Wednesday, May 12, 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. Fisher: I have a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICE OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. Harding: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT the House do issue an order for the return of the document referred to as the 1993 Burns Fry Report on the financial status of Curragh Inc., which was jointly commissioned by the Government of Canada and the Government of the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development concerning the economy and optimism for the economy.
Has the Cabinet formally discussed the Government Leaders trip to Korea with Clifford Frame to meet with Asian investors, and what policy have they decided to take with them in dealing with potential investors in efforts to get our economy moving again?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Basically, the discussions that have taken place up to this point just indicate that he has a negotiating mandate with no specific strings attached.
Mr. Harding: The loan guarantee talks are integrally related to investment by the private sector, and it is certainly our belief that these Asian investors will want to know exactly what the Yukon government is prepared to do to help reopen the mines. Could the Minister of Economic Development tell me if the Government Leader has a firm Cabinet mandate to negotiate, and could he explain what he meant by no strings attached?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I am sure the Korean investors very well know, we are still seeking some type of security for any investment we put into the Grum stripping project, and it would be unrealistic for us to do anything other than that.
Again, we do not know what Mr. Frame and the Koreans have in mind, so we have not really tied his hands on what he can and what he cannot do at this point.
Mr. Harding: To encourage investment, there is no doubt that a concrete commitment of a nature that we have previously not seen from the Yukon Party government will be required. So far, the terms and conditions surrounding loans and loan guarantees have yielded closed mines and doubled unemployment. Will the government be bringing anything new to the dance in Korea and the negotiating table? Will there be anything new?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for his question. My understanding is that basically the negotiations there would revolve around Curragh. Power rates and everything else, I am sure, will be discussed at those meetings. As for specifics, the answer is no.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. In December 1992, there was widespread concern across the territory that there was a recession coming on and that the Yukon Party government was the principal architect. The gloom-and-doom talk and their inept handling of the Taga Ku and Curragh reopening projects were sending shockwaves throughout the economy.
Yesterday, the Government Leader said, after all of that, that there is no gloom and doom in the business community. Can the Minister indicate who in the business community the government is talking to?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Member has put much into his preamble. Much of the business community that I have talked to has indicated that they are having one of the best springs that they have had in five years. There is another aspect of the business community that is associated with Curragh that is definitely experiencing some financial difficulties.
Mr. McDonald: There is a whos who in the business community expressing serious concerns about their economic prospects - White Pass, Finning Ltd., Northern Metalic Sales, Gough Electric, Ketza Construction, Westmark Hotels, Total North Communications - the whos who in the small and medium-sized business community in this territory are expressing concerns about the state of the territorial economy.
Who is the government talking to in the business community that gives the government such an optimistic vision of what is happening?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I indicated in the answer to my first question, there is a certain segment of the business community that is very optimistic. There is also a segment that is very pessimistic. We are very aware of that and we are talking to everyone. We have a substantial capital budget that is going to substantially assist some of the pessimistic business communities, in the spinoffs from these capital projects.
Mr. McDonald: There is a crying need to be forthright and honest about the character of the problem, in order for the problem to be solved. Can the Minister indicate to us who in the business community he is referring to when he says he is getting positive signals from the business community, when companies in the transportation, construction and tourism industries are expressing concerns about their future prospects?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, some of the business community I have spoken to have indicated that, as much as they anticipate some slowdowns this fall, they are experiencing a fairly good year up to this point. There are some who are having difficulties.
I do not want to get into specifics but, as we read in the Whitehorse Star last night, yes, there are some who are experiencing difficulties. We are very aware of that, very concerned about it, and we are doing everything we possibly can to help that situation. However, we cannot raise lead and zinc prices. That is something beyond our capability.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. McDonald: We have significant players in the transportation, tourism, building construction, equipment, communication and, obviously, mining industries who are all expressing serious concerns about the future economy of this territory. Yet, the Ministers opposite come into the Legislature and state there are no gloomy prospects coming from the business community, and all we have to do is simply wait for their dream scheme to come into effect in order for something to happen.
Can the Minister indicate not only who is giving them the positive signals but what the government is prepared to do, and how it is prepared to show leadership, so there can be some positive signals with real action attached?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will let the Minister of Tourism answer the tourism aspect of it. Again, we have indicated to the mining community that we want to see that community expand. We have indicated we are willing to give them assistance in infrastructure development - for instance, Casino and Williams Creek. They are going full-steam ahead. I have here a copy of a note from the Northern Miner that has headlines Yukon Exploration Activity Picking Up. The Yukon Chamber of Mines is very enthused about the turnaround it has seen in the exploration industry.
Again, our capital projects budget will also stimulate activity and assist in keeping some of these things going.
Mr. McDonald: Operators in the industry - in construction, in transportation, in communications; people who are actually operating in the marketplace - have indicated that they are going to be laying off people, when they ought to be hiring people at this time of year. The Ministers response is to say that there is a headline in the Northern Miner that we can hang our hat on, which says that everything is going to be fine and we can look forward to the Casino property development that may or may not go ahead in the next two, three or four years.
Has the Minister undertaken any analysis of the current situation in the territorial economy, in terms of the numbers of businesses that have expressed serious concern and how many people they may be laying off, so that we can get an honest appreciation of the problem and perhaps devise mechanisms to turn the situation around?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, the Member is playing games with the answers that I give him. If that is what he is going to continue to do, I am not going to give him much of an answer.
There are substantial capital projects out there and we have done an analysis of how many people are being employed in some of the ventures. There are going to be roughly 130 person years on the Shakwak project. Golden Hill Ventures, since May 1, has employed 45 people on the projects around Swift River and they anticipate that this will be increased to 60 by the first of June. Presently, the Casino mine has 40 people employed. The spinoffs from these jobs are substantial; helicopter companies and fuel delivery companies benefit from this mine.
I know that it is going to be very difficult to replace some of the jobs lost by Curragh, but we cannot control lead and zinc prices.
Mr. McDonald: I can tell the Minister that if I took the Government Leaders words, to think positive, and told those words to the unemployed people in my riding, they would shove those words down my throat.
The government has to show leadership. What is the government going to do besides carry out their construction plans, which includes a hospital that is not going to go this year, road construction that is not going to start until mid-summer, according to a spokesperson from Pelly Construction, and land development that is likely not going to go ahead, because it is not needed.
What is the government going to do? Are they going to hang their hat on that capital budget? Is that all that they are going to do?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, it is obvious that the Member is only reading the newspapers. Pelly Construction already has some 30 people working on the highway project on the Shakwak; once the other contract comes onstream in June or July they will have up to 130 people working there in the latter part of the summer.
It is hoped the majority of people will be employed from the Yukon. Meanwhile, again going back to Casino, there will be another two drilling rigs there, and $600,000 is being spent at Williams Creek. Quite often, the spinoffs of one job created in the exploration industry creates two other jobs, so it is a 1:3 ratio. Construction jobs are very similar, so there are some substantial employment opportunities in the Yukon. Like I said before, it is not going to replace Curragh, but we cannot control lead or zinc prices. That is beyond our capability.
As I mentioned in a speech a few weeks ago, it would take $50 million a year to keep Curragh Inc. operating at 46-cent zinc. We do not have the ability to do that.
Question re: Economic activity
Ms. Joe: My question is for the Minister responsible for Economic Development regarding the doom and gloom in the Yukon. The Government Leader said in this House that all the businesses he has talked to are doing business as usual and that there does not appear to be any doom and gloom in the community. Now, after weeks of rumours, we find out through the media that the Westmark Hotel may be forced to close down one of its units. Can I ask the Minister if the Westmark, prior to talking to the media, made any representation to the government regarding this serious situation?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not aware of anything of that nature to any great degree but, coming from Watson Lake this winter, just before the NDP went out of office, we already had a hotel in Watson Lake that shut down for the winter - partly because of changes in the way tourists have been travelling this winter. If these types of things are developing, I have not heard anything to any great degree myself.
Ms. Joe: There appears to be more than one business suffering the consequences of the Faro shutdown, among other things. Will the Minister tell this House if the Chamber of Commerce has made representation to this government on behalf of those other businesses?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As the Members very well know, even when questions pertaining to Curragh arose, there were several letters from the chambers indicating some concerns. Yes, we have gotten letters and we are very aware of it. We are doing everything that we possibly can to address those matters.
Ms. Joe: I would like to ask the Minister if he can bring back information to this House regarding the amount of jobs that could be lost if one of those Westmark hotels were to close down?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will have to get back to the Member on that. I would have to talk to the Westmark hotels.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. McDonald: We have got a serious situation with respect to the economy here. The government clearly is hanging its future prospects on its road-to-resources dream scheme, which may pay off in the next century. There is a situation where there is outright denial that there is any serious situation in the economy today. We have seen a number of representatives from the business community announce real layoffs, which means real people out of work, which means real trouble for real families.
I would like to ask the Minister this: what is the government going to do besides trip off to Korea with Clifford Frame to provide for some optimistic leadership for the business community, and for the unemployed workers, so that there may be some hope for them in the future, in the territory, in every community?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I guess I cannot do this, but I would like to turn the question around and ask the Member what he did for every community in the seven years that he was with the NDP?
Speaker: The Minister is right. He should not be doing that.
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Member provoked me to do that. There are several economic initiatives, both in Tourism and Economic Development, that we are working on to encourage more private sector development within the Yukon, both through the business development fund, community development fund, and the economic development agreements, as well as through the devolution from the federal government. One of the big things that hinders us now is the forestry transfer and things like that, so that we can get things going in forestry development. We are really pushing that and it is looking good.
Mr. McDonald: The NDP government had, of course, one of the best economic records in the country. There was growth every year, mines were operating, we created the BDF, CDF and EDA. We did a lot more to generate economic activity than the present government.
Apart from the things that the Government of the Yukon was doing in the last few years - things that the Member has cited - what is this government going to do? Are they going to convene any discussions with the private sector? I understand that the private sector are developing options for their own think-tanks in the absence of anything happening with the government.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for his question. I am very aware of that think-tank that he is referring to. We will be participating in that, as well.
As I have indicated, there are various incentive programs for the private sector through the EDA to do feasibility studies on various aspects. Several new initiatives are being studied at this point, and I feel that this will lead to the economic diversification in the Yukon that did not happen under the previous leadership.
Mr. McDonald: The previous government did not have the economic diversification the Members opposite want; it just had one of the best economies in the country. The Members are promoting a dream scheme for their economic diversification and the economy is flatter than a pancake.
Is the government going to undertake any leadership in discussing an economic recovery, or are they simply going to ride the coattails of initiatives taken by others, in the absence of any government activity?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I thank the Member for his question. We have already been doing that.
I must refer to the Members preamble, because, again, what have they done? One mine goes down and they are talking doom and gloom. We are, at least, saying that there is a bit of hope. Obviously, they did not do their job. We do not want to see that happen in the future. That is why we are looking to the extraction of resources - both forestry and mining - and trying to indicate to the international markets that we are interested in seeing the expansion of resource extraction in the Yukon.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. Harding: The problem with the governments economic think-tank is that it is empty. Time and time again we have said that the Yukon public needs to have a forecast of every way a Faro and Watson Lake mine shutdown will hurt them. That way, they can make informed choices about support for helping an unpopular company.
The government has said that this information is a secret. When will they present this valuable information to the public and stop hiding it?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not sure what information the Member is referring to. Could he be more specific?
Mr. Harding: I will try and speak very slowly and clearly for the Minister. I am talking about an economic forecast regarding the impact of the Faro and Watson Lake mines being shut down.
The Winter Forecast 1993 was based on the premise that the mines were open. Will the government admit that they have adopted a strategy of forcing my community to pack up and leave, and that is why they are reluctant to give the public the real forecasts of mine closure effects because they would show this fact?
Hon. Mr. Devries: This is untrue. We are doing everything we possibly can to keep that mine open. The Member is aware of that and he is playing political games with the people of Faro, and I resent that.
Mr. Harding: Doubled unemployment and mines shut down - that is what we are facing in this territory. The government went to great lengths to politicize and publicize terms and conditions that they have given Curragh, but one thing they have not made known to the public is the real facts about how a shutdown would affect the entire population. We are starting to see how it affects the business and the people now. Will they table their comprehensive work - which they should have done - regarding the impact of mine shutdowns on the economy, in this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No.
Question re: Health care, user fees
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. Yesterday, I asked the Minister a question about user fees for health care services. His reply was, This party, at this time, stands behind universality. The Government Leader, in Committee in response to the same question replied, At this present time, the government believes in universality. I would like to ask the Minister why they only believe in it at this time?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Under the current arrangements with the federal government, funding in the health field is based very largely on the principle of universality. We have no difficulty with that principle. If the federal government is going to change its policies in that regard - and there are some indications that it might, given what some of the leadership candidates are saying - then we will have review the situation with regard to the position taken by that government and other governments and be relatively open-minded about what kinds of arrangements might be made in the future.
Mrs. Firth: I am trying to determine exactly what this government stands for, particularly in the area of the delivery of health care services. Now, we find that universality may change, depending on what the federal government does.
What is the governments position regarding the delivery and availability of private health care services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not exactly sure what the Member is driving at. Perhaps she could be more specific with her question.
Mrs. Firth: I would have thought the Minister could have understood that without further explanation. I am going to lose my supplementary. I had another question I wanted to ask.
I simply want to know whether or not this government supports the principle of there being private health care services available to people in the Yukon. What is this governments position regarding that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do not take any position that would stand in the way of that occurring.
Question re: Health care, user fees
Mrs. Firth: My new question is also for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. In the answer to the same question I asked yesterday regarding user fees, the Minister made reference to abuses that occurred by some people within the health care system. Can the Minister tell us exactly what abuses he has identified and how his government will be dealing with them?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is concern about the over-usage of some of the programs by residents of the Yukon, such as the chronic care program and Pharmacare. These are programs that are being reviewed by the joint management committee that we have set up with the Yukon Medical Association.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister of Health and Social Services tell us what the governments position is regarding user fees for hospital services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The user fees that are charged by this government are charged to non-resident Yukoners and to non-Canadian residents - people from the States, and so on. Those fees will be carefully reviewed by the new hospital board and probably raised for people from the United States using the hospital.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister knows very well that was not the question I asked. What is the governments position regarding user fees for everyone using hospital services? What is his position regarding everyone having to pay a user fee if they use hospital services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The current policy is that we do not charge such fees to residents. We have not changed that policy.
