this territory in regard to the development and supply of power. I think nothing - nothing - could be further from the truth.
Over the last three years, the corporation has been diligent in seeking out new options as to supply and meeting the demands for power by Yukon consumers. Even a partial list of the work the corporation has done in the field of energy during the last few years is impressive, I believe. It is a matter of record that in 1987 capital expenses for the Energy Corporation were $1,285,000. In 1988, $1,857,000. In 1989, $6,461,000, and in 1990, to date, $5,890,000.
These are large numbers in Yukon terms and represent a great deal of investment in our territory. Of those amounts, in 1989, $160,000 was for hydro reconnaissance alone, and in 1990, it is estimated that a further $130,000 will have been devoted to hydro reconnaissance. The corporation has put $4.8 million into the Mayo dam rebuild. The project, I am proud to say, was on time and under budget. I know the Member opposite shares our concern with sound project management and would be pleased to have our competency in this question demonstrated and noted in all of his speeches, especially those where he makes reference to projects in Ross River and Watson Lake.
There are several other projects that are at various stages of study. Reconnaissance and imagery studies involve looking at potential sites and updating existing studies in order that they be brought to a comparable standard of new studies.
There is an approximate cost. Many of these studies can involve $10,000 of work per site, which is common.
There are several levels of pre-feasibility studies, and their costs can range in the magnitude of $100,000 per site. It should be noted that it is at the pre-feasibility stage when projects are normally made public in this country by all utilities and regulatory authorities. It is at that point that the utility goes before a public utilities board, such as we have in the territory. At that stage, such issues as social and environmental impacts are considered and, usually, it is at that stage when environmental impact studies are ordered.
The final level prior to construction is the feasibility study. Depending upon the size of the project, this can cost over $1 million per site. Among the projects presently being considered by the Energy Corporation are the Mayo/Dawson transmission line, which will yield an economic benefit to the Yukon in present conditions, provide sufficient power for the primary needs of a re-opened United Keno Hill Mine, and also take the second-largest community in the territory, Dawson City, off oil, which is a substantial and environmental energy initiative.
The Member knows about the McIntyre Creek hydro project, which the Yukon Electrical Corporation has done most of the work on, and which is a project under discussion between the Yukon Electrical Corporation and the Energy Corporation. That can supply 5.5 gigawatts to the Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro system.
A project I gather the Member is keen about, rather than the Mayo/Dawson one, is the possibility of a Mayo/Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro inter-tie. While having the advantage of reducing diesel dependency may, to some degree, be economically dependent upon the continued life of the Curragh mine, a mine we want to continue to be in operation, by any reasonable risk analysis, it would bring all the risks of excessive dependency on that one customer, which we have in the Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro system, into the Mayo system as well. It is feasible, of course, if Curragh continues to operate, as is a very interesting potential project on Drury Creek.
Potential capacity increases are also being examined at Whitehorse Rapids and Aishihik. This is all public information, but I mention it in the course of the speech. Recently, there has been public discussion of a project in northern British Columbia, the Surprise Lake hydro project, which is a very likely candidate for the next Whitehorse/Aishihik supply system.
This is being proposed by a B.C. private company. That company has indicated to us an interest in joint-venture possibilities, and discussions have begun on this point. There is quite a bit of interest in this project, because it is close to the load centres in Whitehorse. From an environmental point of view, it is in a site that previously had a hydro project and which has been heavily mined over.
Quite a bit of consideration has, in recent years, been given to the possibility of storage projects in Atlin, but there are a considerable number of very significant local issues that would have to be dealt with before such a project could proceed any further.
The Member yesterday seemed to pooh-pooh this, but the corporation is also doing some very substantial work on the demand-side management possibilities or, as some people would prefer we call them conservation initiatives. I have to tell all Members in the House that the opportunities and the costs of pursuing these kinds of initiatives are very, very attractive versus some of the supply options, but they are being considered with the supply options. It is my hope that before the end of this calendar year, perhaps by mid-December, we will be in a position to present to the House some very firm plans by the corporation in this area.
The Energy Corporation, in making its decisions as to what projects it is going to develop on behalf of Yukoners, must also consider potential risks. The entire power supply system in the Yukon is, relatively speaking, very small and inordinately dependent upon a few large customers such as Curragh Resources or sometimes Curragh Resources and United Keno Hill Mine. The development of even a small project demands huge amounts of capital investment. Just to mention, for example, a 20 percent increase in capacity, something like 20 megawatts, could increase the base rate by 50 to 100 percent. We are talking these days about a moderate, medium-scale hydro project, about $10 million a megawatt. These are among the considerations the corporation has to face when deciding upon the pace and scale of development of the Yukon.
I have to be frank. We have not pursued megaproject options, and I am personally very glad that the corporation has not chosen to do so, because, without a guaranteed customer for new power produced, a megaproject is an extremely risky undertaking. If such a customer failed to live up to its total commitment or even shut down entirely, as has happened in the Yukon before, the increased cost of the project would have to be borne by the existing customers.
This government is not prepared to burden Yukoners so that we can satisfy any grandiose visions of this kind. It used to be said that a very attractive economic development option for the territory was to build some kind of major hydro project and export the power south. Since the passage of the free trade deal, this is not a particularly attractive option at all and I think, as we shall see in this country, as the debate proceeds around the proposed second-stage developments in James Bay, not only on the questions of environment but also on the questions of economics, many, many issues will become clear that have not been properly considered by proponents of this kind of development.
In any case, everything we have heard through discussions with the people in the communities and throughout the Yukon 200 process indicate that this is the kind of development that Yukoners do not want. It is not the kind of development we are pursuing. When I hear from people about the idea about a big, big, big power project to ship the power south, a kind of whiff of the 1950s in these comments, it harks back to the days a few years ago when people really believed a megaproject was a magic solution to economic problems. Indeed, a few years ago there was discussion here about aluminum smelters that would be absolutely dependent upon very cheap power, which would be subsidized by all the other customers. The attractiveness of those kind of proposals has really worn off for our citizens, who have a better appreciation of the costs as well as the apparent benefits of such a proposal.
I had an opportunity the other night to go to the presentation put on by the Science Institute and the Conservation Society by the engineer from NASA who showed slides taken from space of different areas on the planet earth and the impact of certain megaprojects on agriculture, human settlement and the basic historical economies of the area.
One fascinating slide showed the consequences of the Aswan Dam project, which was originally constructed by Americans and ended up being completed by the Russians, in Egypt. It was a project Egypt thought was going to make it the powerhouse of the middle east. It was, of course, until Saudi Arabia discovered its own energy potential.
One of the downside consequences of that project is that it absolutely killed, forever, a fishery in the delta of the Nile, which had operated for thousands of years. It has killed the agricultural industry in that area, which had operated for probably 25,000 years and upon which millions of people were dependent. It was the most vivid example I have seen of the long-term environmental consequences of that kind of megaproject. I think it was a reminder that, when you are talking about very large scale projects of this kind, especially considering the protection of the northern environment, one has to proceed with a great deal of caution.
I only make this point to remind us all that it is not possible to build a huge dam, or even a modest-sized dam, in the same kind of time frame that was possible a few years ago. The public will insist upon a very careful period of assessment and evaluation before construction begins on such a project, and prudent governments will respect this.
One only has to look at the consequences of not doing so, such as the case of the Old Man River Dam project or the Rafferty Alameda Dam project in southern Saskatchewan, which are causing great controversy in each of those areas. There is the odd person around who argues that major projects provide work for Yukoners, but I would argue that they do so only in the least beneficial manner to our economy as a whole because, while a megaproject may well employ all the available tradespeople for a certain period of time, such a project will usually call for a greater number of tradespeople than in our territory and we will end up employing people from other jurisdictions. The money these people will earn will only have a limited effect on our economy for a brief period of time. We believe, as a general proposition, it is more prudent to attempt to provide steady or regular employment for our tradespeople rather than promote the boom and bust cycle we have tried for so long to change.
I therefore think it prudent, as did the Minister of Finance yesterday, to promote the energy capital projects in the context of our capital budget and to provide the kind of stability that the construction industry and the construction industry workers want us to provide, and we have to take account of, in planning in these areas.
The language of this motion, and I take the Leader of the Opposition at his word, but perhaps not the intent, calls for the production of all studies produced by or on behalf of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation regarding potential hydro sites in the Yukon. From a purely pragmatic point of view, this may be a confusing or even puzzling task, because if I can make the obvious point, what exactly is a study and what type of reference does a document have to make to a potential hydro site before it is tabled? How do employees, for example, go about the earliest tasks of the study, the stages when all options are being considered and contemplated, the stage before any of the obstacles or impediments are admitted, when they know that as soon as they have committed something to paper, somebody is going to ask that the document be tabled in the Legislature? Certainly that knowledge, I think, would have a stifling effect on the work of the people in the corporation and the people who contract to work for the corporation and I think it would have a muting effect on the proper consideration on the range of options.
