Monday, April 19, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Congratulations to Whitehorse Huskies, Allan Cup winners
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the players, coaching staff and management of the Whitehorse Hockey Club, in their successful bid to win the Allan Cup this past weekend in Quesnel, British Columbia.
The Yukon has had a long tradition of developing champions in a number of sports and this victory, emblematic of Triple A Canadian hockey supremacy, is one that all Yukoners can be proud of.
Competition for the coveted Allan Cup began over 80 years ago; inscribed on this trophy are such well-known teams as the Trail Smokeaters; the Penticton Vs and the Spokane Flyers. Now, the name of the Whitehorse Huskies will also be added to this select group.
On behalf of all Yukoners, I extend congratulations to the Whitehorse Huskies, 1993 champions of the Triple A Canadian Senior Hockey Championship and winners of the Allan Cup.
Mr. Harding: I rise today to express the congratulations of our caucus to the Whitehorse Huskies for their victory in the Allan Cup championships. It was a great thing for the Yukon and for senior hockey in the territory.
They have had a very tough year, but have managed to pull things together. It makes the people of Faro feel proud, because in the Rendezvous Tournament this year, we were entered against the team. We made it to the finals and judged our opponents by the fact that there were seven Whitehorse Huskies on the team. We ended up losing 6-4. Now we can say that we lost 6-4 to the national senior hockey champions. It puts a little bounce to our steps.
Seriously, we are very pleased. We would like to extend the congratulations of our caucus. It is a good day for sports fans and all Yukoners.
Mr. Nordling: Are there any Introductions of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have two legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Pursuant to Section 11 of the Motor Transport Act, I have for tabling the Motor Transport Board Annual Report.
I also have for tabling a legislative return relating to the interviewing process for summer employment on highway crews.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a press release for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Petition No. 3 - Response
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have for tabling a response to Petition No. 3 regarding the construction of an animal shelter in Whitehorse, which was received by this House on April 5, 1993.
Speaker: Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Film location promotion program: TV pilot to be filmed in Yukon
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to announce today that the proposed budget increase, which recognizes the importance of the Department of Tourisms film location promotion program, has already had a positive impact on the departments ability to market Yukon locations to producers of television movies, feature films and documentaries.
The department has confirmed that a television pilot, co-produced by Alliance Communications Corporation, CBS Television and CTV, will begin shooting in early May. Production activity will be staged out of Whitehorse, with locations in Carcross, the White Pass area and Atlin, B.C. being used.
To support this filming activity, many goods and services will be purchased from Whitehorse merchants. Construction materials and equipment, RV and vehicle rentals, catering, cast extras and labourers are all among the services that will be purchased here. At least 10 local people have already been hired just this past weekend and the production will likely inject more than a quarter of a million dollars into the Yukon economy.
Aside from the fact that our locations provided the look this production was seeking, the ability to secure it is directly related to pro-active location marketing activities that this proposed budget increase has allowed the department to pursue.
Mr. Harding: I just rise to say, on behalf of our caucus, that we are pleased to see that this filming in the Yukon is going to be underway. It is nice to see the economic activity generated. It was a program originally started by the previous NDP administration and we think it is an important marketing tool for tourism.
We do find it a little bit surprising that the claim would be made that it would come as a result of the proposed budget, which is still incredibly high up in the air. We are not so sure whether we can put much credence in believing that this activity is a result of the proposed budgeting changes to this area of the budget or whether it is just a function of the previous program that was in place under the previous administration - and the aesthetic beauty that we do have to offer here in the territory.
It is nice to see the government doing something about unemployment. It is 15.6 percent this month. That is very high. With the 10 local people who have been hired, it certainly is nice to see something being done in the way of putting people to work here in the territory. We hope to see a lot more of it in the near future from the government.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I welcome the support from the Members opposite. I should tell the Member, though, that the first response we received on this particular film was on March 15. Since the budget announcement, it has given Tourism officials the opportunity to be more aggressive in pursuing this kind of inquiry. Since late March or early April they have been pursuing these kinds of activities. It has given them the opportunity to attract this film to Yukon, which will eventually employ about 55 to 60 people, overall. We are very pleased to attract this kind of business to Yukon.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Economic strategy
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for either the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Economic Development. Mr. Siddon, the federal Minister, was in Whitehorse during the last few days and appeared unable to commit additional financial support for infrastructure development plans. He appears to want to discuss those plans only in the context of a pan-northern economic strategy encompassing both territories.
Does the Government Leader or the Minister of Economic Development intend to seek a new northern economic strategy and, if so, how would they accomplish the task?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is quite right. Mr. Siddon wants to pursue this within the parameters of a northern self-sufficiency infrastructure. We were hoping that there would be more positive announcements at this meeting but the reality of the situation is that there is a leadership vacuum within the reigning government in Ottawa; ministers are starting to get into positions where they are not prepared to commit a future administration to endeavors they are not certain will be supported by the new leader. I am sure that is going to slow the process down.
I would like to add that this meeting followed up on an initiative by Mr. Siddon at a meeting in Yellowknife to put a self-sufficiency infrastructure together. We are going to continue to pursue that goal.
Mr. McDonald: In the past, the Government Leader has indicated that the federal government has been quite amenable to the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document produced by the Yukon government. Given that so much of this governments infrastructure strategy, which is regionally based, is to be federally funded, how useful is the Yukon governments strategy if the feds are looking for a pan-northern economic plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is a very useful document. Even though the Minister is looking for a northern plan, he is still looking for specifics in each region. I am sure the document will go a long way toward fulfilling that role. By the same token, we are not totally dependent on just that one avenue to promote the Yukon. There are other avenues we are working on with the federal government at the present time, and we hope that some of them will bear fruit in the near future.
Mr. McDonald: The federal Minister appeared very pessimistic. As the Government Leader has pointed out, there appears to be something of a leadership vacuum in Ottawa, which makes it very unlikely that there will be much support for the Yukon governments Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document.
We heard nothing this weekend about the $10 million infrastructure grant. Can the Government Leader indicate to us why Mr. Siddon was unable to provide the assurances that the $10 million would be forthcoming, as he had hoped he would? Can he give us some indication as to what the federal governments reaction was to the list of priorities that would be funded from the $10 million?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Siddon did give us assurances that $10 million would be spent in the Yukon. It seems that the problem right now is one of territorial turf between the Department of Transport and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, as to where the money should be spent. My understanding is that that is supposed to be settled, and there should be an announcement coming from Ottawa today or tomorrow morning.
Question re: Curragh Inc., government instructions to lawyers
Mr. Harding: On April 5, a letter was sent by Fraser and Beatty, the barristers working on behalf of the territorial government, to the Government Leader regarding the application for court protection filed by Curragh Inc. In the letter, there was a request made by the lawyers working on behalf of the government to assist in efforts appropriate to recommence full operations by attempting, if they should determine to do so, to identify and introduce possible investors.
Could the Government Leader or the Minister of Economic Development tell this House who gave that direction to the lawyers? Could they also give an explanation as to why they would give that direction?
Hon. Mr. Devries: To the best of my knowledge, those directions were not given to the Fraser and Beatty people. I believe it is a misinterpretation of what is in the letter. When I read the letter, I did not understand it to say that.
Mr. Harding: I do not know how well the Minister reads then, because I am quoting, and I will quote again, to assist in the efforts appropriate to recommence full operations by attempting, if they should determine to do so, to identify and introduce possible investors. It was a request made by Fraser and Beatty on behalf of the Yukon territorial government. It is a very serious request, and it points to some things we have raised serious questions about in this Legislature, as to the governments agenda on this.
Would they please tell us who gave the direction to the lawyers, and why?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I must say that those were not instructions that were given by the government. I believe that there was a possible interpretation in the letter. My understanding was that we would seek ways of finding how the Grum stripping would take place and who would do the stripping - whether it would be done through Curragh Inc. or through Pelly Construction.
Mr. Harding: The letter that was tabled in the Legislature by the Government Leader points to a very serious matter and I think the government is showing their true cards on this. Before beginning deliberations in the courts, they are already asking to identify possible investors.
Will the government now admit that they have been pursuing the federal agenda with Burns Fry all along, and that they have been looking for new owners for the mine, not looking to get people back to work in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No, I will assure the Member that we have not been doing that and we have no intention of doing that, as this point.
Question re: Suicides in northern communities
Mr. Cable: Recently, there has been an unfortunate number of media reports on suicide in northern communities, in particular northern First Nation communities.
I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
In 1989, there was a task force report prepared and provided to this House by the Official Opposition. I am sure the Minister has had an opportunity to review the report.
Is it the Ministers intention to coordinate the efforts of his department with private organizations, such as Yukon Family Services and the Crisis Line, in order to deal with the issue of suicide in the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That would be one minor part of the strategy to cope with that very serious problem.
Mr. Cable: I was asking whether there had been coordination - I believe I put the question in the past tense.
Let me ask this question: there are a number of recommendations in this report; has the Minister had an opportunity to review the recommendations and could he indicate to this House what specific initiatives his department has taken, or is taking, with respect to those recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I certainly recall the report; I read the report some time ago. I am not going to stand here today and pretend that I remember all the recommendations, but I would be happy to go back and review our policies and what we are doing in the context of those recommendations and have a written answer prepared for the Member.
Mr. Cable: I believe the report refers to a high suicide rate in First Nation communities. Has the Minister had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Council for Yukon Indians?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have discussed that issue and other very serious and interrelated social problems with many of the First Nation chiefs.
We are taking initiatives in many First Nation communities, which I have alluded to many times in this place. For example, we are discussing a holistic approach to alcohol and drug problems, family violence and suicides. All of these initiatives have an interrelated bearing on a bundle of social problems that we are finding in each and every community.
Question re: Land selection, Whitehorse
Ms. Joe: I have a question for the Minister responsible for land claims. During the supplementary debate last Thursday, I asked the Government Leader about his commitment that land should go to the city unencumbered for the Whitehorse sewage disposal system. He indicated that he was not talking about a specific area, but a matter of principle. I noted in a letter from Mr. Siddon to Mayor Weigand, that Mr. Siddon says, I note that the land required for the selected options is within the Whitehorse block transfer, and that he and Mr. Ostashek agreed that the land should be set aside for the city.
Can he now tell us if he agreed to set aside a specific area of land for the City of Whitehorse, as mentioned in the letter?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What I said last week I will say again today: I believe in the principle of setting land aside unencumbered for the city for the Whitehorse sewage. Let that be perfectly clear. We know there is a piece of land that is in dispute. I said the dispute would be settled at the land claims table.
Ms. Joe: Since the government has already offered this land unencumbered, what is there left to negotiate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is much left to negotiate. We are not taking the position that we are telling the Taan Kwachan that they cannot have the land. We are trying to find out if there is some reasonable land that can be substituted. Negotiations will take place to see if we can come up with a satisfactory solution to this problem.
Ms. Joe: There have been no negotiations with either the Kwanlin Dun Band or the Taan Kwachan First Nation. I would like to ask the Minister when he expects to meet with them to talk about the problem, which appears to be getting bigger every day.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure when they are going to meet with the Taan Kwachan. I believe they are waiting for them to come back to them. They were going to explore some other issues on it. They were seeking legal advice, as I understand it.
As far as the Kwanlin Dun Band is concerned, I believe there is a meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning.
Question re: Land selection, Whitehorse
Ms. Joe: During that same debate, the Government Leader stated that it is up to the federal government to provide land for the land claims settlement and that it is their ultimate responsibility. Since the Yukon government insisted on being a party to the negotiations and Commissioners lands are open for selection by First Nations, it appears that it is a departure from practice and policy.
Can the Government Leader tell us if there has been a change in this governments policy on equal partnership with responsibility for settling the land claims?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that we share an equal responsibility for settling land claims; however, when it comes to land tenure, it is a federal responsibility.
Ms. Joe: Since there appears to be a change in policy, I would like to ask the Government Leader if he is considering withdrawing Commissioners lands from selection by First Nations.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not at all. We made it quite clear that we are following what I believe is a memorandum of understanding regarding land selections that goes back quite a few years and they are supposed to be balanced selections. That is what we are requesting of the First Nations people - that they come up with a balanced selection so that, when we get into the finalization of the land selections, we can work from the basis of a decent set of maps. To negotiate before that is forthcoming would just cause a breakdown, so we would like to see a fairly balanced selection prior to final selection.
Ms. Joe: In this mornings CBC news, it appeared that the Government Leader was very vague about Kwanlin Duns land claims and only knew what the negotiators told him. Can he tell this House who is giving direction to those negotiators?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The direction to the negotiators is that they find a balanced selection of lands among rural lands, lands that have been proven and commercial lands. We have to have a balanced selection in order to be able to finalize these land claims selections.
Question re: Land selection, Whitehorse
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister on the same subject. The Government Leader will remember the recent budget information session in Dawson City where he indicated that the land development budget in the Dawson area was low because the government was awaiting the First Nations final land selections. Can the government indicate why they are proposing to spend a large - perhaps even record-breaking - amount on land development in the Whitehorse area when a land selection process in this community has barely begun?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am quite sure the Member opposite is aware of the fact that there is a large demand for lots in the Whitehorse area; in fact, the number of lots we would like to have on inventory over the next three or four years involves a very large expenditure indeed, and that is where the large numbers in the budget come from.
Mr. McDonald: I understood all of that, but I am trying to understand a little more why the government would use the excuse that they are not developing land in Dawson because the First Nations have not finalized their land selections and yet they are proposing major land development in Whitehorse and the bands have barely begun their land selections.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, the Minister responsible for land claims, why the government plans to develop major amounts of land in Whitehorse when the First Nations have not yet begun to select their community lands.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, the reason the land budget is so large in the Whitehorse area is because there is a great demand for land in this particular area. We are making sure that the land, in fact, does not conflict with the current land selections.
Mr. McDonald: I do not dispute for one moment that there are land needs in the City of Whitehorse. What I am trying to understand is why the government is saying, in Dawson, that they are not going to develop lands because they are awaiting for final land selections, or why they are going to develop large amounts of land in Whitehorse when the bands have barely begun their land selections. How does the Minister propose to avoid community land selections in their development plans?
This is a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, if the Government Leader refuses to answer these questions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If one of our subdivisions, whether it be in Whitehorse or Dawson, conflicts with a selection area, that particular issue would go to the land claims table to be resolved.
Question re: Land selection, Whitehorse
Mr. McDonald: We have a very difficult situation here. It is a situation that is the result of the fact that because the negotiations are not active and because the government has not formally responded to community land selections that have already been made, and there are no discussions taking place, the bands are extraordinarily concerned about development plans that have been communicated through the media. Can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services indicate to us whether or not the Kwanlin Dun and Taan Kwachan have been fully informed of their land development proposals for the Logan subdivision and Hillcrest D, et cetera, which comprises 1,600 lots or more? Have they gone through the process of consulting with the bands about those development proposals?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As far as I am aware, the Taan Kwachan and the Kwanlin Dun are aware of the proposed subdivisions in the Whitehorse area.
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader indicated this morning that while they are prepared to negotiate land selections with First Nations, they are not prepared to wait forever. Can I ask the Minister whether or not the government is prepared to hold back development of these subdivisions until such time as they have come to an agreement in principle with First Nations on their community land selections?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There will be no work done on proposed development that is taking place in 1994-1995 or 1995-1996. There is the continuation of some work that was started in 1992-1993, and that will be going ahead. As far as I am aware, this work does not interfere with current land selections.
Mr. McDonald: We have not come to the main estimates yet, but I do understand that the government is proposing to spend $13 million of the $20 million on land development projects in the City of Whitehorse. This would be a record-breaking amount for the territorial government to ever have spent. I am very concerned about the Ministers answers, but I will follow up on that a little later.