Question re: Faro contingency plan
Mr. Harding: I have a question regarding contingency in Faro for the Minister of Economic Development.
The contingency plan in Faro has precious little in the way of financial resources, and my constituents have phoned the Ministers office and talked to the Ministers executive assistant. They have been told that the union, the federal government and Curragh should be providing financial contingency resources. Why does the government not show some leadership and take some ownership and responsibility for a situation they are largely responsible for helping to create?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would suggest the Member ask his own colleagues about the Watson Lake sawmill, when it shut down; they left the Town of Watson Lake with $500,000 in debts, and there is still $30,000 outstanding in vacation pay. Ask them what they did there. I feel we are doing much more here than what happened there.
Mr. Harding: This government is not prepared to take any responsibility for anything. The Ministers executive assistant said that my constituent should get the union to pay relocation and job search costs because members pay dues. Is this the new government position?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No, that is not this governments position. In the area of severance pay and some of the outstanding vacation pay issues, yes, it is, but as far as moving, no, this is not our position. We are doing everything to assist that person and, while the Government Leader is in Ottawa, he will be speaking with Mr. Valcourt about these issues.
Mr. Harding: That is interesting. The governments new plans to have the union pay severance and vacation pay to the workers is most unusual.
I want to tell the Minister -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: -If the Members will let me finish my question, I will be glad to tell them a little bit about that.
I want to tell the Minister that not everyone in Faro was in the union. I also want to tell the Minister that the dues are worth about two hours per month, and people in my community pay a heck of a lot more than that in taxes. On that basis, does the Minister admit that the government has some responsibility for helping the people in my community?
Hon. Mr. Devries: On those issues, again, the Member has not been observing what is happening in the courts in Toronto. Curragh Inc. is getting a $14 million cashflow this month, and it is the unions duty to stick up for its employees and see that they access some of that $14 million for the severance and vacation pay.
Question re: Faro contingency plan
Mr. Harding: Hundreds of people in my community have been laid off for months, some since December. It is a very unusual situation. They need help for retraining, career counselling, resume writing and child care. Small businesses need help. They need job search, community works and a number of other things. The government has said that it is everyone elses fault and everyone elses problem. When will they get serious about real action to help the community of Faro?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There is training going on. There is resume writing assistance going on. The reason the day care shut down was because nobody was bringing their kids there. My understanding is that some of the people who worked at the day care volunteered to help with day care at the community centre. On Thursday there will be a training course starting for industrial mechanics. There are discussions underway for a millwright training course. There are all kinds of things going on. The Member does not know what he talking about.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Question re: Forestry, raw log exports
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I will give the Minister of Economic Development a break here. During the campaign, the Yukon Party said that if they were elected they would eliminate the export of raw logs and encourage the development of secondary industry. I asked the Minister of Renewable Resources in April whether or not this government had a policy that reflected this promise. He said no. Has the Minister taken a policy to Cabinet on the export of raw logs yet?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I have.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the Minister tell this House what it is?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will be making a ministerial statement shortly.
Question re: Tourism summit
Mr. Harding: I want to move off the Minister of Economic Development and get to another tough Minister. I want to get to the Minister of Tourism and ask him a few questions regarding the tourism summit. Like the education review, the peppy new Minister has waded into a tourism summit idea with many bold statements. The Minister said, The challenge here is to put aside self-seeking interests of groups and individuals and to allow the tourism industry to become the leading economic contributor in the territory. Could he explain what the self-seeking interests of groups and individuals are?
Speaker: Order please. Before the Minister of Tourism answers the question, I would like to advise the Member for Faro that insulting remarks in the preamble are not parliamentary and should not be part of his question.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am a bit surprised by the question from the Tourism critic. I would have thought, since groups and individuals from the tourism industry are calling me raising concerns about issues in the tourism industry, that we should get together and discuss these issues. I also would have thought that they would have been calling him to advise him of their concerns in the industry about overlap, some personality problems and others.
I think that it is a good opportunity to call the groups together. I can tell the Member that the announcement was received in a very positive manner by people in the industry when I was in Dawson last week. People seem to be looking forward to the opportunity to look at new options for tourism in the future.
Mr. Harding: That was a wonderful speech, but that was not the answer to the question. I asked the Minister not how it was received; I asked him a specific question. I will have to ask my question again.
Could the Minister explain the self-seeking interests of groups and individuals? The Minister made the statement and he should be able to back it up and tell us what these interests are.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There have been accusations made by some people in the tourism industry about the direction of some groups and individuals. I do not think that anyone in the tourism industry who was at that meeting - unfortunately, I did not see the Tourism critic at the meeting - was surprised by that comment. The people at the meeting felt that it is time that people put aside some of their personal differences and get together to work for the betterment of the tourism industry. People at that meeting thought that announcement was a positive initiative. I am surprised that the critic does not think that the tourism industry should get together from time to time to discuss better tourism options for the future.
Mr. Harding: I checked my mail, but I did not receive an invitation to travel with the Minister to that conference. Maybe the next time he will ask for my attendance at the governments expense.
Could the Minister, once again, explain to me what are the self-seeking interests of groups and individuals and who are they? My question has not been answered yet and I did not make any statements about it being a bad idea.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is the Member for Faro again saying that the government should pay for everything. When I was the critic for Tourism, I can tell the Member that I attended every TIA conference, because I was interested in the tourism industry. He was not there last week, and there is money in their budget for him to go to those conferences. Maybe the Member should go and he would understand the tourism industry better-
Speaker: Order please.
Question re: Health Services, psychiatrist
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The territory has been without a psychiatrist for almost two years. Can the Minister tell this House when the territory will have a new psychiatrist and how the recruitment is progressing?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There have been some attempts to encourage a psychiatrist to move permanently to the Yukon. Thus far, we have not been successful. Of course, we are looking forward to phase 2 of the health transfer, which will, among other things, include the transfer of mental health from the federal government to the territorial government. This will give us the chance to rationalize the various programs that would rely upon that type of expertise. We look forward to being able to provide those kinds of services in the future.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to hear a bit more about the Ministers views on this subject. Could the Minister tell the House what he thinks of the Yukon Mental Health Act and whether he is planning to review it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That act was passed not too long ago; it was just a matter of two or three years ago. At this time, we have no intention to review it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am glad that the Minister agrees with the patient-oriented philosophy of the act.
Has the Minister met with groups, such as the Second Opinion Society, to hear their concerns about mental health issues in the territory? How will he be addressing their concerns?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have met with such groups. We have taken various steps to try and ensure, for example, that patients are able to live in society, outside of institutions. We support that general movement in various ways, as the Member well knows.
Question re: McLean Lake zoning
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding the bylaw he signed, which changes the Whitehorse official community plan - specifically the land use for the McLean Lake area. The Minister has tried to muddy the exact extent of his actions on this matter, and he has stated things in answers to questions from which, upon further questioning, he has backtracked. I would like to get the record straight.
My question is: the Minister approved a bylaw amending the official community plan to change the land use and housing density for the McLean Lake area from country residential to urban residential. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct.
Ms. Moorcroft: The bylaw the Minister signed states, in part, low-density residential development shall be encouraged. This is the same as Riverdale or Hillcrest, not Wolf Creek or Mary Lake. True or false?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Low-density residential normally means one single-family residence on a lot. It would not include apartments, such as in Riverdale or Porter Creek.
Ms. Moorcroft: The bylaw the Minister signed states, in part, limited multiple-family residential development shall be permitted, as well as neighbourhood commercial and district commercial - things that are not permitted in country-residential neighbourhoods. True or false?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can only answer half of the question. Do I only get a 50 percent on this?
The Member opposite is not entirely correct when she says that country residential does not allow multiple-family dwellings. In some cases, it does. If, as she said, the bylaw states that there will be limited multiple-family, that would probably mean there would be an apartment building somewhere in the area, or perhaps a couple of duplexes, that sort of thing.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Bill No. 46 dropped from Order Paper
Speaker: Prior to proceeding to Orders of the Day, I would like to state to the House that Bill No. 20, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, passed this House yesterday. The Government Leader, in bringing Bill No. 20 to the House, stated that bill was a substitute for Bill No. 46, which was also titled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act.
I would, therefore, inform the House that I have ordered that Bill No. 46 be dropped from the Order Paper.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 18, standing in the name of Ms. Moorcroft.
Motion No. 18
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Mount Lorne
THAT it is the opinion of this House:
(1) That the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement will seriously erode Canadas economic and political sovereignty;
(2) That both the Yukon and Canadian economy will suffer because of the further loss of jobs and employment opportunities to a low-wage American and Mexican labour force; and
(3) That the North American Free Trade Agreement will cause the deterioration of the living standards of working people, the erosion of Canadian social programs, and curtail the ability of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to enact improved environmental and health and safety standards; and
THAT this House urge the federal government to abandon its plans to endorse the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday in the House, the Government House Leader was muttering about NAFTA under his breath and implied to me - perhaps I was mistaken - that it was a trivial waste of time for this Assembly to be debating Motion No. 18. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A North American regional trade zone will encompass a population of more than 360 million people, with a total gross domestic product of close to $7.5 trillion, making it a larger free-trade area than that of the European community. Is this trivial?
Why should we care? Well, international trade is changing the social landscape of Canada. Under the Canada/US free-trade agreement, we have seen major cuts in Canadian social programs, the privatization of public services, the elimination of universal benefits and the deterioration of service standards. Large international corporations and banking institutions are restructuring world trade and the world economy on the principle of an unregulated free market.
Some of the disastrous effects on the developing countries of the southern hemisphere are that economies have been deregulated, natural resources have been diverted from local needs to export markets, the powers of government have been limited, services have been transferred from the public to the private sector, there have been dramatic cuts in social spending, wages have been lowered and democratic institutions have been restricted. But most importantly, people living under these conditions in the southern hemisphere are living wretched lives by our standards.
They suffer severe health problems. Large urban areas have no sewer and water. There is chronic unemployment and extensive corruption in their societies. My fear is that the large corporations will walk in there, further exploit the workers, abuse the women in these countries and destroy the environment - all in the name of progress.
This is the kind of system the Members opposite are inclined to support. This is what free trade will do. I hold a somewhat different view of the world from the gentlemen opposite. The supporters of capitalism declare that there is no alternative. In their scheme of things, there is no longer any society, any social rights or needs, only the individual worker/consumer, his family and the market. Women are urged to bear the burden of family values, while receiving no independent right to economic resources. The services that make womens lives easier are available only if capitalism deems them affordable, or if there is a profit to be had, of if there is a monetary contribution to society.
Women, as the worst paid and most marginal workers, suffer under the continual pressure on workers to reduce their wages and standard of living. Trans-national corporations freely roam the globe looking for new markets, tax havens, cheap labour and raw resources. They want somewhere to carry out environmentally sensitive production without too many questions being asked. In a tightly controlled corporate system, there is no power strong enough, or international enough, to protect the needs and rights of people. Those in control of the transnational corporations play governments and workers in one country off against those in other, more desperate, countries. The environment has become a pawn in a global game of corporate chess. Cheap labour and deplorable working conditions are their opening moves, with social disintegration being the end game.
Private companies are not held accountable to the public. In Canada, the Business Council on National Issues represents business interests, which control $1 trillion in assets. This lobby group, which functions as the shadow Cabinet of the federal Tory government, carried out a multi-million dollar campaign to sell the free-trade agreement to Canadians before the 1988 federal election. In spite of the toll that the free-trade agreement has taken on the Canadian economy, the Business Council on National Issues is now pushing for NAFTA.
These corporate lobby groups work to create the global system in which the most powerful institutions are transnational corporations, and are above national laws and beyond the control of any international agency.
With the signing of NAFTA, the corporate power structure is to be extended, initially from the Yukon to the Yucatan in Mexico, to encompass all other countries in Central and South America - the enterprise for the Americas initiative.
The model being built in this hemisphere gives up power to Washington and corporate boardrooms. U.S. economic dominance will be undisputed, since the U.S. economy is larger, by far, than all the economies of the other 34 nations in the hemisphere put together.
The countries of Europe are giving up power to a new political body - the European community - that can set rules for the whole. Europe has devised a social charter that protects minimum working conditions, health and safety, the rights of children, the elderly, the disabled and women, collective bargaining, freedom of movement and social programs.
Our new economic model under NAFTA provides no protection whatsoever for any of our rights and programs. NAFTA is part of a drive to divide the world in to three major trading blocks - one centered in the Far East, another in Europe and the third in North America.
These trading blocks have military and political overtones. NAFTA ties Canadian military industries even more securely to those of the U.S. Under NATFA, as under the Free Trade Agreement, the only areas where government subsidies to industry are allowed are in the military and energy sectors. We will continue paying for research that will benefit U.S. military contractors, as our energy is put at the disposal of the U.S.
NAFTA severely limits the ability of both the federal and provincial governments to restrict the export of most goods. In the NAFTA tariff schedule, water is classified as one of the goods that is not excluded from export restrictions; nowhere in the NAFTA text is there any indication that the intent was to confine water exports to bottled water. Such exports could clearly be in bottles, but they could also be in cans, tanks, tankers, pipelines, aquifers and even natural water courses - all clean Canadian water could be sent south.
There is even a move afoot to reverse the flow of the Yukon River and, through a series of pen-stocks, canals and diversions, drain the river that runs north only 200 metres from where I stand. This is a serious proposition, which has led one U.S. senator to say that if Canada does not export water, it would be considered an act of aggression. This is not trivial at all.
Yukon First Nations self-government agreements and aboriginal land claims recognize aboriginal title and control of resources, such as fish and game, minerals and forests. To make trade agreements that serve the corporate interests of trans-nationals before implementing aboriginal claims in the Yukon, British Columbia and all across Canada, will make resolution of these longstanding issues much more difficult. To do so would be a mistake.
I believe it could be characterized as bad-faith bargaining. If we are to successfully come to equitable agreements and implementation on land claims and aboriginal title, we may set an example for the rest of North America. We have, after all, just signed the Yukon land claim - let us honour it.
Mexico has a poor record of treatment of its native people. Americas Watch report, Human Rights in Mexico: A Policy in Impunity, concluded that, historically, Mexico has opted for form over substance in the protection of human rights.
Already more than 80 activists, from the recently formed Party of Democratic Revolution, have been killed in protests over alleged government electoral fraud. These attacks have taken place mainly in the rural states of Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Puebla, which have large Indian populations.