In this respect, I would prefer a more conservative route or a more prudent path that would not have us in a situation where we are seriously contemplating that every thought, every memo or every letter would be required to be tabled in the House as it is written, or even that we would have premature legislative debate on some of these questions, because I am quite sure that the Leader of the Official Opposition, as an intelligent and honourable person, is not looking to have Legislative harassment of the corporation; he is looking proper debate about the energy and supply options for our territory.
He has mentioned the NIMBY problem and public policy makers have to respect that that is a very, very serious problem in this day and age. I happen to know that in some old NCPC studies there is mention made of literally dozens and dozens of potential sites - maybe something approaching 100 sites. To release documents that indicate these sites and then to provoke demands from the public for us to release studies on all those sites would not be, it seems to me, a useful exercise, especially if we were trying to manage 82 NIMBY debates, when in fact our real options at the moment were limited to four, five or six prospects.
I do not want to see us raising needless concerns among residents living near potential hydro sites by the premature release of some documents, when they may not be viable options in the short term, midterm, or even the long term. Long before decisions are made as to where a hydro site will be located, there has to be a very preliminary listing of possible sites. A hydro site might have some potential in a place; we have to ask if it is feasible to have a hydro site there and, of all the possible options, which would be the best one.
Questions like this do not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that a hydro project will be built in a particular site. Residents will be naturally interested, and their request for information input changes, while very natural, may well just confound the work of our planners at a very early stage. It is an important point that it means considerable resources, both financial and human, would have to be devoted to studying situations and responding to questions about sites that might never progress to the point of a pre-feasibility study.
To have to study a very large number of projects, when only a few will go forth, is a waste of the publics money. As a utility, the amount spent would have to be recovered through rates, through the power bill. I do not think anyone in this House would want to endorse such extra charges to the ratepayers.
That is very likely what would happen, and it has happened elsewhere, if information about the most preliminary kind of considerations of possible sites was routinely released.
The Members should know that a large number of potential sites have been looked at. A list of the most likely candidates has been made public, and I mentioned some of the ones on that list early in my speech. As the Member quoted me, from my remarks in the spring, further work will refine that list. When we are ready to do the pre-feasibility studies on a site, we shall go before the Public Utilities Board, take the relevant information before that board, and respond to whatever inquiries they have. In tandem with that, I have already committed myself and the corporation to provide such information about our plans in this House in the next month, which starts tomorrow.
Among the documents I intend to bring to the House is a strategic plan, which will be a five year planning document and will set out the manner in which the mandate of the corporation is to be effected, as well as the tools and resources that the corporation is preparing to use. The supply options studies we will be presenting will discuss the requirements of power consumers in the Yukon and the range of options under consideration for meeting those requirements. It will also contain information about load forecast systems, capital requirements and future requirements.
I also anticipate that, in those documents, we will attach an appendix to the supply options statement, which will be a list of the potential hydro sites in the Yukon and the information as to the various stages of consideration of each one of those sites.
The information I propose to table before the House is the useful and essential information that will enable both Members of this House, and the public, to make informed comments about the actions of the Energy Corporation and the work it has done to provide power to the people of this territory.
Accordingly, I would move that the motion before the House be amended in the following way:
THAT Motion for the Production of Papers No. 1 be amended by deleting all words after the word for and replacing them with the words, production of the Yukon Energy Corporations strategic plan and supply option studies by November 29, 1990".
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier
THAT Motion for the Production of Papers No. 1 be amended by deleting all words after the word for and replacing them with the words, production of the Yukon Energy Corporations strategic plan and supply option studies by November 29, 1990".
Hon. Mr. Penikett: To conclude, rather than raise the possibility that every document and every file of the Yukon Energy Corporation or its predecessors simply be delivered to the Legislature, I want to respect the undertaking I made in the spring to bring forward in the month that starts tomorrow the supply options, the supply plan, and the kind of material that will ultimately be made available to the public of the Yukon Territory through the Public Utilities Board. We, therefore, intend to respond to what I hope is the serious intent of the motion by committing ourselves to provide this information in the next month without creating any confusion that may be created by a strict wording of the text by the Member opposite. I would therefore submit that with the adoption of the amendment and in respect to the commitment that I have made we will satisfy the basic intent of the motion.
Mr. Phelps: I will have to speak rather slowly and disjointedly because as I speak I will be writing a proposed amendment to the amendment.
The concern I have with the direction taken is that the intention of the original motion for the production of papers is to get as much as is reasonably possible about major and minor hydro sites, and information about those sites, out to the public at this time. I must say I do disagree with the Minister in some respects. The Minister has said in his discussion earlier that normally the practice is that only just before application is made to construct a hydro facility is information produced for the Public Utilities Commission.
I can recall in Yukon, many years ago, the federal government producing and releasing discussion papers on a preliminary basis regarding five or six major sites involving major rivers in Yukon through its agency, NCPC. At that time the more or less, either/or, scenarios involved three or four potential sites on the Pelly River, a couple of potential sites on the Stewart River, and one involved the Frances Lake/Frances River area. Others involved the Yukon River, particularly Five Fingers Rapids and, later, the Eagle Rock site.
Prior to that, there were numerous discussions and preliminary studies done of such large hydro sites as the Alsek River and the Taiya Project, which involved tunnelling through the coastal range and spilling water down to tidewater from Bennett and Lake Lindeman. So there have been all kinds of discussion papers and studies in the public domain with regard to various sizes of hydro. There have been discussions about smaller generating potential.
The one that has been proposed by Yukon Electrics subsidiary on the McIntyre Creek is an old suggestion - the dust has been brushed off it several times over the years. We have heard two rumors about Primrose and the capacity there. At one time, we attempted to protect - and did protect - one on the Morley River, south of Teslin. There are numerous other ones that have come to the attention of Yukon residents over the years.
I feel that it is time the public had some idea of what it is this government, and this corporation, is protecting in the long term. There are certain decisions that have to be made now with regard to the future in land claims. From what I and others in the public have picked up, I understand that there are 10 sites that are being protected in land claims. I see no reason why the public should not be advised as to which sites those are and have the benefit of knowing something about the potential, size and relative costs of each, as well as the downside of each, the environmental impact.
I am sure the corporation and the government, in doing their duty to future generations in the Yukon, have done at least that kind of preliminary work leading up to the steps that are taken to negotiate protection in the land claims process.
Speaker: The Hon. Premier.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the point the Member is addressing, would he permit a question from me?
Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Speaker: The Hon. Premier.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not want to put this question in an argumentative way. I respect what the Member is saying, but would he not agree - notwithstanding what he says about pre-feasibility studies, which I think is at an earlier stage of the project than he is conceding - that release of background documents that indicate, hypothetically, of course, a site such as Primrose Lake as being under consideration, when in fact both the development company and the government may have already expressly excluded that site, could cause undue alarm. Would he not also agree that the government, until such time as withdrawals for hydro sites under the land claims agreement were actually firmly protected, could produce certain problems such as nuisance staking to make sites public in advance, not that they would be any great surprise, I suspect. The situation has changed from the day when the NCPC notations on the map would protect sites from further alienation by other federal authorities since they own the landowners. We now have a new situation where this government has to depend on federal protection until such time as we have the orders-in-council that constitute ratification of the agreements that we will make.
Mr. Phelps: I firmly believe that if we are priorizing those sites that ought to be protected for future generations, the public ought to be involved in discussing some of the sites and ought to have some input on whether they should be protected. The problem is that in many cases you have an either/or situation and surely it is incumbent upon us to get a true picture. For example, in my view, it would be silly to protect all of the five or six major ones I enumerated that were discussed by NCPC because there ought to be some priorizing done in order to determine which river - once you have one or two dams on a river it makes more sense to proceed in future projects with the same river because of the economies of harnessing the same source with subsequent dams.
I just feel right now - I am sure I feel much like every other Yukoner - that there are some pretty major decisions being made without any real input from the residents who live here. I would like to be told about the options and why the government is going to take steps to protect, on a priority basis, say 10 sites. That is really what I am looking for and that is really what I would be amending the amendment to achieve.
I do not know if I have answered the Members question fully but perhaps he would entertain a question from me. Is it true that there are to be 10 sites - is that the magic number? - protected under the land claims agreement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The short answer is yes. As I indicated in my earlier comments, the Member will know that, originally, NCPC had something like 90-some sites already identified and notations made on maps and they were essentially withdrawn from other disposition. There are a large number of those sites, some of which the Member mentioned, which are clearly for all sorts of political, environmental, social, economic and energy reasons not actually live options for any locally based energy corporation. What the land claims agreement provides for is, of course, a regime for expropriation and for the development of sites in a normal way.
However, it has been agreed that there would be 10 sites protected. I do not have serious disagreement with what the Member previously said but I do think that it would be prudent to provide some protection for those sites, whatever the nature of that protection is, prior to the publication - whatever discussion followed.
I do not want to go into the possible implications; I think the Member knows what they are.
Mr. Phelps: I am in the process of writing up a subamendment to the amendment. I have just about finished. I will read it in about one minute.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Without asking for an adjournment, which might provoke debate, Mr. Speaker might be flexible and permit us a five or 10 minute recess. There might even be consultation about the Members amendment, so we might have one that is mutually satisfactory.
