Thursday, November 8, 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.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Point of Privilege
Hon. Mr. Webster: Before I proceed with the tabling of returns I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all Members of this House, and in particular to the Member for Riverdale North, for the use of unparliamentary language yesterday in Question Period.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have for tabling the Yukon Tourism season end report, June to September, 1990.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have for tabling responses to a question from the Member for Kluane.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Petition No. 1
Mr. Brewster: This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly:
THAT whereas the economy of the Kluane region is dependent upon mining and tourism, and whereas tourism in the Kluane north area is currently experiencing a decline, and whereas placer mining operations in Kluane north, as well as quartz mining operations by Map & Mineral Incorporated, and by All North Resources Limited, are being opposed by groups and individuals who have environmental concerns, whereas these mining operations are already subject to stringent environmental guidelines and can be developed with appropriate environmental safeguards, whereas these mining operations can provide local residents of Kluane north with much needed employment and business; therefore the undersigned ask the Yukon Legislative Assembly to support the placer mining and hard rock mining operations in the Kluane north region by urging the Government of the Yukon and the Government of Canada to work collectively with the miners and companies involved to ensure that these mining operations are allowed to proceed with appropriate environmental safeguards for the benefit of local residents and the economy of the Kluane north region.
There are 224 names.
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Current Energy Issues
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise today to advise the House of this governments involvement in national plans to deal with the impacts on oil and gas supply brought about by the Persian Gulf crisis and related energy initiatives.
Even with the current situation in Iraq and Kuwait, no oil shortages in Canada are anticipated for the first quarter of 1991. Production from other countries should be able to meet international demand during this period.
While oil supplies in Canada have not been affected to date, we have experienced dramatic price increases on petroleum products. These price increases are influenced by international markets.
In a recent federal/provincial meeting, this government was involved in the organization of plans to address oil management in light of the crisis in the Persian Gulf. The current situation with regard to both supply and price is considered by all involved as serious, but manageable. It has been agreed that the best way to help Canadians through this time of high prices, is to encourage voluntary conservation of fuel oil products. By using less energy, individuals can save money and help avoid oil shortages.
To encourage conservation, the federal government will be using a national advertising campaign and establishing a toll free line for public enquiries to education Canadians on fuel restraint measures.
Energy conservation initiatives are not new to this government. I am sure that Members of this House are very familiar with the saving energy action loan program, the internal energy management program and the Yukon energy alternatives program.
In light of the Persian Gulf crisis, the energy branch of the Department of Economic Development is putting even greater emphasis on supporting projects that focus on energy conservation. Senior government officials have participated with their federal and provincial counterparts in expediting the fuel restraint communication program, entitled Demand Restraint Campaign. This process continues today.
Recently we launched a public information campaign to reduce global warming. This can best be accomplished by reducing the use of fossil fuels, and although it focussed on ways to improve the environment, it is also in keeping with the objects of the Demand Restraint Campaign.
Through the Yukon energy alternatives program, a $30,000 contribution was awarded to the Whitehorse Transit Commission to conduct a route and schedule analysis. The objective of this study is to increase ridership on local buses, thereby decreasing traffic congestion, parking needs, air polluting emissions and fossil fuel use in the city.
There are many other initiatives the energy branch has undertaken to promote energy conservation that complement the national information program, Demand Restraint Campaign.
Mr. Speaker, the way in which we use our energy, and, the forms of energy we use have a profound effect on our economy, our environment and our very quality of life. The current crisis in the Persian Gulf re-emphasizes how vulnerable we are to external supply and pricing pressures on our vitally important energy.
This emphasizes the importance for us to be more energy conserving and self-sufficient, and this government is working toward that end. The situation in the Persian Gulf is volatile and, should it deteriorate, international oil supplies could be significantly reduced. If this happens, Canada would take up its responsibilities under the international energy agencys coordinated emergency response measures. A federal energy supplies allocation board would be activated, and the possibility of fuel rationing may be considered at that time.
As Minister of Economic Development for the Yukon, I am committed to close involvement with my federal and provincial counterparts. A representative from my department met with federal officials this past week to continue the Yukons role in the coordinated national effort to manage the oil and gas situation.
The active participation of the Yukon government in the national planning to deal with oil prices and supply and the campaign to conserve energy are in keeping with the governments energy policies. We will continue to develop our energy policies in concert with national efforts toward the end of greater self-sufficiency through greater energy efficiency.
Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to see this government is taking action with respect to the current fuel crisis. Some of the programs that the Minister mentioned here today have worked reasonably well, and I commend the government for that. We, on this side, agree with the demand restraint program, but we are disappointed that we have not planned well for the future hydro development in the Yukon. It is unfortunate that we are now having to burn thousands of gallons of fossil fuels to produce the needed electricity for Yukon homes and businesses.
There are several other concerns I would like to raise with the Minister as well. With this announcement today, will the Government of Yukon be asking the Yukon Housing Corporation to replace all the electric baseboard heaters in homes with alternate heat sources? Does the government now plan to utilize the special furnace at Yukon College to offset the fuel costs by burning waste paper, and will this program be stepped up in the future?
The last concern I have relates to the Ministers comments and the possibility of fuel rationing in Canada and in the Yukon. Does the Yukon government have a policy on fuel rationing, and if we do, could the Minister table it in the House? If we do not have a policy, when is the Minister expected to develop one?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will certainly allow my colleagues, who are responsible for both the Housing and Development Corporation to speak on the operations of those two corporations with respect to the matters the Member mentions.
The Yukon College heating system can be used to burn various types of homogeneous fuels, and when there is sufficient demand for those fuels, the private sector will undoubtedly pick up the slack and provide them. It has been considered uneconomic in the past for one institution to provide enough market in order to encourage a new entry into the fuel supply business.
The government does not have a policy on rationing at this time. It does have a policy to develop a national policy jointly with the federal government, which also does not have a policy on rationing, nor do the provincial governments. That policy development will take place over the course of the next year.
I hope that rationing will not be needed and that war does not occur in the Persian Gulf, but I think it is prudent to be prepared should we have to ration. I think we have some lead time, given the national supply of oil, to prepare a plan to deal with any eventuality we may face.
I am sure the Member will be pleased to know that the government is interested in seeing that such a policy is developed and that it is developed in conjunction with other jurisdictions in this country.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Power rates
Mr. Phelps: Speaking of energy, I have some questions to do with the upcoming increases in power rates, which are of major concern to all Yukoners.
In 1987, the Yukon Energy Corporation had a net income of $6.6 million. In 1988, its net income was $9.7 million. In 1989, it was $5.5 million. The total for those three years was $25.8 million. If you subtract the subsidy payments, the total profit comes to $23 million for those three years.
With profits like that, why are Yukoners facing power rates increases this January?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are two main reasons why there is an increase in the bills, as opposed to the increase in rates, planned for the beginning of January. The rates are not being increased but the power bills of many consumers will go up.
There are two reasons. One is the GST, which will add seven percent to everyones power bill. The second reason is that the temporary rider, which amounted to a reduction of the bills ordered by the Public Utilities Board, ends on December 31.
The consumers of electricity throughout the territory, especially those outside Whitehorse, will actually be paying less for power, still, on January 1, 1991, than they were on April 1, 1987, and the people in Whitehorse will be paying approximately the same. There is, at this point, no increase in power rates.
Mr. Phelps: In 1988, the power corporation gave $8.6 million of its profit to the Yukon Development Corporation. Why did that occur when they knew bills were going to be going up for electrical consumers in 1991?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member already knows the answer to that question because we debated it a week ago Wednesday. I indicated to the Member that the very substantial investments made in energy development in the last few years by the Development Corporation and its subsidiary, the Yukon Energy Corporation, meant that almost all the profits from the Energy Corporation for the next several years will be used to increase the supply of energy that is needed by the people of the Yukon Territory. That is why the rate of return, which has been approved by the Public Utilities Board, is there in order to give us a surplus which can be used to supply power, and put the money into capital projects for that purpose.
Mr. Phelps: In 1989, the power corporation gave $7.6 million of its profits to the Yukon Development Corporation. Why did they do that when they knew that power bills would have to go up in 1991?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Again, I suspect the Leader of the Official Opposition is trying to use a little smoke and mirrors. It is interesting that he has become so recently a defender of the GST. The main reason the power bills are going up - power bills, not power rates - on January 1, 1991, is that the federal government will be adding seven percent to those power bills as a result of the Conservative sales tax. The other reason, as I indicated, is that the temporary reduction, the rider ordered by the Public Utilities Board, is coming off on December 31, 1990.
To correct the Member again: the rates are not going up.
Question re: Power rates
Mr. Phelps: Is the Energy Corporation going to give, or has it already given, some of its profits to Yukon Development Corporation during this calendar year? We do not yet have the books for the Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The annual reports of both corporations will be tabled. As I indicated to the Member in debate over a week ago, the vast majority of the surpluses of the Yukon Energy Corporation for the next several years will be devoted to the project of improving the energy supply situation in the Yukon Territory.
We have already made substantial expenditures on that account. That is the case this year, and in the last couple of years.
Mr. Phelps: We have all this money, and all these profits being paid by the power corporation to the Yukon Development Corporation, and we know that the Yukon Development Corporation lost $11 million on the Watson Lake sawmill. Are those losses the reason that the power corporation paid its profits over to the Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is proving himself to be a bit of a humbug again on this one, because I know he has read the territorial accounts. He knows very well that this government advanced $14 million to the Development Corporation. That is detailed in the latest public accounts, because I saw it there myself.
The Member is incorrect in his assumptions. I told him the surpluses from the Energy Corporation were being used now, and for the next several years, for the purposes of increasing the power supply in the Yukon. The Member should also know that the Development Corporation was, however, created to make certain strategic investments. Those opportunities are also ones that will be considered on an annual basis by the Development Corporation board, according to its mandate and according to law passed in this House and supported by Members on all sides.
Mr. Phelps: In 1989, the total sale of power by the Energy Corporation was $18.6 million. Why do they need to increase the cost of power to consumers, when the power corporation has given $16.2 million - almost a years gross revenues - to the Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member can repeat his question. If he refuses to hear the answer when I give it, I will have to repeat it. There are two reasons why power bills will be going up on January 1.
The first reason is the federal government has imposed an iniquitous and unfair tax on the people of the territory, in the form of the goods and services tax, otherwise known as the Conservative sales tax, of seven percent. That is going to affect peoples power bills, except for the first quarter. The Energy Corporation has decided to give relief in the first quarter, but it is going to affect our power bills by seven percent from there on in.
The second reason there is an increase in the bills is because the temporary rider, or reduction, which has been on the power bills for the past several months, is coming off. The net effect is that energy consumers, consuming power all around the territory outside of Whitehorse, will be paying less for power on their power bills on January 1, 1991, than they were paying on April 1, 1987.
