Tuesday, April 27, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have two legislative returns.
Mr. McDonald: I have a document for tabling, as well.
Speaker: Are there any further Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 8: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 8, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1993-94 (No. 2), be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 8, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1993-94 (No. 2), be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 8 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Government preventive maintenance policy
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Government Services. The memo from the Department of Government Services for line departments, which I took the opportunity to table today, outlines some of the cuts to the departments operations for this year. Some of the cuts appear to mortgage our childrens futures by simply putting off necessary building maintenance activities now, only to have these cuts, and more, come back to haunt us and our children later. Can the Minister indicate why the government is taking virtually no action on projects involving long-term preservation of building assets?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would like to thank the Member for his question. As the Minister knows, we are under severe fiscal restraint due to overspending in the past. These decisions were made on a priority basis. Since they have come about, as much as some of the client departments were slightly perturbed originally, they have discovered that with their own departmental financing they can preserve the buildings in the interim.
Mr. McDonald: The question about the government overspending in the past is highly debatable.
Can the Minister not see that this short-sighted approach mortgages our childrens future, because our children will have to pay in a big way for small savings today; will the government understand that it is running a deficit today and leaving it to our children to pay for tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I will stress to the Member that we are very aware of this and I feel that it would mortgage our childrens future to a much greater extent if we went into a deficit position.
We are doing our best to ensure that preventive maintenance is maintained.
Mr. McDonald: I think the government has made a major error and I think our children have this government to thank for it.
Will the Minister tell us what has happened to the preventive maintenance program established a few years ago that was designed to avoid large expenditures, repairs and replacements that the government can obviously ill afford in the future?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As the Member knows, in the communities we still have the various carpenters and people who were established under the decentralization program. Those people will still be there to do some of the maintenance on the buildings. I do not have the policy that was developed at that time, but we are still pursuing whatever avenues we can within the financial limitations under which we have to work.
Question re: Handicapped, access to public buildings
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Government Services. According to the governments memo about cuts in government services, a very low priority with virtually no spending has been assigned to disabled access; that tells us exactly what the priorities of the new government are.
Given that the Human Rights Act makes it clear that mobility access is an obligation under the law for this government to fulfill, what other bad news does this Minister have for Yukoners with disabilities who want access to public buildings?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe disabled access was under section 4, and it will still proceed as was anticipated in past years.
Ms. Moorcroft: The government is supposed to lead by example. What does the Minister of Government Services believe this action says about the governments commitment to the Human Rights Act and to recognition of the obstacles faced by Yukoners with disabilities who demand their legal right to access to public buildings?
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding is that there is no change in the Human Rights Act with respect to access for the disabled to buildings. This is a priority with this government as it was with the past government.
Ms. Moorcroft: The government is supposed to lead by example. The private sector looks to government to set standards in matters such as these. The governments memo says services relating to this priority will be curtailed significantly. Does the Minister of Government Services want the Yukons private sector to also curtail significantly its building upgrades in order to provide access to people with disabilities?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Once again, as far as the disabled access goes, it is still a priority of this government and if the Member needs further information I will be happy to discuss it at further length during line by line of the budget budget.
Question re: Land development, residential
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. In the 1993-94 capital estimates, there is a considerable amount of money - $17.4 million - set aside for residential lot development. In this regard, can the Minister tell us how far advanced the planning is for the Hillcrest D subdivision in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the information right at my fingertips. Normally, the planning is done in two ways: one, through an official community plan that sets out a general area and, two, through smaller, independent plans for the specific area. The official community plan is many, many years ahead of time, but the smaller plans are usually three to four years ahead of time. I can get him further information if he wishes.
Mr. Cable: Yes, that would be useful.
Could the Minister tell us, in very approximate numbers, how much of that $17.4 million in the 1993-94 capital estimates is allocated to that project - the Hillcrest D subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I do not have that information right at my fingertips; however, the Member opposite should be aware that a lot of the money used in land development is for infrastructure development to actually bring the services to the general area, especially water and sewer. Of secondary importance are streets, roads, sidewalks and power.
Mr. Cable: This question will also perhaps require the Minister to consult his officials.
Of the $17.4 million that is allocated to the Hillcrest D subdivision for the current fiscal year, could the Minister indicate how much he realistically expects to spend at this time?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would hope that we would spend all of it in this fiscal year.
Question re: Government energy savings
Ms. Moorcroft: The Government Services memo about cuts puts a very low priority on upgrades relating to handicapped access or energy conservation. As everyone in this House and every home owner in the territory knows, one can save money by investing in energy conservation measures, especially with electrical energy costs going up again.
Can the Minister of Government Services explain exactly how much money he will be wasting on energy bills in order to say that he is actually saving the taxpayers some money?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I would like the Member to draw her attention to the memo. It says that it is expected that some restraints will not directly impact the delivery of programs to the public, but some inconvenience may be imposed on staff. The priorities of things that will be done first are in item 4. It addresses the issues of energy conservation, handicapped access, fire lanes, walkways, snow removal, etc. What does the Member want us to do - more than we normally do? These are our priorities.
Ms. Moorcroft: The governments own memo says that spending that makes buildings economical to operate will be cut. Let us be sensible. How can we save money by making things less economical to operate, such as overlooking energy conservation?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, that is not my understanding of it. If there is still a problem, I will have to get back to the Member because I do not know how I can better explain it. I explained it to the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. I have explained it to her. I do not know what else I can say.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will give the Minister one more chance to see if he can say something here. On the one hand, the government actively encourages the public to conserve energy, through its Power Smart program. On the other hand, it will not practice what it preaches. What kind of signal to the public does the Minister believe he is sending through this action? Is he not concerned that this will be called hypocritical?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I say the Member is misreading the statement. It does not say that. It says that our priorities will be energy conservation, handicapped access, et cetera. In item 5 there will be restrained activity. In the other areas it will be business as usual to the best of our financial capabilities.
Question re: Infrastructure funding from federal government
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Government Leader about the case of the missing $10 million. Last week, on April 19, the Government Leader promised an imminent announcement on the $10 million in federal funding, which has gone missing ever since it was unilaterally announced in a government press release on February 23, 1993. My question to the Government Leader is: where is the $10 million? Has Mr. Siddon discovered more urgent priorities? Has Mr. Mazankowski taken it back?
Speaker: Order please. I think the question has been asked. A question should not suggest its own answer. I think that the leader is suggesting an answer to the question.
Mr. Penikett: I have not quite finished my question yet. Let me see if I can give one the Government Leader can answer. Could he tell us in what form the federal commitment to the $10 million now exists?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought maybe the Leader of the Official Opposition was going to save me from getting up to answer the question. He was doing a very good job of it. The $10 million will be forthcoming in the very near future. It will be spent mostly on highways and roads in the Yukon. We sent a list of priorities for spending; we are expecting a reply from Ottawa any day now.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Government Leader for his compliment on my question. I compliment him on his answer. Now I have another question for him.
The missing $10 million has been identified by a number of different Ministers on a number of different occasions as a possible funding vehicle for everything from Robert Campbell Highway improvements to mining road infrastructure development. Can the Government Leader advise this House what exactly is on the list of projects for the $10 million? In other words, can he table the document he has given the federal government, in this House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will have to get back to the House on it, because I am not exactly sure about the list of priorities. I know that a number of roads have been listed as priorities for work in the Yukon in the next year or two.
Mr. Penikett: Our fear is that there may be $25 million worth of priorities on the $10 million list.
Let me ask the Government Leader this: in section 4 of conclusions and recommendations of the governments toward self-sufficiency by the 22nd century, the resource transportation assistance program was identified as a program that should be expanded to fund the upgrading of additional mine access roads. Yet, as the Government Leader well knows, the budget has totally eliminated the program.
Can the Government Leader advise how his government expects to fund this kind of infrastructure development, given the uncertainty about the $10 million, and will such roads be directly funded out of the highways budget with no contributions from the mining project proponents?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I hope that we are able to fund these types of roads out of the infrastructure project.
Question re: Tax deferral plan, budget debate
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Finance.
Yesterday, in response to questions about the governments latest tax deferral plan, the Minister indicated that his government did not, as one of its options, have the luxury to cut services and lay off civil servants in order to balance the budgets. That says something about the governments priorities.
Can the Government Leader tell us whether the tax deferral plan represents the beginning or end of negotiations with some Opposition Members in the House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Opposition will move on and get into the budget, I am sure those questions will be answered.
Mr. McDonald: We are not yet aware of what budget it is we will be debating. That is why I am asking these questions.
The Government Leader led us to believe that the deferral plan was a response to requests made by Members of the Opposition. Can he tell us who made the suggestions and whether that Member or Members in Opposition are now satisfied with the governments program or plan? Does he now expect that they will vote for the main estimates budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have been in the House for six or seven weeks; once we start debating the budget the Member will have the answers come to light for him.
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader has now introduced two different budget plans in the Legislature. Can he tell us whether or not he feels the budget plan number two, with the tax deferral option, will now achieve the consensus of the House and will pass, based on his discussions with Opposition Members?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, if we get into the line by line, the Member will find out in short order whether it is acceptable or not.
