Wednesday, April 21, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have some legislative returns to table.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have some legislative returns to table.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Penikett: Yesterday, the Government Leader conceded to the press, if not to the House, that if Curragh could meet the governments conditions, the company would not need any assistance from the taxpayer.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he is now prepared to admit what some have suspected for a long time, that the Yukon Party is not prepared to do anything concrete to save the mines at Faro and Watson Lake and that, as he indicated in the newspaper, he does not believe that the government should be doing anything?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure I have the Member opposites question clear. I believe my statements to the press said that they would still need help with the Grum stripping. This is something we have always been involved in and prepared to help with, as long as the conditions are met so that the taxpayers of the Yukon would have some security for their money.
Nothing has changed in that respect. We are still prepared to help out with the Grum stripping, but, as everyone knows, Curragh has much greater problems that they have to resolve in order for them to be a viable company.
Mr. Penikett: Given that the Government Leader has confirmed that the impossible condition of a first charge on security applies for both the loan guarantee and the stripping program, is it not true that the Ostashek government has done nothing to save a single job at either Faro or Watson Lake?
Essentially, all the government has done is spend a lot of money with Burns Fry and blame other people for problems that are now very much the problems of the Yukon Territory.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is a very interesting question and preamble by the Member opposite. Maybe I could turn around and say we blame the Penikett government for not dealing with this issue a year ago in this House, when the Member opposite said, the taxpayers of the Yukon could not afford a $30 million loan to Curragh on their own. That is a statement the Member made in this House, which is recorded in Hansard, and he must share some of the blame.
Mr. Penikett: I never balked at taking responsibility for any actions of our government; the trouble is the Government Leader does not want to take any responsibility for anything.
Let me ask the Government Leader: since the situation with the mines has become much worse over the last few months and since the Government Leader bragged in the media yesterday that the people support his plans to flush the Yukon economy down the toilet, would the Government Leader be willing to test his theory by calling a territorial general election at this time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Finally it comes out in the open, what the six weeks of stalling on the supplementaries has been, what all the wasted taxpayers money has been, due to the stalling tactics used by the Members of the Opposition. They are sitting there waiting because they think the Independents are going to bring this government down and they can go back to the people.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Penikett: The people are crying out for some leadership on this question. They are not getting it from the present government. It is no wonder that they might be looking for a change. Now the Government Leader has been willing to promote huge public expenditures on loony right-wing megaprojects, like gas pipelines from Watson Lake and railroads to Carmacks, neither of which will create a job in this century and probably not in the next. Why is he being so pig-headed in opposing money for the Grum stripping program, which would put Yukoners back to work immediately?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is quite wrong. It is not the first time he has been wrong, but he is quite wrong again. We are prepared to advance money for the Grum stripping. We said that in the special debate that was instituted by the Members opposite. I said there that we were prepared to advance $5 million or $6 million to the company over the interim, as long as they were prepared to start stripping the Grum deposit. All we needed was some security for the money. It would be very foolhardy for any government to be advancing money to a company that is under CCAA, not knowing whether they are going to be able to restructure and survive. All we would be doing is enhancing the assets for when the banks come to collect.
Speaker: I would remind the Member that before he asks his first supplementary that questions should not contain inferences, impute motives or cast aspersions upon other Members of the House.
Mr. Penikett: My supplementary is about the question of the economic security of this territory. I would like to ask the Government Leader, since we are talking about something of great significance to this territory, if he does not understand that if he fails to act or if he still insists on a impossible condition of a first charge on security, which the banks have refused to give, that the people of this territory, not the government, stand to lose, not $5 million nor $29 million, but millions in lost jobs, homes, failed businesses and shattered lives? Does he not understand his responsibility on that score?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Opposition would move on, permitting us to pass the budget, we would see the generation of over 700 jobs. The fact remains that no matter how much money this government invested in that operation, it is not a guarantee that the company could be saved. The company has a $221 million debt load that it must restructure. The world price of zinc is currently 45 cents a pound and forecasted to remain there throughout this year. No amount of money that we could advance at this point, outside of bailing the company out entirely, which we cannot afford, would help that company.
Mr. Penikett: I do not think the Government Leader is listening, and he has the same problem with this as he does with some of the statements he reads here and some of the math he provides to us in the House.
The point is, the territorial economy is crying out for some action on the Grum stripping program.
He cannot pass the buck; he cannot blame anybody else. Does he not understand that, since there is no viable zinc mine anywhere in the western world at 45 cents-per-pound zinc, the only mines that have a prospect of surviving and continuing to operate are those that continue to operate in some fashion through this period of low prices, and that requires action by this government. Does he not understand that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have just said that we are prepared to help with the Grum stripping. Is the Member opposite asking us, at a time that a company is under CCAA, to advance unsecured funds for the Grum stripping? Is that what the Member opposite is asking me to do?
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Cable: Just following up on the previous questions - the Government Leader was on the CBC this morning talking about zinc prices and the prospects for the Curragh operation. The Government Leader has had the advantage of the Burns Fry report and various other technical information that we Members of the House have not had. Is the Government Leader prepared to indicate to the House whether Curragh, at the zinc prices that were discussed in the CBC broadcast, could meet its operating costs in the near future? By operating costs, I mean its total costs less its debt-servicing costs.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member opposite for the question. The information we had from Curragh itself is that they cannot break even at 45-cents-per-pound zinc - they cannot even begin to break even at that price.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps the Government Leader misunderstood my question. I was talking about operating costs, not a total break-even picture.
Let me ask this question: if, in fact, the Government Leader reaches the conclusion that the Faro operation cannot be sustained, will the Government Leader amend the budget accordingly to reflect the fact that, rather than contemplating the operation of the mine beginning after the end of the first quarter, the mine will be shut down on a permanent basis?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if that is the action this government would take. A lot can happen in six months. Curragh may get their house in order and continue to operate, and the price of zinc may come up. We would be overreacting if we were to try to amend the budget that quickly.
Mr. Cable: I think all the Members are aware of the fact that there is some substantial risk associated with the Curragh operation. Has the Government Leader developed a plan for the whole economy, not just the bail-out of Faro, if Curragh remains down?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just said that, in the budget that has been tabled in this Legislature that we are waiting to get into approving, there are over 700 jobs, and that will go a long way toward helping the economic health of the territory.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Harding: We are well aware that the money Faro seeks for the loan of the Grum stripping is not the sole saviour of the company. We are also aware that the first charge on security, as requested by the Yukon government, has been rejected by the banks.
Does the Government Leader not realize that it is going to take some new spark to ignite a deal here, so we can get people back to work in Faro, Watson Lake and Whitehorse? Does the Government Leader not realize that it is going to take something new?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe it is going to take something new. It is going to take the price of zinc coming up on the world markets, so the company can be viable and continue to operate. There is no miracle cure for this. As I said, it would be very irresponsible of any government to put money into an operation that is in the tenuous position the Faro operation is in right now, without security for the taxpayers dollars.
Mr. Harding: Does the Government Leader not realize that the loan guarantee is an integral part of the equation, and it is the spark that will ignite some movement on equity and the Stronsay sale, so that Curragh can raise working capital to survive these low-level periods? Mines do not just shut down when the production costs are higher than the price of metal. The trick is to stay in business during these times. Does the Government Leader not realize that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure whether the Member opposite is living in a dream world, or what. The economics of the mine say it is not viable at these prices. Does he expect that government should be standing there, for any company that is not viable, and continue to pour taxpayers dollars into it, regardless of how much you have to put in, with no security? That is not the kind of economics this government believes in.
Mr. Harding: There is no question that the Ostashek government believes in doubling the unemployment rate. That is their economics and their belief. No one in the zinc business in the world is making money right now. The mines that stay open through this period receive some support - I am talking about the Grum stripping right now. Let Curragh raise their own capital. Let them raise it through equity and selling Stronsay - that is fine.
Does the Government Leader not realize that the trick for the Yukons economy is to get together with the key players involved in this equation and sit down and negotiate a way to keep the mines open, instead of just sitting there and doing nothing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For the Member opposite to say that this government is sitting here and doing nothing is simply not true. We did not give them a $5 million unsecured loan. We did not do that. We did not take that kind of tactic with the taxpayers money.
The fact remains that this company is in serious financial difficulty. It is in more difficulty than this government can help them out of. We have $5 million sitting there that could go into the Grum stripping immediately, as long as we get some security for that money.
We are not prepared to use the NDP economics of giving unsecured money to the company.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Harding: The Government Leader knows what he did not do, but he does not know what he has done. There is no question, from the answers we have heard, that the Government Leader does not realize that he is increasing the unemployment rate at an astronomical rate.
I believe that the people of the Yukon are willing to accept some risk in an effort to stimulate the economy. Yesterday, he said that the vast majority of Yukoners support his position of not doing anything for those jobs. Does the Government Leader really believe that the vast majority of Yukoners are not prepared to take some risk to try and get those people working again in Faro, Watson Lake and Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was interesting to hear the Members comments today, when, on a radio program yesterday, he said, I say forget about the $5 million. Forget about the $5 million loan guarantee. Forget about the $34 million loan guarantee. That is what he said. The taxpayers of the Yukon are certainly prepared to take some risk if they see some hope that the operation will survive. I do not believe the taxpayers of the Yukon expect their government to simply throw money at something, without any hope of it surviving. We need the world zinc prices to come back up and the company to be able to restructure their debt. Only then will we have a long-term, viable solution.
Mr. Harding: The Yukon government is key to the ability of the company to restructure. It is the chicken and egg theme. The banks are waiting for the Yukon government to ignite the spark.
What the Member for Faro said was to forget about the $5 million and the $34 million, and let us look at a new solution. Let us look at some way to bring all the players together and come up with something creative to salvage the jobs and economy of the territory.
Does the Government Leader not realize that it is going to take something new and creative - some new way of looking at things or movement - to stimulate that spark, get some equity, sell Stronsay and get the Grum stripping activity going in order to entice the banks and entice investors?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite seems to think that government should act as the be-all and end-all for private enterprise in the Yukon. If there was any way that this government could advance funds now, with minimal risk, we would be prepared to look at doing that; however, we are facing a deadline of May 3 - less than 10 days from now - and after that deadline, the banks say that they will reserve the right to force bankruptcy proceedings.
It would be very foolhardy for anyone to get involved in a rescue operation of that company, if they do not have $200 million to help the company out.
Mr. Harding: The Government Leader makes a valid point about the May 3 deadline, but surely it is worth a meeting to save thousands of jobs in our tiny private sector economy.
I would ask the Government Leader if he would commit to holding a Faro/Watson Lake mine summit in the Yukon, inviting the major players from the banks and Curragh to sit down and take a fresh look at what can be done to re-open the mines for the long run and get jobs going? Will the Government Leader at least commit to doing that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government is doing everything in its power to get this matter resolved.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader on the same subject.
The government has expressed concerns about the Yukon governments dependency on federal funding. We have a budget before us that anticipates record high levels of funding from the federal government, and further we see the possible collapse of much of the private sector economy.
Why can the government not see that the Curragh situation and the governments inaction will result in an unprecedented level of financial dependency on the federal government, leaving the Yukon more vulnerable to the moods of politicians thousands of miles away; does he accept no movement in the negotiations, at this point, as being a solution?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, if the restructuring of the company and the operation at Faro is not going ahead, there will be an effect on the economy of the Yukon; there is no doubt.
Again, with the situation facing us at Faro and with the limited resources that we have available for investment, we would not be able to help the company survive and we have said that from day one.
We have said that we are fully prepared to get involved in the Grum stripping and we stand by waiting for Curragh to accept the offer that is on the table, but they will not accept the offer. Right now, they are more concerned with saving the company than they are in saving the Faro operation.
The $34 million guarantee is there and the banks know the offer is there; we do not have to do anything more on that issue; the money is there and ready to go ahead as soon as we see that the company is viable.
Mr. McDonald: Is the government willing to direct some of the biggest budget on record directly toward a stripping program, without unreasonable conditions, but with, instead, conditions that the company and the banks can meet, so there will eventually be some return on the governments capital investment, unlike much of the rest of the capital budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just want to go on record saying that while this is the largest capital budget in the history of the Yukon, it is one of the lowest in terms of discretionary capital spending. The rest is for capital projects that are funded by the United States government and by the federal government that have to go ahead or the money is not there.
Mr. McDonald: That is a very disputable point, but that was not the answer to the question. Is the government willing to direct some of its capital funding directly toward a Grum stripping program, in a way that will be acceptable to both Curragh and to the banks, without impossible conditions but with realistic conditions? Does he place a value on the exposed ore body in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member opposite for the question. That is exactly what we are trying to do. There are not 14 conditions attached to the $5 million that we are prepared to advance for the Grum stripping at this point. All we are asking is for some sensible security for the taxpayers of the Yukon. That is all we are asking for. We have not been able to get very far with it. Right now, it appears to us that the company is not interested in stripping the Grum deposit at this point.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader has indicated that Curragh Inc. is interested in protecting itself, and not protecting the jobs in Faro. One would argue, quite reasonably, that the two are interlinked. If they had the operation in Faro running, they would be able to salvage some form of a corporate entity.
I would like to ask a question respecting the Grum stripping program. The Government Leader has indicated that the loan that they would provide to Curragh has to be secured by first-charge security, ahead of the banks. The Government Leader is shaking his head. Is it his understanding that this is not the case?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When we put forward the offer of the $5 million, we asked for a first-charge security but we were prepared to look at anything else they would put forward for security. They have not come back to us with anything.
Mr. McDonald: So now we see that the first charge, which was not negotiable before, is now negotiable. What forms of security is the government willing to accept that would allow them the ability to go ahead with the loan to permit the stripping program to go ahead, jobs to be had and the economy to be saved?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, the $5 million has been negotiable. We said that in the emergency debate back on April 5. I clarified it again in answer to a question from the Member for Faro on April 6. I have it in Hansard here. The fact remains that we are prepared to look at anything the company is prepared to offer for security.
Mr. McDonald: I will ask the question again: what is the government prepared to accept as security for the $5 million loan guarantee?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are prepared to accept anything that would be reasonable. I am sure the company has a better idea of what is not encumbered that they could put up for security. The company should know better than we do what they have that is unencumbered, especially a company that has $220 million worth of debt.
Question re: Polarettes Gymnastic Club facility
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Education regarding the Polarettes Gymnastic Club facility, or the third gym at the Jeckell School. It was the position of the previous government that this organization pay its own operating and maintenance costs and that no money would be identified in the capital budget for the project. The new government has agreed to pay the O&M costs and has identified $50,000 in the capital budget for this project. I would like to ask the Minister what other new arrangements have been negotiated into the deal between the club and the new government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There has been no deal signed or negotiated between the club and government. There is an understanding that the club will work out a lease arrangement with the Department of Education to lease the facilities.
Mrs. Firth: The club was supposed to tender its own project previously. Is the Department of Government Services going to tender that project for the club now?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Department of Government Services will be tendering the project and managing the project for the Department of Education.
Mrs. Firth: It is part of another new deal.
The club was to provide $75,000 cash toward the project and have a joint-use agreement. Now, the plan is to have a new lease agreement for the group to pay the money over time. Could the Minister tell us the details of this new arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The agreement we have with the club is that the club will come up with $75,000 cash by way of lease or a loan. Whichever way they do it, they will pay $75,000 toward that project.
Question re: Polarettes Gymnastic Club facility
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister table the contents of the new lease agreement that is being arranged, so we can find out whether it is a loan they are getting, or whether they are going to pay it over time?
We have now established that this is a very different project than was originally planned, and many Yukoners have expressed objections to me about the way this deal was arranged, the precedents being set, and the unfairness of the whole deal.
Exactly how much is the government going to now spend in total, supporting this project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe the total amount is about $425,000. There is $300,000 from the CDF and $75,000 from the club, but I will have to get the exact figures for the Member. I can get back to the Member with that.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to get back. There is $300,000 from the community development fund, $50,000 in capital costs, Government Services cost and time tendering the project and, if they are paying the $75,000 over time, that is going to also incur some costs to government.
In this time of restraint, would the Minister reconsider the governments position regarding this issue and make it a requirement that they go back to the previous commitments made regarding the project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, we will not go back to the previous commitments. Earlier in questions on this matter, I tabled two letters, one from the Liberal Party and one from the New Democratic Party, who were aware of this particular facility and supported it. It involves about 300 children in the Yukon Territory, it frees a gym that is one of the busiest in the territory, and I think it is a worthwhile project. If it comes in under budget, and we tender it, the project will go ahead.
Mrs. Firth: It would be interesting to see if the party supports the new project, because it is not at all what it was originally intended to be. Could the Minister provide to this House a detailed account of the complete new deal by tomorrow afternoon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would be happy to provide the information the Member requires: the total amount of the buildings and the cost of the new gym. I will provide that information as soon as I can although I am not certain that I can provide it by tomorrow.
Question re: Capital budget, recoveries
Mr. Cable: In Whitehorse Star last week there was a report on the capital budget. The Deputy Minister of Finance was quoted saying that of the $129 million capital budget, $85 million of that is recoverable and that that money can be spent even if the budget does not pass. Is that a view shared by the Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not certain of the legality of spending the money if the budget is not passed. The amount of $85 million is recoverable and I believe that the government can operate on warrants if the budget is not passed, so there are avenues open.
Mr. Cable: The Deputy Minister of Finance refers to the Financial Administration Act. Perhaps the Government Leader could follow that through. Assuming that the deputy minister is correct and there are 700 jobs at stake under the capital budget, can the Government Leader assure this House that, in view of the Curragh situation, the spending of the capital budget will be accelerated to make up for the possible loss of jobs in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe those actions have already been taken; contracts have been let out. The Minister of Health has said that construction on the hospital facility will be accelerated to keep people working. Those actions have already been taken.
Mr. Cable: I am somewhat alarmed at what is going on in the community as a result of the Faro situation. Is the Government Leader prepared to strike an all-party committee of this House to deal with the Faro situation and deal with the economy as a whole? There is a whole world out there that does not really relate to what is going on in this House, and they are concerned.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that there are some concerns about the economy right now. Whether one could solve that by striking an all-party committee of the Legislature, I am not sure.
Question re: Whitehorse water and sewer facility
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the four million litres of sewage effluent a day that comes out of Porter Creek and, for the last day or so, has gone into the Yukon River.
The Minister is the MLA for Lake Laberge. He has constituents who live downstream and use the river water. Some of them use it for drinking water. What steps are environmental or public health authorities taking to advise residents in the Ministers riding, downstream from Porter Creek, to not use the water?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is fully aware of the newspaper articles and radio media attention. I am not sure if environmental health has done anything more than the warnings that we have heard on the media.
Ms. Moorcroft: We must recognize that not everyone is necessarily aware of the problem. Are any officials from the Ministers department going out to the area to post notices and talk directly to the people?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No.
Ms. Moorcroft: Several million litres of raw sewage has been dumped into the Yukon River. I would like to ask the Minister why he has not acted and what steps his department is taking to assist the City of Whitehorse to deal with this environmental emergency? Has the city requested any help and is Community and Transportation Services offering any?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite should be aware that this is totally a municipal responsibility, and it is also a responsibility of the federal government through their environmental health people.