The Member ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ... says I have not answered the question. The Member asked why the power rates are going up. The power rates are not going up.
Question re: Occupational health and safety/Curragh report
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice with respect to the occupational health and safety branch of her department. There was a report done by a gentleman from Saskatchewan, I believe, Harry Rosen, regarding safety conditions at the Curragh mine. The report was paid for by public funds and it is of interest to the union and of interest to the Curragh mine owner. The media asked for the report and it was denied access to the report. I asked for the report. I was refused a copy of the report. I would like to ask the Minister why she will not give the public a copy of this report.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The person who did the report was not Harry Rosen, as was mentioned in the Whitehorse Star, it was Phil Rosen. The inspection was done in August, I believe, and we have a responsibility to carry on these inspections in any places where we feel that that kind of an action has to take place. It involved concerns that were brought out by the union and work that we had done prior to that, the kind of things that we were involved in in regard to occupational health and safety in the workforce. When the inspection was completed, copies of it were given to the parties involved. It is our position in this government that we not set a precedent in regard to giving out that kind of information.
It was our responsibility to work toward trying to respond to the things that did come up in the report. I think that if we started giving out copies of those reports in regard to one work site, then we would have to be doing it for everyone else. I mean, there are all sorts of work sites involved in this territory. There are construction camps, there are garages, there are insurance companies and...
Speaker: Would the Member please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Joe: ...we were not about to set a precedent.
Mrs. Firth: Well, we thank Phil for his report. However, the report should be public information. It should be provided to the union, it should be provided to the mine and the public should be aware of what the contents of the report are, too.
There were several orders in the report...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: I am just about to ask it, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask why she would not say whether any of the orders in the report had been enforced or not. Why would she not give the public that information?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I was not giving out information through the media because the kind of information being asked of me was a little more than that indicated in the paper. We have followed through on the report. I believe we have a job to do with regard to working toward a safer place for our Yukon employees. We had a job to do and we were going to follow through with the report and things that were unsafe were to be dealt with through the normal process of the occupational health and safety branch and the mine.
Mrs. Firth: Will the Minister not say whether or not any of the orders in the report are being enforced? Why will she not say that? She still has not told us. Following through with what? What does that mean?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member for Riverdale South is responding to information she read in the newspaper. Unfortunately, in the newspaper many things were not mentioned that I talked about. Of course, the good things that are happening are not mentioned because they do not make a really good story. We are following through on our responsibility to make work sites a safer and healthier place to work. That is our job. I want to assure the public we are following through and that we are doing our job.
Question re: Occupational health and safety/Curragh report
Mrs. Firth: A man was electrocuted at this mine site. There has been controversy within the union with respect to safety conditions. The Minister refuses to make public a report that has been made, with recommendations. She refuses to answer many questions about this issue for the public information in the media. I would like to be very specific with the Minister. I would like to ask her whether the monitoring program is in place. Has that monitoring program been put in place? That was an order of the report.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The story in the media that the Member is referring to is really a story about what I did not say, and interpreted, also, in a different manner. We are following through on the report, as I have indicated. My department has met with the parties involved and has gone through the mine. It has told the mine manager what the areas of concern are and has asked for the mines response. We want an action plan from the mine with regard to what it is going to do about some of the concerns registered in the report. There will be follow-up and monitoring of the situation. That is all in place.
Mrs. Firth: The story that is going to come from the Legislature this afternoon is going to be the same as the newspaper story: the Minister will not answer any questions.
I asked if the monitoring program is in place that this report ordered. She still has not answered that question. Is the monitoring program in place - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Joe: It would be very, very nice for her if I were to stand up here and answer yes or no but she tends to make all kinds of allegations as she is asking the question. I have already indicated to her that we are following through on what the report had asked us to do. We have things in place accordingly. We are doing our job.
Mrs. Firth: She just said nothing: we are following through; we are monitoring this; things are in place. She has said nothing specific. This report made very specific recommendations. I would like to ask the Minister to tell me what specific recommendations that this report made that her department is following through on; which ones, very specifically, if any?
Hon. Ms. Joe: My responses are probably an indication of the kind of questions that I am getting. I have already indicated to her the kind of things that we are doing. We have itemized each and every area of concern that we have that was indicated in that report, and we are following up on each and every one of them. We have asked the mine to provide to us the kind of action that they plan to take in order to rectify the situations that were identified in that report. We are following through on that.
Question re: Occupational health and safety/Curragh report
Mrs. Firth: Well, the Minister mentioned in the paper that there were a bunch of kinds of questions she did not expect to get asked, so I guess we are going to have to ask those kinds of questions again that she did not expect to be asked.
I would like to know what happened with respect to the concern about the ambulance facilities and services not being adequate to address the safety concerns and the first aid attendants. What has her department done about that?
Hon. Ms. Joe: Once again, she is referring to the news article and I really did not expect the kind of questions that I was being asked because they did not have anything to do with the report but had to do with a number of other issues that were rumours. Those are some of the questions that I was not prepared to respond to. I have no problem giving the Member an up-to-date account of what has happened so far, including a copy of the letter that we wrote and their response to us.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has a job to do. We are just asking her to do it. She has a responsibility to the public to answer these questions. We do not want rumours. A report was done and we want some answers with respect to the direction she has given her department to implement the recommendations from that report.
I would like to ask the Minister if she will bring back to this House a full accounting of what her department is doing and the action she is taking on every recommendation so that we can get some answers.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have already indicated to her a number of things my department is doing. I know my responsibilities in the area of occupational health and safety. That is why we have improved things, through the risk reduction program. It is a very important part of occupational health and safety.
I will be proud to bring back the information to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us when?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I will try to have it before the end of next week.
Question re: Saving Energy Action Loan Program
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. It concerns the SEAL program.
In a study completed in 1988, it is stated that as of June 1988, 273 loans were in process. Of those 273, 92, or 33.6 percent, were overdue in their payments, and 27, or 10 percent of those, had 10 or more overdue payments.
As of June 1988, $430,370 was owed in overdue payments. The report goes on to say that this rate is very high and that the information system used to track the loans is inadequate.
It also states that the credit checks, prior to loaning the funds, were not routinely done.
My question to the Minister is to ask him if we have updated our computer systems so that we can more closely check on the repayment of loans.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The answer is yes, we have been improving our collection procedures for the SEAL program.
At the present time, there are about 600 loans in the process of being collected. The experience in the last few months shows that the loan repayments received have increased dramatically. I regard this as at least one indicator of the success of the new collection procedures.
We did recognize there was a problem collecting SEAL repayments and I am satisfied, upon review of the situation in the last couple of days, that the situation is definitely improving.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister says that we have 600 loans. Does he mean 600 overdue loans or is this the total number?
I wonder if the Minister could also give us the current status of the SEAL program with respect to the delinquent payments. How many of those 600 loans were overdue or are they all overdue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I cannot tell the Member how many payments are overdue. I can tell him that the department is trying to retrieve the loans that have been dispersed, and is having good success in doing so. For example, there were approximately 300-plus receipts in October with a dollar value of approximately $60,000. That is up considerably from September, which was up considerably from August. This is a positive indicator that loan collection procedures are working.
Mr. Phillips: I am surprised the Minister did not have the current status of the program. I did give the Minister notice of this question several days ago. Today, he told us that the department has been working the last several months on delinquent loans. Surely, they would have known how many were delinquent. It would have been an easy figure to bring to this House.
Has the Minister instituted a system of credit checks prior to loaning any more funds under the SEAL program?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Not wanting to be argumentative with the Member, I can only tell him that he did not give notice of the question of the number of delinquent loans being currently in existence. The Member appeared to be concerned about the amount of funds we were collecting, the collection action procedures and whether or not they seemed to be adequate.
In review of the situation, I have discovered that the department has improved their record of loan retrieval quite dramatically over the past year and, particularly, over the past couple of months, in recognition of the recommendations of the report the Member identified, that the department had done and made public.
The information can be retrieved, if the Member wishes, and I will endeavour to do that.
With respect to the other matter the Member mentioned, my understanding is that reasonable credit checks are done for SEAL loans. I am not aware of any particular situation where a credit check for any particular loan was considered incomplete or unsatisfactory. I am prepared to consider any information the Member may have that might justify that concern. My information is that the system, as it is established right now, is fine.
Question re: Traplines
Mr. Nordling: I have a couple of follow-up questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources. There are several people in the gallery today who have been directly affected by the Department of Renewable Resources policy respecting traplines.
My first question is to ask the Minister if he has been able to find out why my constituent has been unable to get a meeting with the concession and compensation review board and if a meeting can be scheduled in the near future.
Hon. Mr. Webster: When the Member opposite raised the question yesterday, I indicated that I was not aware of the particulars surrounding this matter. I was not aware that it was delayed. I have contacted my department officials. They informed me that this is indeed an unusual case, a unique case in that one of the members of the three-member compensation review board is related to Virginia Lindsay and has asked to excuse herself from hearing this case. One of the boards regulations is that all three members of the board must hear the case and make recommendations. So the department is now in the process of choosing an alternate to sit on that committee to hear the case.
Mr. Nordling: Well, I would like to know from the Minister how long that would take and whether there is a problem with the legislation. There are also others who are having problems with the present policies, and I would like to ask the Minister what his position is with respect to the concern that native women are being discriminated against by this government.
Hon. Mr. Webster: There is nothing wrong with the policies that are in place regarding the board or the operation of the board. The regulations I have stated is that all three members must be present to hear a case and make a recommendation. I think what is negligent is not naming an alternate to sit on this board when in the case one of the three members, for some reason, such as this, decline or are unable to hear a case. With respect to how long - well, my department assures me that they are in the process right now of appointing an alternate in order to expedite the hearing of this particular case.
With respect to the question concerning alleged prejudice against some aboriginal trappers, I can assure the Member that that is not the case at all. The policy of the department is that traplines will be renewed and concessions will be renewed as long as there is evidence to indicate that the trapline is being used.
Mr. Nordling: I appreciate the Ministers interest in this, and I hope we see some action on the issue. My second supplementary is also a follow-up to a question asked earlier. The Government Leader, the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Minister of Justice were going to discuss the request of the Yukon Humane Society that the Yukon government support their call for a public inquiry. Has that discussion taken place and has a decision been made?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is certainly a creative application of the supplementary rule, but I am pleased to answer the question. We are, of course, deeply concerned about the facts surrounding the matter which the Member has again brought before the House. But following our discussion, we have had to confirm our view that the decision by the federal Crown not to proceed with the matter can only be reviewed by the Minister of Justice who perhaps has access to their facts. We have, accordingly, conveyed the representations from a number of individuals - a significant number, letters are still coming in - to the federal Minister of Justice, who, we are confident, will impartially judge whether or not an inquiry into the situation is necessary.