Can the Minister indicate to us whether or not the government will formally respond to the community land selection proposals by the First Nations, particularly Kwanlin Dun, and indicate to them what they consider to be a balanced selection of lands between community, rural and commercial lands, so the negotiations can actually begin?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the question on a balanced quantity of land for the First Nations has to be answered at the land claims table. We would certainly be willing to show anyone who is interested what Community and Transportation Services long-range plans are for subdivision development in the Whitehorse area. If there is a conflict, which there may very well be in the areas the Member opposite has mentioned, then those will be settled at the land claims table.
Question re: Financial year-end printouts
Mrs. Firth: The government has been asked numerous questions, both oral and written, about the actual amount of money spent by the government in the 1992-93 fiscal year. As we are now more than halfway through the month following the fiscal year-end and computer printouts of expenditures and commitments, or accounts payable, are now available, will the Minister of Finance inform the House and the Yukon public on the state of the governments finances? Will he provide us, as Members of the House, with a copy of this statement?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I was not aware that they were available at this point. I have not been informed that they are.
Mrs. Firth: We have been discussing and debating this issue for the last three weeks in supplementary estimates. The Government Leader himself said that by April 6 the financial statement would be ready, but it would be after April 10 before the accounts payable would be factored into it and we could have a true reading of the governments financial picture.
Has the Government Leader not even asked his Department of Finance for this information, since we are in the middle of debating a supplementary budget and this information is vital to the debates?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My memory of the situation differs from the Member opposites. I am sure that in all the discussions of the supplementaries in this House, we said that the earliest we would be able to have a rough estimate of the final balance would be after the third week in April. I hope there will be some figures coming in the near future. I believe, and I said it in this House before, it would be after April 20 before we would even have a rough estimate of what the final balance would be once we knew what the accounts payable were.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister of Finance if he has requested this information from his department, when he will be receiving it and whether or not he will be providing it to Members of this House and the public?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will take that under advisement.
Question re: Curragh Inc., possible investors in
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask a question following up on the issue of the hidden agenda with regard to the Curragh negotiations and the request by the territorial government to identify and introduce possible investors. It appears that not only is the federal government telling YTG what to do, they are telling Burns Fry and Fraser and Beatty what to do.
On Tuesday, April 13, 1993, the Minister of Economic Development stated that he knew that Cominco had travelled to Faro. On Friday, April 16, Cominco were denying that it ever happened.
I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development exactly what is going on here?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the Member would read Hansard, he would see that I had heard, on the grapevine in Watson Lake, that someone from Cominco - I do not recall if they were on a Time Air flight or if they indicated they had refueled there - had been in the Yukon. I have followed up on this by checking with Cominco officials and they indicated that to the best of their knowledge no one has been up here.
Mr. Harding: I happen to have that very Hansard in my hand right now and what was said is, The only thing I know is that Cominco has been up to IFaro.
It does not say anything about the grapevine. Is the Minister now telling us that he made that unequivocal statement in the Legislature and he is now telling us that he really had no business making that statement because he was not sure they had been to Faro? Is that what he is telling us?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Member is playing politics with the issue, and I really resent that because the people of Faro do not appreciate things like that. I clearly recall what was in Hansard; I do not have it in front of me. The first question was that the Member for Faro had heard that someone from Cominco had been to Faro. I indicated that I heard, via the grapevine in Watson Lake, that someone had been up there, but I did not have conclusive proof. In answer to the second question, I basically reiterated that I had heard that someone had been to Faro. I did not say that someone had actually been there.
Mr. Harding: I will tell the Minister what the people of Faro do not like and do not appreciate. They do not appreciate crass jokes about my community.
Speaker: Order please. A one-sentence preamble relevant to the question, please. I do not want to have an argument between the Members in Question Period.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development exactly what has taken place with regard to this government and discussions with Cominco.
I want to ask the Minister and any other Member on the other side, if they will admit, under oath, as to whether or not they have had any discussions with any of the board of directors of Cominco - one of whom resides in Whitehorse - regarding Curragh?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not know of the board member in Whitehorse.
I would like to go back to the letter that the Member is referring to.
The letter clearly states, to assist in the efforts appropriate to recommence full operations by attempting if they should determine to do so. We have not determined to do so and we have no intention of attempting to do that.
We have not talked with anyone from Cominco; it would have been a Cabinet decision and, if the Member wishes, he can ask any Member, one at a time, and they will say the same thing that I have stated, because we have not given those instructions.
Question re: Agricultural policy
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on agricultural policy for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
The previous administration prepared a policy document entitled Agriculture for the Nineties, A Yukon Policy. This document was produced toward the end of 1991.
Will the Minister indicate whether this document, Agriculture for the Nineties, A Yukon Policy, represents the present policy of the present government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It does at the present time; however, that does not rule out the fact that we may review the policy.
Mr. Cable: The document indicates that the policy would be reviewed in three years, but I note from the Ministers ministerial statement of March 30, 1993, to this House, that a survey had taken place.
Does the Minister anticipate reviewing agricultural policy prior to the end of the first three years?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that possibly there would be a review and possibly we would change the policy. At present there has been no movement on that policy.
Mr. Cable: Let me ask one more specific question.
The ministerial statement of March 30, 1993, refers to the need for a vegetable storage facility.
Has the Minister considered what role, if any, the government will play in the production of a vegetable storage facility?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The whole situation comes down to whether or not we will be able to get any land on which to construct the abattoir and then the cold storage facility.
Until we get some movement from Ottawa we are sitting and waiting.
Question re: Tax increases
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question today for the Minister of Finance regarding the largest tax increases in the history of the Yukon: the 11-percent boost in personal income tax rates, which has been proposed by the government, but not yet passed by the Legislature. There is considerable uncertainty about whether or not the tax increase will actually become law.
Can the Minister tell the House when he plans to bring the tax increase bill before the House for second reading?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, we should clear up the record a little bit. The statement was that there is an 11-percent tax increase. That is simply not true. The overall tax increase to Yukoners would be a very small percentage. The tax bill will be brought in due course.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have been contacted by workers who live in the Government Leaders riding and other areas of the Yukon who have found that their employers are starting to deduct the additional territorial tax before it has become law. Since some Yukon employers are now taking the new tax off paycheques before it has become law, can the Minister advise the House if he has obtained a legal opinion as to whether or not these premature deductions are lawful?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, if the Member opposite is so concerned about getting into the tax bill, if we dealt with the supplementaries, we could deal with the tax bill quite a bit more quickly.
No one should be deducting new territorial taxes. They are supposed to be using the tax tables that are now used by employers to deduct employees taxes. They should not be deducting new taxes until the new tax tables come out.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Government Leader is a new Member of this Legislature, as am I, but surely he knows that the Yukon Party government can introduce second reading on this or any other bill any day that it chooses.
Since he has said that the deductions should not be made, I would like to ask him what plans or advice he has for Yukon employers and what arrangements he has made with Revenue Canada to return the money with interest to Yukon workers if these tax increases are rejected by the House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The fact remains that no one has been given orders to start taking deductions. If they are doing it, they are doing it illegally. It is a matter for the tax people to deal with.
Question re: Financial year-end printouts
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on the question I asked the Minister of Finance earlier regarding the financial picture of the government as of the year-end 1992-93.
The Minister of Finance has indicated to the House this afternoon that he is going to take this question under advisement. I simply want to know if he will be making the information public and be providing it to the Members of this House when he receives it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The reason I said I would take it under advisement is because it is my understanding that this has never been done this soon after the end of a fiscal year. I will have to check with my officials first.
Mrs. Firth: Surely, it will be the Government Leader who makes the decision regarding this matter, not his officials. Surely, it will be the Government Leader who will decide whether or not Yukoners can have public information, telling us the state of our finances.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will provide this information to Yukoners - information to which they have rightful access.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When I am satisfied that the information we have is the full and entire picture, and not misleading to this Legislature or to the people of the Yukon, then I will be more than happy to make it public.
Mrs. Firth: We are in the process of debating a supplementary budget. This is vital information to the debating of that budget. It will give us the governments bottom line, whether there is a surplus or a deficit. I would like to ask the Minister, since he did not give us a yes or no, will he today stand up and say, Yes, we are going to be a totally open government, as we promised, and we will provide this information to Yukoners and to the Members of this Assembly so that we can carry on the debate of the budget? Just say yes.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Supplementaries are debated in this House every year, and I have never seen that information come forward yet at that particular time. It usually waits for the Auditor Generals report. We intend to make it public before then, but I want to make sure the information is all there and is not misleading to this House or to the people of the Yukon.
Question re: Territorial income tax deductions
Ms. Moorcroft: As the Government Leader has said, most employers use figures for deductions provided by Revenue Canada Taxation to tell them exactly how much income tax to take off workers paycheques. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance, who is also the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, if he is aware of any new directives or guidelines from Revenue Canada Taxation to tell Yukon employers, including YTG, to take off more tax.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I am not aware of any directives.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Government Leader confirm that the YTG, either as an employer or acting in providing advice to other Yukon employers, has not directed any agencies or corporations to deduct the proposed territorial income taxes before they actually become law?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot confirm that on my feet but I will certainly check. I would be very doubtful that it has happened, but I will check and bring the answer back to the Member opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Government Leader then what he is prepared to do to deal with the fact that employees have had additional territorial tax deducted from their paycheques.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am being asked a hypothetical question. I do not yet know that this is the fact. I will check on it for the Member opposite.
Question re: Decentralization, government position on
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader said recently in the Legislature that he was committed to decentralization but that the program had been put on hold. The government has appeared, however, to be recentralizing positions already decentralized. Can the Government Leader confirm that, as he promised to do for the Dawson Chamber of Commerce, the two positions with Renewable Resources and Tourism have been recentralized to Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot speak for the Department of Renewable Resources, but I can speak for the Department of Tourism. At this time, there is no change in the position in Dawson City; it will remain in Dawson City. I can discuss that in the supplementaries, but that is the answer that I have for the Member today.
Mr. McDonald: I was kind of hoping we could ask the Minister responsible for decentralization, rather than ask each and every individual Minister. Can I ask the Government Leader, because he did commit to getting back to the Dawson Chamber of Commerce, I understand, whether or not they consulted with the community of Dawson, or city council, before planning to re-centralize any positions in Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the Minister of Tourism just stated that he is not aware of any position being moved back to Whitehorse. I am not aware of any myself, either in the Department of Renewable Resources or the Department of Tourism.
Mr. McDonald: I will follow this up at a time when the Members have their notes in front of them. The Government Leader has indicated that in the decentralization program he favoured the development of regional centres. Can the Government Leader indicate whether or not that means that the smaller rural communities, which do not constitute regional centres, will receive less priority for decentralization moves in the future when the government reactivates the policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, decentralization is on hold. It will be reassessed; once we have the policy in place, I will be happy to share it with the Member opposite.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. If it is the wish of Members, we will take a brief recess now.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: The Committee will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4 - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
On Bureau of Management Improvement - continued
Chair: We are on line item, Bureau of Management Improvement.
Mr. Cable: I asked the Government Leader last Thursday about the reduction in this line item. In his introductory comments on this department, the Government Leader indicated that the $277,000 reduction was primarily, if I read his comments correctly in Hansard, due to difficulty recruiting very specialized positions. I assume that the $277,000 relates primarily to payroll costs. Could the Government Leader confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct.
Mr. Cable: Could the Government Leader indicate which positions have not yet been filled, and whether it is his intention to fill them at some time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There were four positions; we have eliminated two. The two that need to be filled are director and auditor.
Mr. Cable: One of the functions that the Bureau of Management Improvement performs - I think we established this from the budget of last year and from the Ministers confirmation that the outline in the budget is still accurate - is that of program evaluation. Do either of these jobs encompass program evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, that is not correct, and I believe that we are going to bring back a written return on the program evaluation.
Mr. Cable: I will save most of my questions for the budget, but I would like to get a little background before we get into that budget debate some day.
In this department, how many people are directed to do programming evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no one person responsible for program evaluation. Three or four different people will deal with the evaluations in a different technical aspect.
Mr. Cable: How many people are allocated to perform the function of management improvement?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member opposite will bear with us, that is all laid out in the mains under the restructuring of the department.
Mr. Cable: I have just a couple of further questions, then. Is there any movement afoot to review in comprehensive detail how the government goes about program evaluation or improves upon its management?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: A number of different projects will be or are in the process of being undertaken with different deputy ministers involved. It is very difficult to explain in a couple of words exactly what is going on, but it is an overall approach from various different aspects through the Public Service Commission and other areas to try to identify program improvements.
Mr. Cable: Where is the main locus of program evaluation and management improvement? Is it carried out within the departments or is it done through the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The ECO office will have the coordinating function; the departments themselves will be responsible for seeing that the program evaluation is done.
Mr. Cable: Will the Executive Council Office actually instigate an overall government program evaluation service and a management improvement service, or will that flow up from the bottom, or from the departments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: How we are going to accomplish it is under review.
Mr. Cable: Is this review being carried out by the committee referred to by the Minister: the audit committee?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, it is being done as a policy matter by the deputy ministers.
Bureau of Management Inprovement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $277,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Support
Mrs. Firth: I wanted to ask the Minister responsible whether or not this line item includes any renovations or new office furniture purchased for Cabinet, or would that be included somewhere else?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware of any new furniture being purchased following the change of government.
Mrs. Firth: I know that some Ministers, maybe just one, got some new furniture, but perhaps it was furniture that was within the office complement. My question is not so much about furniture, specifically, as it is with entire renovations. We did not discuss renovations of offices in the Legislative Assembly budget, so I am correct in assuming then that the renovation costs are in Government Services, or are they included in this Cabinet Support line, or somewhere within this budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The renovations to the Legislative Assembly would be in the Government Services budget.
Cabinet Support in the amount of $355,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $330,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Computers/Equipment/Holding Safes in the amount of $19,000
Computers/Equipment/Holding Safes in the amount of $19,000 agreed to
On French and Aboriginal Language Services
On French Language Services
French Language Services in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $47,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Community and Transportation Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Harding: I would like to clear it, but I certainly cannot. Being a new Member and being the critic responsible for a large -
My humble apologies, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Please allow me to introduce the 1992-93 supplementary estimate No. 1 for the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Accounting for the impact of increases in capital recoveries and revenues, the departments total net supplementary for operation, maintenance and capital combined is $24,863,000. This total net variance does not, however, include expenditure recoveries of $14,017,000 in O&M and $9,937,000 in capital that have become part of the formula financing arrangement following the Alaska Highway devolution agreement.
The sum of these, which is $23,954,000, is shown on an expenditure side, but not reflected as a recovery. Taking this into account, the departments net supplementary is, in fact, $909,000.
May I also point out that part of the $421,000 increased funding required for O&M is due to a roughly $310,000 increase in highway maintenance and transportation engineering personnel and administration costs as a result of the devolution agreement. Taking all of these items into consideration, it is obvious that the department, through good operational planning and financial management, has achieved a variance that is not significant.
Moving on to major, specific items, the operations and maintenance supplementary includes the following: in the Office of the Deputy Minister line item the major change was an increase of $182,000 for emergency measures - this increase is primarily for response to flood water and EMO preparation training; a net increase of $57,000 for the communications branch is related to mobile radio charge-out rates and the development of emergency communications plans; in the corporate services division, there is a net decrease of $35,000, which resulted from the various staff secondments and acting assignments combined with a reduction in purchases of supplies and consulting allocation.
In the transportation division, the major changes can be summarized as follows: despite an increase of $950,000 resulting from the moving of the BST funding from the capital program to the O&M program and increases of $309,000 related to the administrative costs of the Alaska Highway program transfer, the net impact is only $3,000 due to savings in reductions in deferral of maintenance projects and staffing vacant positions.
On the line item, Municipal and Community Affairs Division, the major increase consists of $392,000; required funding for sports and recreation grant contributions to various community groups is offset by $32,000 savings on grants-in-lieu of taxes due to overestimation at the time of budget; there is also a $105,000 savings as the Capital City Commission concept is being eliminated.
Other reductions included rent allocation and street lighting totalling $51,000.