Question re: Land claims, land selection within Whitehorse
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader. Yesterday, the Government Leader indicated that he felt that land selections made by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation were not balanced - he refused to define what he meant by that - and that until they were balanced, negotiations over community land selections would not proceed. Can the Government Leader indicate what provisions there are in the UFA that give the Yukon government the unilateral right to reject the land selections without negotiation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was not only the territorial negotiators who were not happy with the map; the federal negotiators did not like it either. They both asked the Kwanlin Dun to go back to have another look at the issue.
Mr. McDonald: I understood there to be three parties at the negotiations, including the First Nation. I will ask the Government Leader again: what gives the Government of the Yukon the unilateral right to reject those land selections without ever discussing the selections with the First Nations directly?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The maps were discussed with the First Nations. They said that they had great concerns that the maps were not balanced enough to make a valid basis for negotiations. They were concerned about negotiations breaking down. The fact remains that there was a memorandum of understanding that the selection of land should be balanced and there could be great difficulty in finalizing land selections, especially in the Whitehorse area. All parties have to work together to accomplish that goal. We cannot have interference by a person who pretends to be acting on behalf of the Kwanlin Dun and is giving them advice that makes it very difficult to proceed with negotiations.
Mr. McDonald: This appears to be a personal vendetta against Pat Joe, who is the land claims coordinator for the Kwanlin Dun.
The Government Leader knows that First Nations have selected lands that may be used for Whitehorse sewage treatment. He said that he wanted them transferred to the city unencumbered. He also said that they would negotiate the matter with the First Nations. Given that there has been no communication with Kwanlin Dun over the last few months, including today, according to the land claims negotiator for Kwanlin Dun, when are these negotiations and discussions supposed to begin?
Mr. Ostashek: I do not know where the Member opposite is getting his information from today - whether it is mole A, or mole B - but the land claims negotiators met with Kwanlin Dun yesterday.
Question re: Land claims, land selection within Whitehorse
Mr. McDonald: Not about sewage treatment.
I must say that I take great offence that communicating with my constituents, which include First Nations members, is seen to be talking with a mole.
With regard to the same subject, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The Minister said that any conflict that exists between a First Nations land selection and land development proposed by the Department of Community and Transportation Services, would go to the land claims table. As long as the land selection talks are stalled, how will the government live up to its commitment to negotiate land use conflicts with the First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not exactly sure what the Member opposites question was. If he is referring to the Whitehorse sewage lagoon, the Taan Kwachan people were on the committee that selected the type of system and the site and were perfectly aware of the fact that the Yukon government wanted to provide that land to the City of Whitehorse unencumbered.
Mr. McDonald: That is an interesting subject, but I am trying to refer to various land development projects, including residential land development. In speaking with the band today, they indicated that there was no consultation with the bands about land development projects associated with Hillcrest D, Logan and Pineridge. This is somewhat contradictory to what the Minister said.
Will the government commit to real and effective consultation directly with the bands respecting those land development projects?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is interesting that the Member opposite brings out his statement that there was no consultation. If he looks back, it was those people who were in government when the plans were made for that particular subdivision.
However, I have checked with our lands people and, in fact, notices were mailed and discussions took place on all of the Granger and Hillcrest D subdivisions.
Mr. McDonald: It is the Yukon Party that is planning to spend $13 million this summer on actual construction work on those projects, not the NDP. My question is: given that the Yukon Electrical Company is planning development work on lands selected by the band near McIntyre, and given that the Minister has said that he thought the selections would not conflict with planned work this summer, how is he going to resolve the obvious conflicts between these development plans and the Kwanlin Duns land selections?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am sure the Member opposite, who at one time sat in my office, is quite aware that land development projects take at least three years before construction ever starts.
The current work that is going, and the information concerning it, has been provided to the land claims table where the negotiations should take place.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 35, standing in the name of Mr. Abel.
Motion No. 35
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Vuntut Gwichin
THAT it is the opinion of this House that trapping is an important part of life in many Yukon communities and that Yukon trappers contribute to both the economic and cultural values of Yukoners lifestyles;
THAT this House commends Yukon trappers for their humane and wise use of wildlife resources; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to continue to support the fur industry both within Canada and abroad.
Mr. Abel: There was a time, years ago, when the people of Old Crow could depend on trapping as the main source of their livelihood. Even 10 years ago, 90 percent of the Old Crow people were involved in trapping in some way. Trapping was a traditional activity of our people. We would trap lynx, marten, mink, beaver, wolverine, wolves and other fur-bearing animals. Old Crow had the largest muskrat trapping industry in the Yukon, and maybe all of Canada, for that matter.
Every spring, from March until June, our elders, men, women and children would move to the Old Crow Flats, where each family would have their own specific area for the muskrat trapping season.
In this way, we would make sure our younger people had the opportunity to experience a type of lifestyle that has been a part of the culture and tradition of our ancestors for many years. However, it was more than just following our ancestors and the old ways. It was how we earned our living and provided for our families and respected the land in general.
We did not just trap muskrats. We would also live off the land. We would hunt caribou, moose and fish in the lakes and rivers, rabbits and ptarmigan, and there were always geese and ducks in the spring.
If I were not in this House right now, I would be out on that land and really enjoying myself.
When I was growing up I would go with my family to Old Crow Flats. The school would close between March and July for school holidays in order for us to be out on the land to learn the skills that our fathers handed down to us. It was not really a holiday though, because I would be working with my family.
We would go out by dog team and live in tents - not teepees any more. I had to work hard to survive and learn this type of lifestyle and skills that were handed down to me by my father, who learned those skills from his father.
Every day we had to haul wood to keep our tent warm and to do our cooking and we would melt snow to use as water. We would check our traps every day and bring the fur back to camp to do the skinning and stretching of the animals. We would use the whole animal; for instance, the muskrat is good to eat; it tastes just like chicken. Whatever was left over we would dry for summer to use for dog food. There were always lots of muskrats at Old Crow Flats and there was never a dull moment, because there was always something to do. After the days work was over, the children would go and sit with their elders and listen to their stories.
In those days, our people would trap about 70,000 muskrats in one season. We could sell the skins and make enough money to buy the things that we needed.
I know that when we do not trap, muskrat populations build up, causing them to run out of their food supply, and they begin to die off. We are actually helping the muskrats to survive by controlling their numbers.
During the muskrat season we also hunt geese and caribou, as I mentioned before. We would fish so that we could take meat back to our homes for the summer.
In those days, we did not have freezers, so we dried everything. We could go back to Old Crow by boat and go back to school for the rest of the year.
Things have changed since I was a boy. Today, I do not think there are any of our people on Old Crow Flats - I do not think there was even one family on the land for the muskrat season - because the value of the fur is so low now. A lot of people still go out in the bush because they enjoy the lifestyle.
Today, there are no dog teams. Everyone uses snow machines. Things are more expensive and if people cannot make any money by trapping, they do not go.
Some of the men who enjoy being on the land will go out to trap during the winter and spring, but it does not provide them with a secure living. They will sell the skins they get and that will help them pay for some of their expenses. If they are lucky, they might even break even. What is important is that they want to preserve a way of life they enjoy and one that is part of their culture.
There are people like the Vuntut Gwichin all over the Yukon and right across Canada. In all of the communities, there are people who value the practice of trapping for both economic and cultural reasons. There are people who could make a living for their families if the market for their furs was in better shape than it is now.
Today, we have to convince people that the trapping of animals for their furs is a respectable and honest way to earn a living. The anti-fur people in the United States, in Europe, and even in Canada, have been successful in taking away some of the markets that we have had in the past. If the fur industry is to survive, it must have the help of our territorial and federal governments. There are many organizations and trappers, both native and non-native, who would be happy to help our governments in this campaign.
Canada was built, to begin with, on the fur industry a few hundred years back, but I do not want to go into history - everybody knows it. The benefits of a healthy fur industry would reach out across Canada, especially to all our small communities across Canadas north.
Mr. Joe: It is with great pride that I rise once again in this House to speak about how important trapping is to the people of the Yukon. A great deal of history goes unsaid. As the Member for Old Crow well knows, history is as important as trapping in the lives of First Nations people. In our tradition, we only say some of these things when we are out on the land.
Our families wait at home for the fur that will keep us warm during the winter.
First Nation people did this long before white people came to our country. The white people came to our land searching for fur. The people of Europe found out that we are right all along - the furs keep us warm.
Our people welcomed the new people from Europe. We taught them where to get the best furs, the best ways to trap, and how to skin animals to keep the best fur. I remember my father used to tell us stories about all the people he taught. He was a good trapper and he was very willing to share his knowledge.
I would like to tell a story about the trading of fur with the Indian people on the coast. This was an important part of us growing as a nation. We exchanged many good things with these people. We exchanged stories and songs. It was an important part of our culture. Even after the white man came here, we traded our fur for tools and for money, with which we could buy things to make our life better. We needed this trade to help our children grow up healthy and strong. They were better off because of the fur trade.
But then things started to go wrong. The same European people decided that they did not like trapping any more. They thought that we hurt the animals and that it was cruel. Take it from me, they did not know what they were talking about. I could take any of these people out to my trapline to show them just what life is like. It is not what they think it is. This is what happens when people talk about things that they do not know about. They make judgments, they tell lies and they hurt people who are just trying to make a living.
I would like to add that it is not just the people in communities who benefit from trapping. Many people here in Whitehorse depend on incomes from trappers to make their living. A trapper buys supplies and has enough money to come into town and buy things. There are still lots of people who are in the business of trapping who depend on it for a major part of their income.
They think that trappers are not able to trap wisely. I would ask the same question of those people who use artificial clothes. Did you think that using oil to make clothes is any healthier? Think about all the pollution that goes into the air and the water in order to make plastic clothes. In my opinion, it is not wise.
So, you see, it is a trade-off, and it is a way of balancing both worlds; therefore, I would like to add my words, once again, in support of this motion. We must do anything we possibly can to make sure that trapping is respected, that our fur continues to keep people warm, and that government works to help this industry.
In closing, when you talk about trapping, it is not an easy life. I have been a trapper myself. Sometimes, I used to trap, come home at 50 degrees below, 40 below, 45 below, and I worked hard for very little. However, this is my life, and I enjoy it very much, even though I did not make that kind of money. I did not mind these kinds of days in my younger days.
Today, you see a different world. You have to force the young people to get out and try to learn the culture.
I want to add one more thing. Even trapping is not worth anything if it gets so bad. I would like to see the government continue with the trapping program to provide training for the young people. This would keep trapping alive for the people of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is a great pleasure to be able to follow the Member for Vuntut Gwichin and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun on this. I can assure the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that as long as I am the Minister of Renewable Resources the trapping program will continue.
It seems that for the past 11 years I have had to speak to this motion every year in the Legislature. It is a motion that should always be brought to the attention of people here, as it is a very important motion for a lot of people. A lot of people in the outside world do not realize the importance of trapping, nor do they care.
Trappers make their own living. As the Member for Mayo-Tatchun said, it is a tough living. They do not make a lot of money but they are happy and that is just as important as money.
The Government of the Yukon supports the trapping community in the Yukon and also across Canada. We recognize the social and traditional values that trapping brings to the aboriginal peoples. We recognize the economic importance of trapping to many small Yukon communities. This obtainable utilization of wildlife affords many Yukoners and other northern Canadians with a unique and cherished lifestyle. All trappers are environmentalists. They recognize the need to use the land and farm the fur sensibly. They are people who carefully follow the seasons. They know the land and its animals, treating both with respect.
The Yukon should be very proud of what has been accomplished by the Department of Renewable Resources regarding their efforts to encourage humane trapping. The department has sponsored trappers, provided education workshops and placed restrictions on the use of steel-jawed leg-hold traps.
New, more humane traps, recommended by the Fur Institute of Canada have been introduced. A trap exchange program has been introduced that will help the trapping community meet this transition.
The new regulations are supported by the Yukon trappers. They are concerned about the image of their industry and the welfare of the animals that they harvest.
The banning of steel-jawed, leg-hold traps has been done in order to comply with a regulation passed by the European Economic Community in 1991. The regulation was prepared by the European Economic Community, as a result of intense lobbying by European organizations opposed to trapping.
Although I do agree there is a need for watchdogs, I feel the energy and dollars could be better spent addressing the millions of starving people on our planet today.
Many of the interest groups so quick to condemn trapping know nothing about the industry, or the Canadian north and its people. These groups are very quick to criticize, but very seldom do they offer any alternatives to those who trap for their livelihood.
Our aboriginal people have been trapping and trading furs for thousands of years and to them this is an irreplaceable lifestyle.
To demonstrate our support for the Yukon trapping industry, our government arranges training programs each year through a contribution agreement with the Yukon Trappers Association. These programs help to keep Yukon trappers up to date with the changes in the fur industry, locally, nationally and internationally.
The government also provides financial assistance, both directly and indirectly, to trappers in the territory. Trappers are able to apply for funding assistance for capital projects that enable them to improve their fur harvest capabilities. This funding assistance has been in the form of a grant up to a maximum of 25 percent of the project.
Our government continues to respond to inquiries about trapping in the north. These inquiries are received from interested people all around the world. We take every opportunity to promote wildlife trapping as being economically viable and a wise and sustainable use of our natural resources.
Also, this is a very opportune time for this to happen, as tomorrow morning a fur-bearing animal conference will be starting in the Yukon, which will be attended by people from Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Alaska; on Saturday, the trappers will meet again.
I would say to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that although we do have these trapping conferences, we attract very few young people. It is up to people like him to get these young people to attend these events.
We cannot teach the elders new practices, no matter how we try. The elders know more about trapping than any of our biologists or anyone else, but the young people in todays world have to use modern traps.
I still say and I will always maintain that the elders should be left alone to lead their lives the way that they want, but the young people have to use modern trapping methods, not the elders.
I urge you to transmit this motion, when it is passed, immediately, to the Speaker of the House of Commons in Ottawa. I have made this request a number of times. Although I think we have put the message across, we must keep on continually telling people that this is a way of life and should not go the way of the seal hunt in Newfoundland.
Mr. Cable: I rise in support of the motion of the Member for Vuntut Gwichin. Trapping is a way of life for many native and non-native persons in the Yukon. For many of our native Yukoners, it is more than an economic pursuit; it is a form of cultural expression. Renewable resource harvesting is also, for First Nations and non-First Nations people alike, a viable and sustainable industry that should be supported.
Research and innovation has changed the trapping industry in recent years, which has done much to alleviate the negative images that have been created about the industry. The development of new trapping techniques and the increasing use of new traps is an example of this change and innovation. The federal government has a role to play in working with organizations, such as the Fur Institute of Canada, in its efforts to improve the image of the industry. There is a role here for our local government, working with the local fur industry, to promote the industry and the associated jobs.
I have no hesitation in supporting the motion.
Mr. Millar: I rise in support of this motion, as well. Although I am not a trapper myself, like the Members for Mayo-Tatchun and Vuntut Gwichin, I have a number of friends who are trappers. I would like to pass on some concerns that they have related to me over the years and things I have noticed things about the industry on my own, from spending many hours out on traplines with various trappers.
The lifestyles of the people in my riding are mixed. Some of them do it as a main source of income. Some are augmenting other sources of income.
I would also like to say, at this time, that the policies of the umbrella final agreement is that 70 percent of the traplines should be native. In the Klondike, I believe that there is only 30 percent native and 70 percent other ownership of traplines. I mention this only because I know it is a concern of everyone involved in the Klondike riding.
There is a 25-year phase-in period for this to happen, so the people should not get too excited and start to panic about it being incorrect; I believe that over a 25-year period it will correct itself.
Education of the public is something we are going to have to continue to work harder at, so that the people will have a better understanding of what the people in the trapping industry are doing with regard to humane trapping techniques. One way to do this may be to put trapping displays in the visitor reception centres in the communities. The local trapping community in Dawson is currently talking about the possibility of doing just that.
What would be involved in these displays? They could have some of the old type of traps shown alongside the new traps and maybe some of the animals themselves could be on display - something of interest that would attract the tourists attention so they would come to look and maybe learn a little bit more about the industry.
I believe that if tourists were able to see the positive things that are going on and the difficulties we have experienced in meeting some of the regulations pertaining to trapping, they would have a better appreciation of the industry. For example, trappers are required to check their trapline every three days or so; it is almost impossible to do this on some lines in the Yukon, because it is such a large territory and the lines are so big, without taking into consideration the possibility of bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
Another positive thing they should be aware of is the trap trade-in program, which has already been mentioned a couple of times here today, where a trapper takes in a couple of his old traps and gets a new one. We must let people who come into the territory know that we are doing everything we can to be as humane as possible so that they can take that information back home with them. One hopes that by spreading this by word of mouth, which seems to be one of the most efficient ways to get tourists into the territory, they will come up with a better and more positive outlook on the industry.
We must encourage the Canadian government to get the facts of the trapping industry in the Yukon to the people in Europe and other areas, who do not understand the reality of trapping in the Canadian north.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am rising in support of the motion before us from the Member for Vuntut Gwichin. As others have said before me, this is not the first time that we have had to deal with this motion. As long as this industry is threatened by the anti-trapping movement, this will not be the last either.
The Member for Vuntut Gwichin talked about lifestyle. The trapping industry is not only a livelihood, but it is, like the Member said, a lifestyle. I have had the opportunity to go out on several traplines in my life in the Yukon. One trapline that I went out on several years ago was in Old Crow. I had the rare opportunity that some would have to go up to Old Crow Flats in the spring of the year and go ratting. I can assure you that it is a very unique experience.
On May 1, there are almost 24 hours of daylight in that area. You do all your trapping and all your travelling between about seven oclock at night and six oclock in the morning. The rest of the time it is so mild out that the snow is too soft and you cannot travel. I was amazed at the families who were out there on Crow Flats, that had the experience in the spring.
One of the things that was discouraging to me, and I expressed some concern about it, was how that there were so few families going out to Crow Flats, from previous years. The reason for that mostly is the price of furs. It just was not worthwhile any more. Many of these people who carried on this tradition had no other means of income. The only way they could really go to Crow Flats in the spring of the year to trap, would be if the fur prices were high enough so that they could make enough money to pay for the gas, food and other things they would need to go out on the trapline. In the last few years, the price of rats has been very low. It has been more of a lifestyle rather than a living for most of these people who have gone out in that area.
The Minister of Renewable Resources talked about the timeliness of this motion. I think it is very timely, with the conference being held here in the next couple of days, as well as the trappers annual general meeting coming up on the weekend. I mentioned earlier that this is the sort of motion that we have dealt with before, but I think it is one that we are going to have to continue to deal with, year after year after year, simply to send the message out to people involved about the concern we have over the lifestyle and over the industry. I can assure you that the antis, the people who are against trapping, are not going to stop until they wipe the industry out, as they did the seal industry.
These people who are lobbying against the fur industry now are not just against the fur industry. That is where all Yukoners should be concerned. Although some Yukoners may not be trappers in their lives, they may go hunting from time to time, they may fish from time to time, and they may use the outdoors. The people who are driving the anti-fur movement are the type of people who are what I call preservationists, or environmental terrorists, who, one day, want to eliminate all those kinds of activities. Trapping is just one step along the way to destroying a lifestyle that many of us here in the Yukon have, love and enjoy, year in and year out.