The Member, as a practising lawyer, will understand that I have no ability, nor does anyone on this front bench, to obtain the information used by the Crown prosecutor in making a judgment as to whether or not to proceed with the matter.
Question re: Mt. Hundere access road
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services with regard to the Mt. Hundere access road.
In the water board application and in the environmental review panel review, there is a proposed abandonment plan that stipulated the scarification of the road to the Mt. Hundere mine site. This would add considerably to the bond that the mine has to put up.
Since an anticipated $1 million from the resource transportation access program is going towards the road, which would make it into a public road, and with potential for further mineral development in the area, would the Minister be prepared to make a commitment at this time for the road to remain impact as a benefit to all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The RTAP funds that have been committed to the construction of that road are contingent upon a socio-economic study being done. No funds will be released until that particular condition is met.
The Member raised the question about whether the road will be left open after abandonment. It is entirely premature at this time for such a decision to be made. I am sure the Member understands that the road, while being a public road, is entirely the responsibility of the mine to maintain; however, ownership belongs with the territory.
The short answer is that 10, 12 or 15 years in advance of a possible abandonment would be premature for a decision to be taken on what the Yukon government may wish to do with the road at that time.
Mr. Devries: I was quite aware of that, and that is why I said the potential $1 million for the environmental review.
It is my feeling that once this mine is put into place, as one of the first mines coming onstream under the environmental review panel, it could possibly become an attraction once the mine has run out and the abandonment feature has been put into place.
This could be used as an example to the public and the environmentalists on what can be done to a mine. Does the Minister not agree that this should possibly be considered?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think the Member makes a very reasonable point and as I indicated in response to his first question, the control of roads in the territory is the responsibility of the Yukon government. That would place us, as a government, in a position to affect what happens to that road upon abandonment. The Members suggestion that the road may have some resource importance or some specific tourism importance is a very valid possibility and I would say to the Member that it is entirely possible that in our jurisdiction, that is, in our ability to govern conditions of road usage, we may well be putting forward a position to leave the road open for public access.
There would still be the question of maintenance, but I would expect that if we took a position to keep a public road open, we would probably be faced with maintaining that road. So there are a number of costs implications in such a decision but the Member makes a reasonable suggestion. My concluding remark is that it is premature at this time to make a firm commitment as to what the Yukon government will do 10 and 15 years down the road with that road.
Mr. Brewster: On Wednesday, November 7, a serious accident occurred near Annie Ned Creek, on the west Alaska Highway. Is it true that helicopters were used to bring the injured to the hospital, as an ambulance might not have been able to make the trip?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member did not state a policy question of the sort we can answer. He is asking a question of fact, I believe. He did not identify the Minister whom he wanted to answer the question but I will be happy to take the question as notice and come back with the answer to the question of fact, if that is what he is seeking.
Mr. Brewster: He is playing politics, but that is all right.
Has the Minister of Community and Transportation Services instructed all his foremen that they are to cut down on the cost of maintaining these roads?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would emphatically deny that, categorically. There has been no instructions to reduce the maintenance of roads. What I can tell the Member, and he can verify it in our budget debates when we get to the mains, is that we have protected the level of maintenance for the level of Yukon roads. We have added an inflation factor to carry any increased costs. Certainly, at any given time, highway personnel and supervisory personnel are to exercise prudence in the management of those funds, but the fundamental responsibility of maintaining roads in a safe condition to the best of their ability is paramount.
Mr. Brewster: I have a supplementary for the same Minister. Is it true that snowplows never reached the area of the accident until late in the afternoon?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot verify that on my feet. I take it as a query to check out. I will get back to the Member, respecting the specifics of road maintenance on that section of road on that particular day. I cannot answer precisely when the snowplows made it out to that section of the road or, if they were late as he alleges, what the reason was for such a late departure.
I will undertake to the Member, possibly before we get into budget debate in a few minutes, to have a more thorough answer on that.
Question re: Outfitter compensation
Mr. Lang: With respect to the outfitters compensation identified in the main estimates this year under land claims, the amount identified is $500,000. Could the Minister of Renewable Resources table the policy for the distribution of such compensation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The outfitters compensation contemplated in land claims is where there is demonstrable commercial loss. The situation is that the territorial government reluctantly agreed to pick up part of the costs in negotiations. Other costs may fall to the federal government.
In every case, the situation will vary, as there may well be outfitting concessions on settlement land that will continue with arrangement with the First Nation involved. In other cases, they will not. In most cases, I am sure those will be negotiated arrangements. The compensation provisions are ones where there may be cases where there is a commercial interest, or an investment, which is lost to the operator.
Mr. Lang: There must be a written guideline and policy with respect to how compensation is to be paid out and what needs must be demonstrated. In view of the fact the Minister has tabled a budget for a minimum of $500,000 under the Department of Renewable Resources, can he table a policy?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With respect, the Member says there must be a policy. The Member will understand that we have not yet even ratified this land claim agreement. We are hoping to do so in the very near future. I am sure the Department of Renewable Resources is developing policy in this area. We have provided some money for meeting the obligations in a number of respects for the land claims, whether it is the education training fund, or this other one. The money is provided for this, but we cannot yet accurately assume that X, Y or Z outfitter is going to be displaced, or that there are going to be concessions that have to be bought out. As the Member would know, there have only been one or two cases of that previously in the territory because, until land selections are made, and we get into the final negotiations with each First Nation, we will not know what cases are going to be at issue.
Mr. Lang: I find it passing strange that we do not even have one dollar identified in our budget for the purpose of the Whitehorse sewage treatment plant, but we have $500,000 without any policy. The Minister indicated that there may be more money required from the federal government. Could the Minister of Renewable Resources or, if he does not know, perhaps his colleague, tell us how much projected or estimated costs are going to be allocated to outfitters compensation in the final package? There must be some projections.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, there is an obvious difference between the two cases mentioned by the Member: the situation of the land claims agreement and the sewage treatment situation in Whitehorse.
We have a negotiated agreement for land claims and we hope it will soon be ratified. The negotiations on sewage treatment are not underway yet because there has been no agreement on what kind of operation will be needed or will be effective. There is a big difference.
We have, in anticipation of reaching a land claims agreement, provided more money in the coming budgets. I am sure once we reach agreement on the sewage plan, that will be the same.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House do now resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a brief recess.
Mr. Devries: I have a question in regard to the Alaska Highway job from the Smarch River to Logjam Creek, which was done last summer. It was my understanding that job went quite a way past the deadline. I do not see it in this budget. Did that job come in on budget, or were there any logistical problems with that project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The construction job the Member refers to is a capital upgrading job. Capital upgrading on the Alaska Highway is still handled directly by Public Works Canada. We have a services agreement to provide the maintenance for the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road. Those two highways are still the responsibility of Public Works Canada. When I was talking to Members yesterday about taking over the responsibility for five roads, those were the remaining roads under federal responsibility for capital upgrading. The Yukon government is now responsible for capital upgrading and maintenance on all Yukon roads, save the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road.
Mr. Devries: So, the project directly south of Watson Lake, roughly around the Rancheria bridge area where they just widened out the road, would fall under that same category?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes, the Member is correct.
Mr. Devries: I wrote the Minister a letter not too long ago regarding logging trucks and the way they are licensed and, possibly, that there be a flexibility established on the weighing of these logging trucks. At times, one log can weigh as much as 1,000 kilograms. In B.C., my understanding is they have a give or take of 800 kilograms where they can go 800 kilograms overweight without being charged for a permit. As the logging trucks tend to make a lot of trips in one day, it is a real nuisance for both the scale operators and the truckers to have to get an overload permit every time. In B.C., they have a blanket permit that gives them a little bit of leeway. Is the Minister considering implementing this in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I recall the request, or inquiry, of the Member. I did have discussions with departmental officials on the score. We did not make a decision. There was going to be some further investigation done on it. The Member recognizes some of the problems surrounding that, particularly in light of what appears to have taken place last year on that section of road from Tuchitua to Watson Lake. The roadbase there is not capable of supporting considerable overload. If you lighten or lessen the restrictions on overload, you run a higher risk of damaging the road base. The Member has raised the issue of repair of that section with me in the past. We have spent approximately $100,000 more on maintaining, or bringing back to standard, that section of road than we ordinarily would have on regular maintenance. So there was quite a little bill involved with some abuse of overloaded trucks.
In my discussions with departmental officials, I wanted all of these concerns addressed in any kind of recommendation for a decision. No, I have not made a decision. I am waiting for recommendations from the department in the light of some of the things I have just outlined to the Member.
Mr. Devries: I would dispute the fact that the trucks were overloaded on the Campbell Highway. They were hauling in the spring when they should not have been hauling; that is what it amounts to. At that time, the truckers had agreed to haul at night, but in June it does not freeze at night anymore.
This problem really came up once the computer system came in. My understanding is that once the computer is programmed, there is no flexibility in the program. You could punch in a logging truck, and it would be in a different category. If the roads are frozen, I do not think 800 kilograms would be unacceptable. Quite often the trucks are right on. Most of these trucks are equipped with electronic scales, but those scales are not that accurate and can give or take 1,000 kilograms. It is important to the trucker that he get as much on his load as possible. If he is restricted to a legal load, he will be restricted to going 800 kilograms below his maximum, and there is not that much money in logging to start with. Logging around Watson Lake has been a losing proposition anyway. There are still some people trying to make a living at it. It is essential that something be done very quickly as there is another logging season coming up. I hope something will develop with the ex-government sawmill. My understanding is that if it does, they will be logging sometime in January.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member raises a reasonable point. Part of what he raises is what I had concerns about based on some previous experience. My previous experience has been where Yukon Alaska trucks, that are limited to a certain maximum load capacity, in an overload situation, wanted some latitude at the top end where the loading of an ore truck exceeded the maximum capacity by a few pounds. They wanted to be allowed to carry on with that overload in excess of an allowed loading.
It gets to be quite a problem because the minute you start inching the ceiling upward, where do you stop? If you allow another 1000 pounds to a load, one can logically argue: well, one extra log would only put it 200 over. Should that be allowed? There is a problem there; you have got to have a cut-off point. That was one of the things that I discussed with my officials.
I guess the short answer to the Member is that I appreciate the economic argument he is making in support of truckers, to permit maximum loads. The Member has to appreciate the problem of regulating what indeed is to be an absolute maximum to ensure that you do not damage the roads, requiring repairs that can blow your budgets out of the water. We have a responsibility to maintain roads to a reasonable standard. We have a responsibility to have a reasonable standard. If you allow overloads, and the roads cannot take the overloads, maintenance costs increase. Invariably, by any logical extension of the argument, you will then be required to charge back your increased maintenance to the holder of the permit who got the overload.
That is the principle of the agreement with Curragh Resources. We allow the overload; they pay a dollar per ton for every ton of overload and that in fact is expected to pay for the increased maintenance to the highway.