A net increase in revenue of $367,000 was contained within government-wide revenue summary. This amount is mainly composed of various increases in land sales, fees, vehicle registration and licence plate fees and interest on local improvements offset by decreases in weigh station fees due to shut down of the Sa Dena Hes mine site and in building and plumbing fees and permits.
With respect to operation and maintenance recoveries, showing a decrease of $13,735,000, the major components are: an increase of $181,000 in emergency measures - this amount consists of $84,000 from disaster financial assistance arrangement for flood water response in Stuart, Teslin and Yukon watersheds and $97,000 expected for settlement of the 1991-92 Old Crow flood recovery.
There is the elimination of budgeted recovery of $14,017,000 from Public Works Canada on account of the Alaska Highway transfer, as the recovery has integrated into formula financing.
There is a $199,000 decrease in airports - the recovery anticipated for increasing operating costs at Carmacks and Haines Junction airports has not been approved by Transport Canada. A $49,000 decrease in national safety code recoveries is due to reduced O&M expenditure as a result of postponing the periodic vehicle inspection program.
An increase of $369,000 is for funding from Yukon Lotteries Commission for sports and recreation to the various communities.
The capital expenditure supplementary request of $18,675,000 primarily consists of an increase of $1,644,000 for communications and emergency measures. Of this amount $1,150,000 was required for payment to support replacement of the mobile radio system, offset by reductions of $186,000 to defer the mobile radio program upgrade to the following fiscal year.
A $100,000 increase was allocated for the implementation of a 911 emergency phone system in Whitehorse and will be considered for revote in the 1993-94 budget year.
The amount of $474,000 is required to acquire various emergency measures equipment, primarily, under cost recovery from DIAND search and rescue.
There is a $13,286,000 increase for transportation. As I indicated earlier, the $13,487,000 on the Alaska Highway consists of $9,937,000 covered by the devolution agreement, $2,550,000 from the Shakwak project and $1 million covered by a contribution agreement with Public Works Canada.
In addition, other major changes involve increased spending on the Campbell Highway, bridges and other roads in the amount of $1,925,000. That amount is offset by reductions of about $710,000, mainly on the Dempster Highway and South Access due to transfer of $950,000 to O&M from BST overlays and a $96,000 expenditure reduction on highway maintenance camp facilities and equipment and a $95,000 reduction on project funding assistance due under subscription.
There is a reduction of $171,000 under Airports mainly due to the Mayo airport apron surfacing not being undertaken and because the work on the Teslin airport has been delayed due to delays in community consultations.
These reductions were offset by a $116,000 increased expenditure on Haines Junction airport, the majority of which will be recovered from Transport Canada.
There is a $3,592,000 increase in the area of land development. This increase is due primarily to the requirement of $5,592,000 for work planned to be carried out in the 1993-94 fiscal year, but advanced to 1992-93 for Logan neighbourhood development, to respond to strong demand. There is a $125,000 increase for the development of Dawson agricultural small holdings and Watson Lake/Liard agricultural planning.
These required increases are partly offset by reductions of $2,125,000 from funds allocated for industrial, country residential, commercial and recreational land on which plan development could not proceed because of ongoing discussion with communities, lack of demand, various other community concerns or a combination of any of these concerns.
There is a $780,000 increase for Public Health and Safety. This increase is mainly composed of a $332,000 net increase for the following: planning and engineering, $49,000; increase for water and sewage projects in Destruction Bay, $85,000; increase in Mayo, $253,000; Dawson City, $292,000 increase.
Delays related to community consultation in the Carcross sewage treatment system result in an offset of $413,000, included in these figures.
In addition, increased expenditures in the hazardous waste storage planning and the Granger PCBs total $503,000, combined with reductions, and $162,000 in solid waste projects in the Klondike Valley and Ibex have resulted in a net increase of $341,000 in these categories.
An increase of $170,000 was incurred for the following: for the Klondike Valley, a $128,000 increase; for the Golden Horn fire hall, a $41,000 increase. In addition, $77,000 was required for an environmental inventory of above- and below-ground storage tanks throughout the Yukon.
Finally, there is a $708,000 decrease in Roads and Streets, primarily related to a delay in the construction of Yukon Place secondary access, as a result of the late arrival of the design, and an increase of $92,000 for rural electrification and telephone to fund four projects that could not be completed in 1991-92, due to winter conditions.
The major component of the capital recoveries increase of $7,968,000 are the following: an increase of $461,000 in emergency measures for increased expenditures and the acquisition of search and rescue assets; an increase of $502,000 in communications, being $124,000 from the job evaluation study and $378,000 from the RCMP; an increase of $3,550,000 in highway construction, relating to the Shakwak project and construction agreement for the Alaska Highway - $2,550,000 and $1 million respectively, as already stated; an increase of $3,582,000 in land development, which relates to the increased expenditure required; an increase of $43,000, which is recoverable from DIAND and Environment Canada for the cleanup of the Granger neighbourhood disposal site; an increase of $92,000 in the rural electrification and telephone program, which reflects the increased expenditure required, as already stated; a decrease of $170,000 in airports, mainly due to the application for recovery for the Dawson airport being still under review by Transport Canada; and a decrease of $80,000 in recoveries from fire protection at Klondike Valley and Marsh Lake, as a result of an agreement on free rental of temporary facilities for a number of years and labour equity.
Should the hon. Members require additional details, I would be pleased to answer any questions related to this supplementary.
Ms. Moorcroft: During the review of the supplementary estimates for the Department of Community and Transportation Services, I will have a number of questions for the Minister. I will be looking at issues that affect Mount Lorne constituents and that interest me as a new Member of the Legislative Assembly. My colleague from Faro and I share the job of critic for this department, so the Minister can expect questions from both of us as we both have a keen interest in the workings of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
The Mount Lorne riding, like the Ministers riding of Laberge, includes country residential neighbourhoods within the City of Whitehorse, as well as unincorporated communities. There is also a hamlet council in my riding, which has representatives from five neighbourhoods in the area - the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. So I am interested in all aspects of local self-government, municipal services and facilities in unincorporated communities.
There are many miles of roads and trails in Mount Lorne - some are maintained, some are not. I will have questions about transportation systems and services. Property taxation was a big issue for my constituents, both inside and outside city limits, and I have questions there, too. I will be looking for information on any changes regarding land use, land disposition and policies in the lands branch.
Sport and community recreation is a necessary part of community life, whether the community is large or small. There is a lot of interest in sports and recreational opportunities among my constituents in all corners of the Mount Lorne riding. Also, for rural areas, communication systems and services are essential to enhance their economic and social opportunities.
The Minister can expect me to enquire about applied research into northern infrastructure development, about building electrical and mechanical safety standards, fire protection, emergency services, and about how the new government will promote environmentally sound and cost-effective activities and programs.
I will be asking for information on exactly how much money has been spent in the department in the period covered by these supplementary estimates. If the Minister does not have answers to these questions, I am pleased to hear him say he would get back to me, and I would like to get answers as soon as possible so that we can move on.
As the Department of Community and Transportation Services is one of the largest employment departments in the entire Yukon government, I would like to begin by asking him some questions about hiring. Perhaps the Minister could explain to me how the Department of Community and Transportation Services hires in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In Community and Transportation Services, we have people who are required for summer work. Normally, the people who have worked for us previously are given first opportunity to go back again the following summer. Then, if we are actually short - if some of the auxiliary people do not come back to work - then we will hire in the community. We try to hire in the community where that person is going to be stationed. So, if it turns out that we have one person needed for Mayo, we will try and hire from the Mayo area.
Ms. Moorcroft: It certainly makes sense to hire someone to work in Mayo who is from Mayo. The community services arise because the community exists, so the employment, at first opportunity, should go to someone from the community. I understand that, this year, they will not be interviewing in Pelly and Mayo for positions there. Can the Minister confirm that for me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct. In the past, we never have interviewed specifically in Pelly. We have interviewed in Mayo. I think the legislative return shows that we only have the possibility of one position there. We are not even sure yet if all the auxiliaries are coming back, but if there is one position in Mayo, we will probably set up interviews in Dawson City. If there are eligible applicants from the Mayo area, I have asked the department to investigate how much it would cost to actually provide some relief for those people to drive into Dawson for the interview. I was thinking of a mileage rate, or something such as that. I have asked the department to look into it.
Ms. Moorcroft: How would someone who lived in Mayo and wanted to apply for work with Community and Transportation Services hear about that job? What local advertising will be done in the absence of hiring within the community of Mayo itself?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We advertised in the communities that we would not conduct interviews in the actual communities. The advertising would go out in the normal manner. As far as I am aware, it is posted in places like the post office and various buildings such as the town office. This is normal, as was done in other years. They would apply to the administration people in Whitehorse. They are short listed in Whitehorse and if they are selected for an interview, that would happen after they had made the application.
Ms. Moorcroft: Are there any other communities where you will no longer be conducting interviews?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the other one is Beaver Creek, where in the past interviews have been conducted. It is not our intent to hold interviews there this year.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister could tell me, then, what communities they will be holding interviews in, besides Dawson City and Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will be interviewing in Dawson City, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Ross River, Carmacks and Teslin. In Dawson, we will be interviewing for positions in Dawson, Mayo, Stewart Crossing and the three Dempster Highway camps. In Watson Lake, we will be interviewing for positions in Watson Lake, Swift River and Tuchitua. In Haines Junction, we will be interviewing for positions in Haines Junction, Blanchard, Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek. In Ross River, we will be interviewing for positions in Ross River and Drury Creek. In Carmacks, we will be interviewing for positions only in Carmacks. In Teslin, we will be interviewing for positions in Teslin, Carcross and Fraser.
Ms. Moorcroft: Are all of these for seasonal auxiliary work positions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: How many positions are in these areas?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would have to add these up very quickly. There are approximately 46 positions; however, a lot of these are people who are recalled.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Member indicate for me what the difference is between the numbers of positions for the spring recruitment as opposed to that of the previous year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that the department could get those figures for the Member. I certainly would not have them here. I will ask the department to provide that information.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to move on to the legislative return that was filed in January in response to a question in December about how many positions had been cut from each department. This covered the period from November 9 to December 17, which showed that there was one vacant position in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I would like to know how many positions have been vacant in the Community and Transportation Services department between December 8 and March 31.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Is the Member asking for permanent positions in the department that have remained unfilled? Is that the question?
Ms. Moorcroft: I am inquiring about the effects of the hiring freeze. I would like to know which positions were not filled in that time period. I would also like to know if that work was performed by other people in the department or by contractors.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can certainly get that information for the Member. I do not have it in my documentation here.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would also like to ask about contracts. Could the Minister table all contracts for November, December, January, February and March that have been issued by the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that I can do that. I am not sure what the policy requirements are for releasing contractual-type information, but whatever the legal aspects permit, I will bring back.
Ms. Moorcroft: If work is being done by a contractor, and that work is being paid for by the department and it was previously done by employees of another department, I would certainly expect that would be public information and you could bring it back for me.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I can bring you a listing of any contracts that have been entered into by the department, and I will do that.
Chair: Order please. I would like to remind Members not to address each other as you. You address a Minister as the Minister, and a Minister should address other Members as Member, please.
Mr. Harding: With regard to the hiring process and the locations for interviewing, I note in the legislative return that one is planned for the Ross River and Drury Creek area. Could the Minister tell me why there is no interview set up in the Faro area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The interviews are held where the maintenance camps are because some of the positions are running graders or driving trucks and heavy equipment. It would be near the nearest grader station where the equipment was available. That would be the reason why it would either be Ross River or Drury Creek. In this case, they will have it at Ross River.
Mr. Harding: As the Minister is very well aware, there are a lot of people in my community who are very anxious to seek employment of any type at this time. As the Minister is also aware, a great number of the people in my community are suffering tremendous financial hardship and do not have a lot of money at this time.
The Minister spoke a bit about trying to accommodate people of some of the other communities that do not have a grader station as a central location. Could the Minister commit to some form of mileage compensation for the people of Faro who decide they would like to apply and have to travel to either Drury Creek or Ross River for an interview?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have made a suggestion to the department and if the department is able to comply with my request, I would see no reason why it would not apply to all of the communities - for instance, not just Faro or Mayo, but to all of the other communities as well.
Mr. Harding: I do have a bit of a problem with that statement.
Maybe the Minister could explain to me why the request by the Minister who gives the directives to the bureaucracy would not be complied with - especially in a important matter such as this one. I think that it is universally recognized that all Yukoners should have the opportunity to compete fairly for these positions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I agree with the Member opposite; however, I am not sure what the existing policy is and whether or not that policy would have to be changed. If there is a written policy regarding that matter, then invariably that policy would have to be changed, and I am not sure if there is such a policy in effect or not.
Mr. Harding: As the Minister well knows, it is the Minister and the government who are responsible for establishing policy. I think that it is important that they make some adjustments to the policy - if there is none existing right now - with regard to this matter.
This matter is coming up very quickly. I think a time line has already been established, but if the Minister has not yet given that direction, could he tell me when he will give that directive to the department and when he can get back to us with some information?
As the Minister knows, interviews for spring recruitment are fast approaching.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: By the way discussions are going on this budget, I expect that we are going to be here for awhile. I believe that while we are discussing the supplementaries, I can bring an answer back for the Member Iopposite.
Mr. Harding: I will take that as a commitment to check into what is happening with regard to the policy change. I will also take it that the Minister will make a request shortly, if he has not already done so, to see what he can do for my community and some of the other ones where there are people who are seeking an opportunity to participate in the hiring process for some of the positions.
I have one more question with regard to specifics on this: will the Minister commit, pending successful conclusion to some sort of a solution on mileage reimbursement for people who have to travel to another area to get an opportunity for an interview and thus a job, to a campaign to let the people know that the government will foot the bill for this? Can I suggest that the Minister make this clearly legible on the job-posting form?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Where people have been selected for interviews or were auxiliaries from previous years, we will have to do this by telephone. The competitions closed last Tuesday. The interviewing process will be carrying on around the first week in May. If there are people who have been selected for an interview, we will tell them at that time by telephone if we are able to get something in effect to pay their mileage rate.
Mr. Harding: That sounds like a good solution. I hope that decision will be made very quickly. The need for decisiveness on this is fast closing, as the competition is now closed. We will see what results.
The Minister has a great deal of experience in this department as a former employee and now as a Minister. As a new Member, I would like to ask if there has been any change in policy with regard to casual employees in the department in the last fiscal year. When the government was taken over, was there any change whatsoever with casuals? I would like a brief outline of the Ministers understanding of the current departmental policy on casual employees.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There have been no new policy directives since we have taken over as the government. To comment on the policy for casuals, essentially the policy is that the department does not hire casuals, other than the term casuals who are hired each year for specific jobs, such as in the highways department, and so on. Anything other than that would have to go through Management Board. I do not see any change in that at this particular time. There have been some positions that we have removed from the department, and I will be getting that information for the Member for Mount Lorne.
The community services division of the department has been doing a strategic planning exercise. It is my understanding that if the recommendations that the departments themselves have made to the deputy minister and to myself are followed, it would mean somewhat of a reduction in staff in the community services division.
Mr. Harding: Maybe I did not catch the recommendations that had been made. Could the Minister explain exactly where the recommendations have come from and elaborate a little bit on what recommendations would lead to this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The strategic planning exercise is being carried out by all the managerial people in the community services side. My understanding is that they have come up with a set of recommendations. I have not seen those recommendations yet. They have not been cleared through the deputy minister. My understanding is that they have been completed and have been forwarded to the deputy minister, who will be reviewing the whole strategic planning exercise and the recommendations and will then make any recommendations to myself.