All Canadians should be aware of how trapping led to the discovery of Canada. Many of the highways and corridors we have for transportation today were corridors established by the trapping industry by way of trading or just travelling from one area to another. Even today, when we are building new roads, we look to the mountain passes, the rivers, the mountain valleys and the routes the old trappers used to travel in working on their traplines, as well as getting their goods to market.
One of the areas where we could probably do a little more is one the Member for Kluane has talked about, which is the area of educating our young people of the value of trapping. We do some things now in our Yukon schools. The curriculum division works cooperatively with the Council for Yukon Indians to develop some appropriate materials to acquaint students with First Nations cultures, and trapping is a component of these kits.
We could do more, though. We have a program in Yukon schools now called Project Wild, which has a trapping component in it, and that is something we could emphasize. The young children are sometimes very easily influenced by pictures or sensationalism, and the anti-trapping/anti-hunting people are very good at sensationalizing these areas.
Another thing that we have to point out to people and educate them about is the very active work that has been carried out in the past and is still being carried out today to develop more humane trapping methods. I think that there have been great strides made in that area.
Another area in which I think people are a bit misled is the value of trapping to the environment. As the Member for Old Crow said, the trapping industry harvests the surplus and sometimes prevents the cycling of the animals. To use his example in the Old Crow area, when the muskrats were not trapped they still seemed to plunge in population, due to possible depletion of their habitat. When they were trapped in the area on a regular basis, there seemed to be a stable number of muskrats in the area.
As we gain more knowledge about the environment and wildlife we understand that there are sustainable wildlife populations and that we do have the ability to manage those populations with more modern data. We should be able to do that and be able to get our message out to those who are advocating doing away with this particular industry.
Something else that I think is important, and that I have mentioned in the past in speeches in this House, are the trappers themselves, the people who are out in the bush trapping. Many times, these individuals are the pulse of the environment. They are the people who identify the problems, sometimes before our biologists do, and certainly before many city dwellers do, and recognize that there are problems in the environment.
The trappers are the people who have had their advice ignored sometimes in the past, but I am pleased to say that recently, this government, in particular the current Minister of Renewable Resources, has taken a great deal of time and effort to sit down with First Nations people, trappers, people living in the bush and others to listen to their concerns about what is going on in the bush.
It is about time that these people have been listened to. Many of these people have spent their whole life living in the bush and they do know what is going on in the bush. They do not have to get the valuable information that they pass on to us from books. Much of the information consists of common sense and understanding of what is going on in the bush. These people are a very good pulse on the current environment; we should be listening to them.
The anti-trapping industry is a very well-organized group. They are not going to quit. Currently, fur prices, as I understand it, are starting to edge their way up again. However, as soon as the market starts to pick up, the anti-fur groups will be there, speaking out loudly and strongly. They will produce their obscene videos of fur coats and blood, and paint a very unrealistic and untrue picture of what the trapping industry is all about.
We have to work hard every year and not just pass this motion and forget about it, thinking we have done our job. We have to continue to promote the trapping industry and educate people in the Yukon, Ottawa and throughout the world that it is a very viable industry and supports a necessary lifestyle in the north and throughout Canada.
I would urge all Members in the House to support the motion before us by the Member for Vuntut Gwichin.
Mr. Harding: I certainly have no problem supporting the motion introduced by the Member for Vuntut Gwichin. I recognize the contribution of the trapping industry to both our economic and cultural values in the territory. I know that it is an important, free way of earning a living, depending upon a renewable resource. I feel it has a real role to play in the territory.
Given wise use and conservation, we can always continue to have a viable trapping industry, but it is important that elected representatives also demonstrate their support for the industry because of the very strong lobbies against fur.
We have become a society of groups with many different interests. We no longer have to join a political party to express our views and have some influence over how things are done. We simply have to join a special-interest group with a specific direction and beliefs and lobby the government through those groups, without taking a lot of ownership for what is asked for. The point is made on the basis of ones particular interest and how it weighs against others.
In the system we have moved away from, if one wanted some influence over government, it would be necessary to move into a party and gain a position of influence from within the party. However, things have changed. I am not saying it is better or worse, but the system of joining groups - particularly anti-trapping and anti-fur groups - has really made the fight more difficult for trappers in terms of the abuse they take and the price they can get for their furs. It is their livelihood - a sustainable livelihood - which provides food and shelter and all the things they need.
So it is very important that elected people declare where they are coming from. I know the Member of Parliament for the Yukon is also very much in favour of the trapping industry and has declared her support. We are in support of the trapping industry and believe in it. I know people in my community - people who have perhaps come from other places in Canada - have come to the Yukon as a way of not really supplementing their income but more because they like the lifestyle and they like having that independent way of doing things.
They have taken on trapping; they have used the trapping courses here in the Yukon to get a knowledge of it, which makes them more self-sufficient. They have also been really active in hunter-education programs and that type of thing. I think people in my community want that feeling of being able to be self-sufficient, being able to use the land, to live off the land. To help them in that respect they have become quite interested in trapping and a lot of them now are doing things along those lines - working with the trappers in the area and investigating the possibility of running their own lines and that type of thing.
So I really have absolutely no problem supporting this motion and I think it is important; it has been done before in this Legislature, but it is important that we do make our position clear and throw our support behind the trappers and their association, which is a special interest group, just as the anti- groups are. They certainly have their lobby groups and they certainly come to government and present their side of the story. Unfortunately, some of the anti- groups have moved to very sensationalized tactics to make their cases, which I do not think are to the benefit of anyone for cutting to the bone to get to the real facts surrounding how the industry works and what exactly is under way in terms of looking at more humane ways to harvest the animals or the renewable resource.
Unfortunately, there is an argument to be made by some against trapping, and I can respect the argument. I do not agree with it, but I can respect the right they have to make it. It is important that we support the lobbies of the trapping association here in the Yukon and of the trappers, because it is very important to our way of life here in the territory and our cultural and economic way of life.
It is incumbent upon elected people to state their position clearly, and that is why I will support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would like to speak in support of this motion. Having been the local fur trader in Watson Lake for many years, I have had a hands-on association with many of the Yukon trappers. I was also the local fur buyer for the Yukon Trappers Association. I will just explain the process.
I would have a separate in-trust bank account for the Yukon trappers, and we would have a couple of thousand dollars in there. When the trappers brought furs in, we would give them a 50 percent to 60-percent advance for the furs they brought in. Then the trappers would go to the grocery store and pick up their grubstake for the next month and have the opportunity to go back into the bush. Most of the auctions take place in March, and this would be too late for them to get the cash.
In this process, the trappers made a choice of which auction the furs were to be sent to. At that time, there were three - the Ontario Trappers Association, the one in Vancouver, and one in the Hudson Bay in Edmonton. My understanding is that the only one left is the one in Vancouver, although I am not certain of that.
The records of these transactions would be sent to the Yukon Trappers Association headquarters in Whitehorse, and the deductions for the advances would be sent to the various auction houses. These would be made immediately upon the sale of the furs, and one cheque would be sent to the Yukon Trappers Association, and what was left would be sent to the trapper.
Also at this auction house, the furs were cleaned; they were put into huge drums of sawdust and fluffed up. They would be graded, and this was the way they would be presented to the furriers. The furriers would buy a certain quantity of a certain grade. They would pay a certain percentage fee to the auction house for all this work, and one percent of the total proceeds would be sent to the Canada Fur Council, which was used in an attempt to counteract the anti-trapping movement.
It was during those days, as the local fur buyer and a taxidermist, that I developed a deep appreciation for the trappers and their way of life. Quite often, although a transaction might only take five minutes, you would spend an hour or more just listening to all the stories they had to tell. They may have been walking along and gone through the ice, or their snowmobile broke through the ice, and they had to spend many hours trying to get it out. One of them told me the story of where he was just zipping along on a fairly high plateau. If you have been out in the outdoors a lot, you will know that a lot of these potholes tend to be full of water in the fall, then they freeze over and dry out during the winter. He was zipping across one of these potholes, and the next thing he knew, his snowmobile was right inside a garage. It just dropped through the ice. He went about 100 feet under the ice before he managed to stop and realize what was going on.
I imagine that it was probably only about 10 feet. Those stories always get so stretched out and that is what makes them so enjoyable.
From the economic and employment sense, trapping is winter employment for many people in the rural communities. It contributes substantially to the Yukon economy.
I was kind of alarmed today when I received some of the statistics indicating that fur production for 1992 amounted to approximately $535,000. I think back to the mid-1980s when I was running my shop there; the annual production was approximately $1 million. Obviously, the recession and the anti-trapping movement has certainly had a tremendous impact on the trappers and their ability to make at least a part-time living from this.
Another thing that is very important in the trapping process is proper skinning. It can increase the value of pelts by almost 100 percent. If it is not skinned properly, you might get zero for it. If it is skinned properly, you might get $100 for that same pelt. The trappers really appreciate the work done by Renewable Resources and the assistance they have given them over the years through trappers workshops, which have helped them to improve skinning techniques. It is sad to say that there are still many furs, even today, that still come through the Yukon Trappers Association where the trappers could get substantially more money for them, if they would take the time to attend some of these workshops and learn to do it properly.
During my time as a local trader, many of the trappers brought in old traps to trade in order to purchase the leg-hold traps. They would trade these in. At that time, they had to purchase the Conibears and they would get a small amount for the old traps, which were mostly sold to novelty stands and stuff like that, or sold to tourists as items of interest or souvenirs.
The fact that trappers during the mid-1980s were bringing in the leg-hold traps and purchasing the Conibears at substantial cost to themselves, showed that they were dedicated to seeing the industry be preserved. They were quite aware of the fact that the antis were creating problems for them then.
Also, the proper stretching board patterns were very popular with the trappers. Again, the skinning is one point, but furs also have to be stretched properly. This way they get the premium dollar for their furs that they have worked so hard for.
Trapping is the bread and butter for many, and also a favoured lifestyle for many of the semi-retired. Trapping is also an important source of revenue for the local aircraft charter companies. It is during the off-season that charters would normally cater to the outfitters and to the various mining companies. Trappers help them get just enough money to maintain their airplanes over the winter.
I would like to compliment our former Speaker, Mr. Don Taylor, whom we all know very well. It would be nice if Don could hear this at his cabin at Stewart Lake - although I understand he is in town right now, so perhaps he is listening. Faithfully, at 7:00 every night, with his SBX radio, he checks on every trapper he can reach. This normally takes an hour and, once in a while, it frustrates somebody trying to get on the air, because when Don is on there, nobody interrupts.
The trappers normally tell him what cabin they are going to be at, and that they are taking their radio with them. He checks with them to see that they have arrived safely. For those who just go out trapping for the day, he knows approximately when they should be back. If he calls their cabin, and there is no answer, then he either gets in contact with another trapper to check on them, or he notifies the proper authorities, who would check to see what is happening. There are a lot of trappers and prospectors who owe their lives to Dons work, who does this because he loves the Yukon and the Yukon has been good to him. He feels that, in this way, he can still carry out some of the service that he has dedicated a huge part of his life to, as the former Member for Watson Lake.
Most trappers love their way of life, and they do their best to manage this resource. It is unfortunate that there is always one or two who exploit and claim-jump. There are a few bad eggs out there and, unfortunately, they make it very difficult for the ones who do their best to manage the resource properly.
Both from the economic and historical perspective, trapping is a very important part of the Yukon. I am sure that the government on this side will do everything to make sure that this way of life will continue in the long term.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to lend my voice in support of this motion, because I know that it is important for the Legislature to speak with one voice in support of the trapping industry, which has suffered the slings and arrows - I do not know how far I want to keep that quote going - and has had many an outrageous fortune perpetrated by the anti-fur lobbyists. It is a perennial motion; it is an annual event that we conduct to demonstrate our support for the industry.
Many people in my new riding of McIntyre-Takhini are active trappers, and certainly many of the people in the Mayo area whom I represented for approximately one decade in the Legislature, are at least part-time trappers and receive a part of their income from trapping activity.
As some Members have mentioned already, trapping has not only been a form of income, it has also been a healthy way of life. I think that after a lifetime of trapping, you could be almost as fit as a working, underground miner - I stress working underground miner.
The NDP in the Legislature have been long-time supporters of the industry, as has been demonstrated on many occasions in the past. I think the most active and aggressive supporter of the industry was David Porter, who was the Minister of Renewable Resources for a period of time - as you know - who I think showed the kind of imagination and determination in providing for, not only financial assistance to various pro-trapping groups, but also the moral incentives to the industry and to international groups that really formed the first - and in some respects, final - line of defence for the industry in the face of an international anti-trapping lobby.
I was quite impressed with Mr. Porters aggressive approach, not only in the Legislature, but privately in discussions with caucus members and also in public, to ensure that there was general awareness among legislators for the needs of the industry in a time of crisis.
I was impressed by his understanding of the role that the Indigenous Survival International and the Fur Bearers Institute played in acting as effective lobbyists for trappers. I was also impressed by his determination that Yukon groups were able to participate in international campaigns to ensure that the word was out from the territory in support of the industry.
The Department of Education has played a significant role as well. The Minister of Education has indicated a few of the things that have taken place in the past. It is not an exhaustive list, but it gave flavour to some of the initiatives that have been taken in the classroom through curriculum development and by individual teachers to make our children more aware of all sides of the issue, particularly a respect for the traditional lifestyle practiced by the First Nations people in the territory. A significant proportion of that is, of course, trapping.
They have done such a good job that my own son, who participated in snaring an animal and a class project associated with skinning the animal, had to be seated on my knee for a bit when he started looking longingly at the family pets, so I could tell him that there is a difference between domestic animals and those that frequent the wilderness.
The children are the least susceptible to the alarmists and one-sided propagandists who do not want to see the full picture shown to the general public. They are less susceptible to intellectually one-sided arguments. Consequently, the next generation of leaders in the territory and adult citizens will have a greater awareness than before of the impact of the industry on the economy, lifestyle and culture of our territory.
I will close by simply saying that I support the motion. I thank the Member for Vuntut Gwichin for bringing it to the Legislature. I would indicate to him that he follows in a long line of Members who have been charged with the responsibility of raising this matter in the Legislature and seeking unanimous consent. Through his wise words, he has ensured that at least all the speakers who have spoken so far respect the interests of the trapping industry. He has encouraged them to speak with one voice once again in support of trapping.
I support the motion and encourage other Members to do the same.
Ms. Moorcroft: We have heard the Member for Vuntut Gwichin, and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, speak about the lifestyle they were raised in, a lifestyle that included trapping as an important part of their economic and cultural heritage. Although I do not have their history behind me, I rise to express my support for this motion to recognize that trapping is an important part of life in many Yukon communities.
Yukon trappers continue to contribute to both the economic and cultural values of Yukon communities and lifestyles. Countless generations of First Nations people who have lived on this land have relied on the fur industry for their livelihood and their cultural survival. They still live here, and they still rely on trapping for that survival.
The previous NDP administration worked with the Fur Institute of Canada and the group Indigenous Survival International, to lobby nationally and internationally for support of trappers and the fur industry. As well, the Yukon Member of Parliament and the national leader of the New Democratic Party has contributed a great deal of her energies to support trappers and travelled around the world, lobbying on behalf of the fur industry.
The Education Act acknowledges the First Nations prior existence and heritage in the land we call Yukon. Children in Yukon schools are now taught awareness of traditional lifestyles in the classrooms. Part of the Land, Part of the Water, by Yukon aboriginal people, with anthropologist Catherine McClelland, is another example of an initiative by the previous administration to increase the knowledge of Yukon heritage, including the trapping industry.
As the Member for Mayo-Tatchun stated, furs kept people warm, and there was a fur trade between the interior Athapaskan people and coastal tribes long before the white fur traders arrived in the Yukon.
The Minister of Education spoke about how trapping led to the discovery of Canada. In a sense, that is true. The Minister of Education seems to be still learning that the aboriginal population, which has lived on the land for centuries, did have a culture and a fur trade before Russian and European traders arrived and explored the waterways and mountain passes, previously known and travelled by our First Nations people.
Trapping is a longstanding, respectable and honest way of making a living. Trappers depend directly on a healthy and continuing population of animals in order to trap, hunt and fish. For their own future, Yukon trappers practice humane and wise use of wildlife resources. Trapping has been a key component of the territorys economy. It was thriving before the gold rush.
We must encourage this renewable resource industry and educate anti-fur lobbyists to respect a way of life a number of people depend upon. For many rural northern native communities, there is no alternative. Trapping contributes to the economic and social well-being of many Yukoners and to the communities in which they live.
In closing, I support this motion, which calls for this House to urge the Government of Canada to continue to support the fur industry, both within Canada and abroad.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to support this motion, which has been brought forth by my colleague, the Member for Vuntut Gwichin. While Members speaking before me said that this motion has been debated in this House many times before and, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini put it, it is almost an annual event, I believe that it is a very important annual event. It is important that this Legislature stay on the record for supporting an industry that contributes to Yukon society and to the social fabric of the Yukon, as well as to the economic fabric of the Yukon.
Many years ago, prior to my coming to the Yukon, I had the opportunity to participate in the trapping industry for some five or six years. As Members in this House are aware, my past history was as an outfitter. Living that type of lifestyle left me with winters during which I would have to go out and seek employment. After doing that for a few years, I decided to purchase a trapline, so I could continue to have the freedom and the ability to make my own way in society without being dependent on having to go to work for wages in the wintertime. It was a very good way for me to supplement my outfitting income, so I could provide for my family for the entire 12 months of the year.
I just want to go on record and say that, because of my great love for the outdoors, I found trapping to be a very satisfying way of making a living and promoting a lifestyle. The area where I was trapping had a lot of marten. Perhaps some of the Members in this House are not old enough to remember, but, before the Second World War, during the hungry 1930s and, prior to that, in the 1920s, marten was a very valuable animal. I can remember hearing stories from old trappers who were getting $80 to $100 a pelt for marten during the hungry 1930s.
Trapping was a way to make a living when there was not much else for people to do in those days. There are many great stories about national park wardens in Alberta who used to supplement their income with a few marten hides in the wintertime, while they were out on snowshoe patrol - that was the only way they had of getting around.
I am thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this type of a lifestyle for a very short time in my life, facing the challenges of having no one to depend upon but yourself, your own wits and your own skills for survival, and your ability to obtain furs so that you could supplement your income.
I never did have the opportunity to trap muskrats and I think I will have to take up the offer of my friend and colleague, the Member for Vuntut Gwichin, to go to the Old Crow Flats someday and participate in trapping muskrats. I did trap beaver, but I never did trap muskrat. During caucus this morning the Member for Old Crow was showing us how to call muskrats and I think that is quite unique. Mr. Speaker, the Member also told me that he was going to use his muskrat call in Committee of the Whole to call the House to order, so maybe we will have the opportunity to hear that this evening.
I believe that trapping gives people the ability to have the freedom of that lifestyle to be totally dependent upon themselves for their survival and their livelihood. I think that it helps very much to build character in people.
The Hon. Member for Watson Lake spoke of a former Speaker in this House, Mr. Don Taylor, and his radio network that provides a service to trappers throughout the Yukon, parts of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. As I said, I have never trapped in the Yukon, but I have listened to Mr. Taylor on the single side-band radio while I was at my place in Burwash during the winter. I did not start up the light plant, so I did not have a telephone, but I did have the single side-band radio and I would listen to his total dedication of keeping track of people hundreds and hundreds of miles apart in the wilderness. Yet, through his efforts, they were a very close-knit community where people looked after each other.