Mr. Speaker: Are Members agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: The House will now recess for 10 minutes.
Speaker: I will now call the House back to order.
Mr. Phelps: During the break I had the occasion to speak to the Minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. I have decided not to move a sub-amendment to the amendment. I want to say that I will be supporting the amendment and the motion as amended. That does not completely get the Minister and the side opposite off the hook. I want to make it very clear that the information referred to in the amendment is some of the information I feel ought to be made public.
I have a much deeper concern. That is that we are looking at this point in history at taking steps to protect 10 hydro sites for posterity. I will, by motion, later in the weeks or months to come, be putting forward another motion to deal with this concern, that when the 10 sites are priorized by this government and YDC, the public will have, at the appropriate time, the chance to debate the wisdom of those 10 sites over other potential sites before the deed is finally done and the 10 sites are finally priorized and the protection is included in the final land claims agreement.
However, as I said, I will deal with that important issue at a future date. There is time. I am pleased that we are, I believe, going to be able to pass the motion as amended because it encourages me to see that some of the information so important to the future of Yukon with regard to the plans in the near future by the Yukon Energy Corporation will be coming into the public domain.
I intend to support the amendment to the motion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I accept the undertaking of the Leader of the Official Opposition. I appreciate him being so agreeable on this point. I would note what a tough negotiator he is and my first born child will be delivered to his house by year-end.
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased that this motion as amended appears to be about to enjoy unanimous support from the Members in this House. I would not want the debate to end, though, without making one short comment about the remarks that came from the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. I wrote down in quotation marks during his discourse the following statement in that he was proposing a more conservative route, a more prudent path. With that kind of remark coming from that particular Minister, one cannot help but enjoy supporting not only what he has moved by way of amendment to my motion but also much of what he has said in his interesting discourse.
Amendment to Motion for the Production of Papers No. 1 agreed to
Motion for the Production of Papers No. 1 agreed to as amended
Speaker: Motions other than government motions.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Mr. Brewster.
Speaker: Is the Honorable Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 1.
Mr. Brewster: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 12
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Kluane
THAT this House urges the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to upgrade the roads into the Mendenhall subdivision to at least the minimum standard as stipulated in the Mendenhall Homestead Subdivision Study; and
THAT it is of the opinion of this House that the leaseholders in the Mendenhall subdivision should be granted a two-year extension to their leases in order to complete their homes in view of the fact that the poor road conditions into the subdivision made it extremely difficult to bring building materials into the area.
Mr. Brewster: To start off, I would have preferred to have this in the backroom where I could really say what I wanted to say, but you are a friend of mine and I cannot say some of these things in front of you.
Firstly, I must give the Minister of Community and Transportation credit for the fact that he accepted my challenge and went out to Mendenhall and saw the condition of the roads. He also accepted the meeting, which we arranged; he went out and met the public. For this I give him credit. This is probably the last nice thing I will say about him all day. I think the Minister, although I will not speak for him, realized the problem about the road. There is something wrong, something very, very, very wrong. In fact, while we were out there, he had to leave his vehicle because his vehicle was stuck in mud right up to the running board and he had to walk around it. It was quite apparent what we had been telling him for, what, two years, that there is something wrong out there. There are a bunch of residents out there who have been saying the same thing.
There have been a number of very, very expensive four-wheel-drive vehicles completely ruined out there. In fact, sometimes I think it is a car wreck yard, where they pulled them off and just walked away and left some of the vehicles.
Most of this could have been avoided if the government had just done what its own policy said, if they had turned around and grubbed it properly and removed that material so that the road did not flood. All they had to do was look at the homestead subdivision study - it is right here, page 3 - and I do not think even a lawyer could juggle this around. It says very plainly: a 12-metre cleared and grubbed right-of-way with a drainage ditch and a layer of gravel where existing soil is inadequate. I do not think a lawyer could even get to court and turn that around; that is simple language that I understand. Maybe a politician figured the soil was good and they did not need the gravel but when they are in it up to the running boards, they could hardly say that.
Some people have given up, actually lost money and left there. They cannot sell this property because they do not have title, so they have to come back, crawling on their hands and knees to the government, because they have given up. I have actually seen women out there in tears over some of the messes they get into, but nobody in government or anybody else seems to worry about it. They sit in it in their own way and go about their own style.
When people are given copies of the Mendenhall subdivision study, which is this little green book - I will call it the green book from now on - and they are given the policy book, which is a little brown book, and the governments name is on every one of them, I think it only falls in place that most people would accept that that is the agreement that they are going to have. Anyone wanting to buy would look at this and say, You know, the government is meeting us halfway and maybe we should look at this. I quite frankly do not know why anybody, anywhere in Canada, would believe governments or politicians anywhere; that is my personal opinion, but it is a popular opinion across Canada right now.
I suppose the first argument that would come up is: what is a minimum standard road? Well, let us start with the policy. This was brought into this House as a glorious and wonderful thing they were doing - and it is. As I recall, I got up and said that it was a good start. So we passed it in the Legislature and agreed with it and commended the government for what a good job it had done, and they proceeded not to do anything - absolutely nothing.
Under definitions, it states plainly - and I will keep repeating this - a 12-metre cleared and grubbed right-of-way with a drainage ditch and a layer of gravel where existing soil is inadequate.
I do not know what it cost us, but it cost us plenty; there is no doubt about that. Surface utilities, road construction, no major construction difficulties are expected. I wonder if that cost us $10,000 because that is a bad statement. Although insufficient data exists for detailed roadway system designs as a general guideline the roadway structure may consist of 200 millimetres of 20 millimetres of crushed gravel overlaying 150 millimetres of prepared subgrade... I defy the Minister or this government to show me one bit of 20 millimetre gravel on that whole road. Maybe some rocks the size of my desk, but nothing else.
I go on reading the same thing again, and this is in the J.R. Payne report: No major construction difficulties are expected during the construction. Insufficient information is available for a detailed design of a roadway structure... I wonder why they did not get that information. However, there is a general guideline of a minimum of 200 millimetres of well graded 20 millimetre crushed gravel should be adequate for roadways. Please note that the above figures are based on subgrade preparation consisting of compaction of 150 millimetres to at least 100 percent of the standard. With all gravelled roads, some ongoing addition of gravel and periodic grading will be required...
The taxpayers paid a lot of money for that. If the government was not going to accept it then why did they bother even bringing it up? Why did they show it to the public?
When you turn around to start something and show a book on how good it is then you are expected to keep your work, but they did not bother.
I have a letter in my possession that was written by one of the residents. I believe all the residents would have gotten it. It attempts to negotiate at extra cost to the residents a new policy for road improvement. I might also say I was very disappointed because I have shown keen interest in this subject, travelled to the area with the Minister, and then went to a meeting and arranged for the Minister to hear the views of the people, and was not even given a copy of this letter. I do not think much of that, frankly. Then, I wonder what I could expect from the other side, anyway.
I would like to read the letter sent to this gentleman. I will just read part of this, as they know the rest. Number one, they admit they do not have a 12 metre road, and that the clearing width of eight metres is satisfactory for this option. That is not what it says in this book.
By saying that, they admit they never had a 12 metre road. We told them that to start with, but they have been arguing with us for two years on that.
Option number two, it says for comparison purposes, standard is slightly less than that of the road within the Robinson subdivision. What is the standard? What is the minimum road? Do we have a different one for each place? It does not add up.
On option two, which is probably the only one that is halfways reasonable, they get it, but the residents have to clean up the mess the government made when they put the road in. They have to clean up all the junk that was pushed out on the wrong side of the road and holds the water on the road, and no culverts were put in. That is the deal they have been offered. Quite frankly, I do not think much of that deal.
Before I go on, I would like to say they keep bringing up the Robinson subdivision. That is not all rosy, either. I have a file here that is pretty good. In this one, he says the road was intentionally constructed to a minimum standard to keep the lot prices at an affordable level. In other word, there are too many standards going on in this world: one for the people over at the Robinson subdivision, and one for those at the other end.
Having said this, I will concede that the Minister did try to do something. They hauled in a bunch of big rocks with a great cost. This was a help. I am not criticizing the Minister for this, but this is a shotgun way of doing things. It is a shotgun approach, and is getting us nowhere. It is not satisfactory. It is costing the government money, and we are gaining nothing. By the time they get to the other end on a shotgun approach, the first part is going to be gone, and they will have to start all over again.
I do not know what the people will do on the three options. I have not heard back from any of them, because I did not know the letter was out until it was written to me the other day. All I am asking, and all the people who are residents have ever asked, is that they obey their home owner policy. This is the policy they bragged about. It is quite plain on that policy. You cannot have two minimum standard roads. Minimum standard is one thing or the other. The homestead policy says this. Both are homesteads.
They should have a minimum standard road, and it says right there what it is. If both those roads are minimum standard roads, there is a world of difference between the two of them. Neither of them appear to even come up to the Mendenhall homestead subdivision study minimum standard.