Women in Mexico grapple with many problems. Low wages, long hours, poor living conditions, child labour and poor housing are the norm for working women in Mexico, particularly in the maquiladoras.
The maquiladoras industries prefer to employ women - they are presently 68 percent of the workforce there - particularly women who are young. They know that women often have children to support and would be more reluctant to do anything that would jeopardize their job, such as organize a union.
Women are subjected to sexual harassment and can be disciplined or fired for resisting a managers sexual advance.
In a recent article by Debra Burke of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, employers have been known to host Friday night rape parties for supervisors, involving female workers. Women routinely face dismissal if they are pregnant. Those who remain working are often employed in toxic working environments.
These are the realities of life in the maquiladoras. NAFTA creates a global economy that moves jobs to this part of the world.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, like the Canada/U.S. Free Trade Agreement before it, is designed to permanently shift power away from democratically elected governments, in favour of global, corporate interests. Global corporations are loyal only to their bottom line. NAFTA is designed to prevent democratically elected governments from regulating capital. This agreement covers provincial and territorial governments. Canadian economic regional programs are at risk, as are Crown corporations.
Under NAFTA, the primary role of government will be to facilitate the marketplace. Government will be there to ensure that corporations can operate without any interference and that they have the necessary supplies. The role of government as a promoter of the public good will become secondary. The economy will be opened up to foreign companies to take what they choose, while demanding to be treated as Canadian citizens.
Increasingly, corporations enjoy greater freedom from taxation, while the individuals tax burden increases. Conservative governments love a deficit. They love the debt, because it means that some of their heaviest supporters are the banks. The banks continue to bilk the Canadian people for millions of dollars while, at the same time, these same governments say we must cut back on social services in order to pay back their parties supporters.
Let there be no misunderstanding about this; this is how banks make their money, and some of it they pass on to the conservative parties to help them form governments.
I believe that as legislators we have a responsibility to understand these economic and trade issues, which do affect our lives. We must recognize that NAFTA is about more than sending First-World factories into the Third World.
NAFTA is about importing third-world economic pressures and social conditions into the west.
Transnational corporations make no secret of their shared view that the worlds grave economic problem has nothing to do with the low levels of pay, environmental protection and economic regulations in poor countries. Korean wages are not too low; Mexicos regulations are not too lax; Bangladeshi provisions for disabled workers are not too niggardly; and Indonesia is not too tolerant of industrial pollution - no, North American wages are too high, North American regulations are too strict, North America is too generous to disabled workers and North America is too green.
We are far from being too green. The seriousness of the global environmental crisis is bearing down on our generation. We must do something about it; it is not just for us that we are worried, it is for our young sons and daughters. We cannot hand them a world that comes with a $50 trillion price tag on it just to make it livable.
The logic behind NAFTA is simple; the idea is to give business a boost by removing barriers to trade. This means each country will supposedly end up doing what it does best. Mexicos cheap labour ensures manufacturing costs are less there. Canada is treated as if we have an abundance of resources; forest products, minerals, oil, natural gas, coal and hydro power.
Some Canadian resources have already been depleted through decades of exploitation by large corporations that showed little regard for the future. This is why we now have a crisis in the fisheries industry on the east and west coast and major problems with forest replanting and timber cutting across the country.
We see more of the same effects in Canada. We have only to look at the devastation that is the Ontario economy today, with jobs moved to the United States under the Free Trade Agreement, to get a glimpse of what the North American Free Trade Agreement will do. Since the Free Trade Agreement came into effect, Canada has lost some 500,000 jobs, primarily in the sectors where exports of raw and semi-processed resources have increased and value-added processing and manufacturing jobs are being done in the sunbelt of cheap labour.
Cutbacks in social spending create further savings in the corporate sector, while Canadian families are losing family allowance, unemployment insurance, old age pensions, and are expecting further erosion of medicare and public education, through the reduction of transfer payments.
The North American Free Trade Agreement supersedes the Free-Trade Agreement that has been disastrous for the Canadian economy. NAFTA removes tariffs and import restrictions on goods and it contains provisions to reduce the protective nature of standards-related measures. NAFTA will affect our sovereignty, our social programs, our public services and our environment, as well as our resource and manufacturing industry.
We must understand that Canadian governments, including provincial and territorial governments, will become subordinate to transnational corporate interests.
Dispute settlement procedures regarding the application and interpretation of NAFTA will be handled by an appointed Cabinet-level free-trade commission, administered by a permanent secretariat.
Under NAFTA, member countries will be required to consult upon request and if satisfactory resolution of particular disputes is not forthcoming, as a result of the conciliation and mediation process, provision is made for the establishment of an appointed arbitration panel.
Disputes arising from the application of trade remedy laws respecting dumping, subsidy and countervail, will be referred to by national panels as a substitute for domestic judicial review. What this means is that the temporary free-trade agreement for national trade panels, which have ruled against Canadian interests twice in the last year - first in the countervailing duty case against softwood lumber disputes and, secondly, to attack Ontarios environmental levy to promote re-use of alcohol containers - will become permanent.
These dispute resolution mechanisms, which favour U.S. interests, will be made permanent under NAFTA. The body of rulings and precedents being built up by the panels is based on U.S. trade law. Canada has never agreed that its agricultural marketing, regional development or transportation programs were trade-distorting or illegitimate subsidies.
In these instances, bi-national panels have upheld U.S. rulings against such programs. Canadian participation in the panel process sanctions adverse decisions, weakening Canadas position in subsequent international subsidy negotiations and national support for important domestic programs.
This deal overrides our ability to protect our environment. What is good for trade is not necessarily good for the environment. Trade should not be the yardstick by which all things are measured. The current Canada/U.S. trade deal already commits us to perpetually supplying our natural resources to the American market, regardless of shortages here at home, regardless of our conservation measures.
These resources are not unlimited. NAFTA commits us to perpetually supplying the American market with our energy and freshwater resources. A nation that loses control over its natural resources is a nation that loses its sovereignty.
Environment Canada is under pressure from the federal government to review all Canadian environmental laws and regulations by June 1993, to ensure these do not unduly restrict trade. Any rules or standards not generally agreed to by non-elected and unaccountable business-dominated international bodies, such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission, would be disallowed. The Codex Alimentarius Food Standards Commission is dominated by chemical companies and agra-business. As a result, the Codex allows pesticide residues, like DDT, on food far in excess of Canadian standards. NAFTA will continue harmonization of our pesticide standards with the lower ones of the United States.
More family farms will also be lost in Canada, because NAFTA benefits large-scale agra-business interests. Policies of national food security and the survival of rural Canada are subordinated to the market, eroding domestic support programs for farmers.
Therefore, I would like to urge this House to support Canadas national identity, support the rights of Canadians to set our own standards, live by our own rules, support our own political and economic institutions, stand up for what we believe is morally, ethically and philosophically correct, and send a strong message to Ottawa that Canadians will not stand for this subjugation of our culture, our standards, and our economy any longer. Vote no to NAFTA.
Speaker: Before the Minister of Economic Development speaks, it has been drawn to my attention that we do not have a quorum. I will therefore ring the bells for four minutes, or until a quorum is re-established.
Speaker: It appears that we have a quorum.
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is with pleasure that I rise to join this debate. From what I have read and from what I have heard, it basically boils down to the fact that, if we do not participate in the NAFTA agreement, we are just going to get left behind. We are not going to be part of an international trading bloc. What this is basically going to lead to is the majority of the fears that we have about the NAFTA agreement; that is, that this would lead to a lower standard of living for all Canadians.
From what I have heard about the NAFTA agreement, there is very little to fear from the agreement for Canadians, as such. Basically, there seem to be three areas of concern; one is the erosion of economic and political sovereignty; the other one is a loss of jobs; and the final one is the erosion of social programs.
First, I would like to cover the area of the erosion of economic and political sovereignty. The NAFTA will definitely place some limits on some of the sovereignty of all three parties to this agreement. That is the very essence of any international agreement of any value. The agreement should be judged on what is received in return for the sovereignty that is given up.
In return for giving up some of our rights to restrict entry of U.S. or Mexican goods and services, Canadian business will gain access to U.S. and Mexican markets. The U.S. and Mexico are giving up some of their sovereign rights to give Canadians access to their markets. NAFTA is a fairly comprehensive trade deal but it cannot be compared to the federation of European nations under the European community at all. The scope of this agreement is limited to items required to ensure each party mutual access to the other markets for goods and services. The agreement will have a very limited effect on the political and economic sovereignty of each party.
If sovereignty were the only criterion, then Canada would have to withdraw from the UN, it would have to withdraw from NATO, it would have to withdraw from the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, the Government-7; it would have to withdraw from the British Commonwealth, from La Francophone; it would have to withdraw from GATT, the International Labour Organization, and a host of other international agreements for the protection of the environment, defence, human rights and economic development.
The next theory I would like to address is the loss of jobs. Canadian trade with Mexico is only a fraction of total trade. Compared with out-of-Canada U.S. trade of $200 billion, two-way trade with Mexico is minor with just $3 billion in 1991. Mexico is one of the worlds fastest-growing markets. Imports of merchandise into Mexico increased by 25 percent in 1991.
NAFTA will create new trade opportunities for Canadian exporters. Not joining NAFTA would be a step backwards.
Wages are not the only factor in competitiveness. If wages were the only factor, all jobs would go to underdeveloped countries. Canada has a better- educated and better-trained workforce and a far better infrastructure than Mexico, as well as a different mix of natural resources.
According to a study by the federal Department of Finance, Canadian workers are 6.5 times more productive than Mexican workers.
That, combined with higher Canadian productivity and lower capital costs, more than make up for the fact that Mexican labour costs are 7.5 times smaller than Canadian labour costs. The Finance department assessment concluded that Canada has a competitive advantage in the production of high-productivity and capital-intensive goods.
U.S. wages cannot be called low. Mexico is a middle-income developing country, not a low-income developing country. If Canadian jobs are threatened by freer trade with Mexico, they should be even more threatened by competition from several countries with very low wages.
More than 80 percent of imports from Mexico already enter Canada duty-free. Canada would stand to lose far more jobs by not joining NAFTA. If Canada refuses to join, the U.S. would simply negotiate a series of bilateral agreements, first with Mexico, then with other western-hemisphere nations. That would create a hub-and-spoke effect, with the U.S. in the hub position and all the other countries acting as spokes.
A hub-and-spoke arrangement would provide a powerful incentive for investment in the U.S. and a very serious disadvantage for the spoke nations. A firm located in the U.S. would be able to export to any of the spokes, while a firm located in Canada would only be able to access the domestic and U.S. markets. By becoming part of NAFTA, Canada is assured equal access to all markets.
There is some evidence that a Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement has actually resulted in an increased number of jobs. According to federal government figures, exports to the US in 1992 were 13.6 percent greater than they were in 1991. This represents an increase in trade of $14.7 billion.
Both sides of the ledger need to be looked at. You cannot just count Canadian jobs that have gone to the U.S. You also have to count new jobs that have been created in Canada to produce these exports. This is what has happened in western Canada. As we know, even in the Yukon, there are several businesses that have benefited tremendously by the free-trade agreement between Canada and the U.S.
The next issue that I would like to address is the erosion of social programs, and the environmental, health and safety standards. Nothing in NAFTA directly erodes Canadian social programs. If you assume that social programs are a competitive liability, a free-trade agreement could indirectly lead to an erosion of those programs. Social programs can be a competitive advantage. We only have to look at the car trade. I am not certain of the figures, but I believe that, per automobile produced by Canadian manufacturers, there is about a $400 social liability factor and, in the United States, there is about an $800 social liability factor.
Canadas medical care system gives domestic firms an advantage over U.S. firms, which have to provide private coverage to employees. Education and training are economic development tools. These types of services are more likely to be increased than decreased under freer trade. If environmental standards are a competitive disadvantage for Canada, pulling out of NAFTA would not change that much. This is especially true for the Yukon. Mining is, by far, the Yukons largest industry. We export almost all the minerals that we produce here. There is a world price for those minerals, and NAFTA will have no effect whatsoever on that price.
Yukon producers have to absorb the cost of environmental regulations. This has not stopped governments from passing those regulations. NAFTA will not create any new reasons to reduce those environmental standards. Absolutely nothing in NAFTA will prevent any party to NAFTA, including state, provincial and territorial governments, from enacting improved, or more stringent, environmental, health and safety standards.
The only requirement is that laws apply equally to all firms and individuals within the agreement area; that is, laws cannot unfairly discriminate against Mexico or U.S. firms. Each country also agrees not to reduce its standards for competitive purposes, although there is no enforcement mechanism for this undertaking in the main agreement at this point. Right now, side deals on labour standards and the environment are being negotiated. They will address most of the concerns that have been raised with the previous issues.
We, on this side, are of the opinion that NAFTA will have long-term benefits, not only for Canada, but for the Yukon, as well. I feel that the Member for Mount Lornes motion is regressive and, therefore, I will be voting against it.
Mr. Harding: I have some brief comments to make regarding the issue of North American free trade in this debate. I want to begin just by talking a bit about some of the comments that I heard from the Minister of Economic Development. The Minister stated that he felt that, if we did not, as a country, engulf ourselves in NAFTA, we would be left behind out of a trading bloc.
This is working on the surmise and the premise that trading blocs have been a successful answer, for example, for the European communities and some of the proposed discussions for trading blocs in the Asian countries. I do not accept that, on the basis of the fact that there is very little in the way of substance put forward to support that, in and of itself, the fact that we will be left behind as a trading bloc is a reason for doing that.
We heard that argument so many times in arms escalation, that it pretty much put the United States in serious debt, and it actually broke the Soviet Union. The reason that those countries had to concentrate so much on nuclear weapons and increasing their arsenal in so many middle eastern countries and countries all over the world was that they felt that everyone else was doing it and, if they did not do it, they would be left behind.
I look at this as a paralleling situation that is somewhat analogous. We discussed trade, and the arms trade was a very big factor in the world economy. To me, the two are quite similar. It is that same philosophy of buying into something because you feel, if you do not, you will be left behind. That does not necessarily mean that what you are being left behind in is the direction you want to go in.
There are countries right now, Japan for instance, that are benefiting because they did not buy into the philosophy on the arms race, and they are now economically positioned. They concentrated on research, development and technology, to the point where they were kicking our butts economically, for the longest period of time, because we had put so much emphasis on the arms race and increasing our nuclear capabilities in the United States, and many other countries in the world that were the leading economic stimulating countries, that we lost sight of what was going on. It became such a race that we did not want to get left behind. It has seriously eroded our economic potential. On that basis, I cannot find anything in the argument that we do not want to be left behind to substantiate that we should take that direction.