It is great to have tools, such as single side-band radios, available to us. When I was trapping in Alberta, we did not have those luxuries and we were pretty well totally dependent upon our ourselves. If something happened, the only time that you would have someone come to look for you is if you said you were going to be out on a certain day and you were not; then your family would get worried and send help for you.
Also, what I enjoyed about the years that I participated in the trapping industry was being able to share it with my children. My children were very small during that time; my second daughter was about seven years old. On the weekends I would take the children out on snow machines to go trapping. We would check the trapline on the way into the cabin and pick up whatever marten that we had in the traps, get to the cabin and let them thaw out. The next evening we would skin them and the children would help. I cannot forget how enthused they were about learning to help with those chores and how interested they were. I found that very rewarding.
I believe that, as I said earlier, we have to continue to go on record in support of the trapping industry in the Yukon. It has not only economic value, but cultural value for First Nations and non-First Nations people - people who have grown up in that lifestyle. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to live that lifestyle and the financial rewards are small. The quality of life is something fantastic, to be out there in the modern days on a snow machine on a beautiful snowy day. One can hear the sounds of winter when one turns off the snow machine. It is a fantastic feeling and is part of my life that I will never forget.
It is hard work for dedicated trappers. They ask nothing except for the ability to sell those furs to make enough to continue their lifestyle. There are few people, if any, who are going to get rich by being a trapper, but they can supplement their income and have a very good lifestyle. I believe that some of the outfitters today in the Yukon are still involved in trapping in the winter to supplement their incomes.
We are always going to have the environmentalists and anti-trappers beating down the doors and putting up roadblocks to try and kill this lifestyle, just as they have killed the sealing industry in Newfoundland. They will continue to work hard to try and kill the trapping industry as a whole. We must continue to help educate the people of the world that trapping can be and is being done in a humane manner and has much to add to the fabric of society as a whole.
As Minister responsible for intergovernmental relations, I would like to speak to the part of the motion that urges the Government of Canada to contribute support to the fur industry, both within Canada and abroad. As the Member for Kluane urged, Mr. Speaker, I also request that you forward this motion to the Speaker of the Canadian Legislature. We must get our message through to the federal people so that they can continue their fight abroad to tear down the barriers being placed before the trapping industry in the Yukon.
The Yukon government has long supported the Canadian fur industry. The Canadian government, for its part, through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, has participated in lobbying efforts on behalf of the fur trade and indigenous survival, both nationally and internationally. The External Affairs Department has provided financial support for the lobbying efforts of groups, such as the Fur Institute of Canada. I believe that this House should encourage the federal government in these endeavours. I urge you to forward this motion to the federal House of Commons. It is crucial that this level of political and operational support from the federal government be extended to ensure that international markets for products from indigenous activities, such as trapping, be maintained and even expanded. The issue of available markets for fur must also be incorporated in the federal governments dealings on the Free Trade Agreement and fair trade discussions through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades and other international trade forums.
Markets in Europe and Asia provide exciting possibilities for the Yukon fur industry. National support to groups such as Indigenous Survival International and the Fur Institute of Canada is important to ensure that international markets are cultivated. Motions such as this will go very far in supporting these groups to get their message out throughout the world.
As the Member for Kluane said, this is a timely motion because of the meetings that are taking place in Whitehorse tomorrow. I would just like to urge all Members of this House to support this motion here today.
Ms. Joe: I was not on the list but I chose to speak in support of this motion. The Member for Old Crow is not here, but I would like to let him know that I appreciated his version of the history of trapping in the Yukon. It gives this House a lot more information about what happened long before the gold rush.
I have been in the Yukon for almost 28 years. Most people know that I grew up in southern British Columbia on a reserve. There was an annual run of salmon through a creek that ran through the reserve. Consequently, I was not knowledgeable about trapping and hunting until I came to the Yukon
My young years were spent eating a lot of fish, watching it being dried and salted. We had orchards with lots of fruit, wild berries, beef and garden vegetables. People used to say that aboriginal people from that part of the country had it easy because the weather was warm and we did not have to do the hard work to make a living by trapping and hunting as they did in the northern part of the country.
I came to the Yukon in 1965 and recognized, through my friends, that there was a different way of life up here and that trapping and hunting was a very important part of it.
When I was with the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians, one of the things we did, which a lot of people do not know about, was to establish the Yukon Trappers Association in 1973. Two individuals who worked on that program were from YANSI. Anyone who has been in the Yukon for a long time will remember Ted Geddes and Ollie Dixon. They travelled through the communities buying furs. I remember one time when they came back from Old Crow and said that for about two weeks after they were dreaming about rats, because they counted thousands of them. They travelled throughout the country buying and selling furs.
We also had workshops to educate the young aboriginal people about trapping. In 1976, the Yukon Trappers Association became independent, as it is now. I thought that this information was not well known and felt it should be included in part of my speech.
I am in support of this motion. As it has been mentioned in the past, we have supported similar motions in the House. As the Opposition, we introduced a motion to support trapping in the Yukon, and as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini mentioned, it is an annual occurence for us to introduce this motion in the House.
Our party, while in government, of course supported a number of initiatives, implemented different kinds of programs and had money available to promote trapping in the Yukon. Although there are many people who are not supporters of trapping, if one has lived in the Yukon long enough and seen the kind of things that are important to the people of the Yukon, one will recognize and respect that way of life.
One of the things I was aware of many years ago was the loss of many traplines by our aboriginal people in the Yukon and the many ways that people lost their traplines. Because we are all in a good mood today and supporting this, I will not mention some of the underhanded ways by which some of our aboriginal people in the Yukon lost their traplines. I recognize the cultural and economic benefits of trapping in the Yukon. It is a very important part of life and, therefore, our whole party, I am sure, will be supporting it.
Speaker: I would just like to remind the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and in fact all Members, whether they are in the House or not at the present moment, that they should not, in their speeches, refer to the presence or absence of other Members.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to go on record in support of the motion by my colleague, the Member for Vuntut Gwichin, with respect to trapping and its contribution to the economy and culture of the Yukon and Canada.
I have very little to say about the motion. It has been many years since I had anything directly to do with trapping. When I was a young boy in Alberta, I helped my brother, who had a small trapline near our farm. Funds earned from those activities helped with the very existence of that farm. At the time, my familys lifestyle was not too dissimilar to Mr. Abels past experiences. I believe that way of life should be encouraged and protected.
I am tired of listening to the various lobbyists and groups that denounce hunting and trapping, especially as these people are usually ill-informed. However, in any case, I would like to go on record in support of the motion.
Mr. Penikett: I have a short speech here I would like to give in support of this motion. Having expressed my support for the motion, I will now sit down.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will not have to speak very long to be able to say that I did not give the shortest speech in the Legislature on this important motion. Of course, I am sure it will enjoy unanimous support in the Legislature.
I listened with great interest to the speeches before mine. I truly enjoyed the speech that the Hon. Member for Vuntut Gwichin gave in his opening remarks.
The area that I represent in the Legislature has a good many First Nations residents within its boundaries. Many of those people are trappers. They enjoy the lifestyle, but they have fallen on hard times. The income for most of these people from trapping is minimal these days, given the depressed market for furs.
I think this motion is timely. I know the Yukon Trappers Association is meeting soon - this weekend, I think - and I know they will be encouraged to know that, once again, they enjoy the strong support of their elected Members in this place.
Therefore, I support this motion, along with everyone else here, and really do urge the various governments to redouble their efforts in the fight against those lobbyists who are anti-trapping, particularly in Europe, and to do whatever they can to help address the situation, so that fur prices, once again, may move upward and reach a level where this important lifestyle can be maintained by northern residents.
Speaker: If the Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Abel: Trapping and hunting are important to a great number of people across Canada. Therefore, I would like to thank all Members of this House for supporting this motion.
When the people of Old Crow, the Vuntut Gwichin, were selecting lands for the land claims agreement, they were aware that it was important to include those areas like the Old Crow Flats, where our people had hunted and trapped and lived for thousands of years. If there was more of a demand for furs of those animals that are trapped today, there would be more of our people on the land now, and all of the Yukon would benefit from the stronger fur market, because there are trappers in all of our communities in the Yukon.
I would like to close by saying that our territorial and federal governments can help the fur industry in the Yukon, and all across Canada, by encouraging and supporting all the people who are involved in trapping, processing and marketing wild furs.
Motion No. 35 agreed to
Clerk: Motion No. 29, standing in the name of Mr. Millar.
Motion No. 29
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Top of the World Highway should be upgraded and that the Government of Yukon should consider upgrading the existing ferry service and should investigate the feasibility of building a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City in order to promote tourism and economic development in the region.
Mr. Millar: Tourism is a very important industry to the Yukon as a whole, and to Dawson in particular. Tourism is the number two industry in the Yukon. Today it is worth about $47 million, or about 10 percent of the territorys economy. The recently released interim Dawson economic profile indicates that tourism accounts for 10 percent of person years of employment, 15 percent of the payroll and about five percent of purchases in the Dawson area. My wish is to enhance these numbers. The way that I want to do it is to start with long-term planning now, for capital projects in the future.
I am very much aware of the budgetary constraints of the present government at this time, but the governments mandate is to provide services to help private industry thrive. The government has a vital role to play in helping to provide the necessary infrastructure to allow the growth of tourism to take place. This would greatly benefit Dawson, as well as the taxpayers of this territory, by reducing, and ultimately eliminating, our dependence on government money to support our local economy.
When the time comes, I would like to see all the plans in place for developing a year-round highway loop with our Alaskan neighbours. At present, the Top of the World Highway on the Canadian side, known as the Taylor Highway, on the Alaska side, is open only to summer traffic. The road intersects with the Alaska Highway at Tetlin Junction on the U.S. side, and is easy access for travelers who intersect with other highways to Fairbanks and Anchorage.
One reason that it would be impossible to have the road open year-round at this time is because the government ferry at Dawson City can only run across the Yukon River during summer months. The ice bridge is suitable for traffic for three or four months of the year only. That means that there are two in-between seasons, during the winter freeze-up and the spring break-up, when there is no method for vehicle traffic to cross the river. This problem was identified many years ago, and has been discussed over those years. Nothing has been done to date.
In 1966, when Clinton Creek asbestos mine was coming on stream, the company and the town wanted a bridge, but it was believed by the decision makers to be a waste of capital project money, since the mine was only predicted to be operational for 10 years.
There was no vision in those days of what a bridge and a highway could do for the economy of this territory. Tourism was not heavily promoted at that time.
Times have changed. Dawson, the tourist mecca of the Yukon, would benefit greatly from year-round trade in our town, if the road was opened during the winter.
As you well know, Dawson is a town that has captured the flavour of the turn of the century. It is a charming town to live in or to visit. In the summer time, Dawson is teeming with pleasure visitors. July is the peak month, and we need to have more tourists come earlier in June and later in August, the month when the tourist traffic slows down considerably, before the town battens down for the winter.
In the summertime, the hotels and restaurants are booked and busy, but what about those other months of the year, known as the shoulder season? Dawson would like to boost that season until there is a full-fledged, year-round trade.
During the winter, Dawson does get some traffic because of winter sports tournaments such as hockey and curling, and competitions such as dog sled racing. However, we could greatly increase the numbers if a highway loop was available for year-round travel.
At present, when our Alaskan neighbours come to visit, they must drive the Alaska Highway all the way to Whitehorse and, then, swing down the Klondike Highway and drive the approximately 330 miles to Dawson. Either that or they can fly; both alternatives are fairly expensive, and driving is quite time consuming.
I am in no way proposing that Dawsons tourist traffic be increased with a determinant lessening of tourist traffic from Beaver Creek to Whitehorse. What I envision is that travellers travel by road to see new and different scenery and to have a variety of experience along the way.
Tourists want to see as much of the Yukon as they can in the time allotted to them. Some tourists have nothing but time, but many are travelling during a holiday break from their jobs, and they only have a few weeks to get from their home to the Yukon and back again, in time to return to their employment.
The loop would offer travellers another way to come into Dawson by one route, and the Alaska Highway offers another route for going home, or vice versa.
Several years ago, the Alaska Highway washed out in places and the road was closed. There were ones who knew of another route to Alaska through Dawson; however, there were many travellers who turned back before they reached the Yukon because they did not realize there was another transportation corridor available to them. Dawson was not prepared for all the traffic that did come at that one time.
The ordinary, regular tourist traffic can line up for six hours waiting to cross the river by ferry, because the rubber-tire traffic all want to leave early in the morning to be at the border when the U.S. customs office opens. It would be of great benefit if we could get the customs office hours extended so that there would not be this long lineup.
The ferry lineups, the year the Alaska Highway washed out, were backlogged for two or three days. These lineups create severe inconveniences to our visitors and local residents, who are also dependent upon the ferry. The ferry problem leaves a negative impression. As these tourists travel down the road, they may pass on negative comments that discourage other travellers from risking a similar experience. Many of these tourists are on a tightly structured schedule, and they cannot afford any delays.
Two centennial anniversaries are approaching: the discovery of gold in 1996 and the gold rush celebration in 1998. There is a projected increase in people who will visit Dawson. The bottleneck at the ferry will be an even more acute problem. We have to address it now.
For longer range planning, we have to look at constructing a bridge across the major gateway. The hard surfacing plan for the U.S. plan of the Taylor Highway is certainly a good start on upgrading the loop.
We must look at sitting down with the State of Alaska to explore ideas about a joint venture effort to upgrade the entire road from Tetlin Junction to Dawson. There is tremendous potential to draw more visitors into the Klondike from Alaska, or those en route to Alaska, especially at times known as shoulder seasons. A coordinated effort between Yukon and Alaska would create attractive options, and just think of the spinoff benefits this would have, not only to the people of the Yukon by bringing more traffic through Dawson and to other communities en route to Whitehorse, but it would also be a boon for all the people who live in the bush communities and settlements along the way, such as Chicken and Eagle.
I think it is time to have a far-reaching vision that extends into the future as a definite plan of where this government and the tourist industry want to be 20 or even 30 years from now, but we must address the ferry lineup problem immediately and without delay.
Mr. Penikett: I am not quite sure why I was asked to lead off from our side in this debate. Perhaps it is because I am a former Dawson resident, or perhaps it is because I once worked on the bridge in Dawson City. In any case, I am pleased to do so.
As everybody in the House knows, the Top of the World Highway provides an important link between the Yukon and our American neighbours to the west. Of course, improving the condition of the road would facilitate transportation and commerce between the two jurisdictions.
The Top of the World Highway is not only a commercial and transportation link, but it also serves as a beautiful scenic experience for tourists. I can well remember the frequent trips I made on that road during the days I worked at Clinton Creek, when it was an operating mine, and my parents lived in Dawson City. Members of my family used to commute between those two locations.
The motion is an interesting one, in terms of the way it is worded. It suggests that the Top of the World Highway should be upgraded, that the Government of the Yukon should consider upgrading the existing ferry service, and should investigate the feasibility of building a bridge across the river at Dawson City.
Of course, I am not sure how all of these pieces fit together. If one investigates the feasibility of building a bridge across the river, presumably, it might not be immediately necessary if the ferry service were improved.
I know, from my own conversations with people in Dawson City, that there is not a unanimous feeling in that town about any of the alternatives to improve the transportation of people and goods across the river, especially in the summer.
There are many roads in the territory that need work. There are many traffic problems in the summer during the height of the tourist season and they all require attention.
I guess the demonstration of the new governments commitment would be found in the proposed budget, which we will be talking about in the next few days and weeks. There is some commitment to the upgrading of the Top of World Highway in the budget, and that is fine.
Various ideas have been mooted about for improving the ferry service. There was an experiment last summer, about which I heard mixed reviews, where the government attempted to respond to an initiative by the Mayor of Dawson, and I think some members from the Chamber of Commerce, to schedule ferry traffic. I am not sure that that was a wholly successful experiment.
The language about the building of the bridge, which is about investigating the feasibility, is very soft language. It is my own view that the only bridge we may see in this century is the bridge on which I worked some 20 years ago, which was the ice bridge that was used to operate in the days of Clinton Creek. That was a necessary activity, but not entirely reliable.
If I may say in passing, I was once sent down from Clinton Creek to work on the ice bridge in October one year and I was told that I would be there for six weeks. I think we finally got ice across the river and a bridge functioning around February 23. This was after someone - whose name I will not mention, because they are still around in this community - made a decision to send trucks across the ice on December 23, the day before the highway superintendent said it was okay to do so. Several trucks went across, including some White Pass trucks, and then a couple of Cassiar Asbestos trucks actually went through the ice. I recall that event causing a fair amount of consternation at the time, demonstrating nothing more than that an ice bridge is not entirely reliable and certainly not a satisfactory solution.
I have been around long enough to remember several decades ago the former Member of Parliament for the Yukon, Erik Nielsen, promising a bridge across the river at Dawson City. He was, at one time, Minister of Public Works; he was Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. He was, since he was elected to office when Mr. Diefenbaker was first in office, a man respected by a gentlemen on the other side, someone who they claimed had lots of vision; for all that vision, the bridge did not happen. I suspect, given the financial health of the federal and territorial governments, it is not something that is likely to happen in the next couple of years.
I do not dismiss the idea out of hand. Obviously, Dawson is not only a mining centre but it is a tourism centre, and if the Government Leader has his way, it may even evolve further into a regional centre when the decentralization starts anew in a few years from now.
It is obvious, particularly in the summer, that the situation there is not entirely addressed by the existing ferry system and that we should look at the possibility of building a bridge, somewhere down the road. For that reason, I think our caucus can have no objection to this motion, and would therefore be voting for it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would just like to go on record as supporting the motion that the Top of the World Highway should be upgraded and that the government should consider upgrading the existing ferry service.
Although I certainly support the motion, and agree that the ferry service should be upgraded, there are some problems that we do not have a lot of control over.
The ferry service does operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the Yukon River in the summer months. The problem is that the peak period runs from about 7:30 in the morning until 11:00 in the morning. What happens is, a lot of the placer miners on the far side of the river are trying to get one way or the other at that time, and the bus tours generally leave the City of Dawson sometime after 7:30 in the morning, and before 11:00. The Member opposite mentioned an initiative that was tried last year when the bus tours were given priority between 5:00 in the morning and 7:00 in the morning, in an attempt to spread out the traffic. Although this was partially successful, the problem was that the U.S. customs and the Canada customs opened at 9:00 in the morning. Even though the buses were willing to leave a little bit earlier, they had to pile up and wait at customs until they opened up. There are some considerable problems with upgrading the service, not the least being that we could look at building an additional ferry, and putting it on for the peak period, approximated eight hours a day for about three months during the summer.
The cost for an additional ferry is estimated at $2.72 million or $3.2 million. It is quite a large capital cost, and there is an estimated O&M cost of $200,000 per season.
The other possibility is, naturally, as the Member mentioned - perhaps we should be blaming our former Prime Minister, Mr. Diefenbaker, on his vision that did not go quite far enough - a bridge across the river at Dawson. However, again, a bridge is estimated at a cost of approximately $18 million. With the existing traffic, it does not make a lot of economic sense. I think the people from Dawson, as well as the Member from Dawson, could probably argue with some success that, if there was a bridge, a better ferry service or if customs ran longer hours, we could probably get more traffic on that route. It is a very pretty drive and is certainly worthwhile.