Just by way of sharing some information with the Member, I am currently in discussions with Curragh Resources to raise that amount because we have done a preliminary costing analysis of what our increased maintenance is on the ore haul and it is in excess of what we collect on the overload permit agreement.
What the Member is seeking is something similar and he has to recognize that, should it be allowed, there will no doubt be some impact on the road and there will have to be some assessment of whether or not the holder of the permit should be back charged that increased amount.
Those are some of the questions that I posed to my officials. I do not have the recommendations back yet but I do recall the request of the Member. I do recall the issue the Member asked about. The department is addressing it. I have one concern about it. Is the request that he made of me to have overload permits allowed for loads to be hauled during the winter? Or are they for both seasons?
Mr. Devries: In B.C., the permit is limited to use between certain dates. After those dates, the permit automatically changes. The trucker does not have to go to the scales. He automatically knows that, after April 1 or March 1, he is restricted to a lower limit.
The Government of British Columbia and the B.C. truckers seem to be happy with that. If it works down there, I do not understand why it cannot work here, as our break-up is really not much different than in the northern half of B.C.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the information. It will probably help expedite any decision on the matter. It stands to reason that, when roads are frozen, they can withstand a higher load without any damage. What we are talking about is a winter usage permit for overload.
Having clarified that on the record, I will ask my officials to conclude their assessment on that, and I will deal with it.
Mr. Devries: Does the Minister want to talk about Ace Asphalt now?
In relation to the logging trucks, as the Minister is aware, we now have a safety officer in Watson Lake to do inspections on trucks. One of the concerns he once raised with me was regarding the guidelines for logging trucks. It appears the Yukon has not established a rigid set of guidelines for him to go by, as far as logging trucks go. I am not sure if he is presently going by something that has been quickly drafted up, or if he is going by B.C. regulations, or something else. I am sure he would appreciate some direction in that area.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to take notice on details of the question. The national safety inspector there is operating under some standards that exist for all vehicles with respect to weights and dimensions, and various other standards.
The Member is suggesting there are no specific regulations governing logging trucks. I take that as notice and can only pursue it with my officials to find out more detail on what basis the inspector is operating under.
Mr. Devries: Last year, I brought up with the Minister the question of farm plates, and asked whether the Minister had reached any agreement with the other provinces in regard to a farm plate for the Yukon. My understanding is that there are still some problems. When a Yukon farmer goes out of the territory to pick up equipment, his plate does not seem to have the powers of a plate in B.C. or Alberta. This is quite a concern to some people who have a truck and like to go and pick up their fertilizer and supplies in the spring.
Has the Minister been doing anything about that?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer is, yes. With respect to B.C., it has actually been quite productive. I have met and raised the issue with the B.C. Transportation Minister. Subsequently, when that Minister changed during the course of this past year, I followed up with the new Minister who, in turn, confirmed a willingness to enter into a reciprocal agreement with the Yukon.
My latest recollection of the correspondence is that our respective officials are drafting the required agreement that our two jurisdictions would have to sign to permit farm vehicles to operate under the same rules in each others jurisdiction. If we do not have that by spring, a snag has developed. At the moment, it is looking very good for such an agreement to be in place.
Our former director of transport services is now with the B.C. ministry and is helping us to pull the agreement together.
I have not entered into any discussions with Alberta. I have not had any request from the industry to include Alberta in a reciprocal agreement for farm vehicles. I would be curious if the Member has had any inquiry with respect to Alberta. On the B.C. side, though, we are doing quite well. I am looking for an agreement some time this year.
Mr. Devries: The main problem was B.C. related. I believe they do go to Alberta occasionally. They pick up the fertilizer in Grande Prairie, so Alberta would come into the picture, although not for a great distance.
What is the status of Ace Asphalt right now?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to ask the Member from what perspective he wishes me to speak. The firm, I am sure, has many activities. I suppose by way of information to the Member, and I believe he knows this because we discussed it by telephone on one or two occasions, we did have Ace Asphalt on contract at one point. We terminated that contract at a late stage in the provision of service. We made an alternative arrangement to complete the work we had in relation to the emulsion that we used on the road job. I am not sure if there is a court case involved or not; I would have to check.
Mr. Devries: The last I heard from Ace Asphalt was that litigation proceedings were being undertaken.
Naturally you get a different story from each side. I still question the testing procedure because I went to Ace Asphalt several times when problems started to arise and several times they would get a load in and check the temperature with their testing procedure. If it checked out okay they would pump it onto another truck and send it out and it tested out okay.
It is very strange. They cannot understand why there was a problem with some of those loads in the first place. Some of them were just turned around and nothing was done to them other than some of them may have been heated slightly or something, but there were two loads that were definitely just pumped onto another truck, given another number, turned around and they tested out okay.
I realize some of the problems came up when the Petro Canada plant at Taylor had shut down for a retrofit. They bought the product from their competitor, which is Husky Canada. That is where they found their emulsions. It is a slightly different type of mixture. They felt that possibly the problems came about was because they were using the same testing with a slightly different routine used for the Husky product compared to Petro Canadas product. This is the story I was given.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is a difficult subject to debate, largely because it is a very technical subject. It is technical in the sense that the emulsion for bituminous surface treatment is a product that requires some very sophisticated preparation. It must be contained within a certain range of heat and consistency. That determines whether it will make a good road surface.
I guess the only thing I can say to the Member is that during the time that the contract was being terminated, I spent considerable time with departmental officials going over the rationale behind the need for termination, to protect the integrity of the product being applied on the road. I was convinced that indeed there was inconsistency, there were problems with the product on the site, which does not have that much to do with how it may have been along the road.
I received assurance that the testing being done was consistent, was accurate and, in fact, double checked, to ensure that it was. I have to trust the judgment of professional departmental officials, namely the engineers who are trained in this area, to provide recommendations and judgments relative to the contracts. In this case, there was an apparent need for a contract to be terminated. An alternate source was arranged for to complete the job on the road. That was done. My deputy is not sure either whether there was litigation involved but I can only say to the Member that the responsibility I have - and we have, as legislators - is to ensure the wise expenditure of public funds. There was a point here where money could well have gone astray by providing a bad road surface that had to be ripped up again. In general, that is the long and the short of it.
Mr. Devries: Was there an instance of a road surface having to be ripped up? A friend of mine just came from Faro, and he said that there is a piece of road that was once chipseal that is now gravel again as far as he can tell.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I know precisely the section of road the Member is talking about. He has to understand that, on the Faro road, the section of road between Carmacks and Little Salmon, where they were doing the particular BST job, the original intention was to BST a considerable amount more of the road than was actually done. The road surface was prepared; the crush was applied; the road bed was prepared, and it was made ready for the oil emulsion to be applied. That job did not get completed for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is the very reason we just finished talking about: inconsistent supply of the emulsion. There was another issue: a pump breakdown on the applicator, on the chipper. Subsequent to that, they got caught by wet weather so they did not finish the job. The emulsion on the kilometre or two did not take very well in the wet weather, so they stopped. There is a section of about a kilometre or two where there are some bad spots. I have driven through it a number of times, and they have been patching them up. They were fairly solid before freeze-up and right now they are quite stable.
The long and the short of the issue the Member just raised is that a series of reasons did not permit that BST job to be finished. Even though some of it may appear as though it has been ripped up and reverted to gravel, the fact is that the BST was never applied. The preparation was done but not the BST application.
Mr. Devries: I have one more question in relation to this. The concern I have would not affect Watson Lake that much because both Ace and Pounder have their plants in Watson Lake. I am sure the Minister is aware, we have had some environmental concerns raised about those plants at times. My biggest fear now is that if Ace is out of the bidding picture for the next year, Pounder Emulsions will have a monopoly and could ask whatever price. They could just name their price. A similar concern is that there would be no more competition and that it is now a monopoly. Has the Minister got any way to make sure that he gets value for the dollar?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member raises a point that is not accurate. I do not think, even if Ace Asphalt was entirely out of the picture, there would be no competition. We would still go to tender. In a tender, anyone can bid, not just Pounder, but any other firms who may have good reason to want to haul emulsion here as a side job. It allows for very competitive pricing.
Also, Ace Asphalt is not out of the bidding. The Member and I know that they are going to have to come up with a very good bid and some solid bonding and guarantees before they would be considered for another job. I say that cautiously, because I do not know how much contract regulations permit me to say.
Ace Asphalt is not out of the bidding and, because we go to tender, there will still be competitive bidding. The Member suggests that just because Pounder may be the only viable emulsion supplier, he can name his price. I do not agree. The tendering process would prevent that.
Mr. Devries: I have just one more question. I am not sure if the Member can deal with it.
As the Minister is probably aware if he has driven to Watson Lake recently, we now have the only passing lane on the Alaska Highway, to the best of my knowledge, on a ramp on the Transport Hill going toward Watson Lake.
In the rebuilding of the highway, there is another hill where we feel a passing lane is essential. That would be the Rancheria Mountain pass, somewhere between the Rancheria bridge and Transport Hill. I do not know if the Minister has any control over what they do there, but it is a very long hill, and it would be essential to have a passing lane there, especially with the ore trucks and the amount of truck traffic with all the tankers. On a drive to Watson Lake nowadays, you meet an average of 10 tankers every trip.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take the point of the Member as a representation. Again, the Alaska Highway is a Public Works responsibility on the capital side. From time to time, we are consulted about where the funds should be spent when Public Works identifies money for capital upgrading. In that context, I will carry that representation forward. It might be useful to let Members know that I have had discussions with the federal Minister of Public Works. I have met with him on at least two occasions now. We have exchanged correspondence, and we are now entering into discussions on a possible devolution of the Alaska Highway to the Yukon government. Our position would be similar to what has occurred with the devolution of the five other roads. We would be prepared to take over full responsibility for the Alaska Highway only if the appropriate dollars came for proper upgrading.
I guess the situation is at a stage where we are each developing our respective mandates, and I hope we will be entering negotiations within the next year. Once that happens the Yukon government could assume full responsibility for whatever capital upgrading it could afford under the terms of any devolution agreement. The Member knows, from previous debates, discussions, publicity and communications that the dollars being provided for upgrading the Alaska Highway are pretty scant and pretty inadequate right now. We are hoping that, through devolution discussions, we can generate some healthier dollars to take on a much healthier reconstruction program even if it takes five, 10 or 15 years to do it.
Mr. Devries: I hope that money will not go into general revenue and then have to be allocated. The fear on this side now is that some of the $8 million the Minister got for the other roads could sneak into other areas.
Could the Minister give me an update on whether there is anything planned on the Campbell Highway between Watson Lake and the Mt. Hundere turnoff? I understand there is a test being done on the Frances River bridge. Was anything done to the Tuchitua bridge last year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have my notes with me on that particular score. The Member is talking about what we plan to do next year and that is really carried in the mains. Working from memory, we have identified some spot upgrading between Tuchitua and Watson Lake.
