Monday, November 26, 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 to the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling several legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have to tabling a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Petition No. 3
Clerk: I have had the honour to review a petition being Petition No. 3 of the second session of the 27th Legislative Assembly as presented by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East on November 22, 1990. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the standing orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 3 is deemed to have been read and received.
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICE OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT an order of this Assembly be issued for copies of all interdepartmental memos and documentation with respect to the awarding of the contract for the Atco units for the Takhini Elementary School in August of 1989.
Speaker: Are there any statements by Ministers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Statements by Ministers.
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Arts Centre
Mr. Phelps: I have a number of questions regarding the cost of operating similar facilities at various locations in Whitehorse. The Yukon Arts Centre is now coming in at $8.45 million, a cost overrun of about $1.45 million. I am wondering whether the Minister can tell us if this government is still committed to paying the annual operation and maintenance costs of the Yukon Arts Centre.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member unfortunately made an error in his preamble that I should make reference to first. The Member mentioned that there is a cost overrun of $1.4 million. There is no such cost overrun, as I indicated to the Member the other day. The recoveries that are associated with the arts centre contract are now being shown for the first time but were always expected. They are now being shown for the first time in the budget estimates; that is, specifically the Arts Canada North $500,000 recovery. Consequently, there is not a $1.4 million cost overrun.
The O&M costs associated with the arts centre facility - the basic heat, light, water, sewer - will be covered by the government. That was the understanding that was made public, I believe, in 1986 or 1987 when we first embarked on the construction. We have made no commitment to date, with respect to any further costs but ultimately will be discussing costs of operation with the arts centre corporation when the board for the corporation is appointed.
Mr. Phelps: A couple of years ago the Minister was quoted as saying that the annual operation and maintenance costs for the arts centre would be $200,000 per year. Is that still the position of the government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I was giving a very ball-park estimate. Given the fact that the building had not even been designed at that point, the costs for basic utilities were estimated to be in the neighbourhood of $200,000 per year and I have not had those costs refined since that time. We are in the process of doing that and we will also be in the process of discussing with the arts centre corporation board, once they are appointed, what, if any, further costs will be provided to the board for the operation of the arts centre.
Mr. Phelps: Just so we get it straight then, the building was built at the tremendous overrun and the government just does not have any figures upon which to base an estimate for the operation and maintenance costs. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Apart from the very obvious differences of view with respect to what the cost overrun entails - and the Member continually repeats the $1.4 million figure, even though he is wrong - the short answer with respect to the costs of operation are that we believe that a reasonable ball-park figure was $200,000 for the basic utilities for the arts centre and that any further costs associated with the arts centre would have to be negotiated with the arts centre corporation board.
Question re: Convention centre loans/grants
Mr. Phelps: We found out that the Yukon Development Corporation is putting $2 million into the new convention centre that will be built downtown and I am wondering whether or not the government or the development corporation is going to be responsible in any way for the operation and maintenance costs of the new downtown convention centre.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not think that has been contemplated. I believe there is no arrangement that we anticipate under which the development corporation will be operating the facility. Simply, the investment the development corporation proposes to make is like other investments that will be attracted to the project, a project that is, in the final analysis, a private sector operation.
Mr. Phelps: I also understand that the government recently put more than $100,000 into the Mt. McIntyre Centre so that it would be able to host conventions in the future. I would like to know whether or not the government is going to be responsible for any of the operation and maintenance costs of Mt. McIntyre.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The short answer is no, certainly not as a result of the community development fund grant that was granted to provided to Mt. McIntyre, to enable them to pick some summer convention business, in order to help them make a profit on the operations of the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre. We provided the additional funds so that the acoustics in the centre itself could provide a venue for some convention business in Whitehorse with the understanding that this would actually make the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre a more viable proposition for people to use it than it is currently.
Mr. Phelps: The government has also given $300,000 to the Downtown Community Centre Association. Is it intended that that centre might in any way host part of some conventions or full conventions in the future?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That case has never been brought forward to me. None of the proponents have ever spoken to me of the community centre hosting conventions. That is a new one.
Question re: Convention centre loans/grants
Mr. Phelps: We do have Yukon Colleges arts centre that is capable of providing facilities for conventions. We have the Mt. McIntyre centre and we have a new one going up.
I would like to know what kind of studies were made to support the notion that we have the need for all these stand-alone facilities.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know where the Member was when we were discussing the development and construction of the arts centre, but its prime purpose was not to handle convention business in Whitehorse. I think that the prime venue through the art gallery and theater is there for artists, performers and the viewing public.
With respect to the other items the Member mentioned, the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre project is a project intended to make it possible for them to improve current accommodation for convention business. The project will allow it to do better than just break even. As Members know, the centre is currently hosting convention centre business and wants to be in a better situation to continue providing that service.
There has never been the rationale that the community centre would be used for conventions. I do not know where the Member is getting the idea that this is a prime venue for convention business.
On the convention centre, there is a view by the Dakwakada Development Corporation and another hotel venture in town that there is room in the commercial environment to host conventions. Consequently, they are interested in getting into the business.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister did not answer my question. I asked whether or not there were any studies, consultants reports or anything else that the government relied on that indicated a need for the new convention centre. Were all the facilities examined in Whitehorse? If so, would he table these reports?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If there are any such studies, I will be more than happy to table them. Right now, we have a track record of some convention business in the City of Whitehorse and the desire to improve some of the venues for that increased business. I must reiterate again that the prime reason for the arts centre being there is for the arts community. The prime reason for Mt. McIntyre being there is for the curling and cross-country skiing communities. The community hall has a different reason for existence altogether than the convention centre, which is being promoted by at least two private companies. I assume it is being proposed because, in the view of those companies, there is a need for increased space for convention business in the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Phelps: I want to get this clear. Are we to understand that the Yukon Development Corporation put $2 million into the convention centre concept, but the government is not going to pay any of the operation and maintenance? Yet, the Yukon Development Corporation has seen no feasibility or marketing studies for a convention centre?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not think the Member can conclude that at all. The proposal the Development Corporation is investing in, the Dakwakada project, has gone through several stages of feasibility. The principal purpose of that building is the hotel/office complex. The need for new hotel space at the top end of the market was analyzed by the consultants who did feasibility studies for the proponents several years ago. I am sorry, I cannot recall exactly which year it was.
The analysis of the need for meeting, or convention centre space has been done by a number of people over the years. One should remember that this is a project involving a number of private sector investors, and the convention space in it is not the most significant aspect of the building in terms of square footage, as described by my colleague, the Minister for Government Services. We are talking about principally hotel property and, secondarily, office space, and only thirdly a meeting space. The investment the Development Corporation made is in the total business, and it is not incurring any operating costs for any part of the operation.
Question re: Conventions centre loans/grants
Mr. Phelps: I do not want to belabour this. I just want to know whether or not this government or the Yukon Development Corporation had access to any market studies or feasibility studies regarding a convention centre, and if so, will the appropriate Minister table the document?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I just told the honourable gentleman, if he had been listening, that the feasibilities into the business in which the Development Corporation were investing were made known to it. As with any investment proposition, the business or development plans of the proponents are made known to the corporation and to the board. I just also explained to him that the principal purpose of this project is not the convention space. I know that, from time to time, analysis of the need for a convention space has been made by a number of people. The Member cannot - as he keeps trying to do by repeating the misstatements of the proposal, even after being told the business proposition in which they were engaged was analyzed and the feasibility of it was studied - go on to conclude that somehow we have not analyzed the one dimension of it that he wants to focus on.
Mr. Phelps: Then do we have the undertaking of the Minister that this government will not be subsidizing any further the cost of the convention centre? Particularly the operation and maintenance cost?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know what conceivable arrangements, or requests for support, may come in future years in regard to this operation. I can tell the Member quite firmly that the Yukon Development Corporation is not entering into this proposal on the basis that it will be assuming the operating costs for this part, or any other part, of the facility in which it is investing.
Question re: Takhini Elementary School trailers/investigation
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. I would like to ask the Minister how the investigation into the Deputy Minister of Education breaking the contract rules is proceeding. Would she give us an update and report who is doing the investigating.
Hon. Ms. Joe: We followed through on the request from the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South. We have determined that the whole procedure was followed. There were discussions between departments. I believe phone calls were made to the companies involved. At this point in time we find no reason to call for an official investigation into this matter.
Mrs. Firth: Did the Minister obtain the records from Government Services to ensure their integrity? Did she request that, and has she got that in her department right now?
Hon. Ms. Joe: Fortunately I am not as suspicious as the Member for Riverdale South. I think that the word of individuals involved is good enough. A lot of discussions have taken place and I see no need whatsoever to follow through on a further investigation.
Mrs. Firth: What the Minister is saying then is that there really was not any investigation, that a group of individuals sat down with each other to decide how they were going to cover this thing up. Is that what the Minister is saying here - that there really was no investigation? She does not even have a copy of the file in her department, so she has done nothing. We want to know if there was something done incorrectly. There are two conflicting stories and the deputy minister in question has given conflicting stories. I would like to ask the Minister if there really was an investigation. If people talked to each other, who was it and what did they talk about and exactly what happened?
Hon. Ms. Joe: There is always a conflicting story when the Member for Riverdale South gets up and makes allegations. We certainly take some of those allegations seriously. We check into them. We do the work that is required of us. I am quite satisfied at this point in time that the whole procedure was followed in the manner that it should have been.
Question re: Takhini Elelemtary School trailers/investigation
Mrs. Firth: I want the Minister of Justice to tell us what happened that satisfied her that all the procedures were followed because there is an entirely different story being presented by the general manager of the Atco company, an individual who has no reason to misrepresent what happened, none whatsoever. So I would like to ask the Minister to tell us who talked to whom and how they arrived at the decision that everything was fine and that there was no investigation needed. I would like her to answer that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Perhaps I could provide to the Member some of the assurances that she is seeking. As indicated by the Minister of Justice, we have looked into the allegations that were made by the Member and it is clear to us that the regulations for awarding purchase contracts were indeed followed.
The Member raises the issue of communications in terms of who talked to whom. I can tell the Member that there were indeed communications held between this government and Atco. The government was represented by the deputy minister of education and the project manager for Government Services. In those communications, the issue of expediting the modular school units for September 1 was discussed. A similar communication took place with the second bidder because that is the proper procedure to follow. As it turned out, the second bidder could not deliver the portable units by September 1. Atco could. On the recommendation of the client department of the Department of Education, Government Services then issued the contract to Atco. Everything was appropriate, was in order. Due process was followed and we are quite comfortable with that.
Mrs. Firth: Now the Minister has really dug himself into a hole. This is what happened, as stated by the general manager of Atco, who has no reason to misrepresent the truth. He spoke to Mr. Shakir Alwarid, who told him he had...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary.
Mrs. Firth: Mr Speaker, I will start with a new question.
Question re: Takhini Elementary School trailers/investigation
Mrs. Firth: The deputy minister of Education told the general manager he had the contract. In fact, he negotiated the contract for $8,000 more on the telephone. The general manager has no reason to misrepresent what happened. He was given the contract. He phoned a couple of days later to get something in writing.
Now, why would that person say that? Why would he say that if it did not happen? It is because it is what happened.
I would like to ask the Minister of Government Services who sat down, who got together in this room upstairs, and decided that everything had followed proper procedure? Who did that? Was it the two deputy ministers here, sitting with their heads together all the time or the two Ministers with their heads together and the two deputy ministers who got together and formed this little story? There is a very important issue here.
Point of Order
Speaker: Order please. Point of order for the Minister of Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is clearly making a speech with a number of sentences in the preamble and has not posed a question yet. I would request that you seek from her a question I could answer.
Mrs. Firth: It really is not the Member for Faros responsibility to tell the Speaker how to do his job. Mr. Speaker calls me into order when he feels I should be and it is not up to the Member for Faro to stand up and tell the Speaker his job. All he was doing was being rude, Mr. Speaker, interrupting my question and not even allowing me a chance to get to the question. There is no point of order; it is just rudeness.
Speaker: I would like to make my ruling on that. I find there is a point of order and at this time, I would like to express again guideline 7, a brief preamble will be allowed in the case of the main question and a one sentence preamble will be allowed in the case of each supplementary question. Also, while I am at it, I will go to guideline 9, A reply to a question should be as brief as possible, relevant to the question asked. It should not provoke debate.
So, there is a Point of Order and I would ask the Member to please immediately get to the question.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister who was in this select little meeting that came to this conclusion with respect to the rules being followed. Who met?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me tell the Member that a number of meetings took place since the allegations were raised on Thursday of last week. Those meetings in part included me, in part included my deputy, and in part included other representatives and officials of the government, including other departments. I certainly am not in a position to give chapter and verse and citation of all the meetings that were held; however, the net result is as I have indicated to the Member. We reviewed the files. We communicated with officials involved. We have determined that the procedures for the award of a purchase contract were followed. It is entirely proper procedure to communicate with suppliers in the bidding of a purchase contract. It is entirely within protocol for Government Services to be in communication, to clarify aspects of a bid. That was done with the two bidders prior to the award of the contract. That was done in order to be able to award the contract. Part of the award of the contract had to do with the timing of the portable facilities. Only Atco could deliver the portable facilities for September 1.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As result, we did give to Atco a purchase contract subsequent to those discussions, and we did so entirely within the framework of the regulations that govern purchase contracts.
Mrs. Firth: The integrity of the government is on the line and the protection of the public purse from people abusing it is on the line. I would like to ask the Minister again: who made the final decision? Some little group sat down. Who was in that little group that made the final decision that all the rules were being followed? The public has a right to know who made that decision.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The decision was clearly a collective decision based on the evidence and ultimately that is my decision, because the question was put to me to look into alleged impropriety of contract awards. I have been able to determine - in discussions with my officials, as well as with the Minister of Justice, because the Member requested that the Minister of Justice - on the evidence of the meetings that I had, on the evidence of the files that I reviewed, on the evidence of what actually took place, which is clear and on the record, that the purchase contract was awarded to Atco with complete propriety and with due process.
The Member raises the issue surrounding who did award the contract. The contract award was signed by my deputy in Government Services.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us why the client department would talk to the supplier prior to the contract being awarded. Why did the client department call up the supplier, as he admitted doing in the media, to have discussions with him prior to the contract being awarded and negotiate another $8,000 increase? That is not appropriate. He negotiated another $8,000 increase in the contract.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is putting wrong information on the record. I have already said to the Member that the Government Services project manager for this particular contract established communication with the bidders to clarify an aspect about timing of the contract. The deputy minister of Education was present. That is not improper. It is entirely appropriate for Government Services to communicate with suppliers to clarify aspects of bids, and they have done so on many occasions. When you request a bid for the supply of certain goods, you do not necessarily end up having your set of specifications completely met. It is entirely appropriate for Government Services to establish communication with the supplier to clarify those aspects. On this particular contract, clarification was with the timing of the project to be in place for September 1. That was entirely appropriate and proper, and ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Question re: School buses/musical instruments
Mr. Nordling: Several of my constituents have brought a problem to my attention, and the problem is that some students have not been allowed to bring their musical instruments with them on the school bus, if the instrument could not be comfortably held on their laps. Concern over this has reached the ministerial level. Could the Minister of Education tell us what steps are being taken to change the policy and solve this inequity?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There has been a letter written to me from a particular parent, who complains that their child was no longer able to carry an instrument on the buses. Consequently, they would possibly have to abandon the music program at school.
I have asked the department to look into the situation with respect to this particular student. As yet, I have not received a response from the department; however, I have asked the department to investigate the options of putting baggage racks on the buses to handle musical instruments and determine the cost, if any, for that particular alteration.
Once we have that information, ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is a very important issue, and it takes a while to explain it.
To cut a long story short, once we have the costs associated with that on our books, we will then make a decision as to whether or not we can provide those carrying racks for the musical instruments.
Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that it does affect more than a single student. I would like to know what the Minister or the department will be doing in the meanwhile while all the investigations are going on.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Part of the investigation is to determine how many students are continuing to carry small instruments on the buses and whether or not this restriction of musical instruments is affecting them. We would be considering putting baggage racks into the buses where students are being carried to a school with a band program so that all students in like circumstances, presuming they are not attempting to carry a tuba onto the bus, would be covered in the eventuality that we do make this alteration to our school buses.
Mr. Nordling: The other concern that came up over this issue was the crowding on the buses. I have been told that in some cases there are three or four kids to a seat on the buses on the way home. Is the Minister aware of this, or does he see this as a problem?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I did see it as a problem last year. As Members know, we did address the overcrowding situation to a very considerable extent this September by adding four more buses to the Whitehorse school system. Consequently, the pressure on existing buses was relieved quite substantially. This is the first time I have heard that there may be a particularly overcrowded bus. I will get the information from the Member as to which bus he is referring. We have made efforts this spring to expand our capacity on the buses at a considerable cost, and feel this is an important feature in doing business in the education system. We are obviously prepared to do that. I think the school busing committee in Whitehorse is satisfied, at least for this year, with the number of buses in the system.