The European community was mentioned, and I have to say that I question the Members knowledge of the European community, based on the fact that he blurted it out and did not say anything, other than the fact that they had a trading bloc.
We did not talk about how successful it was; we did not talk about how countries within the trading bloc were doing. Some of the countries have been successful, and some are finding it to be disastrous for them.
There were countries in the latest rounds of discussions regarding strengthening those ties, including Britain, which is one of the most staunchly right-wing countries in the European community, that have found serious problems with the proposals to strengthen those economic ties.
The former Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, has expressed tremendous concern about the direction in which they are going. I think that is a very clear message to the people considering the North American Free Trade Agreement that blocs do not necessarily mean better.
Sure, there is a bloc there, but that does not necessarily mean we are going to be left behind. The right-wingers, the conservatives of the United States, are incredibly divided on the issue of free trade, as are the Democrats, or the middle of the road, left-wingers of the United States on the issue of North American free trade. There is a lot of discussion about whether it is even going to make it through Congress. The reason is, if you take the Pat Buchanan extreme right within the Republican Party, you see they do believe there are many reasons why they should continue to have some protectionist sentiments toward their markets. They have found that there are a lot of countries in the world that are not prepared to play on a level playing field, and that is one of the concerns I have.
If we get sucked into this, I think we are in over our heads with this North American Free Trade Agreement. There is no question.
Probably the most ridiculous point made by the Member for Watson Lake was when he mentioned that, if we were not going to get involved in North American free trade, and sovereignty was the issue, why should we be in the G-7, the British Commonwealth or the UN. I do not know if he mentioned the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations, but he mentioned all those as analogous organizations to a North American trading bloc. I could not disagree more.
Within those organizations, you maintain sovereignty, a vote, the right to disagree and the right to take other positions on things. If the North American Free Trade Agreement is signed, we have the right to appeal a decision, but all the criteria is there. There is no ability to free-wheel, and that is not the case in the North American Free Trade Agreement, but it is the case in the G-7, the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade, the British Commonwealth, United Nations, or any of those organizations. You go to the table there as a player, with a vote, with self-determination. In the North American Free Trade Agreement, all the criteria is set down. If somebody steps outside the bounds, you have the right to appeal, but it is a much different thing. You are locked into an agreement, and someone else will decide whether or not you have a grievance that is justified.
There was the statement made that the North American Free Trade Agreement has increased the numbers of jobs. I have a lot of problem with statistics, because if I watch the parliamentary channel I see so much. There is always a battle - and it takes place in this Legislature, although we are always right on this side and the Members opposite are wrong - regarding statistics on both sides of Parliament. I basically have to look at hard numbers, and the numbers that are unequivocally undeniable, by both sides, are the unemployment rate, the bankruptcy rate and the dollars in debt that we have. There is no question that we are further in debt in this country than we have ever been, under eight years of Conservative government - we have record bankruptcies and unemployment.
The Members opposite can shoot out all the numbers that they want about increased jobs resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the proof in the pudding is in the eating. I think that those three leading indicators of economic wealth are certainly in a very poor state right now, and I would think that even if they would not agree that it has been a total disaster, they would say that we are in a period of severe restructuring - as the Tories often say - if they are still Tories on the other side of the Legislature.
It was also said that nothing in the agreement directly erodes our ability to protect our environment, workers, workers wages and their ability to earn income. Nothing in the agreement directly erodes our ability to protect workers health and safety. I really believe that, in of itself, is a statement that is extremely open-ended, because there is nothing ensuring that the opposite will happen - that things will improve, that the countries who sign on will work to improve the level playing field.
I think the Member for Mount Lorne made a very good point when she said that our wages are looked at as being too high. Our standard of living is looked at as being too high - unsustainable. Our environment is too well protected.
Why do we look at it like that? Why do we not say that Mexicos wages are too low? Why do we not say that Mexicos environmental standards are not high enough? We have to think of ourselves.
It is almost like the debate in the Legislature recently, concerning taxes. Here, our taxes are too low. However, when the government takes that argument with us, we say that, in the rest of Canada, they are much too high. The argument flips right around. Working on the premise that they are working on, they take the view that wages here are too high, not that the wages in Mexico are too low and the environmental standards are too low. Anyone who supports NAFTA has to look at it on that basis. I do not think there is much question of that. I think it should be the other way around.
I do not know if Canada wants to be in a competitive position with a country like Mexico. That is not a level playing field right now. I do not think our emphasis should be on getting to their level. Our emphasis should be on bringing them up to our level.
Our sovereignty will be severely eroded. I remember the free-trade debate of 1988. There were arguments from people who opposed the agreement from the left, the middle and the right. It was that free trade would erode our sovereignty. The Mulroney government said that it would not and that it would be good for Canada. They said there was no question that it would not erode our sovereignty.
The North American Free Trade negotiations started between Mexico and the United States - President Salinas and President Bush. What we saw at that time was the Canadian government becoming quite concerned about what was going on. Later, I saw a debate between Michael Wilson and Bob White on The Journal. Michael Wilson said that if we do not get involved in the negotiations, we could lose out big. One of the main reasons for getting involved in the early stages of negotiations was that if we did not, we would lose out. That meant that our country has to be driven by what other countries are doing. The argument was made by Bob White that in 1988 we said that was a serious problem, because we said then than that sovereignty would be eroded. Now the government has flipped around and is telling us that Canadians have to be involved in negotiations between Mexico and the United States because we will be hurt if we are not.
If that is not the best argument I have heard that we did, indeed, lose sovereignty, then I do not know what is, because it certainly does point to the fact that we have lost our sovereignty and our ability of self-determination, because we now have to become involved in the NAFTA agreement, because Mexico and the United States are negotiating an agreement that the Canadian government said would usurp the so-called benefits of the Canada/U.S. free trade agreement.
We are doing things without self-determination any more, because we are no longer Canada, the United States, and Mexico. We are no longer three countries with our own identity. We are one big market. We are one big market for multi-national corporations, that are the biggest players in the big market of North America, to move around in. Certainly, it is to their benefit, but I do not know if what is good for multi-national corporations is good for all the people of Canada. I have yet to see that. Maybe, at some time, the federal Conservative government will prove that we were wrong but, up to this point, when I look at the fact that unemployment is at record numbers, our debt is at a record figure and bankruptcies in our country are in record numbers, I really have some problems in accepting their argument.
Another point with regard to open markets and this worry about being left behind, is that open markets, in many cases, are a myth. There are a lot of countries in the world that are not participating fairly in open markets. There is no question of that. One of the biggest problems is with regard to the auto industry and Japan. Japans economy has done quite well, but we still seem to have people who feel that, because others are engaging in an open trading bloc - even though other countries have demonstrated that they are not quite prepared to do that yet, and have done well by it - there are still people out there who feel that we must. That is a very, very dangerous position to take.
Before free trade, we had the ability as Canadians to say, If you want access to our markets, then you must come into our country and provide a benefit to our country. You must provide jobs in our country. You must establish a plant in our country. The auto pact was a fairly good deal, but it is quite different from the free-trade philosophy. In terms of other areas in the manufacturing sector, we had some control over our markets. We have lost that serious control we needed to say to companies that, if they wanted to come into our country, they would have to benefit our country and put up some industry in our country, create some jobs in our country, create some stimulus. We have lost that ability, and that is extremely serious. It is extremely serious for labour in the country.
I should say that I would not call myself totally against trade agreements. I do not like the Free Trade Agreement that we have signed with the United States. I think there is certainly room for negotiating trade agreements. I believe that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations are a good forum for doing that. I do believe in the auto pact and other areas of industry where I believe that we have a fair and fighting chance to compete and benefit from the agreement signed.
I have not seen that with the other trade agreements with the U.S. and the proposal with Mexico. When the agreement was signed, we were told we were going to have massive plans to take the pain away in the restructuring that was proposed in the economy. Those promises seem to be quite empty now.
Labour is not looked at as a partner. I think that is really, really serious in this global buzzword of competitiveness. We are not looked at as a player or as a partner; we are looked at as a cost - get the cost down is the philosophy.
What I really see as scary is that there is no emphasis in NAFTA to change that, nor is there in the Canada/U.S. trade agreement. There is no body of government travelling around and meeting with business and labour on a large scale to try to really change the industrial relations system in this country so that we can adjust. No one could ever deny that there are not adjustments going on in the world markets and the world economy. What I see is that unilateral decisions are being made by some of the big economic players in North America that are having a profound effect on labour workers in all three countries, and yet there is no real push to try to change the labour relations system to coordinate a more positive and unified approach on how to deal with economic problems.
I think that, in and of itself, presents a really serious barrier to acceptance of the Free Trade Agreement with America and Mexico being a good thing. I think that it stands in the way of people understanding, or wanting to understand, it. I really believe that that is the key to the possible success of some form of a trade agreement that does recognize the serious differences that we have.
In the Yukon, land claims and the Curragh situation are affected by free trade. Land claims is about reasonable decision making, self-determination, regional areas, having say over regional resources, but free trade is not about that. Free trade is about big markets, centralized decision making, open access, and loss of ability to negotiate and look at serious issues that are affecting regions. I want to make the point that this is regressive when dealing with land claims.
The Curragh mine deal in 1985 would not have gone ahead under the present proposed North American Free Trade Agreement. That is something that is very interesting and something that the Members opposite should be considering. In fact, some of the things that were done would be considered in the realm of subsidies and would not be allowed under the new provisions of these trade agreements, and that could cost us the opening or reopening of a mine. We do have some competitive problems in the territory, and there are times when there is the need for government help through infrastructure or in some other way to ensure that businesses continue to operate.
I have much more to say regarding this issue, but I want to say one thing about Alaska. There is a big market in Alaska that the proponents of the Free Trade Agreement talk about in the Yukon. Alaska has a much broader population and resource base: they have logging, they are a port state, they have fishing, and extremely good reserves of natural gas and oil. At this point, there is nothing preventing Yukon businesses from setting up business in Alaska, but opening our borders to Alaska for free trade also allows Alaskan products to compete very heavily with our products.
Where we have a chance to compete with Alaska, we should look at agreements to open up our markets. I believe this bravado of going in head first and thinking that it is going to force competitiveness, and that we are playing on a level playing field with Alaska, is somewhat folly. I hate to admit it, and I think my opinion might be changed if we had the Panhandle - unfortunately, we do not, we lost that some time ago. I do feel that it is disconcerting that we could compete on a level playing field with Alaska at this point.
If I read the document, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, a few more times, I might change my opinion, but I would not hold out much hope of that.
We are not the U.S. and we are not Mexico. In Canada, we have our own identity. We have medicare and, I believe, a stronger social conscience. We have a strong sense of what it means to be Canadian. We have the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and numerous other examples of what it means to be a Canadian. I believe that the opportunity to remain that way would be seriously eroded if we enter into the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is a tough act to follow. I will have to make sure that from now on, when I am on the speakers list, I do not have to follow that Member.
I have a few comments to make. I was going to make a lot of comments on the Members speech, but, in light of the time and an agreement that was made earlier, I am going to try to keep my comments short.
There were a couple of comments that he made that were interesting. I would be really interested to hear from the Member for Faro which school of economics or commerce he went to. It is a very interesting one that encourages the Member to ask government to pay severance pay if a company is going out of business or to bail out businesses in communities, to just limit free trade to only those areas where we can make money and to not worry about the competitiveness of it.
The Member should know that we now compete with Alaska. There are several Yukon companies that the previous government actually supported with loans and grants that are competing with Alaska and it is working well. Those companies would be surprised by the statements made by the Member opposite.
As well, he said that North America is preoccupied by the nuclear race and that that is the reason we could not compete with Japan. I cannot remember Canada ever being in the nuclear arms race. I do not think we were. I would be surprised to learn otherwise.
I am speaking today to this motion. It is somewhat ironic that the motion should be introduced at this time. The Member for Mount Lorne made the comment early in her debate that I was surprised that we would be dealing with this issue, and I am surprised that it would not have been brought up some time ago. It is much like waiting to close the barn door after the horse is already gone. The Member seems to be more interested in following up a New Democratic resolution from the convention last weekend stating that they are against the North American Free Trade Agreement. They are trying to give some ammunition to Audrey McLaughlin, who is lower in the polls than many politicians have been for a long time. They are obviously trying to bolster her opportunities.
This particular issue has been talked about for many years, has been written about by many individuals and studied to death. In fact, there is one study that I would like to quote a couple of statements from. It is a study that was done September 10, 1993, by Alec Macpherson. Mr. Macpherson is a retired federal civil servant, with 30 years in the trade and policy field. He is very highly respected by individuals in that community.
The study is eight months old, so it is not a new study, but it is a fairly recent study. He states, In my view, assessing the impact of the agreement on Canada essentially involves examining the ways in which the new trade agreement will alter, either positively or negatively, the impact of the Canada/U.S. FTA on Canada. As will be argued below, because of the very small portion of Canadian trade and economic relations that Canada/Mexico relations represent of the total of our trade, and the fact that nearly 80 percent of all Canadas imports from Mexico already enter Canada duty-free, this suggests the short- to medium-term impact on Canada resulting from the entry of Mexico in to the free-trade area set up by the FTA will not be great, one way or the other.
In any event it can be argued, in his view, that the question of the positive or the negative impact of the outcome of NAFTA is somewhat irrelevant. He agrees with the commentators who concluded that once the United States and Mexico decided to enter in-to free-trade negotiations, Canada virtually had no choice to enter into that agreement. Also, Canada would not have gained duty-free access to Mexico and therefore Canadian firms would have been at a disadvantage in that growing market, by comparison to their American competitors.
The gentleman who did this study plainly pointed out that it was important for Canada to be at those talks and that we would lose more by not being there. He goes on to say, ... it will probably be many years before the impact of FTA can be clearly determined. In my opinion, the long-run result will be positive, as it has been in the case of past efforts to reduce trade barriers in which Canada has been involved.
In the short run, there may be some dislocation of both production and employment, as industries adjust to the increased competition resulting from the changes beginning to flow from the FTA. But it is not really logical to blame all, or even much, of the economic woe Canada has experienced over the last several years on the FTA.