I will now speak on the other part of the motion, which is quite plain, that it is the opinion of this House that the leaseholders in the Mendenhall subdivision should be granted a two-year extension to their leases in order to complete their homes, in view of the fact that the poor road conditions into the subdivision made it extremely difficult to bring building materials into the area.
I have brought this into the Legislature for the last two or three years. The agreement says they have five years to build their homes. Some of them could not even get near their homes. We must remember that most of these people have jobs, some of them as far away as Watson Lake and Faro, so they are working on weekends and holidays. They all had a dream of a home in the country and a piece of land of their own.
They are still there, although undoubtedly there are some who have given up. I know of one or two who have folded and walked out, but there is a core of them who will hold on there. They will develop this with or without the governments help. I do not think much of a situation like that.
I fully realize that, even with this extension of two years, there are going to be some who will not make the grade. We cannot make everyone suffer because of a few. There are some who will be dropping out of there, no question of it. Quite frankly, I think there are some who did not even look into it when they bought the lot, but that is not the main group. The main group is determined to stay in there and determined to get it.
There is no cost involved in this part of the motion. It is just a little courtesy to the people to recognize that things went the way they did. One of the constituents out there asked very plainly of the Minister at our meetin: why does the government not admit they goofed, kick somebody in the butt and get on with the job and be fair with everybody. That is a pretty good proposition.
And I, quite frankly, am not blaming the Minister for all of this. Quite frankly, he was mislead on this by a number of people when he should not have been. So all we are asking is that you honour the two books. This is what the government made the sale on. This is what the government put in the papers and bragged about what a good thing it was - and it is, but it got messed up somewhere along the line as so many government things do, and it got messed up badly. I am urging all the MLAs in this House to support this motion out of fairness to approximately 28 or 29 families who have moved into that area and are trying to making a home and are having one heck of a time.
You will notice, Mr. Speaker, I corrected my language. I could have said it much more strongly. I urge everybody. If I lose this motion, I shall be back again and again and again. It is something like the Alaska Highway - it is going to be around as long as I am around, and we will keep right on fighting for it.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to add my voice to this debate in support of the motion. I have constituents who are leaseholders in the Mendenhall subdivision and who have expressed their concern to me over the condition of the roads. They told me that they knew of people who had actually given up their plans to live in Mendenhall and commute to Whitehorse because of the roads. One of my constituents had planned to start building this summer and is now delaying the start of his home until next summer. This constituent did not ask me specifically to lobby for a two-year extension, but I believe serious consideration should be given by the Minister to that portion of the motion. As for the upgrading of the roads, I believe that this is an absolute necessity and I look forward to a commitment from the Minister in that regard.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I listened with interest to both speakers, the mover and the subsequent supporter of the motion before us and I would like to respond in some detail to some of the comments made and in some detail to some of the history of the problem surrounding the issue at hand.
There are actually two issues that the Member is addressing in the motion. One issue is the matter of road standards and upgrading and the other matter is the issue of extending the term under the agreement for sale that is given to residents by which time they must have a building closed to the weather.
I am going to deal principally with the issue of roads, largely because I have not been persuaded that extending the term under the agreement for sale, during which they must have a building closed to the weather, is necessary. I am advised that, at the moment, at least 12 residents have met requirements under their agreement for sale to have a building closed to the weather, meeting the required standards, as per the requirements of the agreement for sale. I have not had any particular or specific request regarding the extension of that term of five years. Just by way of explanation or clarification, under the terms of the agreement for sale, which is over a 10-year period, the residents are to have a building closed to the weather, on the property, within the first five years.
I am told that already 12 people have met that condition well before the expiry of the fifth year of their agreement. The matter was raised at the public meeting I had with Mendenhall residents and the Member for Kluane, but I have not had any further discussion on the matter since with the residents, nor have I had any lobby from the residents. If the Member has any information on that score to share I would listen to it. I do point out that it is quite a separate issue from the issue that the motion principally addresses, and that is the standards of roads and the call for upgrading.
The Member has quite accurately said that when the policy was first announced it was a good policy, a good policy that spoke to the needs for land acquisition being requested by many Yukon people. The homestead policy came about as a result of people wanting a particular type of land that met their particular needs. Their particular needs were to have a home in the country and to have a piece of land they could call their own, but the need was a little broader than that. There was a desire for a particular rural lifestyle, there was a call for that particular lifestyle on that land to be extremely rural, and that included without services, or at best a minimum of services. That all hinged upon the lobby to have the land come in very cheap. As you are aware, standing land policy calls for the sale of land either at market value or at development cost, whichever is the greater. Certainly, the elements of the marketplace have ruled that land sales are generally governed by a value well in excess of development costs.
The long and the short of it is that the homestead land policy came about as a result of a desire for a particular kind of land, in a particular location, with an absolute minimum of service for the principal reason of keeping the cost down.
That was achieved. The Member is quite correct when he cites aspects of the policy and the Mendenhall study that was done by the Department of Community and Transportation Services, wherein it talks about the absolute minimum of services that had to be applied.
In respect of the roads, the Member is correct when he cites from the homestead policy that road access into a homestead will be provided at a minimum standard. That minimum standard is subsequently identified as being a 12-metre cleared and grubbed right-of-way with a drainage ditch and a layer of gravel where existing soil is inadequate.
As I am, the Member is acutely aware of the standard of roads in Mendenhall. We have travelled them together and separately, and we have travelled them with the residents. The principal road leading into the subdivision, the Mendenhall Road, was a former road to a communications site, and I am sure the Member wants to correct me and say that it was to an army site. The Member is testing my memory, because we actually drove to the end of that road during one of our trips, and I am not sure we were certain what the road eventually led to. It appeared there could well have been a forestry operation, because there seemed to be considerable clearing done 40 or 50 years ago, judging by the stumps.
Nevertheless, I am not particularly sure where the road led to. My department officials did advise me it led to a communications site, but we did not find anything resembling a communications site.
The main Mendenhall Road is well above the standard of anybodys interpretation of the policy. Where we have the problem, and where the Member says something was wrong, either with the policy or with the subdivision, is on the three remaining roads within the subdivision. That is the Harrison Road, the Cranberry Road and Kelvin Place road.
The Member and I did cross those roads as well. We went through them and saw them in a pretty severe condition in June of this past summer. I believe I made the concession to the Member. I also made that concession at the meeting I had with the residents, which the Member attended, that certainly those roads are not to a standard I would want to drive on. We had a long and interesting debate on what constituted a minimum standard and the Member alludes to that in his remarks.
I remind the Member of the original purpose for homestead subdivision of land. The purpose was to allow a particular class of land in a particular area, to allow a particular lifestyle, at the minimum of service, and at the cheapest cost possible. That is probably the basic set of reasons why we do have a problem. We were trying to achieve those objectives of a particular class of land at a minimum cost, in a rural setting and we now have a problem.
The Member cited the Mendenhall homestead subdivision study that was done by the department. This was provided to people who applied for land there. It has several sections that speak to the roads. It is quite clear that when people bought this land that there was a minimum standard road - not too clearly defined, I accept, largely because to have brought it up to any kind of a standard that required a high cost would have reflected in the sale price of the land. The Member knows that. In the study done on the subdivision and provided to anyone interested in the land, it was pretty clearly stated that the subdivision is serviced only by minimum standard roads that are not capable of year-round travel. That is a fact. A couple of those roads are not able to handle year-round travel. The Member made reference to it, and I acknowledge it. When we went there at one point, we saw a vehicle stuck in June. Clearly it could not pass through at a given and particular time. It did not allow year-round travel.
There is the emphatic point made in the study, and it is even underlined, that residents must expect that access would be limited to four wheel drive vehicles during some parts of the year. That is an accepted fact. The standard was so low that there was an expectation that you could only make it through with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The Member alleges, as does some of the residents, that you could not even make it with a four wheel vehicle. In the combination of the study and the policy, I acknowledged to the residents that there is not a clear definition of what constitutes a minimum standard road. If you want to be extremely technical, the policy says that there shall be a road to the homestead area of a particular standard. There is indeed a road to the area. There is not a road to every individual lot and there was no intention to abuse anybody on the access by road to lots. The issue is that to have brought all the roads to an acceptable standard would have cost a considerable amount of money well in excess of what we would have wanted to spend in order to make those lots available.
The Member knows that the costs to the government on Mendenhall came in pretty low. The development costs associated with bringing Mendenhall onstream were deliberately kept at an absolute minimum, not just in relation to the roads but also in relation to everything else.
The Member, who has the departmental study, knows that the costs related to any development would include some planning money, some soil testing, some engineering, some legal survey work, some administration costs assigned to it and, of course, the costs associated to minimum road construction.
The Member, I believe from previous discussion, knows that we did not spend much money on the roads at Mendenhall. We spent a total of $65,000 on Mendenhall roads and that was essentially to do some spot work on the main Mendenhall road and push trails that we have now for Kelvin Place and Cranberry and Harrison. Therein, perhaps, does lie the problem. Those three roads, which were essentially pushed in by a Cat had, through the use by residents and perhaps others, deteriorated to a condition that made them impassable for a portion of the year.