Question re: Takhini Elementary School trailers/investigation
Mr. Phelps: I would like to follow up on this interesting issue of Atco trailers on Takhini School. As I understand the issue it is that whether the Deputy Minister of Education phoned Atco and verbally entered into a contract before Government Services approved the contract. We were told that is the position of Atco about what happened. I would like to know how the Minister of Government Services can ascertain that that is not the case without speaking to the appropriate person at Atco Trailers.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let us be very clear on a point here that the Members opposite are misinterpreting. The fact is that there were communications with Atco prior to the contract award for the purpose of clarifying an aspect about the project that has to do with the timing capability of the bidders. The same communication that took place with Atco took place with the second bidder. Based on those discussions, an award was made. Government Services were present for those discussions. Government Services were present for the discussions that took place with Atco, and they initiated, I believe, the discussions that took place with the second bidder. The long and short of it is that the Deputy Minister of Education on his own hook did not make an offer.
I should clarify something else. What I have been able to determine in the process of reviewing the files is that it appears that a representative of Atco may have misunderstood the discussion with Government Services officials and the client department as an award of contract. That is not the case because the contract award was formally made a couple of days later.
Mr. Phelps: The person from Atco states that the representations were made to them by the deputy minister of Education before the contract was awarded. They followed the instructions of that deputy minister and began ordering things and started the manufacturing process. How can the Minister say that he is content to end the investigation without hearing from the people at Atco, who felt they were out on a limb a couple of days later when they realized there had not been approval from Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My officials have, since last Thursday, spoken to Atco officials. We have clarified what discussions they have had relative to this matter. There appears to be a misunderstanding by Atco that the discussion about the timing of the project meant an award of a contract. That is not the case.
The second bidder was subsequently contacted, as that is the appropriate course to follow when Government Services makes contact with bidders. A similar discussion relating to timing of the project was held with the second bidder. The second bidder could not deliver the project on September 1. On the recommendation of the Department of Education, Government Services did award the contract to Atco. Everything was entirely appropriate under the terms of regulations that apply to purchase contracts.
Mr. Phelps: We have a complete divergence on what took place, it seems. Was the Minister implying that Government Services were present when the phone call to Atco was made and then Atco ordered materials, started building the trailers and got them ready to ship? Is that what he is saying? Were there witnesses who heard one side of the conversation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To my knowledge, through review of the files and discussion with officials, I am not implying Government Services were present in the communication with Atco. I am saying Government Services were present when the exploratory phone call was made. I am saying it clearly. It was part of Government Services review before awarding the contract.
Similarly, they made a communication with the second bidder, Travco, and discussed the same problem relating to the timing of the project. That is entirely proper...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ...in terms of purchase contract tendering. That is due process. It has been done before and is done regularly and was done in this case.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now 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 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 to order. We will take a short break.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Before we start, I would like to distribute this legislative return to address the question raised last Thursday afternoon in respect to the housing contract. It was not available at 1:30 this afternoon, in time for me to table it, so I will just make it available now.
Mr. Lang: The Minister was going to report back to the House about the recommendations for game zones 7 and 9.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Thursday afternoon I mentioned that I would attempt to get in contact with the co-chairs of the Wildlife Management Board for some direction on the matter of the release to the public of reports, recommendations and any other materials. I have not received yet any written direction from them about the release of that information.
Mr. Lang: When will we get some indication? As the Minister is obviously aware, it is not only myself; there are a number of people and organizations out there very concerned about what the government is or is not doing, depending on your point of view. I would like a copy of those recommendations. My understanding is that the recommendations go from the board to the Minister, then after a period of time those recommendations or whatever they submit to the Minister are made public. I do not understand what the holdup is because I have certain privileges and rights as an MLA, especially in view of the fact that I am the critic. It makes my job very difficult. If the board is strictly there to aid and abet the governments point of view, that is one thing, but they are supposed to represent the public and they are not supposed to be a partisan board. If I do not get those recommendations then I will, with credence, be able to stand up in this House and ask why this board is being used as a political pawn for the government. I do not want to do that. All I want to do is look at the recommendations and see if they are legitimate. If they are, I will give the government bouquets. If they are not, I will tell you what we think.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to assure the Member that the board is not being manipulated by the Government of the Yukon. I anticipate some response sometime this week from the co-chairs of the board to provide me with the direction for the release of public information. I want to make it clear to the Member that the subcommittee of the Wildlife Management Board, which prepared this report and its recommendations, presented the material to the board at its meeting about a few weeks ago, at which time about half of the membership of the board were new members and they wanted some time to consider the report and its recommendations further. I believe they are meeting the first week of December to again review, among other matters, that report from the subcommittee.
Mr. Lang: The Minister is confusing the issue. My understanding is that, first of all, the report from the subcommittee that we are talking about was prepared some months ago. That was not just put together a couple of weeks ago. It has been in existence for some time.
Secondly, yes, there were some new board members appointed, who had to become aware of the consequences and weigh the various recommendations of that subcommittee. My information is that the board has recommended certain steps the Minister should take, which result from that report. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is correct, but I want to make it clear that the report was filed October 26. It has not been available for a great length of time for review by the board as a whole, especially by the new members.
Mr. Lang: My understanding is that a definitive decision has been made on what has been recommended to the Minister, from the results of the board deliberating that particular report.
I am asking for that information to be made public, so we can look at what is being recommended to be done in the very serious situations in game zones 7 and 9.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member opposite and I are in complete agreement. He describes it accurately. Right now, all I am doing is getting confirmation from the board, through the co-chairs, on the manner in which they would like to have the information publicly released.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to on with this ad infinitum. I want to impress upon the Minister that I want that information. If necessary, I will put a motion on the floor, and stand up at every opportunity and ask questions every day. I am forewarning the Minister that I intend to get that information, one way or the other, because I do not believe it should be concealed.
I am going to go on to the issue we dealt with last sitting day; you will recall the quiet and calm session with which we ended last week.
I asked the Minister a number of questions in respect to Dawson City and the legislative return the Minister filed. How many days did he use the house in Dawson? We have so many houses, I guess we are giving them away free now. That is kind of disturbing. That is one element that is disturbing. Can the Minister give me more information on the Dawson City situation? How many days was the house used?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We do not make reference to the number of days we occupied that house in Dawson City for the purpose of conducting last years moose survey. It was in the neighbourhood of 30 days, but I will come back with the specific amount of time.
Mr. Lang: How many days, and how many people from outside Dawson City were involved in this situation?
The federal government seems to have a lot of houses available. Does the Department of Renewable Resources contact the federal government to see how many houses are available in these rural communities and whether they can use these free premises for the purpose of running a hotel for a period of time while they are in the small communities?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We do make a practice of trying to locate suitable housing for employees conducting these surveys. I want to point out to the Member that, although the cost of the house in Dawson City last year was provided free of charge, this year the house is available to us for the entire period of the survey at a cost of $500.
Mr. Lang: The Minister can have this information for me in the mains. Are there any other obligations? For an example, it is my understanding that that particular home has been sold. Is the government going to be responsible for cleaning it up, also for repainting and doing things of this nature? Are there any other costs associated with that house?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would imagine there is a basic understanding that, once we are finished the moose survey, we would leave the premises in the condition in which we found it.
Mr. Brewster: I would just like to ask one more question and then I am not going to get into this any more. Any contractor or anyone who puts people into bunkhouses or such things is only allowed to have, at the most, two to a room, usually only one. Apparently, the government does not have to go by any of these regulations, any of these health laws. They can put nine people into one room or nine into one house. Have they checked with the health authorities to see whether they can do this? I know that contracting companies are closed down if they crowd people into such conditions as this.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will have to look into that for the Member opposite. I am not aware of our department receiving permission from the Department of Health or any other officials sanctioning the use of these houses by our crews. It would seem to me, however, that the putting up of our nine-member crew in a house would largely be contingent on the size of the five bedrooms, in this case.
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Webster: This is money that was identified for the management enhancement projects in the 1989/90 year. That is the fish fund that the conservation demonstration project funds. Due to the late start on those programs, we took that $40,000 and rolled it into this year. All the money, with the additional money, has been allocated for this year.
Administration in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Hon. Mr. Webster: The reduction of $137,000 is made up of the following: there is a reduction of $400,000 for land claims funding, an additional funding for environmental legislation preparation, education and communications $270,000. There is a transfer of some $7,000 for our furniture for the new environmental protection unit.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister please provide us with a breakdown of the communications aspect for $230,000 that he has just outlined?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The breakdown of the $270,000 is as follows. Communication consultant fees are $45,000. This is for the salary for a private contractor to assist with the preparation of the discussion paper that was prepared and tabled in August, and also for the community tours that took place in September. First Nation consultation process accounts for $40,000. Production, release and distribution of the draft legislation is $20,000. Publicity surrounding the release of the draft act is $20,000. Environmental newsletters and campaigns were $80,000, for a total communication fee of $220,000.
There is an additional $50,000 to hire a consultant to work on the draft legislation.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister provide me with a copy of the $45,000 contract? I gather that was for the environmental act; is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, this is for the draft environment act. Consequently, that work is still underway and I cannot provide the details of that contract at this time.
Mr. Lang: Who is the contract with?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am not aware of the name of the company, but the name of the individual is Marjorie Beer.
Mr. Lang: Is the full amount of the contract $45,000? What about going into a new year?
Hon. Mr. Webster: This is the full amount of the contract. It will be finished before March 31, this fiscal year.
Mr. Lang: I do not understand why he cannot give me a copy of the contract because the contract has been signed for $45,000. What is the reason I cannot see the terms and conditions of the contract?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The work being undertaken by the consultants is still in progress. It is not customary to release details of a contract while the work is still going on. Once that consultant is finished that task we will make that contract available to the Member.
Mr. Lang: I get the distinct impression that we are not supposed to know what has happened until after it has happened. Is that correct? When it is all spent, we can stand up and ask questions with respect to the contract after it is all finished and done with. Is that the logic the Minister is presenting to the House?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As a general rule, all contracts for the previous year are tabled following the conclusion of the fiscal year in which the work has been done. Traditionally, we have tabled that information as soon as possible in the new fiscal year, sometime near the second or third week of April. This is not a departure from past procedures.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister tell us about the $40,000 for the consultations with the First Nations? Who is doing it and what is it all about?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That contract has not been let at this time. It will be consultation work that will take place early in the new year and will deal with the draft act I intend to table in the House within the next two weeks.
Mr. Lang: I have asked the Minister how much money is being spent between this year and next year on the environment act. I notice there is $400,000 in the budget for next year. I would like to know how much has been spent this year. If he does not have the information, perhaps he could provide it for me in the main estimates.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The total amount to be spent on the environment act, which includes education, communication and the legislation, for this year will be $320,000. That will be the full amount of expenditures up until March 31, 1991. In 1991-92, we are looking at $400,000, as the Member has correctly identified.
Policy and Planning in the amount of an under expenditure of $137,000 agreed to
On Parks, Resources & Regional Planning
Hon. Mr. Webster: This $23,000 is additional funding for the Yukon land-use planning exercise. It is required to bring the budget up to the amount signed in the contribution agreement with the Government of Canada. It is totally recoverable.
Parks, Resources & Regional Planning in the amount of $23,000 agreed to
On Fish & Wildlife
Hon. Mr. Webster: This $259,000 is made up of the following items: the Faro sheep project, $53,000, of which $40,000 is recoverable from Wildlife Habitat Canada and $13,000 is recoverable from FNAWS; the Liard River study for $87,000, of which $77,000 is recoverable from Wildlife Habitat Canada and $10,000 is recoverable from DIAND; Wildlife Habitat Canada funding for habitat studies for $37,000 and the fisheries funding transfer for $94,000.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister update the House on what is taking place with respect to the reciprocal fishing licences agreement with the State of Alaska.
Hon. Mr. Webster: In the last contact I had with the State of Alaska, they were in the process of drafting some new legislation for fisheries. At that time, it was not being contemplated that the legislation would include a reciprocal agreement with the Yukon. It was felt that, from a political standpoint, there would not be support from the members in Alaska for this proposal.
Mr. Lang: Are the Alaskans not paying the same as we are for fishing licences at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Webster: At the present time but, in this new legislation regulation going forward, they are anticipating large increases in the fishing fees in the State of Alaska.
Mr. Lang: I think the Minister misunderstood me. I am talking about our regulations. Cannot Alaskan residents come over here and pay the same as a resident for the privilege of fishing in the Yukon, or are they still classified as a non-resident?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Alaskans are still classified as non-residents in the Yukon.
Mr. Lang: I feel we should be pursuing this. I want to put the Minister on notice. We will be talking about this during the main estimates. We should still continue to pursue this, perhaps in our interchange between the two legislatures, to see whether or not there is some support for this. It is to the benefit of Yukoners if we can do that.
Could the Minister provide us with whatever correspondence he has sent over to the State of Alaska on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will be pleased to provide that correspondence prior to our debate in the main estimates.
Mr. Devries: In regard to the Liard Basin Study, could the Minister make sure we get the data that has been accumulated thus far on that, before we get into the main estimates? I would also be interested in knowing more about the goat count that has been done in the Rancheria/Marker Lake/North Winds area.
Hon. Mr. Webster: We can have that information available during debate on the main estimates.
Fish and Wildlife in the amount of $259,000 agreed to
Mrs. Firth: I have a question on money in general, and wastage of something that we could potentially derive some revenue from. I have had people bring to my attention that, at the end of August, there were dead bears thrown away in the dump. People had seen these bears in the dump. Some of them were apparently quite rare: a blond grizzly, for example. They were just thrown there to be disposed of.
Who makes that kind of decision? There was concern raised that parts of the hides could have been used. I can appreciate that if it was in the summer the hides might not have been as valuable as they would have been in the first of the spring but, certainly, the claws or some parts of the bears, the heads or whatever, could have been used and some revenue derived from them, rather than just throw them away and allow them to rot in the dump.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The department staff of the fish and wildlife branch made the decision about the quality of the pelts, which led to the decision to put the carcasses in the dump. As far as other parts go, I do not have an answer on whether other parts of the bear carcasses could be used, regardless of the time of the year. I will come back with that information for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: The officials did not consult any of the taxidermy companies either. I would have thought that would have been something they should do. Does the Minister know anything about that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I doubt the taxidermy companies would have been interested in the bears, considering the quality of the hide that was thrown away in the dump at that time of year.
Mrs. Firth: We do not know that if they were not even consulted. They would have been able to advise the officials with respect to other parts of the bear being usable. So I guess the point I am getting at is that I do not think it should be up to the department officials to, in isolation, make those kinds of decisions. I mean, they do not own the wildlife of the Yukon and it should not be for them to make the decision that they are going to dispose of them whichever way they want. I think there should be some consultation taking place and if there are parts of the animals that can be used, they should be used. We should be trying to get some money out of it if we can.
I was particularly concerned when I heard that there were some rare specimens of bear, the blond grizzly, which is not something that we see here all the time. I do not think that the Minister should just allow his officials to have that authority without it being taken either to the Wildlife Management Board or phoning the local taxidermies and say there are some parts of these hides or these animals that we could be using and deriving a bit of revenue from.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will provide the Member with a copy of the procedure that my branch follows in disposing of these carcasses and make the recommendation that this additional step can be included.
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $185,000 agreed to
On Departmental Equipment
Hon. Mr. Webster: The $55,000 here is made up of a number of small items: a revote for equipment ordered but not yet received, $9,000; $34,000 for fisheries funding for equipment; furniture for the environmental protection unit, $7,000, which is from the operation and maintenance side that I just spoke about a few minutes ago.
Departmental Equipment in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
On Yukon Conservation Study - Final Publication
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is self-explanatory. This extra $16,000 is required to produce the 5,000 copies of the Yukon Conservation Strategy.
Yukon Conservation Study - Final Publication in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Parks, Resources and Regional Planning
On Dempster Corridor Study
Hon. Mr. Webster: The work planned for last year was not completed. This year the extra $20,000 was required to complete the study and the draft plan will be released in the near future.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister update us, in view of the fact that some of the laws have been changed on the Dempster Highway? What kind of experience are we having with the hunting in that area, since it is almost finished for the year?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The new regulations, permitting the use of snowmobiles through the corridor for access to hunting areas, did not actually come into effect until November 1 of this year, so we have only had three weeks of hunting. At this time, I do not have any idea as to the status of the hunt. When we come to discuss the main estimates, I hope we will have some information on that.
Mr. Phillips: A concern I have about the new regulations is the fact that people can go past the one kilometre corridor and hunt the caribou with snow machines. There is a potential there for people being a little more successful, I suppose, because they have snow machines. The concern I have is not so much with the caribou that get shot by the hunters over there but, rather, the harassment that could take place out of sight, over the hill, with the snow machines. What is the government doing to monitor that type of activity, or to keep an eye on it in some way, to make sure that is not happening? From talking to people, especially from Old Crow, I know some people do have a concern about that type of harassment taking place. It is out of sight, over the hill, no one else can see it; someone could see a herd of bulls, take their snow machine, and run them until they are totally exhausted, and shoot the one they wanted. Of course, that one would be dead, because they would shoot it, but others could suffer harmful effects from being harassed and chased around in rather deep snow and adverse conditions.