Question re: Land claims, director position vacancy
Ms. Joe: I have a question for the Minister responsible for land claims. Can he confirm that the position of director of departmental land claims is currently vacant?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I know one position is vacant, which we are trying to fill right now.
Ms. Joe: Can the Minister confirm that there has been no advertising to fill this critical position?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot confirm that at this time.
Ms. Joe: I understand that a committed member of the Yukon Party has been asked to submit a resume in order to be considered for filling this position. Can the Minister confirm that this is the case and, if so, is it the governments policy to politicize the public service and place political faithful in key government positions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no idea.
Question re: Land development
Ms. Joe: I had a question for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services regarding land availability in Whitehorse. In his new budget, we have $26 million set aside for land development in the urban area and $5 million for country residential. In the last two months, a number of individuals have put their homes up for sale; we have had a number of Yukoners leaving the Yukon; we have thousands of Yukoners who are unemployed at this point in time and I would like to ask the Minister whether he is confident that there is a need to justify the spending of $31 million for land development.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Any land development is strictly a cost recoverable item in the budget. If there is $17 million on the expenditure side, then there will also be $17 million on the recovery side. In any given year, the lands branch has failed to spend the total amount of dollars allocated for it, but it also does not recover that much. So, in fact, if the economy of the community changes, then also the amount of land development will change.
Ms. Joe: Before the election, the Yukon Party platform was to review existing programs to ensure that housing met the communitys needs. Was there a review undertaken in order to justify the $31 million in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, the lands branch does review the need for housing by a number of methods prior to putting their budget forward.
Ms. Joe: We are going to be dealing with this budget whenever we get through the supplementary and get all the information we need. Would the Minister bring back to this House a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of Yukoners who have expressed interest in purchasing new housing or land, both country and urban?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure what the Member opposite means by a comprehensive plan. If she is asking for statistics, I can bring her what is available.
Question re: Extended care facility, staffing
Mrs. Firth: The Minister responsible for Health and Social Services has announced that the extended care facility will be opening in the fall of this year, and I know the facility is presently being furnished with necessary medical equipment for the opening. I have some policy questions on how the extended care facility will be staffed, as one of his colleagues has indicated to me that we would have to hire a lot of high-priced employees from outside to staff the facility.
How are the positions for the extended care facility being advertised?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The announcement with respect to the hiring and the process for hiring has yet to be made. I anticipate being able to discuss that on Thursday in this House.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us how the positions will be advertised? There are a lot of people anxious to know this. Will they be advertised locally first, or will they be advertised locally and outside at the same time?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would be pleased to discuss this matter on Thursday with the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I will move on to a new question, because the Minister is refusing to answer this one.
Question re: Travel freeze
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Government Leader another question about policy matters.
The government, in its announcement about big cost-saving measures when they were first elected to office, said they were going to impose a travel freeze and that we would realize great savings from this travel freeze.
The government has recently sent to all Members of the Legislative Assembly a memorandum outlining changes to all of the policy and procedure manuals. One of the policies that has been deleted is the outside travel policy.
I would like to ask why that policy has been deleted and is now wide open, when the Government Leader maintained that it was a very expensive program and that the government was going to incur great savings by freezing travel outside of the territory.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure why it is eliminated from the document that the Member opposite has but, as I stated in the House before, travel controls are still in place; all travel has to approved by the Ministers.
We are still monitoring travel and we are going to continue monitoring it to ensure that travel expenditures do not increase unnecessarily, or if it does increase we know why. There have been substantial savings made in travel expenditures and we are going to continue to monitor travel.
Mrs. Firth: Surely the Minister can see the great inconsistencies here. The Government Leader alleged that they were going to have massive savings - the outside travel policy has been removed, there is no longer a check and balance system.
I remember the Minister standing up and saying-
Speaker: Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: Yes. The travel freeze was over and the Ministers did not have to approve any travel.
If the Minister does not know, I would like to ask him: who is making these decisions in government if he does not know what is going on?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We certainly know what is going on, but it seems that the Member opposite does not.
Mrs. Firth: Please, what a ridiculous answer. It is not a ridiculous question.
Could the Government Leader stand and tell us who made these decisions and transmitted the decision to all of the Members of the Legislative Assembly with the Government Leader being unaware that the policy regarding outside travel has been removed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will get back to the Member on that.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. Cable: I had requested some information from the Government Leader on the budget.
On March 26, I wrote to the Government Leader asking for information on the economic forecast used in relation to the preparation of the 1993-94 budget.
In this House, on April 8, I asked the Government Leader what economic forecast was used in relation to the preparation of the 1993-94 budget. He indicated that he would get back to me on that.
Has the Government Leader determined what forecast was used and is he in a position to advise the House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am surprised to hear that the Member has not received this information. The last time I talked to Finance they were getting that information together for him. I thought it had been delivered by now. I will check on it for the Member.
Mr. Cable: On April 14, 1993, I asked the Government Leader questions relating to the calculation of the tax streams, in particular whether the government had calculated a worst case and best case scenario on the various tax streams. The Government Leader indicated that he would get back to me. Was that information calculated prior to the preparation of the budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I know the information was calculated, and I will find out why the Member has not yet received this information.
Question re: Trapping, banning of leg-hold traps
Mr. Joe: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. This is an important question for trappers in the Yukon. In 1995, the European Economic Community will ban all the fur of the animals that have been caught in leg-hold traps. Last week in this House we all agreed that trapping is important to the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not quite sure what the question is, but I will try to answer along that vein. We are in favour of trapping. The Member is correct in saying that in 1995 we will have to ban all leg-hold traps. The department has traps that they are trying to trade for leg-hold traps. Unfortunately, this is not a decision that the Yukon has a say in; the rest of the world is making this decision for us.
Mr. Joe: Since Yukon furs are sold to many countries in Europe, what is the Minister doing to make sure that Yukon trappers will still be able to sell the fur after 1995?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: What we are doing is trying to educate the trappers. I would have to admit that, sometimes, this is a problem when dealing with elder trappers. I certainly understand their side of the story. However, once again, the world influences us, and that is where the fur goes. We are trying to get everybody to use the proper traps as quickly as possible. We are doing our best. The department has these traps on hand for anyone who needs them.
Mr. Joe: Is there any guarantee that humane traps, such as the Conibear traps, which many Yukon trappers now use, will meet the humane trapping standards demanded by the European community?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have been in this business for 12 years, and I would not guarantee anything. However, the traps we are asking them to use are ones they, at the present time, accept. If they have changed their opinion in the last year, we would have to change with it. At the present time, yes, they will accept the traps we are changing to.
Question re: Humane Society, animal shelter
Mr. Penikett: I have a question regarding the animal shelter. I understand the Minister of Community and Transportation Services met today with representatives of the Humane Society. Could he give us an indication of the progress of the CDF application, developed by an Economic Development official, especially following the intervention of the mayor, who has offered to co-sign the application to YTG?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the application went to the community development fund staff yesterday, and there was a meeting of the technical advisory committee yesterday, as well. I am not sure if they were able to review that application.
Mr. Penikett: Can the Minister, or his colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, explain how it came to pass that the original application was developed by an official of Economic Development, without consultation with the Humane Society?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for his question. It seems I was going around and around, and yet I have a letter on file that was signed by the Yukon Conservation Society approving that application. I have never been able to figure out how they seem to now deny that they ever put that application in.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps it was because the Minister was talking to the Yukon Conservation Society instead of the Yukon Humane Society. I wonder if I could put my final supplementary to the Minister for Renewable Resources, and ask him what assurances the Minister can give to the Yukon Humane Society that their concerns about the legislation, which he told us a few days ago is the drafting process, will be listened to and that the legislation will be coming forward soon.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The legislation is now being worked on by the Justice department and the Renewable Resources department. When the legislation is completed, if we are still in the House, I presume it will come in. I hope that does not happen in the spring.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, construction
Ms. Moorcroft: Today the Minister for Health and Social Services released the names of the members of the new Hospital Corporation Board, who will be responsible for overseeing the construction of the new $45 million hospital. Can the Minister indicate to what extent the new board will determine the scope of the hospital construction project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The scope of the hospital project has already been determined. We do not really foresee any changes to the scope.
Ms. Moorcroft: Given that the government press release states that the board has responsibility for overseeing construction of the new hospital, how will the Minister exercise his responsibility to ensure that there are no cost overruns on the hospital construction project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Very carefully.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the Minister please tell the House what groups, associations and rural communities are represented by the members of the board, and specifically if there is a representative of the Franco-Yukonnais community, as was requested by them?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can try to remember each community represented by the board. It is a broad array, everywhere from Dawson Creek, Dawson City, Watson Lake, Teslin, Carmacks to Whitehorse. With respect to the representation by Franco-Yukonnais, there is one board member yet to be made, and I will comment on it once the appointment passes through Cabinet.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, tender documents
Ms. Moorcroft: I know that the Minister of Health and Social Services takes great delight in giving new Members the benefit of his wisdom, acquired through many years of service in this Legislature. Yesterday, I was told that I do not understand the tendering process. Can the Minister explain to me why the Whitehorse General Hospital tender documents will not be ready until November?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The difficulty that is being experienced is with the preparation time estimated by the architect, and that issue is under discussion right now, as we speak here. We hope it will be resolved fairly quickly but, at this point in time, there are some real problems with respect to the time involved in preparing the final drawings and the tender documents, for reasons that go far beyond any time I have spent in the Legislature and could possibly learn here. Sometimes I wonder if anything can be learned here.