The Member is correct about some work on the Frances River bridge. Perhaps I can provide more detail when we get to the mains.
Mr. Devries: I want to stress the importance of getting some work done on the road between Mt. Hundere turnoff and Watson Lake because there have been several accidents. We have had a tanker truck blow up and blow a driver right across the road. There have been several accidents with pickups. There is not a lot of room on that road and when the ore trucks get on it there will be more accidents. It is essential that a portion of that road gets widened.
That is all I have to say.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take the representations of the Member as notice. What I can tell the Member is that we have, just this fall, concluded an engineering study of the road for its entire length, from Ross River to Watson Lake. I am waiting for what that study has identified, in terms of standards, widths, curves, bridges and upgrading requirements. I hope to have a look at that before we get to the mains so I can discuss more openly with the Member just what work has to be done to get the road up to a better standard.
Talking to one of the engineers, in a preliminary way, he has indicated that the engineering of the road has identified a number of narrow spots and a number of sharp turns that ought not to remain there much longer, given the volumes of traffic on the road. I am just waiting for all of that detail to be assembled.
Mr. Brewster: I do not expect an answer to my question but I would like to put the Minister on alert for next spring. It has to do with the emergency airport at White River.
I said last year that nothing was done there and nothing existed there. I have spoken to a number of residents in that area and it is quite apparent that something was done; I saw the proof. I would like some research done to find out whether or not it was ever surveyed, but I do not expect an answer until we get into the main estimates.
I would like to ask the Minister about the cost of the buffalo patrol that went on for two or three weeks. Who paid the extra overtime for those people?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that our department provided the service over a period of about three weeks. The cost was $22,000 and the cost is being borne by the Department of Renewable Resources.
Mr. Brewster: The other question I have on that I will keep.
As I understand it, the total cost for transportation is being paid for by Renewable Resources. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure I caught the question, but the costs of providing the monitoring service for that three-week period was $22,000. It was incurred by the Department of Community and Transportation, transportation branch. That cost will be paid by Renewable Resources.
Mr. Brewster: I presume those costs include wages, gas used to go up and down the highway, and so forth? The Minister is nodding his head so I assume the $22,000 has gone through Renewable Resources.
The only thing I would say on this is that it is very dangerous and is very hard on the night herders who had quite a problem keeping up with these animals.
A number of us found if we put the flickering lights out - and I do not know if everyone went home, or not - we would go 10 or 12 miles between lights and presume that we had all of the buffalo. Then, 10 miles from there, we would run smack right into them. This was much more dangerous to the local people than if they had not been there because we thought they were keeping them trapped in between these spots.
There was an American who obeyed the rules and the signs, went through them all, but, not being from here, he ran into them and smashed his vehicles to pieces. If they are going to do this kind of road patrol, I suggest they stay on it, especially for local people, because they think that if they get through these two danger areas, they are safe.
Unfortunately, the buffalo moved. If one starts to relax, all of a sudden, zingo, you hit him. I saw them all the way from Kusawa Road right into Marshall Creek in that three-week period. That is a lot of travelling. They were broken up into bunches. Sometimes, they had the main bunch in the danger zone, but they did not have the other two young bulls, who were running around looking for some sweethearts and could not find any.
If they are going to do this again, I suggest they make sure they go all the way, because somebody could have been hurt. There is a big strain on you when you drive 25 or 30 miles, watching for these things. Then, you get out of the danger area and think, well, they are not here, it is dark and, all of a sudden, 10 miles from there you run into them all again.
I think they did a very good job. I am not criticizing the job, but they are going to have to stay with them all night and chase up and down the highway when they are there. It is very dangerous.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I accept the Members observations surrounding the buffalo hazard on the highway. I am sure the Minister of Renewable Resources will be offering some comments during his budget debate on it. The Member did not pose a particular question, as such, but, in response to his comments, I can assure him that I will discuss the issue with my colleague and address the concerns he raises.
Mr. Brewster: I did not have a question. I was just making a suggestion to make the road a little safer. We have been going through this for three years now. Most of us have smartened up.
When they divide the money up by sections of the Alaska Highway for maintenance, how do they break it down? It would seem to me that the area from the Donjek River to Beaver Creek should be getting a little more of that maintenance money because of the road. I continually hear complaints that they do not get enough money. I saw one breakdown, but I am not sure it was an active one. In that one, they actually got less than some of the other areas, including around Whitehorse. Yet, they have by far the worst piece of road in the Yukon. It comes awfully close to Mendenhall, and they should be getting more money to help them in that area.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, I take the comments of the Member as representation, and I will examine details surrounding the maintenance of that section of the highway. Like the Member, I understand that each maintenance camp has an allocation of maintenance money, and that calculation is based on the kilometres of road that require maintenance, the condition of that road, the type of maintenance, the frequency and the volume of traffic. There are a number of factors that go into how the distribution to camps is made.
I will undertake to the Member to provide a camp break-out by the mains. I am told it is readily available. I hope that break-out will not only show the dollars identified, but some of the lengths of road involved, and the standards involved with that maintenance, so we can both take a look at the allocations.
Mr. Brewster: I would suggest that the length of road is a very unfair way of doing things. For instance, the road between Whitehorse and Haines Junction has been rebuilt, rebuilt and rebuilt. It is quite a good road. It is probably very close to the same length as the 100 miles I am talking about, but it certainly does not need as much in maintenance as the other road. There is absolutely no roadbed. They are running on culverts. They are not getting a fair shake. The men working up there are very, very disillusioned, because they are continually being blamed by tourists, yet they are powerless. They are not even sure they get a fair breakdown on the thing. This is handed to them and they are told this is the money they have.
I would suggest that, going by length, you should look at the conditions of the road and how much capital expense you have put on the road, not just say 100 miles is 100 miles. The difference of a 100 mile road here and a 100 mile road there could be completely different.
I have another observation, and I would hate to criticize this. It is not really this government, but maybe they could suggest this to the Department of Public Works. I went to Alaska this year, and I see there are surveying stakes all the way from the border down to Beaver Creek. I have high hopes that something is being done.
Why would you do this piece of road first, which is only going to benefit Americans? Why did you not start at Beaver Creek and come down this way 20 miles, so Canadians living in Canada could have benefited from that 20 miles, instead of just Americans between the border and Beaver Creek? This is just a suggestion from a little old farmer who is not sure he knows what he is talking about. Common sense says that is where you should build it, because you would be getting more traffic, because you would be getting the Canadians, too.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has made a fairly valid observation in respect to maintenance money for that road. I should point out to him that length is only one factor in the calculations for determining a maintenance budget to a section of a road, or to a Highways camp.
The Member is also correct in his observation that the road is in pretty poor condition and may not be getting enough maintenance money. I will undertake to address that in the arrangement we have with Public Works, through the engineering services agreement, under which it pays for the maintenance.
There is a fact that should be pointed out. You can maintain a level of maintenance on a particular road if you are keeping it to a certain standard. If that standard starts deteriorating, your maintenance costs automatically go up. That is probably what is happening in the Beaver Creek section. The capital standards have not been maintained. In fact, I know we have been ripping off the BST to get back to a gravel surface, so we can keep something level and straight. That increases the maintenance costs. As you reduce your capital expenditure, the operation and maintenance would go up, in a normal pattern. We could well be faced with the problem in the Beaver Creek section where, because of no capital upgrading, maintenance costs are increasing disproportionately.
The Member raised the issue of survey work being done. I understand that Public Works have some capital dollars that they have identified for some engineering work. The information to us is they are doing this on a priority basis to the worst sections of the road. If money should flow from any agreement on the Shakwak project, or if any possible dollars flow from the federal government, that is where they will begin reconstruction, but there is no commitment yet.
The Member talks about survey work being done on the other side of Beaver Creek. That may well be, but that is their decision. I hope they would also do the required survey work on this side of Beaver Creek, because I happen to agree with the Member that it would be better if we were able to improve more of the road in Canada.
In my discussions with the federal Minister about the possible takeover of the Alaska Highway, we did identify both the Beaver Creek section and the section between Watson Lake and Rancheria as the worst sections, and that they should be done simultaneously.
At one point in my discussions with Mr. MacKay, he said he would attempt to procure some funding for next years reconstruction program and would listen to the representations that have been made by the Members opposite to me. I agreed that we had two bad sections and should work on both of them and not just one.
Those discussions precipitated the devolution discussions, so I do not know if Mr. MacKay is going to procure the additional funding he thought he might be able to get in time for next years construction. We will have to watch the Public Works budget for that.
In the meantime, Public Works seems to have some capital dollars left over and they are doing the survey work. One can predict that since they are doing the survey work, that is where the construction will take place should funding come through.
Mr. Brewster: It is a rather tough position for me to criticize when I am finally getting some surveying done in Beaver Creek, but I think it points out a problem that often happens in rural Yukon. Everyone sits in this town - not having to climb along that road every day - and makes decisions about it. Perhaps there are good reasons for what they decide.
If one is going to survey 20 miles of a road and there are 100 miles of bad road, why not take the part of the road that would help the most people, not just American travelers. I am not criticizing them doing that part of the road, but why did they not take the section 20 miles from Beaver Creek so that it helps the most people. I agree with the philosophy that we have to do the Rancheria part too, because if we cannot get across that, we will not get up to mile 1202.
It is critical this year. I have made a point of going around to gas stations and talking to travelers coming back from Haines Junction - and I thought the road to Haines Junction was good - but every night that I sat there, which was only once in a while, there were two or three vans in the gas stations asking if the road was any worse from that point. The poor gas station attendants would look at me and have to tell the truth, telling the drivers that it was a lot worse 100 miles from there. Every one of those people turned back. I get the same story from Watson Lake and other places. I cannot imagine how many people are turning back, but everyone is probably complaining about the roads. This probably does much more damage than $500,000 worth of advertising will fix. Americans talk all the time and will scare people off.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot add much to what the Member has said. I generally agree with him and have been through this debate about the Alaska Highway in every budget I have been associated with in the last 18 months.
We have done what we could in terms of prodding Public Works and the federal government to increase their commitment towards funding. I think we have made progress. Even if we do not have direct flow of dollars in the next year, at least we have begun to discuss a takeover of the Alaska Highway.
That is encouraging, but will not change things overnight. It will take two or three years to reach agreement. That agreement must have some annual construction dollars built into it, as we had in the interterritorial roads.
I hope that will proceed well in the next year or two, but it is not an agreement that is going to be achieved overnight. It is not going to cause immediate reconstruction.