The Member and I know that I did not treat that matter lightly and in fact did something about it. The Member knows full well that my department went in to the subdivision, and this is after I had gone through the subdivision and looked the roads over, and we spent considerable money. We spent something just close to $20,000 to fix up parts of Cranberry and I believe parts of Harrison and parts of Kelvin. So it is not as if we treated the matter lightly. I recognize that there was a poor road. I was prepared to do some upgrading. I did that upgrading and I advised the residents last November that any further work would have to be done on a cost-recovery basis. The reason for that is based on very sound principle.
As I point out earlier, there are a number of costs associated with the development and we kept them to a minimum. The average development cost on Mendenhall was $3,237 per lot. That is pretty cheap for bringing a four, five or six hectare piece of property onstream.
He knows that the land pricing policy requires us to sell land at market value. The market value of those lots came out at about $5,000. While we had only spent $3,200, the market value was $5,000, and our approach to disposing of the land was to allow the difference between the development cost and the market value to be written off at the rate of 10 percent each year. That is the equity portion that the Member is aware of. We think that was a very decent approach because it allowed people to pick up land at a very low price, on average, well under $4,000 for a parcel of land anywhere from four to six hectares large.
Having added just under $20,000 worth of additional work into the roads, that was not applied to the development costs that would have been recovered from the sale of the land. The Member knows that public funds paid for $20,000 worth of upgrading. Had we upgraded the roads originally to bring the development onstream, we could easily have spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars to bring the roads to a country residential standard, applied that against the lots, and we would have seen several thousand dollars more having to be paid for the lots.
That is essentially the point that I made with residents in the July meeting, that while I took the initiative to upgrade, at public expense, portions of the bad parts of the road for $20,000, I could not, in all conscience, create an additional expenditure that would not be recoverable to increase the value of the property. It essentially boils down to this: if public funds would be spent on upgrading the value of that property while the people are in the process of purchasing it for a legitimately low price, based on low development costs, it would not be fair to the rest of landowners in the territory. It is not, in principle, the correct thing to do.
My position was quite clear to residents in a letter I sent to them last November, with a copy to the Member, that $20,000 worth of work had been done; I am quite prepared to do additional work, but it must be on a cost-recoverable basis. That led to a series of meetings and discussions and eventually to the meeting in July 1990. I recognize the efforts of the Member in that meeting. He arranged for the meeting to take place and coordinated it. I simply attended it. I appreciated that. The meeting was on a Sunday afternoon, and the Member recalls the heat of the day. It was a productive meeting. It was a good meeting where I explained the governments position of not being able to assign more funds without recovering the cost for upgrading in some fashion. Yes, there was some considerable discussion about how the government did not live up to its agreement when it sold the land, because it did not provide adequate roads. That became a moot point. I repeated the acknowledgement that I agreed that the roads were not to a standard I would prefer for a residential dwelling, but they had to understand those roads were in that poor state of construction to deliberately keep the cost down. I think there was some acceptance of that in general terms. By and large, I got the impression from the meeting at Mendanhall, and the subsequent meeting I had in my office with representatives who followed up, that there was some general recognition that, yes, for any considerable upgrading they were quite prepared to pay, but certainly they did not want to pay the full cost of an upgrade that would be particularly expensive to them.
I do apologize to the Member if he did not get a copy of my most recent letter to the residents that follows up the meetings of this summer. I believe the letter of September 19, which he cited, outlined a number of options that the residents and the government could examine to address this problem of what to do with the road problem.
We are talking about upgrading of services in a rural subdivision. It is an issue that requires some specific guidelines. When the policy was put in place and people were picking up agreements for sale on the homesteads, the issue of roads became quite contentious. In short, people did not like the low standard of roads to that subdivision.
I can tell the Member quite bluntly that I will certainly be considering very carefully anything less than an adequate maintenance standard of a road to any subdivision in the future, largely because of the apparent reluctance on the part of residents themselves to upgrade a poor road. That is an expectation of government. If that is an expectation of government, we should perhaps put the road into a maintenance standard right off the bat so we do not have to deal with it as we have in the Mendenhall situation. Certainly the Mendenhall issue has given me reason to be very cautious in future subdivision developments: homestead, rural residential, country residential or whatever.
The Member has to understand that, whatever standard of road is provided to any subdivision, the principle of cost recovery for those development costs will apply. In other words, what the Member is indirectly encouraging here is an increased price for land. I do not say that critically or derogatorily; it is a fact of life. People are speaking against the absence of less-than-adequate roads. If that is the public point of view then, fine, we will put the roads in, but the customer must pay.
That takes me back to the most recent letter. Fortunately, I was able to have copies made up of that letter, and I will circulate it to Members so that they clearly understand the position I have taken. Perhaps it could be circulated to Members.
The Member referred to the letter in question, and he raised some aspects about the options. So that the Member completely understands, this letter is the result of considerable assessment about the issue after the public meeting this summer and the extensive lobbying of the past year, after the Members questions and comments in the House and, certainly, is an extension of discussions I have had with residents of Mendenhall. Essentially, what I have done is lay out a number of options for residents to consider as being the route to go in order to get the roads upgraded.
Options vary in the level of standards for roads. What I proposed to residents in the past, and am proposing in this letter, is that there be a cost-recovery approach to this. What I am suggesting here is that it not be an entire cost recovery, but that the entire cost be related to the agreement for sale. In other words, I am suggesting that $1,000 be recoverable directly on an improvement charge to each property, and the balance be assigned to the equity portion of the agreement for sale. To get the roads upgraded to a standard where they are maintainable by either a third party or government forces would require an improvement charge of a portion of the money to each property owner and the balance of the money assigned to the equity portion of the agreement for sale. If the requirement is to spend $100,000, then $38,000 is recovered from each of the residents and $62,000 would be applied on each agreement for sale on a pro-rated basis. That is not an unreasonable approach.
In that respect I protect the integrity of cost recovery. I prevent the land from escalating in value. I avoid the potential for speculation. If anybody wants to buy out their property in the seventh year they have to pay out the unearned equity. This is the approach I have taken and I think it is a profitable and calculated approach. I suggested something similar to this approach and various options at the public meeting in July that I had with residents. I have stated it in writing now. I have not heard from the residents although I understand residents were to have met at Thanksgiving and I expect that I will be hearing from them shortly.
I think this will resolve the problem of standards and will pave the way for maintenance of those roads under the policy for rural road maintenance. Essentially, it is certainly providing me with fresh insights into road standards for rural subdivisions.
Having said all that, it would not be appropriate to have the motion passed as it stands. I have proposed an amendment that I am sure Members will agree to support, which summarizes the explanation I have just afforded the House: that is, that we do address the issue of upgrading the roads in the Mendenhall subdivision, but we do it on the principle of a cost-recovery program that is established in consultation with the residents. This is a stage of consultation that is taking place now by the letter I have just circulated to Members.
THAT Motion No. 12 be amended by deleting all the words following the phrase the roads into the Mendenhall subdivision and replacing them with the following: under a cost-recovery program to a standard established by Community and Transportation Services in consultation with the lot owners.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services
THAT Motion No. 12 be amended by deleting all the words following the phrase the roads into the Mendenhall subdivision and replacing them with the following: under a cost-recovery program to a standard established by Community and Transportation Services in consultation with the lot owners.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The amendment, in essence, summarizes the approach that appears to have developed on this problem.
We recognize that the road standards require improvement. We have the problem that to upgrade those roads with public funds would create a disproportionate increase in the value of the property for the property owners. At the same time, we have the very strong statement from the lot owners that they want to see the roads upgraded. Property owners, you know, are perfectly entitled to upgrade the roads themselves, but that is not their wish.
They, as the Member said, selected those lots to have a rural country home and a rural lifestyle but the roads are not suitable to a standard that they would like to see. The approach, as I have outlined in the letter that I have circulated, suggests several options that we could follow. Each option is based on a certain level of cost and a certain standard of road upgrading. In each case, some work is anticipated by residents because they have indicated that they would be quite prepared to keep the costs down by doing some of the work toward the upgrading themselves. They made it quite clear to me and to the Member for Kluane that a number of them have the expertise, a number of them have the equipment and that they would be most interested in keeping the costs down by participating in the work. The Member recalls the advice that I gave to the community at the meeting, that they ought to strike a formal association in order that any capital agreements that may evolve as a result of their choice to do the work themselves could be legitimately done by a community association.
The fact of the matter is that I want to sincerely address the problem of roads at Mendenhall. I have indicated that sincerity by my countless communications with the Member opposite and residents. I have indicated that sincerity by meeting with them and by allotting $20,000 worth of upgrading to the subdivision. I am indicating my further sincerity in addressing the problem by offering a number of options by which we can legitimately resolve the issue.
The resolution of the issue will come only with an upgrading of the roads in Mendenhall. That is the message I am getting from the Member, and that is the message I am getting from the residents. I am quite prepared to upgrade those roads. That upgrading is going to increase the value of the property in that subdivision. A portion of the cost recovery has to be assigned to the property. The additional portion is assigned to the equity component, and it is in keeping with the spirit of the original agreement for sale.
