Tuesday, April 20, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: Are there any Introductions of Visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: I would like to draw Members attention to the presence in the gallery of a former Speaker of the House, Mr. Don Taylor. Mr. Taylor was the Speaker of the House from December 1974 until July 1985 - obviously, our longest serving Speaker since responsible government came to the Yukon.
Don, we would like to welcome you.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to introduce a visitor this afternoon, Ms. Cathy Sanderson, Director of Provincial Affairs of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for the British Columbia and Yukon region.
Ms. Sanderson is here on one of her regular visits to keep in touch with the business community, and I would like to ask all Members of the House to please help me welcome Ms. Sanderson to our Legislature this afternoon.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have three legislative returns.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. Harding: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT the House do issue an order for a return of the 1993 Micon report pertaining to analysis of the feasibility of mining the Grum ore body near Faro, Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McDonald: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to proceed with the capital construction work contained in the 1993-94 main estimates budget without delay.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse sewage facility
Ms. Moorcroft: There is an environmental disaster taking place on the Yukon River downstream from Porter Creek as raw sewage is being pumped directly into the Yukon River. Surely the Minister of Community and Transportation Services will agree that this environmental emergency raises the question of why is it taking so long for construction of a new, efficient sewage treatment facility for the City of Whitehorse. Why has this government only budgeted $750,000 this year for Whitehorse sewage treatment when it promised $25 million during the election campaign?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite should be asking her own party. They were in office for seven years when everyone knew there was a sewage problem in Whitehorse.
In response to the specific part of the hon. Members question, the money in the 1993-1994 capital budget, approximately $750,000, is for the design of the Whitehorse sewage lagoon. This is a multi-year project that will probably take three to four years to complete. This first portion of the funding will be for design and for the Yukon Water Board review process.
Ms. Moorcroft: During the election campaign, the Yukon Party candidate for Riverdale praised her party for its election promise of funding for a sewage treatment plant saying, In my previous position as city clerk, I was becoming frustrated with the lack of progress in dealing with the Whitehorse sewage treatment problem. Now I am part of a team that is going to do something about it because the Yukon Party knows that the cost to the environment is far greater if this problem is not resolved. Why has this government failed to deliver on its election promise to spend $25 million on a new sewage treatment system for Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that this party has done more in seven months than the previous one did in seven years.
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the Minister to address the question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Yukon Party has agreed with the City of Whitehorse that we will be building a sewage disposal facility. Plans have to be made before one can start construction. The plans will be developed over the next eight months to a year.
Ms. Moorcroft: During the election campaign, the Yukon Party had a plan to spend $25 million on sewage treatment. Why does the budget only talk about a commitment over several years of $13 million - half of what was promised?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Yukon Party committed to spending up to - up to - a maximum of $25 million. At no time did we say we would spend $25 million. We will be spending a substantial amount of money on the Whitehorse sewage lagoon when the prices and negotiations for cost sharing are finalized.
Question re: Whitehorse sewage facility
Ms. Moorcroft: I have talked to people in the Ministers riding who live in the Lake Laberge area. They have seen toilet paper, sewage, oil and grease floating in the water of Lake Laberge and in back eddies of the Yukon River. This was as recently as last spring. Is the Minister aware of situations like this? Has he personally witnessed how inadequate the present sewage treatment system is? Has he had similar reports from his constituents?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have been aware of this situation for at least seven years.
Ms. Moorcroft: Since we hear the Minister acknowledging that he does recognize that it is a serious problem and does need to be dealt with, I would like to ask him: why is it only $13 million that they are now committing to solve the problem of raw sewage being dumped into the Yukon River?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $13 million that appears in future years in the budget is the full amount promised by the previous government. We do not have a firm estimate of what the total cost will be, nor what the Yukon governments share will be.
Ms. Moorcroft: Last night we heard the Minister of Community and Transportation Services tell the House that there is no raw sewage going into the Yukon River from the City of Whitehorse. When was the Minister made aware by his department of this problem that began yesterday morning and why did he not hear about it right away?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I became aware of it late yesterday evening and I cannot tell you why I was not made aware of it - perhaps it was because I was in this House.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, construction
Mr. Cable: I have questions for the Minister of Government Services regarding the construction of the new hospital. It is my understanding, if I read the budget correctly, that we budgeted $14 million in the present fiscal year for construction of the hospital. I understand this is the budget for items such as design, clearance of the site and commencement of construction. Could the Minister inform the House how much has been budgeted, out of the $14 million, for the site clearance and the commencement of construction?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Member is correct in his analysis of the various phases that will be funded by this years budget. I do not have a breakdown of those figures. I would have to get back to the Member in the form of a legislative return.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding that the Ministers officers would be preparing cashflow and workflow charts or statements for this project. Is the Minister in a position to table the cashflow and workflow charts?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for the question. Yes, my understanding is that workflow charts are being developed. I do not think they are all completed yet. Definitely, I know they are ready for the first years construction, and I believe the balance is nearing the final stages of completion.
Mr. Cable: It would be the first years charts I would be interested in. Could the Minister indicate when the site-clearing contracts will be let?
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding is that we are very reluctant to commit ourselves to a certain date, as we are finalizing the plans right now. The last thing we want to do is announce a date, then find we have to delay it by a few weeks. It will probably be sometime in August.
Question re: Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century
Mr. Penikett: In exchanges in this House, the Government Leader has confirmed that the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document, which has formed the basis for a series of discussions between the Yukon government and federal Ministers, was put together very quickly, based on Yukon Party consultations with party members and the Chamber of Mines.
Four months have elapsed since the document - the Yukon Party governments only formal statement of a guiding economic policy - was issued. During that time, were any attempts at all made to sit down with Yukon First Nations to talk about its contents prior to last week, especially given the Yukon Partys strong commitment to consultation with aboriginal people made during last falls election campaign and repeated many times since in this House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member opposite knows, the agenda has been full for the First Nations and for the government in trying to finalize the land claims process. This party is committed to consulting with First Nations people and we will continue to remain committed.
Mr. Penikett: The Chair of the Council of Yukon Indians has issued a letter criticizing the Yukon Party government for acting in this economic field in a way that contradicts the spirit of the land claims agreements, and taking action without consultation.
May I ask the Minister this: in comments published in the local media, the Hon. Tom Siddon, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, has made it quite clear that in order to be seriously considered by the federal government, funding requests for major economic development and infrastructure processes will have to enjoy the support of the First Nations, as well as mining and other economic interests.
Is the Government Leader prepared to make a commitment to consult thoroughly with major stakeholders such as Yukon First Nations and other economic environment and social interests before formally adopting policy positions that now appear to be at odds both with their interests and with the Yukon Economic and Conservation strategies, both of which are legislatively based, consensus statements of the people of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Once we have developed a program that we know is going ahead in the near future, we certainly will involve all stakeholders. We will sit down and consult with stakeholders to put together the final plan.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader took this document to the Government of Canada - a document that has been criticized as being weak in policy and weak on consultation with First Nations. The Government Leader also said that the document was intended to pry some money out of the federal government.
Can the Government Leader tell us if any serious attempts were made before last Fridays meeting with Mr. Siddon to improve the document by revising it to conform with the goals established by the Economic Strategy, which is monitored by the Council on the Economy and the Environment and in which the Council for Yukon Indians and other stakeholders are represented. Did the government do any further review or improvements since the document was first tabled?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We said in this Legislature that the document is a vision for economic development in the Yukon. I think that for the short time we have been in power we have a better record of consultation than the Members opposite while they were in power. The previous government negotiated the Northern Accord without consulting First Nations.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, tender documents
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The tendering for the new hospital is scheduled to happen maybe in November, but I have also heard December, and the summary of capital projects claims that tender documents will be ready in September, and a few moments ago the Minister responsible for Government Services said something about August.
Will the Minister of Health and Social Services tell this House when the tender documents are scheduled to be ready for the construction of the new hospital and when they will be approved?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As soon as it is possible, given the caveat that they have to be in the very final form. We do not want to repeat the mistakes that were made so often by the other side whereby the tendering process was very poorly handled; the documents were incomplete and the scope of projects was changed during construction - I could name all kinds of projects if I am called upon to do so.
Ms. Moorcroft: It surprises me that the Minister does not have a schedule for this major construction project.
Since the Minister is on the record saying that he has serious concerns about winter construction generally and that it is not the most cost-effective way of building, will he tell us if he has changed his mind or has there been some technological innovation that now makes building in the winter an economically sound idea?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am afraid the hon. Member displays her ignorance about large-scope development. This is a project that is going to be continuing for about three years, from start to finish. The studies that have been done show that operating through the winter is less expensive than stopping and starting and stopping and starting.
Ms. Moorcroft: The earliest we can hope to see the building of the hospital commence seems now to be some time late in 1993 or early in 1994. The government has had five months to look at the documents and to look at the preliminary plans that were already prepared. I would like to ask the Minister if the $8.7 million allocated for the 1993 building season will lapse after December 31, and how does the Minister plan to handle the funding into the new fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The entire project will have a start date, and that start date will be as soon as the tender documents are approved and are in final form to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders. Once that hospital starts, it is not going to shut down until the construction is completed.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, construction
Ms. Moorcroft: My second question is also for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Is the government planning to be the project manager on this project, and will there be preference given to Yukon contractors?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, Government Services will be the project manager for the project, and yes, the business incentive policy will apply to this project.
Ms. Moorcroft: The budget estimates a cost of $14 million for the current phase of the hospital construction; however, in the summary of capital Iprojects document, the total estimated cost adds up to only $9.9 million. Could the Minister tell us why his department has budgeted for $14 million, but is only planning to spend $9.9 million?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We know what the hospital is going to cost. What is at issue is simply the startup date. If there is some discrepancy in the figures as to how much it is anticipated will be spent by March 31 of next year, that simply reflects some uncertainty as to the actual startup date of the hospital. The hospital construction, once it starts, will continue until it is completed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Given that the numbers do not add up and that we do not know exactly how much they are going to be spending in the current year, or when they are going to be able to get started, perhaps I will again ask the question that did not get answered earlier. Will the money allocated for the 1993 building season lapse after December 31, and how will the Minister plan to handle the funding into the next fiscal year, if it does?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member should be advised that the fiscal year is from April 1 until March 31. That is the year that we are speaking of. I believe that the Leader of the Official Opposition wanted to get on the record, if his House Leader would not mind.