Hon. Mr. Webster: This was a concern also expressed by the Porcupine Caribou Management Board in making this recommendation, giving the ability to the Minister to close down at any time, through an order-in-council, the hunting area for the use of snowmobiles. They are aware this could happen, and our staff is quite aware of the situation. This being the first year for this regulation change, they are keeping a close eye on the situation and the harvest.
Mr. Phillips: What is the alternative? If, for example, they find there is this harassment, will they just close the hunting to snow machines? Will we go back to the status quo that we have today, where you will still have to observe the corridor? This is my own personal opinion on the issue. I would much rather people walked a kilometre to get a caribou than have the use of a snow machine. I can see it is almost impossible to monitor. At least if you have a corridor on the Dempster, and its width has been identified, you could police that quite easily, because it can be seen; it is visual, but over the next hill there is so much that cannot be seen.
I do not know what the department is going to do, because there is about a hundred miles there where hunting takes place, and they cannot be everywhere at once. If they are on snow machines themselves, they can only be in one particular spot. If they are in a helicopter, it gets very expensive to monitor. I do not know how the department plans to monitor this. It would be interesting to know what kind of monitoring the Minister has in mind.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As I say, because this is a new program with new regulations for this year, the staff are paying close attention to the numbers being harvested and the condition of the animals when they come out to the road. If the Porcupine Management Board feels that there is too much abuse taking place, and they plan to review the effects of this regulation every year, they may well recommend to me that it is really not worth it and go back to the old system of only allowing subsistence hunters and trappers to use skidoos in that area.
Mr. Phillips: I have one last question on this issue. One of the reasons for allowing access by skidoos was the hunting that takes place by the Fort McPherson Indian bands that come along the road. In other years there have been all kinds of reports of them shooting caribou all along the road and leaving them in the ditches. The hope this year is that they would do away with that - that they would go a little further afield and would take the caribou there and haul them back to the road. Have they been hunting the caribou this year and observing the corridor and observing the regulations that the Porcupine Caribou Management Board recommended? I think they made that recommendation based on the fact they had verbal support, at least, from the Fort McPherson people that they would now comply with the new rules of taking a skidoo one kilometre before shooting caribou.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The people from Fort McPherson did give the assurance that they would comply with the regulations. I have just indicated to the Member for Porter Creek East that I do not have at this time the status of the hunt for this season about the use of skidoos, but we will have that in time for the debate on the mains.
Dempster Corridor Study in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $91,000 agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources agreed to
Department of Tourism
Chair: We will begin with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Department of Tourism is requesting supplementary estimates of $318,000 in operation and maintenance and $408,000 in capital. This request is partially offset by an estimated increase of $44,000 in recoveries. The variance in operation and maintenance is required for two programs: heritage and marketing. In the heritage program $25,000 is required for consulting services to finalize the heritage legislation and preparation for tabling it in the spring sitting. The marketing program requires $293,000 for the following: $172,000 for postage costs due to anticipated increase in ad campaign responses, based on last years increase. These funds will also provide for the undertaking of a recontact program. There is $75,000 for redesign and printing of highway maps. There is $25,000 for printing the 200,000 copies of the 1990 vacation guide on recycled paper. Finally, there is $21,000 for salaries for the visitor reception centres that were higher than budgeted due to the increased benefits provided by the collective agreement.
To offset the costs of printing our 1991 vacation guide on recycled paper we have invited recipients of the guide to submit voluntary contributions. While the amount of funds we will raise through this is impossible for forecast we have estimated $20,000 as a recovery.
The variance of $408,000 in capital is primarily needed for two initiatives. $409,000 is requested for the planning and design stage of our new Yukon visitor reception centre. This will be a showcase facility located on the Alaska Highway near the Whitehorse airport. It will be opened in the spring of 1992 in time for the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska Highway.
The second initiative is under the artifact inventory catalogue project. We have received a grant from the federal museums assistance programs that will provide 100 percent of the cost to undertake a planning pilot project for the registration and automation of museum collection records; therefore, notice the corresponding $24,000 capital recovery.
Mr. Phillips: I just have a few questions in general debate. First of all, I would like to turn to a program that the government is now in the process of implementing and that is Destination Yukon. I would like to ask the Minister if he could give us an update on that.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Well, as the Member may be aware, the Destination Yukon program was officially launched during the month of October in six Canadian cities and five American cities over a period of about three weeks. All I can say is that the meetings went very well with the advertising agencies and the travel guides. There were six travel trade presentations in Canada where 600 people attended; four travel trade presentations in the United States where over 500 attended; four consumer presentations in Canada attended by over 2,500. I would say that basically, the Destination Yukon program is well on the way with its very successful launch.
Mr. Phillips: I raised this issue publicly, and the Minister responded but I would like to comment on it again. I was a little disappointed to see the department launch Destination Yukon and go all over these cities and talk to so many tour wholesalers and so many people in the industry and give very little mention to the Celebration 92. I know the Minister said that it would be confusing to people out there if we mentioned both of them when one was not taking place until 1992, but we were not talking, in a lot of cases, to the general public; we were dealing mainly with tour wholesalers. These people plan two and three years in advance. The Minister is the Minister of Tourism and he should know that.
I was disappointed when he told us that they did not mention very much about Celebration 92. In the future, if the department is going to do any more work with Destination Yukon, I would encourage that one of the most significant tourism attractions to the Yukon in the next 10 years, Celebration 92, Celebration 96 and Celebration 98 be included. I would hope this government would realize that and make that one of the focal points that would draw people to the territory. I think 1992 should be talked about. People may not want to come to the Yukon in 1992 because of all the anticipated crowds, but they may be interested in coming up a year earlier if all that is here were advertised. I would encourage the Minister to do that. I think it was a real shortcoming of that program and I was really disappointed to hear that they did not focus more on the Celebration 92 activities. I would just like to hear the Ministers comments on that.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The goal of Destination Yukon was to give the Yukon a high profile. There is great competition in the tourism market among all Canadian and American jurisdictions.
We also used Destination Yukon to promote tour packages of the Yukon in 1991, or, in other words, next years travel. We feel that was the approach that needed to be taken. Our private sector partners in Destination Yukon, which totalled 13, in addition to the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, felt that was the approach to take. There was some consideration given to promoting 1992 celebrations but we felt that, with this being a new program and those being our goals, we would leave the promotion of Celebration 92 to other marketing programs of the Tourism Marketing Council of the Yukon and the Department of Tourism. We have done this through Tourism North, our travel guide for 1991 and recently at the National Tourism Association convention.
Those are the reasons for not promoting Celebration 92 in this years Destination Yukon. Because of the success of this years launching of Destination Yukon, it will be a bigger program next year. Again, it will focus on next years activities in the Yukon, which will obviously involve Celebration 92 to a large extent.
Mr. Phillips: I am disappointed to hear that the Minister is sticking hard and fast to what he said when it became public that he was not involving Celebration 92 very much in Destination Yukon.
I say this because my questionnaire of this past summer showed that the RV tourists were virtually crying out for information on Celebration 92. Many said they knew nothing about it and would like further information. I find it incredible that we had access to 80 or 100 tour wholesalers in each city we went to and we did not focus on that major attraction.
One of the reasons why Alberta and British Columbia have had good tourism seasons in past years was specifically because they highlighted major celebrations, such as Expo and the Olympics. They were a major focal point. The spinoffs were enormous. I would have thought that since we have something like Celebration 92 coming up in these tough times for attracting tourists anywhere in the country, we would have picked something like that as a focal point.
I think it is important to promote that. It was passed up with the excuse that it would confuse people this year and that next year we will concentrate on it. Some of these people would have been more than interested to hear what is going to happen in 1992. It is a golden opportunity. I would have thought that in every promotion done by the Government of Yukon planned upcoming celebrations would be strongly mentioned.
This is the age of the 1990s for tourism in the territory, and it is going to be a tough age for tourism throughout the world.
It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. At our disposal, we have an extremely unique opportunity in this territory, where we have three significant events happening in the 1990s. I would think we would not wait until 1991, or the year before the gold rush to start promoting the gold rush. I would hope the government would be starting the promotion now. It is too late to do it the year before. People plan trips a year, or two or three, in advance, especially the major tour wholesalers. They are going to market these kinds of things. They look three to five years in advance at the trips thay are going to promote. We have to take advantage of every opportunity we have.
They did not have to do a lot, but it would have been wise to take somebody from Celebration 92 along with them on the trip to help market that specific part of future tourism for the territory. They did not do that. I am really disappointed with that, and I have to disagree with the Minister. I think the Minister is dead wrong when he says we cannot confuse people. That is the wrong attitude. We have to take every opportunity at our disposal to promote the upcoming events in the territory, if we expect them to be successful.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I guess the Member and I are going to have to disagree on this. I want to point out that this decision was not made in isolation. It was the Department of Tourism and the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, together, on the marketing council. This decision was made in concert with a number of partners in the private sector: a total of 15. They felt that, being a new program with so much to accomplish and with specific goals, this was the best route to go.
We are getting some very positive feedback and favourable comments from our partners involved with Destination Yukon, who think it has gone over very well. They are applauding us on our efforts and saying to us that if it were not for Destination Yukon we would not be marketing as much as we are for Yukon 1991.
Having said that, I want to emphasize that, yes, every marketing program of the Government of the Yukon and the Yukon marketing council next year will be actively promoting Project 1992. The only marketing program that did not do it this year was Destination Yukon, and I gave the reasons why. In the other areas, be it through Tourism North, through the travel guide, or through the work of the Anniversaries Commission, which this government has funded to a great extent, they have done a lot of work promoting the 1992 celebrations and raising their profile. That was the message we received recently in Juneau at the Alaska Visitors Association annual convention. In promoting project 1992, the Yukon is far ahead of the other three jurisdictions. I think that is a good indication that our Anniversaries Commission in the Yukon is doing a good job, and it is receiving a lot of support.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister says the decision was not made in isolation, but was made with other groups in the tourism industry. I find it interesting that other groups in the tourism industry did not make a stronger bid to have the celebrations of 1992 included. If they consulted everybody, why did they not consult Celebration 92? They did not find out about the trip until a week or two before it happened. They were finally sent a letter saying they were not really invited on the trip because the priority was going to be all the Yukon, not necessarily Celebration 92.
One of the things that disturbs me most about politics, and this relates to both sides sometimes, is the fact that when we do these kinds of things and realize we have made a mistake or we did not do enough in that particular program - we did not promote Destination Yukon, we did not promote Celebration 92 - it is beyond me why someone on the other side cannot say they did not do enough, why they always try to pretend that what they did was absolutely right.
I do not think it was right to go out and promote one total program and leave out Celebration 92. I do not know why the Minister will not just admit that after further thought and looking at it that they could have done more, and they should have done more, and then stand up and tell us that in the future when they market it, they are going to do more. That is all I am asking. We cannot fix something that happened two months ago when they blew it and they did not tell people all about the Celebration 92 activities. I just want the Minister to come clean and tell us exactly how he feels about it.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Well, I am coming clean. I am telling people how I think about it. I think that we made the right decision in proceeding with Destination Yukon in the way that we did. I want to point out to the Member that Destination Yukon was not a secret. In the election campaign we told everybody that we were going to go out and actively promote Yukon - all the Yukon and not just one region over another - as a destination, a unique destination where people like to spend all of their holiday time. It not being a secret, it is beyond me why the Rendezvous 92 Yukon Anniversaries Commission did not become a partner and buy into this. They certainly had the opportunity. They have a budget for marketing purposes, and I am sure that they could have become involved in Destination Yukon and had some representation decision making involving Destination Yukon and how it was going to market the Yukon. For one reason or another they preferred not to.
Mr. Phillips: Is the Minister telling us that they were offered an opportunity to participate in Celebration 92 and said No, we would rather not?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As far as I am aware, everyone was extended an invitation to become involved in Destination Yukon. The more people we have involved from the travel industry here in the Yukon who buy into this - the Government of Yukon, the Tourism Marketing Council and Tourism Industry Association - the more money will be available to promote the Yukon as a tourism destination; that is what we all want here.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to move on to the brochure that was produced by Destination Yukon. Can the Minister tell us who did that brochure - this is the one that I am talking about here - and how much it cost? Who actually did the proofing of the brochure and approved the contents?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The consortium of all the partners involved in Destination Yukon approved the layout of this brochure. As for the costs, I will have to come back with that information.
Mr. Phillips: Who proofed it? The department?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, the partners involved in Destination Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: So the Minister is telling us that all of the partners involved, who are listed on the back and in the brochure, had an opportunity to view the brochure and proofread it before it went to publication?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is my understanding.
Mr. Phillips: Who produced the brochure for us? Was this brochure done locally?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The firm that produced this brochure is Integrated Tourism Strategy of Vancouver.
Mr. Phillips: Were they successful in the contract to produce the brochure, or did we tender it locally? Did they have an opportunity here to produce such a brochure? We do our tourism guide in the territory, and this is something very similar to that. I know there are qualified people here to do that kind of thing.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Most of the work that the Department of Tourism and the Tourism Marketing Council of the Yukon does is referred to people here in the Yukon. In this particular case Harvey and Associates, and Fleming and Company, were both invited to bid on this tender. However, it was felt that their submissions were inadequate, and the partners decided to take a look at proposals submitted from firms outside the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister says their submissions were inadequate. Is the Minister just talking about this brochure, or is he talking about the whole program?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am referring to the entire Destination Yukon program and all the communications involved, not just this one brochure.
Mr. Phillips: So, the Minister is telling the House that the whole Destination Yukon program went out to invitational tender, and they asked for proposals from Yukon firms, as well as firms outside. At that time, they considered that the Yukon firms proposals were inadequate, or did not meet the standards. Is that what the Minister is telling us?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The decision was made that the submissions from the two local firms were not comprehensive enough. They did not meet the requirements for the whole communications package.
Mr. Phillips: Could the Minister tell us the total cost of the Destination Yukon contract. This is the government that professes to have all local content, or as much local content and local hire as possible. How much was this contract for that went outside?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will have to come back with that information as to the cost of the total contract.
Mr. Phillips: Has the Minister had an opportunity to read this brochure? Does he think it is a good brochure? I have been reading it lately, and I find some of the words and the terminology in here to be a little interesting. The one entitled What is the Big Idea, says the Yukon is big on heritage, big on aboriginal culture, big on scenery and - and this is the one I am not sure of - big on activity-oriented landscapes. I wonder how many people in the real world out there know what activity-oriented landscapes really are.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think that is the new style and the new approach of saying there is lots of elbow room up here to get up and kick your heels: our vast landscapes.
Mr. Phillips: That I can understand. I would have thought somebody might have raised it as an issue when they were proofing the brochure. That we are big on activity-oriented landscapes sounds like some bureaucrat in the middle of nowhere writing something that they are absolutely pleased with.
Another one is a title here that says actively passive and passively active. That is an interesting one. The other one is the Yukon is wild and woolly and wide-open and wonderful. These are things that I am reading right out of the brochure that seem to me to be a little different. Obviously, the same person wrote the whole brochure.
He said its magic and its mystery, scenery and history, uncluttered, unspoiled and unusual. I read this here, and the brochure itself seems to have lots of mystery and magic in it, and it is cluttered, and it is a bit spoiled. I am not totally pleased when I read something like this activity-oriented landscape. Did the Minister have an opportunity to look at this brochure before it went into production?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, I did not have an opportunity to look at this brochure before it went into production.
Mr. Phillips: Can the Minister bring the specific cost of producing this brochure? Destination Yukon is made up of many, many contracts. Who are the principals of Integrated Tourism Strategy that we are dealing with in Vancouver?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will return with the information about the principals of that company and the specific cost to produce this brochure.
Mr. Phillips: I understand the company that produced this brochure was again from Vancouver and they are called Global Pacific. Can the Minister bring us some information on who Global Pacific is and who the principals in Global Pacific are as well?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will do that.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to ask the Minister if he could give me a list of all the participants who sit on the Tourism Marketing Council, as well as the Tourism North group? Can the Minister provide that information to us today?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I may not have the information available concerning Tourism North, which is a cooperative effort among the three jurisdictions of British Columbia, Alaska and the Yukon.
The names of the 14 members of the marketing council I have with me and can make a copy for the Member to pass to him.
Mr. Phillips: Could the Minister tell us if Integrated Tourism Strategy does any work for the Tourism Marketing Council or the Tourism North group? Does that particular group have contracts for them as well?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I know that this company is involved with Tourism North to some extent but I do not believe they do any work for the Yukon Tourism Marketing Council, but I will check on that, to be sure.