Mr. Harding: I just want to ask a couple of questions. Again, as a new Member, I am going to be asking a lot of questions that perhaps seem pretty easy to answer for the Minister with his knowledge as a former employee of the department, and now as the Minister. It is important that I get a real sense of where the Minister is coming from with regard to policy and views on the department and its direction, and also some of the makeup of the department from the perception of the Minister who is actually in charge of it. The casuals who are hired by YTG are term, and they are hired each year, according to the Minister. Could the Minister explain specifically what the difference is between auxiliaries and casuals?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not really in a good position to explain that because, unfortunately, I do not understand the whole thing all that well. My feeling on it is that the auxiliaries are the people whom we hire each year - for instance, the BST crew, whom most of the people in the House here are familiar with, are auxiliary positions hired each summer and they work for approximately five months during the summer. I would say that a casual position would be one where maybe someone is on vacation or the workload is such that they need to hire someone for a few days or up to a month or two; but it is a strictly casual type of situation.
Mr. Harding: So, when the casuals are hired each year, would it be fair to say that the situation in any given year is similar to that of the previous year? Is there a pattern with regard to casuals?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It certainly is with the people who are hired each summer, such as the bridge crew and the BST crew and so on. I do not know if there would be an actual pattern with the casual positions; I do not really see that there would be a pattern. If there is a tremendous workload on one section or unit or branch of the department, they may very well seek Management Board approval to put in a casual position for a few months to help with that particular workload, but I do not believe one could actually see a pattern emerge over a period of time.
Mr. Harding: Let me see if my understanding is correct. A casual would be someone who would be hired, for example, if there was a particular demand as a result of some event that took place. For instance, if there was increased flooding in a given year and it resulted in a greater need for the clearing of roads that had been flooded or blockaded as a result of sloughing, avalanches, that type of thing, would that be where a casual would be brought in, to cover that situation and deal with that increase in workload for that area of the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That certainly could probably be an example. I was thinking more of the administration end where, if there was going to be a major revision to one of the major acts in the department where they needed someone in a writing capacity or something like that for a period of time, they may very well bring in a casual for that particular function.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister give me some kind of an impression as to how he feels the casual system works as compared to the auxiliary? It would appear to me that the casuals would be living on the edge a bit - people who relied on casual employment with the government versus auxiliaries who have some reasonable expectation of being hired every year. Is there any move afoot in the Ministers mind to make some greater differentiation or to make some change in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. At this time, there is no intent, on my part, to change that, mainly because I do not see the casual positions as having tenure. If secretarial casual services are required, the department will use one of the agencies, such as North Star Services. Periodically, for highway positions, as the Member opposite outlined, some casual people may be picked up for a couple of days to help deal with a flood, or something like that. It is not something where people actually count on this type of work to get them through the summer.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell me the policy with regard to payment of casuals, including payment of benefits? Are casuals eligible for full benefits, as are other employees of the Yukon territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that casual employees would receive the regular benefits. This would not include the benefits that a permanent employee has. For casuals, the wage is set by the Public Service Commission, and there is UIC and Canada Pension Plan deductions, the same as for other employees.
Mr. Harding: I am more specifically referring to the casual employees standing with regard to health benefits.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Health benefits, as I am sure the Member opposite is aware, are provided to all residents of the Yukon, regardless of their employment status. The casual employees would pay federal income tax, CPP and UIC, as deductions. The benefits that go to permanent employees would not be offered to casuals.
Mr. Harding: That is an area of the employee-employer relationship, whether in the public or private sector, that concerns me. I have had some experience working at a government rehabilitation school for juvenile delinquents in Nova Scotia, where the government used casuals as a way to eliminate the necessity of paying benefits to their employees. It was getting to the point in Nova Scotia where people would be called in on a casual basis to fill in for people, and they may have been doing that for upwards of eight years. While they were doing this, they were receiving a reduced wage but, more importantly, there was no indemnity benefit to cover them if they were injured off the worksite during the period they were working. In this day and age, it is important that government does not move in that direction, to get to the point where they are stringing people along as employees. Having had some experience of watching people who worked like that for several years, I know that it can create a lot of anxiety.
I am aware that each and every person in this country is covered under our medicare provisions, but there are significant upgrading benefits in negotiated collective agreements that employees of the government have. I would agree that, if someone were working on a casual basis, they should not be eligible for a flight out of the territory without putting in so much time during the year. There is some argument to be made for certain benefits not being paid to casuals but, overall, some of the areas - like indemnity for the period they are working for the government on a casual basis, and upgraded health benefits - should be a policy of the government. The Minister has not told me whether it is right now. Where does the Minister stand with regard to the casual employee situation and their claim to certain benefits?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a bit of difficulty, similar to the Member opposites sentiments on having people on casual, where it runs into several years. I do not believe we have seen abuse of this kind in this government. I could be wrong on that and shown some examples, but I am not aware of that type of situation in our government. In my department, if we were hiring casuals for specific jobs, and we found that we were using someone on a casual basis, but they were putting in hours that, over the period of a year, were close to a regular employees hours for the year, I would have a problem and ask for an explanation from the department. If we need this person for that many hours, why are we not trying to make it a full-time equivalent position?
Mr. Harding: I am glad to hear that there is some of the shared worry about the stringing along of people on casual, who are hungry for employment but, because of their lack of leverage, they never seem to make the grade into some status that, at least, provides them with some of the benefits.
Would the Minister be committed to a policy that ensured that some of the basic benefits that are held by other permanent employees - and, I believe, term employees - of the government continue to be and, where they are not, be bestowed upon some of the casual employees, while they are working in the employ of the government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I am not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, on the benefits that are accrued to temporary, auxiliary or casual employees. I think that the Public Service Commission would be able to answer those questions much better than I can. However, if there were casual positions in the department that were extended for long periods of time, I would want to see something done to the position to provide the people with the benefits of a full-time equivalent, or not fill that position.
I do not believe in having casual positions other than in emergency situations for very short periods of time to do some emergency type work. If the position is going to extend beyond some reasonable length of time, then the department should be looking at it as a contract position, where it will go for one- or two-year periods. The people working in those positions are given the full benefits of permanent employees.
Mr. Harding: I am going to try to extract an easy commitment from the Minister, because the Government Leader said that all Cabinet decisions are unanimous. If I can get a commitment from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I know that it will easily flow through Cabinet without any problem.
Could the Minister commit to lobbying within Cabinet to review the situation for casual employees with regard to the benefits that they receive, and ensure that upon completion of this review, policy directives will be given to the Public Service Commission to attempt to address some of these problems.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What I can commit to do is to check my own department to find out how many casuals we use over the year and for what purposes. I can certainly commit to doing that and if I find through that review that we have people in casual positions who in fact are working more or less full time, I certainly will deal with that at the department level.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps I could suggest that the Minister commit to tabling the information about how many casuals are working within his department, how long each of them worked in the previous year and how long they are expected to work this year and what benefits they are entitled to?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can do that. I hope that we have not been mixing up the names: casuals, temporaries and auxiliaries. What I will endeavour to get for the Member are the numbers of people. This is my definition of casual: people who are working on a casual basis for a specific project with no intention to have them back the following year or to make the job a full-time equivalent.
Ms. Moorcroft: Just to follow up on my colleagues question about casuals, when the Minister read out the spring recruitment figures for hiring for the highway maintenance camps, I noticed that this legislative return states that vacant auxiliary positions are not known at this time as the recall process is not completed. When will the recall process be completed for the vacant auxiliary positions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not exactly sure. I know that for some of the auxiliary positions the people have already been called. I am not sure how long that process goes on. Because these interviews are going to be conducted in the last two weeks of April and first week of May, I would expect that most of the auxiliaries will be recalled by about the first or second week of May. Again, it will depend on the crews and somewhat when the capital budget gets approved as to when the jobs will actually start. The BST crew usually starts in about the first week of May.
Ms. Moorcroft: The legislative return has numbers in brackets that indicate the number of casual positions that are expected to be needed. They add up to 46, I believe. Of those 46 casual positions, how many of them have been previously hired to work for the Department of Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can bring that back, but, again, I would not be able to bring it back until after this whole process has been completed. There are approximately 46 positions, and I am not sure how many of the auxiliaries - the ones who are hired each year - are coming back. As recently as this afternoon, I spoke to the deputy minister. He, as well, is not sure how many new auxiliary positions we would be hiring. I can give the Member that information when it is finalized for the summer.
Ms. Moorcroft: I realize that on the specific cases where we are talking about an individual returning for work that the Minister would not be able to bring those answers back until after the hiring process is complete. But, where there are 12 positions in Dawson City, which includes ferry workers, how many of those are ongoing positions? That is the question that I would also like an answer to.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I would not have any problem bringing back the actual positions.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister knows about a goal that I support, which is a corporate goal of the Yukon government, and that is to achieve a representative public service. I would like to ask the Minister about how the department will hire and promote First Nations citizens in the communities for these highway maintenance camp positions, where the First Nations citizens are in fact, the majority of the population.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If I look through the list here, I wonder what we mean by majority population. In Mayo, possibly the First Nations people are a majority and possibly in Teslin and possibly in Ross River. We have a policy of hiring people who are qualified for the job. It matters not what their ancestry is. I do not know off the top of my head how many First Nations people are hired for these jobs. I am not sure if they are band members, or what they are. I do know that we hire qualified people and it does not matter whether they are of First Nations ancestry, or not.
Ms. Moorcroft: We are all committed to hiring qualified people, but I guess I would like to know if the Minister is committed to a policy of employment equity. We are talking about entry level positions within the communities.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, they have to be eligible for the job, regardless of who is applying. They have to be eligible. I do not believe we have anything saying that there shall be a certain number of First Nations people hired, but if the Member is at all familiar with the Department of Community and Transportation Services highway division, she will find that a number of the people employed are First Nations people and we do try and make sure that there are. However, again, I have to reiterate that we hire people who are qualified for the job, and I do not believe the department, when they go out to interview these people, look at whether they are First Nations or whether they are women or men or whatever. That is not important. What is important is whether they are qualified to do the job.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will ask the Minister, then, if he could offer his comments on how the department would work to hire and promote women as employees - whether they are casuals or auxiliaries in these highway maintenance camp positions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Women are certainly encouraged to apply for the jobs, but, again, they have to be qualified to do the job, whether it is heavy equipment operator or whatever it may be. Again, if the Member will look at the highways part of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, she will see that we do have a fair number of women working in the heavy equipment field, as well as a number of First Nations people.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would tell the Minister that who gets the job depends often on who assesses and how the person assessing looks at the qualifications of the people applying for the job, and therein lies the problem for citizens - whether they are First Nations people in the Yukon, whether they are women, whether they are people with disabilities - to actually get an entry level position or any job within the public service. Is there a program to offer training on equipment so that some of the targeted groups, as they are referred to, when they do get employment, can advance in their careers?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Going back to the comment from the Member for Mount Lorne, I would like to point out that for the interview process there are a minimum of three people involved. There is a personnel person from our department, a personnel person from the Public Service Commission, and someone who is more or less expert in the particular equipment, or whatever it may be, that the position is open for.
The statement that it depends on the person looking at it is not quite fair. In highways, at least, we do have a minimum of three very distinct and separate people looking at the people who are to be hired.
As far as training on heavy equipment is concerned, or work in some specialized part of the department, we do not have a training school. However, people from other departments, or another area of expertise, can - I forget the exact terminology - ask to be put into a different area from what he or she has normally been working in and learn the work in a training situation. We do have those types of positions. In municipal administration, there is a training position right now that is training a person to be a municipal advisor. They lay out a training program, which may include going somewhere to a recognized school for a short period of time, and then some assignments are laid out by the director of the branch. I believe they are assessed every three to six months. At some point, they will reach the full working level of the position.
IThose types of activities are available within the department, although we do not have an actual training school.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister was speaking about a position being available for someone from another department to come in, transfer and be trained into a position.
I am asking a much simpler question than that; as the Minister has said, there are many women and First Nations who work in the department. I would like to know if people in those positions are able to get training to improve their skills or work in another area? If they are hired as a laborer, must they always be a laborer or can they take training on driving a forklift or another piece of heavy equipment?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure of the formal procedure, but I do know of several people who have gone to work for the Department of Community and Transportation Services - for instance in highways, as labourers, and eventually you see them in a camp as a grader operator or a foreman.
Those opportunities are available; I am not exactly sure how it works. I believe it is dependent upon the foreman in any one particular area to move the people around, encourage them and let someone try something different. I know that it does happen, but I do not know if there is an actual formal process to go through.
Ms. Moorcroft: Sometimes it does happen and sometimes it does not. I have talked to women and First Nations who work for the department and would like to have those opportunities, but have not necessarily had the opportunity.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could table an employment equity plan for the Department of Community and Transportation Services?
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a break at this time? We will call a brief recess at this time.
Chair: Is there further debate on the Community and Transportation Services?
Ms. Moorcroft: Before the recess, I asked the Minister if he could table an employment equity plan for the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: During the break I did some preliminary checking into an employment equity plan. The Department of Community and Transportation Services is part of an overall Yukon government employment equity plan that is available through the Public Service Commission for the Members opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: My understanding is that there is a global employment equity plan for the government and that each individual department develops a departmental employment equity plan in order to help implement those goals within their department. If the Community and Transportation Services has not yet prepared a departmental plan, can I ask if the department intends to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Department of Community and Transportation Services has provided a copy of their goals and objectives, with respect to the employment equity program, and it has become part of the overall government plan. My understanding is that the plan is currently under review for the overall government.
Ms. Moorcroft: Did the department table a plan of how they would achieve those goals and objectives?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, they do have information on how those objectives would be achieved once it becomes part of the overall plan.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can I get a copy of how they plan to implement the goals and objectives of the employment equity policy within the Department of Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will endeavour to obtain a copy of the employment equity plan for the Yukon government, of which Community and Transportation Services is a part, for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask something about the strategic planning exercise that the Minister referred to earlier for the community services branch of the department. Is he aware that successful strategic planning exercises normally include workers within the department, and is it true that only the managerial staff participated in this particular strategic planning exercise?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There were others besides the managerial employees involved in the strategic planning exercise that the municipal and community affairs division conducted.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sure the Minister has heard the saying of there being too many bosses and not enough workers, if they have not promoted this particular view of the public service themselves. I will be quite interested in seeing what the recommendations about reductions in staff are.
Are there plans for any other division within the department to conduct strategic planning exercises?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have to go back to the comment of the Member opposite about too many bosses, or something to that effect, when in fact the strategic planning exercise has a very good proportion of people who are not in managerial categories involved in it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Have there been any other divisions that have conducted a strategic planning exercise during the period covered by these supplementaries, up to March 31, 1993?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I do not believe that the other two divisions of Community and Transportation Services have, during this period, conducted a strategic planning exercise.
Mr. Harding: I have some questions for the Minister. I was a little concerned about the Ministers response to some of the questions on what would be referred to classically as an employment equity plan, but specifically referring to the hiring provisions for aboriginal people, First Nations and women - people in the workplace that have not traditionally made up the percentage of the workforce that their population in the communities reflects. The Minister said that it was not a consideration in the hiring process. They are strictly looking at who is qualified. That perspective is a fair statement but it goes against the principles of equity in employment to the nth degree.
Everyone understands the need for qualifications when hiring people. There are several factors that show their heads in the hiring process and can influence it, sometimes very unfairly. There are several factors, one of which is the so-called halo effect, whereby the interviewers determine the merits of the interviewee, all things being equal in qualifications, based on their view of themselves or what an employee should be. One of the things that can alleviate that was pointed out by the Minister and that is by using a hiring method that has more than just the one individual doing the hiring. Therefore, you get a more collective approach to the interview and it removes some of the bias.
There is a system that is designed to correct old wrongs and prejudices of the past that have led to a workforce that does not resemble the community that the job is in. Ideally, I believe the government should be striving for a workforce that accurately reflects the population and the makeup of the community where the job is located. If the makeup of the community is 50 percent First Nations people, there should be an effort - if there is not already - for a workforce that has a makeup of 50 percent First Nations.
Whether one believes in employment equity or not, the situation has improved in government with regard to the makeup of the workforce in comparison to the population of the territory, but there is still a fair way to go.