I think it would be folly for us to do that. Canada has undergone a fairly significant recession and it certainly has not been as a result of the FTA. There have been a lot of other factors that have contributed to that, namely the over spending of governments that have created part of that problem.
He says in one quote with respect to energy for the north, and this is one that the Member for Mount Lorne should be interested in, that NAFTA looks like an improvement, particularly in comparison to what might have been in the agreement. For example, the U.S. has succeeded in pressuring the Mexicans to remove their constitutional prohibition on private investment, whether domestic or foreign, in the basic energy sector. This could have acted as a considerable disadvantage in the competition for investment in frontier energy development in Canada. That would have made quite a difference here in Canada.
This particular study is significant. It is significant because it is not only a study on the impact of NAFTA, but this study is called The North American Free Trade Agreement: Implications for the Yukon. This study was prepared by Alec Macpherson. It was prepared on September 10, 1992. It was a study commissioned by the previous government. The study cost $4,200. Guess what, Mr. Speaker. I will quote from the study and I will table copies of the study so that Members can have a look at it. It says in regard to the impact of NAFTA on the Yukon, If the foregoing analysis is accepted, it will be seen that the general impact of NAFTA on the Yukon, in so far as it shares in the overall impact of the agreement of Canada, is likely to be somewhat positive, but on the whole quite minimal. What happened to this study that was commissioned by the previous NDP government? Was it that it did not say the right thing, that it was hidden on the shelf and they said, Just get rid of this thing; do not let anybody see it; we will keep this private and quiet and forget about it? Obviously the Member for Mount Lorne did not know that this study existed.
Again, they had a convention this weekend and they were trying to buoy Ms. McLaughlins spirits in Ottawa because she is so low in the polls. They decided to pass a resolution supporting Ms. McLaughlins position on NAFTA. They totally ignored a $4,200 study that they had commissioned less than eight months ago, that told them that the NAFTA agreement would be good for Yukon. The Member for Faro should be extremely interested in this particular document as well. It talks about mining access. I think this is why this is important to the Member for Faro. He should listen to this.
Some of the Mexican tariff changes, particularly in the non-ferrous metals area, where the Mexican tariff will be removed on such products as zinc, most ores, gold and copper, immediately on the coming into force of the agreement, could be of some long-term export benefit to Yukon, as could be the immediate tariff cuts Mexico will make on fish products, notably dried and smoked fish. We might have a market for our lead-zinc in Mexico.
The Member for Faro just spoke against this particular agreement. He does not agree with opening up new markets for lead and zinc.
As I said before, I am not sure what school of commerce the Member for Faro went to but I am sure, if we did ever find out and we sent his speech to his professors at that university, they would be shocked.
As well, it says, As to direct impacts, analysis based on what is known of the agreement suggests that these too will be minimal and will, in fact, consist more of what is not in the text rather than what is in it.
On the energy side of this study, which the NDP commissioned last September, and then hid so that nobody could find, it says, As indicated above, Mexican intransigence on the energy investment issue in the face of strong American pressure means that there will be no added disadvantage for attraction of investment to frontier energy products in Canada. Equally, because Canada alone will have the benefit of the tighter national security definition, there will be a more secure access to the American market if exportable quantities of northern oil and gas are developed.
Mexico will be a new market for our oil and gas. This is a study, commissioned by the NDP government, that was buried in a pile of books and hidden so that no one would ever discover it. But it accidentally fell on the floor and we found it and decided that, since the public paid for it, the public has a right to see it. That is why we have tabled this study here today.
Government procurement is an area the Members opposite have been concerned about - What is not included is important. Those provinces and Iterritories that include local preference in their procurement programs were concerned that procurement liberalization in the NAFTA might be extended to sub-federal levels. In the event, this has not happened, except potentially at a later date and on a voluntary basis. Thus, the Yukon will not be affected unless it chooses to be. It will not affect the Yukon.
I do not think I will read the rest of this. I will let the Members read it. The Members will see that it is a preliminary analysis done by the former NDP government, and is in support of the NAFTA agreement, saying that it will be of some benefit to the Yukon.
I guess that that is why I found the motion we had in front of us today rather difficult to understand. But politics is kind of a strange beast sometimes; we get many motions that come before us in this House that are very difficult to understand and I suppose this is just another one of those motions.
For the reason that I presented to the House - that a study was done by the previous NDP government that says that NAFTA will be good for the Government of Yukon - I will not be able to support the motion put forward by the Member for Mount Lorne.
Speaker: If the Member for Mount Lorne now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to close this debate in a solemn mood, having listened to the empty rhetoric from the side opposite. Someone should take them aside and tell them that Reaganomics destroyed the American economy. All that I have heard this afternoon is a rephrasing of an economic theory that has proved to be disastrous.
For a party that says they have vision, it appears that all they have is hindsight. I would encourage them to stop looking backward, face front and take up the challenge of forward thinking and long-range planning.
The Minister of Economic Development talked about the sovereignty issue. I maintain that we can gain access to markets without giving up sovereignty.
The Minister also spoke about the Canada/U.S. economy and used the analogy of a hub and a spoke. It is not a hub and spoke analogy, it is an elephant and a mouse. Increased dependence on the United States economy is not a good thing for Canada. No other country in the world is as dependent on another countrys economy as Canada is on the United States.
The Minister of Economic Development also said that nothing prevents more stringent standards. It is clear that, like the Minister of Education, it is either difficult for him to understand or he has not actually looked at any of the documents written about NAFTA, or even the NAFTA documents themselves.
I would like to thank the Minister of Education for tabling the North American Free Trade Agreement study prepared by J. Alec Macpherson that he spoke to, so that I could review it briefly and note that his analysis that follows should be taken as preliminary. In fact, it was published before the final legal text of the agreement and the tariff schedules were made public.
There has been a lot of literature written since then, which I reviewed, both by groups such as the C.D. Howe Institute and the Canada West Foundation, which support it, as well as a number of groups that do not support it. I will talk more about that later.
When the Minister of Economic Development said that nothing prevents more stringent standards, perhaps he was not listening to what I said earlier about how environmental standards are covered under these agreements. I would like to state again, for the record, that NAFTA provides that standards cannot be used as a barrier to trade. Any standards believed to be barriers can be appealed, and standards that deal with safety, protection of human, animal or plant life, health, the environment, consumers and, finally, sustainable development, will not be considered barriers to trade.
The net effect of NAFTA is to put downward pressure on standards to make it possible for the public to be ignored in the setting of standards, to give power in the setting of standards to technical experts, many of whom represent corporate interests, and to fail to deal with problems of policing and environment.
On the issue of transportation standards, the common standards are to be developed for motor carrier drivers and operating rail personnel, including medical standards; motor vehicle standards - for example, inspections, maintenance and repair, and road signs; and common standards, regarding the transportation of dangerous goods, are to be developed within six years of the entry into force of the agreement.
I would like to summarize. The two megatrends of todays international economy are inextricably linked - the creation of giant trading blocs and the growth of transnational corporations. The essential questions are: under what conditions do these trading blocs form, who controls them and the rules of international trade - democratically elected nation states or the trans-national corporations?
The United Nations, which tracks the movements of these corporations, reports that the 600 largest trans-national corporations now account for one-quarter of the worlds total output. They control 80 percent of the worlds land cultivated for export-oriented crops, displacing millions of farmers from their land and millions of workers from domestic industry.
Of the worlds largest 100 economies, 47 are now trans-national corporations. This means that approximately 138 countries in the world - the vast majority - have smaller economies than these giant corporations.
Throughout the 1980s, corporate-backed neo-conservatives seized control of governments around the world, and began implementing a series of measures designed primarily to increase their flow of wealth, at the expense of the poor and middle-income citizens. Worse, the neo-conservatives, with the help of the coporate-owned media, marketed their own self-interest as not just desirable or necessary, but inevitable. We certainly heard that from the Members opposite during debate this afternoon.
Through sheer repetition and intense ridicule of opposing ideas, they narrowed the scope of what we are allowed to call reasonable economic options. Even so, in the face of the media blitz, a majority of Canadians do not think the Canada/U.S. Free Trade Agreement has been good for Canada. Getting rid of free trade is not impossible. In politics, what is possible is simply whatever one can generate the political will to do.
NAFTA is undemocratic, because it limits the Canadian governments right to establish, implement and strengthen national, provincial and territorial environmental standards and programs. Environmental standards should reflect local and national concerns and values and should not be subject to trade laws. Corporate interests support NAFTA, because they believe it will increase their profits by increasing markets and decreasing production costs. Both labour and the environment suffer under such logic.
NAFTA will change the way of life for people in the Third World countries, including Mexico. There are, for example, tremendous environmental and social differences between food being grown by villagers for their own consumption and food production that is destined for export by transnational corporations.
Pressure on the global environment cannot be sustained at present levels. North Americans currently make up only six percent of the worlds population, but we consume 25 percent of the worlds resources. Already, the international activities of the same companies that backed NAFTA are contributing to catastrophic global erosion of soil - about 25 million tonnes annually - the destruction of forests, the mining of fish from the worlds oceans, the displacement of peasants and native people from the land and the loss, every day, of over 100 plant and animal species. NAFTA is part of a pattern of gross profit and development, that is killing the planet.
Canadians treat the global environmental crisis seriously, and those working for organizations concerned with international development, such as the Yukon Development Education Centre, are taking a closer look at NAFTA and, because of their analysis, are opposing it.
Under NAFTA, new federal powers are created to limit provincial/territorial activities to make them consistent with the free trade agreements. The federal government is committed to enforce NAFTA, even in areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Foreign governments and the private sector can challenge provincial policies and programs under dispute settlement provisions.
This shift of power away from provinces gives NAFTA its constitutional dimension. Everyone is bored with talking about constitutions, but the federal government has traded away significant provincial powers and usurped authority to police this surrender of powers. This has been done without consultation with provinces and over opposition from several provincial governments. If a territorial/provincial government does something that is not in accord with NAFTA, the U.S. or Mexico may complain to the federal government that Ottawa has not met its NAFTA obligations. The federal government is then obliged to bring the provincial/territorial measure into compliance.
Under NAFTA, national treatment requires that imported goods, foreign investors, and non-resident service providers must be treated no less favourably than domestic products, investors and service providers. National treatment applies to trade in goods, services and investment. Kiss local hire good-bye. If a province treats its own residents preferentially, in any matter covered by NAFTA, it must give the same preference to Americans and Mexicans.
Provincial and territorial governments will be compelled to bargain with the Canadian, American and Mexican federal governments, as well as private parties and investors, over whether measures that are clearly within provincial/territorial jurisdiction conform to NAFTA rules. New provincial/territorial measures in areas governed by NAFTA will be inhibited by the prospect of litigation, dispute settlement and controversy.
Provincial ability to regulate services, including social service sectors, is affected by NAFTA. For example, services such as law enforcement, correctional services, income security or insurance, social security or insurance, social welfare, public education, public training, health and child care, may be provided by governments in a manner not inconsistent with chapter 1201.3(d) of NAFTA.
I believe that it is a responsibility of the Yukon government to examine the NAFTA document in order to better understand and respond to the implications for the provision of these kinds of services to the Yukon public. NAFTA prohibits requiring a service provider to establish a local presence. Services can be provided entirely from outside the country. It is unclear whether a province/territory may require local presence for consumer protection.
Licensing and certification are covered by NAFTA so this agreement will also have an effect on education and training, which are presently provincial and territorial jurisdiction matters.
The decisions we make now will affect generations to come; we now live in a world in which dollars - not people - control the system and even the voting. It is a product of the unconditional acceptance of the theology of competitiveness, and it is ruining our planet.
In the end, this is a question of democracy. Who is going to decide the conditions under which we live and work?
There is no doubt that the transnationals will remain a powerful, global force for a long time. They will probably always be major players in our economy, but we as a territorial government must urge the federal government to negotiate with the trans-national corporations to harness their productive capabilities in ways that will benefit Canadian society as a whole, not in ways that limit the federal, provincial and territorial legislatures ability to make laws in their own jurisdiction.
We have a right to protect and develop our resources, our culture, our energy, transportation and telecommunication sectors. We have a right to monitor the activities of foreign corporations in Canada, including requiring disclosure of their activities, tax paying, environmental controls and job creation.
We have a right to establish rules for the conduct of foreign companies, that they not dictate the regulatory environment in our territory and our country.
Transnationals should be required to do research and development in Canada, create a certain number of jobs here and heed environmental and resource management regulations.
We also have a right to seek opinions from both sides, as the previous government did, even though we may disagree with the advice in the end.
Canadas ability to adopt a fair tax policy, implement a full employment strategy and invest in national development will be lost if NAFTA is ratified by the House of Commons.
Canada cannot, and should not, opt out of the world trading system, but Canada must work with like-minded countries to develop new world trading systems based on principles of international rules of fairness, environmental stewardship and political sovereignty for nations.
The current trade structures and NAFTA are moving in the opposite direction dominated by the United States and reflecting the narrow values of transnational corporations.
Trade should be a tool for improving the economic, social and environmental living conditions of all citizens of the countries involved. Democratically elected governments, not transnational corporations, should manage trade relations with other countries. National sovereignty rights should be guaranteed, accepting the need for some form of social control over investments.
A minimum set of economic, social and environmental standards must be established to guide trade relations among trading partners so that no country could break these rules without incurring serious penalties. The super-power status of the United States in a new political trade structure must be curbed, not as is the case in NAFTA, given too much power over other countries in the Americas.
In closing, as I urge the government Members to support this, I would like to talk briefly about coalition politics. There are a number of groups who are opposed to NAFTA, and they include the Action Canada Network, Oxfam Canada, labour federations, unions and the labour movement, environmentalists, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and other womens groups, farmers, teachers, international development groups, churches, academics, Coalition for Social Justice, End Legislated Poverty and other anti-poverty groups.
This government may consider all of the above to be special interest groups, but they are people. They are people who oppose NAFTA and have an alternate economic and social vision for North America. Basic democratic and human rights must be recognized and respected as a condition for admittance into this trade bloc.
I encourage the Members to support the motion to lobby the federal government to abandon its plans to endorse the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Disagree.
Mr. Abel: Disagree.
Mr. Millar: Disagree.
Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Ms. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Mr. Harding: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are five yea, eight nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion defeated.
Motion No. 18 negatived
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 Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 6.