Mr. Phillips: How often does the Tourism Marketing Council meet and does it decide on such things as Destination Yukon? Is that part of its mandate?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Tourism Marketing Council meets at least four times a year and I know that in some of their deliberations they have reviewed some of the content of the Destination Yukon program.
Mr. Phillips: Can the Minister tell me if they discussed the involvement of Celebration 92 in Destination Yukon programs? Has that ever been a topic of discussion and what resolution did they come to on that matter, if they discussed it?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am not certain if the Tourism Marketing Council had discussed that on the agenda of one of their meetings but I will return that information for the Member.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the Minister could update us on the current status of the marketing department of the Department of Tourism. How many people do we have in marketing right now? What are their positions and are all those positions full right now? Do we have a full complement of marketing people within the Department of Tourism?
Hon. Mr. Webster: In the marketing branch of the Department of Tourism there are 11 positions and at this time the chief of information services position is vacant.
Mr. Phillips: Are all 11 of those people directly related to marketing?
Hon. Mr. Webster: There is a correction on that figure of 11. There are actually 10, of which nine are permanent. Yes, they are all related to marketing. There is a travel counsellor, distribution, industry liaison officer, marketing technician, policy analyst, and of course the director of marketing, and the secretarial staff.
Mr. Phillips: Do we handle a lot of the work for Tourism North, or do we contract that out?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That decision is made by the Tourism North group with representation from the three jurisdictions. None of that work is actually done in the department. It is contracted out.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister can correct me, but does the Tourism North group now do the American Automobile Association seminar and overseas markets for Rendezvous Yukon? Does it do the Canadian markets, as well? Exactly what does Tourism North do, in regard to marketing the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Tourism Norths primary objective is to provide information to the travelling public. It is more designed for people in RVs, who travel the highways. It is more to promote travel to the northwest by vehicle.
They have recently done a production of a video they use in the Canadian Automobile Association and the American Automobile Association market. They have done a series of joint seminars with both CAA and AAA on key markets around the continent. They have jointly produced a travel counsellor reference manual, which contains cross-jurisdictional information on the services and facilities available in each of the three jurisdictions.
In early May of this year, there was a training session for all staff of visitor reception centres in the three jurisdictions, so they could coordinate their information. Next years seminar for visitor reception centre staff will take place in Haines, Alaska.
Mr. Phillips: It seems like we contract out a lot of our marketing. Destination Yukon is all contracted out, as well as many of these other programs. If we have everyone else doing all the work in marketing, why do we have 10 people in the marketing branch of Tourism? I have read the job descriptions of many of the people working in Tourism, and I know many of the individuals who are there. They are very qualified and know their business, but what are they doing, if all the work is contracted out to other people in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Webster: They are involved in a lot of activities associated with our many marketing programs, besides maintaining contact with the industry. For example, we have people who sit on the Tourism North council. We have people who work on the joint cooperative program we have enjoyed for 10 years with Alaska. We are involved in a lot of conventions throughout the territory. We are involved in a lot of marketing programs designed to attract European visitors. We have the Yukon Rendezvous market, the Canadian Image Campaign. We have a person who just liaises with members of the industry associated with TIA.
I can assure you that members of the marketing division of the Department of Tourism are very busy in a wide variety of activities. We would need a great deal of additional staff if we were directly involved in producing all the materials and communications for each of our individual projects.
Mr. Phillips: The comment I have is that it seems that we have an awful lot of outside firms, in Vancouver and elsewhere, that are doing all of the marketing for the Government of the Yukon, first of all. Secondly, we have 10 qualified people in the Department of Tourism marketing branch who are running back and forth as messengers and attending meetings. I would think that they could be used in a much better capacity than just being messengers or just running back and forth between these meetings. I have a concern about that. Almost every program that I mentioned here today that is a marketing program for the Department of Tourism is subcontracted out to somebody else, and yet we have 10 people in the marketing branch. I think that has got to be a concern. I wonder what they are all doing on a day-to-day basis if everyone else is doing the major marketing work. I thought that was what the Department of Tourisms marketing branch was all about. I thought they developed the programs and policies of the government and implemented them. It seems that they develop ideas, I suppose, and then we just contract it out to someone who knows diddly-squat about the Yukon. We give them jobs to write these wonderful little cliches in these brochures and try and sell this to someone who may one day want to travel to the Yukon.
The Tourism Canada Collaboree - do we still do that in the Department of Tourism or is that contracted out as well?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am sorry. I did not get the Members question. Is that the Canadian - ?
Mr. Phillips: We have involvement in the Tourism Canada Collaboree, and I am just wondering if our work in that is contracted out, or we do it? Do we have representatives who are involved in that or is the Department of Tourism, located in Vancouver under this integrated tourism strategy, our representative?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No. That is one example where we do the work ourselves. The members in our departments marketing division attend that particular event in Australia. Like many of our other marketing campaigns, the department does it entirely on its own. It does not farm the work out to consultants. The Rendezvous Yukon program, for example, where we are focusing on European markets, is done entirely by our staff. Many of our familiarization tours, where we invite tour operators from anywhere in this continent to tour the Yukon, are done by our staff. The Canadian image campaign, again, is done by our staff.
I can assure the Member opposite that our staff are very competent people. They are not messenger boys, as he put it. They are involved quite professionally and contribute a great deal of time. They are busy at their jobs, and I think that their hard work is paying off in that Yukons name is being promoted in a wider market, not just on this continent but in Australia and Europe as well. I think that we are starting to see some positive results from their hard efforts.
Mr. Phillips: It seems that more and more of the work is going to outside contractors. It is a concern I have and I would like the Minister to give assurances that none of these other programs he has mentioned will go to these outside firms. I hope we will keep at least some of this marketing work in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have already indicated that they already have a great responsibility. I can assure him that none of the members of our staff are inactive.
The major programs such as Tourism North and Destination North will continue to be contracted out. This is quite a normal practice in other jurisdictions, not only in this country but also in the United States.
Mr. Phillips: When I talk about contracting out, I am particularly concerned about this particular contracting, because we are relying on people who are not Yukoners and are trying to promote the Yukon as a destination. I am concerned that they can overlook things that the people in the Department of Tourism, who have lived and worked in the territory for most of their lives, would not. The high-priced consultants can be very expensive as well.
I would like the Minister to confirm for this House that one of the consultants, who just happened to work for Integrated Tourism Strategy - and the name of the person is a Mr. Jim Lawson - came to the Yukon this year for one day for consulting purposes. It cost us a $600 consulting fee for the one day, $300 each way for his travel and $612.00 for airfare and expenses. The total cost to the Yukon taxpayer was $1,812 for one day of consulting. He attended at meeting in Whitehorse. The director of marketing, who is responsible for all the contracts, attended as well. Could the director of marketing not have just talked to Mr. Lawson later about what went on at the meeting or made a conference call? Surely the Minister would agree that $1,812.00 is an outrageous fee for anyone to pay for one day of consulting?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I agree that the price seems quite high, but I am not aware of the details surrounding the work involved on that one day of consulting. I want to point out to the Member that when he says this is all borne by the Yukon taxpayer, the amount of money put into Destination Yukon by the Yukon government was budgeted at $295,000. With the contributions of the 13 partners from the private sector we managed to raise the amount available for this program to $1.4 million. I imagine our partners are used to paying for good help and felt it justified. Again, I do not know the nature of the work but I am quite sure the partners agreed to it and are quite happy with the outcome.
Mr. Phillips: Again the Minister and I are going to disagree because this goes back the philosophy of the Minister that if it costs more money it must be better and we must be getting more. This goes back to when I did a study on tourism in the territory and the Minister said it could not have been a good study because it did not cost a lot of money.
He must have gotten a lot of valuable information from Mr. Lawson to pay him $1,812 for one day. The Minister also tells us that it is not all the money of the taxpayer, we do not have to worry about it. Well I do not care whose money it is. The point of the matter is that it is a lot of money to pay for anybody for one day. There is modern technology available to all of us here today where you can pick up the phone and call somebody and put them on a conference call to attend a meeting by conference call. It would have been a heck of a lot better to justify $600 rather than $1,812 for one day of services. As far as I am concerned, there is not a man nor woman alive in the world who is worth $1,812 for one day of work. Even if they work the full 24 hours. The Minister cannot say that just because it is not all our money it is okay. I do not think it is okay. I do not think the Minister can stand with a straight face and justify it either.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I did not say that I did not care because all the money was not borne by the Yukon taxpayer that we had to pay $1,812 for a consultant for one day of work. I did not say that at all. It is not okay. All I was trying to say was that we do not make these decisions ourselves, independently. I try to get this message across again and again and again. There are 13 partners involved with TIA and the Department of Tourism who are also involved in making these decisions. Maybe it does seem exorbitant but again I cannot say that without knowing the nature of the work being done that particular day.
Mr. Phillips: I hope the Minister will bring that information to the House tomorrow.
Again, this Minister is saying it is not his fault, it is not our fault, it is the 13 partners and TIAs fault. That is why they did this. The government has a responsibility. When it announces in an election campaign that it is going into a program such as Destination Yukon, and is a major contributor to such a program, it should make sure it takes care of the money of the taxpayers that is going into that program. The Minister should not try to blame everyone else but the government for this particular decision of bringing this individual up for one day for $1,812. It should not have happened in the first place. I hope it has not happened more than once, but if it has I would like to know how many other trips this individual has made to the territory, how long did the individual stay, and how much did it cost us per trip, and what was the individual here to discuss when on those various trips?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will make that information available at the proper time about the consultants spending the money. I want to point out that Destination Yukon is a partnership; we do make decisions collectively and yes, we are concerned about getting value for our money, but I think it is an excellent program.
I want to read into the record a letter I received recently from the vice president of marketing from Holland-America Westours, an organization that has a long history of involvement in tourism in the Yukon, and I think they know what they are talking about. In describing the Destination Yukon campaign, they wanted to thank us, and they said, The promotion has been planned and executed in a thoroughly professional manner to date. We are pleased and grateful for the opportunity to participate. All the various elements of the campaign, from consumer and trade events to advertising and direct mail, have been well done. This has strongly encouraged the private sector participants like ourselves, to more heavily promote the Yukon as a destination worthy of substantial consideration.
As you may be aware, our company has undertaken a product expansion in the Canadian market for the upcoming 1991 season. Without the heightened awareness and strong support provided by the Destination Yukon program, it is unlikely we would have been able to justify expanding our efforts on behalf of Yukon tourism. Although it will be some time before the result of this undertaking will be realized, we are confident Destination Yukon will significantly improve our results in 1991. Again, on behalf of Holland-America Westours, thank you, and we look forward to building on this strong beginning.
Mr. Phillips: That is a very nice letter - a very nice letter, and it commends the program. I commend the program overall. It is about time we had a marketing program in the territory that advertises the Yukon as a destination so people would come here. If we are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to market the Yukon, surely to goodness we would do it in a sensible way and we would get the best bang for our buck. Eighteen hundred and twelve dollars for one days consulting service is not the best bang for our buck.
The Minister of Tourism, as one of the major partners in that group, has a responsibility to make sure that that does not happen. I mean, just because we have $400,000 to $700,000 to spend, it does not mean we can just spend it willy-nilly wherever we want. We have a responsibility to get the best value and we are not getting the best value from anybody for that $1,812. The Minister would surely admit to that and give us assurances that the Yukon government, as a partner in this organization, will argue against spending that kind of money in that fashion in the future.
I guess the Minister is never going to argue that. His position is, I guess, since he did not stand up and say anything, that he does not agree with it and that he is not going to argue that. They are willing to go out and spend that kind of money and they have no fears or no qualms about it because it is everybody elses fault.
The familiarization tours that we do with the tour wholesalers in the Yukon, we have been in the past been doing with the Yukon government and the marketing people. Are we going to continue to do that in the future or are we going to be contracting that out as well?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am sorry, I missed the first part of the Members question.
Mr. Phillips: I asked the Minister about the familiarization tours for the tourist operators who we bring up and take around the territory and show them what is available. I believe we have done that in the past and I am wondering if we are going to continue to do that or are we planning to contract that out?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We are planning to continue the work involved in the familiarization tours.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to move into another area, the new visitors reception centre. I understand from some members of the public that they have had an opportunity to view a mock-up or a model of the visitors reception centre. Is there one prepared and is it available for public viewing?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member is correct. A number of Yukon-wide organizations, including the City of Whitehorse, have been invited to participate in the process to come up with a design for the Yukon visitors reception centre. That work is ongoing. The design is still in the preliminary stage. There is another meeting scheduled for some time, I believe, in the second week of December.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister must be talking about groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Industry Association and those types of groups. What I am concerned about is that there was a petition that I tabled in the House and I raised the issue with the Minister about the location of the visitors reception centre a year or so ago. At that time they made the decision to put the centre up the hill. What I would like to know from the Minister is: will the various businesses involved in tourism in the territory, such as the RV parks and those types of people, have an opportunity to look at the centre and make recommendations or is the Minister just planning on vetting it through the major bodies or the parent bodies of all these groups?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is our intention just to involve Yukon-wide organizations such as the ones he suggested - the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Parks Service, Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, the Yukon Museums Historical Association, the Council for Yukon Indians, et cetera - in the design process.
Mr. Phillips: Some people have indicated to me that they would like to have a look at the facility and private businesses would like to have a look at it. I wonder if the Minister could make that available to them. I understand that the mock-up or the model of the facility is at the Department of Tourism. I wonder if these people could go down to the Department of Tourism and ask to have an opportunity to view the facility.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the design is going through some changes and some refinements, the design is right now with the architect, who resides in Edmonton. But the next session of the committee looking at the design of the new reception centre will take place the second week in December.
Mr. Phillips: Another concern expressed to me by people in the tourism industry is that, from what they have seen of the facility, it is going to be a grandiose and beautiful building. It will be so nice, no one will have to go anywhere else in the Yukon to see anything else. There will be a nice slide show and other things there. There is a concern that it will be an all-encompassing facility. Could the Minister tell us exactly what will be in this facility? Will it just be a visitor reception centre with a small theater? Will there be a cafeteria, coffee shop, or any commercial sales in it?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Yukon visitor reception centre will be much like any other in the Yukon, in terms of the services and information provided, except that it will be on a grander scale. This is because we are promoting the entire Yukon.
We are also working in conjunction with the Canadian Parks Service. It will not contain a cafeteria, gift shop, or sales outlet, but will basically perform the same services that all other centres do throughout the Yukon. Yes, it will have a nice facility for viewing movies.
Mr. Phillips: I am sure people I have talked to will be pleased it will not contain any commercial enterprises that would compete with existing ones. It will more than likely direct people to commercial enterprises throughout the territory, and that is the proper and useful function of a visitor reception centre.
The Minister has said he is going to open the centre in 1992. It is almost 1991 now. Does he still feel he can meet that completion date? Does the Minister have a tentative date as to when in 1992 it will open? What date are they actually shooting for?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Our schedule has the opening of the visitor reception centre for April 1992. We are quite confident we will meet that deadline.
Mr. Phillips: Can the Minister tell us the exact location of the centre, if they know that?
That is another ambulance trying to get into Riverdale. I just thought I would throw that in there. They have trouble getting across the bridge with the traffic congestion this time of the day.
When will the visitor reception centre go out to tender?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It will go out to tender sometime in March 1991.
Mr. Phillips: I have no further general debate. I have some other questions I will be asking as we go through this budget and as we go into the mains, but if some other Members have questions, I will allow them to ask them now, as I have no more.
Chair: Shall we go line by line?
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Webster: The increase of $25,000 in northern heritage is due to the money required for consulting services to finalize the heritage legislation we intend to introduce in the spring sitting.
Mr. Phillips: I am sorry. Could the Minister repeat that? I was distracted for a moment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The $25,000 net increase is required for consulting services to finalize the heritage legislation that we intend to introduce in the spring sitting of 1991.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the Minister could table that contract and maybe he could tell us if that was with a local consulting firm or if that was with another firm from outside.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Because the contract is still active, I cannot table information right now, but I can assure him that it is a Yukoner who has the contract.
Mr. Phillips: Is $25,000 the total amount of the contract or is that just the amount needed to finish the contract?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is the amount required to finish the contract. The total amount over the last year is a figure that I will have to come back with later, in time for the mains.
Heritage in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: The $293,000 increase for marketing O&M is for a variety of matters: $172,000 for postage costs related to our campaigns; $75,000 for the redesign and printing of 200,000 - have you got all that?
Marketing in the amount of $293,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $318,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on operation and maintenance recoveries?
On Historic Resources Centre
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member may recall that in last years budget we removed the $25,000 that had been allocated for the historic resources centre and moved it from that item to the visitor reception centre.
Historic Resources Centre in the amount of an under expenditure of $25,000 agreed to
On Artifact Inventory & Cataloguing
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, I mentioned this in my opening remarks. This is for the 100 percent funding that has been provided by the federal government for a planning pilot project for the registration and automation of the museum collection records.
Mr. Phillips: Is that for all museums? Will even the small community museums be able to plug into this, if it works out?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, that is the intent.