Speaker: Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Well, I thought we would get into learning here, but I am advised that there are very real problems with doing it any sooner than that; indeed, meeting that schedule may be difficult.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for his answer. Could the Minister please explain to me how he will know the tender documents are completely finalized, to avoid what he calls the folly of the past?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A review process is undertaken. We want to be satisfied that the level of accuracy with respect to those documents is what was envisaged by Professor Warwick, who did a lot of work with the Public Accounts Committee and with the Department of Government Services in setting up procedures for this government to follow in large scale construction projects.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has indicated that he wants to be sure the documents are complete and that the scope of the project does not change during construction. Has the Minister consulted with hospital employees or with the child care community about the possibility of a child care facility in the hospital complex?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That issue was raised in the past. My understanding is that it will not be included within the scope of the hospital.
Question re: Hospital board, honoraria for
Mrs. Firth: I have a follow-up question for the Minister of Health on the question presented by one of the other Members regarding the hospital board. I saw the announcement about the hospital board today. Will the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services tell us today what the honoraria is for members of the Yukon Hospital Board?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is the same as for the highest level boards. I believe it is $200 per day.
Mrs. Firth: I have another question related to the same issue, and perhaps the Government Leader may want to answer it.
The government has also indicated that they were going to be looking at changing the honoraria paid to boards and committees. I believe it has been a request of the chamber and some local individuals.
Could the Government Leader tell us why there is no change in the government policies that were given to us, as Members, regarding boards and committees honoraria, because it was a change he promised he would look at?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for her question. The whole question of boards and honoraria for boards is under review at the present time. As soon as we have a new policy on this, we will be bringing it forward. In the meantime, the hospital board has to abide by the previous policy and previous honorarium guidelines.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Government Leader tell me, if that was a priority of the government, why could they not address the issue of honoraria, which is a cost-saving measure, as opposed to deleting and cancelling the outside travel policy, which is obviously going to cost us more money?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For the Member opposite to say we have cancelled the outside travel policy is not true. There are controls in place for travel. We are going to review all the boards and committees, all the honoraria and, when we have a final package together, we will be bringing it forward.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members Business
Mr. McDonald: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the order of the items standing in the name of the Official Opposition, which are to be called on Wednesday: Motion No. 38, standing in the name of Mr. Harding.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
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. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will call the Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Community and Transportation Services, on the line Transportation Division in the amount of $3,000. Is there any further discussion?
Bill No. 4 - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask about the issue of privatization of highway maintenance. Did the department contract out any of the highway maintenance work in this period of the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, we did not.
Chair: Is the line cleared?
Transportation Division in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $187,000 agreed to
Operations and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $421,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On VHF System Replacement
VHF System Replacement in the amount of $964,000 agreed to
On Mobile/Portable Replacement
Ms. Moorcroft: Why is there a reduction in this line item?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It was due to cutbacks on replacement equipment.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me how many units were replaced and at what cost?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I do not have that information with me.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will ask the Minister to bring that back and also who the suppliers are, whether they are local or outside companies and the kinds of equipment this is for.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I hope the Member opposite realizes that this is a cutback; this is not new money.
Mobile/Portable Replacement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $14,000 agreed to
On Community TV and Radio
Community TV and Radio in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On 911 Implementation
Mr. McDonald: Based on the discussions we have had to this date, it seems pretty obvious that this is one item that should not pass, but I presume that the government will want to keep it in the budget anyway.
The Minister indicated in the earlier discussions on the 911 implementation that if the money were not spent in this particular budget it would lapse and that he would see to it that the money could then be found in the period 13 supplementary. Can the Minister indicate what he means by putting the $200,000 in a period 13 supplementary for the last fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure whether or not I mislead the Member, or if there is a bit of a misunderstanding. I was not aware that this was not in the 1993-94 mains. The fact of the matter is that we are going to need the money in 1993-94. I suggested to the Member for Riverdale South that I would try to amend the budget. However, we will probably do it by asking for a revote.
Mr. McDonald: So the government has every intention of proceeding with the 911 implementation and will require these capital costs and the operation costs associated with it. Can he indicate what the operating costs associated with the 911 implementation would be, and whether or not that also is in the main estimates budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is my intention to take the 911 project to Cabinet and, I hope, get approval and then go to consultation. Even if it is approved by Cabinet and has gone through consultation, before it is actually up and running it will be nearly the end of the 1993-94 fiscal year. We are estimating that we would only need approximately $10,000 to $15,000 for the operation of it in this fiscal year. We will be asking for those funds.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated that he would be seeking approval from Cabinet before going to consultation. What exactly is he going to be seeking from Cabinet? Is it going to be a discussion paper that will be taken out for public consultation on the 911 implementation? What does he mean by that statement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot say what is before Cabinet but it is somewhat to the extent that the Member opposite has suggested. I would like to go for consultation with the general public.
Mr. McDonald: Is the consultation that the Minister envisages to determine whether or not the service should be provided at all, or whether or not a particular level of service should be provided? Is that the nature of this beast, so to speak?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is more to do with the level of service than whether it should or should not proceed.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister would still envisage something in the order of $200,000 for the full capital-cost implementation, is that correct? If it is or is not correct, would the Minister tell me? Secondly, what are the ongoing operating costs associated with this service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The capital costs are in the neighbourhood of $200,000, depending on how much the telephone company is willing to contribute to the project. The operating costs are estimated at somewhere between $130,000 and $150,000 per annum.
Mr. McDonald: So, if all goes well and the Minister has his way, essentially, he will take the request for consultation into Cabinet, the consultation will be taken to the public, and a decision is ultimately made to proceed with the 911 implementation. The Minister expects that, given his time frame, the maximum they could expend in the year would be $15,000 toward the capital costs of the 911 service, or is it $15,000 toward consultation surrounding 911?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, the approximately $15,000 would be for the operating cost for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Mr. McDonald: The $15,000 would not be for the operating costs, but the Minister would still expect that, in the supplementary, he would have not only $15,000 for the operating costs in the budget, but also the $200,000, approximately, depending on the level of service, for the capital implementation. Are there costs associated with the consultation for this project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Consultation costs should be within the $200,000 overall capital costs.
Mr. McDonald: One of the last questions I have is with the budgeting process here. The Minister indicated that this might be found in the period 13 supplementary. Did he mean the period 4 supplementary for this year? Obviously, there is no money expended in the current or last fiscal year, so there is no point in putting it in that supplementary. That supplementary is really no different from this supplementary; it is voting money for the 1992-93 fiscal year, and we have already agreed that that money is not going to be spent.
Are we talking about the period 4 supplementary when the decision will be made? Essentially, we can expect in the fall that the consultation will be complete enough so that we will know that there is an expenditure proposal to be made at that time with certainty?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I believe that is a fair assessment.
Mr. Joe: Can the Minister tell me more about the $200,000 for the 911 service. Is that for all the Yukon communities or just for the City of Whitehorse? If the answer is yes, what does the Minister plan for the rest of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The initial 911 will more than likely be for Whitehorse and the immediate surrounding area. In the communities, the telephone book that comes out in May will have standardized telephone numbers. That means, for instance, that to contact any fire department in any community, the last four digits will be 2222. That will be standardized throughout the territory. I believe that there will be three or, possibly, four numbers. There will be police, fire and ambulance numbers for each community. They will be standardized numbers. The first three digits will, in fact, be the same as whatever the numbers are in any particular community. For example, in Watson Lake, the number for the fire department will be 536-2222. In Teslin, it would be 390-2222.
Mrs. Firth: We are talking about the 911 number, are we not? I have a few questions I would like to ask the Minister.
The Minister was invited to speak on a radio program this morning about the 911 number, and he declined the invitation. Could he tell us why he did not want to go on the radio and talk to Yukoners about the 911 number?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was not asked. I do not know who asked whom, but I was never asked to speak on it.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could check with his communications advisor. When I was invited to be on the show, I had specifically asked whether or not the Minister would also be. I was told by CBC that he had been invited and had declined. Perhaps someone did it on his behalf. Could he check that and come back with an answer for me later?
The Minister has indicated in the House that they are going to be making a decision in the very near future - I believe those were his words. In the legislative return he tabled, he said a final decision on how this government will approach the 911 service in Whitehorse will be made within the very near future. Could he tell me when that decision is going to be made?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I indicated to the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, a decision to carry on with the consultation will be going to Cabinet likely a week from this Friday.
Mrs. Firth: What does the Minister mean when he says a decision will be made about whether or not to carry on the consultation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Cabinet will make a decision on whether the Department of Community and Transportation Services should consult with the area residents on the need for a 911 number, and possibly the costs of the 911 number.