Bill No. 6 - First Appropriation Act, 1993-94 - continued
Chair: If there is no further general debate, we will now turn to Schedule A in the estimates book.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to inform the House that the House Leaders have reached an agreement on debating the main budget. It has been agreed that we will have one overall, general debate on the capital and O&M budgets of each department, and then we have agreed to deal with the O&M first and the capital later.
It is also expected that there will be a mini general debate on each program as we proceed with the budget, as we have in the past.
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am pleased to present the 1993-94 main estimates for the Department of Community and Transportation Services. For the 1993-94 fiscal year, Community and Transportation Services has planned expenditures of $64,842,000 in operation and maintenance and $59,179,000 in capital.
The figures I refer to are reflected in the main estimates books. As the Members now know, we have tabled changes that will be made to those figures, for which I will be introducing the appropriate motions as we deal with the line items. The changes total a decrease in O&M of $139,000 and an decrease in capital of $260,000.
Of this combined expenditure estimate of $124,021,000, before the changes, the department estimates to recover $45,106,000.
Budgeted revenues for the fiscal year total $6,411,000.
The departments budget net of recoveries and revenue is, therefore, $72,504,000. Compared to the 1992-93 forecast of year-end expenditures, the 1993-94 planned operation and maintenance revenue expenditure is less by $2,439,000. This reduction has been achieved through an effort of reorganization and critical review of budget items by each program area without major impact on the level of the delivery of services.
Also, other internal budget adjustments have been made to provide additional funding required for programs such as grants-in-lieu, $371,000; home owner grants, $130,000; sports and recreation programs, $120,000; the National Safety Code program, $80,000; land claims, $141,000; to absorb payroll costs increases due to devolution and merit, $688,000. These internal funding adjustments total $1,530,000.
Again, taking the 1992-93 main estimate as a base, the 1993-94 capital budget has been increased by $26,701,000. Much of this increase in capital expenditures is for the Alaska Highway reconstruction and $21 million will be recovered in accordance with the Shakwak and South Alaska Highway construction agreements.
The departments budget reflects continuing commitment to contribute to both the economic vitality of the territory and quality of life of all residents.
Through its transportation division, the department will continue its efforts, not only to improve and strengthen the core economic infrastructure but also will continue to provide safety and efficiency in the movement of people and goods by developing and administering related regulations that are Yukons responsibility.
The total adjustment on the divisions operation and maintenance budget is a reduction of $1,988,000, which has being made possible largely because of the increase in capital expenditures.
Through its municipal and community affairs division, the department will continue promoting the interests of all people in the territory with respect to public health and safety, supporting community priorities and land development initiatives.
Recognizing Yukon peoples strong interest in a clean environment, the department will closely work with municipalities toward attainment of this objective through the implementation of appropriate sewage collection, treatment and disposal and water supply programs. The total of $3,167,000 has been allocated for this area in operation and maintenance and capital combined. This includes the funding necessary for the 1993-94 work required to support the City of Whitehorse plan for a new sewage treatment system.
The department will continue to strongly support all Yukon communities. Comprehensive municipal grant funding of $11,470,000 has been allocated for transfer to municipalities. Grants in lieu of taxes will total $3,273,000, which represents an increase of $371,000 over the expenditure for grants-in-lieu in 1992-93.
Funds are also allocated for hamlet operation and maintenance grants and grants to the Association of Yukon Communities in the amounts of $26,000 and $50,000 respectively.
In support of the governments effort to provide the object of building healthier communities, the operation and maintenance funding of $1,432,000 is budgeted for sports and recreation.
The department will continue its program for orderly management of lands to promote both economic and social development by making land available for industrial, commercial, agricultural and residential needs at the lowest possible cost.
To accomplish these objectives, $21,232,000 in capital development funding, along with $1,064,000 operation and maintenance funding for support activities, is budgeted for the program; $20,485,000 of the development costs is recoverable from the sale of land.
All of us, I believe, recognize the importance of effective emergency measures and communications, especially considering the sense of isolation we in the Yukon often feel.
This government is committed to supporting programs in these areas, as well. To that end, funding of $943,000 has been allocated to emergency measures, on the basis that recoveries from the federal government will total $842,000. The departments broadcast and telecommunications program budget is $870,000 for both O&M and capital, with recoveries of $64,000.
To sum up, the Department of Community and Transportation Services has carefully allocated its financial and personnel resources and will continue to do so through reorganization and restructuring to provide the public with efficient and effective services. Having given the highlights of the departments budget, I would be glad to respond to specific questions that the hon. Members might have.
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of questions in this general debate that I think I should bring up with the Minister prior to going line by line. Some of my other colleagues also have questions that they want to bring up in general debate.
The first is with respect to the need in my community for the Faro volunteer fire department to have some sort of a vehicle that is reliable for travel. They are given the responsibility of administering the jaws of life between Carmacks, and I believe, half-way to Watson Lake. At present, they have no vehicle with which to do that.
I have written the Minister. I do not have the file with me regarding that matter. I just recently received a response that the Minister was not prepared to fund a vehicle for that purpose. I do not know exactly how the volunteer fire department is supposed to administer the use of the jaws of life without a vehicle for that purpose. They will not use their own vehicles for that purpose, so I was wondering if there is some suggestion, or some good reason, for not funding that request. They do have a very large jurisdiction to cover with those jaws of life.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Several of the municipalities and some of the unincorporated communities in the territory do have the jaws of life. Sometimes they are used by the ambulance people, if there is a bad car accident. Some of the municipalities, such as Watson Lake, have purchased a vehicle in which they carry quite a bit of rescue equipment.
We have not gotten involved - we being the Yukon government - in providing a vehicle specifically for emergency purposes in the municipalities, because it is their responsibility, through their fire departments, to provide all the vehicles necessary for that department. Some time ago, I think it was back in about 1984, the municipalities were given chunks of money to bring their vehicles up to standard and, from that point on, it was their responsibility to depreciate those vehicles and put money away for new, different ones, and so on.
So, no, we will not be getting involved in providing a vehicle - other than maybe a boarded vehicle, if there is one available, like an older, second-hand vehicle.
Mr. Harding: I will just make a couple of comments, because I think the Minister has made a decision, and he can take this as a representation to him.
The town has just had its block funding cut, so they are not really in a position, facing budget squeezes, to be able to provide a vehicle. Perhaps, if there is some kind of a second-hand vehicle that is in reasonable shape, something could be done in conjunction with the department. I do not think they are really too concerned about a brand-new vehicle; I just think they want something that is reliable and functional that can do the job for them. I would like to make the representation to the Minister that it is thoroughly investigated and that discussions are undertaken with the volunteer fire department and the town to come up with some kind of an arrangement to provide a new or used vehicle. That would certainly be a solution. I know they are not looking at anything fancy. They just want something functional.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What I would suggest the Member opposite should do - and he could probably make himself a few brownie points with the town - is have them contact the people at Supply Services and ask them to be on the lookout for a relatively good used vehicle.
Normally, what happens is that the municipalities are able to buy those used vehicles very, very cheaply. I would suggest they contact Supply Services through my colleague John Devries.
Mr. Harding: I am ignorant about the Supply Services process, but I will discuss it further with my colleagues and find out if that is workable. I am not sure of the exact procedures.
With regard to vehicles, I have written on behalf of the Emergency Measures Organization in my community. They have a vehicle, but they have no place to put it and there is no storage space available - or there was not any space available at the time of the request - for the Emergency Measures Organization, either in the volunteer fire department building or anywhere else. They were looking for some kind of agreement on storage space.
I did make the suggestion in a letter to the Minister regarding one option, but I was told by the Minister that that was not available. Could the Minister investigate that situation and find out if there is some space available?
The Emergency Measures Organization is inheriting a lot of expensive equipment and they do not want to take responsibility for the equipment in their own homes for the equipment, so they really have no place to store the equipment.
I would like the Minister to be made aware of that and see what his response would be.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Emergency Measures is a municipal responsibility. I do know that the people involved in Emergency Measures are very dedicated; they spend hours and hours in training and, in small communities especially, they are a very good organization.
If the government is able to assist them in some way, we would certainly be happy to do that. Again, the funding or the final long-term storage of the equipment is the responsibility of the municipality and the Emergency Measures Organization team.
Mr. Harding: I can appreciate that, but I could make the point to the Minister that it is one thing to give responsibility but, when you start cutting funding, as is the case with this budget, and more and more responsibilities become the municipalitys, when higher levels of funding are available, the pinch just gets transferred from the territory to them.
I know that the Minister is quite proud of the commitments that were made by their government to Dawson and Whitehorse regarding sewage systems, but it illustrates to me that, while there were offers made by the previous administration that I felt were quite good, the municipalities felt that the territorial government was not sharing enough of the responsibility.
Just by way of comment, I do get the impression that the new government moves in and out of that sort of philosophy of working with the municipalities on certain issues.
On the issue of Whitehorse sewage treatment, which was quite a politically sexy issue, for lack of a better term - in the election campaign, the government made a promise for up to $25 million. Although they said up to, basically that means $25 million, in my view. It was a good promise.
Another good promise was to Dawson, where they promised to provide more funding than the previous government for the water and sewer system there. I would caution the Minister on that movement in and out of that principle of municipal jurisdiction versus territorial jurisdiction. However, I do realize that there are arguments to be made that the Dawson water-sewer and especially, the Whitehorse sewage, are of great territorial importance, whereas the emergency response storage and the fire department jaws of life truck would be of less pressing importance, although they are important. While I understand that, it does create some difficulty for me when I try to access funding on certain things that I think are important. I read the answer pretty loud and clear on that.
There is just one other item that I would like to make the Minister aware of: there has been some work on the Campbell Highway between Carmacks and Faro. I am pleased to see that. It is in a little better shape in some areas I previously mentioned to the Minister. One thing I would like to bring to his attention is that there is an important highway sign about 10 miles outside the community, just as one is coming into Faro, that has fallen down. It gives the impression that the corner is going a different way from what it really is. We have lots of light now but, at night, this could present a hazard. I would ask that the Minister see that the department checks into the condition of that sign. I would appreciate that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly we will look after that.
Mr. McDonald: We have spent some time in the last few days talking about changes in the main estimates budget. We spent some time going over the reasons why the government, in re-jigging its budget to accommodate a reduction of $1.7 million in revenue, would not re-jig its budget when it came time for a reduction of $1.8 million in order to fund a new project.
The Minister of Finance indicated yesterday that he was supportive of the concept that when it was known that there would be a change in revenue, such as the $1.7 million, it was appropriate that the budget be amended in various spots in order to accommodate the corresponding decline in expenditures. Subsequently, we were sent a list of 44 amendments that would be tabled, of which there are a number in Community and Transportation Services, both in the operations and the capital side, to accomplish that task.
The Minister has indicated that he intends to seek $1.8 million from this budget in order to accommodate a new project - the water and sewer project in Dawson. He indicated that he would, in the Community and Transportation Services vote, find the corresponding funding for that purpose.
Yesterday, the Minister of Finance made the argument that because the agreement with Dawson was not finalized, meaning having every i dotted and every t crossed, it would be inappropriate in his view to announce an amendment to the budget.
I disagree with him on that very, very strongly. Nevertheless, even if one were to accept that premise, one would still expect the Minister to indicate what areas in the total budget were candidates for cuts, so that when we do go through the line items, we know that we will not be committing a certain amount of money to a certain project.
A Minister who has spent a long time in Community and Transportation Services knows that when a community receives notice that they are going to receive a certain amount of funding for a particular project, they believe very strongly that the funding is committed to that project. If the project comes in under budget they look for ways to spend that money in other areas in their community.
We know that that is not appropriate, but we know how much people count on projects going forward. It would be very difficult for us, and perhaps inappropriate, that we go out and talk to people about being committed to projects when in fact the projects are already considered material for the shelf - projects that will not go ahead this year.
I would like to ask the Minister to respond to the general thrust of my remarks, and ask if he is perhaps prepared to give us some indication as to the departments priorities with respect to the reorganization of funding?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $1.8 million works out to be approximately one-quarter of one percent of the overall budget. Because the funds will not be flowing for awhile, we hope that there will be some lapses in capital or O&M that we can funnel into the Dawson water and sewer. We are hoping that some projects will come in under budget. If that does not happen or does not happen to the extent that we are hoping, then we will have to look at postponing some projects. We will have to itemize those projects in priority very carefully.
I should point out to the Member opposite that this is not at all something that has not happened before. In fact, in Dawson City in 1991-92, there was zero dollars budgeted in the main estimates and there was actually $810,000 spent for the sewer system. The purchase - the more recent one - of the waterfront property was zero in the budget, somewhere around $3.6 million was spent.
There are several other examples, not quite of that magnitude, but there are many examples in past budgets. I do not like this any more than the Member opposite. I would much sooner have put the money into the budget back when we were putting the thing together, but we could not do that, because we did not know the scope of the project. We have been dealing very diligently with it - the City of Dawson, the department officials and I - and we finally agreed to the scope of work for the project and have come up with an estimated cost. We have said that this is what we would attempt to come up with this year. I totally agree with the Member that, once you have indicated to a community that $100,000 or $2 million, or whatever, is going to be put in, and that commitment has been made, it is very difficult to get out of it. We do not intend to get out of it. We want to be able to fund this project, but we are going to have to look at many, many areas in our capital and O&M budgets to be able to do it.
Mr. McDonald: I must say to the Member that I do agree with many of the things he has said, but I would like to point out a couple of things. First of all, there is a procedural problem, and it is not a minor technical thing. There is a procedural problem with announcing amendments to the budget before the budget has been passed. In the past, the government has been fairly careful about not doing that, because we would face precisely the problem we are facing right now.
We are in a situation here where the Legislature and the Opposition private Members get to see the budget only in the context of snapshots. We only get to see the budget, not in the context of the overall planning process, and not as a part of ongoing negotiations with a myriad of groups about what funding they will receive and how projects will be proceeding. We get to see the spending opportunities in the context of a couple of moments, a couple of days in a year, just like this, where we are talking about what the governments spending plans are. When the Minister comes forward and says that this is what the Minister wants to do, we have to be reasonably assured that the Minister is, in fact, committed to the spending and committed to the plan at that point.
Certainly, in the past, this has happened, and I would venture to guess that it would probably happen - in the various votes - in the order of 300 or 400 occasions in this year, to be shared out among the government departments.
That is the reality of life; that is the way the system works and you cannot freeze-frame everything simply because the Legislature passes a vote in a particular way.