I believe that governments have to remain committed to this policy, because these old wrongs are the result of longstanding biases of by government and private sector employers that have led to a workforce that does not accurately reflect the makeup of the communities.
I think that it is critical that we get beyond whether one is qualified or not and look at the longstanding social and economic framework disruption problems that have been created by these old biases. One should look not only at qualifications, but if there is a situation where several people are qualified, will some priority be given to people of different race and women who traditionally have not had the opportunity, for reasons of bias, to obtain jobs in those areas? The wheat has to be separated from the chafe so that a hard look can be taken at what is being done.
It is tough, and it is painful. Invariably, the people who do not get the jobs are very upset and are not willing to look at the big picture, social issues and injustices that are attempted to be corrected, which have taken place over a number of years. People look at the fact that they did not get the job and that the government gave the job to someone else who was First Nations or a woman, under a provision of an equity plan. It is a tough decision, and I know that a lot of people resented the New Democrats for that hiring practice.
I remember an article that appeared in the Globe and Mail by the Government Leader after he was elected that was quite alarming to me. The criticisms were dismissed by the Government Leader, but I do believe that there was some merit to the criticism.
I felt - and the Minister will have ample opportunity to respond - that I was getting a bit of the same overview from the Minister. I think that there has to be priority given to a plan that puts in place a workforce that accurately represents the distribution of people within a community, and that goes for First Nations and women.
This does not have to happen overnight, but there should some firm policy commitment in that area, both in public service and in government departments so that we end up with a workforce that accurately represents the community.
The second thing I believe one has to do - whereby one does not have a situation for longstanding biases or systems that were not put into place for whatever reasons, whereby people cannot opt to ignore people who are First Nations or who are women, and the other people in society who traditionally have not had the opportunities of others, whether they come from other countries to Canada or whatever the case may be - is to have a system in place that accurately works to address these problems and put people on a level playing field. That would entail, within the equity plan, a plan for training so that people in the communities can get training, to get the qualifications and to be considered on a preferential basis so that they can in fact move into those jobs.
That was described as a noble goal by the Minister of Health and Social Services but I think it is more than a noble goal; it is a must for society to work toward because, until we address those problems, we are never going to be prepared. They are the first step in solving the bigger problems, economically and socially, that we have in this country.
I do not pretend to speak for First Nations people, but I see a lot of the people in this territory who are First Nations who perhaps have not had the opportunity, for whatever reason, to do certain things in the workforce. I have always been in favour, in the capacity I had, of plans to adapt to the situations and move toward a workforce that more accurately represents the community.
I would like to ask the Minister to respond to the comments I have made and also to enlighten me on the commitments that have been made to this end with regard to his department, because I think they are extremely important.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I find the comments from the Member opposite quite interesting on preferential treatment, and so on. I remember just about two short weeks ago there was quite a hue and cry from the same Member respecting the fact that one of the conditions in the Curragh loan guarantee was that Curragh would consider using the First Nations people from Ross River to do the road contract. The sentiments of the Member opposite at that time were with the union far more than they were with the First Nations people.
Going back to some of the other comments, in the hiring practices, most of the people who are involved in hiring within Yukon government have to have taken a cultural awareness course so that they are very aware of dealing with First Nations people or people who may not be able to speak the English language all that well or people with physical difficulties. Most of the management personnel, especially in Community and Transportation Services, are very, very aware of those differences and are able to deal with them.
I do not have too much of a problem with what the Member opposite has said with respect to preferential treatment. It is important that in a community such as Old Crow, where there are highway personnel and probably 90 percent of the residents of Old Crow are First Nations people, we should try very hard to have a number of First Nations people on the staffing complement.
In Old Crow, at some times, there is a higher percentage of First Nations people working for the highways department than the actual community represents.
I agree with that; however, I again say that you have to be qualified. That is the number one criteria. If you have two or three people who have equal qualifications, and one of them is a First Nations person, or handicapped, or a woman, then yes, at a time like that, you can use preferential treatment and give the job to one of those groups. Again, it is when they would have equal qualifications.
I believe that our number one job is to get the job done. We have to be able to do the work and do it well. I have no problem with the training positions we have. I fully believe in them. I can cite numerous people in the Yukon who, over the years, have gone to work as a labourer, and you now see them as either a camp foreman, or a grader operator, loader operator or truck driver. Those opportunities are there in this department. The department has prided itself on doing exactly that.
Again, they must be qualified.
Mr. Harding: First of all, there was no hue and cry, to use the Ministers words, from myself or a Member on this side of the House with regard to the condition that was levied by the territorial government on the loan guarantee. I am clearly on record as having said that it is a matter for negotiation. It is an unusual condition, and it concerns me that a government would invade the bargaining relationship and actually order, as a condition of maintaining your employment, that a union break a contract with its own employees that they have a legal obligation to uphold, above all else - under the duty of fair representation.
I know unions that have adopted employment equity plans and agreed to them with their employers within a contract, giving aboriginal people special rights that accept their unique cultural needs. For example, I could point to collective agreements that allow for a priority in the hiring decision, irrespective of seniority, for native people. I know of collective agreements that were made prior to this condition being imposed upon them whereby they agree to having no problem with native people who have to take time off work to do their traditional things during salmon fishing season, hunting season, or whatever the case may be.
I want to make it clear that it is not the objective that I have ever had difficulty with, but it is the methodology and motive that have concerned me. That is my problem with that particular condition.
When I talk about an employment equity plan, which is for the future and does not accomplish its goals by displacing people but, rather, by bringing people into the fold, as attrition creates openings and vacancies, I have a problem with it, as compared to the displacement of people by government asking people to invade the bargaining relationship, break the contract they hold with their employees, and break the duty of fair representation, which could open the union to being sued by their own members for having agreed to any kind of displacement of their employees.
People pay dues. They are party to the contract; therefore, their rights should be governed by that collective agreement. If the union accepts the condition imposed by the government that would displace these workers and see them laid off forever and without a job - these people who have families - then they would have a legal claim, under the Canada Labour Code, to come to the union and sue them for lack of fair representation. That is what I have a problem with. I have a problem with this condition, because it was based on political gain in trying to drive a wedge between unions and First Nations people, rather than on a sheer and real commitment to employment equity, changing the situation of First Nations people, improving the relationship and bringing them into the fold and including them in the discussions, as was done in Watson Lake. There, it was done prior to the road maintenance contract.
What we have here is a situation in which the government wants to impose it, because the Minister of Health and Social Services wants to make a bit of political gain in Ross River. I do not agree with it. What should have happened here was some upfront consultation and some discussion on the issue, not just the imposition of it. I am certainly not siding with unions over First Nations - my sentiments, as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services put it - I can tell you that my sentiments are with both the union and the workers who would be displaced if this condition was agreed to and with the native people who want to get some jobs on that claim. That is where my sentiments lie.
I certainly am offended by the insinuation that for some reason I was not concerned about the direction First Nations were taking, because I did not agree with this one particular condition imposed by the government upon the workers of Faro.
I am glad the Member for Riverdale North got my point. Since he got a suntan he looks mad all the time; it is hard to tell any more.
The whole point of an employment equity plan is to create positions to correct the problems pro-actively, not after the fact. It is not supposed to do what this condition did. That is what I have been talking about all afternoon - why one needs to put a plan in place. When I got this feeling from the government that, for some reason, qualifications were the only criterion, it alarmed me.
We also have to recognize that the unions in Faro have been more than willing to discuss employment equity. Unions in the country have generally been the first to embrace employment equity. I think that is the way to deal with these social injustices, not through crass political moves that are designed to drive wedges. That is a very important point.
I will ask the Minister, after my speech, whether or not he is committed to a training program to level the playing field within his department to ensure that there is an adequate number of qualified people to be eligible to receive some of this preferential treatment that was referred to, toward First Nations and women, to increase the numbers so the workforce more adequately reflects the community.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure what the Member opposites involvement with the union is, but I have been to the Faro mine numerous times. It appears to me that there is a very poor example of employment equity at that particular mine. It could be that I did not see the proper people at the proper time. I am not saying that it is not there, but it seems to be that the Member opposite is protesting a little too much.
I believe that the Yukon government has a very good employment equity program. If there can be improvements made, we should make them. I would have no hesitation in helping that situation, if it could be proven to me that the Department of Community and Transportation Services is not employing the employment equity program, but I believe differently than that. I believe we are probably one of the better departments, maybe even the best in the government, for having First Nations and people with disabilities on our staff.
It is easy to criticize a department, or the government in general, but I am not sure that the Member opposite practises what he preaches.
Mr. Harding: I am going to make one key point on that general point made by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Because the union supports employment equity, it does not mean that the employer supports employment equity. The union in Faro does not do the hiring in Faro. That means they can still support an employment equity plan, but that does not mean it is going to be carried out by the employer who does the hiring. That is the difference here.
I know that the union in Faro has made it very clear to First Nations people that they will support the employer on any employment equity plan that they want to implement, but the employer does the hiring, not the union. There is absolutely no control by the employees. To say that the union does not practice what they preach is absolutely false, because they do not control the hiring. They have stated it unequivocally to the Kaska people. They have stated to their employer that they would support that type of plan and they would negotiate collective agreements that take the unique characteristics of the native way of life into consideration, in determining the conditions of work. It is as simple as that.
I think that the Minister should gain some grasp of the union agency shop situation that we have here in the Yukon. We have very few closed shops, where the union actually does the hiring. He should gain an understanding of exactly what is taking place, both in the private and public sector and in his department, where these important employment equity decisions are made. That is a very, very big distinction. Yes, there is no question that more native people should be working at the Faro mine. When the previous administration negotiated the agreement in 1985, they made some mistakes by not nailing down Curragh tight enough on the conditions and the number of native people they would hire. I remember when I first started there in 1986, there were a lot of native people from Carmacks for awhile, but there were not very many from Ross River. The conditions were that Curragh would make best efforts. For awhile they established an office in Ross River to recruit people for the mine there. Nonetheless, the union never stood in the way and the union was in fact never approached to work with them on it. Now, they have been, as a result of this, and they have agreed with open arms to work together on that situation. They do have a legal obligation to their members under the existing collective agreement. What the government has asked them to do violates that, and violates the Canada Labour Code.
I would like ask the Minister about a different issue, now that employment equity has been thoroughly discussed. I feel I have a better understanding of where the Minister is coming from after he received his briefing at the break. I think that it is important that he now has taken some ownership that when hiring decisions are made on qualified candidates there should be some room to recognize shortfalls in previous hiring decisions and try to have a workforce that accurately reflects the makeup of the community. I am pleased to hear that.
I would like to move into another area with regard to auxiliaries.
Since the government changed administrations in November - and the excruciatingly long six months that have taken place - could the Minister tell me if there has been any change in policy with regard to auxiliary employees, hiring of auxiliary employees and the number of auxiliary employees hired?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a couple of comments in response to the Members little speech prior to the question.
One thing that I have to take exception to was the Members comments that I am willing to recognize shortcomings. I do not believe that there were shortcomings in the hiring practices of the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I cannot speak for the whole government, but I certainly can speak for Community and Transportation Services. I think that this department has been a leader in hiring people under employment equity.
The other issue I am wondering about is why the Member opposite and the union did not lobby Curragh Inc. on behalf of First Nations people, disabled people and women. Again, I think that the Member opposite protests a little too much. It appears to me that it is quite easy to stand in this House and go after some department for an employment equity situation when in fact, the place the Member previously worked has a dismal record of employment equity, as far as I am able to determine.
The question was to do with the number of auxiliaries. The information that I bring for the Member for Mount Lorne should pretty well cover the question. The number of auxiliaries usually does not change that much from year to year. There are so many people who go onto the BST crew, the surface crews, or the bridge crews. It may change, depending on how many crews there are, but this year there may be a few more auxiliaries than normal because of the very heavy capital projects we have due to the Alaska Highway devolution and the Shakwak project. We may have some more auxiliaries on those two, but I am not sure about that. The rest will be the normal crews who are hired each summer. I think the information I am bringing back for the Member for Mount Lorne should cover that particular question.
Mr. Harding: The Minister asked the question, Why did the union not lobby? I can tell the Minister that the union I was affiliated with did lobby. They lobbied Curragh, they adopted a national policy, they implemented that policy in Donna Lake, Pickle Lake and several agreements that have set trends throughout the country in collective bargaining that recognize the rights of native people to their unique way of life, as well as recognizing employment equity provisions. In some of the agreements, it was particularly good to see that there was a majority of non-native people working on the claim, and they voted to allow preferential hiring, and they agreed to it. They put their collective agreement where their mouth was.
I am sure the union in Faro would be willing to take a look at all kinds of things like that. They stated that and they did lobby.
The other area of lobby was through the major body of lobby within the territory, and that is the Yukon Federation of Labour, which all the Canadian Labour Congress unions are affiliated with, as is Local 1051 in Faro. Through that body, they did a tremendous amount of lobbying of government to try to improve the situation there.
The efforts were there, the efforts are there and the efforts will be there if the government wants to try and nail Curragh down a little bit more in those practices. They will certainly have my support as long as the process is fair, recognizes the right of the existing workers there, but also the right of the First Nations people in the area who have complained, and I think very justifiably so, that there have been very few benefits as a result of the mine being there. A tremendous amount of lobbying has been undertaken by the union in Faro and the union as a more massive and collective body territory-wide under the Yukon Federation of Labour. Once again, I have an answer for the Minister to his question as to why did the unions not lobby. With that, I would let the debate on this go.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he believes the Department of Community and Transportation Services has been a leader in hiring people in terms of employment equity, so I would like him to bring to the House a breakdown of the composition of the workforce with the employment equity groups. I would also like to ask him if he can give me an indication of what positions the Minister thinks could justifiably be filled as affirmative action positions in the current vacancies for auxiliary and casual positions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have just been given a special issue of The Sluice Box, dated February 1991. It shows the female representation in Yukon population and YTG workforce and also the ratio of representation of Yukon population and corresponding Yukon territorial government workforce. I will be happy to give the Member opposite a copy of this, and I think it will answer her questions. I believe that the numbers from the Department of Community and Transportation Services are thrown into the numbers for the whole government, and that is what this is in front of me.
I suppose there may be some positions that people with disabilities would not qualify for, but the other members of the affirmative action group, - I do not like that term affirmative action - the employment equity group, should be capable of handling any of the auxiliary positions, such as the summer positions that are being hired.
If there are qualified people around, I see no reason why they could not obtain a job.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am familiar with the report the Minister was looking at. I was asking him to bring a breakdown of those numbers, with the employment equity groups within the Department of Community and Transportation Services, as of March 31, 1993 - the end of this period that we are looking at for the supplementaries.
I would like to ask the Minister about the effects of the travel freeze that was imposed on the Yukon government recently. Within the Ministers Idepartment, what travel was applied for and denied?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have those figures here, and I am not sure if they have been compiled. If they have been, I would have no problem bringing them to the House. If they have not been compiled, I do not know how we could put them together because, if there were applications for travel that were not approved, those things are probably gone. I will see what I can do to provide the information the Member wants.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the applications were denied and are gone, I do not know how the government would substantiate their claim that the travel freeze had a good effect in savings for the government. What were the cost savings of not having travel, if there was any travel applied for and denied?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think it would be quite easy to show the Member opposite what the budget for travel was at the beginning of the year, what was spent to November 9, and what has been spent since. We can easily compare it to the budget. The Member will find that there is a significant difference in the November 9 to March 31 date, and I will be quite happy to table that for the Member opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would also like to know what travel was applied for and denied, and the reasons for that. I trust that the Minister will also bring that information back.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will bring the information back, as I stated, if it is actually available. I am not sure that it will still be available. If it was denied, they may not have even filled out a form. There would be no point in filling out the travel request if the senior manager had denied it in the first place. The best way to show the difference is through the budgeted numbers.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister saying that a travel request could be denied without having been formally made? I was not aware that the government processed things without formal requests.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When there is a travel freeze on and an employee is thinking of going to some course or conference, they would possibly go to their supervisor and ask if it is true that there is a travel freeze and they will not be able to go to Banff, or wherever. The director, or the supervisor, would confirm the travel freeze. Therefore, why would they go through the effort and waste of time of making out a travel request and associated documentation?