Mrs. Firth: This is getting more interesting all the time. What does the Minister mean when he says consulting with the area residents?
Is the Minister saying that Cabinet is going to make a decision whether or not the public should be asked if they want a 911 number? Is the government going to throw out some huge number and say, This is what it is going to cost and do you want it? There has been a petition tabled with over 5,000 signatures. Perhaps the Minister could explain exactly what he means.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The information contained in the petition will be part of the submission going before Cabinet.
Mrs. Firth: Instead of dragging the information bit by bit from the Minister, will the Minister tell the House whether or not it is the governments intention to have the 911 service implemented; yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There will be some costs involved in the 911 service and the Member opposite is correct in her quote of the number of people who requested the service through the petition, which is approximately 5,000. There are approximately 14,000 to 15,000 telephone subscribers in the Whitehorse area and they will have some choice in whether they do or do not have a 911 service.
Mrs. Firth: How is that going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that it will be through a survey of the telephone subscribers in the greater Whitehorse area.
Mrs. Firth: I am getting very concerned about the direction that this Minister is taking regarding the implementation of this service. I am getting a very strong feeling here that the government has absolutely no intention of ever implementing this. What is happening here is that there are more creative ideas being developed to scuttle this whole project.
The Minister stood up in the House here the other evening and told us that he had directed his officials to put money in the budget for the 911 number. He also stood up here and said four or five times that there was money in the main budget for the 911 service, when in fact, if the Minister had read the budget, or asked his officials where the money was identified for the 911 service, he would have found that there is a line in the budget that says, prior years projects: zero dollars and $200,000", which to me means that the 911 service had been identified with absolutely no money.
The Minister seems to be refusing to answer whether or not it is this governments intention to proceed with implementing the 911 service. Now what the Minister is telling us is that they are going to have this big consultative process where they are going to ask 14,000 to 15,000 phone subscribers. I am sure I know what the question will be - Are you prepared to pay this much more for this service? I think I understand where the people who are advising this Minister are coming from. I want the Minister to answer this afternoon whether or not it is his position and the position of his colleagues to support the implementation of the 911 service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot speak on behalf of all of Cabinet. I am taking the 911 project to Cabinet. As I indicated, it is hoped that that decision will be made a week from this Friday. My own opinion on the 911 service is that if the people want it, I will certainly support it.
Mrs. Firth: I think it has been demonstrated that people do want this service, but there seems to be a tremendous resistance within the Ministers department, and now for some reason, within the Minister, to proceed with this initiative. I would like to ask the Minister why he is not taking a request to Cabinet to ask his Cabinet colleagues when they are going to proceed with the 911 service, instead of launching this probably expensive exercise, which to me is just another step in scuttling the implementation of the service at all.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If there is a cost for people, then I do not believe it is my right or the right of the department to arbitrarily put that cost onto the users without their input.
Mrs. Firth: We never asked for the cost to be put on the users. Why is this Minister insisting now that the users are going to have to pay for the implementation of the 911 service? That was never the intention. The intention was that the government was going to pay for it out of general revenue, because it was a good positive initiative. It was a safety initiative for the best interests of the well-being of Yukon people, and it was to come out of the general revenues of this government.
When did government decide it was going to become a user-pay service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The whole matter will be going to Cabinet for a decision a week from Friday. I cannot speak for the previous government or what their particular initiatives were for this project.
Mrs. Firth: I am not talking about the previous government. I am talking about this government. I am talking about discussions I have had with the Minister. I am talking about statements the Minister made in this Legislature about the 911 service being delivered - commitments he made here in the Legislature and comments he made regarding giving his officials instructions as to whether or not the money should be included in the budget. Obviously, they did not follow his instructions because it is not in the budget. Now the Minister is talking an entirely different story; he is talking about user fees.
I would like to ask the Minister what kind of service he is going to present to the public to ask them if they are prepared to pay for it. Is it going to be the most expensive, sophisticated kind of service that can be delivered to them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Normally, in a 911 service the automatic number identification feature is used first and, invariably, sometime down the road - a year or so later - an automatic location identifier is included. What we are looking at for now is the automatic number identification system.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the anticipated cost of that is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The capital costs are estimated somewhere around $175,000 to $200,000.
Mrs. Firth: Is that the figure the Minister is going to be presenting to the public in this great questionnaire on whether they want to pay user fees or not? Is he going to be asking 15,000 subscribers to pick up this $200,000 bill?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No.
Mrs. Firth: What is the question going to be then?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has not yet been a question. We will be taking this to Cabinet a week from Friday, we hope.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously, it is going to be presented as one of the options. If Cabinet decides this is the option they choose, that is what they will be presenting to the Yukon public - is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If it is one of the options, and that is what Cabinet chooses, then the Member opposite would be correct.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister just told us it was something they were going to be looking at. What options is he then presenting to Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot speak about what will be presented to Cabinet.
Mrs. Firth: The Ministers officials keep advising him, and he keeps telling us in this House, and me in correspondence, that there are technical difficulties to be overcome.
In talking to Northwestel, the impression that is left is that if the government phoned Northwestel tomorrow and asked them to implement the 911 service, they would be able to do it the next day. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I heard that radio interview this morning on the way to work.
We had lunch with Mr. Dunbar about three weeks ago and his indications were not the same as were Mr. Carters on the radio this morning.
Mrs. Firth: Where do the technical difficulties lie; do they lie with Northwestel or with the department and the Ministers not being able to make up their minds what they want to do?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Mr. Dunbar, from Northwestel, indicated to me, approximately three weeks to one month ago, that the telephone company needed some new equipment and that Northwestel could put in a system with the existing equipment, but they would have to change the equipment within the next couple of months - I believe that was on the automatic location identification. If we waited for a short time they would have the new equipment that was required.
Mrs. Firth: We are only asking for the automatic number identifier and Northwestel already has that equipment. If any of us picks up our phone to make a long distance phone call, the operator knows what number we are calling from; obviously, that system is already in place.
Where are the big technical difficulties? This leads me to conclude that the difficulties lie within the Department of Community and Transportation Services and not Northwestel.
I am finding this very frustrating. Perhaps the Minister will tell us this: where is the money coming from, in this budget, to pay for this service? Since the Minister directed his officials to include the funding and they did not, where are we going to find the $200,000 to pay for this service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If Cabinet and the Legislature approve it, we will get funding through a revote.
Mrs. Firth: A revote from when? We are going to be going into a new budget year.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It would be from the 1992-93 budget to the 1993-94 budget.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us when we would be debating that in the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It would be during the period 4 variance report, which probably would be in the fall.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister why the line item was put in the 1993-94 budget - the item that says prior years projects: zero dollars and $200,000", which is a 100 percent change. Is that specifically for the 911 number?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if that is the item or not. I believe it is, but I will check with the department and get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: There is obviously no 911 number implementation in the new budget, so why is there not a 911 implementation line in the budget deleting money or whatever? Why is it not even identified in the new budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am unsure. It was put into this supplementary following discussions based on November 30. Then, I suppose that the reason it never got into the 1993-94 budget is that it was anticipated that it was going to be spent and the date for including it in 1993-94 would have gone by before it was discovered that it could not be spent in 1992-93.
Mrs. Firth: I do not buy that answer at all. I have correspondence from the Minister that proves conclusively that the department knew they were not going to be able to spend this money. They knew they would not have all these technical difficulties sorted out until mid-April.
I cannot buy that argument. I do not think there is any benefit to my wasting any more of the Houses time asking the Minister to explain it further, because that is the pat argument we are going to get. It does not hold up.
I am not sure I understand this whole process correctly now. The Minister is telling me that at the Cabinet meeting a week from this Friday, at the beginning of May, there will be a submission regarding the 911 number and the implementation of the service. In that submission, they are going to be offered all kinds of different options. From what I can conclude today, they are going to be asked whether or not they want to do it, how they want to do it, and be given lots of options, probably as to the most complicated, unappealing way to do it.
They are going to ask subscribers if they want it, if they are prepared to pay for it. They are going to look at implementing user fees. They are probably going to ask 101 other questions that will make people say they do not want the service. That is the feeling I get, that there is really no will to proceed with this direction.
I asked the Minister a question in the House when we last discussed this issue about whether or not he was receiving resistance from within the department to proceed with this particular initiative. At that time, he told me he did not want to make judgments or assessments about peoples personal opinions. I am not asking him to do that. I am asking him to tell me whether or not he is meeting with some resistance within the department to proceed with this initiative.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I have not received any real resistance. I have been told some of the pros and some of the cons of putting in 911, some of the cons naturally being the ongoing costs and some of the difficulties in getting the arrangements made for staffing and that sort of thing. I have also been told some of the good things about having the 911 service. The department has been professional in the way they have presented it to me.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us some of the good things the department told him about that service and share that information with us this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It was just the ability to use the service. I think someone was talking about a television program that was being aired about a 911 service and all the nifty things that happen on this program. The various things I have heard concern the emergency response and how quickly things can happen when you just have the three numbers to dial and that there are people who can respond.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously the cons made a bigger impression on the Minister because he seems to be able to enunciate them much more clearly than he does the pros. The 911 service saves peoples lives and that is probably the one point to get through to the Minister today and have him remember.