Speaker: He will have an opportunity to ask questions.
Question re: Land claims, land selection within Whitehorse
Mr. McDonald: This is a question for the Minister responsible for land claims. This morning on the radio, a representative of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation expressed severe frustration with the governments practice of alienating land and the promise of developing more land in Whitehorse this summer, prior to serious negotiations on the First Nations community land selections. Can the Government Leader indicate why he does not ask the negotiators to meet with the First Nation, and indeed to speed up negotiations so that their interests are protected, and some land development may also take place.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Perhaps the Member opposite should be asking their NDP mole over there, who at one time was the chief negotiator for the Government of the Yukon. He now seems to be wearing another hat and seems to be feeding questions to the Opposition.
My understanding is that the negotiators and the Kwanlin Dun met this morning.
Mr. McDonald: My mole was the CBC radio, to which I was listening prior to 7:30 this morning, and Pat Joe, an ex-Conservative candidate, was complaining about this government.
The Kwanlin Dun Band has expressed real interest in resolving community land selections and the Government Leader has already indicated that they are prepared to slow down development in order to accommodate those community land selections. Is he prepared to do what he can to speed up negotiations so that the community land selections can come to a fruitful conclusion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There must be a misunderstanding on my part. I thought the mole was the one seen leaving the NDP offices yesterday morning. I thought that was the mole we were talking about.
The fact remains that the First Nation, the Kwanlin Dun, was asked to go back to look at the maps and see if they could come back with a more balanced set of maps so that negotiations could proceed. Once we get that set of balanced maps, we will be moving ahead with negotiations.
Mr. McDonald: I will use my mole, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for my next question. It is all information that comes secretly to me through my radio in the mornings.
The Government Leader has indicated in the past that he wants balanced land selections. Apparently, the Kwanlin Dun only know that the government dislikes their selections through the media. Will the government schedule negotiations so that the negotiators can explain precisely what the government considers to be balanced? The Government Leader has already indicated in the House that he is not prepared to discuss what he means by balanced in the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite did not listen very well to his mole this morning, if it was the CBC, because the person representing the Kwanlin Dun stated quite clearly that they were told that the government wanted to see a more balanced selection of land. Their mole said it this morning. The fact remains that the maps have been changed dramatically since the Kwanlin Dun sought some different advice, and that until such a time as they have a better selection of land, we cannot proceed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. I would like all Members to allow the Member for Riverdale South to ask her question.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School replacement
Mrs. Firth: I have a constituency question for the Minister of Education. The residents in Riverdale have been very patient, waiting for their turn to have a new school built to replace the trailer units that have served, for many years, as Grey Mountain Primary School. It was to be their turn in this budget year, yet there is only $100,000 identified in the budget for Grey Mountain Primary School.
Could the Minister explain why there is only this $100,000 in the budget and why this school has been cancelled?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for Riverdale South for the question. The reason there is only $100,000 in the budget this year is because there was $58 million more spent last year than the Government of the Yukon took in; therefore, we are under severe budget constraints this year, and we had to downsize. Some projects were postponed for a year. We decided that Grey Mountain Primary is one of the major projects that we could not phase. The decision was made not to proceed with Grey Mountain Primary this year, and to postpone it for a year.
Mrs. Firth: This Member pretended to support the new school and pretended to be concerned about the school, and he even sang the school song. Now, the school is cancelled.
I could find $3.5 million for the government to build that new school. All they have to do is cancel the community development fund. Will the Minister make representation to his colleagues that the people in Riverdale deserve this school, it cannot be postponed, it is no one elses fault, and they will proceed with the construction of that school?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The budget we have before us is a very balanced budget, serving all communities. The community development fund is a very important fund for the small communities out there, whether the Member for Riverdale South realizes it or not.
Prior to the budget, I met with the Grey Mountain Primary School council. I have talked with them since, and advised them that the Grey Mountain Primary will not be going ahead this year. They were not particularly happy about it, but I am just as committed to that school as I was before. The problem is that the previous government spent $58 million more than they took in. The government is broke, and we had to priorize our projects this year. We have postponed that job for one year.
Mrs. Firth: It would be encouraging to the Yukon public if we heard one new, refreshing idea from the Members opposite - one new, refreshing way to set priorities. I would like to ask the Minister, if he still supports this, why Grey Mountain Primary School is so low on their list of priorities that they cannot get to it this year. I am sure we could find the money and get to it if we really tried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I should remind the Minister, and all Members of this House, that students who go to Grey Mountain Primary are in my riding as well as in her riding, and I am just as concerned as I always have been about Grey Mountain Primary and the new school, when we are going to build a new school there. If the previous government had designed decent schools in this territory and not built a school up the hill, the Elijah Smith School, at almost twice the cost of other schools, we would have the $3 million to build the Grey Mountain Primary. We are doing the best we can with the money we have to work with in this budget.
Question re: Forestry, raw log exports
Mr. Harding: A half billion a year is not enough for the Minister of Education.
Speaker: I hope the Member for Faros question is to the Minister of Education about the Grey Mountain Primary School, if that is his preamble.
Mr. Harding: Actually, the question is not for the Minister of Education. It was a bit of a mistake I made there, and the question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
The federal transfer negotiations are currently underway for forestry. I would like to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources what is the policy of the Yukon government regarding raw log exports.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a policy now being prepared and it will go before Cabinet this week.
Mr. Harding: I am glad to hear that because, during the election campaign, the Yukon Party, in their four-year plan, which was the be-all and end-all of election promise propaganda, promised to eliminate raw log exports. I would like to ask the Minister: does the proposal going before Cabinet contain a move to eliminate raw log exports as promised?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I cannot comment on anything that is going before Cabinet.
Mr. Harding: I really appreciate the consultation in here today, the openness of the new government regarding their policies. I would like to ask the Minister, once again - the Minister responsible for real Yukoners - whether or not the government is going to follow through on their election promise to eliminate raw log exports and will their policy now contain a move to eliminate raw log exports from the Yukon Territory, as promised in the election campaign?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will not make any comments on anything that I am taking before Cabinet until it has gone through Cabinet.
Question re: Abattoir and vegetable storage facility site
Mr. Cable: Yesterday, I put some questions to the Minister of Renewable Resources as to the role that the government would play in relation to a vegetable storage facility. The Minister responded that there were some land problems that they were trying to deal with.
I understand that the agricultural community has been interested in lands at the corner of the Hot Springs and Mayo roads. Could the Minister confirm that it is his understanding that those are the lands that the agricultural community is proposing for use as the abattoir and the vegetable storage facility?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is the preferred site; however, if we cannot get that land we will have to look at two other available options.
Mr. Cable: I understand that those lands are owned by the federal government. Is the Minister aware of why the federal government is so reticent to hand those lands over to the agricultural community?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have written numerous letters and I have made numerous phone calls; if I had the answer to that question, we would have the land.
Mr. Cable: It does not exactly answer the question.
Has the Minister actually spoken to the relevant federal Minister with respect to those lands and why they are not being turned over to the Yukon government for administration?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have written to the Minister three times and we have talked to his assistant probably 10 to 15 times. Not only have we been speaking with the Minister and his assistant, but the Yukon Agricultural Association has been speaking with the Ministers office as well. We have done everything that we can to put pressure on the federal government. We do not know why there is a holdup on this.
Question re: Dawson water and sewer system
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services.
Municipal councils are required to prepare and adopt annual operational budgets by April 15 of each year. The Dawson City municipal operation budget was, to some extent, dependent upon negotiations on water and sewer problems, which took place between municipal representatives and officials of the Department of Community and Transportation services during the week of April 7, when I asked about the Dawson City water and sewage problems.
Has Dawson City adopted its operational budget or has the Minister approved an extension and, if so, what day has he approved the extension to?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The City of Dawson, as of last week, had not adopted their budget but we gave them an extension. I cannot remember what date we have granted the extension to, but an extension has been provided for them.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps the Minister could give us some idea as to the extent of the extension.
I would also like to ask if the delay and the need for an extension in submitting the operational budget indicate that talks between the city and the department have not been successfully resolved?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was a meeting yesterday morning between the department and city officials and I have not been fully briefed on the extent of that meeting but I understand that they are very close to reaching a resolution on the issue.
Mr. Harding: Since the Minister could not give us the exact resolution of the problem, could the Minister advise as to what mandate he has given the officials to negotiate an agreement that will provide relief to the Dawson City water and sewer ratepayers and honour the election promises made by the Yukon Party?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not at liberty to discuss the actual amount of money in the negotiations. The scope of the project, cost sharing and a certain amount of money were the scope of the negotiations.
Question re: Fuel oil tax exemptions
Mr. Penikett: I have another question for the Government Leader, who I understand from reports of a television show last night, loves Question Period.
On April 1, the Government Leader gave a ministerial statement outlining his intention to exempt off-highway recreation vehicles from the Fuel Oil Tax Act, during which time he said, I would just like to say that this will be of tremendous benefit to people in places like Old Crow.... Can the Government Leader explain how this will be done?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding now is that Old Crow already gets relief from taxes. Areas like Pelly, where there is extensive use of boats and off-highway vehicles, will benefit from the exemptions.
Mr. Penikett: So the Government Leader is confirming that his statement on April 1 was something in the form of an April Fools joke, since it appears the tax exemption was not a tax exemption at all since he knows that no tax is paid to the territorial government on any fuel going into Old Crow. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that they do not pay taxes in Old Crow but it affects every other First Nation.
Mr. Penikett: Given that it is customary before the ministerial statement is made in this House for the government to spend some time consulting with the Department of Finance about the statement - and the highly paid advisors like Mr. Drown will go over the statement to ensure that there are no inaccuracies - can the Government Leader explain how it is he made a statement promising tremendous benefit to the people of Old Crow, on April 1, when in fact there is no benefit whatsoever?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think I said in the preamble, or during debate on the question - it may not be in the quoted text - that this benefit will apply to all First Nations people; the fact remains that it will.