As I explained to the Member before, so that this is perfectly understood, the original agreement for sale required that the development costs be directly recovered under the agreement for sale, but the land sale is governed by market value. Keeping that principle in mind, I have assigned a portion to development and a portion to equity under the market value. It maintains the spirit of the original agreement for sale, and the spirit of the way the land was disposed of in the original instance.
We may well have a resolution here. From the public meeting, I did not get any hostile message that people were not prepared to pay anything. If anything, I got the message that people were prepared to pay something. That is the only fair way to go. That is a responsible way to go. It protects the integrity of the land agreement for sale, and it maintains the principles enshrined in land disposal methods.
With respect to the amendment, I can only appeal to Members for support. What I have stated in this debate is now a matter of public record. What options I have provided to the residents is also a matter of public record, having circulated the letter.
I can only say that I await a response from the residents, either through their Member or directly from them. The Member and I have clearly been able to cooperate and address this issue, albeit not always agreeing.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Minister he has three minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thought I could go for two hours. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the reminder. I was concluding my remarks.
I would simply conclude by seeking support from Members for the amendment. As I have indicated, my commitments as Minister are a matter of public record. The letter is now in circulation. I appeal to the Member for Kluane to lead the way in that support.
Mr. Brewster: I regret that I am going to vote against this. This is the same thing as selling a dead horse to a guy and when the guy complains, the vendor saying he will give him $10 with which to bury it. Come on, let us face it, these people brought property. It is a known fact that the government goofed. They misjudged the whole thing, and now they are going to make the taxpayers pay for it. The taxpayers would have been much further ahead to have gone for the $8,000 Robinson subdivision lots when the vehicles they lost are taken into consideration. Some of the vehicles were worth $30,000. It is about time we admitted that we goofed. It is also about time this Legislature started looking after what is in this House. We honoured this. Now we go out and tell the people that it does not count. No wonder people do not have much use for politicians. I do not blame them.
Anyway, we went around looking for the microwave; the department said that they had never been out there. He was on a wood road that was put in by Mickey Black when the Alaska Highway went in. He went down, got stuck in the swamp and had to turn around and come back.
I do not know where they took him after we left, but there is one big pothole with a big sign on it that you cannot cross. It was up to my knees. In July. In July when we had very little snow. That is not a pothole, that is a lake.
Both books say that it will be crushed gravel. I defy them to find any crushed gravel. They brag about what a good road the Mendenhall road is. The Mendenhall road was built before they ever even got out there. It was built years ago and it still stands up. It is still better than the road they built.
The Minister made a mistake and talked about the trail - maybe he meant it. Some of my horses would get sea sick trying to travel down that trail, or stumble over the boulders. He said they put $20,000 into it last year. I beg to differ with him. It was the year before. He said at that meeting there would be some repairs done that year. They tell me there have not been any. I may stand to be corrected because I have not been out there since July.
Nobody asked for a country residential road. We asked for what was in the policy. That is what we have asked for. A simple thing. The government told us that this is it. Even a politician cannot turn it around - a 12-metre, cleared and grubbed right-of-way with a drainage ditch and a layer of gravel. It is very plain. If you go to an outfit and buy something and the man has told you what the rules are, then abide by the rules.
The government goofed. Why should these people pay? I agree with the principle they should pay for the lots. I have no problem with that. But when the government goofs, it should be man enough to own up and pay it out, and be quiet. Do not go around and try to make the customer pay because that is no way to live in this world.
I regret very much that I will have to go against the motion as amended. If it is put down then I will face the people and give my argument. If they disagree with me, then they can come back to the Minister and make a deal.
Mr. Nordling: I am going to have to agree with the Member for Kluane on this. I cannot support the amendment. I am not as well informed as either the Minister or the Member for Kluane, but my understanding is the lots were offered for sale in the winter, and the people who bought them did not know what the roads would be like. They expected a minimum standard. I think it is unfair for the Minister to say that the only requirement was that the Mendenhall road meet that standard and the others do not have to. As the Member for Kluane said, I think the government messed up here. It did not do what it was supposed to do.
There is not much question in my mind that, on this particular issue, the government should bite the bullet, pay for upgrading those other roads to a minimum standard, and chalk it up to experience. As the Minister said, he has learned a lot from this. I think he should make this mistake right and, next time, he will not get into the same trouble.
Mr. Lang: I am quite surprised to see the length of time that this particular motion is taking. When the Member for Kluane brought it forward, I thought it would be a very simple and straightforward motion to deal with and, now, it has turned into a debate that is going to rival many other ones we have had in this House.
I have been in this House for a number of years, and I have listened to both the Member for Hootalinqua and the Member for Kluane talk about the desperate state of condition of the roads in these two subdivisions, both Robinson and Mendenhall. It has come up on a continuous basis and was really exemplified to me when we had the opportunity of seeing a picture of it in the local newspaper, where the reporter and the Member for Kluane had to get out and walk. There was a picture of mudholes so deep that you could not get through. To me, that does not meet the general requirements of the condition the roads were supposed to be in for the purposes of the people in these subdivisions.
It really takes me aback when I hear the Minister of Community and Transportation Services stand up and say the people can form an association and go out and apply for money. Well, Mr. Speaker, you know, and I know, and the Member for Kluane knows, but obviously the Minister of Community and Transportation Services does not know, that most of these people have gone out there to get away from government, not to form a mini-government.
Yet, at the same time, we just automatically, off the top of our heads, say to go and form an association, and maybe you can get a grant and become a welfare recipient, just like the rest of us. That is not the point. The point that the MLA for Kluane and my colleague, the Member for Porter Creek West, makes is that the government made certain commitments and did not meet them.
The Member stands in his place and so piously says he must recover all costs as far as that subdivision is concerned.
If the Minister looks back in the history of his department and into land development, he will find a subdivision in Porter Creek where the water and sewer that was installed did not work. The government took it upon themselves to fix that water and sewer installation at no cost to the landowners in that particular subdivision, because the government did not provide the services that they sold to those people. That is a fact.
All of a sudden, they say you have to pay the whole shot. The MLA for Kluane, and the people in that community, are asking for the road to be upgraded to meet what they bought, and it has not met that. Surely the Minister can relate to what he and his confreres produced as a policy. He should be man enough to stand and say they must honour their commitments.
The Minister says they will just charge more money. These are working people. These are people who cannot necessarily shell out $1,000 to the government, or $200 more a year to the government. They do not make $70,000 to $75,000 a year like the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. These people are living in a lifestyle they have chosen. They have chosen to go out into the country under certain conditions.
Talk about fairness and justice. If we in this House are not prepared to honour the commitment the government has made by policy, which was accepted by all Members of this House at the time it was provided for public discussion, then I say to the people from Mendenhall, or anyone, who can they depend on if the government is not prepared to be honourable and honour their commitments?
I regret to say that I, like the MLA for Kluane, have been listening to this debate with a great deal of interest. I was not going to speak, but I am amazed at the position the government is putting forward. They are not prepared to see the error of their ways, nor are they prepared to stand up like a man and say a mistake was made.
The Member for Mayo grimaces. He should stand up and talk in this debate and tell the people in Mendenhall how sorry he feels for them for putting a policy together that was so poor they got stuck going home. Perhaps he should stand up today and talk about the people in Robinson who may not get water delivered tomorrow because the truck cannot get up their roadway.
The Member for Mayo should stand up and take some responsibility for the consequences of a policy that was so poorly put together you cannot get into your house.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Lang: I will sit down when I feel like sitting down. The Minister of Education is so used to telling his public servants what to do, he figures he can come into this House and order people around. I am one guy you are not going to order around. I am not the guy you are going to push around and maybe fire.
You should be proud of yourself. You have your little hit man standing beside you talking about the policy that you concocted and now he has to speak for. I suppose you gave him his response in caucus and now he is supposed to present it to the House.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get back to order.
Mr. Lang: Order? Order? Mr. Speaker the smoke is clearing. The people from Mendenhall are making their way home and cannot quite find their house because they cannot get in the road that the Minister of Education so proudly announced about two and one-half or three years ago in his capacity as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
In conclusion, I want to ask all Members of the House to consider what the MLA for Kluane, who knows his riding better than anyone else, has said. He has worked with these people on a daily basis to try to rectify a situation that was not of their making. They were sold a bill of goods unbeknown to themselves that did not subscribe to the conditions of their sale. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services has admitted to that.
I want the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to withdraw this amendment and vote for the main motion the MLA for Kluane has put forward, in order that the people from Mendenhall get the service they have paid for.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am rising, largely in response to the challenge that the Member for Porter Creek East put forward, to defend the policy and the intent of the policy that was put forward a couple of years ago, and also to make it clear that the reaction of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services today has been nothing less than sensitive to the situation in Mendenhall, but also true to the intent of the original policy that was put forward some time ago.