I want to ask the Minister if he will give me a commitment that he will communicate to me, immediately after the Cabinet meeting, the Cabinets decision about how they are going to proceed with the implementation of this service.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will be happy to communicate the Cabinet decision to the Member opposite when it has been reached.
Chair: Is the line cleared?
Mrs. Firth: I just want to make one more technical point - nothing outstanding. Technically we should probably be asking the Minister to delete this item from the budget because his government knew that they were not going to be spending this money before the end of the year. They are asking us, in this House, to approve the expenditure of this money when we know that the government knew it was not going to spend it. I am not going to do that because it is the last shred of hope that I have that the government is going to consider going ahead with implementing the 911 service. If it is going to come in as a revote, as the Minister said, then we need to keep it here. I just wanted to make that one last technical point for the benefit of the officials in the department.
911 Implementation in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures
Mr. Harding: I note in the capital recoveries in Emergency Measures that we have $520,000 and in the revised vote that we are seeking we are looking at a total of $564,000. What portion is not recoverable, and what specifically was it that was not recoverable in that section?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Under recoveries for Emergency Measures, the increased recoveries are affected directly by the increased recoverable expenditures, mainly resulting from search and rescue assets, for $496,000.
Mr. Harding: The Minister will have to forgive me. What I really wanted to know - and maybe he answered it, and if he did he will have to forgive me - is that if we have a difference of $44,000 between what is identified as recoverable and what the total vote of the expenditure is, is there a specific item that was not recoverable that represents that $44,000 - or several items?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was $28,000 required for the purchase of a vehicle. The supplier could not deliver it until April, 1992. There was a revote of $30,000. That would be a non-recoverable expenditure.
Mr. Harding: Would it normally have been a recoverable expenditure, or were there some unusual circumstances that lead to it not being recoverable?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, a vehicle for the Emergency Measures coordinator would not be a recoverable item.
Mr. Harding: That accounts for $28,000 and the difference is $44,000. What else was not recoverable?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the figures with me. I can provide them for the Member opposite.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $474,000 agreed to
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $1,644,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Highway Construction
On Planning and Engineering
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of questions about the access roads to the Yukon College site in Whitehorse. I know that, in the past, there has been some discussion and some planning to construct an alternative access from the Alaska Highway to the college site. Can the Minister give us some update as to what those plans are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the proposed second access to the Yukon College was actually in a land development budget. It is not in this supplementary and I do not believe it is in the main estimates under transportation.
Mr. McDonald: I will have to check that question as that was not my understanding; nevertheless, irrespective of where it is, what are the plans with respect to the alternate access road?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We were looking at two possibilities - there was the second access from the Alaska Highway, up near the Kopper King; the second possibility was to change the existing access to somewhat reduce the curve and the grade of the hill but staying generally in the same area. I am going by memory when we did the main estimates, but I believe that neither one of those are in the works for 1993-94.
Mr. McDonald: So, the government has essentially put a hold on any plans for upgrading or improving the access to the college site. Is that definite, or is there something more definite than that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am quite sure that the Member opposite is correct; it has been put on hold for at least one year.
Mr. McDonald: One concern about the access road is that it is treacherous, particularly in the wintertime, and is the only access to the site. Clearly, there is some rationale for improving the access to that site, particularly if there is an accident on the road in the wintertime.
The site itself can be separated from any life lines if the access road is blocked. I would urge the government to consider this in their future planning. One never knows when an alternate access road would be required. At the same time, if there is an accident, people will be howling as to why nothing was done sooner. We will know that we made a conscious decision to delay it and to take certain risks; consequently, the government bears a responsibility for taking those risks.
I would like to mention that there are some concerns that have been expressed by the students and parents of Takhini School. They have indicated concern about one proposal for improved access to the college, that in the loop road that currently exists - that winding road that passes the Correctional Centre - the curve will be softened by having the access road come out near or adjacent to the Takhini School, between the ball park and the Takhini School.
The students and parents have expressed serious concern that this poses a safety problem for the students who attend that school. The feeling is that since the school is already along an artery that seems to get busier every year - that being Range Road - they do not want to exacerbate the situation by having the access road to the college coming very close to the schools immediate perimeter.
Has the government heard about these concerns? Have they been able to respond to those concerns in any satisfactory way?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I share the same concerns, which the Member opposite has pointed out, about changing the road access and moving it closer to the Takhini School, and I also believe that it affects one of the ball diamonds in the area.
My concerns are not with access, but with the method of providing the second access.
Planning and Engineering in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,000 agreed to
On Klondike Highway
Mr. Joe: I want to bring something to the Ministers attention. On the Klondike Highway, there are some sections of the road, particularly between Midway and Tatchun Creek, that are very rough and very narrow road, especially at this time of the year, when the roads shoulder starts falling off to the side. If the Minister goes up that way, he could have a look at it himself.
I have had quite a few people complaining to me about that road. The Minister should have a good look at it sometime this summer.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Perhaps this summer I will pick up the Member opposite and we can go out to have a look at it together. I am fully aware of the section he is talking about. We are looking at it for the long term. It will not likely be done this summer, but we will be doing some more work on the north Klondike Highway in the future.
Klondike Highway in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister indicate where that money was spent?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are a few items that make up the $659,000. I will read them very slowly: $816,000 was for reconstruction and BST at Watson Lake, kilometre 0 to 44, which is essentially out toward the Sa Dena Hes mine. Due to a revote of $397,000, increased costs for kilometre 0 to 10 were $170,000 and for kilometre 39 to 45, $15,000.
Increased pre-engineering and geotechnical investigation was $213,000 and the completion of the 1991-92 pit development contract was $21,000.
There is $105,000 for clearing and disposal, kilometre 22 to 33.5, to enable advance work to be done in preparation for the 1993 construction season. That was offset with a reduction of $262,000 for aggregate production, postponed to reduce 1992-93 spending; $64,000 reconstruction, Faro to Carmacks; and $198,000 for dust-control BST, Faro to Carmacks.
Mr. Harding: I also want to make a couple of areas known to the Minister where there is serious decay in the road condition. On the Faro to Carmacks section, between Frenchman Lake and Bearfeed Creek, it is in really bad shape, also in the area just outside of Carmacks, on the hills by the Eagle Rock. They are going to need some attention in the very near future. Every time I make the trip between home and Whitehorse, they seem to be getting worse and worse.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will pass that on to the department.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $659,000 agreed to
On Bridges - Numbered Highways
Mr. Harding: It is my understanding that there was an election promise by the Yukon Party to contribute up to $500,000 for some work on the Riverdale bridge. Could the Minister explain if that is the correct interpretation of that commitment? Is that commitment found anywhere in the supplementaries, or is that in the main estimates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The commitment was for 50 percent of the total cost to a maximum YTG commitment of $500,000 over a two-year period. It is not in the supplementaries, and it is also not in the main estimates. As of yet, the City of Whitehorse has not actually requested that it be conducted this fiscal year.
Mr. Harding: Is it enough of a priority in the Yukon Party governments eyes that it would undertake the project on its own?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is a city project and the Yukon government would not take it on on their own.
Mr. Harding: If it is a city project, why would the territorial government make a commitment to fund it, at least partially?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Under the act, we are allowed to enter into cost-sharing arrangements with a municipality on basically any infrastructure project, and this is the case with the Campbell Bridge.
Mr. Harding: Since the Yukon Party obviously thought it was a priority and they were prepared to commit half a million dollars to it over a two-year period, will they be lobbying the municipal government in Whitehorse to undertake the project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Actually, the municipal government was lobbying the territorial government for the project, but my understanding is that they are still discussing budget and so on at City Hall.
Mr. Harding: Am I to understand that they are now lobbying the government for the project but have not yet made a decision as to whether or not they want it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The city was lobbying the government to get an agreement and, once the agreement was made, then the city went back to their own people to discuss whether it will actually go ahead this year or whether it will go ahead next year or at some other time in the future.
Mr. Harding: Even though there were a number of candidates on the bridge parading around saying, Honk if you want a bridge during the election campaign, now it has been decided that the commitment to do it on a territorial basis really will not come through, because the city is not sure whether or not they want it any more. Is that a correct understanding?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the city is going to pursue the project. Whether they pursue it this year, or next year, they have not yet decided. They have their own budget priorities. Whether they can fit this particular project into this fiscal year is what they are deciding now.
Mr. Harding: Will the Yukon Party government be urging them to decide favourably on the project, seeing as they determined it was a priority during the election?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that it was a priority for this fiscal year. Basically, it is the city that will decide when they will proceed with the project.
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $368,000 agreed to
On Dempster Highway
Dempster Highway in the amount of an underexpenditure of $218,000 agreed to
On Canol Road
Mr. Harding: Is that the North Canol or the South Canol Road? When the Minister answers, could he explain whether the decision was made to do no capital work whatsoever in the last fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the reduction was for planning on the North Canol, kilometre 228 to 463. It was postponed in order to reduce spending for 1992-1993.