Question re: Formula Financing Agreement review
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on that question, but I am still waiting for an answer. I would like to pose another question to the Minister of Finance. As section 13 of the Formula Financing Agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada necessitates a review of the agreement in the 1993-94 fiscal year, I would like to ask the Minister of Finance what direction he will be giving to his officials concerning the current agreement and future agreements?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for the question. I believe the Member is fully aware that we are not happy with the Formula Financing Agreement in its present form, and we are looking to get some relief from the perversity factor, as well as the gross domestic product cap.
Mrs. Firth: I do not believe that there has been a promise of any relief made. I would like to ask the Minister very specifically what role he will be taking in these negotiations. Will he be negotiating personally with the federal bureaucrats, or will he be negotiating at the political level with the politicians in Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Any negotiations that go on with the bureaucrats will be done by our staff here. I will be talking to the political people in Ottawa.
Mrs. Firth: However, the Minister has not proven that that is the approach he has taken yet, because the Minister spoke to the bureaucrats office regarding the tax bill and I spoke to the political office. I would like the Minister to give us some reassurance that he will be dealing at the political level and not relying on the bureaucrats to tell him what to do. I would like to ask the Minister if he will at this time inform the House of any new ideas or new suggestions he will be presenting to the federal government at the political level, regarding some of the complexities of that Formula Financing Agreement. In other words, does he have any new ideas to offer to them and could he share those with Yukoners today?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The preamble that the Member opposite made is simply not true. I have been in touch with the Ministers political office on four or five occasions in the last week, as late as two hours ago. When I have anything more to share with the House on the perversity factor negotiations, I will be happy to bring it back to this House.
Question re: McLean Lake zoning
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, on behalf of my constituents in the McLean Lake area. As everybody in the House knows, the City of Whitehorse wants to amend the official community plan for the area from open-space country residential, to urban residential. The Minister has publicly suggested to the mayor that the official community plan designate the land as residential, with a further breakdown to urban or rural, provided by a zoning bylaw. Has the Minister had a response from the mayor to his letter on this question, which I think was sent in January 1993?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We did have one meeting with the mayor, the CAO and one of the councillors since that letter. They were going to be providing a new bylaw to my office for review. I have not received that bylaw as yet.
Mr. Penikett: We have been dependent on press reports about the Ministers intentions in this area. I wonder if he might soon indicate how he plans to follow up on this issue and whether or not he plans any meetings with the McLean Lake area residents to discuss his proposals?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If there will be any change to the current zoning that will affect the lifestyle of the McLean Lake residents, I will consult with those residents before I proceed.
Mr. Penikett: Could I ask the Minister if he is aware if any of the new land selections by the Kwanlin Dun Band impact on the citys plans in this area and whether or not he has had the opportunity to discuss this with the city?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am aware that the latest land selections will have some impact on the city plans for that particular area, but I have not discussed it with the city.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Government Private Members Business
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the order in which the items standing in the name of the government private Members are to be called on Wednesday, April 21. They are: Motion No. 35, standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwichin; Motion No. 29, standing in the name of the Member for Klondike; and, Motion No. 30, standing in the name of the Member for Klondike.
Speaker: We will proceed to Orders of the Day
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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. Is it the wish of the Members to have a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will have a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4: - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Community and Transportation Services on page 20. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Penikett: I would like to follow up a little bit with the Minister on a question I asked today in Question Period about the Squatters Row zoning. Earlier in the year, the Minister made some indication of his general policy direction, and I commend him for taking that initiative. Today, or some time soon, could he take some time, either in Committee or in the House, to elaborate a bit on what he has in mind? When I talk to my constituents in this area, while they were pleased to see the Minister taking some steps, nobody was completely clear about all the implications of what the Minister was proposing and whether it was a live option or just an idea the Minister had floated on the day he happened to be talking to the media.
Could he elaborate a bit?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What I had suggested to the City of Whitehorse was, in the official community plan for that whole area - from Hamilton Boulevard in Granger right around to the South Access Road - to designate the area as residential. Then, in the zoning bylaws that would be developed for the area, country residential and urban residential could be differentiated.
That way, neither the country residential nor the urban residential would be in conflict with the overall official community plan. I would like to say that I thought of that but I did not; one of our employees in the Department of Justice thought of it.
When I looked at the suggestion and thought about it, it seemed to me that it would allay the fears of the residents in the McLean Lake area who are worried - even though their particular lots are zoned as country residential - that if their lots were classified as urban residential in the official community plan, over a period of time they could become alienated.
Personally, I thought it was a real good out and I suggested it to the City of Whitehorse. I understand that they are looking at variations of it. They did not totally reject the idea, but they were not too thrilled with the idea either.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask the Minister a couple of other general questions about this topic.
First, I would like to know the Ministers view of the ground conditions in the area, in terms of the suitability for high density housing. As the Minister knows, the residents of the area are of the view that the rocky and hilly terrain in that area is better suited for country residential than for urban residential. I would like to know the Ministers view, from his experience in the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Second, I would be interested to know the Ministers general approach in a situation like the McLean Lake area, where a neighbourhood, which the Minister has described as having a unique character and distinct lifestyle, has one view about what should happen to their neighbourhood, and on the other hand the view of City Hall, which has a very different view of what should happen to the neighbourhood.
There is a problem in the City of Whitehorse. Because it does not have a ward system, there is no city councillor who lives in or represents that particular area. I know that has been true of many parts of my constituency in the past; they have felt alienated from City Hall or felt that there was no member on city council to whom they could speak to about their views.
Oftentimes I think that is why the MLA or the Minister have been asked to get involved in issues that in other jurisdictions would be largely a municipal concern.
Could I ask the Minister my second question? As a general proposition, what does he think is his role in protecting the interests of small neighbourhoods like those in the McLean Lake area, or balancing the interests of the people in the McLean Lake area, with the predominant and overwhelming weight and power of the view of City Hall?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I will answer the second part of that question first, as to what I perceive as the role of the Minister. If someone believes in local control and local government, then I think that the senior government should be seen as the people who essentially provide the authority for the second level of government, and in fact, act more as a watchdog to ensure that that level, whether it be the municipal form of government, conducts itself in a legal and responsible manner.
I personally do not feel that ministerial signature on a bylaw is licence for the Minister to reject the bylaw, unless it is for legal means. I think that when the power, or authority, is provided in an act for a municipality to take an action, then that municipality should be able to take that action and our job at that time is one of making sure that what they do is done legally. If there are processes involved, it must be ensured that the processes are followed to the letter of the law.
With respect to the McLean Lake area and the ground conditions, I have seen a lot of written documentation prepared by some of the residents there. I have seen written documentation prepared by the City of Whitehorse. I do not believe for one minute that we should be requiring a municipality to go into detailed site investigation on a particular area, when it is only being designated in the official community plan. A community plan is a long-term look at what the municipality would like to see for a specific area.
The reason why I would not sign the bylaw, when it came to me after I took this office, was because the previous Minister had refused to sign it and, when I checked with some legal people, I found that I could be challenged, and likely successfully challenged, if I would have signed the bylaw after the previous Minister had refused to do so. That was the reason I tried to find some other way for the city and the people in McLean Lake to resolve their differences.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate what the Minister is saying. I wonder if I could press him on one point, though, of policy - and that is his approach or perspective on rural neighbourhoods within this large area we call the City of Whitehorse. As he will know, there are lots of rural communities and rural groups in the territory who can feel alienated quite easily from the senior, territorial government; but he, I suspect, knows that this also can happen very easily in the city.
In the Legislature here, Members who represent rural districts will often be able to ask questions and make representations on behalf of their rural constituents. That is not the case at city hall. I am a former member of that council, which predominantly includes people from Riverdale, sometimes people from Porter Creek and occasionally someone from downtown. In my memory of the last 20 years, I think there have been only two people elected from the old territorial constituency of Whitehorse West, which was the most populous constituency in the city but it only had two people ever elected to council in those 20 years. The problem is that they are in the at-large system, which operates the city council; the most heavily populated areas will usually provide all the councillors for the city, so areas like McLean Lake, Mary Lake and Wolf Creek will often feel quite aggrieved at decisions made at city hall and feel quite frustrated that they have had no input into them - even if they go and make a delegation, as former constituents of mine at Pineridge did. They often feel they have a hard time getting heard. I do not suppose the Minister will be surprised to learn that even people who live in a pretty sophisticated neighbourhood, like Hillcrest, sometimes get frustrated with City Hall.
I am sure the same kind of feeling exists in MacPherson or other kinds of neighborhoods where people live in a country-residential setting.
In the absence of a ward system in Whitehorse, does the Minister not feel there is some role for the Minister to provide a little bit of a counterweight to the power of City Hall when considering the interests of areas in which there is only a small population or a rural pocket within the city boundaries? Has he thought about it and developed his own personal philosophy about it? Has he, in the period under discussion, had any reason to make any policy changes in that respect?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The ward system, as the Member opposite is aware, is provided for under the Municipal Act. There are two schools of thought on it. In larger cities in the United States, where there is a ward system, a representative can become very powerful on city council and start to try to provide services or other benefits principally for that wards citizens. It can become somewhat lopsided.
I am not saying that the ward system is not good. I have seen the city council of Whitehorse being accused of only representing Riverdale, and some such things, so I am not saying that a ward system is the way to go or is not the way to go. I think it depends on the residents of a particular city. If the residents of the city felt strongly enough that the outlying areas that the Member has mentioned - McPherson, Mary Lake and so on - are not getting representation, they should be trying to put a candidate forward who does reside in the rural areas. Right now, there is a city councillor who does reside in MacPherson.
As for the senior government getting involved in municipal decisions, I do not believe there is anything wrong with people working in the department providing advice to the CAO and/or mayor and council if the department person can see that something may be going awry or is dealt with unfairly, and it is up to the department to make sure that they understand the actions they are contemplating.