Mr. Phillips: Will there be any capital expense to museums in the future? This is a program we are looking at now and, if we decide to go ahead with it, is there an estimate of the cost each museum will incur? Will the government pick up the cost of putting in the proper equipment for the inventory and cataloguing?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We purchased computers for the museums in last years budget, so they could tap into this program.
Mr. Phillips: That would be completely for non-profit museums, but none of the private museums that are now starting up. Can they take part in this program, or get involved in any way?
Hon. Mr. Webster: There may be some provision in the future for that, but this particular program with federal funds is designed for non-profit museums.
Artifact Inventory & Cataloguing in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
On Strategic Planning
Hon. Mr. Webster: The additional $10,000 is required to cover anticipated costs for the resident travel survey that the Bureau of Statistics plans to undertake for us.
Mr. Phillips: Is there something we are doing differently in that survey from what has been done in the past? Is that why this added figure is in there?
Hon. Mr. Webster: This is a new survey dealing with just Yukon residents about their travel within the territory for tourism purposes. It is a brand new, first-time study that will be undertaken by the statistics branch.
Mr. Phillips: So, for example, this would be for Yukoners who go to Haines fishing, or go to Skagway, or travel to existing communities within the Yukon, so we would know how many Yukoners go up to see the display at Keno, or go to the Burwash Museum and other facilities? This is so we can get an idea of in-house tourism with the locals.
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is exactly the purpose of this study.
Strategic Planning in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Wilderness Resource Assessment
Wilderness Resource Assessment in the amount of an under expenditure of $10,000 agreed to
On Visitor Reception Centres Development
Hon. Mr. Webster: The $25,000 previously identified for the historic resources centre is required to undertake the planning and design this fiscal year, so we will have everything in place for April 1992.
Mr. Phillips: I know they are going ahead with this centre, but it was not too long ago that we could build a very nice facility for $409,000. It seems incredible to me that, nowadays, all that covers is the cost of the planning. It is a different world out there. It takes a lot of money to build these things, and it seems like a lot of money just to put together a set of specifications and build a mock-up of building. It is hard to understand.
Hon. Mr. Webster: This total of $409,000 will see the complete design done and ready for tendering. I mentioned earlier that we want to do this in March 1991. It is quite a lot of work that is being done for a visitor reception centre, which is estimated to cost $2.4 million in total.
Mr. Phillips: I understand that. The point I was trying to make is that $409,000 will be spent and we will not have turned any sod. This $409,000 does not buy anything. It must be a great business.
I have one last comment. Could the Minister tell us how this particular visitor reception centre, which I imagine will be somewhere near the Yukon Transportation Museum, will tie in with the museum? I know the museum is planning to do some more work on the exterior of their building. Are we cooperating with them so any work they do and any work we do will tie in, so we have complementing facilities up there? It would not take much to complement the outside of the old rec centre, because it is in poor shape. I understand they have plans to fix it up. Are we working closely with them to complement what they are planning to do?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, we are working together with the Yukon Transportation Museum. In fact, some of the access off the highway will be shared between the visitor reception centre and the museum, leading to a large joint parking lot.
Mr. Lang: I just want to pursue that further because I want to ask some questions. We raised the amount of money going into this at the beginning of the session. I am an MLA from Whitehorse, and it seems to be a lot of money. It seems to me to be a lot of money to be spending for a visitor reception centre. Secondly, we suggested that it be amalgamated with the present facility and maybe it could be added on to with the idea of cutting down costs. Also, maybe we could have contracted the Transportation Museum to serve both as the museum and as a visitor reception centre as opposed to having two facilities. The Minister, at that time indicated to us he was going to look into that. Since that time, I have talked to a number of people in the tourism industry and they understand the decision has been made that there is no possibility of the amalgamation we spoke of. Perhaps the Minister can clarify the position of the government on this.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The total cost of the project is $2.4 million. I might have misled everyone by saying that the building itself was going to be $2.4 million. The actual cost of the building itself is in the neighbourhood of $1.7 to $1.8 million. A lot of the extra work besides the design, besides access routes, besides the survey, will go in to make that total of $2.4 million figure. As for amalgamating the Transportation Museum with the visitor reception centre, I gather from the Members comments that he is actually speaking about a physical joining of the two buildings. Well, I have not heard of anybody proposing that possibility. I doubt very strongly if it would be a request of the Yukon Transportation Museum and I certainly cannot see how a visitor reception centre would fit well into that existing structure at all.
Mr. Lang: I did a little bit of travelling here a number of years ago, and I stopped in a smaller community, I believe it was Terrace or one of the smaller communities in British Columbia. They had a combination museum/visitor reception centre. When you walked in, you saw the history of the community and the surrounding areas and got your information about what the area was all about and what you could do and could not do and it was very nice. I do not understand for the life of me why we would not amalgamate the two into one physical structure with the idea of a contractual arrangement with the Transportation Museum where we pay them to run the visitor reception centre, which could offset their operation and maintenance costs.
It seems to me that it would serve a number of objectives. I will check this; I will make some phone calls but I was led to believe that this possibility had been raised at one time by the Transportation Museum.
We are looking at spending $2 million. I think we have to look at ways in which we can cut down the costs. Maybe we only have to spend half a million dollars in total or maybe $700,000. Maybe we can save $1 million if we sat down and reached a consensus. We could have a nice complex and, at the same time, provide a service to the public. It is important to look at saving on our operation and maintenance costs. We are going to have two facilities side-by-side, and we are going to have to have separate administrations when they are right next door to each other. That just does not make sense to me. I do not understand why a visitor reception centre could not be amalgamated with the Transportation Museum. Just give me a good reason why it cannot be amalgamated.
Hon. Mr. Webster: There is one very good reason why the Yukon Transportation Museum does not want to be physically connected with the Yukon visitor reception centre and vice versa. That is simply because the primary goal of the Yukon Transportation Museum is to promote the history of transportation in the territory. The goal of the Yukon visitor reception centre is to promote the Yukon Territory in its entirety as a destination. I think that explanation is fairly obvious for the reason it is going through in the manner that it is; that is, separate entities, separate facilities.
Mr. Lang: I just find it so hard to understand. I do not understand why, when you came through the door you would not have somebody selling the Transportation Museum and having the opportunity of seeing what our history is about, at the same time they would be selling the Yukon. You make it sound like we are all compartmentalized and whoever is there is really stupid and all they can do is talk about one subject. All I am trying to do is help the Minister to save maybe $500,000 or $1 million and maybe put in another project somewhere and save some money on the operation and maintenance side. I realize I am doing the wrong thing by trying to save money around here. I humbly apologize to everybody.
This is the second time we have raised it. We raised it a year ago with the Minister and asked the Minister to look into it as a concept to see if there was any viability. Obviously the Minister has not. I do not understand this. Part of the reason for this forum here is to exchange ideas, maybe come up with some ideas - you do not have to give us any credit for the idea if you decide to go with it, honest, I promise, I will not raise it, if that is the problem - but surely there are some people on this side of the House who can think now and again, even on their feet sometimes. A little bit of credit has got to be given to Members of the House. Go ahead, spend the $2 million. I hope I get lots of people from Porter Creek working on it. But how you could just arrogantly turn down this concept, I just cannot believe. I am not going to discuss it any further. I cannot believe how stupid the government is. It has too much money, that is obvious.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member has said that I have arrogantly turned down the suggestion that has been so enthusiastically taken up by so many people in the tourism museum business. The Yukon visitor reception centre is not a secret. Everyone knows about it. People have made some comments about what they would like to see. As has already been mentioned, there are people involved representing Yukon-wide associations who were actively involved in planning the design of this. One of those participants has been the Yukon Museum and Historical Association and not once have they ever suggested that the Yukon Transportation Museum be physically attached to the Yukon visitor reception centre. In fact, I have not heard that suggestion from anyone except the Member for Porter Creek East.
Visitor Reception Centres Development in the amount of $409,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $408,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on capital recoveries?
Mr. Phillips: I did not hear the Minister introduce the officials that were with him at the beginning of the debate. I understand that one of the officials may be the new deputy minister. Am I correct?
Hon. Mr. Webster: My apologies to the House for not introducing my competent staff who are here to ably assist me.
Josephine Stewart is my new Deputy Minister of Tourism. She recently started with the department about three weeks ago. You all know Joanna Reynolds, director of finance for the Department of Tourism.
Mr. Phillips: I have had the opportunity to talk to Joanne a couple of times. I appreciate her answers when I ask questions. She always gets back to me as soon as possible in most cases.
I would also like to welcome the new deputy minister on board. As far as I am concerned, Tourism is one of the most exciting portfolios and has one of the greatest futures in the territory. I welcome her to her new job and to the Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: I also would like to welcome the new Deputy Minister of Tourism. She shares the distinction of being the only woman deputy minister in this government. It is high time one was appointed.
Department of Tourism agreed to
Chair: Committee will take a 15-minute break.
Chair: I call the Committee to order.
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I do not know whether or not the Member for Hootalinqua has any questions he might want to ask during general debate.
Mr. Phelps: We can go straight into line by line to find out about what the item represents. I will be asking my questions when we get into the mains.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Womens Directorate was involved in several projects that involved the public. One of the projects was the International Womens Day dinner and awards. We received $4,000, and after expenses and whatnot were paid, we were able to make a contribution of the remaining to Kaushees Place. The other $1,000 was for registration and T-shirt sales for the conference, Woman do Math, that was held. That was it.
Chair: Miscellaneous in the amount of $5,000 agreed to.
Womens Directorate agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation
Chair: We will just have to wait for the Minister to get here. We are on general debate.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I apologize to the Members for being out of the House when Yukon Housing Corporation came up.
With respect to the housing supplementary, the amount being sought for approval of the supplementary exists on the capital side in the amount of $3.1 million. The amount of $3.1 million is entirely a revote of two specific projects. The two specific projects were a social housing unit in Granger consisting of a 17-unit apartment and the project at Centennial Street, I believe, of 24 units. As Members may recall, the two projects were anticipated to be completed prior to March of 1990. The two projects were tendered during the year 1989/90 and, for various reasons, they were not completed by the end of the specific fiscal year. The Granger 17-unit apartment was in fact completed on April 10 of 1990, just less than two weeks following the close of the fiscal year. The second project, the one on Centennial, is expected to be completed by December 31 of this year. What we are simply doing here is revoting the money that was budgeted for the two projects. One project is complete; the other one is expected to be complete within this calendar year.
Mr. Devries: What is the per-unit cost of the Granger project? What does it come out to per unit?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The specific unit cost I will have in a moment. The cost per square foot of the 17-unit complex -
Excuse me, was the Member speaking of the Centennial or Granger project, or both? Okay, I will speak to both then. The square footage cost of Granger was $92.86. The square footage cost of Centennial was $87.26. The contracted amounts, that have not changed because the contract bid price is still in place and will be respected, on the Centennial project was $1.796 million and the contract price on Granger was $1.311 million. The per-unit cost on the two projects is, for Centennial, $74,583 per unit; that is for the 17 units.
Let me wipe out the record of the last 30 seconds. Let me correct this.
According to my best recollections, the per-unit cost on Centennial Street - that is the project that had the overall price of $1,790,000 - was $74,583. That is per unit, and there are 24 units on Centennial. Therefore, the total cost is $1,790,000.
The Granger building has 17 units, each costing $77,135. The overall price was $1,311,000 for that.
Mr. Devries: I would assume that the unit price on Centennial does not include the $350,000 loan we have to write off through the loans, which would substantially add to the taxpayer dollars going into it.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To clarify the procedure, Yukon Housing Corporation sought proposals and eventually entered into a contract on Centennial Street for a specific sum. That specific sum is the sum that holds to this day with respect to the cost of construction for that 24-unit complex.
Yukon Housing Corporation is the party with whom the deal was originally struck. Yukon Housing Corporation is not writing off any other monies relating to the project and the collapse of the Tagish Kwan Corporation in relation to it. Yukon Housing Corporation budgeting is completely outside that framework. We do not release this money until the project is complete. We had a deal to pay for a finished, turn-key project. That is what we obligated ourselves to over a year ago. That is what we held as a guiding principle: to complete the job, as we believed, by December.
The short answer to the Members question is that the $1.7 million is the budgeted amount that Yukon Housing Corporation is going to pay for the unit. That is what we will pay, and that has not changed, in spite of the financial difficulties that project went through.
Mr. Devries: That is the way I understood it. I was just saying that the taxpayers do have an additional $15,000 tied up in each unit, because of the losses pertaining to Tagish Kwan.
Did anybody have any other questions on these two buildings? If not, I will move on to another area.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Just to clarify the Members reference to the $350,000: as the Member is aware, through extensive negotiations and dealings involving Yukon Housing and a coalition that was involved in the Centennial Street project, an agreement was reached by which the government recovered just over $200,000 of that $350,000. So just to clarify for the Member, close to 60 percent of the amount lent to Tagish Kwan was recovered in the final deal.
Mr. Phelps: On the Centennial project, how many suites were involved?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Twenty-four.
Mr. Phelps: And on the Granger one, how many?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Seventeen.
Mr. Phelps: And I missed the total cost of the Granger.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Granger cost $1.31 million; Centennial cost $1.79 million. Both figures are slightly rounded off.
Mr. Phelps: Do you agree that Centennial cost an additional approximately $150,000 because of the write-off?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me be clear about what I am saying. Yukon Housing did not write off any additional amount. Yukon Housing did not pay any additional amount. Yukon Housing, with whom the contract was struck, preserved the integrity of that bid through the financial difficulties that were impounded on the project, so let me be clear in respect to this supplementary. We are revoting the identical amount that we originally budgeted, originally contracted and that we expect to pay upon completion of the project to specifications, with the appropriate approvals and warranties in place for a product that we contracted to have done for us.
Mr. Devries: Is the Granger project fully occupied now?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated in my opening remarks, the Granger contract concluded on April 10, just past the fiscal year. The principal reason we had to revote the money is because there was a fiscal year-end. The job was finished within two weeks of the fiscal year ending but for financial requirements we had to revote the money in the new fiscal year. So since April 10, the project has been finished. I am advised that the 17 units are full and have been for a number of months.
Mr. Devries: Has the delay in the Centennial Street project caused any undue hardships for any people who were contemplating moving into the apartment?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In general terms, yes. There are hardships as a result of the non-availability of units. The Whitehorse Housing Authority, which is the manager of housing stock in Whitehorse, has a waiting list, I believe, in the range of 70 to 75 currently, and has had that list for the better part of this year.
In general terms the answer is yes. A good number of those 70 people are on a waiting list and would be eligible and would qualify for the housing that Centennial Street would provide and have not had appropriate accommodation that would ordinarily be afforded to them. The problem does not end there. The fact remains that with the 24 units that Centennial Street provides it will still not alleviate the need that exists. Depending on the configuration of those 70 people, the 24 units on Centennial may accommodate either 24 people or perhaps 30 to 40 people, depending on how the need is configured. We will still have a waiting list of approximately 20 to 30 people who are identified as people in need of housing, who would be eligible for subsidized housing, and who would benefit from a unit like the one on Centennial Street.
Mr. Devries: Does the Minister have any information on the status of the Steele Street project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am working from memory. The Steele Street project was a project that was finished about a year ago and, to my knowledge, it is fully occupied. It is 12 units. It is an apartment complex that has met some of the public housing requirements that I spoke of earlier. Unless the Member has a specific question, that is my general response.
Mr. Lang: I am concerned about the Centennial apartment complex. I overheard the Minister say there could be up to 70 adults living there. My understanding is that this was built with the primary intention of providing interim accommodation for single parents. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure how the Member has obtained the impression that the apartments are for a specific type of accommodation. It is housing we budgeted for in order to provide for public housing needs. It could be for single families or conventional families or anyone eligible for and requiring adequate housing. The residents would have to fit the criteria for public housing.
There are 24 units. My reference to how many people could be accommodated was only a reference to the specific configuration of the people who would use that facility. It is quite easy to calculate. If there is a single parent with one child, one out of 24 units would accommodate two people. If there are two parents and two children, another unit could accommodate four. I believe the sizes of the units are mixed so that different sized families can be accommodated.
In terms of the list that is provided to us by the Whitehorse Housing Authority, who are the managers, we have 70 people or thereabout, who are on the waiting list for adequate and affordable housing. These are people who have been identified as being in need of housing. Those 70 people would be families.
Mr. Devries: I would like to get to the housing for the Department of Education people which, I understand, is done through the Yukon Housing Corporation. For example, how are the houses in Carmacks reserved for the Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The procedure is not unlike the requirement for any department that needs staff housing. I believe the Member is talking strictly about staff housing. We have staff housing units in all communities, and Education is treated like a client department, as with any other client department. When Renewable Resources needs a staff house, they advise Yukon Housing Corporation - well in advance, we prefer - and we assess the availability and assign a particular unit for that department. Education is treated in that context. At their earliest opportunity in the year, Education would advise us. I expect that would be somewhere in March, April or May of that year, when the enrollment numbers are predicted for the coming fall. Yukon Housing Corporation assesses the need and the availability in the community, does the assignments, ensures that the houses are available and does any necessary repair work through the vacancy period of the summer. Usually, people are moving out of units at the same time as people are moving in.