I do note and sincerely take the commitment by the federal Minister that he will attempt to place special dollars in the Public Works budget for the Alaska Highway next year. We talked in the magnitude of $20 million, which is quite a substantial amount for a single years construction. Whether he is able to achieve that remains to be seen, but I will give him his required time to try and deliver. In the meantime, I will proceed with discussions to take the highway over, and we will do it ourselves - but, it has to come with dollars.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to talk about the same highway, and that section that is up near Beaver Creek, which so many people seem to talk about. In the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity of talking with some federal officials who deal with the Alaska Highway, and I know there is some new optimism that things might happen on that particular stretch of road, and another section down near Rancheria. There are two areas that they are looking at.
Has the Ministers department been in contact with the State of Alaska? It may be a good idea, now that they have a new governor and new legislators there. It might be high time that we lobbied them with respect to the Shakwak project again. That is the section near Beaver Creek that is involved in the Shakwak project. That project is still alive, as far as I know and, in fact, the survey work that is going on up there this year is tied in with some possibilities of the Shakwak project being reborn. I would suggest a meeting fairly soon with the new Governor of Alaska and, possibly, some lobbying on behalf of the Yukon government to encourage the State of Alaska to reactivate that Shakwak project and try to get things back on the road again.
When the tourists turn around on that road and head back down south, they do not get to Alaska, or they may get there another way. It just discourages people from going up through that section of road. I think it is in their best interests, as well as ours, to get that road repaired. The Shakwak project has done an absolutely fantastic job on the section of road between Haines, Alaska and Haines Junction. It is just a superb highway and, probably, one of the better highways in the territory right now. It would certainly be a boon to both Yukon and Alaska if we could bring back to life the Shakwak project that was to continue all the way up to Alaska through that section.
I would encourage the Minister to contact the new governor as soon as possible, or the Government Leader to contact the new governor, and to put that high on the priority of this government. If they could lobby Alaskans and get that funding from the U.S., it would go a long way toward putting that highway in the good shape it should be in.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My deputy and I were trying to remember the approximate date when we were in Juneau to meet the transportation commissioner on the subject of the Shakwak project. I believe it was September.
Again, there is some reason for optimism with respect to the Shakwak project. When I met with Mr. MacKay this past summer in Ottawa, with respect to the Alaska Highway, we flagged the whole issue of the Shakwak project, saying that we had to try to reactivate it. He undertook to explore with his colleagues, and External Affairs, to establish the necessary communication to revive the Shakwak project.
As the Member may recall, I previously reported to the House that the Shakwak project was essentially dead, by word we had from Alaska. There were no funds, oil revenue in Alaska had been depleted; therefore, there were not going to be any identified funds for the Shakwak project. Their method of funding is a little different from ours. Their appropriations for the Shakwak project have to come from the federal government who identify them for state roads. Essentially they have to take the money out of state roads to spend in Canada. Because it was all shrinking, and all tied to oil revenue, they said that was it.
Mr. MacKay and I had a discussion on this. Then my deputy and I went to Juneau in September and met with Mr. Hickey, the transportation commissioner. My officials had discussions with Alaskan officials, and found there was an increasing potential for some new money to flow. Apparently, under the arrangements in Alaska, 10 percent of their annual budget is set aside in a reserve, and the only way that reserve can be tapped is with the approval of Congress. They have a number of conditions on how that reserve can be tapped. The word was that if Canada would help prod Congress, maybe some revenue from that reserve could be permitted to revive the Shakwak project. The long and short of it all was that we had good discussions, and we activated the necessary communications and protocols. It remains to be seen whether Congress will accept or consider this special revenue for the Shakwak project. I am optimistic because Mr. Hickey was optimistic.
Yes, the Member is right; there is a new Governor, and we are not even sure if Mr. Hickey is going to remain in office. I will certainly be checking. It would be good to continue those discussions and to continue the effort to tap into these special reserve funds. The Member might recall that at one point the Alaskans offered 50-cent dollars to continue the Shakwak deal and Public Works Canada turned that down. We may now have a deal.
We are saying that we have a deal; we want 100 cent dollars. You signed off an agreement for the Shakwak project all the way to the border, past Beaver Creek. You have a commitment to fulfill that. They said that they would not accept our 50 cent dollars. So, that fell by the boards. Again, it was reactivated in discussions we had with the Alaskan people.
There are a number of machinations going on right now with respect to the Alaska Highway. There is a lot of activity in External Affairs; there is a lot of activity in Juneau; there is a lot of activity in Ottawa; and there is a lot of activity with us. We are hoping that, on the one hand, we will get some Public Works money in next years budget, and that we can revive some funds out of this reserve to continue the Shakwak project. We may well see two projects go next year: one with Shakwak dollars, one with Public Works dollars - one at Rancheria and one in the Beaver Creek area.
Mr. Phillips: A few things have changed in the past three to four months with respect to the Shakwak project. The first thing is the mid-East crisis. The price of oil has soared, and Alaska is now seeing some more benefits from the higher price of oil. The second thing, and probably the most significant thing for us, is the election of Governor Hickel.
Although it is not going to bode very well for us and the Alaska Highway gas pipeline, one of the strongest proponents of the Shakwak project and the Alaska Highway is Senator Coghill. Senator Coghill is now the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Alaska. He ran on Hickels ticket. I think he is the same senator who proposed a motion or resolution about declaring us a Third World country so we can get some economic aid from the U.S.
I sat in his office during the last visit we had to Alaska, and I spoke with him for about 45 minutes. He was very supportive of the Shakwak project and the Alaska Highway. As soon as possible, I think a call is in order to encourage Senator Coghill to get the cogs in motion, so to speak. Perhaps we can get something done on the Alaska Highway sooner rather than later.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the reminders and representations by the Member. I agree. We should give very little time for the new Governor and Lieutenant Governor to get into office before we are on their doorstep. I will be continuing the discussions that have been ongoing since.
We may wish to leave this afternoon.
The Member is correct with respect to the changing revenue picture for Alaska. I intend to pursue it and prod the appropriate officials at Public Works Canada, and in External Affairs, to revive the Shakwak project. It would be useful to everyone to see that project revived. The Member is correct that it is probably one of the best roads in the territory; certainly the section from Haines Junction to Haines is. If we can get the Shakwak dollars on that section, any Public Works dollars could be on the Rancheria section. Those are the two critical sections to travellers.
Any reports or comments that I have heard from people are that the roads around Whitehorse are not bad, and the roads around Haines Junction are fine. The two sections where complaints are identified are in the Beaver Creek section just on this side of Pine Valley all the way through, and in the Rancheria section.
Yes, we have to keep rattling chains and we have to keep prodding. We have to keep the pressure on; we are and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister give us the figure of exactly how much was spent this year on upgrading the Alaska Highway in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am sure I gave that figure in the past. I am advised that it is $6.2 million. I recall in the spring telling Members where that was going to be spent. I do not specifically remember, but I will have it at my fingertips in the mains.
Mr. Lang: To follow that just a little bit further, as far as the capital side of the Alaska Highway upgrading is concerned: the Minister talked about a possibility of $20 million. What is projected without this assistance from Mr. MacKay, if he is unable to get this $20 million? What is likely to be spent in this forthcoming year for upgrading the Yukon section of the Alaska Highway?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the current budget of Public Works Canada, there are $15 million allocated for Alaska Highway. The Member may recall the debate where the dollars were spent on the B.C. portion. We were down, I believe, to 10 or 15 percent of the $15 million at one point, in 1986 and 1987. That has begun to shift. The $6.2 million that is identified for this year, shifts over to $7.5 million for next year, which is exactly half, and it will be a matter of lobbying to try and increase that past 50 percent.
Mr. Lang: The budget time for the federal government is not that far off, and I would like to ask the Minister when he expects to get a definitive word from Mr. MacKay, as far as the amount of $20 million is concerned?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I had hoped to get that by now. The Minister and I have exchanged correspondence a couple of times since our meeting in the summer. He has declined to confirm that he received any new funds from Treasury Board, at this time. I am simply anticipating that he will inject it into the standing budget for next year. Our correspondence has focussed more on the preliminary devolution discussion and setting the mandate for that than it has on the pressure for the $20 million. I have raised it with him; he knows I am concerned. I keep bugging his office. He has not taken it to Treasury Board. My officials have not been able to procure any information from Public Works officials that any special kind of Treasury Board submission is in the works, or, if there is, they are not telling us.
I had hoped by now to find out if he was able to procure special funding. I have not. I am simply anticipating that he will try to deliver on that effort in the regular budget.
Mr. Lang: We will look forward to further discussion on that in the mains. I would like further clarification on something, because I did not get an answer from the Minister, and I would like to have it on the record for information for main estimates. This has to do with the decentralization of both the communications branch and the aviation and marine branch of the department, with one going to Carcross, the other to Haines Junction.
Can the Minister confirm that he will have the projected cost of those moves by the time we get to the main estimates, including proposed projected costs for housing and all other features the costs will involve?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not think I can make that commitment, largely because it will be impossible to do so, especially in the area of housing. The Member knows that, on the decentralization side, we have identified dollars that would be required for decentralization initiatives over and above those dollars ordinarily identified in a budget.
The cost of $472,000 that is identified in the decentralization package for all decentralization initiatives would include any special dollars required for the airport decentralization exercise. The actual total cost of that is, in some instances, already built into the budget and, in some other instances, is going to be part of the devolution dollars under the airports program.
The Member will remember we talked yesterday about the airports devolution, including $3.6 million capital one-time dollars over three years. We intend to incorporate a facility at the airport for the office accommodation of that airports branch at Haines Junction.
In the devolution agreement is also the establishment of three person years, which come with the devolution dollars. So, there are costs that are ordinarily built into our budgeting process. You have to pay wages anyway, whether they are in Whitehorse or Haines Junction. You have to pay office space, whether it is in Whitehorse or Haines Junction. This is particularly true in the case of airport space, because you are talking an expanded number of personnel. Any additional specific decentralization dollars are rolled into the $472,000 that was identified.
Mr. Lang: I would like to see if the Minister could identify, out of the $472,000, exactly what is attributed to the move by the communications branch to Carcross and taking the aviation branch to Haines Junction. I would also like to ask the Minister if in the negotiations for the transfer of aviation marine division from federal government to the YTG, the costs of decentralizing the department were included in the negotiated costs? Or was it after the negotiations were concluded, and now the costs are being taken out of what would have been capital costs that went into the upgrading of airports?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Just to the Members first question, I am not sure that I will be able to provide specific break-out with respect to the $472,000. What I can tell the Member is the costs that identify in relation to anticipated office costs, anticipated equipment, communications equipment costs, furniture costs, travel costs: those costs that are related to my branches. For a complete breakdown, I would have to determine whether or not the costs are carried through my budgets or other budgets. So I would just like to check that, but I will give a response to the Member of those costs borne by Government Services in the decentralization.