For the Minister to have veto power over the city council, I do not believe is in the best interest of any type of democracy. I believe the Municipal Act allows enough leeway for the Minister-of-the-day to interpret certain sections to mean that he does have veto power, or he can interpret it to mean that he is there merely to see that things are done legally and with due process.
My own personal feeling is that I am there to ensure that all the legalities are looked after.
Mr. Penikett: I would love to have an opportunity to debate ward systems with the Minister, or even the soundness of some of the principles in the Municipal Act. I can only say that I have strong personal feelings about some of these, but I do not think I want to take the time of the Committee to do that now.
I would only put two thoughts on the record on this subject.
With respect, the Minister did not answer my question directly, so I will put it again in a different way. The argument that is made against the ward heeler in the United States big cities is not a particularly effective one. If you think about the logic of it, an identical argument could be made against the territorial Legislature, notwithstanding the fact that, occasionally, the one or two mean-minded people in this House make accusations that something was done for a constituency or a Ministers constituency, rather than something else.
It is not a view that people in government want to make with any regularity. You could make pretty convincing arguments that most of the responsible Cabinets in this territory - certainly in my time, anyway - have been concerned about the welfare of the whole territory, while MLAs, especially those not in Cabinet, have a duty to represent their constituencies, while being mindful of the public interest of the whole territory.
The better argument against the ward system is the one that is made in municipal councils in places like Vancouver, that municipal counsellors are there to represent the whole city and, therefore, you should continue to elect them on an at-large system. I know the Minister will see the obvious immediately that, if you had such an argument being made about the territorial Legislature, and such a view operated - and it used to in some legislatures in North America - it is likely that all the Members of the Legislature would come from Whitehorse because, if you have two-thirds of the population in one place, and you have an at-large system, it is likely that people from rural areas would not get elected.
That is the problem at City Hall. The Member talks about Kathy Watson, who is an excellent counsellor and a very able person, who happens to live in MacPherson, but I do not think she ran on a platform of representing the interests of the people of MacPherson.
The problem is that putting up candidates is not an answer. If everybody is representing the whole city, then nobody may be representing the individual neighbourhoods.
I do not want to belabour this, but I want to ask the Minister, in a very general way, if he does not think there is, from time to time, a role for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to play in offsetting, or providing a bit of a counterweight, when some neighbourhood - particularly the smaller neighbourhoods in a city like this - may be having a real struggle with City Hall, and trouble getting heard. Is there not a role for the Minister not to wade in on the side of the little neighbourhood, but to make sure that they are being dealt with fairly?
I just put the question in the gentlest way to the Minister. If he could answer that, I just have one other subject that I want to move on to.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I kind of thought I had answered that. I can certainly see the Minister, or the department representing the Minister, making a city council, or any municipal council, aware of certain concerns that maybe the residents of a particular area have. Maybe it is glossed over for some reason by City Hall. I can certainly see the Ministers job as helping the council see those actual problems. Again, I have to go back to what I stated earlier. I do not believe that the Minister should use his authority as veto power over an action taken by the city.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister. I will leave the point there. I would only ask the Minister to indulge me and be patient if I want to come back to the issue. I continue to have constituents who are concerned on this point.
I want to move to another issue that came up in the last year. If I may, I would like to give the Minister some background. During a period last fall when I was going around talking to a lot of my constituents in Granger, I discovered a number of people who were quite mad at the Department of Community and Transportation Services over the issue of surveys and survey pegs. I wrote to the department on behalf of one constituent and got a reply from the department, which I appreciated, but the reply was a bit bureaucratic. I made the mistake of sending it out to my constituent and then lost their vote.
The problem is this. I will not go into all the details. The problem is that in a new subdivision, like Granger, the department has done a survey of the lots. The cost of that survey is included in the price of the lots. It is in the nature of new urban residential subdivisions that even if you are very careful about the survey pegs when you are building your house, when the contractor comes in to build your neighbours house, they sometimes get knocked down or disappear altogether. For example, I had a constituent who, as a result, had to do a whole new survey himself, at a cost of some $450. Then someone else who was subsequently faced with the prospect, for reasons beyond their control, of having to sell their property, discovered that following the government survey and their own survey, someone else had built there and probably knocked out pegs. They had to have it resurveyed before they could resell the property - at great cost to them.
The Minister may be an expert on this subject; if he is not, he may want to get back to me on it. There is a feeling among my constituents that the department is not very sympathetic about the problems that are caused for constituents in regard to survey posts. Ordinary residents have a burden because, through no fault of their own, construction activity around them, either by the government in developing roads or sidewalks, or by neighbours in building houses, causes survey pegs to be moved or lost. Since a survey costs a significant amount of money, they end up having to pay this cost, and the departments view is fairly firm that they will not accept any responsibility when this happens.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would have to side with the department in this particular case. When an individual buys a piece of property it is their responsibility to ensure that anything on the property they have purchased is within the property lines.
I know what the Member opposite is talking about. It has happened to me. It is frustrating for someone who buys a piece of property to see all four pegs and then, after the services such as water, sewer and streets are put in, the survey pegs are gone. Usually the onus is on the buyer. If one buys a piece of property in Riverdale now it is a matter of course that a survey has to be completed.
It is unfortunate when it happens to a new lot. If one sells it a few years later, a survey is still needed. I do not think the department could be held responsible for maintaining the pegs. I think that it is the property owners responsibility to ensure the pegs are not removed, although I do not know how the home owner could stay home and watch the various people who deliver the services, to ensure that the pegs are not removed. I do not really see a policy change while I am sitting in this office.
Mr. Penikett: If the Minister were presented with a case where there was clear evidence that a municipal or territorial contractor had been responsible for knocking out pegs, would his view still be as firm that it was the property owners responsibility? Does he know if the Department of Community and Transportation Services has obtained legal advice that confirmed that view?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of any legal advice to the department. There may be some specific instance that the Member is referring to, but I certainly am not aware of it.
I believe that if a territorial contractor either admits to, or has been seen by witnesses, removing a peg, I believe there are some legal ramifications for doing so. It is that particular contractors responsibility to have those pegs replaced in the proper location, which means another survey.
I am not aware of any specific case, nor am I aware of any legal opinion that the department may have received.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a few things to go back to after reviewing Hansard yesterday, and also some issues that I have not questioned the Minister on yet.
I would like to start out by returning to employment equity. I asked the Minister if he could table a plan for achieving the goals of the employment equity program within the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
I would like to ask the Minister what range of occupations and what range of salary levels for First Nations, people with disabilities and women are employed within the department.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Maybe I did not understand or hear the question correctly.
Was the Member looking for a list of all the positions that are in the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the salary ranges for the positions; is that what I am being asked?
Ms. Moorcroft: I will clarify my question for the Minister. Within the context of the employment equity statistics for the Department of Community and Transportation Services, I would like to see a breakdown on the range of occupations and salary levels that First Nations, people with disabilities and women are employed in.
I am trying to find out whether there is room to improve the access to higher level positions for First Nations and for women. It is one thing to say, Well, in our department we are doing very well; 52 percent of the workforce are women, the same as the general population, and 36 percent of the workforce are First Nations, the same as the general population. However, when you break down the various salary ranges, women hold the majority of positions in pay ranges under $40,000 and men hold the majority of positions with pay ranges over $60,000 per year; it gives you a different picture.
I am asking for that break down within the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The information the Member opposite wants would take a tremendous amount of effort on the part of someone in the department. As far as I am aware, those figures are available from the Public Service Commission, but I do not know if they are broken down into each department. Perhaps there is some other way we can do this, other than to ask somebody to spend days and days compiling all these figures. There are over 500 jobs in Community and Transportation Services and, as far as I am aware, any one of them could be available for people from the First Nations group, women or, in most cases - there may be some that are not - they are probably available for disabled people. To actually break it down and get age differences and salary differences and that sort of thing, and whether they are First Nations, or a band member, is a tremendous amount of work the Member opposite is asking of the department.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, the Minister was referring to a document that was, I believe, dated September of 1991, which was a personnel summary with exactly that kind of a breakdown. I am not asking for each individual occupation and each individual salary level. In order for the Public Service Commission to compile that information, they would have to have each department submit that information. What I am asking is: since this government is committed to employment equity as a corporate goal, is the Minister prepared to bring me that information and current information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the latest information, or the information the Member opposite is referring to, is in the February 1991 copy of The Sluice Box. Again, this is government-wide information. It contains gender, racial origin, education levels, and that sort of thing. I am not sure if that information is readily available in the department. I understand this was not continued in 1992-93, so if the 1991 information is still available, I could ask for it. However, I really have a difficult time asking the department to compile that for the Members information, if it is not readily available. If it was not a government initiative in 1992-93, it may not be easily accessible.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps I could help here. Both Members may be unaware of the previous governments policy with respect to employment equity and the requirement for departments to produce an employment equity plan with annual updates.
The Minister will quickly discover that the Department of Community and Transportation Services, like other departments, has submitted such a plan. That plan has an integral component, which is to provide baseline information as to how women, First Nations people and disabled persons fare in the attainment of certain jobs in the department. I am sure he will find that the sort of information the Member for Mount Lorne is asking for is available.
Depending on the timing for the departments update on the employment equity plan, it could be relatively current. I believe the department has to respond by the fall of each year. I am certain that, by the fall of last year, there was information that provided a demographic analysis as to where women, First Nations and disabled persons are placed within the employment groups within the department.
I remember seeing such a plan myself when I was with the Public Service Commission. It showed, for example, that First Nations individuals in the Department of Community and Transportation Services are found predominantly in the highways branch in the camps. While the Department of Community and Transportation Services has, overall, a record that is much better than other departments in hiring First Nations people, those persons are found largely within the lower levels of the highways maintenance personnel.