The policy presented sometime ago was to get land to Yukoners at the lowest possible price. The point of the program years ago was to make land available to people so they might be able to have a plot of land on which they could put a house and, over time, in a frontier spirit, develop the property, their area, with the understanding that all future development would be cost recovered.
The long-standing principle of all land development projects in this territory is that they are cost recoverable, with the exception of those thoroughfares that lead into a particular subdivision, if it is a subdivision that is being developed.
The Member for Porter Creek East brought up the specious example of the Porter Creek C water and sewer system, which he knows perfectly well...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please speak to the amendment.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I am puzzled by your ruling, given that I am responding to something that you already ruled is germane to the debate.
The point of the matter is that where there is, in general terms, a problem with a particular subdivision, and a contractor has not performed the service, the government in that particular case will take the contractor to court. The government did not swallow its pride and do the manly thing, in the words of the Member for Porter Creek East, and simply pay more taxpayers dollars into fixing up the subdivision. What it did was take the prudent action, in accordance with the direction of their lawyers, of providing remedial work and then proceeding to take the contractor to court. The matter is still before the courts.
The Member is completely wrong. He did not understand my development before and does not understand it now. Consequently, he has added nothing to the debate so far, except to prove himself as the person he is. That is as far as I will go. I will not take it any further than that.
One important issue the Member for Kluane is raising - which is probably the only germane issue in this debate - is whether or not the people who purchased the Mendenhall lots were misled by the government. That is the fundamental issue. Were they told they got something they should not be getting? They received this document, entitled the Mendenhall homestead subdivision study, which is a description of the subdivision, maps, pricing information, a descriptions of any services in the area, descriptions of geographical feature - the works. It is a document of some 30 pages in length, describing the subdivision. In presenting the subdivision for sale, the government provided information with respect to the road.
The point of the matter is that the government provided thorough information about the situation in the Mendenhall subdivision. It says the Mendenhall homestead subdivision is serviced only by minimum standard roads, which are not capable of year-round travel. Underlined, it says, Residents must expect access to be limited to four-wheel-drive vehicles during some periods of the year - not 12 months. That is what it says in the document given to them. It says, ... some periods of the year.... Neither upgrading nor services were planned, nor were they included in the purchase price.
Residents may make their own arrangements to upgrade and maintain access roads if they wish; however, costs and planning for any such road upgrading is entirely the responsibility of residents. The residents knew. This is something not everybody who sells a piece of land will give to a prospective purchaser: maps, descriptions, geographical information, a caveat about the road itself. This is a very clear indication that this is a frontier subdivision, just as it was intended. This is a program to provide plots of land for people to have access to, and all elements of the project are clearly defined before people put down one dollar.
The way the program was announced and originally conceived, this was supposed to be frontier property. This was supposed to be for people who did not have cash but who could eventually work their way up in the frontier style to develop a lot, a homestead, once they had the resources to pay for it. Under normal circumstances, the government would come in, put in a first-class access road and all the services, and they would charge the people for those services. That is the way it was, and that is the way it is in some places in the territory.
That is the principle the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and I, when I was the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, were pursuing.
Having said that, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, beyond the call of duty, has already provided extra funding for the upgrading of that road. In my own opinion - incredibly beyond the call of duty - the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is offering to perform $250,000 worth of roadwork and take back only $38,000 in revenue.
That $250,000 the Member for Porter Creek East is suggesting has to be provided for, and this work the Member talks about, has to be funded by all the taxpayers of this territory. In normal circumstances when people buy a lot, when I buy a lot, when anybody buys a lot, even in Mayo, they will be paying the cost of development of that lot.
The Government of Yukon has gone a country mile to provide affordable lots and a range of lots; this is only one class of lots. If you want to pay the going price, you can pay the going price for a better class of lot. In a frontier subdivision, as I recall in my reading of history and I am sure some of you will recall first hand, the government did not come in and build roads and services. The people had to develop the land themselves. This is the concept the public wanted. Despite what the Members for Kluane or Porter Creek might say, this was the concept for this particular plot of land. It was not to get cheap land at the expense of the general taxpayer. It was to get land that was undeveloped so they could develop the homestead over time. That was the concept. The people over there now are playing cheap politics by trying to equate the homestead land to the country residential class, or the more elaborate classes of land currently for sale by this government.
The Government of Yukon, as a developer in the past, has not always developed perfect subdivisions. I admit that. I am certain the Member for Porter Creek East would admit that, given his experience in Haines Junction.
In this particular case, and starting with this government, information and information packages to let the buyers know all the benefits and costs associated with any particular development were put forward - by this government; not the previous government.
The information was put in clear form, up front. People knew the score. It was clearly delineated. It is my view that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, through the options he has provided, has gone more than a country mile to try to resolve the difference between high expectations, actual policy and the agreements that were signed originally with the persons who purchased into the Mendenhall subdivision.
I, personally, find the concept that the Member for Kluane proposes objectionable. I cannot support it, but I do commend the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for doing as much as he has, given the policy parameters and the long-standing land sale practices of this government, to accommodate the people of Mendenhall and satisfy their concerns. Their level of expectation far outreaches what was agreed to in the initial sale package and far exceeds what was told to them in the document entitled Mendenhall homestead subdivision study. I would support the amendment.
Mr. Phelps: I have been listening to the debate on this motion and the amendment with considerable interest, because we have somewhat similar problems in my great riding. Of course, I refer to the past and present problems with the access road to the Robinson subdivision. It is ironic that I just received word, about an hour and a half ago, from the person who delivers water to that subdivision that he can not get in and so the residents are going to go thirsty. So, of course, I will be bringing this up at another time with the good Minister.
I want to speak more particularly about the motion, and the amendment, before this House at this time. It seems to me that the side opposite is clinging to the strict, legal letter of the policy, and they go back and back and back to a few of the paragraphs in the policy and read it into the record time and time again.
What they seem to be missing is this: in Canadian history, it has long been a principle of law that there are certain rights that one cannot contract out of. Basic fundamental human rights cannot be contracted out of; when provisions reach a certain standard of not being fair they can no longer be enforced. Those are principles in equity in the common law of Britain and in our common law in Canada. I submit to the Members opposite that somehow or other people who were duped into buying these lots, not understanding the true nature of the road, are being told that they have contracted out certain rights they have as citizens. I refer to the right of people in similar circumstances to be treated equally by government.
I refer to a principle I put to the previous speaker, the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the person who takes full responsibility for this marvelous policy we are debating today. I recall writing him a letter in 1985 on this principle. At that time, there was a group of squatters who lived on a road not far from the Robinson subdivision. I submitted to the Minister then that they were entitled to similar services to other residents living on similar roads in the Hootalinqua south area. He agreed. He provided upgrading and regular maintenance to a road that serviced three families - a long road, several kilometres long - on a regular basis, despite the fact that, at that time, all three of the residents on that road were squatters.
Time has passed by and those residents continue to receive the benefits I have described. They continue to reside there and are well-respected, good citizens of the area. They take part in the decision making in their area, they are involved in the new move for hamlet status and have been involved in the community club. Subsequent to the 1985 question in the House, the answer and the correspondence was, I thought, a very fair-minded move on the part of the Minister to treat these people on an equal basis to the other residents in similar circumstances along the Carcross road.
These people have obtained titles to the residences. They obtained these titles under the squatters policy, which in many ways is similar to the policy we are discussing today.
They were not, at any time, expected to suddenly anti up a bunch of cash because they got the land for free. There were not any demands by the Minister at that time that these people should pay $1,233.77 each and then they could work the rest off by living somewhere. The reason very obviously at that time was that Minister was of the view that people ought to be treated fairly, even handedly and equally by government.
All we have now is a situation where just down the road and over in Mendenhall we have people with very serious problems who wanted to be treated in a fair and even-handed manner by this government, people who know that this government provides these services and this kind of upgrading in other circumstances to people who went out and carved out their homestead in Yukon at a time when they were unable to legally obtain title to the land. Those people got these services. Those people got upgrading. Those people got treated with an even hand by this government. Suddenly, that same Minister, and his successor in the job are saying oh no, oh no, we cannot do that. Heavens no, we cannot treat these people fairly and equally. They have contracted out of their rights as a citizen of the Yukon. They signed a piece of paper and they must have read this document. They are no longer equal citizens. They are second class citizens. Why? Because we have this wonderful legal document that says a, b, c, and d. So they signed a piece of paper and tough for them, tough for them. We are not going to give them the same kind of fair treatment or the same even handed provision of services forever. As long as they live in that place they are going to be second class citizens.
It does not matter that the squatters did not pay anything to the government for their road or anything for their land. It does not matter that they pay the same taxes or they have the same kids going to the same school.
What matters is that suddenly we have a policy and we are going to stick it to these people because we cannot admit we were wrong. We cannot admit we provided roads that were totally unsatisfactory.