I am not sure I have answered the question in the detail the Member requested but, in a simplified form, Education provides a request to us; we assess the availability and attempt to deliver. That creates the need for some budgeting to create more and more staff houses, depending on community pressures.
Mr. Devries: I talked to some of the teachers personally, and they arrived in Carmacks and Mayo to find some of the houses in a sad state of repair, especially the one house in Carmacks. The grass had not been cut for two years. You can imagine what a teacher coming from Toronto, where a manicured lawn is usual, would feel like when they walk up to a house that looks like a horse is needed to mow the grass. The first impression would be horrible for someone coming from outside. That impression would stay with them for a long time in determining whether or not they would want to stay in that community for several years in the education system.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member raises a matter that is of some concern and I would like to seek from the Member, privately or otherwise, the extent of his knowledge about his perception of a lack of adequate maintenance for housing because maintenance should be provided for units. The Member is also aware that in the communities the housing is under the authority of a local manager and a local housing board. I am not trying to pawn off responsibility, I am concerned that the Member suggests that some adequate maintenance is not being done in a community and I will follow up because it is my understanding that we do provide for adequate maintenance to be done, including grounds and landscaping and the repair of units.
We provide certain levels of authorization to community boards and managers and we have our own capability at the Yukon Housing Corporation level to supervise that this is adequately and properly done, so I take the Members representations seriously and if he can provide me any more detail I would appreciate that, in writing or otherwise. It is a serious matter.
Mr. Brewster: Last year in March, we debated the rental costs in Beaver Creek in a few places and the Minister stated that that is how the rents are structured and that is what the $350 is being charged for in the case of Beaver Creek. I made the suggestion in Hansard that it was $600 and this was denied by the Minister. I rechecked that and it looked like maybe I won another fight for some buildings that were put up by the Canadian army 40 years ago; the rent did go down to $350 in the spring. I guess I won that one battle against Yukon Housing Corporation and that is a great record when you can bring some sense into the Yukon Housing Corporation.
However, for the green monster that rests in Destruction Bay that no teachers or anyone would live in because the price was too high, the people who are living in it are still paying $600 a month rent on it. I wonder if the Minister would care to explain this and correct the record on this.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to share with the hon. Member some confusion because when the Member raised the issue surrounding Beaver Creek, I had it investigated and Yukon Housing Corporation is in the possession of two staff units in Beaver Creek. I was in a quandary as to what the Member was getting at, given that the units were vacant and they apparently still are. So, there has been no rent adjustment to my knowledge and I am wondering if the Member is not perhaps confusing houses that Yukon Housing owns with housing that the federal government may own of another federal department. So, I am a little confused about the Beaver Creek story. Maybe we can clear that up and get on to Destruction Bay.
Mr. Brewster: The Beaver Creek houses are the old Canadian army ones, and possibly may go back to the American army. We better make it the Canadian army because that makes them 40-some years old so we do not want to get back too much further. These houses were lived in for a long time at $600 per month and I defy anyone in this place to say they were not. I brought this up and it was disputed here. The foreman recently moved into a house on a buy-back scheme, and I am presuming that was Yukon Housing too, although I am not sure of that one. His rent was $600 per month and he found that he could pay a mortgage and own that building and pay less per month than the rent, so he bought his house. The rent of these houses, in all fairness, did drop mysteriously sometime this spring or in the summer so, as I say, I am quite happy to say that I backed off Yukon Housing. I am quite pleased about that. Finally we got rents down to $350. People still will not live in these types of houses that are 40-some years old.
On my last trip up there, and I do make trips even though the Government Leader questions whether I do or not, the condition those people are living under are horrible. They are living in trailers and everything else under the sun. This, they tell me, is one reason we cannot keep road crews up there. They have hard conditions, the worst part of the road, they are the furthest away, they have two months more of cold than anybody else, and the crew turnover is quite large.
I am simply pointing out that you continue to say it was $350 when it was $600. If I have to bring in signed statements from foreman and a few other people I am prepared to do this. It is now down to $350. I concede that. Only after I came here and you made the remarks that there was $350, at that time it was not $350, but it is now. To my knowledge they will not stay in them. They have been empty for years.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate that clarification. It is very helpful. I will take the information he has provided and check with my officials to see whether, indeed, that price adjustment was done.
Just on the general issue, I could not agree with the Member more when he says we have to address the problem of housing in the rural communities. There is no question housing is a critical economic factor in terms of the survival of those communities. Clearly, government has to become involved to provide for very important and necessary housing to retain people in those communities. I agree in principle with the Member. He is quite correct. It is certainly a philosophy and approach we have taken, that we are prepared to become involved in housing in the rural communities because no one else is. We are quite prepared to assist those communities in the provision of adequate housing through multi-programs that we have. In the foreseeable future we will continue to do so. With respect to Destruction Bay, I am having difficulty remembering the question.
Mr. Brewster: I just figured it out. We should stop every 30 seconds so the Minister can get things gathered up and figure out what he is talking about. There was a building built there for teachers. It is known as the green monster, because it stands out like a sore thumb all over Destruction Bay. It is the only green monster we have. No teacher would live in it because it is $600 a month, and they could not afford it, so they moved in with other people. This was rented out to other people and they have been paying $600 ever since and this would have been for at least three years. So when you say that your rent is $350 in outlying ridings, it is not true.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Speaking to the general issue of rents, rents in the rural communities for staff houses are structured on the basis of market rent for that community. Now that is a very difficult thing to establish. The corporation uses Whitehorse as a base with an adjusting set of factors for the community, based on amenities, distance and a number of factors that would actually reduce the cost of that housing unit in the rural community. One would think that if you adjusted it for a rural community, it would go up. In fact because of distance, because of lesser amenities, the rent is actually adjusted downwards. So in principle, the rent is based on market adjusted for the rural community.
In respect to the green monster, my information indicates that that unit is not vacant now. What I am not sure of though is what the rent is. I can undertake to check the amount of rent being charged to the occupants now and provide that information to the Member.
Mr. Brewster: I know. I talk to the people every three or four weeks and they have been paying $600 a month for three years. They are desperately trying to get out of it and build their house and get away from it because they cannot keep paying $600. You do not have to investigate that and take three weeks to come back and tell me. I know it. I am asking why it is. It could have been empty all this time, sitting there doing nothing but being heated.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am just a little bit confused, because I am unsure of where the Member is coming from. On the one hand, he is arguing that $600 for a particular unit in Destruction Bay is too much. I could probably, in my heart, agree with him. But the fact is that is how the rent is structured. It is based on the type of unit, based on the distance from Whitehorse, based on the amenities in that community and adjusted accordingly. The unit he is talking about, I am sure, cost in the magnitude of $110,000 to $120,000 and that is an average price of a modest unit in the rural communities. I believe we brought this one in at a very low budget in comparison.
The Member knows that an average mortgage over 35 years on a $100,000 house is about $1,000 a month, so $600 in that kind of comparison is not unreasonable. What the Member seems to arguing, if I have got him correct, is that it is too much. I will take that under advisement and I will interpret from what the Member says that he encourages cheaper staff housing in the communities. Or he is really saying that we should be subsidizing staff housing more than we are. I will take that into consideration, because we have to deal with the staff housing issue and it will not go away, and we have to provide more of it. So I take his representations as a form of notice because this government will have to continue to provide staff housing in communities and try to find some equitable means of paying the bill.
Mr. Brewster: Let us get the history of this. Number one, they asked to have a teacherage built up there. At that time, DOT was selling six houses. It was suggested by everybody that they purchase one of those. They were kept in good shape, with hardwood floors and everything else. This was turned down by the Yukon Housing Corporation. They were not good enough. Then they built this house, and they have not had a teacher stay in this house since they built it.
They are very lucky they got two people who have a contract up there and could not get housing to pay the $600 a month. When they get their house built, they will move out. Rest assured, that house will be heated and not used at that price, because people cannot pay it.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will now recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
Is there further general debate on Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member for Kluane raised a couple of issues just before the break. My staff have been able to research these issues during the break, and I would like to table their results.
With respect to Beaver Creek, I will provide to the Members several copies of a letter sent to the Member for Kluane in 1986 that spoke to the issue of rent for the units in question.
The point has already been made regarding how we establish rent for staff units in communities. The rents are established through a method of calculating the market rent in that community adjusted to what rent is in Whitehorse.
In the letter sent to the Member on January 4, 1986, the previous Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation cited the market rent in Beaver Creek at $450. Subsequent to that, an appraisal was done of the units in Beaver Creek. This established the fair market rent at $492. This is an appraisal done for the two units on August 31, 1986. I am providing the information that the rent in Beaver Creek was originally $450. The reassessment of the market rent was $492. For anyone who has inquired about the rent, I am advised that it is currently $492.
That just provides some background information relating to the Beaver Creek question. Additionally, the Member raised some questions about housing in Destruction Bay. Again, my staff has been able to quickly review the files during the break and we uncovered a request from the Department of Education for a staff unit for the Kluane Lake School at Destruction Bay for the school year beginning September 1987. On March 26, 1987, a letter was received from the chairperson of the Kluane Lake School committee emphasizing the need for a staff unit to be constructed in Destruction Bay. We subsequently proceeded with the necessary budgeting, planning and construction. I guess the point that I would like to make is that there was a request that a staff unit be constructed, not just by Education, but by the community.
The Member raised an additional point concerning Destruction Bay, respecting some MOT units. I believe the Member may recall this because copies of correspondence were sent to him, that the MOT units were not made available to Yukon Housing Corporation prior to the construction of the units. In short, when Transport Canada made the units available in 1988, we were well into construction of the staff unit, at the request of the community, the school committee and the Department of Education.
Transport Canada took the position that a number of other federal departments were interested in the units, and they were going to be holding the units for those departments. Yukon Housing Corporation was virtually eliminated from any chance to even bid on the units. Nevertheless, that was after the fact, after the construction had begun and after our inquiries surrounding possible acquisition of those units.
The long and the short of this exercise is simply to clarify the background surrounding the unit construction at Destruction Bay that was done by Yukon Housing Corporation. I would go further to say that, for the majority of time since the unit has been constructed, it has been occupied. It has been occupied by a private sector tenant who, indeed, is paying the $600 a month rent.
What I guess I was not clear about was whether he was suggesting that Yukon Housing Corporation lower the rent on a staff unit to the private sector. If his argument was suggesting that, if based on our system to recover reasonable costs for the construction of the unit should indeed be subsidized when subsequently rented to the private sector. We believe that Yukon Housing Corporation and the government, indirectly, has a role to play in the rural communities in terms of supplying houses, particularly for staff and, where requested by the community, public housing for people in need.
We follow that belief. We consult with communities and we budget and construct accordingly. What we have in the case of Destruction Bay in the first instance is that a staff unit was requested to be built both by Education and by the community. We proceeded with that construction. It subsequently was not used by staff. It has been rented since by the private sector. The rent is calculated on a very systematized formula based on Whitehorse rents with adjustments for the rural community and the various amenities and factors that are built into that. That is the case with respect to that particular unit in Destruction Bay. I hope I have clarified some of the background surrounding the two communities.
Mr. Brewster: Yes, you certainly clarified things. Ministers and bureaucrats seem to be able to take something that is very simple and turn it into a big mess.
First, let us go to Beaver Creek. When the new foreman went up there why was he told that his rent was $600 a month? You know I do not come into this House and make up a bunch of stories. I see they all shake their heads. Maybe I should get statements from a few of these people. Another foreman there for years paid $600. I happen to live up there and I happen to talk to people and I resent the fact that I come in here and now he is saying it is $400. He said in Hansard last year it was $350. They do not know really what they are talking about but that is all right. The new foreman found it was cheaper to go to the banks, borrow the money and pay a mortgage. It was cheaper that way, and at least he owns the house.
Now let us go down to Destruction Bay.
The MOT houses in Destruction Bay have been empty for probably eight years; they have been heated and looked after. That is typical of government bureaucrats. There is someone paid to watch so the pipes do not freeze, and this and that. When they first requested a place, we suggested that they look at those. Those people up there were told by people in the Yukon Housing Corporation that they were not good enough. Let us quit playing around about it.
Then, what did Yukon Housing Corporation do? For one teacher, they built the green monster. When the teacher got up there and realized she had to pay $600 for a house she could get lost in, she refused to take it. They have never had a teacher in that house. It is quite correct that it is now rented to a private contractor for the simple reason that he has no place else to live until he gets his own house finished. The faster he gets it finished, the happier he will be, because he will be out of it.
We can go on and on. You can go right back almost to the time I came into this Legislature. They have been over charging the people in Beaver Creek.
The Minister can stand up. They talk and talk for an hour, and really do not say anything. The facts are now down on it again, and I will send the facts out again to the foremen and the few people who have had to pay this, and the other people living in other places in the Yukon now who had to pay these rents. Once more, they realize how they get involved with a bunch of bureaucrats, who do not really know what they are talking about.
One time, they say $350; another time, it is $492, and they are not quite sure of all this, but it is all right. I think we might as well just drop the subject.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am seriously concerned that the Member believes that, at some point, $350 was the rent for Beaver Creek. I will check the record about what I may have said, because it does concern me that I may have put contradictory information on the record.
The fact is that $450 is the rent in Beaver Creek on those two units, according to our records. On top of that, in 1987 when a reappraisal was done by Mr. Yamada, the new market rent was assessed at $492. That ought to be the figure that should be quoted now by Housing officials on any enquiry.
If the Member is still saying that people are being told that the rent is $600, I want to check that out. I want to be sure that is accurate. The $492 is the basic rent. I do not know whether or not that includes utilities or any additional client personnel charges. I want to check that out. My records, information and staff are saying that the current rent on the Beaver Creek units is $492. That is what ought to be quoted for renting those units. I want to know about anything to the contrary in detail.
Regarding Destruction Bay, I share some of the frustration of the Member in respect to the MOT units, because we would have liked to have picked up one or two of those MOT units for our needs. Our needs were identified by the school committee, who recognized that they were getting a second teacher for their school and they wanted their staff person to be accommodated in a staff unit, quite legitimately. Education confirmed that. We did the inquiries. There were no houses available.
In the letter from the school committee chair, the chair cites the housing status in the community. As I just tabled to the Member, the letter makes it very clear that There is nothing available to rent if anybody wanted to move here. Carrying on, the chair says, There are four YTG duplexes which have been condemned and are soon to be demolished. That, I might point out, is because those units, in 1987, were obviously not adequately maintained in the 15 or 20 years of their existence.
Northwestel has two vacant houses, which are in such poor shape one would have to spend a large amount of money to make them available. There are five DOT homes, which are occupied by employees, and even if they were unoccupied, they would not be available to rent. I have just confirmed that for the Member. MOT was not making them available to us. The fact is, we needed a staff unit in Destruction Bay and we proceeded to construct it. We proceeded to establish a fair market rent for that. The staff person who was assigned to it chose not to live there, and I make no issue about that; that is their choice. They chose not to live in this substantially large house, and I believe they were a single individual. They found separate accommodation. We still made use of the unit by renting it at $600 to the private sector; that is not unreasonable. That recovers the costs that we bore, in excess of the $100,000 that we would have spent on it.
I share with the Member the frustration of having been unable to acquire the MOT units. I think that probably would have been a cheaper recourse, had they been available, but they were not. At the point where MOT began to indicate to us that they might be interested in letting them go, we had the foundations in and I believe we had part of the frame up. In fact, I vaguely recall that debate in the Legislature or in some correspondence and communication at that time.
Mr. Brewster: I can settle it very easily. Would the Minister table the rent paid by the last people who lived in the two houses in Beaver Creek? That would go back about four or five years. Would he table the rent they paid? I will then show them the rent so they can verify whether or not it is true. The other thing I would like tabled is any correspondence that Yukon Housing Corporation sent to MOT with regard to acquiring those houses, which had been vacant for at least six years.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: We must have some documentation on file with respect to the MOT question and I will produce it.
I am quite prepared to go back into the records about Beaver Creek, and I suspect they may be in archives now, to the time it was rented and determine the rent that was paid by the last occupants of those units. If it requires us to go to payroll records to see what was deducted on a payroll basis, we will do that. I will confirm to the Member what was paid on the Beaver Creek units by the last occupants.
Mr. Devries: This spring in the Supreme Court there was a lawsuit lodged against the Yukon Housing Corporation by Larwill Construction regarding an apartment retrofit in Dawson City. What is the status of that law suit? Has it been settled?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am trying to remember it. Korbo Apartments in Dawson was surrounded by a court case on the work of that contract. It is currently before the courts.
Mr. Devries: I guess we cannot discuss that. I thought I had a good one here.