Unfortunately, we are caught in a dilemma because of actions taken to announce changes to the budget without correspondingly balancing the budget in some way.
The Minister of Finance indicated to the Legislature that he was intending to change the budget revenue side by 1.7 percent - that is less than the 1.8 that is dedicated to the Dawson water and sewer system. In order to do that, and because the debate on the main estimates was imminent, he felt obligated to come in and re-jig the budget overall. We had 10 or 11 departments who all re-jigged their budgets in various ways in order to accommodate this change in spending priorities that the government could come forward and state, at a particular occasion, that this was an honest reflection of what they believed their budget estimates to be.
At the same time, they could be completely honest that there were negotiations going on in a whole series of fronts and maybe the estimates would change over the course of the year. Based on past practice, that is precisely what happens.
Again, I would say that, in this particular case, whether we are talking about one-quarter of one percent or one-fifth of one percent, we are still talking about a major expenditure, and it would be vastly preferable for the estimates put forward to be balanced and for us to know precisely what the budget projections are. As we both know, while there will be some lapses - we do not budget lapses - we do not budget with the chance that budgets will come in over or under budget and we do not budget when projects do not go ahead at all in a particular year. We do the best estimating that we can and we give the most honest expression of what we think will happen at the time we debate the budget.
I will not prolong this discussion, but I would stress to the Minister that it is a very important principle that we stick by the budgets that we have presented and that we do not have a situation where we are debating one budget in the Legislature while there appear to be budget estimates swirling around outside with dozens of organizations seemingly changing what we are trying to establish here. The Legislature becomes the fiction, and all the negotiations that are going around outside appear to be the reality. It makes it very difficult for those of us who are asked to vote on estimates to actually feel comfortable so that we at least know what we are voting on. Whether we agree or not is another story, but we must know that what we are voting on is at least what one particular Minister feels he would like to do if he is given the chance.
There are a few other questions I would like to ask. I would like to start with land development in general terms. We have talked in the Legislature in the last few weeks about our land development projections. Admittedly, in the last 6 or 12 months, the economic environment and the circumstances in which we are placed have changed fairly dramatically. Among the pressures we are now facing are a declining economy, less real estate activity - I know in my riding I have seen many for sale signs - and people being laid off. There does not appear to be a need at this time for major land development activity. We can feel fairly assured that, unless something happens quickly, a lot of the land that we develop will simply sit on the shelf waiting to be sold.
We have all agreed in the past, at least, that we should have some land in the bank. I presume it is the policy of the present government - it was certainly the policy of the previous government - that there should be, if at all possible, land in all categories available in all communities in the land bank, so that people can purchase it if there is a need. To go to record lengths to assure there is a massive amount of one particular kind of land - in this case, urban residential - in one community, when there are hundreds of layoffs taking place and little immediate hope in sight, seems like not the most appropriate thing to do.
The complicating factor here, and the thing that makes it doubly difficult, is the fact that when we tie up so much money in developed land, we have less money in the bank. When we have less money in the bank, we do things like make payments for rural banking services out of an appropriation, rather than through the compensating balance. Consequently, the costs associated with this turn out to be real ones. We make a choice of having $15 million in extra land sitting in the land bank and end up paying $500,000 to $600,000 in banking service fees. This ends up being an added cost that we would otherwise not have to face.
The other compelling factor, which is perhaps the most significant one at this time, is that the Kwanlin Dun and Taan Kwachan First Nations are both seeking land selections. The Minister knows very well that they are, to put it mildly, perturbed at the thought that a lot of land development - in terms of actual construction - will take place in the very near future, when they have been unable to secure a proper forum to air their concerns.
So far they have been unable to get some kind of commitment that their issues will be resolved in the short term. They consequently are feeling rather put out, to put it mildly, about this turn of events. The Minister is quite right that the planning stages for the land probably started many years ago. In fact, I do know that when we signed the Kwanlin Dun relocation, there were land development projects booked for the area behind Granger and behind McIntyre as far back as 1979. Planning and preparation for the development of those subdivisions has been taking place ever since.
The difficulty that we face right now is that we are about to go to construction. That is what is causing extra concern to be expressed, because we are about to change the actual physical nature of the land itself if the proposals go ahead as planned. Consequently, the First Nations feel very uncomfortable with what appears to be the program plan for the summer. I would like to ask the Minister for his thoughts on this matter. I would ask him to express his opinion not only on the needs analysis for the developed land itself, but also for his position with respect to the methodology by which First Nations land selections will be resolved amidst the discussion about land development.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The land development need has likely changed, as the Members opposite says. It would be really nice if we could afford to have a five-year inventory of land at any time. Realistically, we cannot do that. Even though it is a full-cost recovery program, as the Member opposite has noted, it becomes a cash-flow problem. It becomes very much of a balancing act. How much land do you actually develop, and is that going to be enough for the current year and the following year?
In the Whitehorse area, we have 60 urban residential lots coming onstream about July 10 or the middle of July in the Logan subdivision. Phase 2 of that same subdivision is something like 66 lots, which will be coming onstream in August. The Arkell mobile home subdivision will have approximately 100 lots available at some time in August. I suspect that that will handle the demand for the current fiscal year. The problem is that for future years, irrespective of the land claims situation, in order to continue with land development in that general area it will require some major infrastructure work, which includes a pumphouse and a reservoir, which is very costly infrastructure. So, we have a balancing act here; what can we develop safely that will respond to the needs, yet not tie up money for several years down the road?
I saw it happen in Watson Lake where a subdivision was developed back in 1977 and it was not sold until 1991. I do not believe that the Yukon government can afford to hold highly serviced lots like that for anywhere near that kind of time frame. It is a balancing act. The department is looking at several options, and they are going to develop an option paper for my review, and then we will have to come to some decisions.
I think that Member opposite is correct; there is probably more money in the budget under land development than we are going to need, given the current economic situation.
Mr. McDonald: Not having reviewed any technical papers, I cannot participate in a discussion that deals with specifics. I would like to ask the Minister to commit to the Legislature that, by approximately midsummer, he communicate with us, in some manner or fashion, what his plans for land development are. He should be well aware by midsummer sometime what he intends the department to do. If he could let us know what his plans are, what land development should take place and what the budgetary implications are or might be, I would very much appreciate that. I would ask him if he would be prepared to do that.
Secondly, I would like to ask him, as a matter of policy, what size of land inventory does he feel ought to be pursued to ensure that there is, by all reasonable standards, a reasonable amount of land in the land bank - but not too much land?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Is this another test? I thought I had that in Question Period.
It is really difficult to tell. Going by the statistics for the past number of years, we need somewhere around 150 to 200 new single family residential urban lots a year in the City of Whitehorse. I checked with some real estate people some time ago, and it was interesting that, when Faro had to shut down in the early 1980s, it was very strange but, for awhile, house prices in the City of Whitehorse went up a little bit, by a couple of percent. There was actually more of a demand for lots. That was for a very short time, and then it went down, but it is really hard to tell by real estate figures, because new lots are needed all the time. I would like to see a two-year base - the current year and the following year - as an inventory for the City of Whitehorse. I am not necessarily saying that that is required for other areas, but I think, for fully serviced lots, there should be a two-year inventory. How the heck does one determine what that two-year inventory should be? That is the dilemma we are in right now.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister, in saying that we have been historically selling approximately 200 lots per year, in the last few years, has put his finger on the point that I would like to make.
In a high growth environment, a couple of hundred lots per year sounds like a fairly reasonable proposal. Certainly, when the economy and population are growing as quickly as they did in the last five or six years, one would expect that there would be fairly high demand for lot sales in Whitehorse. We have moved from approximately 13,000 people in the City of Whitehorse to 21,000 or 22,000 people today. The need for new lot development was manifestly obvious. An increase in population means an increase in living space required.
We have had the experience of economic downturns in the past. We have seen mines close. I wonder if the Minister could come back at some point - maybe when he communicates with us later on his land development plans - and provide us with information of an historical analysis of the number of lots sold as a percentage of the gross domestic product over the last 10 years. That is a fairly easy thing to do - lots sold and lots developed - because we know what the gross domestic product was in each of those years. It rose and fell, depending upon the economic activity, of course, and the number of lots that were actually sold over that period of time would give us a very general indication of what we might have to expect in the future.
I do not think that anybody would expect the population of Whitehorse to grow dramatically over the next couple of years, based on what we know right now. By midsummer, we will certainly have a better appreciation of what might happen with Curragh Inc. and, consequently, what may happen with a lot of the economy in the territory.
I think that it is obvious that we do not want to overshoot the mark and, for the Members information, historically, I think that we have had a land inventory in the last five or six years that ranged from between $12 million and $17 million. If we were to meet our target here - and I realize that, even in the best of times, that is optimistic - we could be putting our land inventory in the $30 million range, at a time when we can least afford to have that much land in the bank.
I would ask the Minister to check into those things and, if he could get back to us by midsummer, we would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would be quite happy to do that. I do not know if the analysis would be exactly as the Member opposite asked, but the department is currently doing that type of analysis now. I would be quite happy to provide the background information, or whatever we have, to the Minister sometime this summer.
I would like to comment on the land development. There is absolutely no doubt that it is a juggling act. If we are in an upswing, it is easy to determine. We could get caught in a bad situation, however, if we are not prepared. The problem is mostly with infrastructure. Developing country-residential lots is simple; there is probably a one-year turnaround. Where there is a lot of infrastructure, such as water and sewer extensions, pavements, curbs, gutter and underground wiring and so on, it can take up to four years to coordinate, if we are to do a decent project and not run into too many problems. It is very difficult.
Mr. McDonald: I agree with the Minister. It is for that reason that I have always been a supporter of pre-engineering and engineering costs associated with land development and transportation projects.
In the case of land development, it would be very wise to bring a number of projects to the tender-ready stage, so that we can respond more quickly than we have been able to in the past with new country-residential developments as the need arises. Many times, the consultation required takes a couple of years; the actual engineering work may take a couple of years and the construction may take a couple of years. There is a least two-thirds of that period that we could do in advance of actually providing for construction.
I would urge the Minister to continue on with those expenditures - they are recoverable, too - to do the proper planning, to meet with First Nations and to handle those issues, so that when the time comes for land development to take place and the need is obvious, the government can act a little more quickly than it has in the past.
The Minister has answered one part of the question well enough. I would now like to ask the Minister the other side of the question and that is about the relationship to First Nations and the immediate problems we face this summer. I wonder if he could express his opinions on that subject.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The First Nations have, through the land claims table, become fully aware of the plans of the government, and I do believe that the place for these negotiations is at the land claims table. The department staff can certainly appear there as witnesses, or whatever is necessary. Again, I believe that it is a land claims issue, and that is the forum where it should be resolved.
Mr. McDonald: I must say that I do agree with the Minister that the land claims table is the best forum in which to discuss proposed land development projects, particularly when there is a land claims table at which to discuss land development projects. The difficulty arises when the land claims table forum does not exist.
I would like to ask the Minister, in the context of what has happened in the last couple of months, what are the First Nations to do when they want to carry on a dialogue about land development projects, particularly ones that directly affect their interests? In the case of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, there are the subdivisions of Hillcrest D, Logan and Arkell, because they border on their lands. What are they to do in the event that the land claims table proves not to be a viable option because, for one reason or another - and we have heard one reason given by the Government Leader - the land claims table breaks down or does not continue? How, then, does the Minister intend to resolve those land use issues?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For the department to negotiate directly with the First Nations, other than for information purposes, would jeopardize the whole land claim process, and I really do not believe in that approach unless it were absolutely the very last thing that could happen. I can certainly understand and would encourage the department, like our lands branch, to consult with the First Nations people so that they are fully aware of exactly what is happening but I do not believe the department should be directly negotiating any kind of agreements over the land.
Mr. McDonald: The land claims table was meant primarily to determine what land a First Nation will choose to meet their long-term interests - what they will interim protect and what they will finally select. The department, of course, does talk to bands on a regular basis about potential land use conflicts when they consider a particular land application - for example, one that goes through the Lands Application Review Commission and the Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee process; in those cases, consultation does occur. It is not simply an information-giving process. The departments representatives will actually talk to the band; the band will express concerns about land use conflicts, and those issues will be taken into account at the departmental stage and at the committee stage - FTLAC and LARC.
That is a longstanding precedent with the Department of Community and Transportation Services lands branch. What is different about the situation with the Kwanlin Dun is that they are in the middle of land selections at this time, yet they may have - and, in fact, have had - some concerns about certain specific land developments that directly affect their interests. While we both agree that we do not want two land claims tables going on, one sponsored by the Land Claims Secretariat and one sponsored by the lands branch, there must be some mechanism whereby the interests of Community and Transportation Services lands branch - the land development projects - are communicated to the First Nation, and there is some ability to be receptive to concerns expressed by the First Nation about particular elements of that land development project.
We have a conundrum here - a puzzle - and it cannot be broken by simply stating in principle that the land claims talks should take place or, rather, that the band should do all its talking through the land claims table, because it does not solve the problems.
I would like to ask the Minister what he thinks the Department of Community and Transportation Services lands branch role should be when it comes to consulting with First Nations about land use conflicts - not for land selection purposes, but land use conflicts that affect their own direct interests in a very obvious way.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The FTLAC and the LARC process are very structured. They are bureaucratic structures. That is not what I was referring to for consultation. I believe that we need to consult directly with the First Nations when we are building subdivisions or other things on land that they have an interest in. I would see that as direct consultation, not necessary through the FTLAC or the LARC process. Again, I want to reiterate that I do not see the director of lands, or even our land claims director, actually getting into negotiations with the Indian bands. It would be an exchange of information on both parties sides, where we say what our needs are and they say what their needs are. If it comes to a bit of a head, the place to make the final determination is at the land claims table.
Mr. McDonald: What the Minister is saying is that the lands branch is prepared to not only communicate their land development projects to a particular band - in this case Kwanlin Dun - but they are also prepared to listen to any concerns that they may have about a particular land development project, and if the concerns seem to be irreconcilable with the interests of the lands branch, those concerns will be addressed at the land claims table. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is the general idea of the way I see it happening. The lands branch has done that in some cases and, usually, it is dealt with initially at the lands claims table but, in some cases, there is a specific interest on which they can deal directly with the band.
Again, I want to make it clear that I do not see the lands branch doing anything more than exchanging information with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, or any other First Nation.