Years and years ago in our history, judges in England said to the mortgage holders and the bankers: you have a mortgage here that says a person can be kicked out right away because he misses a payment and then that is it and he loses the house and it is yours; that is what the mortgage says. But, fairness and equity will not allow this unconscionable instrument to be exercised to the letter of what it contains. Right now, anybody living in Yukon who has a mortgage from any of the banks that says on the face of it you miss a payment and you are out on your duff and we get your house, can rest assured that we have a system, judicial, and in most parts of Canada, political, that tries to ensure that the exact letter of the law is not applied in each and every circumstance. As I said before those rules, those extra letter-of-the-law rules, are called principles of equity. In equity, the courts have said, there are standards of fairness that must be applied. Even today, when it is assumed that the person who signed the mortgage read it and understood it, and yet still missed the payment on his house. What I find as passing strange, and I must say so, is that the side opposite is putting itself in the position of the bank and wants the guy kicked out - kicked out - because they want the strict letter of the law applied.
I find it passing strange that after all the lip service paid by the side opposite to human rights and all the wonderful things in their platform that they can stand in their place and say here is something that I bet the guy did not understand when he bought the lot - look at this.
If you really concentrate on this, it probably means that, even though you can only get into the lot one day a year, we are off the hook. Let us get real and talk about some equity and fairness, and get off the pot. The notion that you can contract out of your rights to equal treatment, and contract out of your human rights, is not on anymore, at least not in the modern world. When it comes down to it, that is the position we are confronted with.
Because they signed a piece of paper, they are not entitled to the same standards as other people in similar conditions in the same part of the Yukon. The squatters got their road maintenance and upgrading for nothing just down the road. Surely these people are entitled to even handed and fair treatment. I have not spoken to one person who feels that fairness is being exercised by this government in the administration of this policy and in dealing with the problems that arise because of bumbling mistakes made by this department. Rather, they are trying to pretend that there is no problem, that no mistakes were made, and that they stick to the strict letter of the policy, and to hell with the guy who gets kicked out of his home by the bank.
Hon. Mr. Webster: He gets 8.5 for the performance, but four for the content. I want to briefly address some of that content. I was not planning to speak to this, but I did become interested when I heard some very interesting positions being brought forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition.
He claims that the poor residents of the Mendenhall subdivision were duped into buying lots in this homestead subdivision, even though they were aware of our policy, which contained the standards in great detail. They all understood and agreed to that policy when they signed the agreement and purchased the lots.
I have heard a very detailed, but not convincing, argument by the Leader of the Official Opposition to the effect that, even though they did know what they were doing in signing this agreement, according to the standards set out in the policy, and even though they did meet the requirements as set out in the standards of the policy, the government should buckle under to the demands of the residents out there and make some improvements.
The whole argument he presented has brought to mind the policy of the former Tory government when it developed land. That was very simple. I clearly remember when it developed half of a subdivision of country residential lots in Bear Creek. It was basically swamp land. The Leader of the Official Opposition says that agreements do not mean anything at all. That is what he is saying in his argument. Now I understand, with that kind of an argument, why the policy of the previous Tory government in developing land was, Buyer beware.
And that is basically what it was. People have had no assurance whatsoever that they could not only get to their property but that in fact that it would not be under water every spring. So, understanding the argument now of the Member opposite has put forward, I can clearly understand their policy and I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that Yukoners want no part of a buyer beware policy.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Ms. Kassi: Agree.
Ms. Hayden: Agree.
Mr. Phelps: Disagree.
Mr. Brewster: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Lang: Disagree.
Mr. Devries: Disagree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Mr. Nordling: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, seven nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment to Motion No. 12 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Brewster: Maybe it is my age but, when we get 25 or 30 families, and we can sit in here and joke and laugh - and that includes both sides of the House - no wonder I get so frustrated I wonder what I am doing here. It is not a laughing matter. Some of those people have lost everything. Nobody seems to care. They can laugh and snicker about it, and it is very funny. Maybe I should not be in politics, because I cannot take things like that seriously. I try to solve things, not play around like this.
In July, the Minister knew I was bringing this motion for the two-year extension, because I publicly stated it. He cannot deny that, because there were a lot of people sitting there.
I have lost a lot of others in here. What I feel toward this House, not because I lost it, but because of the attitude they took, is nothing but disgrace and disgust, and that will stay with me until the day I leave here.
Motion No. 12 agreed to as amended
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of Mrs. Firth.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 2?
Mrs. Firth: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 6
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Department of Health and Human Resources (Yukon), in consultation with the Association for Community Living, the Child Development Centre, the CYI, Alcohol & Drug Services and all other agencies familiar with FAS and FAE, should develop a job description and advertise immediately for the position of a FAS Coordinator for Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: I brought this motion forward again. I do not recall whether we have had the opportunity to debate it before or not. I know the motion has been on the Order Paper, but perhaps not in as an explicit form as it is this time.
I was quite concerned, as were other people in all the associations mentioned in the motion, when I heard the Minister of Healths announcement with respect to the special committee he is getting together, consisting of three deputy ministers: the deputy minister of Education, the deputy minister of Health and Human Resources, and the deputy minister of Justice who are going to sit down and develop some strategy on how to deal with the very serious problem we have in the Yukon with respect to fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
I was very discouraged when I heard what the Minister was doing, because, as far as we are concerned, deputy ministers must have at least 50 meetings to go to every week, and we did not feel they could allocate the time needed to discuss this issue - particularly in light of all the research, studies and reports that have been done on fetal alcohol syndrome. I have a file that contains only some of the reports and it is at least two inches thick. I hardly think that we need to have three deputy ministers start researching this particular problem all over again.
I would like to mention first of all in my presentation the study that was done by Dr. Asante. This study was done for the Council for Yukon Indians and presented in August 1985. It is quite a comprehensive study called A Report on the Survey of Children with Chronic Handicaps and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Northwest British Columbia. I believe there are 41 recommendations in this report, and they would probably cover all the aspects of whatever the deputy ministers would be discussing in the formulation of the strategy they would recommend to the Minister. I was also very concerned to hear the Minister say that he was concerned, because there was no one coordinating efforts with respect to this problem. That is something we have been telling this government for the past four years: there is some need for this type of coordination.
Some time ago the Minister of Health, in his capacity as Government Leader, attended a workshop that was presented in the evening by the alcohol-related birth defects organization, which was an ad hoc committee that was going to present information to the general public specifically with respect to fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. This meeting took place in 1988. There was a fair number of participants, mostly people who worked in the field, field workers, and a few people from the public. As a result of that awareness session, there was a strong representation made with respect to the concern of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects in the Yukon.
One of the requests and recommendations was that the Government needed to appoint a coordinator to address some of the issues that had been presented at that public information session. That was back in 1988.
I also recall writing letters to the Minister of Health of the day, who is currently the Minister of Justice, requesting that she consider the appointment of a fetal alcohol coordinator. We had tabled a motion in the Legislature requesting that the Government look at hiring a fetal alcohol coordinator. Although we did not get an opportunity to debate the motion, I did follow up with a letter to the Minister, at which time she responded by saying that she would give it very serious consideration. She talked about what a high priority and a concern it was to this government. The letter she wrote me was dated July 8, 1988 and still nothing has happened with respect to the position of a fetal alcohol coordinator.
I again raised the issue in the Legislature the last time we sat. I requested that the government appoint a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. It was in response to a workshop that had just been held in the community of Mayo, a workshop involving a presentation on fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects by Dr. Ann Streissguth, who is of the College of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science from the University of Washington.
At that time, she made a presentation to parents, young adults and joint council members. There was representation there from the Council for Yukon Indians, and the teachers and service providers were all there.
After a day and one-half of discussion about this particular issue, there was a consensus on the part of all participants that they should immediately begin lobbying the government for a fetal alcohol coordinator, and that one of their priorities was to have a fetal alcohol coordinator position established right away and someone to start doing that particular job.
I would like to mention to the Minister of Health and Human Resources that, after the particular debate in the House last time we sat in May with respect to the fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator, he indicated that the department did not seem to have a very positive attitude about that kind of approach. I have some concerns about the feelings within the department when it comes to the strategy committee being comprised of three deputy ministers. One of them is his particular health official. Unless there is some clear direction given to these people, we do not feel that the results of this deputy minister committee are going to be very positive.
I would like to quickly indicate to the Minister what we are looking for when we talk about a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. We are looking for someone to coordinate the resources for the children, keep track of the adults and children, and connect them to the resources. We do not want someone who will shuffle paper and coordinate departments. We want someone there specifically to address the needs of the adults and children. That is what all the organizations are asking for when they talk about a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator.
It was done specifically to address the issues and the needs of the children and the adults and put them in touch with services available. I get very concerned when I hear they are doing speech assessments in some schools but are not providing speech therapy. These are the kinds of kids who need that kind of service. That is something the fetal alcohol coordinator could pick up on.
Motion to adjourn debate proposed
In light of the time, I guess I would have to request unanimous consent from all Members of the House and move a motion to adjourn debate. I would like to propose the motion that we now adjourn debate. I look to the Speaker to follow through.
Mr. Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 12 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:25 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled October 31, 1990:
Yukon Workers Compensation Board, 1989 Annual Report, for year ended December 31, 1989 (M. Joe)
Public Accounts of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 1990 (McDonald)