It is useful baseline information to determine, over a period of time - and certainly over the next 10 years or so, as recruitment practices are refined - how well each department and the overall government is doing in hiring minority interests into jobs, not only as a certain percentage of jobs within departments, but also at the various job classification levels. Without that kind of information, an employment equity policy would be very difficult to assess. Certainly, its performance would be difficult to assess over time. I think the Minister will find that information is available. I cannot remember how current the information is.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding of the employment equity plan for the Yukon government is that it will be compiled either toward the end of this month or early in May. There will be information coming from Community and Transportation Services that goes into the overall employment equity plan for the Yukon government. When that becomes available, I could provide it for the Member opposite, once it has cleared Cabinet, and so on; however, I am not sure that will provide all the answers she wants. If that will be sufficient, I will be glad to provide it as soon as it is available.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yes. I would like to get the demographic analysis from the Minister that is conducted by the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and by all departments, under the employment equity plan.
Is Community and Transportation Services using innovative recruitment methods to better include the representation of our aboriginal population, women, and people with disabilities within the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure what the Member opposite means by innovative recruitment methods. I have seen ads that state that the department is an equal-opportunity employer. I am not exactly sure what the Member means by the word innovative.
Ms. Moorcroft: One example is the advertising methods the department can use. I would suggest that, when the department advertises, it could say employment equity considerations may apply on the ad. The department could further advertise what that means. It means that we are trying to achieve a goal of a representative public service.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have seen ads from the Department of Community and Transportation Services that do not read all that different from what the Member has suggested. I would see no need or reason to change that.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister confirm that he would give direction to the department to use that language in their advertising?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Not necessarily that language, but something similar to it. I believe that the Yukon government uses some specific wording with respect to employment equity. As I said, I see no reason to change it. The policy is there and I would see no reason to have it changed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Minister had a chance to review the employment equity plan for the department and can he elaborate any further today on the staff training and career development available for First Nations people, women and people with disabilities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I have not had an opportunity to review the plan. I am not sure if it is fully compiled or when it is due to go to Cabinet or to the Public Service Commission.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that there is a plan already prepared for the department. Also, I would ask the Minister if he can come back with information about bridging positions and about positions where there are shadowing or internships available.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have indicated to the Member that I will. When the employment equity plan is available and it has been approved by whatever committees it needs to be approved by, I will ensure she gets a copy of it. If she is asking for more than that plan, then I may have a difficult time providing that information to her.
Ms. Moorcroft: What I am asking is that the Minister have some familiarity with this issue. This has been a corporate goal of the Government of the Yukon. As a Minister responsible for a department that employs a large number of people, I would like him to be able to answer some questions.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe there is already an employment equity plan for the Department of Community and Transportation Services, so rather than coming back to me with a plan when it goes through committee and is approved by Cabinet, will the Minister please confirm whether or not there is an existing plan and, if there is, provide a copy to me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have made it very clear to the Member opposite that I will provide the plan. I said that I thought the thing would be ready around the end of April or the first part of May. It will go to committees and whatever other channels it has to go through. I will provide that for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the Minister tell me if he would support the practice of filling acting positions from competitions, which would be open to First Nations, people with disabilities and women in order to increase their participation in the Department of Community and Transportation Services workforce?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would have no problem supporting the inclusion of the employment equity group into acting positions. I believe that they already have the ability to apply and fill an acting position.
Ms. Moorcroft: Again, I will ask the Minister if he would support filling acting positions from competitions that are open to only those groups?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe in disallowing anyone from applying for positions within Yukon government. I certainly would support having people from the employment equity group apply and receive those jobs; I will not, as a specific policy within the Department of Community and Transportation Services, issue a directive that there will be positions open only to that group.
I am not saying that there may not be some initiative in the Government of Yukon that certain positions will be open to those groups, but I certainly am not going to say at this time that any acting position within the department has to be filled from the employment equity group.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is one measure that can increase the participation of the employment equity groups across the range of positions. The present practice admittedly does not disallow anyone from applying but, when one takes a look at the picture in The Sluice Box special edition of September 1991, one will see that there has been a practice of only one group achieving certain jobs - the higher paying jobs, for example - the management positions. The Minister talked yesterday about people in the department within the personnel area having taken cross-cultural awareness courses. I would like to ask him if personnel from the department have taken courses on harassment.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not absolutely certain. I believe that the Public Service Commission does put on some workshops or seminars on sexual harassment and what it actually entails. I am quite sure that a number of the people in Community and Transportation Services have taken it, but I do not have any numbers available.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to move on and ask the Minister about departmental policy in order to make the workplace more hospitable. For example, if there are no womens washrooms in a grader station or a highway camp; or if men sleep in barracks and a woman sleeps in a tent; or, for example, if women are subjected to sexual or personal harassment; or if workers are subjected to racism: these make a workplace not hospitable and I would like to know what work the department is doing to promote respecful attitudes.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have been answering a lot of questions from the Member opposite, getting into areas that I am not totally familiar with, but in fact they have nothing to do with the supplementary budget - absolutely nothing. I will gladly answer any questions on the supplementary budget; in fact, I will try and answer the Members questions on other actions or initiatives of the Yukon government that affect Community and Transportation Services, but we are getting into other areas. The most recent question I was asked has nothing to do with the supplementary budget.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am asking questions about how the department operates and the employment of workers within that department. If the Minister prefers I will go back to an issue that he was talking about yesterday. The Minister indicated some awareness of training that has seen First Nations and women move from being labourers to heavy equipment operators.
Has the department provided training in communities for supervisory and management skills, to provide advancement potential for community employees in the last six months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Not that I am aware of.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps when we review the mains I will ask him about training in highway maintenance to raise the skill level of the community labour force so that we can increase the number of people employed from the communities.
The decentralization program has accomplished a lot. One of the main goals of it is to see economic enhancement for communities and community services - it increases the skilled community workforce. I would like to ask the Minister what has happened with decentralization from the period of November 30 to March 31?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Decentralization is an issue that has been dealt with by my colleague, the Minister of Government Services, and my other colleague, the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office. It is not in my area of expertise and I see no relationship between decentralization and the supplementary budget.
Mr. McDonald: We might have to engage the Minister a little bit here because there seems to be a pattern whereby the Minister is going to start refusing to answer questions about the last six months based upon his level of expertise. That might cut the discussion short but that is not necessarily the right thing to do.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services does make decisions with respect to the decentralization of staff. Questions have been asked in Question Period of the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office and that Minister has referred those questions to the line department Ministers, of which the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is one.
Consequently, questions about decentralization in Community and Transportation Services should be properly put to the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. If there are questions about government office space or government cars that may be used by public servants, we will have to restrict our questions to the Minister responsible for Government Services.
However, when it comes to decisions about particular personnel who may be decentralized from Whitehorse to communities from within the Department of Community and Transportation Services, that, according to the policy that has been in effect over the course of the past year, is the primary responsibility of the department itself. While we do not want to test the Ministers knowledge beyond what is reasonable, I think this line of questioning is absolutely germane to the subject matter.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have absolutely no problem responding to questions on decentralization of personnel within the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I would be happy to entertain questions in that light. I am not prepared to answer questions on the philosophy behind the whole idea of decentralization for the Yukon government.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said yesterday, on page 574 of Hansard, that the City of Whitehorse has secondary treatment for its sewage system. However, documents I have reviewed quite clearly indicate that the system, at present, is primary treatment. That was what was designed and built back in 1979. In 1986, the city got a water licence to upgrade to secondary treatment, but it has never built that upgrade. Instead, what we have today is an overloaded primary system that does not work. It rarely meets the primary licence requirements. This, in effect, means that poorly treated or untreated sewage effluent is going into the Yukon River.
Has the Minister had a chance to review the matter since we dealt with it yesterday and has any new information come to his attention since he made those comments to Committee yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Moorcroft: Regarding the Ministers comments on the location for a hazardous waste site, he clearly expressed a preference for the MacRae site, which has been selected. The City of Whitehorse has indicated that it prefers the landfill site. Has the Minister conveyed his views to the city, and what was their response?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, as a matter of fact, I have conveyed my views to the City of Whitehorse. I do not remember the exact comments but, as the Member is quite aware, the citys stand on the hazardous waste site is that it should be at the site of the City of Whitehorse landfill.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is this matter at an end now, or does the Minister believe that it will keep dragging on and going back and forth?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I indicated to the side opposite yesterday, the site that has been selected for the hazardous waste facility is the site that, barring some unknown information, will remain the site for the hazardous waste facility.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister indicated yesterday that he does not believe the Yukon is big enough for regional government, although this has been promoted by the City of Whitehorse. Can the Minister state whether he has responded to the citys notion of a regional government to deal with regional service issues like landfills, et cetera. If so, what was the response? If not, when does he plan to do so?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not received any request from the City of Whitehorse to investigate regional government for the Yukon Territory; none whatsoever.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, we were discussing a review of acts such as the Municipal Act, which relate to local governments in the territory. The Minister indicated that he was not sure about public input into the review process, other than that by municipalities. My concern with no public input is that municipalities may try to either increase powers, or delete provisions that exist to protect citizens from municipal councils. For example, if the municipalities were opposed to a ward system and they advocated that the provision be deleted out of the Municipal Act, where would citizens get a chance to say no?
I heard the Minister say that he has no intention of removing it from the act, but what if the municipalities argued for it? There could be many other examples of other types of powers that municipalities might want to increase or decrease. The issue is: where do average citizens, who may be interested in these matters, get a say?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The development of municipal-type legislation is normally not specifically referred to the public at large. That does not mean that members of the public could not avail themselves of the changes requested by the municipalities or the changes proposed by the Government of Yukon, but to do a large consultation on a change to the Municipal Act would be a very, very expensive proposition and would, in my experience, receive very, very little comment.
Having said that, if there are going to be major changes to a piece of legislation like the Municipal Act, then I would certainly make sure that the public was aware of them, that they could obtain copies of the proposed changes and that there would be a process for them to provide input. To actually travel around the territory trying to drum up business for a proposed change to the Municipal Act, would be probably meet with little success and little interest.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess that depends upon what kind of proposed changes to the Municipal Act you are talking about. Yesterday, we talked about resolutions that were passed by the Association of Yukon Communities. I know that the Minister has received correspondence regarding the desire of the city to expand and include areas presently outside of city limits, which may or may not be part of proposed changes to the Municipal Act.