Having said that, I would like to go on record that I fully support the motion.
Mr. McDonald: I will be relatively brief. In speaking in favour of the motion, I find it acceptable for a number of reasons. Certainly, we must acknowledge the fact that the road services from Whitehorse north along the Klondike Highway constitute one of the major tourism corridors in the territory. Anything done to upgrade that corridor would serve the tourism industry well.
The upgrading of ferry service has been a longstanding request from some people in Dawson over the last decade or more. I know, from conversations with Mayor Peter Jenkins, that he has always shown a fondness for bridge building, not in terms of his good relationship with the Government of the Yukon necessarily, but for traversing the Yukon River at Dawson and for easier access to the Top of the World Highway. While I recognize that the investigation of bridge building will require some funds, at this stage we should be taking a long-term view of this transportation corridor and doing our homework toward some improvement, knowing that there will be improvements at one time or another.
I would like to make one short comment about Mr. Diefenbakers vision on behalf of the Mayo residents. The vision should have involved highway development from Mayo north to the Arctic Circle to connect with Dawson. I know there are some people like Mrs. Jean Gordon and Wilf Gordon, who would never forgive me if I had been talking about road access up north and did not mention the absolute need for better road access from the Mayo district north to the Arctic Circle to conform with part of the circle route that central Yukon residents talk about when they envisage increased tourism traffic in the area.
I know that I have spent more hours talking about that with the former Member of the Legislature, Mrs. Gordon, on that subject than any other constituent on any other subject. I feel that she deserves a plug, even though she has not been in the Legislature for some time and even though it is not entirely relevant to better ferry service at Dawson.
I support the motion and urge others to do the same.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I, too, rise in support of this motion. The Leader of the Official Opposition talked about the content of the motion, and I could not agree more that the Top of the World Highway needs and should get some upgrading. In this budget there is some money for the upgrading of that particular highway. One of the things that I think is extremely important in the tourism industry and people are becoming more aware of is the need for loop roads - for tourists to go up one way and return another.
The Top of the World Highway is becoming one of the well-known trails for people to travel when they come to Yukon and Alaska. They can come up the Alaska Highway and back through Dawson or go up through Dawson and return through the beautiful Kluane area.
The Member for Mayo mentioned the vision of Mayo becoming part of that trail. They are looking at the highways in that area, and I can assure the Member that I, too, share some of the concerns over the tourism potential of the Mayo area.
In the Tourism budget, if we ever get to it, we can talk about the passport program that will continue. It was a great benefit to the museum in Keno City and the Mayo area. When and if we get to the budget, the Member will see that that program is continuing. The people in Mayo have done a great deal of work over the last few years and I commend the Member from that area, as well as those individuals who persevered. They have a very nice kiosk at Stewart Crossing as well as a lot of signs along the highway identifying the Silver Trails Tourism Association and the work they are doing. They have done a fine job in that area and we hope to see an increase in tourism traffic in that area in the future.
The other part of the motion talks about upgrading the existing ferry service. That part of the motion addresses a more immediate need and that is to look at an arrangement that would improve the access in and out of Dawson during peak times. There have to be some innovative ideas come forward on how we can improve that ferry service.
The Member from Dawson pointed out very clearly that the problem is not just the ferry. The problem is customs as well, and we are meeting with customs officials and have had some meetings with Alaskan officials regarding the hours of American customs; we are hopeful that we can come to a resolution of this matter where, possibly, the customs office may open a little earlier in the season. We are hoping we can get some agreement from the federal officials, both American and Canadian, on this matter because it is key to moving the traffic through that area.
The last item in the motion is to examine or investigate the feasibility of building a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City and it would be irresponsible for us to just insist that we build a bridge across the river there. This is something we should look at in a very serious manner. I suppose the bridge would have cost us a lot less money in 1966 if we had done it then, and it would probably still be standing today, as many of the bridges in the Yukon are. But in these times of tight economic finances, one has to be very careful where and how one spends funds. A feasibility study to investigate the potential of putting a bridge in at Dawson City is the right route to go.
The road to Dawson City and over the Top of the World Highway is, as someone said here today, one of the most beautiful drives in the Yukon. I have had the opportunity of taking the trip myself, so I know of what I speak when I talk about the fantastic and beautiful scenery on a clear day, which can be seen when driving along that road and over the summit. It is just spectacular.
Upgrading that road is essential. We are now entering the decade of the anniversaries of 1996 and 1998. Much of the focus of those celebrations is going to centre around Dawson City and the gold fields and the gold rush. In the next few years, with the advertising and promotion that the Department of Tourism, the Anniversaries Commission and the State of Alaska are going to do will really create a focus on Dawson City. Dawson City and the area wants to be ready to handle the tourists as they come through.
You cannot do that overnight. These roads cannot all be improved in one year. They have to be phased in so as not to disrupt the heavy traffic that is already there in the summer months. We have to plan this over two or three years and do ongoing upgrading of that particular road. I think this motion is extremely timely for the Government of the Yukon to be considering the upgrading and improvements of the Top of the World Highway. I think that in 1996 and 1998 we will find that road will be one of the most travelled roads in the territory, with the tourists who come through Yukon.
The other thing that I see happening is the increase in the bus tour traffic. Again, the bus tours are looking for loop routes. They do not like to take their tourists through the same area time and time again. They like to go up one road, loop around and go back through a totally different scenic area and see some different attractions. The Dawson loop and the Top of the World Highway is becoming increasingly more attractive to the buses.
We have to ensure that the roads in this area are safe for those travellers. All we have to have is one accident on that road involving a bus and it could create a lot of problems for other big bus companies that are travelling in that area. I know that we had an accident on that road several years ago, but we want to make sure that the road meets the best standards.
As well, as the Member for Mayo mentioned, the road now from Whitehorse to Dawson City is a fantastic highway; it is a great road. A few years ago, I can remember it taking six or seven hours to get to Dawson City. Now you can get there a lot faster than that; I would not like to predict how fast because I know some individuals get there a lot faster than others. That road is in great shape now.
That highway is in very good shape. Mind you, there are other highways in the Yukon that we have to consider. Of course, the Alaska Highway is having a lot of work done this year, and that will tie in with the Top of the World Highway over the next two to three years.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre may not be interested in this particular motion, but I think that it is an important motion. Many of the tourists who come to the territory over the next few years are going to go back and tell their friends how good or how bad our roads are. Whether that Member likes it or not, it will affect people in her constituency, if they are in the tourism business.
This is a very positive motion, and I believe that it is a motion that the government is moving on now.
The motion will also send a message to our American friends in Alaska. We talked to them a few weeks ago about their side of the highway, and we are going to be discussing that motion in a moment, so I will not get into that now. However, passing this motion today will be a demonstration from our Legislature that we are committed to improving our side of the highway for the 1996 and 1998 celebrations, and I urge all Members of the House to support this very worthwhile motion put forward by the Member for Dawson.
Mr. Harding: I am going to have a hard time following that powerful speech from the Minister of Tourism, but I will try my best.
I support the Top of the World Highway being upgraded, and I also support the upgrading of other important highways in the Yukon, such as the Robert Campbell Highway where, up until the last couple of weeks, we had the only operating mine in the territory. That highway is also important to the economy and should also be upgraded, not cut, as has been proposed in the budget, by 72 percent on the capital side and 17 percent on the O&M side. As we await the much and often distributed $10 million from the federal government, we will see what remains of the budget for upgrading the Robert Campbell Highway.
I have no problem with the consideration for upgrading existing ferry service. I do not know exactly what is being proposed - if it is looking at scheduling and what tourists have to say about it - but I could certainly support that.
I could support the investigation into, and the feasibility of, building a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City. I would caution the government to watch the monies that are being spent on the investigation of the feasibility. Perhaps they could hire a cheaper and more productive company than Burns Fry to do that, or Micon. I think we could perhaps save a few tax dollars if we hire some people who work on a more cost-efficient basis.
On the basis of the motion, I can support the investigation into the feasibility of a bridge.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: After that powerful speech, there were many Members on this side anxious to jump up to see if we could keep up with the admirable speech. The Member for Whitehorse Centre seems to have no interest at all in this motion. I sometimes wonder if there is nobody in her riding who participates in the tourism industry.
This is an important motion, whether the Member for Whitehorse Centre thinks so or not. We have to a provide decent infrastructure for the tourism industry in the Yukon if we want to promote it. Having been involved in the tourism industry for many years and listening to the tourists who stopped in the Kluane area after travelling over the Top of the World Highway, many of them spoke about how beautiful an area it would be if it had a decent road. Some of them said that they would not go back over that way again or recommend it to others until the highway was upgraded. I know we have to dedicate our resources to it, especially with the centennial celebrations coming up in the next four or five years.
There is no doubt in my mind, as the Minister of Tourism also said, that the traffic on that highway will increase tremendously as a result of those celebrations. Having had the opportunity to do a little bit of travelling myself on my very busy schedule, I know how difficult it is to backtrack over a road when one is on a sightseeing trip. When one is learning about a new country, it is very difficult to turn around and drive 400 miles back down a road one just travelled a few days prior. It is much more appealing to make a loop around and see a greater portion of our beautiful Yukon.
There should be an upgrading of that road, as well as an upgrading of one of the more critical sections of the Alaska Highway - the section of the Donjek River through Beaver Creek to the Alaska border - which is basically one of the last areas on the Alaska Highway in the Yukon that has had very little upgrading on it since the highway was first built during the war years.
You, Mr. Speaker, have travelled it, and you know of the frost heaves in that section of highway and the broken springs of RVs that are caused by those frost heaves. The frustration and anger of the tourists who travel over a section of highway like that encourages them to get out of the country and not worry about spending any more money.
I believe that the commitment we have from the Americans to spend in the neighbourhood of $8 million over the next few years to upgrade the highway from the Donjek to the Alaska border and get rid of a lot of curves and many hours of travel is a benefit. It will certainly speed up the travel for people who want to make it through to Dawson, or vice versa.
It is incumbent upon us, as a government, to put together a plan that will upgrade the Top of the World to coincide with the completion of the Shakwak project as far as the Donjek River, in any case. Once that is completed, there will only be about 80 or 90 miles of the Alaska Highway left to upgrade. While that portion does have some crooked and narrow sections, it is still fairly passable during the summer months.
I also believe we must look seriously at putting a bridge in at Dawson. We are going to be faced with that reality some time in the near future, if we are going to expand our tourist industry and the economy in the Dawson area so that it can enjoy a longer season than just a few months in the summertime. As the Leader of the Official Opposition said, once we get our decentralization in place and make it a regional centre, it will be incumbent upon us to get a bridge in place, and we will certainly be working in that direction.
In the meantime, we have to look at upgrading the ferry, if it is not too costly, or we will have to weigh the options as to whether that money should be going toward a bridge or be spent on ferry upgrading. Upgrading the ferry will help alleviate the immediate problem, but will do little to extend the season. As you are fully aware, the ice starts to come down the Yukon River pretty early in the fall and causes problems for the ferry service.
I am not going to be long on this. I fully support the upgrading of the Top of the World Highway. We will be negotiating further with the U.S. government for upgrading their section. As we will be discussing that motion next, I will leave that for now. I urge all Members to support this motion, as it is essential to the Yukon that that highway to be upgraded in time for our anniversary celebrations.
The Member over there from Riverdale seems in quite a hurry. I do not know what is the matter with her, but tourism is one of our big industries. She can wave around all she wants, but some of us have to live off tourism and are quite proud of the fact that we do and we would like to improve it.
I drove that highway many, many years ago when it was a gravel highway. People who drive it now tell me that the American side is still in much the same condition. Believe me, in those days it was quite an experience. The road has been improved considerably since, but we should finish the job. It is very, very important to tourism.
Also, the next motion, number 30, urges the Alaskans to do their share, has to come in at the same time because that will give us the complete loop. I do not know whether people realize just what this loop could mean to us.
A visitor would come up from Watson Lake, through Whitehorse, go up to Dawson, down to Tetlin Junction, go to Tok, over to Fairbanks, then take the road over to Anchorage and come back through Chetina to Tok, and the only place one would ever repeat, on that whole trip, is a distance of 10 miles between Tetlin Junction and Tok. Then one would come down to Haines Junction and on to the ferry in Haines or go back into Whitehorse and go on to the ferry in Skagway. There are very few places in the world that have a loop like that.
The mayor of Dawson and I have been fighting this for years in different places, but nobody wants to listen. Well, they had better start listening because that is one of the greatest tourist attractions we will ever have. The tourists would see everything in the world they could think of - even glaciers right down on the highway in Alaska. Unfortunately, here in Yukon, National Parks will not allow this, but they can be seen in Alaska; they would see the swamp wilderness country, great mountains, the beautiful area up on the Fortymile, which is completely different - every bit of that area is different.
Also, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini said, the road from here up to Dawson would also be improved at the same time.
It floored me when I heard one of our Members say that the government was making arrangements to have tourists get up at five oclock in the morning so that they could get across on the ferry - some holiday. Tourists are here to enjoy themselves and if the government cannot do a better job with the ferry then they had better start looking into building a bridge pretty soon because the traffic is going to come. We are still one of the last wilderness places there are.
They all laugh about this bridge. This has been going on for years. If we built this, as the Minister for Tourism said, back in 1956, we would have had it, and it would have been a lot cheaper. There are a couple of ways of doing this. Number one is, figure out the cost of running those ferries. Just figure out the maintenance costs, what it costs to repair them every year and everything else. Add all that up over a 20-year period, then put a bridge in where people can go across 24 hours a day.
I am not completely worried about customs at all. If the traffic is there, customs will open. When people do not know whether they can cross the river or not, or if the ferry breaks down, of if they have a washout, then everybody sits and waits. You cannot have tourists travelling under these conditions.
Another thing to do would be to get the Canadian Army back up here to build that bridge as a training exercise. It is not that funny, you know. Everybody laughs at that, but they built the Donjek bridge. They were the ones who came up and built it. Nobody else could build it. They built it for $11 million. That bridge has been there for years and years and years. Let us start looking at options. We have got a Canadian Army that sits around and does nothing. Let us not laugh at these things. They are not that funny.
We have got to train the army. We have got to put people in the army. Let us train them. Why are they not out on that bridge? Why do we not look at things like this? Why are we always saying it costs too much. It is about time we started looking at cost-effectiveness over 20 and 30 years. The bridge will certainly outdo any ferries that run up and down the river and do not run half the time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Like my caucus Members before me, I will rise to support this motion and be brief. Having driven on the Top of the World Highway, I know it is a beautiful route. The unique feature is that the road follows the hills and not the valleys. It does give the effect of being on top of the world, which is the feeling I sense that some of the Members of this Legislature have not had in the last little while and might need to find again. Perhaps they might want to venture on a drive on the Top of the World Highway when this session is over and see for themselves whether it does indeed need improvement.
The Top of the World Highway is not only a beautiful scenic drive, it also serves as a commerce route. Improving the road, would improve both aspects of the benefits that it brings to that area. The motion calls for upgrading the existing ferry service, as well as investigating the feasibility of building a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City. I think it is reasonable, if it is proven economically feasible, to explore the idea of building a bridge across the river. The government and the people of Dawson City must work together to prioritize where scarce resources are going to be spent. As other Members have said, upgrading the Top of the World Highway would increase the tourism potential for this area and thus provide more economic development in the region. The Alaska Highway 50th anniversary greatly increased tourism in the territory. With the 100th anniversary of the gold rush coming up, we can expect an increase of tourism in the Dawson City area and the Klondike valley; therefore, I support the motion before us for the benefit of Klondike area residents.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would feel very remiss if I did not add a few words to the debate on this important motion. I was supportive when I was listening and I am very supportive now of the concept of loop roads for tourists. As the Hon. Member for Kluane has said, the entire Yukon-Alaska experience can be taken on loop roads so one can see a lot of varied and interesting scenery and not have to retrace their steps. This is something that is very important to Yukoners.
I wanted to mention in passing, as the Minister of Tourism also supported this concept, that we who live in Carcross and Tagish support loop roads. It is extremely unfortunate that the previous government neglected to mention the important loop, an alternative from Jakes Corner through Carcross and back to the Alaska Highway. That was not mentioned in North to Alaska, despite the vociferous protests by this Member. It was missed again in the most recent publication.
Similarly the previous Minister of Tourism promised adequate signage on both intersections from the Alaska Highway on that very important and vital loop. The signage never did materialize, but I am confident that the Minister of Tourisms officials are listening and will ensure that adequate signage is on display for this tourist season and that the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, unlike the previous Minister, will be fully supportive in that regard.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the mining country on the other side of the Yukon River in Dawson. It is something that has not been mentioned very much, but there is a lot of important placer ground there. The Sixtymile is famous for its placer gold.
I can recall many years ago when I was in university I stayed in a four-plex in Vancouver. My landlord, a chap by the name of Gus Vinblad - a retired chap who had been working for years in construction - and I got to talking one day. When he found out I was from the Yukon, he said that he had been up here. He came up in the early 1930s. He came to Dawson in 1931 during the Depression years looking for work. He recalled going to work on Miller Creek in the spring, crossing the Yukon River, hiking up the trail we now know as the Sixtymile Road, walking in snow up to his waist, struggling to get over to Miller Creek where he mined for a couple of years, with a partner. That partner, was Jimmy Lynch.
When I returned to the Yukon in about 1968, I was up in Dawson. I said hello to Jimmy Lynch for Gus Vinblad, who had been his partner so many years ago. Jimmy Lynch, of course, has been in the Sixtymile country since about 1930. The only years he did not mine there were during the Second World War, when he was overseas fighting for Canada.
There is a lot of history in the gold fields there and a lot of people employed; there is a lot of heavy machinery. There are many hard rock claims, as well as placer claims and some interesting showings. I just wanted to make it quite clear that it was not just tourism that relies quite heavily on that artery for transportation. Certainly, the mining industry does, and there is a good chance that mining will expand in that area because of the interesting prospects that are being looked at by mining companies at this time.
As well, just over the border are more mineral prospects. I am aware of at least one very large porphyry deposit that is being investigated by the Noranda Group of Companies. Some of these prospects may be accessible through the Yukon from the Sixtymile Road.
I have had the opportunity to hunt for caribou in the Sixtymile country. I recall one trip where we went about 70 miles along a road that was being built by a mining company that was trying to gain access to a creek beyond the Sixtymile River. The country over there is quite unique in the Yukon. The rolling mountains are well-eroded. The trails that the mining people put in trying to get to their properties go from about 800 or 900 feet up to about 7,000 and then back down into valleys, then back up again. It is quite amazing country. I am sure that, as has been the history with mining, some years from now, those roads will be used more and more by wilderness tourists. A large part of the interest they will have in exploring those lands in years to come would be the old cabins and mine workings left by current mining entrepreneurs and old timers who had been in the country for several generations.
The river at Dawson is wide and deep. When one looks at the river and thinks about a bridge or crossing, there is no question that it is bound to be a very expensive undertaking.
I think the Member for Kluane had a good point when he said that, when the Alaska Highway was completed, and they were trying to span the Donjek River, it was the army that eventually built the bridge, and it was a huge undertaking.