Mr. McDonald: Is it the policy for the planning funds for those roads identified in the capital budget to be found in that line item and not in the overall Planning and Engineering line item?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In most cases, the planning will come under the particular area that it is earmarked for, whether it is the Dempster, Klondike or Campbell Highway. There will be a line in each particular section identifying planning for each particular highway.
Mr. McDonald: Essentially what the Minister is saying that for the Klondike, Dempster, Top of the World and Campbell highways, the bridges, Canol, Atlin, South Access Road, all other roads, pavement and management, there is planning money for those projects identified in that line item, but for whatever else is left, which is not very much, there is $621,000 for planning - is that right?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The item I believe that the Member opposite was looking at was planning and engineering. The engineering people have to charge all their time to one project or another. This particular item would pick up many of the costs that are not put down as a line item. It would also include some planning for other roads that are not included as line items.
Mr. McDonald: I realize the question is slightly mischievous because I am not entirely unaware of the situation. However, I think it is important to point out that the planning costs associated with the branch are, and have always seemed to be, very, very high. That is one area where the Minister may want to be very, very careful, and operate with a sharp pencil.
Canol Road in the amount of an underexpenditure of $90,000 agreed to
On Atlin Road
Atlin Road in the amount of an underexpenditure of $12,000 agreed to
On Top of the World Highway
Top of the World Highway in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
On South Access
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if the Minister could give us a progress report on that project, as there is a significant underexpenditure here, and could he indicate where this project fits in the departments priority list?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The major reduction of $490,000 was because the construction work was cancelled in order to make funds available for the land purchase on the Two-Mile Hill. The South Access project has been postponed until future years.
Mr. Penikett: Is the Minister referring to the Herb Doris land purchase on Two-Mile Hill? Could he confirm that? I assume his lawyer will be extremely gratified to see the sum of money involved here.
Could the Minister also tell me for how many years the South Access project is going to be postponed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Some White Pass land was also involved in the purchase, and I believe the Doris land is part of it. The South Access work has been moved to 1995-96 and 1996-97 in the departments capital budget.
Mr. Penikett: For the record, I would like to get the amounts paid to Doris and to White Pass and have those compared with the appraised value of both properties. I assume the Minister could come back with that information by the time we get to the mains.
I want to express serious concern about the South Access Road. It is deteriorating. As the Minister knows, the geometrics of it are not great on the major curve and I am looking also at the sluffing on the banks and the cracks in the road. I am fairly concerned about that main access into downtown Whitehorse for the people coming by the South Alaska Highway - an area which is growing. I think the road is getting into a worse and worse condition and I am not sure that we can safely wait until the dates the Minister has indicated. I am expressing that as a comment and ask him if he does not share that concern.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite has a point; there is no doubt about the fact that the road is starting to deteriorate and the capital budget does reflect a large amount of money to bring the road to an acceptable standard.
Due to budget constraints, we had to look at some areas and that was one of them. There will be some maintenance work carried out during the summer.
Mr. Penikett: Let me make this representation: we are talking about a time when we are not withstanding the restraint. We are talking about the biggest budget ever, record spending in highways and a road that serves a very large percentage of the people in this territory and the people in this town. Let me say, with the greatest respect, I think the Minister has his priorities wrong if he is postponing this project, because I think there are safety issues here.
I would like to know if there is any possibility - since the Minister and Cabinet are open to negotiate with other parties - of flexibility with the levels of taxation and expenditures in other departments. Is there any flexibility in the ministry or the department about this expenditure, scheduling or priority of this road? Obviously, it has become a very low priority project.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is referring to the overall budget, but I would have to remind him that the highways portion is made up, to a large extent, of the Shakwak project and the federal monies that are geared to the Alaska Highway.
There is very little discretionary funding in the capital budget and other projects that are ongoing must continue. There is just no funding for this project this year.
One other thing that I should remind the Member opposite of is that this really should be discussed under the main estimates rather than in the supplementaries.
Mr. Penikett: I have no hesitation in pursuing the matter again at length in the main estimates. I asked the question arising from the underexpenditure in the supplementaries this year, which is what gave rise to the question.
Would the Minister be prepared, in the mains, to come back with a priorized list of the projects the department is putting money into, including this, so the House can debate the soundness of his priority list? I have reservations about it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am quite sure we will be debating the amounts and what they are for in the main estimates.
South Access in the amount of an underexpenditure of $490,000 agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: At this time, we will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with Other Roads.
On Other Roads
Ms. Joe: I have a question in regard to my pet project and that is Wickstrom Road. I am referring to the unsafe corner with less than adequate guard rails. The Minister mentioned during general debate that he might be taking a run up there to check it out himself. I am wondering if he has done that already?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have had a look at it and I am not sure if the department has looked at it, but I made them aware of this issue.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister give us a breakdown of the Other Roads in this area? There is $900,00 extra required. Can he give us a breakdown of the $3 million - just those expenditures that are over $50,000 would be fine.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $1,051,000 for reconstruction. This was the increase to the budget for reconstruction and paving Two-Mile Hill. Land acquisition, construction and utility relocation costs were higher than estimated. There was $190,000 revoted. There was a reduction of $155,000 for miscellaneous reconstruction projects from what was originally anticipated.
Mr. McDonald: That explanation is fine as far as Two-Mile Hill is concerned. What is the balance of the $3 million? I just want a brief breakdown. It does not have to be too extensive.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have that information with me. I will be glad to provide it to the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: Just so the Minister can come back with the information we are seeking, he gave us a breakdown for almost $1 million for the Two-Mile Hill. We are seeking the balance of the $3 million in terms of where that money was expended. We do not have to have every tiny project, but certainly projects in the $30,000 to $50,000 range and upwards would be sufficient.
I am a little curious about the information that the Minister gave with respect to the college access road. We were having a discussion with the previous deputy minister and Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the college access road. It was my understanding at the time - the Minister has corrected me - that the $900,000 had been secured out of the Other Roads category for the purposes of the college access. There was an understanding, of course, that most of that would lapse. However, I was told, quite conclusively at the time, that to charge that road or a major portion of it against the lands budget would not be appropriate because most of the land development costs would have to be recovered. If one were to charge the portion of the land development or road construction that is adjacent to the land development in the commercial properties across from the Kopper King, that would be a legitimate cost to charge against the lands budget.
The access road into the college site was not a legitimate cost to be charged against the lands budget and I was given to believe that a portion of the Other Roads funding was dedicated to the college access road.
I would like some verification, one way or another, of what the Other Roads category was and the situation about the college access road. If the Member could give me that information at the time of the main estimates, I would be more than satisfied.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have that information for the Member now. Conditional surveys and miscellaneous design was $50,000; miscellaneous construction was $370,000; the Crow Mountain Road was $52,000; Two-Mile Hill was $2,551,000.
Mr. McDonald: We will know the extent of the money spent after the period 13 accounts are taken care of. Could the Minister provide me with the planning information on the college access road, the work that has been done to date and cost estimates? I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will be happy to provide that information.
Other Roads in the amount of $898,000 agreed to
On Pavement Management
Pavement Management in the amount of an underexpenditure of $950,000 agreed to
On Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway in the amount of $13,487,000 agreed to
On Resource Transportation Access Program
On Project Funding Assistance
Mr. Penikett: Could the Minister explain his governments approach to the resource transportation access program? In the toward the 22nd century and a sustainable Yukon document the Members opposite gave to the Deputy Prime Minister, RTAP was praised to the skies as being a very high priority program. It was recommended that it be expanded in the interests of the mining community. Yet, in the main estimates, it is reduced to zero.
Today, I asked questions about the $10 million I gather Jean Corbeil is supposed to announce very quickly. In Question Period this afternoon, I was told that the $10 million is conditional on money being spent or raised locally. I am not clear whether that is from the territorial government or mining companies in respect to infrastructure.
The Minister will understand my confusion, as the toward the 22nd century document seemed to praise the program very highly and put it as a high priority. The supplementary leaves it somewhat in limbo. The main estimates reduce it to nothing. Perhaps it is to be resurrected by way of this $10 million. Can the Minister help me with my confusion?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The resource transportation access program last year was $405,000. The administration costs to operate the program were getting so that it was not really making a lot of economic sense. Because of budget constraints, it was necessary to cut a number of the programs, this being one of them. Indeed, the infrastructure monies that will be flowing from the federal government will contribute to these types of projects, or similar projects - mainly resource access roads. I would see that new program actually replacing the RTAP, at least for this coming fiscal year.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his statement. We are to understand that the RTAP, as it was previously operated, was killed because the administrative costs of the program were too high. Is that what the Minister just said?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was one of the reasons. I do not believe that would be the overlying reason for removing programs. The main reason was the fact that Iwe did have to balance our budget and that is one of the programs that we certainly reduced.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has just told us that the program was cut for two reasons: one, because the government was short of money and, two, because the administrative costs were too high. But in the period of this supplementary, the government also issued its only major economic statement, the toward self-sufficiency in the 22nd century document, which they gave to the Minister of Finance of Canada, and argued in that program that the RTAP was a good program and needed more money and should be expanded. I am having trouble reconciling these two positions of the government, which came out of the same period.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The RTAP, or a similar program, is certainly a worthwhile program, but at that level of funding, it is getting so that it really is not economic when a couple of people are needed to run the program. Last year, $405,000 actually went to the program. Out of that, something like $65,000 was for the administration of it and another approximately $20,000 was for engineering. That does not leave a lot of funds for the actual building of roads.