Last year the Yukon Housing Corporation had a lot of problems with its computer system. Is everything up to snuff now and has all the information been fed into the system?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that the system is fully operational. It is being fully utilized. Most of the bugs, I understand, are worked out of it and it is fully functional and operational.
Mr. Devries: Last year there were a lot of staffing problems. Is the turnover down now and everybody a big happy family or are there still some problems?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure how precisely the Member wishes me to answer. The staffing situation at Yukon Housing is not unlike any other department or corporation. I understand that we currently have two vacancies out of 29 positions. There are a couple of positions that are in an acting capacity but that, too, is normal. There is nothing that is particularly extraordinary. There are a number of positions that are under reclassification and a number of positions that are in process of recruitment, as I said, a couple of positions in acting and two vacancies.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to follow up a bit on the question asked by the Member from Watson Lake on staffing. The Minister said that there are 29 positions in Yukon Housing Corporation. I am wondering how many of those positions have turned over in the last 12 months.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not precisely sure of the percentage turnover. I can procure that and provide it later. I want to clarify, however, that we have 28 permanent positions.
What I can provide to the Member is some current information relating to staffing vacancies and turnover. In the current year, 1990, to date there have been six positions that were terminated. One position terminated due to the choice of the employee to return to university, two positions were terminated for reasons of family commitments and three people left government service. That is a total of six positions that turned over to date in 1990.
Mr. Phillips: I am not sure if I follow that. The Minister is saying that out of 28 positions, only six turned over in the last year. Did any of those positions turn over more than once, or is the Minister talking about someone leaving and someone else filling the position up to the present time?
While the Minister is looking up the answer to that, I wonder if he could tell us what positions turned over. Were they senior management in the Yukon Housing Corporation or lower level jobs ?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will have to come back with the information relating to the positions.
It is correct that six positions turned over in this past year. I will check as to whether any of them turned over more than once. I will provide that information prior to the mains.
I want to make one correction. I indicated in previous comments that there were currently two vacant positions. That is inaccurate. There is one position vacant and one position is in an acting status. In total, two positions are covered by persons in an acting capacity. One position is vacant. The rest are full.
Mr. Phillips: One of the more important positions in the corporation is the finance and administration officer. I know that for a while it was an acting position. Is there now a full-time administrator for the Yukon Housing Corporation and how long has that person been doing the job?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that the position is temporarily being filled through a contract with a financial firm while recruitment is occurring.
Mr. Phillips: How long has the position of the full-time finance and administration officer been vacant? Who is now doing the contract? Is it costing us any more than it would if we had our own finance and administration officer? It must be. I cannot see how it would cost us any less if we contract it out to somebody. They probably charge a larger fee than someone who was doing it as a regular job.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have some information on the question, but it appears that a more detailed return on staffing and status at the corporation is required. The Members have questions that I do not have all the answers for, so I would like to provide it as completely as possible.
On the subject of the finance and administration officer, I am advised that the position was originally vacated in November 1989. That is a year ago. It was filled on an acting basis for most of that time, and was undertaken through a contract with the financial institution during the summer. The financial institution is Ernst and Young.
That may not be enough information for the Member, and I would be quite prepared to table a detailed return relating to that position, vacancies and those six positions that turned over, and where they occurred.
Mr. Phillips: We have been without a permanent financial administrator since November 1989. It is now November 1990. That is a full year. That is an awfully long time to go without someone at the helm, looking after the finances of the department. Now he has mentioned Ernst and Young as the people who are acting for us. I am just wondering if that is a local firm because I do not recall any firm with a name like that working within the City of Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can agree with the Member that having the position not filled on a permanent basis for a year is a matter of some concern in spite it of having been filled for about half of that time on an acting basis. It is a matter of some concern and I have had discussions with the president of the corporation on the issue.
I will be frank and upfront with the Member. Part of the problem is that the classification of the position with Yukon Housing is paid somewhat lower than that type of a qualified person can get in the private sector or with other branches of the government. That is part of the problem. It does not attract people because they can get more money for that level of financial responsibility in other positions. So we have gone ahead to try to reclassify the position to be more appropriate for the responsibility that is being carried by that person.
With respect to Ernst and Young, I was quite comfortable in my discussions with the corporation that we had adequate financial competence through using that particular firm, largely because Ernst and Young are one of the few international firms in Canada with credibility, with a track record and as I said, one of the five firms in Canada with international renown.
Mr. Phillips: Let us give them five stars, because that is important. That is great for Ernst and Young and I am glad to hear the Minister is really happy with them. I asked the Minister if they were a local firm or do they operate out of Vancouver or Toronto, or somewhere else, and do the financial administration of the books for the Yukon Housing Corporation? I also asked the Minister how much this was costing us. It should be on the record. This is a corporation that spends over $9 million a year. We do not even have an accountant that works for the corporation and lives here by the sound of things.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will attempt to provide some reassurance to the Members and respond to the question. The firm is based in Vancouver. There is no question about that. In addition to the provision of the service by the firm, the Member should recognize that we are actively recruiting. I have been upfront and honest with him; part of the problem with recruitment lies in the salary and classification level of the position. Additionally, I understand we have two chartered accountants on staff at Yukon Housing Corporation. I have no reason to believe that the financial competence of the corporation is at risk and can reaffirm that reassurance for the Member. With respect to the costs, I have to take notice. We do not have the information with us and I will have to get back to the Member with precisely what we are paying for the service on a temporary basis.
Mr. Phillips: It is a temporary job that goes on and on. It has been a year now. I cannot see how the Minister could be happy with this situation at all. This has to be costing a fortune with one of the four or five most prestigious firms in the country. We have a couple of accountants that come up here on an ongoing basis. We have dollars being spent by the corporation virtually every day of the week, and millions of dollars. Somebody should be on top of this.
When the Minister tells us to the penny how much this has cost us, travel and everything included, could the Minister include in his legislative return what it would have cost us if we had had somebody on staff? It would be interesting to compare the two costs because I am sure it would have cost us a great deal less to have had somebody doing that job on a permanent basis.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Part of what the Member is says is accurate but also, part of what the Member says has an undertone of contradiction. I could not agree with the Member more than when he says that we should be behaving responsibly and we should have competence in managing money relating to Yukon Housing Corporation. Indeed, level of money management is fairly high. We are talking about a $20 million budget. We are talking about going to the bank, borrowing millions of dollars, making sure that documents are properly in place and security is properly established, that all the aspects relating to the financial management of a large corporation, borrowing large amounts of money, is properly done. I agree with the Member that it is necessary for us to have a responsible approach to this. The slight contradiction that I suppose I find is that, in our inability to recruit adequate staff, he would question that we would use a reputable firm. It should give him reassurance that we are using a reputable international firm to manage those financial transactions.
The Member is perfectly correct that it has got to be costing us more money to use that firm than if we had a permanent staff member attached to it, but I have already explained to the Member that part of the problem, and I suppose it is, in a way, a chicken/egg syndrome, is that we are not able to attract a person to fill the position, largely because what they are telling us, in our recruitment exercises that we have already gone through, is that it does not pay enough and the responsibility is too high for the level of pay.
So I do not have any problem with the approach of the board of directors and the corporation, to proceed with ensuring that the money is managed with the competence of a professional financial firm. The long and the short of it is that I have addressed with the board the issue of the classification of that person. We are addressing that at this instance. I believe I am meeting with the chairperson of the board later this week over this particular position. In the meantime, we are attempting to recruit, to reclassify upwards. In the meantime, business must go on competently and we have retained the services of a professional accounting firm. That, to me, is quite a responsible approach. I agree with the Member; the position has been vacant for a fairly long time, and that concerns me. I am addressing that with the chair of the board and with the people responsible for reclassification.
Mr. Phillips: I hope the Minister is rapping somebodys knuckles, because I do not think it has been a fairly long time. It has been far too long.
This is a government that talks about local hire and local purchase, and using local contractors and consultants. Why did it not use local people for this particular job? There are several reputable accounting firms in the territory that could have done the same kind of a job. At least they would be here on an everyday basis. If you need somebody, you would not have to pay for a long-distance phone call or send a fax halfway across the country.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is a decision that was made by the corporation on the basis that the position required substantial qualification in terms of knowledge about borrowing, investments and the ability to serve the corporation full time. The firm that was solicited for the service could provide those services, and that was the decision made.
I agree with the Member. We are probably paying a few more dollars for that service. We are equally disturbed that it is taking so long, and we are doing what we can to rectify it.
Mr. Phillips: Could the Minister tell us if they at least had the decency to put it out to tender to see if there were any local firms that could do it, or did they just phone a friend of a friend and ask them to do it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised it was a decision made by the board of directors to acquire the services, and that was done. The job is being done.
Mr. Phillips: When did this come to the Ministers attention? When did the Minister call the chair and ask why they were taking this approach and not actively seeking a finance and administration officer on a full-time basis for the corporation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have been in communication with the board quite regularly on this and other issues. The board recently underwent a change in chairperson. The issue arose during the intervening period when the new chair was being put in place. It was not expected that the services of the firm would last very long, when first undertaken. That was last summer.
I am advised that the position, while in recruitment, has been offered three times to three people, who were successful in the recruitment process. Each of the three people turned it down, citing the reasons I indicated earlier.
The problem principally is the classification and the level of remuneration for that level of responsibility and the board and I have been addressing that. When, specifically, I raised this first with the board was, I am sure, some time last winter when it was first evident that we were having difficulty filling the position on a permanent basis.
Mr. Phillips: One of the responsibilities of this Minister is the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Minister should not have let it go on this long at all. The Minister should have been aware of it a long time ago and should have been on top of the situation. Obviously he was not or we would not be going a full year without a chief financial administration officer for the Yukon Housing Corporation. I mean, this is the Minister who is given millions and millions and millions of dollars to spend and yet just sort of hands the money over and just writes it off. It has gone out the window. He is there to cut all the ribbons for the big buildings that cost us multi-millions of dollars but when we are there to talk about who is controlling the books or who is taking care of the books, the Minister does not know. He says it was just brought to his attention recently. The Minister has more of a responsibility than that. This is a fairly significant expenditure of taxpayers money. The Minister has some responsibility to the Yukon taxpayer to keep an eye on what is going on in his various departments. It is obvious he did not care here.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is totally inaccurate. He is contradicting the position he just took earlier. He is suggesting that I am not aware of the problems relating to the filling of a permanent position. I have just indicated to him that we had the position filled on an acting basis since last November until some time last summer; in fact, I believe it was approximately June.
The Member charges me with being irresponsible about the management of the corporations financial affairs and I say that is hogwash, it is precisely because I am responsible and because I have been on top of the situation and in communication with the board that we have put in place a temporary regime, we sought to ensure that all the financial matters of the corporation were addressed: a firm that was competent, a firm that was available, a firm that was knowledgeable on investment and a firm that was knowledgeable on borrowing, a firm that was knowledgeable on mortgages, a firm that was competent and adequate to fill the obligations expected of a corporation in its financial matters.
You could not just turn this over to anybody or leave it vacant. You had to deal with it. We had difficulty filling the position. We had the problem relating to the level of salary for the person. We have three people who have turned the job down. We have got a problem. Yes, we have a problem in filling the position on a permanent basis. We are addressing that and we are dealing with it. I am in communication with the board on the matter and in the meantime, the affairs of the corporation are in competent financial hands. I repeat for the Member that the very action that I have been involved with is testimony to the fact that the corporation is in capable financial hands. Anything less would not be adequate.
Mr. Phillips: Anywhere else in the real business world, if the Minister had conducted his affairs in this way, he would not have been commended, he would have been fired. It is a ridiculous way to carry on in a major department.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could settle down, quit clowning around for a moment and answer a question. How much is the existing financial administration officer making and how much does the Minister feel the salary has to be to hire someone competent so that there can be someone there on a full time basis?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I resent the Members suggestion that the temporary hiring of a financial accounting firm is irresponsible. If the Member is suggesting that Ernst and Young are not adequate or capable of doing the job and that the position should be vacant, he should stand up and admit that. I am trying to tell the Member we have not been able to fill the position. I am telling the Member that, on a temporary basis, we hired a reputable financial institution to manage the affairs of the corporation. Our action was ratified by the board and was enacted by the administration of the corporation. It was extremely appropriate and responsible. It is what any corporation would do to manage its financial affairs when the position of chief financial officer is vacant.
I think it is possible that the Member had a question.
The Member asked me what the salary range of the position is and what I thought it should be. I do not have that information, but I can provide it.
Mr. Phillips: What kind of information can the Minister provide us? He has the senior official from the Yukon Housing Corporation sitting beside him. This is one of the major positions in the corporation. The Minister says he has been discussing it for some time because the salary is too low. Surely they must know what the salary is now and how much they plan to increase it. This is the reason we do not have anyone in place.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not recollect the precise salary level of the classification and range for this particular position. I just do not remember that. We did not bring the information with us. We came here to debate a supplementary of $2.1 million related to a revote of two construction projects for public housing, and we brought the appropriate information for that. The debate has passed on to the matter of recruitment of a finance and administration officer, and I clearly do not have that detail here with me. I could bring back to the Member the salary range of the current classification. I will bring back to the Member what the industry, what the people who have turned down the position have told us that the position should pay for the level of responsibility that is required. I do not have it here.
Mr. Phillips: I suppose I should apologize to the Minister, because I probably directed the question to the wrong person. I probably should have got the address and the name and the phone number of Ernst and Young in Vancouver because they could probably tell me what the salary is because evidently they know everything about the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Minister and the senior official do not know diddly-squat.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am sure that the product of the discussion in the last hour has precipitated untold wealth of information to the Member that he never had before that was presented by me. So it is kind of inappropriate and unfair of the Member to suggest that the Housing Corporation or its responsible Minister or its president are ill-informed.
But the Member is correct. If he wanted to research the matter on his own, I have now given him the name of the firm. I am sure I could provide him with the telephone number. I do not mean to be facetious or cynical, but the Member is being that way. I have already committed to him to provide the information he is asking for and I will do so.
Mr. Lang: Why was it necessary to hire a firm outside of the Yukon to do the financial accounting on an interim basis? What is it that our firms do not have that would justify going to Vancouver?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I understand from the board of directors that the firm, Ernst and Young, in addition to the reasons I have already cited as to why they were recruited for providing the service, were also going to assist with the recruitment of a suitable candidate to fill the position. I gather that is occurring. That is an additional reason why Ernst and Young was recruited.
I repeat the earlier reasons provided to me as to why Ernst and Young was selected. They were a firm that, in the first instance, was reputable and credible - not to suggest others are not. In the second instance, they were available full time. Thirdly, they had the required expertise in the area of financial management that the Yukon Housing Corporation needed, namely the investment portfolio, the mortgage handling, the borrowing knowledge of procedure that is expected when you are borrowing millions of dollars related to construction. The fourth reason is that they were going to be helping with recruitment.
Essentially, those are the four basic reasons why Ernst and Young were chosen. I understand that the local firms could not provide that range of commitment.
Mr. Phillips: Could the Minister provide the information I have requested on the chief finance and administration officer tomorrow for us in the House?
As well, would the Minister provide us with all contracts the Yukon Housing Corporation has issued in the year 1990-91, and provide that to us before we get to the operation and maintenance main estimates?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes, I have no problem with either request. It may be difficult to provide it tomorrow. As I have already earlier committed, I can provide detail pertaining to the staffing and the turnover. I will provide the information relating to the salary range and classification of the chief finance and administration officer. There is no problem in providing the main contracts that have been entered into by the Yukon Housing Corporation. I will not commit that for tomorrow, but certainly as soon as possible, and definitely before we enter the main estimates debate.
Mr. Phelps: I have a couple of questions relating to the decentralization policy and the fact there are going to be 39 positions moved out of Whitehorse to rural communities. What, if anything, has the Yukon Housing Corporation done to determine the need for staff housing for any or all of these 39 positions?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think I answered that in Question Period. The issue of housing for decentralization is one that cannot be addressed in complete detail at this time. Nevertheless, the corporation is working toward ensuring that we are in a position to meet the decentralization requirements that may arise in housing. In the first instance, with respect to decentralization, we cannot accurately predict the housing requirements until there is some indication of who is going to be filling the positions. I have indicated to the Member already that we anticipate that a number of positions are going to be filled locally by people who have housing. We anticipate that in a number of communities we already have adequate staff housing for any decentralization initiatives that will be taking place. We have assessed, community by community, the availability of housing. We know precisely what is available in each community that could be utilized for staff housing. At the same time, Yukon Housing Corporation has been requested to do an analysis of a review of the programs that are currently in place that would be available to employees who wish to take advantage of any aspect of staff housing. What Housing has been requested to do is to review the staff buy-back policy, review its current programs with regard to lease purchase and review its programs relating to owner build. The corporation has been asked to review those programs in order that where decentralized employees may be required to acquire housing, they have an opportunity to do so. On that front, housing is currently addressing the current programs.