A good many well-known Whitehorse residents came into the country to work on that bridge. There are all kinds of people I could call by name, whom I have known most of my life, who came to the Yukon to work on that bridge. Then, like so many other people, they settled here for the rest of their lives.
The current situation with the ferry is totally unsatisfactory. One can wait in lineups for a long time, sometimes several hours. Of course, we have the campground on the far side of the river from Dawson, which is inadequate, primarily because you can live there and look at Dawson, but you cannot get back and forth to the city to enjoy the hospitality, gambling and other services in the city.
I am not sure what the solution is for the short term. The Minister for Community and Transportation Services talked about how much it would cost for a new ferry to service that point as an extra vessel. Sometimes I wonder about government. I do not know why they do not look around when other highway systems start mothballing their fleets because they put in bridges. I know that, for a long time, a large ferry was available from the Dempster Highway system. I do not know if it was ever purchased, but a friend of mine was looking at buying it, and it was a very cheap purchase because, at that time, there was no obvious demand for that vessel.
I think that government ought to be looking at the second-hand market, particularly for this type of situation, where you might use the ferry at the busiest time of the tourist season and as an auxiliary ferry to the one that is in use now. You can pick these vessels up in those circumstances for maybe 10 cents on the dollar, compared to a brand new boat of similar size.
I hope the mindset around this place, particularly in the departments, will accommodate the frugal use of money and encourage people in the service to look at second-hand machinery for situations such as this, as second-hand machinery will often do the trick.
The Sixtymile country is really interesting. It is a scenic drive, and it very much contributes to the enjoyment of tourists who take the opportunity to drive that part of the loop. There is a lot of interesting history to the country, and a lot of good people have lived and worked over there for a long time. I take a great deal of pleasure in speaking to this motion and in supporting it.
Mr. Cable: I will be very brief. I stepped out a few minutes ago to check with the Liberal caucus, and we are all in support of this motion put forward by the Member for Klondike. In view of the time constraints, I will just leave it at that. I will support the motion.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I also rise to speak in support of this motion brought forward by my colleague from Dawson City. There is no doubt, from the economic development standpoint, improvements to the Top of the World Highway would substantially improve both the mining and tourism trade in Dawson City.
Tourism is presently a significant component of the Dawson economy. It provides approximately 3,800 person months of employment, and close to $8 million in payroll, according to some statistics I have here.
While the placer mining industry has been the mainstay of the Dawson economy, we must do all we can to diversify this economy. As my colleague from Carcross mentioned, there are some potential hard rock properties there, and there is definitely still room for expansion in the placer mining area. Also, as the transportation network improves, there will be many more opportunities for the tourism trade.
Dawson City now has a ski hill and a golf course, so it will truly become a playground for the rich and famous, if this became a year-round route. There are many characters now in Dawson City I consider famous, and it is already their playground.
Many of them are still labourers and working hard to maintain this wonderful lifestyle of the placer mining industry. As well, the enhanced ferry service would also contribute greatly toward the economics of that area.
Most of the points I had written down have been mentioned by some of my colleagues so I am just going to be very brief.
I have made the Top of the World loop twice - once with yourself, Mr. Speaker, when we were on the suicide task force, and the other time was the second year after I moved to the Watson Lake area. We took one of our relatives on the trip, and I must say that the Top of the World trip was as memorable to me as was my first view of the Rockies when I was 16 or 17, from just outside of Calgary; it kind of made my heart thump; it was wonderful. The Top of the World Highway was a very similar experience.
I look forward to the day when I will be able to make that trip without having to dodge all the boulders and motor homes. I expect to see motor homes on the road but I expect the road to be wide enough not to have to dodge them.
It would be great if we make it a goal to see the upgrading of this road completed by 1998, in preparation for the centennial that is taking place up there.
Speaker: If the Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Joe: I will be very brief. I am hearing a lot about the Top of the World Highway. I have not been that way often; I am interested in making a trip up that way some time soon, and I support this motion.
Speaking to the bridge in Dawson City, whatever studies take place, I think we should be very careful to make sure we do not create ice-jam problems. That is all I have to say.
Ms. Joe: I was on the speaking list so I thought I had better get up and add my support to this motion. I have been over the Top of the World Highway twice and I certainly agree with everything that has been said about it. It was probably one of the most breath-taking sights that I had seen in a long time. As a matter of fact, I went over and visited Chicken, Alaska and stopped to pick blueberries and did many other things.
I mentioned in this House before my admiration for that part of the country because of the history that I read about it when I first came to the Yukon. There is no question in my mind that there is much for tourists and Yukoners to see there. I think that part of the Yukon is exceptional because of the history of the area and the scenic country.
I really do believe that we have to make it available for the tourists to see when they come here. I would certainly support the upgrading of the Top of the World Highway. It was probably one of the slowest trips I have taken because of the shape that it was in.
I would certainly have no problem with the upgrading of the ferry service. I know that building a bridge would be a great big project and that it would cost an awful lot of money. I know that there are other things that this government would like to do, including upgrading the bridge to Riverdale. Certainly, we would have to look at the feasibility of the construction of that bridge and how much it will be used during the year, and once opened, how far people might be able to go. I do not know whether or not the Member for Klondike and his colleagues are looking at keeping the Top of the World Highway open all year. That would certainly cost a great deal of money to whomever would do it.
I do stand in support of this motion.
Speaker: If the Member for Klondike now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Millar: Since transportation is one of the key factors in the Yukons continued economic development process, in my closing remarks I wish to re-emphasize my interest on behalf of my constituents in Dawson. That is to say that the Top of the World Highway should be upgraded and the feasibility of temporarily improving the ferry crossing and ultimately constructing a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson be given serious attention by this government.
While the condition of the road has improved in recent years, it is still a very long way from safety standards that many visitors are used to or comfortable with. I am not sure if you have ever tried driving a large motor home or pulled a large fifth-wheel trailer over the Top of the World Highway during a rainstorm. I can assure you it is an experience that you would rather forget, and certainly not one that you would recommend to fellow travellers. The overall experience can be further enhanced by spending several hours creeping along at a snails pace in the lineup to the George Black ferry crossing the Yukon River into Dawson. To say the least, this does not give our visitors a good first impression or leave them raving about what a magical and mysterious destination they have arrived at, which we all know is true.
It is important that we keep our visitors in a good frame of mine. That way, they become goodwill ambassadors for the Yukon and encourage others to visit the territory, especially the Klondike capital at Dawson.
The development of the shoulder season will require a reliable means of crossing the Yukon River during the spring and fall seasons. The periods of freeze-up and break-up occur at the very times we are attempting to increase visitation.
The only permanent solution to this transportation problem is a bridge. Although the capital costs attached to this project are far from insignificant, the potential benefits to the territory in terms of economic development are substantial. In addition, a bridge crossing and an upgraded Top of the World Highway will improve access for all Yukoners living in northern and central parts of the territory.
In terms of future land development for the City of Dawson, the bridge will open the possibility for further growth in west Dawson and Sunnydale, as well as improving access to recreational areas, such as that of the new golf course.
As has already been mentioned, a bridge would also give miners better access to their operations in the Fortymile and Sixtymile areas, perhaps even extending their season somewhat. As one can see, these are quite significant.
Just before I close, I would like to say that I personally would like to see a bridge. I know that the Members of the Opposition are all giving their support, but it seems to me - and I do not know if I am correct on this - they were doing it because it was what they were supposed to do, but they do not really believe that a bridge is the right answer. I may be wrong about this, but that is the impression with which they left me. I would like to say to them that I strongly believe that a bridge is the right solution and we need one there. I disagree with the Leader of the Official Opposition. I do think that it will happen in the near future.
Motion No. 29 agreed to
Clerk: Motion No. 30, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Millar.
Speaker: Is the Member for Klondike prepared to proceed with Motion No. 30?
Mr. Millar: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 30
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Klondike
THAT this House urges the Alaska State Government to fast-track its portion of construction and road improvements on the U.S. side of the Top of the World Highway in order to better accommodate the tourism industry for both the Yukon and Alaska.
Mr. Millar: I do realize that these two motions are quite similar, and I am going to try not to repeat myself too much. I was hoping we would be able to get them both through this afternoon, and I think there is still a possibility that we can.
I would like to say a couple of things. It is a little bit different. Although tourism today is the Yukons number two industry, it accounts for over 10 percent of the economy. With the ever-fluctuating fortune of mining in the territory, it is important that we build on its base in the hopes of providing a more stable and growing economy. One of the ways that this has been identified as a spur to the development potential is to see the road link between Dawson City and the Tetlin Junction, known to Yukoners as the Top of the World and to Alaskans as the Taylor Highway, upgraded to a higher standard.
Our government has made a commitment to see this take place on our side of the border over the next several years; however, over half the distance of this vital link lies in the State of Alaska. As we all know, the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold in 1896, and of the gold rush in 1898, are fast approaching. Unless we are able to get a firm commitment from the State of Alaska to fast-track the reconstruction and upgrading of their portion of this 176-mile highway, we might fall far short of our expectations for visitation during the centennial period.
Recently, I was in Juneau with other Members of this House. It was an annual exchange of dialogue about economic development and capital projects of interest to Yukoners and to our U.S. friends. This annual meeting alternates between the two capital cities of Juneau and Whitehorse. A number of interesting concepts were on the agenda. At every opportunity that availed itself, the matter of upgrading the Alaskan portion of the Top of the World Highway was brought up for discussion.
My impression was that the idea met with favourable response. The time has come to vigorously pursue this matter. Most visitors driving on a holiday to the north I believe, would prefer to travel a different route in each direction, or a loop, as has been mentioned many times here today already, especially when the alternate route is roughly the same distance, and there are some visitor attractions, such as Dawson City and the Dempster Highway, to draw their attention.
As it now stands, many visitors who would like to visit the Klondike capital avoid doing so because of the condition of the Top of the World Highway. I have had constituents give me examples of entire RV caravans en route to a scheduled visit to Dawson decide not to visit because of horror stories they had heard from other visitors regarding the condition of this road.
We cannot afford the risk of this happening during the upcoming centennial celebrations.
In addition to this, the Yukon government has, in recent years, constructed market studies that pointed out, among other things, that Dawson City was the only two-day destination in the territory. In other words, every visitor that we fail to bring to Dawson City costs the Yukon, on average, one person day of visitation. When this is calculated in real dollars, the cost to the territory in lost revenue is enormous.
Aside from the benefits I have already outlined, there are other positive aspects to consider. One of the continuing themes of our tourism marketing efforts has been an attempt to build up visitation during the so-called shoulder seasons - mainly May and September. To date, there has been very limited success here. With uncertain weather and road conditions, more limited facilities and attractions operating, and with kids going back to school, enhancing visitors to come during those months will always be difficult. However, we are fortunate to have over 500,000 people sitting next door to us in the State of Alaska living there year round. I believe there is a great potential for enticing some of those Alaskans to visit the Yukon during the shoulder months. I believe that good transportation links are the key.
This reality has long been recognized by the Klondike Visitors Association, who have been actively promoting in the State of Alaska for the past several years. Even with the current limitations, the KVA has enjoyed modest success in their efforts.
The time has come for us to do much more and convince our Alaskan neighbours that the upgrading of this corridor is of vital importance.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it would be inappropriate if I did not rise to speak to this motion. Although the motion does talk about the same highway as in the previous motion, it talks about the American side. The motions could not be combined simply because they were dealing with two different governments in two different jurisdictions.
During our trip to Juneau, I had the opportunity to meet with their commissioner of tourism, as well as with the Lieutenant Governor and the Governor of Alaska.
All those individuals indicated to me their extreme interest in participating in the anniversary celebrations in 1996 and 1998. The Alaskan government saw the benefit from the Alaska Highway celebration, and now wants to get more involved in the upcoming anniversaries. I think it would be remiss of us if we spent a great deal of time and energy fixing up our side of the highway, only to find that, as they crossed the border, travellers ran into a poorly maintained road on the other side. Reports that may be passed on to tourists down the line might discourage them from going over that road as it is a mess. Then, all the money that we would have spent on that project would be for naught. I think that it is important that the American government and the Alaskan government realize the importance of upgrading that road prior to 1996 and 1998.
I am pleased to say that, when we met with the Alaskans in Juneau, they gave us the indication that they were very interested in this particular project, and they assured us that they would see what they could do to accelerate the work on their side of the Top of the World Highway.
This motion that we have before us today is a message from our Legislature to their Legislature, which is still in session and will be for the next few weeks, indicating to them that we are encouraging them to participate in upgrading that particular road for the betterment of the tourism industry in both jurisdictions.
I would urge all Members of this House to support this very worthwhile motion. I know that our Alaskan friends, with whom we spend a great deal of time, energy and money in marketing, will be receiving this in a very positive light, and I urge all Members to support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have to agree with the Minister of Tourism that we could not have put these both in the same motion, although our arguments were for both areas - one is for Alaska, and one is for the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I was going to suggest that you send this motion to the Governor of Alaska, but I have a note from the Clerk saying that we cannot do it. So, Mr. Speaker, do not do it; I will do it, and everything will be legal.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I had not really intended to speak to this motion, but I had to redeem myself in the eyes of my colleague from Kluane. It was not I who had the initiative to get the tourists up at 5:00 in the morning. It was the Members opposite who did that. Apparently, they did have a little bit of encouragement from the Mayor of Dawson City, but that is beside the point.
I did want to point out also that we are estimating to spend approximately $23 million upgrading the Top of the World Highway over the next five years; however, we do have to convince, as the Minister of Tourism has said, the United States government to continue with the upgrading of the Taylor Highway, otherwise our money would be spent for naught. Again, I do support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I wanted to speak in favour of this motion as well, partly because it is a loop road. I am very pleased to see that Members in this House understand the importance of loop roads to tourism. I would be remiss if I did not suggest that in urging the Alaska state government to fast-track its work on improving the road, that we should ensure that they have adequate signage at the intersection with the Alaska Highway, so that tourists know this is an interesting route that they could take as an alternative, one way or the other.
I would be remiss as well, if I did not add a few words about ensuring that publications such as North to Alaska adequately represented this alternative and paid lip service at least, to the tourism potential, including the facilities and the interesting historic sites along this alternate route. With those comments, because I know that our Minister of Tourism will, in the spirit of supporting this motion, ensure that the Alaskan people understand the importance of these kinds of things as well as he does.
Because of that, I have no hesitation at all in giving this motion my full support.
Mr. McDonald: I wanted to stand up to support the motion. I wanted to ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes what in heavens name he was talking about, but that would involve more talk from that Member, and that is not what I had in mind.
I do support the motion; we all support the motion. I think that is patently obvious. Whereas I think the Members opposite, or perhaps the Member from Dawson, want us to donate a pint of blood to prove it, perhaps we should lie down prostrate and insist that when we say we support the motion, we really do support the motion. I can assure the Member, and all Members, that, while we do not need to go through any gymnastics or engage in any histrionics, we simply say that we do support the motion, and for many of the reasons that have been given and are obvious, we support the motion; we support the upgrading of the Taylor Highway; we support circle tourism routes; we support more tourist activity through the Dawson area.
We have not forgotten the north Alaska Highway. We want everyone to travel the north Alaska Highway back home. We also support the Silver Trail and their loop-road aspirations through to Dawson and on to the Taylor Highway, which we would like to see upgraded.
We support this motion; we support this motion; we support this motion. We will say it three times and are prepared to sign it if the Member cannot understand what it is we have said. I am certain that I have probably exhausted virtually everything everybody wanted to say on this side of the House.
We support the motion.
Motion No. 30 agreed to
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 that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the wish of the Members to call a recess until 7:30 p.m.?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We will be discussing Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4 - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Mrs. Firth: I know this is a specific item but the Minister may as well get it over with in general debate: would the Misister update me on the 911 number?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The 911 issue is raised in the main estimates and I would prefer to discuss it when we discuss the mains.
Mrs. Firth: There is a line item in the supplementary budget for the 911 implementation in the amount of $200,000. I appreciate that the Minister may want to discuss it at some other time, but perhaps he could provide a status update since there is a line item in this budget. Has $200,000 been spent on it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $200,000 will be going for a revote and will in appear in the 1993-94 main estimates.
Mrs. Firth: I now understand that the government is going to let this lapse. Has there not been a decision by the government to proceed with the 911 implementation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, the information regarding the disposition of the $200,000 will be discussed when the main estimates are discussed.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether or not they are going to continue with the service? Why can he not tell us now? Why does he have to wait for the main estimates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, we will discuss this fully in the main estimates. I can tell the Member opposite that the intent, depending upon the outcome of the 1993-94 budget, is to proceed with the 911 service.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us when they anticipate having the service established and in effect, so that I can pass that on to other Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Depending on budget approval and technical difficulties, which are apparently being remedied at this time, the 911 service may be in effect in the fall.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister be more specific and indicate to us what some of the technical difficulties have been?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would be happy to discuss that in greater detail when we are discussing main estimates.
Mrs. Firth: I detect hesitancy on behalf of the Minister to discuss the issue. The Minister keeps making reference to the main budget. I want to reassure the Member that I will be supporting this initiative in the main budget. He will have my full support for this item in the main budget.
Some Hon. Member: The Member knows how it works.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister for Education is saying to me that I know how it works. Believe me, I do not know how it works. I simply want to get some answers and I could stand here all night and talk about the 911 number; I feel that strongly about it.
I am sure that the government Members do not want me to stand here all night, nor do the Opposition Members, but I think that it is only fair that the Minister be specific and address some of the questions.
The Minister is indicating that the service is going to go ahead in the fall; I would like to know if he could be more specific. Yukoners have been waiting a long time for this initiative, and we would like to know when the service is going to be available so that I can pass that information on to my constituents and to some of the 5,000 other people who signed petitions asking for the government to establish this kind of service. Also, there are many school children who are interested in knowing when this service is going to be established.
If the Minister could give us a short explanation of what the technical difficulties are and a clear time when this service is going to be established, I would be quite prepared to proceed on to other items.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thank the Member opposite for her support. If the Member opposite would give us that support for the whole budget, I am sure that I would be happy to spend the next two hours explaining in detail the technical aspects of the 911 service.
Mrs. Firth: Surely the Minister and I are not negotiating to exchange my support for the whole budget for the 911 number. Is that what the Minister is indicating to me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The 911 item is one item in the main budget. I am not going to discuss one item in the main estimates. Either we get into the main estimates, or we talk about supplementaries. We cannot be going partially into the mains and partially into the supplementaries. With that, I believe I have answered the question.
Mrs. Firth: With all due respect, the Minister has not answered the question. He is simply telling me that he does not want to answer the question. I understand the rules, having been a Member in this House for a few years, are that any lines or initiatives identified in the supplementary budget are open to free and complete debate at the time of the supplementary budget. The Minister has indicated that the service is going to go ahead. This budget is actually lapsing, or turning back $200,000, which had been identified to implement the 911 service.
If the government is turning the money back, one has to draw the conclusion that they are either not going to implement the service, or they are going to have to revote the money, or identify another allotment of money for it. The Minister has indicated this evening that the 911 service is going to proceed sometime next fall. He has also alluded to some mysterious technical difficulties that he does not seem to be prepared to discuss with me. I think it is fair that the Minister discuss these things at this time because it all justifies why the money is being lapsed. I would like to ask the Minister again: will he explain what the technical difficulties are and if he will give us a specific date in the fall by which this service will be implemented?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will be happy to provide as much information on the 911 service as I can when we debate the main estimates, where the number will appear.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I will try this another way. I have a letter here from the Minister. It is the last piece of correspondence I received from the Minister regarding the 911 service. It is dated March 11, 1993.