Ms. Moorcroft: Property assessments and taxes have been a big issue in the Mount Lorne and the Laberge riding for country-residential taxpayers within city limits. Could the Minister share his views with us about the assessment and taxation process and if he feels there are any areas requiring improvement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The assessment for buildings is based upon the replacement cost in the City of Whitehorse. If a building would cost $85,000 to build or buy in the City of Whitehorse that is what it would be assessed at if it were somewhere other than in the city. Land is assessed at market value. There have been some questions about whether the market value of country-residential land - because there has been a lack thereof - is actually a true value. I believe that country-residential land may be assessed somewhat higher than it would be if there were more country-residential land available, both within and outside the city of Whitehorse.
With respect to taxation, I believe there is a real mess in the whole territory and that there has been for a few years. Taxes used to be based upon the quality and level of services that were provided to the property. Unfortunately, in the last seven years that has gone out of the window. Taxes no longer represent the level of services provided to the property. I do not Ithink that is right. I think that over a period of time we will have to bring in a better system. The department will be working on that fairly shortly.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has raised a number of issues that I would like to follow up on.
To start, one of the major concerns of constituents in Mount Lorne and Laberge and other rural areas was the high market value for country residential properties that results from a shortage of land. What steps has the Minister taken to make more land available?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a country residential subdivision planned within the City of Whitehorse near the MacPherson area. The City of Whitehorse is going to be doing the planning and development of the subdivision.
There is a private subdivision near Deep Creek that may or may not be going ahead; I am not sure what the status of that subdivision is, but it is approximately 42 lots.
There are several small, in-fill pieces of land in and around the City of Whitehorse that can be developed. The lands branch of the department is looking at those particular pieces of property right now with the idea of developing them and getting them on the market during this fiscal year.
Ms. Moorcroft: There were some concerns with the assessment review and about the timing of notices. People got them at Christmas, went off on their own holidays and were not paying too close attention. Is there any thought being given to moving up the notification date for the assessment reviews?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a piece of legislation coming forward to this session of the Legislature to actually set the final date for assessment of properties, which currently is not in the act. There is some question about when the assessment actually is due. When that particular piece of legislation is approved, I think it will affect the date on which the notices are mailed out.
Ms. Moorcroft: There were concerns expressed to me from constituents about too many real estate people being put on the Assessment Review Board. What are the Ministers views on this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Most of the people on the Assessment Review Boards have been there for several years. What the department basically looks for is someone with a bit of expertise in the area. I did not actually notice that there were, as the Member says, too many real estate people. I did see two people in the various areas that I recognized as employees of some real estate firm. I do not believe that the actual makeup of the boards is at all unfair. We ask the various municipalities, or the various areas of Yukon, for names of people who they feel would be capable of sitting on the board. We get the list and we make the choices from that list. Most of the people who are on there this year, have been on for several years in the past.
Ms. Moorcroft: The City of Whitehorse has asked for tax money from residents outside the city limits, that is to say, the Mount Lorne and Laberge areas. We have discussed this in Question Period, but would the Minister care to make further views on this matter known during the estimates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the City of Whitehorse brought this up at the recent Association of Yukon Communities meeting that was held two weeks ago in Whitehorse. There is a committee of people, including the people from Mount Lorne and the Ibex Valley Hamlet, to look at the whole idea. I personally have a real problem with it, because I believe in taxation with representation. Even if we indirectly wash that money by bringing it through government, it is still a form of taxation that we would be imposing on people. I am not even sure if it is legal, and I have some very definite philosophical problems with it myself.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister referred to the Association of Yukon Communities recent resolution, which states, Be it resolved that the Government of the Yukon be requested to participate in a committee with representation from rural, urban and First Nation communities, to review the need for cost-sharing agreements between communities. The rationale proposed by the City of Whitehorse is that the city feels it is imperative that rural residents begin contributing to the facilities and amenities offered to them courtesy of municipal taxpayers.
I certainly share the Ministers concern about taxation without representation. Can the Minister report any progress about setting up the committee? Who are the Government of Yukon representatives to discuss this issue?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have no idea how the committee is coming. I have not been contacted specifically. I expect that it will be through the department, but I do not know. That resolution sounds somewhat like a regional district, and I think the Yukon Territory is much too small to consider putting those types of structures into place at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: The city receives considerable O&M funding for things like recreation and transit, and so on, annually. Does the Minister believe that the city is getting a fair amount already?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We spoke with the Mayor and city council. They are certainly not getting a fair amount to put a budget together with and, yes, they are getting a fair amount. I do not know what one can actually classify as a fair amount.
There are certain monies that go to municipalities that come out of the general revenues of the Yukon Territory. The argument from a lot of rural people is that their tax dollars go to the general revenues of the Yukon Territory and, then, are turned over to the various municipalities, so they are paying some portion of the cost of the services within that municipality in the first place. I am not saying that is my argument; I am saying that it is an argument that is out there.
I could not say whether they are getting a fair amount. They are getting quite a large amount of money, but whether it is fair or not, I cannot say.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do have one more question on this particular subject, but my colleagues are urging me to move that the Speaker do now resume the chair.
Some Hon. Members: No.
Ms. Moorcroft: Okay. There are other issues of a regional nature that could be discussed here such as fire protection, regional land fills and recycling. Does the Minister think that the city has a case when it comes to these topics?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Let me put it this way: I can understand that the City of Whitehorse has some concerns. There are many people in the Ibex and Takhini Hot Springs area who actually use the city dump. There are people who live closer to town than I do who use some of the recreational facilities.
There is nothing stopping the City of Whitehorse, or any other municipality - they have the legal means - for charging people who use their facilities and who do live within the municipality. They can charge those people more. They can charge people like me who use the city dump, rather than go to Deep Creek, which is quite a bit out of my way, so I periodically use the city dump. The city could charge me a tipping fee that it would not charge to anyone else.
It is the same with recreation facilities. They have the ability to charge more for someone who lives outside the city limits.
Mr. Harding: In the last fiscal year, was there any move to alter or change the policy with respect to auxiliary employees?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not really know what he means by change. There are so many people needed each year for the various camps; for example, the BST crew and the bridge crew. I cannot see any reason or need not to have these people each summer. I can also see that there is no reason to have them hired for the full year. Every year, we need summer employees and, as far as I know, we will continue to hire these people.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further debate on Bill No. 4?
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a provision in the present Assessment and Taxation Act for a variable mill rate, and the city recently rejected requests from more than 300 country residents to address their legitimate concerns. This petition to the City of Whitehorse was signed by constituents of both the Mount Lorne and the Laberge ridings, which means that there were several constituents of the Minister who had signed it. We understand that a review of the Municipal Act is being planned. Can the Minister tell us if he sees the retention of the variable mill rate as important?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. There is no intent to remove that particular section from the act. In fact, I can certainly sympathize with those people. If one looks at taxation as being representative of service level, they have a legitimate argument.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister if he sees property taxation mainly as a tax on wealth or as a tax that is related to services to property?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I see property taxes tied to the level service.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister indicate what his views are in enforcing a variable mill rate between urban and country-residential based upon the level of services provided to properties?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Enforcement of it is the responsibility of the municipality. The authority for it is our responsibility; they do have that authority in the various aspects of the legislation.
Ms. Moorcroft: A major tax break to Yukon property owners is the home owners grant. A similar one exists in Manitoba but recently their Minister of Finance cut this grant, which effectively put forward a property tax increase on all properties in that jurisdiction. Can the Minister indicate what his views are on the home owner grant? Does he see it ever being reduced or staying the same or possibly increasing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not intend to vary the existing rate in this fiscal year. I cannot say what will happen in subsequent years.
Ms. Moorcroft: As a result of the recent assessment and taxation battle for country residents in the city, talk has increased about separating from the City of Whitehorse and forming their own hamlet or separate municipality. It is my understanding that under the present Municipal Act a petition to the Minister is all that is required to get the ball rolling. Although the act does not explicitly talk about creating a hamlet or a new municipality from within an existing one, such as Whitehorse, is it also the Ministers understanding that this is all that is required, or does he have a different interpretation of the act?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: From my interpretation of the act, yes, that is all that is necessary to get the process started; however, the actual process could be a very long process and would involve the municipal board.
Ms. Moorcroft: A ward system is provided for in the Municipal Act and all that is required to institute a ward system in a city, like the City of Whitehorse, is for the municipal council to pass a bylaw.
Some of my constituents in country-residential areas feel that if they had had a ward system and their own representative on council, their requests may not have fallen on deaf ears.
What is the Ministers view about ward systems for municipal councils in the Yukon, particularly Whitehorse? Also, I would like to ask if the Minister sees retaining this provision in the revised Municipal Act?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have no intention of removing the ward system from the Municipal Act, but it is a municipal issue. Each municipality has to decide if that is what they want to do. We neither encourage nor discourage them from seeking that particular section of the act.
Ms. Moorcroft: Earlier this afternoon the Minister was talking about the principle of taxation with representation, and I would put it to the Minister that a number of his constituents, as well as mine, have a concern about representation and have argued for a ward system.
Is the Minister prepared to work toward making it a little easier for residents to have a ward system, if they so desire?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that the mechanism for them to obtain a ward system in a municipal government is there. The matter does have to be taken up with city council or the municipal council - whether it is the City of Whitehorse, the Town of Watson Lake or the Village of Mayo. As the provision is already in the act, I do not see a need for any amendments.
Ms. Moorcroft: Revising the Municipal Act would take a lot of time and involve a lot of consultation with the many municipal councils around the territory. What process of consultation does the Minister expect to follow and when will it begin?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: At the recent AYC meeting, the association resolved to form a committee to work with people from the department and make suggestions for changes to the Municipal Act. We will be working with that group when it is struck.
Ms. Moorcroft: My question for the Minister was about the provisions for public consultation. What will be done to encourage comments from average citizens, as municipal councils may be considered to be vested interests in this process.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that the people with the interest in the Municipal Act are the municipal councils. I would suggest that the municipal councils hold public meetings in the community. I am not sure how much interest in the Municipal Act the average person on the street has, unless there are specific things that the municipal council would like to point out to people that they are thinking of changing, then they can get public input.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think the fact that over 300 residents from country-residential neighbourhoods within the City of Whitehorse signed a petition shows that there is a great deal of interest in public consultation and the kinds of changes to the Municipal Act that I am exploring here.
I would refer to another Association of Yukon Communities resolution that stated: Whereas the community services branch of the Government of the Yukon has advised they are proposing amendments to various municipally related acts, 1. The Municipal Act; 2. The Municipal Finance Act; 3. Assessment and Taxation Act; 4. Home Owners Grant Act; 5. other acts and regulations. I would ask the Minister to outline the kinds of reviews of these statutes that the department is looking at.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to remind the Member opposite that the petition to the city council regarding the Municipal Act was not to do with the act; it was with regard to a provision in the act, and it asked the council to implement that provision. The petition was not put in on the act itself. Through the public consultation on those various pieces of legislation, we have not been requested to make any changes to the Municipal and Communities Infrastructure Grants Act, so I do not think we would be doing that. We have been requested by the Association of Yukon Communities and various municipalities to make some amendments to the Municipal Act, and we will be putting those amendments forward. I would expect that in the process there would be what is called a green paper, which is a discussion paper. The public is certainly welcome to view that particular paper and to provide comments on it.
Ms. Moorcroft: With respect to the rural road maintenance program, have there been any changes to this program in the last six months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No.
Ms. Moorcroft: What has the Minister concluded about the effectiveness of the rural road maintenance plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The rural road maintenance policy is set up to provide for the maintenance of certain roads that are up to a tax standard, based on whether there are enough residences on the road. It is a good policy in that nearly all rural people are able to avail themselves of the policy - snow removal and some minor maintenance - if there are enough people living on a road within a certain distance.
Ms. Moorcroft: There are several roads - 18 or 19 - in the Mount Lorne riding that are maintained by highway maintenance due to the rural road maintenance policy.
Can the Minister tell me whether there has been any work done on the Robinson subdivision road in the last few months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Other than snow removal, I do not believe there has been any. There has been no surfacing; I mean, it has been the middle of winter. I am not sure if there is any planned major reconstruction proposed for this season.
Mr. Harding: I would like to go back to the employment situation in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Since the election and the change of government, has there been any change in policy with regard to employees on contract? If there is, what exactly would that be?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not exactly sure what the hon. Member opposite means by employees on contract. There are some contract employees for a specified period of time, such as a year and one-half, or something like that, or there are people who are hired on a short-term basis on service contracts. I am not sure what exactly he means, but there has been no change during the few months that I have been here.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister give me an example of an employee who would be placed on a year and one-half contract and what type of job they might be doing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For instance, in the Department of Community and Transportation Services, we have a contract that goes to, I believe, about 1995 for the director of land claims, who is a person who works with the various municipalities and government on the land claims issues. In fact, when land claims is settled, that position will no longer be required and it will terminate; but it covers a specified period of time, and I believe it goes to 1995.
Mr. Harding: The reason I ask is because I have a constituent who was an employee on term who, once the term ended, was placed on contract; I am starting to get worried, as is my constituent, that this is a way of being strung along without ever being made a permanent employee of the government, even though the job has been carrying on for quite some time. Could the Minister possibly explain how that type of situation occurs in his department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure of the job he is referring to but there can be times where there will be an employment contract and it will get extended, for example, on a three-month basis for a period of time if the job continues to be needed. At some point of time those kinds of situations have to be reviewed to see if they should continue. If it is continued beyond six months, then they have to make a job of it - it may only still be a term position for a year or a year and one-half - because casuals cannot be kept on for over six months.
Mr. Harding: The situation I am talking about, where an employee was on term and is now on contract, would apply to someone whose position on term ended, but for some strange reason a service contract was required of them, but not enough to make them a term employee. Is that basically the situation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There can be several situations where such a position will be extended. If, for example, it is a two-person shop and they want to make it one, and the second person is on holidays, sick leave or whatever and the main office would not be open without keeping that person on for an extended period, such a case might occur. I have seen that happen in other areas. A contract or casual person has been kept on basically to keep the office open while the occupant of the other position is away on some sort of leave.
Ms. Moorcroft: The City of Whitehorse, in the past two or three years, has been involved with various departments and committees established by the territorial government for the creation, construction and placement of a special hazardous waste facility within Whitehorse. The citys position is that the current choice along the Whitehorse Copper Road, in the vicinity of the Whitehorse Copper Mine, is inappropriate for a series of reasons. They believe the site should be dropped and the waste facility placed in conjunction with the citys landfill site. I would like to ask the Minister what his position is regarding the location for the hazardous waste storage site.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I feel that the site picked by the hazardous waste committee is likely the preferred site from among any that have been explored. I have no intention, at this point in time, of changing the site selected.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister what he sees as the need for a hazardous waste storage site.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are several reasons for a storage site. There are a number of PCBs in the Yukon that are in storage now at various sites. Some are good sites and some are not, but I feel that PCBs should be stored in one secure place until we are allowed to ship them to a disposal area.
At this time we cannot move the PCBs across or into another jurisdiction. I understand that there are some changes coming in Alberta, but in the meantime hazardous waste has to be stored somewhere.
In any given year, there are approximately five or six truck loads of special waste, with much of that waste ending up in our landfills around the territory. We think that there should be a place where we can collect the hazardous waste and ship it to disposal areas outside; there are many disposal areas available in Canada.
There is no doubt that some sort of a storage area is needed; whether it is for short-term or long-term storage, I am not sure. The department is currently reviewing whether they need short-term or long-term storage.
Ms. Moorcroft: The transportation of hazardous waste is another issue, but certainly one of the laudable goals of the department is to promote and undertake environmentally sound activities and programs.