Mr. Penikett: I assume one has to do engineering every time one builds a road, or at least ought to, so I am not sure how relevant the question of engineering costs is. I am having trouble following the logic that a program spending $400,000 was not big enough to meet the high expectations of it, set in the toward the 22nd century infrastructure document, so the solution was to cut it to zero. Would it not have been worthwhile continuing to spend some money on the program, given the large amounts in this departments budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: With the money coming from the federal government, I am sure that we can put together a program that will be better subscribed and will make better economic sense than the resource transportation access program, which had decreased substantially from two or three years ago.
Mr. Penikett: I am still having trouble understanding where the government is going with this.
If you maintain $400,000 per year over the life of this government, that would amount to millions. The $10 million that the government is talking about is a one-time contribution or grant, similar to the resource transportation access program. I understand there is a condition about matching money; I am not sure whether it is matching private sector money or matching Yukon government money.
I am further confused, because I had always understood that the efficiencies of the Department of Community and Transportation Services of the Yukon were such that they could manage highway programs better than the federal government. I do not understand why we would get better economic value by having federal money going into this program, especially if that federal money has to be matched in some way, than we do by having a direct territorial expenditure. Could the Minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the infrastructure money that is coming to the Yukon government will be administered by the Yukon government, not by the federal people.
Mr. Penikett: The resource transportation access program existed in the period of the supplementary; it has been killed in the main estimates; but it will be resurrected as a result of this federal money. Is that the sequence of events?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The funding that comes from the federal government will be for roads but it will not be the new RTAP. It might be somewhat similar in some respects but it will not be the same program as the existing RTAP.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister may want to help us by telling us how it will be different, as the federal government is famous for doing this; they kill a program as a cost-saving measure and then announce it a month later as if it is a brand new program with new funding - just calling it re-profiling and not regarded as a terribly salutary exercise when it happens. Can the Minister explain if the matching funds that Mr. Corbeil is going to require as a result of the $10 million are matching private funds or are they matching territorial funds?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure at this point whether they are to be matched through private funding or through territorial funding.
Mr. Penikett: Am I correct in the impression I received from Members opposite that in addition to the heir to RTAP that we will have, the $10 million is also intended to put money into the Top of the World, Campbell and Klondike highways, and every other territorial road that has been mentioned by Ministers as a beneficiary of this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: At this time, we are talking about the Campbell, Top of the World and the Freegold highways, but this may change.
Mr. Penikett: Is that an exhaustive list for the heir to RTAP - Freegold, Top of the World and Campbell highways - or are there other projects on the list?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Those are the three at this moment.
Mr. Penikett: Since the Jean Corbeil $10 million is a one-time expenditure, does it mean that once this expenditure is over - by the way, it is money that will not be sufficient to do the Top of the World Highway or do what the Campbell Highway needs, although perhaps it is enough for Freegold - that at the end of that period, there would be no more RTAP? Would it essentially be dead, despite the new program that the Minister will have to replace RTAP with - it would be very much like RTAP but perhaps would have a different name?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Depending on future years budgets, a program similar to RTAP may be reinstated. Again, it is going to depend on availability of funds.
Mr. Penikett: Is it the governments intention though, if they can use the $10 million to do a program like RTAP, to put any territorial money into it as was suggested in the toward self-sufficiency by the 22nd century document?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I did not say that. It is going to depend on the availability of funds when budgets are created in future years.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask this simple question: since the funding is being reduced to zero next year and that decision has been made in the period of the supplementary - the government has talked about the money being inadequate to do the whole job and the administrative costs being too high - can I ask where RTAP fits in the Ministers priority list as a transportation or economic development tool?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My own personal feeling is that it is an economic tool, to use the Member opposites word. Actually, I would see the project, if it were similar to RTAP, being in Economic Development, rather than in the highways branch.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister did not indicate whether it would be a high, medium or low priority. I am interested in that.
Just a few minutes ago, the Ministers were discussing the very unfortunate experience of having another department build roads. I have in mind the Government Services experience of putting the college road in. We had, in times past, other departments, such as Renewable Resources, building roads, which were considered very problematic from the point of view of Community and Transportation Services. Is the Minister now proposing that, in respect to this program, Economic Development might take it over again?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: How I would see a program such as that operating would be that Economic Development would do the approvals, highways branch would be involved in the engineering and road construction, but the funding would be funneled through Economic Development, rather than through the highways branch.
Mr. Penikett: I say this gently, because the Members opposite do not even seem slightly interested in advice from former NDP Ministers. In my view, having two departments involved in the administration of the program will absolutely guarantee that the costs will stay relatively high. Also, based on my experience as a Minister for the last seven years, having any other department other than the highways branch build roads is an absolute prescription for disaster.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thank the Member opposite for the benefit of his experience and advice.
Mr. Harding: In the 1992-93 main estimates, two lines are identified, one being management control, a $70,000 item, and the second being evaluation inspection, a $50,000 item. Yet, in the supplementaries, these lines do not appear. Why are they not in the supplementaries? Was there no change at all to these numbers?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The management control was $63,851.40; engineering was $19,394.96; project support and accruals was $392,138.20.
Project Funding Assistance in the amount of an underexpenditure of $95,000 agreed to
On Facilities and Equipment
On Sundry Equipment
Sundry Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $60,000 agreed to
On Weigh Scales
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just like to ask the Minister to explain the increase in the cost of the weigh scales.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was an increase of $102,000, which was revoted for the Whitehorse weigh scale relocation to assist with preliminary site development. That was offset by a reduction of $26,000 for weigh station upgrading due to cancellation of a traffic control light and scale replacement at Haines Junction, because of low traffic flows.
Mr. McDonald: Did the Minister indicate that the total amount spent on the Whitehorse weigh scales was $102,000? Was that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are going to be seeking a revote for most of that because we have been held up on the land acquisition.
Mr. McDonald: The total amount planned for this year was $102,000. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the exact figures here, but apparently there was approximately $450,000 planned for 1992-1993.
Mr. McDonald: For fear of getting into another 911-number situation, is it not correct that the project for the weigh scales is largely the relocation of the Whitehorse weigh scales? It was my understanding that the weigh scales were not going to be relocated until such time as another site was developed. Would the Department of Community and Transportation Services not have known in November of 1992 that they could not spend the $450,000 in the past year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The plan was that the department would tender the project, get the contract and then ask for a revote on the money after the first of April.
Mr. McDonald: I understand the departments plan, but if I recall correctly, the department was told to only seek money that they would require for the balance of the fiscal year. If the department was not going to spend the money in this fiscal year, then they would have to seek it as an appropriation for the following fiscal year. Why did the department not seek the precise amount of money it needed to proceed with the weigh scales project and seek the other money - the money for the actual implementation - at a time when they could actually deliver the weigh scales relocation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department felt they could get the project out in November 1992. In fact, they were delayed and kept running into more delays. Then, the 1993-94 mains came out prior to this being finalized.
Mr. McDonald: The $450,000 for the Whitehorse weigh scales is approximately the full cost of the relocation of the weigh scales. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. The total cost, including site preparation, would be about $880,000.
Mr. McDonald: By the beginning of November, how much money had the department committed toward this project out of the main estimates budget? How much of the $450,000?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In November, 1992, there was actually very little committed.
Mr. McDonald: What is the ballpark - $10,000, $50,000, $100,000 of the $450,000?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In November, 1992, there was just a very few thousand dollars - less than $10,000 likely.
Mr. McDonald: The work the department was planning to do involved site acquisition. Did the department have to buy the land in order to put a new weigh scale in?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that it was Commissioners land, so there would have been site preparation.
Mr. McDonald: Of the total cost, how much would be invested toward engineering of this project? Was that engineering done prior to this year, or was that part of the $450,000?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was preliminary engineering, conceptual plans, and so on, done. The intent was to spend approximately $420,000 in 1992-93, and approximately $350,000 in 1993-94. It was a multi-year project, with the bulk of the design cost not yet done.
Mr. McDonald: I want him to be careful about his language here, because that is pretty important. He says the bulk of the design cost has not yet been done. By what date does he say the bulk of the design costs has not been done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was referring to the fiscal years. In the 1992-93 year, there was still a substantial portion of the design cost to be done. The bulk would be done in 1993-94.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister should correct me if I am wrong, because it is important that we both understand each other here.