In it, the Minister makes reference to technical problems surrounding the 911 service. In this letter, he indicates that there were going to be meetings held on February 10 and 11 in 1993, in Whitehorse, between Northwestel Northern Telecom and representatives from government and the response agencies, to examine the problem in depth.
Could the Minister tell me what those problems were?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department met with Northwestel at some point, but I am not sure of the exact date. Technical problems were discussed. The department then met with me and suggested that we needed to revote the money for 911, and it will appear in the main estimates as a revote.
Sometime after April 1, the department fully briefed me on the technical difficulties it was running into with 911. The issue is a main estimates issue, and I will be happy to discuss it in detail at that time.
Mrs. Firth: May I just point out to the Minister that I do not see anything in the main estimates for the 911 number? The only place I see anything identified for 911 implementation is in this budget item; therefore, I am going to have to insist that the Minister answer the questions now.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will endeavour to provide written information to the Member opposite, probably next week. I will get it from the department and provide as much information as I have to her in the next few days.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what kind of direction he has given his department with respect to implementing this service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have asked the department to investigate the costs and the technical difficulties of an implementation date for 911, including looking at the automatic number identification and the automatic locator identification. The department is looking at that; they are dealing with Northwestel, and we will provide the information for the Member opposite in written form.
Mrs. Firth: Did the Minister direct his department to include it in the main budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I did.
Mrs. Firth: How much money did the Minister direct the department to identify in the main budget, and could he tell us where it is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, we are speaking about the main estimates. We do not have the main estimates in front of us. There is a number in there and we will certainly debate the amount. I have asked them to revote the $200,000 that was identified in 1992-93.
Mrs. Firth: It is not in the main estimates. There is a line in the supplementaries for it, but there is nothing in the main estimates. If I do not debate it now, I will not get to debate it in the main budget, because I will ask a question and the Minister will stand up and say it is not in this main budget; there is no line item.
I am prepared to have the Minister bring me back some written information, but I am certainly not prepared to stop the questioning this evening regarding the implementation of the 911 service, because I have some other questions I would like to put to the Minister.
I would like to ask the Minister what kind of feeling he is getting from the officials he is dealing with regarding the implementation of this service. Is he getting the impression that his department is very supportive of this initiative going ahead, or is he meeting with some resistance at the official level regarding the implementation of this service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know if I am qualified to say what the departments feelings are. I have been told some numbers and told some problems. I have been told that they are still negotiating with Northwestel. I really do not believe it is my job to judge what any individuals personal feelings are about something that appears in the budget.
Mrs. Firth: I am not asking the Minister to give me an assessment of anyones personal feelings about anything. I would hope that the public servants would not allow their personal feelings to interfere in carrying out government policy that Ministers had given them. I am sure the Minister could make an assessment, based on whether he is meeting with some resistance when it comes to implementing this service or whether there is a tremendous amount of co-operation from the officials and that they are doing everything they can to provide the Minister with information and to see that the service is implemented immediately.
As a person not giving that direction, but simply someone who has been following up on the issue for at least three years, I get the feeling that there is a lot of resistance from within the department. That is what I am asking the Minister about. Surely he must have an opinion about that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department has given me the information they have available. They have given me information about when they had meetings with Northwestel and they have given me information about possible or estimated costs.
As for refusing to give me any information, they certainly have not done that. The Member says that she does not expect me to form an opinion and yet she asks me if I have the feeling that there is no cooperation. I will tell her that I received the information I asked for.
Mrs. Firth: I am not asking the Minister to make personal assessments of his staff. I am asking him to indicate to this House whether there seems to be some resistance at the official level to implement this particular initiative. I think it is fair to say that I have met with nothing but resistance with respect to this particular service.
I want to challenge the Ministers comments tonight when he told us that this item is going to be revoted. In the supplementary budget, there is a line item for 911 implementation for $200,000. The government has allowed the funds to lapse. That means that that is it; they are gone.
In the new budget - and I know the Minister does not want to discuss the new budget, but, sorry, I have to bring it forward, because it proves my point and justifies my reasons for asking these questions at this time - there is a line item for prior-year projects.
The estimated forecast for 1993-94 is zero dollars; is that not amazing? The forecast was $200,000 - the same as this 911 implementation. There is a reduction of 100 percent.
I did not make this budget up, but when I look at the supplementary budget and the new budget for this year, the 911 service is gone. Yet, the Minister stands up in the House tonight, tells me that he does not want to discuss the matter until we get to the main budget, tells me that it is going to be revoted and tells me that the service is going to start in the fall.
Perhaps the Minister could explain what that prior years project, $200,000 reduction is if it is not for the 911 implementation.
The Minister cannot tell me two different stories in the Legislature.
Chair: Clearly, this is debate on a specific line item. Is the Committee prepared to go line by line, or is there further general debate?
Mr. Penikett: May I address the procedural question? There is a bit of a difficult situation facing the Committee. I do not want to enter the substance of the subject, but on the procedural point - the item is only specifically identified in the supplementary. It is a line item for $200,000.
The Minister has indicated a wish to speak to this item in the main estimates; there is no reference to the item in the main estimates, so we have a problem: we need to have a commitment to discuss this item now in the supplementary debate on the line or in general debate. Before we can agree to go to the lines, we have to have an undertaking that it will be discussed when we get to the line, because if the Member for Riverdale South is going to be denied an opportunity to pursue an issue that she has been pursuing diligently for a number of years in this House, simply on the basis of the fact that the Minister would rather discuss the item in the mains-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: Now, the Member for Riverdale North is making a ribald moment at our expense. The record will show that, thanks to the eloquence and the persuasiveness of the Member for Riverdale South and the reasonableness and the intelligence of her co-combatant, the former Member for Faro, the previous government had made a decision to proceed with this service over the objections of some other individuals.
My only representation on this matter is that there must be an undertaking by the Minister that it will be discussed when we get to the line, otherwise I think the Member for Riverdale South would be on firm ground in wishing to deny her consent to move on, until there has been some commitment to discuss the item at the moment in the budget where it is clearly provided for.
Mrs. Firth: My only concern about not being able to carry on with the questioning about 911 implementation now is that it is 7:55 p.m. now, there will be a break and that leaves about one hour for discussion. We have several line items to go through and I know, after having been a Member for a few years, that obviously the Minister does not want to discuss the issue tonight. I think that is fairly clear to everyone in this House. I am sure that the line-by-line items ahead of this particular item could be dragged out to get the Minister through the evening so he does not have to discuss this. We are on the subject now. There is an obvious reluctance by the Minister to discuss this item and he has contradicted himself, if not twice, perhaps three times, about the implementation of the 911 service. I think that we had better get the issue cleared up right now. I think it is in the Ministers best interest to stand up and tell us exactly what his position is and what the government is doing. Right now it does not look very good for the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: The Hon. Mr. Phillips on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is a rather unusual and unique event to see the Leader of the Official Opposition stand to defend the Member for Riverdale South on the issue of 911. For seven years he has blocked that initiative by that Member. I agree that the item is in the budget and that it should be discussed, but I think it would be an usual precedent to take a line item, when we are on general debate, and move it to the front of the discussion. If we are going to go into line items, let us do it the way we have always done it, by going into line-by-line debate.
I am not denying the right to talk about it; it will be a line item that the Chair will read out as we go through this budget. I imagine the Minister will speak about it then. I think it would be unusual to jump into a line item now when we are still in general debate.
Mr. Penikett: I am going to use the occasion of a debate on the point of order to point out that the Member for Riverdale North is playing fast and loose with the facts again. The Member for Riverdale South has been promoting this issue for three years. I think she was so eloquent and so persuasive that she was able to persuade the government after only one year. The fact that she has not persuaded the Member opposite yet says something about how flexible and how open-minded we are on this side, as compared to him and his friends.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would gladly go along with the Leader of the Official Oppositions suggestion and discuss this at length tonight under the supplementaries during line-by-line debate.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. McDonald: After having listened to the questioning so far, I have come to a line of questioning that I did not expect to come to. While we will wait for the issue about 911 implementation in line-by-line debate, it does bring to mind the issue about the government inserting items into this budget that it consciously knows are going to be lapsing into the next year. We have just been treated to the most bizarre question and answer period here, where the Minister initially insisted that he did not want to debate 911 because it was a main estimates item, and he now indicates that he is prepared to discuss it when we get to the line item, because he is basically forced to discuss it. He has indicated that the money is not going to be spent in any case, and in fact, the money will be revoted at some time in the future, perhaps next fall.
This budget was tabled only two weeks before the main estimates budget was tabled. We were told in this budget that the government needed $58 million in extra money. We were told that every dime in this budget was required, to the best of the Ministers knowledge. All we had to work with so far was the historical precedent of recognizing that there are lapsing budget dollars in every year. Consequently, we suspected that a large portion, perhaps $12 million or more, would be lapsed into the next year.
Now we discover that Ministers consciously know about funds that they are not going to require, which are contained in this budget. The item we are talking about, which we will get to in a few minutes, is $200,000. What we should be asking every Minister is whether or not there are other items in their budgets that they consciously know at this stage will be lapsed, or what they consciously knew, when the budgets were prepared, would lapse.
The Minister has indicated, with respect to one item in his budget, that he knew some considerable time ago that he was not going to be able to spend at least one amount of $200,000, yet he permitted that expenditure to be inserted into this budget.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not there are other items in this budget that he knows, or knew, would be consciously lapsed - or would not be spent and could be revoted or not be spent at all in the future - so that we get a better appreciation for how much money the government really requires.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The 911 item was voted in a supplementary for $200,000. It was expected to be spent in this fiscal year. As recently as about two weeks ago, we found that it was not to be spent in this fiscal year; hence it is not in the main estimates for 1993-94. I will have to take someones word for that, because I do not have them in front of me. It will be a lapsed fund that will be revoted.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to get into the specifics of the 911, because I think there are people behind me chomping at the bit, and I do not want to steal their thunder. I am more concerned about a more general question here. If I had the Minister of Finance on general debate in the supplementaries, I would more properly be putting the questions to him.
The Minister just indicated that, in one particular item worth $200,000, he did not know until two weeks ago, which is approximately April 7 - seven days after the beginning of the new fiscal year - that they would not be spending $200,000 on 911 from last year. That does not make any sense at all, and the Minister must acknowledge that.
If they had not implemented it last year, then we would have known on March 31, at the very latest, that none of the money would be spent. In order to spend that kind of money, one would have expected some trace or pattern of cashflow in January and February, at the latest.
Clearly, when this budget was developed - and it was permitted to be tabled in this House - there was the knowledge that this particular expenditure was not going to be required. When this budget was tabled in this House, and we were told that every penny was going to be required, to the best of their knowledge, there were only two weeks left in the fiscal year.
I have known budgets, which can be changed within the week before being tabled - given printing requirements. A maximum of three weeks before the end of the fiscal year, the Minister must have known they were not going to be spending $200,000 in this fiscal year, yet we were still told that this money was going to be required. This is not good budgeting, obviously.
What makes it worse is that the Members opposite have characterized this budget, and the budget overruns, as being entirely the responsibility of the New Democratic Party, which is clearly nonsense. They have also characterized that all the money they are putting into this budget is money that is going to be spent.
If the Members opposite had reasonable expectations that the money would be spent, but it lapses, then I give them the benefit of the doubt.
In a case like this, where it is clear that the money could not be spent, the Members opposite had no right to put this item in the budget. The question I am asking is not a question about 911, because other Members will get to it. I am asking about other items in this budget. In the Ministers budget, are there other items that he knew he would not be spending when the budget was tabled in this House?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The date of the meeting among the Community and Transportation Services staff, me and some people from Justice was on March 26, 1993. That is when we found that the 911 service amount would have to be revoted. That was after the new documents were finalized.
I apologize to the Member opposite if I have inadvertently misled him. I am sure that the Member opposite, who has had some experience with budgets, is quite aware that in the last couple of weeks of March and the first couple of weeks in April, when it is discovered that a project may or may not go ahead at that time, it is very difficult to tell whether it would be last years or this years expenditure. This is one of those. We found out on March 26 that it would not be spent. There are usually a couple of weeks into April when money can be spent under the old year. I am sure the Member opposite is aware of that.
Because it cannot be done in the first couple of weeks in April, this one lapsed. We now have to revote it in the new year.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to put this Minister through any unnecessary agony here, but I do not want to get fed a line either. I will say this once. When he works it out tomorrow, he will understand, from our perspective, how ridiculous it sounds that the government does not know if it is going to spend $200,000 in this fiscal year, five days before the end of the fiscal year. Admittedly, one can spend after the end of the fiscal year, but one would have to make the commitment prior to the end of the fiscal year in order for it to count, according to the Auditor Generals rules. Clearly, for the implementation of the 911 number, they would have known weeks and months in advance that they could not spend - even if they had wanted to - the funds, because there was not the time left in the fiscal year to do it; it is not all capital equipment.
I am asking the Minister a general question - others will get to the question of 911 later. Are there any items in the governments budget, in the departments budget, that the Minister knows, or knew when the budget was tabled, would lapse when they tabled the budget - that was money that they would not need this year? Are there any other items?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot think of any items off the top of my head that I knew were going to lapse prior to when the main estimates were compiled. I am just trying to think of the date when that would be - I would expect it would be some time around March 1. I cannot think of any items that I knew of prior to March 1 that would have to go for a revote.
Mrs. Firth: I want to reinforce the questions the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is asking. I have the dates that the Minister says he does not know and has not got. This 911 is the perfect example of the situation that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is asking a question about. He is wanting to know whether there are other issues as well. In the correspondence from the Minister that I referred to, dated March 11, 1993, the Minister tells me that by February 10 and 11 they knew that they were not going to need this $200,000. They were not going to be able to spend it. The letter also makes reference to the fact that they would not have the information completed until mid-April, yet they still put the $200,000 in the supplementary budget. The letter also indicates that the technical difficulties could be overcome, but they did not put the item in the main budget.
This is a perfect example to illustrate the general question the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is asking; how many other items are in this budget that should not be here, because the Ministers department officials knew very well that they were not going to be able to spend that money prior to the end of the year, and perhaps knew about it in February?
What this does is make for an inflated supplementary budget and reduces the governments new budget, making the old supplementary budget look bigger than it should be and making the new governments budget perhaps look smaller than it should.
Well, it is all here in black and white.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was not aware that this funding was not in the new budget. I assumed from what I was told by Members opposite that it was not in the main estimates, but if the dates that I was just quoted are correct, I will have to get back to the department and ask them why it does not show in the 1993-94 budget. If those dates are correct, then I believe that the Member opposite is probably right and that it should have shown as a new item in the 1993-94 budget, unless the main budget was completed and compiled. That is the only reason that I would know of.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure of those dates, but I will get back to the department and find out why it does not appear. Also, this may be in with another item in the main estimates.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: I do not know what to say, because I think that we have a fairly serious situation here that we should be asking the Minister of Finance to address and not the line Minister. Clearly, the Minister is going through some difficulty here and I do not want to make things worse than they already are.
I would like to ask the Minister to check with department officials between now and tomorrow as to whether or not there are other items in his budget of which department officials are clearly aware will not be required in the supplementary budget.
It seems ludicrous for us to be standing in the House voting in favour of a $200,000 expenditure that we have all unanimously agreed will not be spent in this year; it may be spent in the next year if it shows up in the supplementary budget next fall. The expenditure only serves to inflate the size of the supplementary budget and throw askew the estimates for the next year; because this is a $200,000 expenditure it brings to mind the possibility and the obvious potential for there to be other items like this in the budget.
If it were not for one Member in the House who had a very thorough working knowledge of the one line item and the details of the correspondence between the Minister and herself, with respect to the implementation of this item, it would not have come to mind. We would not have been aware that the government should have been aware that they would not have required the money in the first place. It is unfortunate that it has to come out in this particular way. It is very difficult for Members of the Opposition, without being accused of filibustering, to get into the kind of detail that would be required to determine whether or not the government Ministers are doing something that they ought not be doing, which is asking for money that they know they are not going to need. Presumably, the Minister will talk about 911 when we get to that line item.
Yesterday, I wanted to put a few comments on the record and ask the Minister with respect to another item, which seems somewhat mundane in comparison to the one that we have just been talking about, but which is very important to the people in rural communities, and that is the question of recruitment. Yesterday afternoon, at the close of the day, we heard that there was going to be the recruitment for one position in Mayo and two positions up the Dempster Highway, as well as a number of positions in Dawson. We were reminded by the Minister of the policy that exists to encourage the recruitment for particular positions in the community in which those positions are located.
I think that the Minister, who I know knows the community of Mayo very well, will know the reaction in that community to the suggestion that, for cost-saving purposes, the recruitment team will not travel to Mayo, stay in the local hotel and undertake the recruitment for that position. Instead, any number of people who may have applied or are qualified will have to travel to Dawson and may be compensated for their effort.
The Minister indicated that the recruitment team was made up of four persons. He also indicated that they would be recruiting for the Mayo position in Dawson, and any Mayo candidates could travel there.
I would like to say that it is my understanding that the positions up the Dempster Highway have never been considered the sole domain of the residents of Dawson City. Typically, people in the Mayo, Stewart, Pelly, Dawson area are recruited into the Dempster Highway positions, as a matter of preference. The Minister may correct me if I am wrong, but that has always been my understanding. If that is not the case, it should be the case.
There will be residents in Mayo who would be interested in positions along the Dempster Highway. One should not assume that it would be appropriate for the recruitment actions to take place only in Dawson City for those positions, as well. The people in Mayo, who have a bit of a thing about the governments lack of respect for their community, will only have this concern enhanced as a result of not holding recruitment action in Mayo for the positions in Mayo, or at least one of the positions along the Dempster Highway, if there are candidates from Mayo.
I would like to encourage the Minister to think about this issue very carefully, about whether or not the situation can be reversed for this year, but certainly for future years. The people in the communities of Mayo, Pelly Crossing and Stewart Crossing do not like being treated in the way they feel they are being treated now by the department.
I know the department well, and I know the individuals in the department, and I am not suggesting for one second that they are intentionally snubbing those communities. However, I know for a certainty that there are many people in Mayo - and I can hear their voices ringing in my ears right now - who will consider it a snub, and a very personal one at that. For whatever the savings are for the extra day in Mayo, given the importance that people in that community place on those highways positions - for them, it is almost like winning the lottery to get a job with the Department of Highways - and given the fact that there is very little economic activity in that community, I am certain everyone is talking about it - who is applying for the job and who is going to get it.
For there not to be a recruitment action in Mayo makes things seem much worse. If I had been in the Ministers shoes, I would have done everything I could to not send that kind of message to that community at this particular time. That would have been wrong.
The Minister can obviously do what he wishes, but I implore him to consider this issue carefully and consider the impact on that community. If he cannot reverse anything this year, then he should consider the procedures for next year.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have listened to the Member opposite and, to some extent, I do agree with him. It is certainly not our intention to give the community of Mayo the impression that we are not interested in it.