I would agree with the Minister that having PCBs and other hazardous waste in landfill sites around the territory is not a good situation.
I would like to ask the Minister about his views on a policy of establishing transfer stations, rather than landfill or trench-and-burn dumps.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The issue of transfer stations is different from hazardous waste storage.
The idea of transfer stations is very good and can be sound, but there has to be a receiving place for the garbage generated. Right now, the one hamlet that has asked for a transfer station - it is a laudable request - does not have a transfer station, because the receiving place for the refuse would be the City of Whitehorse landfill and the City of Whitehorse, at this point in time, is not willing to receive that refuse.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister was correct. I was referring to the Hamlet of Mt. Lorne representation, where the council wanted to establish a transfer station to replace the dump. I would point out to the Minister that the local residents, on a volunteer basis, have established a recycling depot. I think that has actually reduced the amount of garbage that goes into the trench. They are certainly encouraging conservation to try to get away from having the landfill site in use. Can the Minister tell us what he is going to be doing to resolve this problem?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department is currently working with the City of Whitehorse to see about their receiving the garbage that is left over. There is no doubt that the community on the Carcross Road has reduced their garbage a lot by their conservation measures. The problem remains that if they put in a transfer station rather than a trench landfill disposal ground then who is going to receive it. If the City of Whitehorse refuses to accept it then we would have to come up with something different. That is what we are investigating right now.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps we can rely on the good graces and the assistance of the Minister in that regard.
I would like to clarify the connection; one of the reasons for having a transfer station rather than a dumpsite is that hazardous waste is presently disposed there because there is now policing of what is thrown in the trench. We certainly want to reduce the amount of batteries and toxic wastes that go into those areas.
I would like to ask the Minister about sewage treatment. This is an issue that affects many areas in the territory; no doubt the most controversial is the City of Whitehorse where, for many years, the raw sewage has been pumped into the Yukon River and eventually gone into the Bering Sea, polluting a lot of water along the way. The city, in conjunction with the territorial government, has been working toward the development of a solution to the citys sewage treatment problem; to date they have spent $750,000 to find a solution.
There has been a joint committee consisting of the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the mayor and the Chiefs of the two First Nations in the Whitehorse area. That program was to see option selection completed by December of this year and is underway. I would like to ask the Minister if he has met with that committee and if the committee has met between the period of November 10 and March 31.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. I cannot remember the dates, but we met on two occasions. A site and method of disposal were selected at the last meeting we attended. I would like to point out to the Member opposite that, at this present time, it is not raw sewage from the City of Whitehorse going into the Yukon River. It has secondary treatment. Periodically, through the year, there are times - at least one time - when there is some primary treated sewage going into the river, but there is no raw sewage going into the Yukon River from the City of Whitehorse.
Ms. Moorcroft: If you look at the toxic levels of the fish and, specifically, burbot livers in Lake Laberge, whether it is primary treated or secondary treated sewage, the effect is still pretty bad.
I would like to ask the Minister about potential sites for sewage treatment and what the Yukon government has been doing to help meet the need for a site for sewage treatment.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I would like to point out to the Member opposite that the toxification of the burbot livers in Lake Laberge is not necessarily connected to the sewage going into the lake.
The site was selected and unanimously agreed to by the four members of the selection committee. It is currently Commissioners land and is within the block land transfer from the federal government. There has been a land selection placed on that land, so the question is at the land claims table, as of today.
Mr. Harding: I want to do a little bit of exploring of the department, as I said before, because of my lack of knowledge of the department. I want to get an overview of where the Minister stands. There is a significant number of services to people in the rural communities performed by the territorial government. There is also a significant number of tasks undertaken under the auspices of the block funding arrangements that we have with the municipalities, which serves to give some capability to the locally elected people to exercise some degree of autonomy over their own decision making.
Could the Minister indicate to me how he feels about the level of service in the rural communities, in general. Are there any areas that he has priorities for, wishing to make major changes, in terms of adding or reducing? Have there been any major undertakings along these lines, since the new government took over six months ago?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the Member opposite more or less answered his own question. The block funding or the level of financial assistance to municipalities is the greatest of any jurisdiction in Canada. In fact, we believe that the municipalities are best able to decide the type and level of services they require themselves. We do not get involved in telling the municipalities that they should increase their recreation facilities or that they should have a better street program. That is not our business. That is up to the municipalities themselves. We let them make those decisions.
Mr. Harding: To what degree has the government already agreed with some municipalities and what is it contemplating in the near future with regard to investments in the rural communities that fall outside the auspices of the block funding and essentially become capital projects funded over and above the block funding arrangements?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Under the Municipal and Community Infrastructure Grants Act, there is provision for funding from the Yukon government if in fact the project, or scheme of projects, exceeds - I believe it is something like one-and-a-half times - their annual block funding payment. If there is a major sewage system project, such as the City of Whitehorse is in the process of working on right now, they could become eligible for extraordinary funding. The level of that funding is negotiated between the department and the city, a phase-in period is agreed upon and then monies start flowing from the Yukon government to that municipality.
That is the same for other major projects. I doubt if major street upgrading would actually fit the criteria, but there is a possibility it could. Then the municipality is subject to the legislative approval of that project in this House, because it would become a line item in the budget.
Mr. Harding: One of my major concerns with some of the things that seem to be taking place with regard to managing some of the larger problems in the Yukon that call for funding or agreements on funding or shared funding by municipalities, and in some cases the federal and territorial governments, is that these negotiations seem to be carried on almost on a minister-and-municipal-mayor basis and there is not a lot of openness and updating being given on some of the processes and discussions that are taking place, unless questions are raised by the legislators in the Legislature, if it is sitting, so it is difficult to get an accurate picture as to what exactly is taking place in some of these areas.
I think the block funding system is a very important system, which has to be relied upon, because the perception is that falling or backing away from it to another system where pleas are made based on the political stripes of municipal mayors and the ability of the MLA of the governing party to draw funding to try and entice the people of their riding to show gratitude at election time certainly has the potential to rear its head in those situations.
I really feel strongly about the concept of block funding and its importance to maintaining a fair relationship in the territory for all the rural communities in allowing them to exercise some autonomy.
Would the government be considering a policy for decisions that involve grander scale projects that the territorial government has expressed an interest or desire to become involved in? Would they be sticking to the policy of, for example, making a commitment to a community and then following through without consultation with the people of the communities and other interested parties in the Yukon? Would it continue to be an arrangement that was made basically on the basis of an understanding between the Minister, the MLA for the area affected, and perhaps the mayor?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To start with, with respect to these projects, the Member must be speaking of what happened previously because, currently, there are only two extraordinary projects in the Yukon. One is the City of Whitehorse sewage lagoon, which was set up by the previous government, and the other is the sewer line replacement in the City of Dawson. There had been some discussion about this before the current government took office, but the City of Dawson and the department are currently negotiating the matter.
If the municipality requests an extraordinary grant for some specific project, it has to meet some criteria. It has to be considered as a municipal project, and it has to meet the constraints placed on it by the budget. I believe that there are safeguards in place. I see no need to radically change the systems that are laid out in the Municipal and Community Infrastructure Grants Act.
Mr. Harding: The Minister talks about only two projects. One was a promise of $25 million, and we are not quite sure yet what the other is going to cost. I have some more questions to ask about that. Those are pretty significant projects. There may only be two of them, but they are incredibly expensive.
The Minister talked a bit about the criteria for the process of determining which community would be the recipient of funding over and above the block funding for specific projects. The Minister mentioned two criteria: one that it be a municipal project and the other that it falls within the constraints of the budget of the Yukon. Could the Minister be a bit more specific as to what would be classified as a municipal project and how the determination would be made as to its value as a percentage of the budget of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For the benefit of the Member opposite, I will describe the different types of services there are.
There are primary services in Yukon municipalities or communities that include such things as water, sewer, streets, roads and fire departments.
The secondary services would include such things as recreation, pavement, BST on the roads, possibly underground piped water systems, when individual wells would have been sufficient.
There is then a third, tertiary level that could be such things as community beautification, downtown revitalization or that sort of thing.
With the constraints that are within the Yukon governments budget, it would be unlikely that services in the secondary or tertiary area would be considered by this Legislature.
If I brought forward something in the capital budget, for instance, a $20 million arena in Mayo, I think that I would not only have a very difficult time getting it through the House, but by my own colleagues.
What normally is considered as infrastructure projects for extraordinary funding - although this is not in the act - are primary services, whether it is sewage disposal like a lagoon, a water distribution system where wells are no longer acceptable in the community, or maybe some very basic street work. Those items would be considered for extraordinary funding under the current legislation.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Member for explaining about the three distinct categories of service. It sounds a little bit like the crusher I worked on in Faro - with the primary, secondary and tertiary - because it is the same process we use there.
How would the government deal with a request that has been made to provide some funding to the arena in Old Crow? How would the government evaluate that? Could the Minister tell me what has been decided with regard to that item?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I suppose we will carry on with our lessons in local government.
There are eight municipalities in the Yukon. The municipalities have their own funding, and items such as arenas are municipal responsibilities. They would be considered a municipal responsibility. The chances of the Yukon government getting involved in funding an arena for a municipality would be quite slim.
I will just run through the municipalities. They are: Watson Lake, Teslin, Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Carmacks, Faro, Mayo and Dawson City. All the other communities, such as Beaver Creek, Ross River, Burwash, Elsa, Keno and Old Crow, are what we class as unincorporated communities.
Unincorporated communities do not have access to government funding except on a project-by-project basis. The smaller communities, usually through their community club or an Indian band in the community, provide to the Yukon government a five-year capital forecast of the things they would like to see taken on in their community, if the departments are able to get it from them. They update that on a yearly basis.
They put down when they would like to do a certain project and where the funding sources are - how much they would like to get from the Yukon government, how much they are willing to put themselves, where they are going to find the remaining money, if there is any left to obtain. For instance, the request for a covered skating rink in Old Crow would fit into that category. When the Yukon government is satisfied that there is going to be funding from other sources - whether it is the community as a whole, volunteer work, or however they wish to make their contribution - then we will look at funding that particular project.
Each one of these things, in an unincorporated community, is on a project-by-project basis.
Mr. Harding: Would it be fair to say that there are no concrete criteria for the determination of what would constitute a contribution by one of the communities that would require funding for a special project, on a project-by-project basis?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Unfortunately, no, there are not. There used to be the capital standards and criteria manual, which actually outlined the amount of money that the government would put into a project. That, over the years under the previous government, has gone by the wayside. At some point in the future, I would like to initiate some system, not too dissimilar from that, where there would be a certain cost sharing set up for primary services, a different cost sharing set up for secondary services, and definitely a different cost sharing for tertiary services, if we even got into such things.
Mr. Harding: The new government has not worked toward that in the last six months, have they?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, we have not looked at it in that great of detail in the last six months.
Mr. Harding: So that is basically a direction that the new Minister wants to go - to move to a system whereby some more concrete criteria is established. Would it closely follow the system that the Minister said was removed under the previous administration? Would it follow closely the criteria that was in that previous policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would think that it would not be too dissimilar from the previous criteria that was used. I think that it has to be looked at, like the cost sharing of secondary and primary services.
For instance, if you have to go into a major water and sewer system, like a water supply and pipe system, and a lagoon to dispose of the sewage for a small community, it could be a very, very expensive proposition because of ground pollution or some such thing. Even if you were to say that the community had to come up with 10 percent, it might not be possible for the residents in that community to come up with the kind of dollars that are necessary.
One has to look at tax rates and various other things besides just the amount of money that the community can come up with. Unfortunately, in most of these communities, the local authority is either the First Nation, or in several communities, the community club is actually the local authority. A community club is invariably started and put together by the residents to look after the social and sometimes sports activities. They end up meeting constantly on municipal types of services. They have no access to funding, other than their own fund-raising activities, which could include dances and bingos and that sort of thing. Sometimes it is somewhat unfair to actually demand that they put up 10 percent of some type of service, which benefits not only the community club members, but also everyone who resides in the community. It is a fairly large problem. It is not one that can be resolved quickly or easily.
Mr. Harding: How would the Minister propose to deal with a situation where one would want to set some more concrete criteria for making those determinations and, secondly, had to live with some of the realities that some of the communities face when dealing with a large project and having limitations on their ability to contribute financially to the project? How would you propose to come up with a policy to address those two areas of concern?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are several things that we can look at. There could be a sliding scale. If one had a project or a scheme of projects - for example, if one wanted to install a water and sewer system in Carcross that has to be a piped system for both water and sewer, the construction of a sewage lagoon and the construction of a water supply point, costing several millions of dollars - there could be a sliding scale, where a certain percentage is applied to the first million and then a lower percentage on each $100,000 thereafter, with perhaps a tax of a certain amount for water and sewer that would be applied to every residents taxes.
This is one way to look at it. I am not saying that that is how I would necessarily look at it; it is one of the methods that could be used.
Mr. Harding: I move that the Committee take a recess.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Committee to take a recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Harding: I want to comment on what a vast and expansive department this is, with so many fascinating areas to explore and delve into and new things to learn; the Minister has been very helpful in teaching me more about his domain.
I have a very important question with regard to rural banking services. It has been the subject of some debate since the new budget has come in. There is provision in the new budget, for the first time, for payment for the maintenance of rural banking services based on the assumption that we will not have an accumulated surplus from which we can draw on the interest to subsidize, or help pay for, rural banking services, which this side seriously disputes. As evidenced by the reluctance of the Government Leader in Question Period today to agree to production of the actuals for the year, we are becoming even more skeptical, if that is believable, that we will not have an accumulated surplus this year. We believe we will, but we are still not sure what the estimates are of the level of surplus it would take to support the level of service that we now have in the rural communities.
I would like to ask the Minister: given that their claim is now that they will have to start forking out some money for the banking services for the first time rather than just using the interest on the surplus, could the Minister explain to me his philosophy on the maintenance of rural banking services in the Yukon? I guess it would fall in the category of secondary services to the community - perhaps tertiary; perhaps the Minister could elaborate on that for me.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I could probably talk about rural banking services, but with very little expertise, because that is an item for the Department of Finance. I would suggest that the Members opposite direct those questions to the Minister of Finance when we get into that particular budget area.
Mr. Harding: I am not really interested in the heart of it. My preamble was to start off the discussion about how it was going to be paid for this year. I would be interested in the Ministers philosophy with regard to subsidizing banking services.
Traditionally, in most areas of the country, banking is not considered a government function, but because of the problems of coming up with some kind of service for people in the rural communities, it is an accommodation that has been met. Perhaps the Minister could elaborate on that basis rather than on a detailed financial basis.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, this is not classed as a municipal service, nor is this something that Community and Transportation Services is involved with at all. Again, I would encourage the Members opposite to question the Minister of Finance when we debate the Finance budget.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps the Minister could explain something for me. When I was concerned about some of the problems of rural banking services in my community I wrote the Department of Finance for the same reason - I thought that banking services would be handled by the Department of Finance. However, I received a letter from the Department of Finance saying that my letter had been forwarded to the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services, because it was the jurisdiction of that Minister and not the Minister of Finance.
I did receive a reply, and to the best of my knowledge the reply was from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding banking services in my community. Could the Minister explain why that mix-up happened, if in fact it was a mix-up?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It may very well be that the section of Community and Transportation Services that I was one time responsible for did help set up banking services in the communities outside of Whitehorse; that may be the reason the letter was forwarded to me. If I remember correctly, we did respond to the letter with information provided by the Department of Finance.
Mr. Harding: We have talked a bit tonight about sewage treatment problems for Whitehorse and Dawson City. I would like to know if there are any other towns or unincorporated communities that have made requests for work over and above the funding they get through the block funding agreement.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As far as I know, there are no other requests in at this time. However, at least three unincorporated communities are looking at some sort of sewage treatment and some sort of water distribution system - Ross River, Carcross and Burwash. Burwash is not looking at an actual pipe system, but a new sewage lagoon. No other municipalities that I am aware of at this point in time are asking for any extraordinary funding.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister explain to me which unincorporated communities have proposals presently before the government and what is happening with them, or are those just problems the Minister is aware of, without there being any formal requests from Ross River, Carcross and Beaver Creek?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The third community was Burwash.