Chair: We will now take a break.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will now come to order. Is there any further general debate on the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Mr. Phelps: I was curious about the last answer from the Minister before we broke. I understand that once the decentralization policy was announced, and the 39 positions were announced, the Yukon Housing Corporation was then requested to review its policies, and so on, to see what kind of an impact it was going to have.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is not quite accurate the way the Member puts it. He suggests that direction was given to the Yukon Housing Corporation following the decision to decentralize 39 positions. That is not the way it happened. In the process leading up to the decision to decentralize 39 positions, Yukon Housing Corporation was involved in the discussions and participated in the compilation of information leading up to the decision.
Yukon Housing Corporation is mandated, through the decentralization decision, to address the issue of reviewing its policies and programs to ensure a firm handle is available on housing that is available on a staff basis in the communities. That information is ordinarily always available. It is not correct to say that once the decision was made then Yukon Housing Corporation was directed. It was part of that process over the past year.
Mr. Phelps: The first four positions are going to Carcross. I take it then that Yukon Housing Corporation assured the powers that be that there was adequate staff housing available for the four extra positions in Carcross. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is not correct or accurate, either, because Yukon Housing Corporation could not provide such an assurance. I do not know precisely what the Carcross housing availability situation is, but I do not think there are four staff units available there.
One must recognize that in the entire decentralization process we cannot definitively determine how many housing units are going to be needed in each community, irrespective of the initiative, largely because we do not know which people who are decentralized will require housing. That is obvious.
As the Member brings up the example of Carcross, we cannot definitively say today that four staff units will be required in Carcross.
It may be entirely possible that we would need only one staff unit. It is possible that three other units may be provided through the private sector market. Someone may choose to rent their facility. Someone may buy a house. A person may be hired locally. I mean, that is the scenario, that is the configuration that could happen. It was clear what housing was available, what options could be addressed, and one of those options included a review of our policies, a review of our programs to ensure that any employee who is in a decentralized position could avail themselves of our program to provide their housing. In other words, we wanted to be sure that Yukon Housings programs were accessible to employees, whether that meant renting from the private sector, whether that meant building their own, whether that meant living clearly in a staff unit at market rent or some other option. That is part of what Housing is reviewing now.
Mr. Phelps: Well, surely you would not have to review the programs. I am more curious about what would be done in the situation at Carcross where there are four positions being moved. Did the Housing Corporation tell the Minister and Cabinet that there were some staff houses available or any staff houses available?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Member is referring specifically to Carcross, the corporation would have apprised Cabinet of the available housing. That is easy to do. I mean, just look at the records. Currently we have six public housing units and we have three staff units. None are vacant. We knew that.
Mr. Phelps: That was very helpful, I am sure, in coming to the conclusion to move four positions. How many suitable private houses were for sale that would have been suitable?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure I remember his question.
Mr. Phelps: There seem to have been three options. One was staff housing, one was buying a house, and there was no staff housing available because they were all full, so how many houses were for sale on the private market?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is citing very specific information relating to a particular community. That is something I cannot respond to and I should tell the Member that that is not the basis upon which decentralization decision making took place. Decision making took place, relating to decentralization, on a number of other factors, not the least of which was housing. So the simple fact that there was no staff housing available in Carcross did not specifically govern the choice of a decentralized initiative. It was a process by which we were aware of the housing scenario. We have directed accessibility to housing programs to be reviewed for people who wished to avail themselves of programs of the government when they decentralized and that information was known. Precisely whether or not any houses are available for sale, I am sure, is not specific information that was either sought or known.
Mr. Phelps: There were three options. One was staff housing and there was no staff housing available. Another was buying private housing in the private market and there was none available. How many houses were for lease in Carcross?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think when I provided the list of options to the Member I am sure I provided more than the ones he cites. Though the Member may suggest that there might not be any houses for sale, he cannot say that accurately and nor can I say that. A snapshot of the marketplace in Carcross could change from one day to the next or from one month to the next. The Member has to recognize that you need not necessarily live right in Carcross to be available for a position with government. We have communities adjacent to Carcross where people may choose to live. We have units that may well be available for sale through private transactions. We may well have, on any particular day when a request is made, more than one unit that is available for rent. On any given day a decision is taken by an employee to go to a community, that employee may choose to build. Those scenarios are more than three. There are quite a multitude of options that are available to people. The point I am emphasizing to the Member is that we do not know those details on any given day, at any given point and we do not need to know those details until we have some idea of the respective employees who will be requiring accommodation.
Mr. Phelps: The fact is that he cited the three ways to get housing for the people who are being decentralized. In Carcross there is no staff housing or houses for sale or rent. I take it that the availability of housing in the communities was not paid much attention by the Minister or his colleagues in Cabinet. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: No, that is not accurate at all. The Yukon Housing Corporation was involved, just as were all the departments, in the entire series of activities that led up to the decentralization initiative. That took the better part of the year prior to that.
I am not sure what the Member is getting at. If the Member is trying to get on the record that there is absolutely no accommodation available in Carcross I would submit to him that he cannot say that definitively and with certainty. He cannot say that someone is not prepared to rent their unit or build one or to live in Tagish or to drive from some point on the Carcross Road. That scenario is quite the same for other communities.
I have already told the Member that part of the decentralization decision making was built on the premise that the Yukon Housing Corporation would review its existing programs and plans, such as the employee buy-back plan or the lease/purchase option or the owner-build option. Those options would be available once they are fully reviewed by the corporation. These options are quite extensive.
I anticipate, from some discussions I have had in communities, that there will be interested entrepreneurs prepared to build homes if there are people being transferred to those communities. I think that is great. That contributes to the kind of marketplace we would like to see in those communities, as it is not just government building.
We are not limited to two or three options. There may not be staff houses in Carcross available today, but there may be some tomorrow. There may not be a house for rent today, but there may be next month. There may not be an entrepreneur in Carcross prepared to build a house today, but there may be one next week. Those are the options we are cognizant of but we are not going to build a precise scenario until we know the employees who are going to be moving to those communities. This is a chicken and egg discussion here. We are examining every option available to us. They are not exhaustive. There are closer to a dozen options, not just two or three.
Mr. Phelps: The very simple point is this: the government has come out with a policy and stated that the one-time capital costs would be X - in this case $250,000 - and the costs overall for the whole Yukon would be $400,000, $250,000 of which is capital. I am simply trying to get a handle on how the government costed its estimate and whether Yukon Housing Corporation played any part at all in it. I am rather curious about the forecast about the requirement to build staff housing. I suspect three or four would have to be built in Carcross to meet the promises made by the government in the policy about the provision of adequate housing for people moving from Whitehorse to the communities in question. How much does it cost now for a new standard three-bedroom home for staff housing? What is the ball-park cost for a home with land? Is it more than $100,000 per unit?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: His figure is generally correct. If we had to build in the average rural community, and I suppose one could argue what is the average rural community, we would pay in the order of $120,000 for the acquisition of land and the construction of the unit. If we purchased it, we might get it for slightly less because the Member knows the economics in the rural communities. Part of the problem we are facing in encouraging the private sector to construct in the rural communities is that firstly they cannot get the mortgage financing. Secondly, they usually exceed the assessed value of the facility in their construction costs. That anomaly is difficult to deal with. That is part of why we introduced the mortgaged-back financing programs as one of the options that any employee could tap into.
I want to stress to the Member that in spite of his assessment that we may not currently have the required staff units for every one of those 39 employees in the communities, it is not necessary for decentralization to take place. It is obvious to me that we have close to a dozen different scenarios that could be available in any given community for employees to take advantage of.
I have cited the various programs we have, the options of involvement with the private sector, the options of leasing and the options relating to encouraging the private sector to get involved in construction. We have joint-venture-program money to encourage that. We have available to us quite a number of programs and options.
I think I have indicated previously to Members in Question period that Yukon Housing Corporation had done a preliminary assessment of every community where decentralization is taking place. In that preliminary review they have determined what is available in the markets. I will be waiting for that assessment to be completed. Part of that assessment will include a scenario of options to employees when they choose to locate in that community.
We must not forget that, of the 39 positions, only 11 or 12 of them are currently filled. The remaining 30-odd positions are vacant now, meaning we will be doing new recruitment. I expect quite a number of those new recruits will involve people from the communities who will have their own housing.
We are anticipating that that will also be part of the option scenario. Let me conclude by saying that the preliminary assessment done by the Housing Corporation is now being done in a more detailed fashion, which will provide a detailed scenario of options available in each community where there is decentralization taking place.
Mr. Phelps: That is fine and good, but the fact is that, at the time the first 39 positions were announced, that kind of work had not been done. The government had no rough estimate as to how much housing would have to be built to meet one of the fundamental conditions that was given to employees, and they still do not, which is not a great surprise to me.
Those are all the questions I have on the subject.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I guess the concern that I have with the position the Member is taking is whether or not he supports decentralization. Is the Member suggesting that if his assessment of the housing situation in the rural communities is such that it cannot support decentralization, then decentralization should not happen. I hope he is not taking that position.
At the same time, I want the Member to recognize that when decentralization was announced, we were fully cognizant and aware of the availability of housing in the communities in a general sense. The Housing Corporation was mandated long ago to do a complete and detailed community profile and plan of options available. I believe I said that in debates with the Members at the time they raised the issue when the House opened. My concluding remark is that we have the housing availability and options in hand with respect to the rural communities. We have more detail relating to an assessment of our current programs as to how they can be more accessible and that information, when complete, will help with the housing and accommodation for decentralization that we believe in and are proceeding with.
Mr. Phelps: You do not have the faintest clue of the cost.
Mr. Devries: I had a question for Question Period tomorrow. I think I will save that one for Question Period. I will ask that one tomorrow. We will just go into line by line.
On Non-Profit Housing Construction/Acquisition
Non-Profit Housing Construction/Acquisition in the amount of $3,100,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $3,100,000 agreed to
Chair: If there are no questions on capital recoveries I will call it cleared.
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Chair: We will go back to the schedules of this supplementary estimate.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move you report Second Appropriation Act, 1990-91, Bill No. 15, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will proceed to Bill No. 16
Bill No. 16 - First Appropriation Act, 1991-92
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The main estimates that have been tabled for 1991-92 request total spending authority of $359,545,000. Of this total, $355,687 is for operation and maintenance and capital purposes. The remainder is loan amortization and loan capital, items that are recoverable and do not have much impact on the surplus deficit position.
The budget reflects increases in our revenues that amount to $10.8 million, a three percent increase over the projected revenues for the 1990-91 fiscal year. The transfer payment from Canada has increased by $22 million, and that is shown in the 1990-91 estimates. Of this increase, $11.8 million merely represents the reclassification of what were formerly recovery monies to grant monies as a result of the devolution of the airports and interterritorial roads programs for the Yukon.
Therefore, the actual increase in the transfer payment is something less than $10.5 million. Under the old formula agreement, it would have been about $10 million more. The difference between the budgeted expenditures and budgeted revenues is $15.8 million, which we presently show as a current year surplus. There are a number of factors at work that will reduce this surplus during the course of the year and, probably, result in a balanced budget with neither surplus nor deficit.
Several negotiations are currently underway that will contribute to the elimination of the reported surplus. There could be minor variations, as a result of last minute detail changes to the federal financing arrangements. However, the framework for this arrangement is virtually complete, and the variations to come will, in all likelihood, be very minor. We and the Northwest Territories expect to shortly be signing the agreement with the federal government.
We are currently negotiating new arrangements with the federal government for the provision of RCMP services. While these negotiations are not yet complete, Members should be aware that there will be a substantial but, as yet, undetermined increase in the cost for this service.
All Members should be aware that we are presently involved in renegotiating our collective agreements with our employees. When settlements are reached in these matters, the result will have to be taken into account in the 1991-92 spending. We will have to incorporate into a supplementary two years worth of negotiated wage increases.
Every year, as Members know, there is an occasion to pass emergency-type items in the supplementary estimates. Allowance must be made for these items.
The sum of the just mentioned factors will eat up the surplus, we expect, but we are currently showing these estimates and they will result in a balance between the revenues and expenditures for the year.
Members will note that the person year count for the government has increased by 118. Approximately 35 of these person years represent conversion of staff establishment directives, auxiliaries, casuals, or employment contracts with person year status. The biggest single group of these is the conversion of 18 aboriginal language teachers who were previously employed under contract. Three of the new person years are associated with the devolution of the airports program to us from the federal government while another 12 consist of the aboriginal language interpreters, territorial agents program announced as part of our decentralization plan. These 12 positions will be funded through a recovery program we have with the federal government.
The person year count also includes 20 new teachers to meet the ever increasing needs of our school system, and 18 are included in the Department of Health and Human Resources for extended care services. Additional person years are also required for the occupational health and safety program.
When I delivered the budget address, I spoke to the contents of the estimates in some detail. I will be very brief now, because we will have plenty of opprtunity in Committee to debate the contents of each department. We have been able to fund some new initiatives, some important initiatives in each of the fields of healthy communities and sustainable economy, good government including land claims, a health investment fund, implementation of the Education Act, an aboriginal justice pilot project, more monies for the museum program and a new visitor reception centre in Whitehorse, a paper recycling project, decentralization, and a land claims training trust fund, to name just a few.
With our total revenue inflow increasing at a rate less that inflation, it is obvious we have had to tighten up in a number of areas to be able to finance these new initiatives. We have accomplished this without implementing major cuts in any program. Members will note a number of minor reductions throughout the budget. In this respect, I would remind Members that any increase over the forecast is less than about six percent, the expected rate of inflation next year, effectively representing a decrease in spending.
We believe the expenditures shown in the budget are attainable and realistic, and I would be more than happy to now discuss with Members those items that are of interest to them, in general debate.
Mr. Nordling: How are we doing with renegotiating or negotiating the Formula Financing Agreement. It is obviously not signed yet.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Formula Financing Agreement has been under active negotiation since the time the preliminary position was announced by the federal government in December of last year. There were a number of statements made by the federal side that identified the basis upon which they would inflict the new regime, and it has been the subject of lengthy discussion as to exactly how the various terms of references would be defined and what factors would be taken into account in determining the basis for the data that goes into the formula itself.
We expect that we can be in a position where we can finally sign this agreement shortly, but I would remind the Member that it is obvious that we are a member of a tripartite group that is negotiating the agreement, and all parties must presumably agree to come to a conclusion, principally the federal government, before the deal is signed. Consequently, we cannot simply sign an agreement without the agreement of the federal government. It has been the federal governments position that they will sign an agreement only as a tripartite arrangement.
We are interested in signing the agreement. We have been assiduously and aggressively working to finalize the details, but we have not yet come to a conclusion.
Mr. Phelps: What does the Minister mean by a tripartite agreement?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That means three.
Mr. Phelps: What three?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Three meaning the federal government, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Government of the Yukon.
Mr. Phelps: Why has this government been unable to separate from that? In the past, the agreements were negotiated and signed separately.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The agreements have always been signed separately, but it has been the position on the federal side that the agreements must be the same. Consequently, we are not in a position to be able to negotiate purely bilaterally.
Mr. Phelps: I am concerned about the issue of lapses. Each year, we have increasingly large lapses of spending, which fold over into the ensuing year. With regard to the 1990-91 forecast, what is anticipated will be lapsed of the total expenditures that are forecast at $371 million?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I assume the Member is principally referring to capital budget lapses, and not so much to the operation and maintenance budget lapses. The operation and maintenance budget lapses are actually very minor in the past years: about $3.5 million out of a $250 million budget. That is a pretty good record. Some departments came in with an $85,000 lapse on a $55 million operation and maintenance budget, such as Education. That is a fairly good record, in terms of trying to meet the targeted amount.
I assume the Member is principally referring to the capital budget. The only way I can answer that in general debate is from a general perspective. The more precise answer would have to come on a project-by-project basis, which would explain why certain funds had lapsed in the past on certain projects.
I have indicated certain things to the Members in the past, as well as in the recent debate on the supplementaries, which ended only 10 minutes ago.
I am thinking of a long answer here and I am worried about the time. Perhaps I will just say quickly that the reason for the lapses was largely as a result of the increased size of the capital budget and the capability of the government to deliver a large capital budget when extensive consultation was required and there was a lack of experience with that large capital budget. Now that the capital budget is declining gradually and with experience of the various levels of goverment increasing, I think we will be in a better position in the future to produce the capital lapses that have occurred. I know that must have caused the Member to really want to stand up and speak and really get into it. But I will take the liberty of asking Members to report progress on the bill, and I would move that the Chair report progress on the bill.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1990-91, and directed me to report the same without amendment. Further, the Committee has considered Bill No. 16, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1991-92, and has 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. Penikett: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 26, 1990:
1990/91 Capital expenditures for Yukon portion of Alaska Highway (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1105 (First Session)
Costs regarding the BST crew in the Faro area (August, 1990) (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, pp. 265 & 266
Projects funded through the rural electrification and telephone program 1990/91 (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 209
Helicopter contract for moose survey in Haines Junction (Fall, 1990) (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, pp. 349-352
Housing in Dawson City for moose survey (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 351