The Member should recognize that in the $472,000 we have built in anticipated office costs where they are expected to be escalated dollars. In other words, we have a number of communities where office space exists and there is no additional cost to the government. We are paying that cost as a matter of course now. For example, in the case of Mayo we have administration space available where we can locate some of our decentralized persons, so that does not reflect an increased space cost. There may be a cost related to equipment relocation, a fax machine or something; that is built in to the $472,000. There would not be any money built in to the $472,000 if we already have the space.
In the case of communications to Carcross, we built in an anticipated lease cost for space, based on a number of factors that would give us as accurate a figure as possible.
I could provide every bit of detail that is available with respect to the office, equipment, furniture and travel costs, but not the housing costs as we are not going to be able to determine these costs in advance of moves taking place.
The Member recognizes that a good portion of the 39 positions are currently vacant. Many of them may be filled by persons from the community who already have housing. In some communities, we have staff housing we may be able to use. In another community, an employee may choose to build a house. The options are varied, so I do not have the housing costs as I do not know the personnel that will be located in a community.
On airports and communications, we have built in anticipated costs that would be incremental to the government for having made that move.
Chair: We will now take a short break.
Mr. Lang: I want to go over decentralization. It seems to me we do not have much of a financial projection on what this is going to cost. I would ask the Minister to outline specifically what he knows the costs are going to be on the two programs he discussed, comparing renting private space at X dollars per square foot in Carcross with Whitehorse. There has to be some rationale on how we justify these prices. There is a lot of fanfare. The government said it was going to cost $425,000, and now all of a sudden we are told there are a lot of hidden costs that nobody even knows about, or may well not have considered.
I would ask the Minister to give us the best breakdown he possibly can and have that for discussion in the mains.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Those costs have been identified. I cannot recall them off the top of my head. In the case of communications there are definite lease costs identified as part of that $472,000 for 1,000 square feet in Carcross, I believe. That is all that is required for the four personnel.
One can do a quick calculation; if you pay $15 a square foot you can anticipate a $15,000 cost and maybe associated costs like utilities. Those costs have all been developed as part of the decentralization initiatives and are available.
In fact, I think the question was raised in Question Period by the Leader of the Official Opposition, and I think the Premier has committed himself to table those costs at some point. I say that cautiously, and only from memory. Certainly I have no problem providing any detail in the mains for my branches.
Mr. Lang: I want to explore that a little further. During Question Period the Minister stated in this House that it was the intention to rent the old White Pass Depot in Carcross. Obviously, that is going to have to be winterized and major capital monies will have to be put into it to use it for year-round occupancy for offices. I assume those costs would be included in the cost estimates provided to us. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would have to take notice of that particular question. We did our calculations based on what incremental costs there would be to decentralize the 39 positions. There was a one-time capital cost of some $200,000 and an additional cost of $472,000 for the annual incremental costs.
In the case of Carcross, it is premature to talk in any detail about that particular space, because discussions are taking place with the owners of the property. It is fair to say that, in lease arrangements that are undertaken by Government Services, you often enter into capital upgrading of a property - leasehold improvements that become part of a write-down of your lease costs.
For example, you may well identify $20,000 or $30,000 for a lease cost to a facility. That would be the standard market rate in a community, or in Whitehorse. If you have to do certain leasehold improvements, which upgrade the property, you can will get a reduced rental as a result. There are a number of options you can look at.
The short answer is that the departments have produced the best estimate possible, and that is the one we have put forward.
Mr. Lang: Since this has been so well-planned, I have a question out of curiosity. As the Minister knows, last summer, the tourist information centre was in the particular building we are speaking of. With your proposal for using it as year-round office space, where is the visitor reception centre going to go?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am very reluctant to continue this debate, because I am not sure about my information. It seems to me that the visitor reception centre can very easily be accommodated in the same building. In the discussions happening between the owners and Government Services personnel, I suspect that accommodation is being addressed. I do not know the details.
Mr. Lang: I would like to go on to another topic, and that is the question of the block funding cutback to the municipalities. Does the Minister intend to bring forward legislative changes to that act during this session?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not certain whether or not we will bring that forward in this sitting, but it will have to be in this session.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister table during the main estimates how the reduced amounts of capital funds are going to be distributed among the communities?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is no problem. I thought it was part of the statistical information in the mains, but apparently, it is not. I believe I would have provided that to the mayors for the mayors summit anticipated to be held on December 1. That was circulated the afternoon the budget was tabled.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister provide us with a copy of what was circulated to the municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I anticipated the question and I have made a decision not to circulate the documents provided to the mayors out of courtesy and respect to the discussions we will be having December 1. On that day, I propose to seek advice from the mayors as to whether we should release the documents to the public. Depending on their feelings, I would be quite willing to release them once I have met with them and gone over the options, proposals and numbers put forward there.
Mr. Lang: What is the purpose of this meeting? Is it to tell them the amount of money and then figure out how to divide it up? Is the government prepared to increase the amount of money depending on the positions put forward by the mayors?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Perhaps I could take a couple of minutes just to explain what is happening. From discussions I have had with municipalities over the past year, a need to streamline and tie down the method by which funding flows from the Yukon government to municipalities has been recognized. In other words, discussions that are going to take place on December 1 will revolve around all the funding that flows to municipalities from the Yukon government. This is not just the block fund under the Municipal and Communities Infrastructure Grants Act, but also, the operational grants that are provided to municipalities under various formulas. These are municipal operating grants, deficit sewer and water funding, recreational grants and transit grants. All those pots of money that flow from different formulas will be under review.
That is what the meeting is about. It is a weekend meeting, and I expect to spend considerable time with them. I have provided, to the mayors and their respective councillors, documents that show what all those funds amount to. I have put forward options and proposals for their consideration of how we can address a more streamlined approach to the funding arrangements that exist between the government and the municipalities. I expect some healthy discussion as to how we can consolidate and streamline that funding.
There will be no change to the regular amounts that are identified in the budget. The block fund is identified; the amounts for each community are identified; the operational grants are identified, which have been increased by three percent over last year. There will be no increase to the total pot, but there may be a redistribution and a simplified way to do it. I am not at any great liberty to talk about it, because I want to talk to them and hear from them, and I would be pleased to report progress after December 1.
Mr. Lang: I have to state our objections to the principle of cutting the amount of money to municipalities. One area where both sides of the House agreed was that the communities are going to get into some tough financial times down the road with the cuts the Minister has made. It seems kind of funny that the government would cut back the municipalities and not its own expenditures to any great degree in areas that it feels are top priorities.
I want to go back to the $8.4 million that was agreed to for the next 25 years to upgrade the five roads under the previous engineering agreement. Was that not the agreement those particular roads were funded under?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is correct. It was an ESA, engineering services agreement, that previously provided for the funding on those five roads.
Mr. Lang: How did you come up with the figure of $8.4 million? What was the rationale?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is difficult to provide a detailed answer. I will try to capsulize all the negotiating principles. The dollar amounts were essentially arrived at through good negotiation by Yukon government officials. The principles established reflected the need to ensure that the roads were upgraded to an acceptable standard, a need to ensure that there were available funds, that the life cycle of a road would be recognized, a need to ensure that from the existing standards were upgraded to the standards that Yukon government engineers established as a desirable minimum standard; all of these factors precipitated the base line data. Costs were calculated from the base line data.
Beyond that, to any great extent, I cannot expound in much more detail on what established the $8.4 million. It is a combination of engineering based data that reflected costs. Historical patterns of expenditure were part of it. A whole number of factors were taken into consideration. As I indicated yesterday, I am extremely pleased on behalf of the government, and all Yukon people, that we were able to reach resolution on what amounted to a fairly healthy financial arrangement to ensure the protection of those roads.
Mr. Lang: I just want to go a little bit further on the rationale of the negotiations. Was there just a general engineering program proposed that gave you the basis for your negotiations, that this is the standard that had to be reached and these are the projected costs per mile for the purposes of upgrading these particular highways? I just want to get it clarified. What kind of rationale was proposed as far as the upgrading was concerned?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Answering the question in any great detail is very difficult, partly because someone like myself was not at the table in the discussions that took place throughout the negotiations.
The Member is correct; as I have stated, an engineering analysis was part of the basis for the desirable standards and the basis for costs that would be needed to meet those standards. Certainly, historical precedent of expenditure was a factor. At the same time, only so many dollars were available from the feds in the negotiations. At the same time, negotiations were taking place between the federal government and the Northwest Territories, and there was a need to recognize a certain amount of sharing out of an available pot. So all of those factors contributed to the final deal. Certainly, it was not any one exclusive factor or one exclusive criteria. It is a combination of criteria that establishes our basis for argument. The availability of funds was the federal governments argument, and we got the best deal we could.
Mr. Lang: In looking at the main estimates of last year and the main estimates of this year, on the capital side of the budget, and with the O&M allotments, we had a total of $56,935,000 last year. And yet in this years main estimates, with the same areas of responsibility, we are only being asked to vote $50,371,000. So there is a $6.5 million difference between what we are being asked to vote in the main estimates for this year and what was voted last year.
Could the Minister explain the difference?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have my main estimates with me. I have to take the Members observations on the dollar amounts as accurate.
The Member is asking why next years budget on the capital side is less than this years budget. There are a number of reasons for it being less. If it is identified as less, then it is less, and a whole number of reasons would come into play for why that is budgeted in that fashion.
Mr. Lang: A lot of this money seems to be hidden. I would really like to know how much we actually spent on road construction last year, including the engineering services agreement last year, versus what we have in the main estimates this year for road construction.
Trying to break it out is difficult, as a lot of this money seems to be hidden in various line items. In the engineering services agreement, we have $8.5 million spent on the South Klondike Highway, and $2.4 million spent on others - which I assume includes the Dempster Highway and various other rural highways - plus what we normally put in. That comes close to $13 million. My figures show that, in this forthcoming year, we are dealing with just over $8 million worth of capital for road construction, excluding airports and things of that nature. That is fairly significant. There is roughly a $4 million to $6 million difference. Was that a conscious decision?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is raising questions to legitimately seek information. Unfortunately, I do not have my main estimates with me. He can rest assured that, when we get into the mains estimates, I will be quite prepared to defend the expenditure levels that are reflected there.
By way of introducing that discussion in the main estimates, I can say that a number of tough decisions were made in calculations for the expenditure in the coming year. Yes, every decision was a conscious decision. Yes, next years budget does reflect less new road construction.
I am sure the Member will be the first to recognize that, of the territorial roads that are our responsibility, considerable funds have been spent over the past five years toward their upgrading. The South Klondike Highway comes to mind as a vivid case in point.
The Member is essentially raising the question of why there is less expenditure on roads next year than this year. The answer is quite evident. The funds were directed to priority works within the total capital budget of the government, and directed for the purposes of meeting current expenditures.