Yesterday, the Minister talked about how a green paper might come forward regarding proposed amendments. Can we have the Ministers definite assurance that this process will be followed and that there will be some point of contact in the department, or perhaps hearings, public meetings or some avenue for the interested public to have input?
I know that my constituents in Mount Lorne, and I know that the Ministers constituents in Laberge, would have a great deal of interest in changes to the Municipal Act, considering that so many of them have been involved with meeting and corresponding with City Hall, signing petitions regarding fair taxes and talking about a ward system.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Members should be aware that I have never received any correspondence from the City of Whitehorse regarding change, or expansion, of boundaries. However, if there are any of those type of changes where you are talking wards - or if it were requested that the ward system be removed, or there were some change to the way that a municipality could expand its boundaries - there would definitely be a public consultation process entered into, and the public would be made aware of those types of changes.
There is one fairly major change to the Municipal Act that has been proposed for some time, and that is to the elections portion of the act. I believe that is what I would consider a major enough change that the public would be given the opportunity to be involved in the process.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know I forwarded copies of correspondence between counsellor Duke Connelly and me to the Minister, and there were letters going both ways. If he did not receive them, I will send him another copy. This correspondence was related to statements made at public meetings about the use of municipal facilities by people living outside the boundaries. We were discussing the resolution of the Association of Yukon Communities that dealt with that.
I appreciated hearing the Ministers views and comments on the fair tax petition that arose during Committee yesterday, and I have a couple of follow-up points to deal with. In regard to the issue of property taxes paying for services, or being a form of wealth tax, the Minister stated that taxes no longer represent the level of services provided to the property. I do not think that is right.
The Minister has direct control over tax rates outside municipalities, such as in much of my riding. Does he believe the tax rates in Mount Lorne reflect the quality and level of services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the tax rate for Mount Lorne fairly reflects the level of service. It has the lowest rate in the Yukon Territory, and residents of the Mount Lorne area do not enjoy municipal services, other than minimal road maintenance; for instance, on the Annie Lake Road. The maintenance is not minimal on the Carcross Road, but they have very little in the way of service.
I would say the rate is probably fair for that particular area.
Ms. Moorcroft: What about inside the city limits? Does the Minister see addressing these concerns as a YTG Minister when they are municipal matters, or does the Minister expect to discuss this with the City of Whitehorse and other municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the question is - discuss what?
Ms. Moorcroft: I am talking about the tax rates. The Minister stated that he thought taxes should be based on the level of services and not on wealth. Is the Minister prepared to help Mount Lorne and Laberge constituents achieve a variable mill rate, which they requested in their fair-tax petition?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The residents of Mount Lorne are not residents of the city. I do not see the relationship there. There are people who live in the Laberge riding who are part of the City of Whitehorse, if that is what she means - for instance, people living in MacPherson subdivision. I have indicated to many of those people that I would be quite willing to attend a city council meeting with them as their MLA. I have also spoken to people in the Mary Lake subdivision and suggested to them how they should go about petitioning City Hall on the variable tax rate. As I said already, I am quite willing to represent the people in MacPherson as their MLA at city council, if they wish me to do that.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister was half right. MacPherson is in the Laberge riding and is also part of the City of Whitehorse. Wolf Creek, Mary Lake and Pineridge are in the Mount Lorne riding and are part of the City of Whitehorse. What I had asked the Minister was how he would be prepared to assist constituents achieve a variable mill rate. He said he suggested they do a petition; they have done a petition and it was presented to city council. He said he would be prepared, then, to meet with city council; would he know any other measures that he would contemplate to assist the constituents who want to achieve this variable mill rate?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said, I would be quite willing to meet with those residents and give them the benefit of whatever knowledge I have about the Municipal Act and the possibility for a variable tax rate and go with them to City Hall, if that is what they wish me to do.
Ms. Moorcroft: Given that city councils want so much revenue from property tax and so much from other sources, such as YTG grants and block funding, and, given that the Minister thinks that property taxes are too high in relation to the services people get to their properties, are we looking at a reduction in property taxes? Should that not just be done by lowering the tax rate, which we know he could do, outside city limits?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that I said that the tax rate was too high. It is not the intention of this government to lower the general tax rates throughout the territory.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to move on to the issue of franchising of public utilities.
Until 1978, our legislation allowed for franchising agreements between municipalities and utility companies operating within their boundaries. The right of franchising was allowed, as the utilities virtually had a monopoly that would give municipalities the opportunity to legislate service arrangements with standards, such as underground wiring as opposed to overhead power lines. The practice of franchising is used in other jurisdictions.
I would like to refer again to resolutions from the Association of Yukon Communities regarding this. The resolution from the Association of Yukon Communities reads, Whereas the Yukon Municipal Act places many restrictions on Yukon municipalities, which inhibit the municipalities ability to generate income and, whereas, in order to become more self-reliant, Yukon municipalities should have some means of generating income other than grants from senior governments, taxation and user fees, be it resolved that the Yukon government amend the Yukon Municipal Act to allow Yukon municipalities the latitude to invest in their communities and generate income to supplement the present source of revenue. I would like to ask what the Ministers response is to this issue.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not responded to that particular resolution other than verbally at the Association of Yukon Communities meeting two and one-half weeks ago here in Whitehorse.
Basically, what I told the association at that particular meeting was that, on specific items such as waste heat recovery and sale in Watson Lake, the Yukon government would look at any one specific franchise agreement; however, we were not interested in providing them with blanket franchising at this time.
The reason for that is because electrical energy for residential users is currently equalized throughout the Yukon Territory. If the City of Whitehorse had the ability and did take over the electrical utility, it could end up costing substantially more for residential users outside of the city.
Again, I think these questions are getting away from the supplementary budget, and I am not sure whether this is productive when it comes to talking about the supplementaries.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I will ask the Minister when we discuss this issue in the main estimates to respond as to whether he is willing to discuss it with the towns.
Some municipalities would stand to benefit from this idea. For example, Whitehorse and Mayo have hydro generation either within their city limits or nearby and they could sell power for a profit, but many other communities could not. I would like to know how the Minister would see that situation working.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee to Order. Is there further debate on Bill No. 4?
Mr. McDonald: I have a number of questions to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, that could be discussed in either the supplementaries or the main estimates. I will reserve the vast majority of the questions for the main estimates.
There are some questions that are pressing and I would like to get the Ministers thoughts on a couple of subjects. The first one is one I think the Minister is somewhat familiar with; it is the issues surrounding the residences in the Sleepy Hollow-shipyards area of Whitehorse. The Minister will know that there are a few dozen residents of Whitehorse living in the area encompassed by the White Pass-Motorways yard and Kishwoot Island. These residents are sandwiched within the river and the White Pass and Taga Ku properties. Many of the residents have lived in the area for a long period of time - some since the early 1950s, at least. Some of the residents are First Nations and some are not.
There are some residents who are renting from people who do not live in the area but who own houses in the area. It is like a typical community in rural Yukon. They have a good deal of community spirit. One of the things that draws them together from time to time is discussion about their land tenure.
Over the past few years there has been some discussion about the future of this area and its relationship to waterfront development. The lands are primarily Commissioners lands, technically. Consequently, it has been a Government of Yukon matter to determine the future of these residents. In the past, the City of Whitehorse has expressed some interest in seeing the area cleared of residential occupations, in favour of some greater development, which may take place in the future and would be of wide public benefit. For their part, the residents are very concerned that they have some rights to occupancy in the future. Many of them are also concerned about the historical values of many of the buildings in the area. In fact, the Minister will know that there was a study conducted by the Yukon Historical and Museum Association recently, which identified some of those historical values. They are now documented.
The issue is complicated by the fact that the lands of which I speak have been selected both by the Kwanlin Dun and, in part, by the Taan Kwachan First Nations. Both First Nations have indicated that they wish, in the long term, to hold and to use these lands.
What I would like to do is begin by asking the Minister what his impression of the situation is, and what his governments position is with respect to the land tenure for these residents.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is right. There are many issues in this particular area. I believe that some of the land is Commissioners land, as the Member opposite stated, and I believe that some is owned by White Pass. I believe that some of the Commissioners land has actually been selected by either one or the other of the Kwanlin Dun or the Taan Kwachan First Nations. He is also right in that some of those people or their descendants have lived there since the early 1950s.
The department tells me that there are about 28 different residences in the whole area. Under the squatter policy - in 1987 or so - some of the people applied under the squatter policy. The ones who applied who were within the 100-foot reserve from the Yukon River. The federal and territorial governments are reluctant to provide title within the 100-foot reserve.
What was offered to about 15 of the people in the area was a life-estate lease. So far, there has been no response to that offer. I would again like to try to renew that offer. There are some problems. Some of the situations in that area will have to be settled at the land claims table. Some of the people who live there are actually beneficiaries under one or other of the land claims. Perhaps that will make it somewhat easier if they happen to be on one of the selected sites.
The others on a selection site who are not First Nations people I would like to see dealt with at the land claims table. Again, I would like to extend that offer to the rest of those people for this life-estate lease at a minimal fee.
Mr. McDonald: As the Minister has pointed out, there are a number of residents who have houses on lands that appear to be owned by White Pass. Consequently, dealing with those particular instances, that occupancy would be more complicated than the other people who are on Commissioners lands.
I would like to tie this down a little bit. What does the Minister see as the Yukon governments role in dealing with those dwellings that are located, at least partially, on White Pass lands?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Actually, I see the role of the government as being a mediator or facilitator, to try and make some sort of arrangements with White Pass for the benefit of those people. It is an extremely complicated situation, and it has been for years. I am not sure who was responsible, but back in the 1960s, I remember them going in with bulldozers and pushing these cabins down, piling them up and burning them. I would not want to see that type of thing happen again.
I believe our role is to help those people in these life-estate leases and to act as mediator between the people and White Pass, for those who are sitting on White Pass land.
Mr. McDonald: I have a specific question as to a specific option with respect to those residents on White Pass property, or at least partially on White Pass property, because I think there are a number of residences that actually overlap the property line of White Pass and are also on Commissioners land.