The environmental health people have said that there will be no more septic tanks installed in the community of Ross River due to the possible contamination of the ground water. In that respect, the municipal engineering branch of community services is working with the community to set up some type of sewage holding tanks and pump-out service. I am not sure how far along they are with those discussions.
In Carcross, the situation is somewhat similar. They have been discussing that for something like two years now. I believe they are fairly close to having a type of system identified for the community. I know they are working with the community.
Mr. Harding: So, basically, there is no specific time line. Are they priorities of your department, from your point of view? To what extent would the government be looking at helping the unincorporated communities solve these problems, in ballpark figures?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are a very high priority in the department. I cannot give you numbers yet, because they have not finalized the exact type of system or done any design work yet. I will be happy to provide that information to this House as soon as it becomes available.
Mr. Harding: I would like to get into the topic of land availability and planning. I have heard the new Minister talk in this Legislature about land availability and some of the concerns people have raised in his riding. Could the Minister give his views on land availability and what new policy directives have been given to his department with regard to land availability and what his basic views are with regard to making more land available to Yukoners for different uses - commercial, industrial, recreation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the Yukon government should have an inventory of land available for sale in all of the municipalities. That inventory should be at least sufficient for the year subsequent to the current year. That is going to be very difficult to achieve in the short term, because of the fact that, right here in the City of Whitehorse, for example, we have a very large demand for land and, basically, no inventory at this time. It is going to take some time to get ahead.
There is a problem with getting too much inventory, in that land is a recoverable expenditure. One of the Members opposite made a comment the other day about a very large land development budget. If you try to get too much inventory, you end up with a very large recoverable amount on the books that likely would cause cashflow problems for the Department of Finance.
It is a balancing act between how much inventory you have for a given period of time and how much you are able to afford to have on the books. Right now, we have, over a three-year period, 1,400 or 1,500 lots in the Whitehorse area. These are mostly within the City of Whitehorse. There is some agricultural land that we are going to try to make available this summer, and there is some country-residential land, in small blocks, scattered throughout the Whitehorse periphery.
Mr. Harding: Will there be any new policy with regard to land availability and specifically, has there been in the last six months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Currently there is no new policy. The residents in the Golden Horn area are involved in a planning process now. When that planning process is completed, it will help us determine a land policy for that area.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Sorry, the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. Thank you for correcting me.
The Hamlet of Ibex Valley will be entering into a planning process fairly soon, as is Deep Creek out on Lake Laberge. The Takhini Hotsprings Road area is looking at seeking some sort of hamlet status at this point. Again, the hamlets and the planning processes they go through is part of the overall process to help identify land use and types of lots that people want in their various communities.
Mr. Harding: Even though there has been no new direct change in the policy of land availability, there seems to be a major move afoot in the proposed budget to develop a lot more land and make it available. Could the Minister perhaps elaborate a little bit on the thinking behind this move to record spending, albeit recoverable, in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, the consultation and the processes were all in place before this government took office on November 9. In order to develop land, especially serviced lots within a municipality, it is about a three-year process. This was already in effect for some time. This year does become the construction year, which would probably show the large amount that is in the budget for land development.
Mr. Harding: Some months ago, with regard to my community of Faro, I had written the Minister, and asked if there were plans to create some industrial and commercial lots in Faro. I received a letter back saying that I should wait until early into the next fiscal year. Could the Minister tell me if the development of those lots is still in the plans for Faro?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that is a question that would have to be looked at when dealing with the main estimates. That is where our land budget is. When we get into the main estimates, I would be happy to answer that question.
Ms. Joe: I have a couple of questions in regard to the land in question for the Whitehorse sewer disposal system. The Government Leader, who is responsible for land claims, has indicated that our policy with respect to the land was the same as theirs, that land should go unencumbered to the city for the sewage disposal system.
That is not the case. Our policy was that, if a certain area of land was selected by the city, that area of land would then go on the negotiating table, not that we would select the land and say that land goes to the city unencumbered. Therefore, the policies are a bit different.
There appears to be a lot of anger building up in regard to what may or may not have happened. As it is a part of the Ministers riding, has he been in contact and had discussions with the First Nations group in that area in regard to this land? How has he tried to alleviate the problem?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite should be aware that Ms. Adamson from the Taan Kwachan Band and Ms. Johns from the Kwanlin Dun Band were both sitting on the selection committee of the Whitehorse sewage lagoon project and, as I said earlier, the committee unanimously agreed with the selection. Ms. Adamson did say at the time that that did not preclude the Taan Kwachan from having some interest in the land; she made us aware of that at the time and, in fact, we turned it over to the land claims table.
Ms. Joe: There are a lot of inconsistencies with regard to this issue and it comes from all sides, not just from here and from over there, but also possibly from what the First Nations people on the committee might have said. It raises a bit of a problem, because we have here two First Nations groups who are very disturbed about land being in question for development and for sewer projects and whatnot. I am really concerned, because I keep hearing more and more all the time about those groups being very concerned that their negotiations are not taken very seriously. Because the Taan Kwachan, or most of the people in that area live in his riding, I had asked the Minister whether or not he had met with them to talk about the problem and whether or not he had brought those concerns to his leader.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have had meetings with Mr. Grady and with Ms. Adamson; I am not sure how many, but we have had at least three meetings. I have also had discussions on the telephone with Mr. Grady and Ms. Adamson.
My suggestion to them was that it is a land claims issue and that the discussions should take place at the land claims table.
Ms. Joe: If there are concerns about land claims questions - such as those in McIntyre-Takhini - constituents go to the MLA to talk about those concerns, and I would suspect that would happen with the Minister.
I have one other question that has nothing to do with land claims, but is a follow-up on the question asked by the Member for Riverside with regard to the Long Lake Road - I think that it has another name.
I remember when I was in Opposition many years ago, I questioned Danny Lang who was the Minister at the time, about the dangerous road and curve. He ended up having a guardrail installed and he informed me at the time that it was a responsibility of this government.
I was out for an evening drive last night and I noticed that the road is still dangerous. I wondered whether or not, because the last fiscal year is over, there is a plan to extend the guardrail a little bit farther down. I do not know where the responsibility of the city ends and the territorial government responsibility begins. I think it would be a very safe thing to install guardrails to make the road safer. It almost goes around the corner and stops, but the road is still dangerous as you go down.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite and I are getting closer together on this, because I know where the Yukon governments responsibility starts and he knows where the guard rail is bad. The guardrail the Hon. Member for Riverside was referring to the other day is down more or less in front of the hospital and is, in fact, the responsibility of the City of Whitehorse. The governments responsibility actually starts at the hill at the end of Wickstrom Road, where one goes up a little hill and turns right. Our responsibility starts either at the bottom or the top of that hill. I suspect it is at the bottom.
Ms. Joe: My question was whether or not the department intends to look at putting some safety facilities in place to extend the guardrail a bit farther down on the hill on that high part of the road just before one starts into town again. There is a guardrail at the highest part of the road. It would a lot safer if the guardrail was extended to the bottom of the hill.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I would think this is something that would come up in the main estimates, if it is in the budget at all. I will check with the department to see if they have any intention of doing something with it. I will have a look at it myself to find out exactly where the problem is.
Mr. Penikett: Could the Minister tell me whether any decisions were made in supplementary estimates in respect to a couple of matters identified in the report he tabled today, namely the Motor Transport Board Annual Report for 1991-92? I specifically want to ask about matters referred to on pages 7 and 9 of the report.
On page 7, the author of this report refers to a matter involving a Carcross school van, which was the subject of some debate in this House. The concluding comment on this matter in the boards report says, In its written response to the Department of Justice in the matter the Motor Transport Board stated that, had the Department of Education approached the registrar with a direct request for an exemption to the school bus regulations, the entire situation could have been avoided.
I was on the other side of the House during this time. I recall the debate in the House on this matter. I do not want to repeat that debate; I will say no more than that it was the view of the government, and some Members of the Opposition, that this was a matter that should never have gone before the Motor Transport Board because it was beyond their jurisdiction. I am curious to know if the Minister has considered this issue, either by way of reviewing this report in recent weeks or, if I could ask him to remember back to his time in the department, and whether he, as a matter of policy, shares the view expressed by the board on this question.
The specific issue is, of course, whether or not the board has jurisdiction over government vehicles and over Department of Education vehicles in a case like this.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to get back to the Member opposite. I recall the particular incident, but I have not reviewed it since I have taken the office that I currently hold. I will have to review the whole case and get back to the Member opposite.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member opposite for his comment, and I appreciate his undertaking to get back to me. It is not a huge issue, but in this report I noticed that there are a number of what I would call policy comments. There are two issues here, one about policy and the other about the law.
I believe it was the view of the previous government that the law was quite clear that the board did not have jurisdiction in this matter. It might be able to express an opinion, but it did not have jurisdiction. The board seems to be taking the slightly different view that the problem was in the Department of Education, and in fact says so, rather than with the board. I believe that the view from the Department of Education, if the Minister checks with his colleague, was that the problem originated with the board, not with the department. I am not asking the Minister to express any comment about an old dispute, but I would like to know, as a matter of policy, and if the Minister can tell us, as a matter of law, whether the board has jurisdiction in matters like that.
My second question arises from the comment on page 9 of this report. I wonder if I could again just quote the relevant sentence, which includes a section on enforcement of the Motor Transport Act and regulations.
The sentence says, In order to effectively patrol the highway system for the safety of the travelling public, the board recommends that additional enforcement personnel be made available, particularly in Yukon highway communities. I think I know the answer to the question of whether or not the Minister has acted on this recommendation in the last few months, but could I ask him, either now or by way of giving him notice of this question, if he could indicate his ministrys policy on this question?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The issue of enforcement, as I am sure the Members opposite are aware, was funded by the federal government up until April 1, and we are trying to get an extension to that funding for another year - however, our chances are apparently not all that great - at which time we will be letting two of the current four enforcement people go. They will only have two instead of the four who were there under the federal funding.
Mr. Penikett: When we get to the relevant lines, I am sure all Members would be interested in knowing which two positions will be going. I would like to ask a more general policy question at this point. It is about the Ministers view of this question.
I suspect that unless and until there is a tragic accident or serious problem, most citizens here - like most citizens everywhere - would err on the side of having less enforcement and less regulation - what most people would refer to as more freedom. However, this board has clearly recommended that enforcement be increased - not cut back - in the interest of public safety. It uses phrases like, the lack of sufficient enforcement personnel in all Yukon communities allows would-be lawbreakers to operate uncontested. It goes on to say that while this in itself is a problem, it also contributes to the attitude among some in the industry that the Yukon is not interested in enforcing its own laws.
As a long-time official of the government, the Minister will know that there was a lively debate a few years ago about the consumer and corporate affairs branch of the Department of Justice, which took the philosophical view that many of its laws were self-enforcing. I would take it as self-evident that most of the laws regarding highway safety are not self-enforcing. I think I can make that case fairly easily. I would like to know if the Minister has had the opportunity to think about this since he acquired his new position and if he or his Cabinet colleagues have any views on the question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am sure that the Member opposite is aware that we are talking about the National Safety Councils certification of operating ability.
The weigh scales in Yukon do enforce the National Safety Council regulations for the territory and we will have two people on the road, periodically checking. It is interesting that the industry - I did attend a meeting of the Yukon Transportation Association - and the motor transport people in the Yukon favour this strict enforcement of the National Safety Councils regulations.
Certainly, the regulations are not self-enforcing; there is no way that it would be, but they are not as difficult to enforce as Members opposite may believe.
I am quite fuzzy on this whole issue. It is not an issue that I have dealt with very much. Having read information from the department on the National Safety Council, I certainly agree with the information. That is especially so after having talked with the Yukon Transportation Association membership who also are very much in favour of having the National Safety Council standards in place.
Mr. Penikett: By the time the Committee comes back to this issue in the main estimates debate on Community and Transportation Services, would the Minister be prepared to give us a little more of his views at that time?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will endeavor to clear the fuzz by the time we come to the main estimates.
Ms. Moorcroft: Earlier, the Minister referred to the Golden Horn land use planning process, then corrected himself that he was talking about the current Hamlet of Mount Lorne land use planning process. Perhaps the Minister knew that I was going to raise the question of the Golden Horn planning process.
Residents of Golden Horn did participate in a land use planning process two years ago, which resulted in the Golden Horn area development regulations, which state that there will be no subdivision of properties within Golden Horn. Since then, the Minister has determined that the area development regulations, which are the supporting legislation, render that ultra vires. I would like to ask the Minister to confirm that the supporting legislation he was referring to was the Area Development Act and give an explanation of how the Golden Horn area development regulations are ultra vires.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The whole regulation is not ultra vires. The regulation does talk about subdivision of land, and the Area Development Act makes no mention of subdivision of lands. That particular section of the regulations would, therefore, not be legal. I think that has been pointed out to us in the past.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me if there are any other area development regulations in other areas of the territory that do have a subdivision provision in them, which is also affected by this problem?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if other area development regulations have that same clause. Usually the area development regulations deal with zoning. They are quite right in dealing with zoning. These ones, for some reason, do speak of subdivisions, and there is no authority for that in the act. I am not sure whether the Carcross regulations, for instance, have the same thing in them.
Ms. Moorcroft: The clear intent of the Golden Horn development regulations, which were developed in consultation with area residents, was to prevent the subdivision of lots in the area. The Minister made me aware of this problem on March 15. I would like to ask if he has done anything about resolving this to date.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have actually asked the department to start on some subdivision legislation for the Yukon. The other problem is the fact that in any place where there are no area development regulations, we have no authority whatsoever to disallow subdivision. For instance, from Deep Creek on the Klondike Highway and on to Carmacks, we have no authority to stop subdivision of land. If someone owns a parcel of land, they have the ability to subdivide that land. In that respect, I have asked the department to start to work on subdivision legislation, which I hope to be able to take to Cabinet sometime during the summer and I hope it can go to the House in the fall for the fall session.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to return to the fair taxes petition from country residents, which was presented to mayor and council of the City of Whitehorse with 321 signatures. I referred earlier to the fact that this petition was signed by constituents in the Mount Lorne riding and in the Lake Laberge riding. There were 99 signatures in Wolf Creek, 98 signatures in Mary Lake, 48 signatures in Pineridge, 40 signatures from MacPherson subdivision and 36 from the Hidden Valley subdivision.
The Minister stated that the petition was, asking to implement a provision of the act. I would suggest that because the petition is asking that a provision of the act be implemented does not mean that public consultation would not interest my constituents or, indeed, his own; and I would ask the Minister again if he does not think that some of these 321 signatories might appreciate an opportunity for public consultation on any proposed changes to the Municipal Act.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What the petition is asking for is something that is quite rightly in the act, and it is a city responsibility to respond to those 321 names. The people are within the municipal boundary of the City of Whitehorse and, as such, they must lobby the city for changes to the taxing method of the city, rather than changes to the act. I would certainly be quite willing to meet with my constituents and help them carry out their desire but, as far as changing a piece of legislation, I do not see any necessity to do that.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: 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?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Penikett: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition 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 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 19, 1993:
Motor Transport Board Annual Report, 1991-92 (Fisher)
Film Location Promotion Program pays off (Phillips)
Animal Shelter in Whitehorse: response to Petition No. 3 (Fisher)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 19, 1993:
The Sluice Box: purpose of and process for approving articles (Ostashek)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 531
Hiring freeze: information pertaining to its effect on various categories of employees (Ostashek)
Written Question No. 1, March 15, 1993, Ms. Moorcroft
Interview process for summer employment on highway crews (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 438 and 439