In November, 1992, the department had expended - as the Minister pointed out - a few thousand dollars toward the development of a Whitehorse weigh scale that cost approximately $800,000. The department had indicated to the Minister and the Cabinet at the time that they would not be wanting to turn back money, even though they knew that the costs associated with the development of this project would be for the actual construction work - for site preparation and building - not for the land acquisition, because this is Commissioners land. The department knew that it would not be spending this amount of funding. Not only did they not tell the Minister that they were not going to spend just over $400,000 of this money, but they instead said they wanted an extra $76,000. Is that basically correct? Are the time lines approximately correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is generally correct, but the project was ready to go to design in the fall of 1992. However, they were not able to proceed to final design because of problems in obtaining access to the land.
Mr. McDonald: There are two question here. First, the Minister indicated that very little design work has been done at all on the project. He also indicated that the lands that we are speaking of are Commissioners lands. Is this correct? What was the restriction for the department to be able to use this particular site if it were Commissioners land? Were these lands selected by First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, the lands have been selected by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Mr. McDonald: The Kwanlin Dun First Nation will be particularly pleased to hear that at least one project had sensitivity to their land selections and caused some anxiety on the part of the government.
I am not concerned about the problems that the department is faced with respect to getting access to the land. I am more concerned about the timing. Very little design work was done up until November and up until the balance of the year, according to the Minister - only a few thousand dollars has been spent on this project.
I guess the fundamental question is: why would the department place a request for the full amount of this project when they knew that they would not be able to deliver it? They had not even completed preliminary design, they had not gone to advance design, they had not gained access to the site. Why would they put the money in this budget - particularly since the instructions from the Management Board were crystal clear that they ask only for the monies that they required in this particular budget?
Obviously, we have some sensitivity about the feeling that the government is inflating the supplementary estimates. To see a situation like this occur only serves to heighten our anxieties about that - I am sure the Minister can understand that. Why would the department put that in? If they had just left the figure alone, one could assume that administratively they decided to nothing about it. They did not leave it alone; they requested an extra $67,000. Perhaps the Minister could explain this problem for me.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: During last summer and fall, the department felt that they could go ahead with the project, and they had an agreement in principle with the Kwanlin Dun Band. The department was fairly confident that the project could go ahead. It has been since that time that the project has been delayed because of First Nation interest in the land.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to get involved in the question about First Nation interest in the land and the seeming inconsistency that the government pays attention to First Nation interests in one instance, but seems to ignore First Nation interests completely in other instances. I will leave that to another day, because I do not think that is perfectly relevant to the line of questioning that I am pursuing.
We appear to have a situation where, up until November, there appeared to be very little design work done - even if you give the department the benefit of the doubt in the sense that they had felt, up until that time, that they could continue with the design work. It does not explain why the department felt it could continue with the full implementation of this project. Obviously, a major portion of that $420,000 is not for preliminary nor advanced design. A major portion probably was and should have been for the delivery of this weigh scale, whether it be for land or site preparation or building construction.
I have lived in the Yukon for 17 years, and I know that it is cold during the months of December, January, February and March. That accounts for the balance of the fiscal year. Very few people start a capital project - site preparation and delivery of the project - during those months, unless they want to put the entire project site under a plastic bubble. Obviously, that would not have been anticipated by professional engineers who are designing this project.
I am not asking about the capability of engineers. I am not asking about the Kwanlin Dun First Nations land selections conflict with this particular site. I am only asking about an administrative and political decision to make this request for funds, as of November, when, in the legislative return we were told that in order to justify the fact that the supplementary was so far distant from the Consulting and Audit Canada report, the cut-off date for the supplementary was January 15.
I recall that the Finance Minister had indicated that the Consulting and Audit Canada report had happened earlier, and that the cut-off date for departmental submissions was in December. They finalized it or something in January. I remember a January date, but I will check on that. The point of the matter is that the farther we go ahead with a saw-off date for the supplementaries, the worse it seems, from our perspective, about what the governments stated intentions were with respect to this budget.
It may well be that the department felt, quite legitimately, that if they continued to show the project as a revote, then they would not lose the project. Clearly, as the Minister probably knows from his days as an administrator, that, quite often, if you continue showing the project as an active project right up to the end of the fiscal year, if you show it as a revote, it is almost an automatic thing. The moment it gets thrown into the mix of new budget requests for the new capital year, then suddenly it has to face a test along with all the other projects. There is a danger that the project might be lost. That may be a very legitimate explanation by the department. It does not explain at all why there was a decision, based on the stated intentions of this government with respect to this supplementary budget, why there is a decision to show funds in the budget that were not going to be required, and that they knew could not be spent in this fiscal year.
We continue to hear Ministers on the front bench shouting out the figure of $58 million and saying that the NDP government overspent and, Boy, were they out of control.
This project, 911, and whatever else we were missing here, because we only hit them inadvertently, accidentally, as the information comes to light, seem to suggest that there may be a pattern. I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared to give us the list of items he knows the department is prepared to revote into the new year because they know that the expenditures cannot be made or projects have not gone ahead for one reason or another and the funding has not been expended. Can he give me a list of revotes or items the department would like to revote for projects not expended in the last fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is well aware that the revotes are subject to Management Board approval but I can give him a ballpark figure of what we will be asking for.
Under Public Health, Roads and Streets, under Infrastructure, Research and Development, approximately $15,000 - this is actually committed money. Under Fire Flow Improvements in Mayo, about $40,000; Sewage Treatment Cost Sharing with the City of Whitehorse, about $600,000; and the Special Waste Storage Facility, $70,000.
The Ross River local area plan is $15,000; search and rescue asset equipment - this is recoverable funds - is about $250,000; Klondike Highway reconstruction in the Rock Creek area is approximately $40,000; and paving Whitehorse to Fox Lake is about $100,000. The Whitehorse weigh station is approximately $450,000; the Haines Junction Airport is approximately $40,000; and the Carmacks Airport is about $80,000. Both of those are recoverable.
On municipal and community affairs, the rural electrification and telephone program is a cost of about $40,000.
Mr. McDonald: I think he missed the 911 number; that was an oversight, correct? He meant to include the 911 number on the list.
If the Minister would not mind providing us with a list, just to be sure, I would appreciate doing a double-check, so that we are not using poor information. We want to use the information that the Minister provides and be sure that the Minister is committed to the same numbers.
I respect the fact that these are not revotes, unless they are approved by Management Board. All I am asking for are project costs for projects anticipated in the 1992-93 budget, which are not complete, but are still part of the departmental plan to complete.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not want to sound obstructive, but I do not want to provide this list to the Member opposite, because it is not final and has not been approved by Management Board. These are some numbers that I have been provided by the department to give an indication. I would not want to be held to these numbers when they are not official. When the revotes are approved, the Member opposite can have a look at those.
Mr. McDonald: I want to make it perfectly clear. I know that I cannot legitimately ask for revotes. The Cabinet has not approved the revotes, and they are not revotes until they come into the House as part of a budget bill. I am not going to ask for the impossible.
However, what I do want to ask for, which I think is legitimate, is for those projects, like the weigh scales, for which the department knows it cannot spend the money. I am not asking for timing, nor am I trying to cast aspersions on the department in this respect.
All I what to ask, with respect to the timing of the decisions, is for the list of projects that have not been fully expended, and which the department still considers active projects. If they do not come in as revotes, that is fair enough. In those areas where they did not go ahead and extend the money, I would like to know what and how much they are.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have given him a general idea of the numbers. The numbers are not finalized and I would not want to be held to those numbers when we are discussing them in the main estimates.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want the Minister to think that I am asking for something that he cannot give. What we could have done is to go through every single line item and say, Did you spend the money? When did you make the decision to not spend the money? and go through that whole process.
Rather than doing that, I have made a very simple request to ask for projects for which the money was not spent.
I think in every respect that is a legitimate request under the circumstances because the Minister is asking us to expend money. We all know we are not going to spend the money - sure there is going to be somebody in this Legislature on this side who is going to vote for it - but, I think it is a reasonably legitimate question to ask what the underexpenditures are, in general terms.
The Minister can simply say, in very general terms similar to a legislative return, this is in very general terms; do not hold me to them; these are the projects for which the money was planned, but not spent; this is a general ball-park expenditure; there may or may not be a revote.
The Minister could do just that; I do not think that is unreasonable. It is certainly germane to this budget debate. I just want to make sure that the list is exhaustive. I know that to put the Minister on the spot at this particular point may not be fair. All I want to do is give the Minister the opportunity to tell us the whole truth, as he understands it now, in terms of the list of items that the department could not spend; what they were and how much they were, in general terms - not whether or not they were revoted. They may not be part of the departmental plan in the future; that is okay. I want to know whether or not they were spent in the fiscal year of 1992-1993.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will take that question under advisement and I would move that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
The following Sessional Papers were tabled on April 27, 1993:
Selling to the Yukon Government, 1993 revised edition: Guide for selling products or services to the Yukon Government (Devries)
Memorandum from Acting Deputy Minister of Government Services dated March 29, 1993, re 1993-94 Budget Implications - Government Services service cuts to clients (McDonald)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 27, 1993:
Computers/laptops purchased in 1992-93: numbers, types, suppliers and costs (Devries)
Written Question No. 9 by Mr. Penikett dated April 6, 1993