Would the government, in their mediation efforts, be prepared to advocate to White Pass that White Pass sell a very small portion of their property to the residents, so that the residents might have the opportunity to live on those lands, or lease them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: All possibilities should be explored. A lease would probably be more appropriate because a lot of them are on the 100-foot reserve of the river. The other thing is that, at some point in time, the city, as well as the Yukon government, has some long-term plans for the area, but it is not the intent of this government to have these people removed, by whatever means, from their long-established residences.
Mr. McDonald: As I mentioned previously, there are a number of situations in this area where the owner of the dwelling does not live in the dwelling - they live elsewhere in Whitehorse and rent the dwelling to someone else. What would the governments policy be with respect to those situations?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am at a loss for words here, because I guess each situation would have to be looked at on its own merits. There are some - as the Member opposite says - people who live there on a rental basis and the owners actually live in Whitehorse or some other area of Canada.
If there is some value to the actual house or cabin, I would expect that the people who own the house or cabin would not be willing to give up that revenue or their right to the buildings.
I believe it would take some negotiation and some cooperative dealings between all parties to arrive at some resolution.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is indicating that he does not have any final thoughts on the matter, but that options are open and the department is willing to discuss those particular situations. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Mr. McDonald: When the Minister indicated that there were no formal responses to the squatter policy by the residents in the area, I think he may have overlooked the written communications I have seen from some residents of the area who wrote letters back indicating that they wanted their residency to be determined through the context of the land claims discussions. In other words, they wanted the First Nations who had selected lands in the area, or were planning to do so, to have some say as to their long-term residency in the area and perhaps be the long-term landlords. Can the Minister indicate whether or not the government is prepared to have the First Nations act as the long-term landlords in those particular situations.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is correct. I believe that is what I said, but perhaps I did not state it clearly enough or the Member misunderstood me. The 15 people who were offered the life-estate leases did respond to the squatter policy, but when the life-estate leases were offered, they did not respond.
On the question about whether I would like to see the First Nations as landlords, I believe that that would be a matter for the land claims table. If this is one of the selections of either the Kwanlin Dun or the Taan Kwachan, it more appropriately should be dealt with at the land claims table.
Mr. McDonald: I am actually asking a question about policy here, not whether or not the government approves of land selections in this area at all. It is a question of policy; is the government prepared to permit life-estate leases, or some sort of personal tenure on these properties, should those properties be held by First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the land is selected and approved at the land claim table for a First Nation, then I do not believe that we would have much to say about it at all. I would see no big problem with it. The life-estate lease has to be based on someones life, I would expect. I believe the idea of the life-estate lease is that the person who lives there can continue to live there while he or she is on this earth.
Mr. McDonald: I am glad to hear the Members answer. That is the answer that I was hoping for; nevertheless, I am interested in the question about life-estate leases. As the Minister may know, there are a number of people who live in the area, who are very, very old. Their option for a life-estate lease may be active for only a very short period of time - maybe longer, God willing. However, they have expressed some interest in being treated the way the residents of the escarpment were treated when the government wished to compensate those persons for leaving the escarpment area. Is the government prepared to consider the option of buying out persons who are living in the area in order to clear the area for public use in the future?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have a policy on the outright purchase of those homes; I do not feel it is our intention to enter into that type of an arrangement - in the near future, at least.
Mr. McDonald: These are important questions. I know that they have been discussed at great length at community meetings in the area, so I feel compelled to talk about them for a moment.
The Minister has indicated that they are not prepared to consider the buy-out option. Are there other options that the Minister is prepared to consider, such as property swaps, for the residents in the area if they decide to vacate their dwelling?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The current government has not discussed this in any detail. Right now we do not have anything in place to permit property swaps, nor are there funds identified for purchasing or to provide other accommodations. That is why, at this time, we do not intend to make those types of arrangements.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister will be aware that any solutions to the problems facing this area can be resolved over a considerable period of time. No one from that area is expecting this government or any other government to consider options that would have an immediate effect on the governments budget or the governments short- to mid-term spending plans. There are options that can be considered that could see a solution evolve over a decade or more, except that there is a minimal public expenditure involved.
The Minister will also know that the Department of Community and Transportation Services does indeed engage in some property swaps. I have another constituent, on Two-Mile Hill, who is engaged in discussions with the lands branch, as we speak, over just such a swap of land for the land where this person is residing.
The land on Two-Mile Hill where this person resides is not land that he technically has title to, but they were lands that were identified as having been used historically by this persons father, who had been living there for a considerable amount of time. My constituent has been living there since his birth. I will not say he has been living there for a considerable time because that may betray his age, but in any case, the point of the matter is that sometimes the lands branch does have to consider innovative ways of resolving very complicated and complex land use problems. Certainly, land swaps are considered appropriate under the circumstances.
May I ask the Minister - this is more of a representation than a question - if he would, over the course of the next couple of months, consider this question? I realize that the question is complex in nature, but I would ask that the Minister consider this question and inform me of the results of those deliberations, because people in the area are very interested in resolving this matter, and they feel that pressure is coming from literally all sides, and they want to have a resolution that they know will play out over the course of the next 10 or more years.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am quite aware of the piece of property on the Two-Mile Hill and the length of time that piece of land has been in that particular family.
Also, I am aware of the purchases on the escarpment, but the monies for the escarpment purchases were funded through the federal government. The Yukon government acted as a middle-man in those particular purchases.
Over the long term, we would certainly be quite willing to look at what is required to resolve the problem of the waterfront, but in the short to mid-term, it may take some time for waterfront development to get down that far. It is not an exceptionally pressing issue right now, other than the people who live there need to have some assurance, and I think that we will try to assure them.
To specifically answer the Ministers question, yes, I will be quite willing to consider the whole situation in the near future.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for his answer. I would like to ask the Minister what, if any, long-term plans the government has for for the waterfront, and for this area in particular. I would like to get a better appreciation for the time lines we are facing should the government be in a position to carry out some of its plans in the future.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I heard someone comment about a pulp mill and I want to assure the House that that is not our intent.
I have spoken to the City of Whitehorse very briefly about the Whitehorse waterfront and we would like to get a meeting together, including the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the First Nations people and the City of Whitehorse, to discuss this. Some plans have been made jointly between the city and the Yukon government. We want to see what progress has been made to date and then come up with some sort of a scheme to start planning for eventual development.
Mr. McDonald: The residents of the Sleepy Hollow-shipyards area have been aware of various land use pressures that have been applied to them in the past. By that, I mean, as I mentioned earlier, that the city council has expressed interest in the past in clearing all current users off the waterfront in order to make the land available for general public use. They are also more than aware of the land claims pressures in the area and they are aware of some of the development pressures, such as the Taga Ku project, that have taken place.
What had been committed to them before was that the Department of Community and Transportation Services lands branch would keep the residents informed of developments as they occurred, through representatives they elected.
In particular, they had elected Mr. John Hatch and Mr. George Regimbald to act as representatives for the area. They wanted this conduit of information, so that the residents could be appraised of developments, whether they be waterfront development, land claims discussions or their own land tenure discussions with the Government of the Yukon and, perhaps, be more aware of the more idiosyncratic situations, such as the ones we mentioned that straddle White Pass and Commissioners lands.
Will the department, and particularly the lands branch, make a special effort to keep the two representatives of these people informed on a regular basis, whether there is information to be passed on or not? Secondly, would they be prepared to have a community meeting in that area within the next two months to bring them up to date as to some of the developments that have taken place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In response to the Members first question, yes. In response to the second one, I would see no problem in having a meeting. I think I would probably ask the Member, as the MLA for that area, to arrange the meeting for our lands branch people.
Mr. McDonald: I would be more than happy to. I have done that once before. I can be called upon at any time to provide for the organization of such a meeting. I will undertake to discuss with residents, this afternoon or tomorrow, when the best time would be for such a meeting.
I have a number of other questions about lands issues, but they are not quite so pressing, except for those on land development plans and land selections in Whitehorse. These are more properly mains questions. I will leave that question for the main estimates and Question Period. I prefer Question Period, quite frankly.
I would like to turn a corner completely and ask the Minister about the airports branch, because I believe there are ongoing discussions now, particularly on the Dawson City airport reconstruction. I do not know if my questions can wait until the main estimates, so I would like to put a couple of questions to the Minister now.
The Minister will know that, when the Arctic B and C transfer took place from Transport Canada to the Department of Community and Transportation Services, there was an agreement struck between the two governments not only about the operation and maintenance fund but also about the capital funds for the airports that were being transferred. The Minister will know that the big capital projects that were cited in that transfer agreement were the projects associated with Haines Junction and Carmacks.
There was no money identified for the construction of the Dawson City airport, because that was considered to be too large to be incorporated into the transfer. Because negotiations for the construction of the new airport in Dawson were underway, it was felt the reconstruction on the capital side for a new Dawson City airport would be left to bilateral discussions and was considered to be outside the agreement. Effectively, the construction costs would not be the responsibility of the Government of the Yukon, but would continue to be the responsibility of the Government of Canada.
Can the Minister indicate to us whether or not anything has changed in the governments view with respect to this particular transfer arrangement and the Dawson City airport construction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As far as I am aware, the status has not changed in the last year.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister then saying that, as far as the Government of the Yukon is concerned, the capital construction costs for the new Dawson City airport should come from Transport Canada, and not from the Yukon governments capital budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not absolutely certain. I believe that is the case. I will check that a little closer and, if that is not the case, I will provide the Member opposite with information on the status as of today.
Mr. McDonald: I am winding up now. I have lots of questions for the main estimates, but I will give the Ministers department some sense of the areas I would like to pursue.
The Minister has talked a bit about services to small communities, and he has talked about it in the context of tax rates matching the level of service. Is the Minister planning to move to a user-pay system in the communities? What would the basis of that user-pay system be? I am interested in any changes the Minister is contemplating to the fire and ambulance policy. I believe the Keno City fire department has met with some disfavour from the Minister, and I would like to pursue that at some length.