New Highways construction is not as great next year as it was this year.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister provide for us, within the next day or two, a comparison between the two years of actual road construction? He must have those numbers. If the Minister does not have it, would he give me permission to sit down with somebody in the department who made up the budget and go over these figures? It is complicated. As the Minister can appreciate from our side, we see various line items that are perhaps worded a little differently this year than they were last year.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I understand what the Member is seeking. I have no problem in showing break-outs when we get to the main estimates. I thought the information was broken out in the main estimates on a road-by-road basis, but I am told it is not. I would be quite prepared to have it produced for the Members.
Mr. Lang: Could I get that information within the next day or two? I would like that information before coming into the House. Otherwise, when we start the mains, we are supposed to discuss it without having the opportunity to study it and look at the comparisons.
It must be available, at least to the deputy ministers fingertips.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will try to provide it within the next few days. I do not expect we will be in the Community and Transportation Services mains for at least another week, so some time next week should be quite acceptable.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate that.
I would like to go on to the area of the Dawson City airport. There has been a great deal of discussion about this airport. Could the Minister update us on where it is or is not, tell us how much money has been spent on that project in the supplementaries and the main estimates and where are we going with this?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Dawson airport has some considerable history attached to its relocation initiative. No final decision has been taken on a relocation. The committee has met a number of times. Considerable discussions and communications have taken place between members of the committee, the community and Transport Canada. A number of sites have been identified as possible new locations for the airport. Except for one, at the Dempster cutoff, none have met the certification requirements of Transport Canada. I would simply note that the committee still exists, continues to meet, has met within the last two weeks and is meeting again in a couple of weeks to review the issue of site relocation. I gather that in those discussions there is some consideration to a possible upgrading of the existing airport.
The options are still very open. Some have been ruled out and the committee is still struggling with identifying a suitable relocation site.
Mr. Lang: Do I take it that this particular airport is not included in the transfer of airports to the Government of the Yukon Territory and that the upgrading would be the responsibility of the federal government? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Dawson airport is one of the 10 B and C airports that has been transferred. There were no separate dollars identified for capital upgrading of the Dawson airport. However, in the devolution agreement there is recognition that should there be an accepted relocation site, the federal government is open to negotiations on more money.
Mr. Lang: Let us get this clarified, as far as that particular airport is concerned. At least a good part of the responsibility for the capital construction of that airport will be directly that of the YTG. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the upgrading is on the existing site, I would predict that the answer is yes. If it is a new site, then the answer is no. The responsibility of costs for construction of a new site would be more properly a shared responsibility between the federal government and the Yukon government. That is a negotiable point. It would be rather presumptuous of me to say that the Yukon government has any responsibility for a new site relocation cost.
The existing strip has been transferred to us. We would be responsible for upgrading the existing strip. If the airport were to be relocated in the Dawson area, the federal government has recognized that it has a responsibility and would be open to negotiation for the cost of that new site.
Mr. Lang: If there is a requirement for a new B or C airport anywhere in the territory, forgetting Dawson City for the moment, is it then clear in that agreement that it is the federal government that will bear a good deal of the responsibility? Is it just Dawson City that is exempt, and any new B or C airport would be the responsibility of the YTG?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I lost track of the Members question. He was asking about the agreement and whether or not the agreement recognizes federal responsibility on a relocated airport for Dawson.
Mr. Lang: Let us assume there is a new mine discovered up the Dempster Highway, and there is a requirement for an airport. Under the agreement for the transfer of the B and C airports, would we be fully responsible for the capital requirements to build that B or C airport?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The airports agreement is similar to the roads agreement. The agreements themselves are silent on construction of new roads and new airports. Separate correspondence has articulated the position that should there be a need for a new major road or new major airport, the decision to construct that road or that airport would, most properly, rest with the Yukon government. The Yukon government is open to approaching the federal government for a cost-sharing arrangement. That is the general understanding.
The agreement is silent on new airport and new road construction. The understanding, in separate correspondence, is that the federal government is open to negotiations and discussions respecting cost sharing of such projects.
Mr. Lang: Is the correspondence from the Government of Canada or the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Both ways.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister give us a copy of that particular understanding reached between our government and the Government of Canada so we fully understand it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The agreements are public documents. As I recall the correspondence, it is part of an exchange during the negotiating process to clear up that point. We wanted to put into the agreements that the responsibility for new road construction and new airport construction would be that of the federal government. They were not willing to put that clause in. We were not prepared to put a clause in that said that the responsibility was ours. So there was a separate exchange. I do not know whether that is necessarily public information, but I will check that out.
Certainly, it was one ticklish spot in bringing the deal to a final conclusion in both cases.
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Mr. Lang: Just to update us since we last sat, as we have not been here for six months, have there been any new policy initiatives undertaken by the government, as far as overall policies within, for example, communications? We know there was an initiative in land, but I am wondering if there were any new consultants hired and, if so, who were they and what did it all entail?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The policy work that is ongoing is principally internal. I communicated to all Members the middle of last summer, advising that I was reviewing the road maintenance policy, and I was seeking advice from Members. I am reviewing a draft of that policy. A number of other roads matters in policy are under review, and a number of administrative initiatives are being undertaken. We have achieved the $11,000 reduction through a couple of positions that were partially unfilled. There was some increase through creation of a new policy analyst in the branch. There was a lack of equipment purchased, which reduced some of the dollars, the total result being an $11,000 reduction in the anticipated costs of the branch.
Mr. Lang: The Minister slid over my question. I asked what policy initiatives had been taken over the course of the summer in respect to the budget that we passed last year. The land one was one. The road maintenance one was one. The agricultural land policy initiative was another. Were there any other initiatives the Minister had undertaken within this department, for example, consultants for highway acts or review of environmental areas, and things of this nature?
The problem we find ourselves in is that we do not know if money has been spent in this direction until we get a printout April 1. By that time, the money is already spent and gone.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have a list of the initiatives at my fingertips. There are quite a number in relation to the budget we will be dealing with in the mains. I can only undertake to advise the Member in the mains of the specific major initiatives that are occupying the time of the branch.
Mr. Lang: An area of major concern people in the communities have is the question of, for example, access to firewood in wood lots. I wonder if the Minister is doing any work in that area and, if so, could he update us as to exactly where we are on that with respect to policy and the identifying of new areas that are in close proximity to the communities?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The issue of wood lot access is one that is more of a program than a policy. Lands branch, as a regular activity, addresses the issue as it arises. Transportation, as a matter of course, addresses the maintenance of those roads. The major review I have asked to be undertaken in the area of road maintenance policy includes wood lot access roads.
The identification by communities of new wood lots requiring access is a program matter dealt with by the lands branch on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Lang: I would like to know specifically about the case of the area around the City of Whitehorse. It is of major concern because the further out the woodcutters have to go, the more expensive the cord of wood becomes. One naturally follows the other. I am wondering if there is some work being done within the department to try to identify areas that are close to town, whether by controlled burn or other means, so that we have access to firewood for the next 10 or 15 years.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will have to accept the Members observations as a representation. We are not doing any work, at this time, to create new wood lot accesses. As a matter of ongoing activity, I have constant representations at my office about the maintenance of roads to wood lots.
Until I formalize the policy, I deal with these on a case-by-case basis. Certainly, there has been an increase in the number of roads people use for wood lot access. On that basis, we are dealing with them quite intensely. There has certainly been an increase over the last year or two. I suspect the oil prices have something to do with it. There has certainly been an increase on the demand or pressure for maintenance of these tertiary type roads. We have stepped up maintenance, and we are addressing it in our policy. I am hoping to formalize the new roads maintenance policy. I have identified new funds for it in the new budget.
As for identifying new wood lot sites, I am not doing anything actively now.
Mr. Phelps: I have one question in the area of policy that I would like the Minister to take under consideration. It has to do with what seems to me to be an unfair anomaly with regard to Carcross. In Carcross, as you know, any new homes have to have sewer eduction. It is very expensive. We were promised water and sewer. Had that been installed, the O&M charges, resident by resident, would be based on the same monthly charge as in Whitehorse.
Unfortunately, because the water and sewer project has been delayed for various reasons that we need not get into, a number of private citizens have been forced into the additional capital cost of putting in a pump-out tank. It is one thing that will have to be replaced once they hook into a water and sewer system. My concern is that it seems to me they ought to be subsidized in terms of the eduction pump-out service in the same manner they would have been were they on sewage lines.
The water delivery in Carcross is subsidized according to a long-standing policy of this government. It seems to me that you have the anomaly in a situation like Carcross where there is a minor pollution problem - the seepage into the lake - and some people have been stuck in a situation where it is costing them well in excess of $2,000 a year in payments for the pump-out service.
Whatever the merits are of forcing these people to pump-out rather than using septic tanks and then pump it back into the lake down about 500 feet, is not something I want to get into here. I just feel that since it is subsidized in Old Crow and since, in this situation, had the water and sewer gone ahead on schedule, these people would have been paying an operation and maintenance cost equivalent to Whitehorse - as they do in most municipalities, because it is the policy - it seems to me that the policy ought to be looked at. It should be scrutinized immediately to see whether or not the people who are unfortunate enough to be caught between the time when you were no longer allowed to install a septic tank and the time when we are finally going to get a piped water and sewer system in, might receive the same fair benefits of the policy that is in place for the other community.
I hope I have explained myself clearly. I know of three or four families who very recently have installed the pump-out system, who are going to be required to transfer to the water and sewer lines when they are installed and then lose the capital costs. That is not what I am concerned about; I am concerned about the fact that it is going to cost some of these people as much as $400 a month simply for the pump-out service.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member raises a fascinating issue that we could debate, I am sure, at some length: the sense of fairness that he alleges does not exist. In Carcross, as I understand, we do provide a water delivery service now, and it is at a cost of $8 per month, which the Member will agree is not a very high cost. Clearly, it is a subsidized cost; I do not know to what extent, but I will certainly find out.
The entire issue of subsidies for eduction services is a new realm of subsidy for services. The Member used Old Crow as an example. In the case of Old Crow, we do provide the water and eduction service, but it is recoverable from the band through DIAND. We charge a minimum amount to the users, and the balance is picked up by the band. I do not believe there is a subsidy, although I will check into the Members allegation.
I would like to pursue this further in depth with the Member, because he is saying that, because of a natural phenomenon in the community of Carcross, people who now build homes in place have a greater cost, and the government should pick up that increased cost. I am not sure the Member really means to say that.
There is a whole issue surrounding the level of water and sewer service to Carcross, and I would like to share some information with the Member on that following many discussions and dealings I have had with representatives of his community this past summer. There is a whole new debate for Tuesday afternoon.
Given the lateness of the hour, I move you report progress on Bill No. 15.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1990-91, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move 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. Tuesday next.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 8, 1990:
Yukon Tourism Season-end Report, June to September, 1990 (October 31, 1990) (Webster)
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 8, 1990:
Cost of Workers Compensation building (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard p. 152