I have not had an update from the department on whether there actually will be any hiring in the north area or not, because there may well be auxiliaries returning. However, since the interviews may not take place for another week, if there are jobs in the northern area and there are eligible candidates from Mayo, we will endeavour to have an interview team go there during their regular interview rounds.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for his concern and his commitment.
Ms. Joe: I have a couple of questions with regard to recreation. We are all familiar with the plight of the skateboarders in town right now. There has been a lot of controversy about them skating on the sidewalks. We all know that they have had meetings and have made appearances before city council to ask them to recognize that there is a need for some kind of recreational facility for them.
I have had an opportunity to speak to some of those skateboarders as I have wandered around the city. I have spoken to one of the city councillors about it to try to keep up on what is happening. We all know that they are looking for some kind of assistance somewhere in order to plan some kind of a pit, so that they will have some other place to use than the streets.
One of the questions that was asked of me was whether or not the government might have an old building or some property somewhere that might be suitable for the youths to use. I am not sure if they have been in contact with the government or not, but I assured the gentleman who was working with the young people that I would bring the question up in the House. I will probably be asking some questions of the Minister of Economic Development later on, but I am asking the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, in his capacity as the Minister responsible for recreation, if he might be able to provide me with that kind of information about whether or not there is a facility - an old building or property - somewhere. I do not imagine that he would have that information readily available, but I would not mind if he would be willing to bring that back to me.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding of the skateboarders - and I, too, sympathize with that group of teenagers - is that they have approached city council. City council is currently looking for the funding and a possible location. To my knowledge, they have not approached the sports branch for assistance. There are likely two avenues that they may take, if they do get into a project. One is, as the Member mentioned, the community development fund and the other is the sports branch. To my knowledge, they have not approached the government yet.
Ms. Joe: I am asking the Minister whether or not he knows of any land available. Someone on the steering committee asked me to ask the Minister; I am sure the steering committee will approach him at some time. This is a group of people who are trying to do something that will keep kids off the streets - literally - giving them something else to do.
I think that city officials were meeting today to talk about the issue. It is a joint effort that we all can look at in a positive light. It is a short season and they are looking at extending the season, perhaps in a year or two, by developing an indoor pit. I want to know if the Minister will get back to me with the information that I am seeking for this gentleman.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Although the Member addressed it to the Minister responsible for recreation, I would like to tell the Member that I was approached as well, probably by the same individual. I spoke with Government Services today with respect to a building, and they are looking into that. I have not had an opportunity to raise the issue with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. I will follow up on the issue. I think it would be nice to see those young people in a more controlled environment. I think that is what they want; they are a good group of kids; there is nothing wrong with skateboarding and I support their initiatives.
Ms. Joe: Could they bring that information back to this House?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would suggest that this individual should probably be the chairman of this committee. It was my understanding that they were going to speak with the City of Whitehorse, but we should try and coordinate it. Obviously, one person has spoken to the Member opposite, one person has spoken to the Minister of Tourism - it may have been the same person. I have not been approached at all. I am not sure if the sports branch has been approached. So, I would suggest that whomever the chairman of that committee is should approach probably the sports branch, at the same time as they are talking to the city. It will have to be a coordinated approach, and it sounds to me like it is getting somewhat uncoordinated already.
As to the information on whether we have a building or not, I suppose I can ask Government Services if they have a building. What I would sooner do is have someone coordinate the whole operation.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order.
We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 4, Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Harding: There used to be, and there still is, a deputy minister working in the Department of Community and Transportation Services, but there is a new deputy minister since the new government has taken over.
I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services if he could tell us what was the cost of the dismissal, for no just cause, of that deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that question was asked several times before. It is a personnel matter. Not only am I not able to answer the question, but I do not know.
Mr. Penikett: I believe the Government Leader has told the press, if not the House, that the total cost of firing the four deputy ministers was $480,000.
I think the relevant question that the Minister may be able to answer is whether or not there is any money for severance of the former deputy in the supplementary for the Department of Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, there is not.
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if the Minister could assist us by indicating where we might find that money in the supplementary budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that such funds would probably be under the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Penikett: Since that would represent a change in policy, could the Minister give an undertaking to confirm, in writing, for us tomorrow whether or not that is the case, that the severance money for all four deputies is found in the Public Service Commission - because that has not traditionally been the case? Would he double-check as to whether or not there is any money at all in the Community and Transportation Services supplementary for this year for severance of the deputy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I will check that with the department.
Mr. Harding: The issue of the settlement of land claims is integrally tied to the ...
Mr. Penikett: I apologize, Mr. Chairman. We have just checked, and there is only a total of about $44,000 in the supplementary for the Public Service Commission; therefore, the money for the severance of the deputies could not possibly be there, since the Government Leader has admitted that it was $480,000.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that it would not be in this supplementary, in any event. This supplementary is based on the period 8 variance, and I would expect that there would be no number in this supplementary.
Mr. Penikett: The deputies were fired early in the year. The supplementary was presented to this House March 15. Could the Minister assist us by giving us a detailed breakdown of the deputy minister line when he gets to it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I will give a breakdown of the increases in the office of the Deputy Minister when we get to the line by line.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps I will be able to stay up this time.
I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. As a new Minister in charge of this very large and important department of the government and, as a new Member, I am very interested in the new Ministers views regarding the settlement of the Yukon land claims and how it relates to the department. They will no doubt come into conflict at some point and also will be required to cooperate from time to time. As we have already seen in some cases, conflicts will arise when the situation is mishandled by the government.
Could the new Minister tell me his views on handling the land claims of Yukons native people, and how he will work through his department to ensure that there is as smooth a settlement as possible?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I really and truly do not understand what this has to do with the supplementary budget. There are many areas in Community and Transportation Services. There is the lands branch, municipal administration under community services and many other areas that deal with land claims and First Nations people. I am not sure what the question is nor the relevance it has to the supplementary budget.
Mr. Harding: There were expenditures from the department that related to the process, I am sure, in the monies that we are discussing right now from the supplementary budget; therefore, I do believe it is related and appropriate to discuss it, especially when it is a matter of policy and there is a new government in place. We are trying to flesh out the new Ministers views with regard to this; therefore, I feel it is very, very relative, and it is important that the Minister give this House his views.
There has been some discussion about a balanced land selection. As a matter of fact, some of the comments about it were made by the new Minister. I would like to ask the Minister what his view is, as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, on what exactly constitutes a balanced land selection?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, the balanced land selection I believe is a land claims table term. I really and truly do not see any relevancy to the supplementary budget.
Mr. Harding: There were monies spent in relation to land selections and land claims in one way or the other in the supplementary budget, I am sure, because Community and Transportation Services has to deal on an ongoing basis with what happens in the Land Claims Secretariat. They are called upon when a constituent contacts the department about the availability of land and they often have to deal with the issue of land claims if they are even considering purchasing or trying to find land that is available. Therefore, the two departments work on an integral basis. It is very important that we know exactly what the Ministers view is, so that in general debate on the supplementaries, when there was money spent in this capacity in the previous fiscal year - I fail to see why the Minister filibusters and does not answer the question. We can move on if we get the answers, and I would be happy to. I do not have many more questions in general debate. Could the Minister simply answer my question about what constitutes a balanced selection?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The term balanced selection is a term that is used at the land claims table; it is not a term I am familiar with.
We have in Community and Transportation Services - maybe this is something the Member opposite is interested in - a land claims coordinator position. It is a term position that lasts until 1995. This person works as liaison between the various municipalities and the Land Claims Secretariat. He reports directly to the deputy minister. Currently, that position is vacant and there will be a replacement of that person.
Mr. Harding: It would make perfect sense that the Minister responsible for a department that has to work so closely with decisions that come out of the Land Claims Secretariat and the progress on the land claims negotiations would have a very good working knowledge of the topics of discussion and what is being contemplated in the land selection process. Therefore, I believe it is incumbent on the Minister to have some idea about what a balance selection is. I raised the question to get his view about what constitutes a balanced selection.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I do not see the relevancy of the question to the supplementary budget. I could give my personal view of what a balanced land selection is but I have no expertise in that field. It is a term that is used at the land claims table. As far as I am aware, the land claims negotiations in the area of Whitehorse have not been made public at this time.
Mr. Harding: When discussing the issue of land selection in the Legislature, the Minister made reference to a balanced selection. Is he now telling the Legislature that he does not know what he was referring to? I am simply asking him to give his views.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure exactly when I referred to a balanced selection. Possibly, the Member opposite has taken it out of context. I am not sure, but I do not recall using that term.
Mr. Harding: I will move on - the Minister is not too interested in answering questions on that topic, but we will have ample time to pursue it, either through further debate or in the Legislature another time.
I would like to move on to the issue that was raised by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini today, and by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun yesterday. My understanding was that the Minister had had a bit of a change of heart with regard to recruitment and visiting the communities. Could the Minister tell me if there has been a change of heart with regard to visiting the community of Faro on the recruitment process for this year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I stated yesterday, if there are interviews for equipment operators and those type of people, they have to be done at a grader station because of the need to have the heavy equipment there for the candidate to use. So, I would expect that we would not have the interviews right in Faro. Ross River, as the Member opposite is fully aware, is a one hour drive away - it is not a great distance from Faro.
Mr. Harding: It is important that my community be visited in the recruitment process. It is a showing of respect for my community. I know we have had a lot of discussion about which communities it was determined were priorities for the recruitment team to visit, but I certainly believe that Faro should be a recruitment priority and a place to visit. I believe it is important to show the respect to my community that it deserves and, by having people do their interviewing right in Faro, that would go a long way toward providing that respect.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no intent to show any disrespect for any people living in any community, but it is a matter of logistics and where the equipment is located that we need to use when the people are being interviewed. If the candidates meet the qualifications, then they need to demonstrate their skills in operating certain equipment.
I do not believe that interviews were conducted in previous years at Faro and I would see no need to change that. Ross River is about an hours drive away, and it is not undue hardship for the people, as far as I can tell. I have said that I will try to reimburse the people for mileage for going to an interview location and I will endeavour to do that.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps the Minister could refresh my memory as to whether or not there are interviews being undertaken in Drury Creek?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the information that I had with me yesterday, but I do not believe that there are interviews being held in Drury Creek, but I will check that for the Member opposite.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister aware that there are people in the Little Salmon area who do depend on auxiliary work and, on the basis of this plan, they would not only have to drive an hour for an interview to Ross River, as Faroites would - which, I still feel is excessive - they would have to drive almost two hours?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was just checking yesterdays Hansard. The interviews for the positions in Drury Creek will be held in Ross River. Yes, I am quite aware of the distance, and the Member is right, it is approximately a two-hour drive.
Mr. Harding: Would the Minister concede to me that that seems quite excessive? Because it would probably be on the way, rather than paying people from Drury Creek and the Faro area to go all the way to Ross River, would it not make quite a bit of sense to cut the distance in half and hold some interviews in Faro for the people in Drury Creek and the people in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Wherever the interviews are held, we need to have equipment. If someone is applying for a loader operator job, we have to have a loader there. If they are applying for a truck drivers job, we have to have a truck there. It can get quite expensive to move equipment from one location to another, when I am not sure if we will be hiring. As I said before, it may very well be that the auxiliaries from previous years will be coming back. If that were the case, we would not be actually hiring at all.
Mr. Harding: The Minister will have to show me some indulgence here. I want to ask him a question and I am not sure of the answer. On the issue of equipment availability for the interviewing process, I see with my own eyes, when I drive between Whitehorse and home, there is equipment parked on the side of the road all the time. Would the Minister concede that every evening the equipment is not returned to the base? It stays in the area where it is being used; therefore, it is not really fair to say that you would have to hold the interview where the garage was, when the equipment is very often parked on the side of the road where it is being used.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, at times they will leave a grader or loader in a pit if that is where they are working and they intend to work the next day. If they are going to interview in Faro, they would have to bring all of the equipment into Faro, as well as the people. As the Member said, if there are people living at Little Salmon, they would still have to travel into Faro. I really do not see a big difference. If they held it in Faro and did not in Ross River, then the people from Ross River would have to drive up to Faro.
The location is probably quite good, considering there is a grader station with all of the equipment there.
Mr. Harding: I am not suggesting for one moment that the interviews should not be held in Ross River as well as the communities I suggested, but I will end that line of questioning. I hope that the Minister will endeavour to come up with a policy for mileage reimbursment for the people from other locations if they are not going to hold interviews in the places I suggested.
I would like to move on to another line of questioning with regard to highway construction and maintenance. There was a considerable amount of money spent in the last fiscal year, according to the supplementary budget, on the Robert Campbell Highway. Many of my constituents would certainly argue that that is not enough. What are the Ministers views with regard to the priority of roads to existing mines and centres of economic activity. In his view, is it a major priority?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that when we get into the main budget debate, the Member opposite will see that roads such as the Robert Campbell Highway are indeed a priority with the government. The Member opposite has driven the Campbell Highway from Faro to Whitehorse numerous times. He would have to agree that it is a very good highway.
Mr. Harding: There are times when it is a very good highway; there are also times when it is a very poor highway. A lot of work has been done, but a lot more work needs to be done. My ears perked up a bit when I heard about the new budget and the promises for the Robert Campbell Highway. I am still not clear, and if I ask the question, the Minister will refer me to the mains, but that is why I am asking in the context of the supplementaries about what was done last year.
In the mains, and I have to mention this, what I have seen is a cut of 72 percent in the capital budget from the previous year, based on the supplementaries of last year, and I have seen what is approximately a 17-percent cut on the O&M side for the Robert Campbell Highway, from the supplementaries of the previous year. That raises the question to me and many of my constituents as to whether or not there is a major commitment to upgrading and upkeep and maintenance of the roads to the areas of probably the highest level of economic generation in the territory.
Perhaps the Minister could explain to me his views in that regard.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, we are into numbers, and I am not sure whether we are talking O&M, I am not sure if we are talking capital, I am not sure if we are talking the main estimates or the supplementary budget before us. If we are going to go into it line by line, I will be very happy to explain to the Member opposite whether there were cuts or increases or whatever they may be.
Mr. Harding: The Minister forced me into getting into numbers by making the statement that, if I looked in the mains, in the numbers, I would find out that there was a major commitment, or a major priority, given by the new government to areas of major economic generation in the territory. What I am asking is of a general policy nature.
Perhaps I could phrase it this way: would the Minister, for example, put the Robert Campbell Highway on a higher plane, because of the economic generation activity, than perhaps some of the areas where we do get some tourism benefit, but nothing that equals the economic generation of the mining activity?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Work on the Campbell Highway is priorized the same as that of the Klondike Highway. Roads used less have a lower priority. The Campbell Highway from Faro to Carmacks and the Klondike from Carmacks to Whitehorse are number one territorial highways.
Mr. Harding: Before we get into this issue hot and heavy, I will wait until we get into the line-by-line debate on the supplementaries. Once the Curragh situation is settled, we can review this issue by looking at the mains.
Mr. Abel: Is there further general debate?
Are we prepared to go line by line on Community and Transportation Services?
On Operation and Maintenance
Office of the Deputy Minister
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister give us a breakdown of this particular budget item? I realize he has given us a few items that add up to $266,000, but I would appreciate a more thorough variance of the overexpenditures and underexpenditures in this area.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For the office of the deputy minister: the supplementary of $266,000 is made up of $38,000 in personnel costs, consisting of $25,000 due to the deputy minister for acting pay; $13,000 in overtime for Emergency Measures Organization response during the floods of May, June, July and August of last year.
There was $169,000 associated with the Emergency Measures Organization, of which $129,000 is due to EMO response to flood waters during the same period and the cost for heavy equipment, sand bags and engineering. Fifteen thousand dollars was for the Ministers conference and $15,000 was for EMO preparation training; $10,000 was for contract work to cover the work overload.
The remainder is $118,000 of which $97,000 is a result of mobile radio charge-out rates being reduced; $10,000 was for the development of an emergency communication plan and $11,000 to implement a 911 system in Whitehorse.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated that the costs associated with the departure of the old deputy minister were not to be found in his budget, but he suggested that the costs associated with the firing of the deputy ministers would be found in either the Public Service Commission budget, or would not be found in the supplementary at all. Has he had a chance to review that with his officials to determine whether that is the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I have not had an opportunity to discuss that.
Mr. McDonald: I think that this is an interesting subject area. We ought to know where the funds are going to come from. Clearly the costs associated with the severance of the deputy minister would be expensed in the current year, if cheques were issued in this year. I do not think that the Auditor General would let the Ministers get away with trying to expend the money in the next fiscal year. Clearly, it has to be expensed in this year. I cannot exactly recall the dates associated with the departure of the deputy minister, but I believe it was well before the budgets were tabled. Can the Minister indicate why the costs associated with the severance of the deputy minister would not be found in his budget now, when there was clear knowledge that the expense would be incurred long before the budget was tabled.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These supplementaries were prepared prior to the deputy ministers leaving. Therefore, they would not be in here, if in fact they do show up.
I am not sure about this, but it could be that the previous deputy minister had accumulated time and so on. I am not sure when the actual date of his leaving would be in effect. The supplementary budget was prepared prior to his leaving, so it would not be in here, in any case. It would be in the period 12 or 13 supplementaries.
Mr. McDonald: My concern is this: we want to know the costs associated with the severance. It is an important issue for us. It probably numbers in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
We know that the pattern of lapses in the government are such that it is very likely that the Department of Community and Transportation Services, in its O&M vote, will lapse a fairly large sum of money - certainly much more than the costs associated with the severance of the deputy minister. Consequently, it is very likely that there will be no opportunity to debate the budget of the department again, because of the lapses. Consequently, there will be no opportunity to query the Minister with respect to this matter in Committee.
The problem we face here, as the Ministers know, is that when funding lapses there is no need to come back to the Legislature in the fall for a period 13 supplementary. There is no need to come back and debate the issue of 1992-93 funding at all. It is clearly our contention, as has been said many times on the record, that the supplementary here is grossly inflated, which makes the likelihood of coming for a period 13 supplementary even less likely than it would be otherwise, under normal circumstances.
It is important for us to know, given the expenses and commitments that are incurred during this period, that even though the money may not be in the budget, the Minister may not have budgeted for it. Because we are talking about the issue of the period to the end of the fiscal year, this is clearly the time to debate it; this is the time to discuss it; this is the time when it is germane to the item under consideration.
Would the Minister be prepared to provide us with ballpark figures for the expenses for the severance of the deputy minister under the office of the deputy minister line item at any time during this supplementary discussion?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will very briefly answer the Members question. I am not sure whether or not the information the Member is asking of me is of a confidential nature or not, and I would have to find that out. If it is not, I will gladly provide it to the Member.
As the time is nearly 9:30 p.m., I would move that we report progress on the 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 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 stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 21, 1993:
Curragh Inc.: Ontario Court documents dated April 5, 1993, related to an application under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (Devries)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 21, 1993:
Consulting and Audit Canada Report Review of Change in Accumulated Surplus: dates of call letters for Review and for Variance Reports (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 426
Government not bringing Ted Gaebler to Whitehorse to give a management seminar (Ostashek)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 468
Premature deductions of proposed territorial tax (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 460
Business Development Fund 1992-93: recipients, project descriptions, amounts approved and expenditures to March 31, 1993 (Devries)
Written Question No. 10 by Mr. Penikett, April 14, 1993