I would like to talk about capital projects in small communities. I would like to talk about the ability of the government to keep the projected costs for facilities in communities to the budgeted amount. I will talk about that in the context of the Ross River arena, which the Minister and I know very well. I am certain we can talk about how one consults, and perhaps use the Ross River arena as a case study. I am more than prepared to do that.
I would also like to talk about land use planning and the extent to which that will be formally undertaken by the government. I would like to talk about community land selections in Whitehorse, and this is one thing that may play itself out considerably by the time we get to the main estimates, through Question Period and through other mechanisms in the discussion here.
I am very interested in the governments position with respect to land selections. I will admit to the Member that I understand the complexity of this issue, and the potential volatility, so I will not be unnecessarily inflammatory. I would like to address, head-on, the issues that are being faced by both First Nations and by the government.
I would like to talk about the anticipated financial support to communities to engage in land claims discussions, and precisely how that is going to be undertaken in the future. I would also like to talk about land development plans in particular, and the governments projections with respect to the need for lots in various categories around the territory, particularly in the Whitehorse area. I do have some residual interest in the Mayo area, so I will be asking a few questions about that.
I am interested in road development and the mechanism by which the government is going to provide for road development for economic development purposes and also for community purposes, particularly the policy that determines when and where support is given.
I would also like to talk about television services in the territory. There has been a lot of talk in this House about the provision of second-channel services for the communities and about the encouraging the provision of cable services by the local cable company. That has been the subject of considerable discussion in the House before, and just because I am a bit of a traditionalist, I would like to continue that discussion now.
Those are some of the areas that I would like to touch on. I have a number of others, but I think those may require a little bit of homework - a tad of homework. I would just like to give the Minister a little bit of advance notice.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the Member opposite and I will be wishing each other Merry Christmas here if he asks all of these questions and expects a reply to each of them. I would like to point out to the Member opposite that some of the subjects were fairly thoroughly discussed yesterday. I hope that when he begins asking those questions he is cognizant of the ones that have been asked before and my replies at that time. I think that both the Member opposite and I do sort of like these areas, so we could go on for a long, long time. I do not think that is in the best interests of anyone here.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the best venue would be a fishing trip; we could take a couple of weeks and thrash out all the issues that we face. It may surprise the Minister, but I did actually listen to most of what transpired yesterday afternoon, so I will be mindful of the ground already covered. I will be asking questions in the context of future policy considerations as well as spending plans in the budget. I find that there are some interesting variations in the budget and I would like to explore those items.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister a question under the transportation division of the department. I would like to ask the Minister about the Alaska Highway reconstruction. Can he tell me what the department has done in the period covered by the supplementaries in the area of Alaska Highway construction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If you will just bear with me for a minute, I do have some notes on Alaska Highway reconstruction.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps if I could clarify the question for the Minister: is there any policy change in the area of the Alaska Highway construction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, there is no change in policy.
Mr. Harding: I wanted to ask a few questions about the governments position on the Alaska Highway development and the agreement that was negotiated with the federal government regarding that important project. I would like to ask the same question, in another way, but I want to get a little more succinct answer from the Minister - of course one cannot get much more succinct than no.
The government took over in November. Would it be correct to say that they have engaged in no policy change and no directional change from the previous course that was taken under the previous NDP administration regarding the Alaska Highway project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the Member opposite is aware that, under the Alaska Highway agreement, and prior to the Yukon government taking over the Alaska Highway, there were some policies agreed upon that had been signed by both parties regarding maintenance and capital. I would see no reason to change those departmental policies.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister please explain the views of the department and his ministry with regard to how consideration will be given to the category that funding for the Alaska Highway project comes under? Is there a removal from the operation and maintenance side of the recovery equation to the capital recovery equation, versus the capital expenditure?
There is some significant change in the supplementaries that we are going to be looking at, and I am wondering what the philosophy or the policy is regarding that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The money the federal government provides to the Yukon government for the Alaska Highway, whether it be O&M or capital, will be spent on the Alaska Highway.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps the Minister could explain then why the value of the O&M recoveries would be decreased, the expenditure and the capital expenditure would increase, and the recovery on the capital side would be less than the expenditure, when it is my understanding that the whole project continues to be federally funded.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not exactly sure where the Member is looking in the supplementaries. If he could tell me what line he is looking at, I could respond better. He is saying that there was an increase in the O&M and a decrease in the capital, or vice versa, and I am not sure what he is referring to.
Mr. Harding: The reason I am asking the general policy question on how it is viewed by this government is because, in the supplementaries under the Alaska Highway area of Community and Transportation Services, there is a negative on the recovery in the O&M and there is a major expenditure in the capital, which was not shown. Then, we only have a recovery on the capital side of $3.5 million, which is pretty much a $10 million difference. It is still my understanding, and I hope it is the understanding of this government, that that would be fully recoverable. I am just wondering about the policy change of the government. Is there anything that would indicate that there should be a change in those numbers, or am I missing something there?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Are we going into this line by line, Mr. Chair? A general question like that with numbers in it is difficult for me to answer. I have to go back to my notes to know exactly what we are looking at. I would expect that is a line-by-line item and we should be discussing it when we get into line by line. It is not a general question.
To answer the Member opposites general question on it, the money that is provided to the Yukon government for O&M and capital on the Alaska Highway will be spent for those items.
Mr. Harding: I do disagree that we cannot talk about this item, even if some numbers are mentioned in the context of general debate, because I am asking questions regarding changes in policy and directives on that project and agreements that we fully believe are still to be followed through. We are very interested, prior to getting into the line by line, in finding out whether or not there has been any change in policy as to how the project on the Alaska Highway is being handled.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has been no change in policy.
Mr. Joe: I want to thank the Minister for his response to my written question about government interviews in the communities. I noticed that except for Carmacks, all the communities where interviews were being held were represented by government MLAs. I would like to know why this is so?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am sorry, could I just have the question again please?
Mr. Joe: Except for Carmacks, the communities where interviews were being held, are being represented by government MLAs. I would like to know why this is so.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is far more observant than I am in that respect. I certainly did not notice that. There are two places where we are not having interviews this year. One is Mayo, which the Member is right about - it is not this governments riding. The other one, I believe, is Beaver Creek, which is in one of our Members ridings. I really did not notice before, and I do not believe it was a recommendation from the department. I do not believe the department had any political motive whatsoever for making those recommendations.
Mr. Joe: There is one job in Mayo that was listed in the legislative return.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have a list of the duties here. I think that the job advertisement has already closed. I could find out for the Member, if he wishes, what job it was, but the competition was closed on April 13.
Mr. Joe: Why is the government not planning to go to Mayo to interview for this position?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department had decided, because of budget constraints, that they would reduce the number of communities they went to for interviewing. It is very costly; the interview process involves at least four people and in the case of Mayo, there was one position that may or may not be needed; it depends on whether an auxiliary from a previous year comes back to fill that position.
They scheduled the interviews in centralized locations throughout the territory, which did miss the communities of Mayo and Beaver Creek as interview locations. If the department needs the position that is advertised for Mayo, and they have qualified applicants from Mayo for the position, then I have asked them to consider helping the applicants defray their cost by reimbursing them for gasoline through a mileage rate.
Mr. Joe: Will the government subsidize the people from Mayo to travel to Dawson, if they are to be interviewed for this position?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I answered that question for the Member in my previous response.
Mr. Joe: My question only requires a yes or a no. I am asking who will pay for the travel of an applicant from Mayo to Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What I indicated before was that, if there is a position in Mayo, and there is a qualified applicant for that position there, then I have asked the department if they could provide mileage for the person to go to Dawson for the interview and the subsequent test.
Mr. Joe: Why are there no interviews being held in Pelly Crossing, which is on the way north to Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There never have been interviews conducted in Pelly Crossing. Wherever the interviews are conducted, they need some heavy equipment, if it is a heavy equipment operators position they are interviewing for. The interviews, to start with, would only be in communities where there is a grader station. Pelly does not have one and there never were interviews held there previously.
Mr. Joe: The First Nation people have also used the area on the Dempster. I noticed that there are two positions opening there. Why would the Minister force the people of Mayo to drive all the way to Dawson to apply for a job in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Anyone in the territory can apply for any of the jobs. There is nothing preventing them from doing that. However, if there is a job in Mayo, the preference would be for a Mayo resident. For instance, if there were two equally qualified people for a job and one was from Watson Lake and the other was from Mayo, the department would give the job to the person from Mayo.
People in Mayo could very easily apply for the jobs on the Dempster or any of the other jobs - in Haines Junction or wherever - but people from the local communities would get preference.
Mr. Joe: My last question is: does the government have a policy in place that says that the people in communities are not being given full access to some of the good summer jobs offered by the government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite and I are somehow reversed. I think I am answering his question and then he asks it. I am not sure, but something seems wrong. I believe I have answered the hon. Members question in my previous response, but just to repeat it: the people from a community will be given preference in their own community if they are equally qualified.
In light of the time, I would like to move that the Chair report progress on Bill No. 4.
Mr. McDonald: There are still five minutes, Mr. Chair, and rather than introducing the subject tomorrow night - because we only need two minutes to wind up the day - I just have a couple of comments on the subject and then we can forget it, if that is all right.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I withdraw the motion.
Mr. Joe: I have one more short question. The Minister did not answer my other question. I see this as a sign of disrespect for the people in communities, especially in my riding, because they do not have the same opportunity to participate in the local-hiring policy. What is the government policy on local hiring?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is certainly no disrespect intended, nor do I believe that there should be a perception of disrespect on the part of the Department of Community and Transportation Services with respect to local hire. Anyone can apply for any of these jobs - there are 46 jobs - but only people who are eligible and qualified to take each job will be interviewed. I really do take exception to the hon. Members comments that we are showing disrespect. That is certainly not in anyones best interest.
Mr. Chairman, I 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.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 19, 1993:
Contract listing for 1992-93 yet to be finalized; organizational charts found in Main Estimates (Ostashek)
Response to Written Question No. 6, April 6, 1993, Mr. McDonald
Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment: current members; mandate under review (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 479
Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment: 1993-94 budget, secretariat support (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 479