Mr. McDonald: I thought I heard the Minister saying something that I thought was eminently sensible and, then, the Minister indicated that it was merely an exchange of information, meaning we will tell you what we want to do but, if you have any concerns at all, you can go to the land claims table, irrespective of whether or not we agree with you and irrespective of whether or not we are prepared to re-jig our plans to try and accommodate your interests.
I have a problem with that, because the potential for conflict between the government and the band rises dramatically when it is seemingly, from the bands perspective, a take it or leave it, we will not talk about it, nor will we deal with it, kind of approach from the lands branch.
I do not think that is what has been happening at the lands branch. I think they have been even more accommodating than that.
I will put it on the record that, when negotiations at the land claims table break down, that should not be perceived as a prescription that what normally happens between the lands branch and the citizens has to come to a stop.
My comments about the Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee and the Lands Application Review Commission were not that I was expressing concerns about them being a bureaucratic process, but that they had initiated a structured environment so that they do have a dialogue with citizens.
There is a possibility that reasonable people coming together can find the solutions to problems without getting all hung up about the process and without getting hung up about principles at the land claims table.
If one accepted the principles behind the FTLAC process, for example, one could argue that an average citizen has more chance of resolving a land use complaint they may have with the federal or territorial lands branch by having a dialogue with the lands branch than a First Nation does. It appears that the lands branch is so paranoid about screwing up that the information flow will only be in one direction - if there are any concerns at all, no matter how minor, one should go to the land claims table. I find that to be a bureaucratic nightmare.
I make the representation that the Minister should give this careful thought. I think that we both hope that, whatever the reasons are for the breakdown in formal communications between this government and Kwanlin Dun, they can be resolved, and that the land claims table gets back to work to do what it is supposed to do.
I would urge the Minister to think very carefully about what is happening, because the situation is potentially quite explosive. I do not think I am a person who is given to excessive rhetoric, but I can tell the Minister that the situation in the Kwanlin Dun is rife with anger and potentially very confrontational. A maximum amount of diplomacy on the part of the lands branch, particularly when they have very aggressive development plans in the City of Whitehorse - more aggressive than I have ever seen them before - should be what is taking place.
To send it to another Ministers court and the land claims table may not do anything more than hurt the situation. While I would agree, generally speaking, with the Minister with respect to who should be negotiating for the government on land selections, that there should be one lead agent, and there should be a land claims secretariat, I think, at a minimum, the lands branch should be behaving with the Kwanlin Dun and give them as much respect as they would a normal citizen who goes before the lands branch and has comments to make about land development projects that the lands branch is pursuing.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite may have taken what I said a tiny bit out of context. I agree that the lands branch should be the initial contact. What I was trying to get at - and maybe I did not explain myself well enough - was that, if there is a major confrontation, where they are not going to agree at all on a very large selection of land, whether it is our selection or their selection, and neither side is going to come to any sort of agreement, that is when it should be at the land claims table. There are several smaller issues that can be settled between the two groups, and that does happen at all times. I am probably being a little bit overly cautious here. I think the Member opposite can appreciate the reason why.
When it gets into a confrontational situation, that is when it certainly needs to go to the land claims table.
Mrs. Firth: Is the deputy Minister position still being filled in an acting capacity?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it is.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us when they are going to be appointing a deputy minister for Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe it will be toward the end of June.
Mrs. Firth: Is it going to be a new individual or the person who is presently in the acting capacity?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Deputy ministers, as the Member opposite I am sure is aware, are hired by the Government Leader. I cannot say for sure at this time whether the acting person will be offered the position or whether he would take it if he were offered it; I do not know.
Mrs. Firth: I guess I will have to wait until the Government Leader is back and ask him who the new deputy minister is going to be.
I understand there are other management positions that are acting positions in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Can the Minister tell us just how many of his management people are serving in an acting capacity as opposed to being in permanent positions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure. I can get that information for the Member opposite and bring it back, but I do not know off the top of my head.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister considering a major reorganization of the Department of Community and Transportation Services within the next six months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: One division of the Department of Community and Transportation Services has been conducting a strategic planning exercise for some time and it is coming to a head. I have not seen the actual results yet; I have talked to some of the people and it will include, at least from their perspective, some organizational changes. Yes, we are looking at organizational changes with the department and actually asking the department to come forward with suggestions and ideas.
Mrs. Firth: What kind of direction is the Minister giving to the department, or is he giving them any; is he just telling them to go for it and bring him back something and he will say yea or nay? Is the government giving the department any direction about its reorganization?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department is well aware that we want to very carefully review the number of staff and the number of positions, especially in the management areas. That is being considered by the people involved in the strategic planning, restructuring or reorganization - whatever you want to call it.
They certainly are the people to be advising the political arm of the government about how it should be done.
Mrs. Firth: The political arm of the government should also have some ideas and some basic philosophy that they are operating under, and they should be giving direction to the management.
What I gather from what the Minister has said is that either he, as the Minister, or his Cabinet, has instructed or directed the department to look at downsizing staff - reducing the size of the public service required to operate the Community and Transportation Services department - and to particularly target management-level staff. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a pretty accurate summary, yes.
Mrs. Firth: Have there been any other directions given? That is one. Is there anything else that the Minister has directed the department to look at in their reorganization and strategic planning?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, not that I am aware of right now.
Mrs. Firth: There is a position in the department called a land claims director that was recently vacated. It was held by Mr. Leverton. Can the Minister tell us who has filled that position?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Perry Savoie has applied for and been given the position.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
We are dealing Bill No. 6, vote 09, Community and Transportation Services. Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: Just before we broke for dinner, I was asking the Minister some questions regarding the reorganization of his department, Community and Transportation Services, and he made a comment about a specific branch of his department that was going through more reorganization than others. Could he tell us which specific branch that is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The community services division is doing a strategic plan, which includes some reorganization.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that is the only part that is undergoing a reorganization, or is the whole department undergoing a reorganization?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has been some reorganization in the other parts of the department, but community services is doing the strategic plan, which has been in the works for some time, so I suppose it is a more structure reorganization than the other.
Mrs. Firth: When does the Minister anticipate the strategic plan to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the meetings are all over and that they have created a document that is in draft form now. They are reviewing it, then they will prepare a final document. I would expect that they will have something for me by July.
Mrs. Firth: Would the Minister provide us with copies of the strategic plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that I can. I do not see any reason why not, unless they get into personnel or something that is confidential. If not, I will certainly provide it for the Members.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us who they are, who are doing up the strategic plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe there are about 30 people involved in it, not necessarily all at once. It is not just management. There are other positions; some technical positions are involved in it, as well as all of the branch managers and section managers.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister if, when he provides us with copy of the strategic plan, he will give us a list of the participants as well - that is the people whom he has just mentioned.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I can do that.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister a question about a new position in the department. I think it is a new position. I have not seen it in the directory before. It was a position for a transportation analyst that was advertised, with a closing competition date of April 20. Can the Minister tell us whether or not this was a new position and why a transportation analyst for Community and Transportation Services is needed? It is in the salary range of $54,896 to $63,466 per annum. The competition number is 92ST17-06.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of whether it is a new position or re-filling an existing one. I can certainly get the information and bring it back for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I would like that very much. If the Minister could get that back to me tomorrow, that would be very good.
We found out today that the new deputy minister will be announced at the end of June, and the Minister is going to come back to me with information regarding acting managers. When does the Minister anticipate that the reorganization and strategic planning within his department, which will result in the downsizing of staff, particularly at the management level, will be completed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The strategic plan will actually be an ongoing plan. I do not know if it ever will be finalized. It will continue on throughout the years. When the document has been accepted, that will be the start of it. I cannot say for sure whether they address staff reductions - I believe that is one of the things they are looking at in there - but all of that will take some time and, as they complete one portion of it, another portion will probably change somewhat. It is sort of a living document.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister perhaps then tell us what objectives he has in mind for this whole living document process? Is there some objective? Is there some end in sight to this exercise?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A strategic plan is basically a plan that first looks at where you are and where you should be. As time goes on, that changes, but the idea of the strategic plan is to be able to accomplish your mandate more efficiently and more effectively.
Mrs. Firth: It would be interesting to find out where the Minister thinks we should be, or to use his words, look at where you are and where you should be. I would be interested to find out where we should be.
Does the Minister have some idea of where we should be?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe we are in the Legislative Assembly right now.
A strategic plan is for each individual, unit, section and branch. For me to say that Community and Transportation Services should be in a certain area, I cannot do that; it would take days to talk about that. As I said before, if I am able to, and if there are no personnel matters involved in the plan that are of a confidential nature, I would be quite happy to provide that to the Member opposite.
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to receiving that document, because I cannot think of any confidential personnel matters that would be in a strategic plan.
Unless the Minister can think of some to share with us tonight, I cannot. I think I am fairly familiar with strategic plans, and they do not involve any personnel matters that are confidential.
I would like to know if the government has targeted - the Minister mentioned something about cost-efficient and effective - an amount of money that they want to save or an amount of savings and budgetary downsizing that they are looking forward to with this increased efficiency. Is there some target or some goal of how much they want to reduce the Community and Transportation Services budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, for this particular budget, there was no target figure. We tried to, and did, balance the budget for the government, but there was no target set for any department, whether for Community and Transportation Services or any other.
Mrs. Firth: I just have one further question. I would like to ask the Minister who will be making the final decision regarding recommendations and positions that come forward in the strategic plan? Will the Minister be making those decisions on his own regarding the reorganization, or will it be a Cabinet decision?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I expect that any major reorganization that affected personnel would be a Cabinet decision.
Ms. Joe: I have only got a couple of short questions. I want to get back to the budget and what the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has done with regard to announcing to the public the fact that Dawson will be getting $1.8 million. He also said in this House, and to the public, that he had hundreds of thousands of dollars in his budget that he knew were going to lapse. For that reason, he felt confident in making that announcement.
My question is with regard to the manner in which this was done. We are dealing with a bill that - if we agree to it - will become law. When he presents the budget in this House, it is for certain specific things. He is normally given a budget book to defend, and he is to explain to the House what is included in all those different expenditures in his briefing book.
Prior to our even discussing the budget, he announced that he will be finding $1.8 million in the budget because some things are going to lapse. Therefore, how true were his expenditures when he requested that they be included in the book?
I am wondering about the legality of doing such a thing. I would like to ask the Minister if, prior to announcing the plan to give Dawson $1.8 million this year, and letting the whole of the Yukon know that he knew there was going to be lapsed money in this budget and, therefore, he could do it, he sought advice from the Department of Finance, and if they approved of his making that decision and announcing it that way.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I did not go to the Department of Finance.
Ms. Joe: I would assume that the Department of Finance is the expert in putting budgets together on behalf of the Cabinet and that any change in what is to be included in it would be something that should be approved. Because he did not go to Finance to seek advice from them, he also did not seek a legal opinion because, as I said, when this budget is put together, they suggested some amendments to it. However, what the Minister was doing was something that was entirely different and not even included in the amendments. In the end, this bill does become law, so I question the legality of it. I would like to know from the Minister if he will seek a legal opinion to find out if what he has done fits within the guidelines of bills that are passed in this House.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to point out to the Member opposite that every year many items go into the main estimates as a $1.00 item. There are several in the 1992-93 budget; there was one for zero, which was the purchase of some land for the Whitehorse waterfront. Actually, $3,607,000 was expended with a zero amount in the main estimates. There are many examples of money being spent with nothing in the budget. I at least identified the number.
To satisfy the Member, I will get some legal advice on whether it can be done that way.
Mrs. Joe: I have been in this House for a lot of years now and I have dealt with and defended my own budgets as a Minister. I recognized that there were $1.00 items that were listed in all of the budgets - there were reasons for that.
What is so different here is that the Minister has already announced that things that he was budgeting for in the budget no longer apply, and he was announcing something totally different that the money was going to be spent on. That is what is so different about it; this budget has not even passed this House and it is not even law yet. I question the legality of it. I guess he is getting good advice from his superior over there.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I honestly thought I was doing the right thing, and maybe in fact I was not doing the right thing. We could have waited, although the unfortunate thing about waiting is that Dawson was trying to set their water and sewer rates for the year and they needed to know if we had some sort of agreement. The people in Dawson needed to know as well as city council. If one is going to announce it to a couple of people then one has to announce it to everyone. Perhaps the mistake was announcing it at this time. We could have waited and everything would have been totally above board.
In previous years, there were even zero-items in the budget. In many cases the project was not even identified. We at least had the project identified; we did say where we hoped to get the money, and maybe the mistake was announcing it now. Maybe we should have waited till the House was finished. I thought it would be better to let the people in this House know exactly what we were doing.
Ms. Joe: The problem is that we keep hearing of other little deals that were made on the side and we question what is really going to happen to this budget. We are not saying that we do not approve of Dawson getting the work done that they need; it was just the manner in which it was done that we questioned.
I have one more comment in regard to land development and the conflict with the First Nations in the Whitehorse area. We have asked questions in the House, we have talked about the problem and we feel because we have met with the individuals - they called us and voiced their concerns - that there is a deep problem.
What is very disturbing to me is that the Government Leader and other Ministers in his Cabinet do not appear to understand the seriousness of the concerns that have been stated. It is something that is very serious and something that the Ministers have to deal with. I want to let the Member know that the explanations that the First Nation people are hearing, at least the ones we are talking to, cause them to fear that we might stepping back in time.
They have a very long memory and they remember how land claims have gone in the past and how a former government walked away from land claims and refused to negotiate. Of course, none of us want that to happen again. I just want to let the Minister know that when he is considering land development that we are dealing with a very serious issue, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini mentioned.
The Minister has mentioned in his budget that there were a number of programs that were going to create a lot of jobs. We have talked about the doom and gloom and the seriousness of the situation in the Yukon. Every day we see more people leaving. We read about, and talk to, businesses that are laying off people and businesses that are going to be closing down. We look in the paper and we find out that the list of rental units gets longer with every issue of the Yukon News. The listings for houses for sale gets longer and longer as well.
I think that the government understands that there is a problem out there, but they are not very convincing when they tell us that they are doing everything that they can in order to deal with that situation. I would like to ask the Minister, when he is going through the different branches of his department, if he will let us know, when he comes to those different projects, how many people they would expect to employ in terms of person years. For instance, if he has a special project that he has budgeted $500,000 for, how many people will he expect to employ - new jobs, that is.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I may not be able to provide that list line by line, but I believe that Economic Development is in the process of compiling such a list. We will make it available to the Members.
Ms. Joe: Will it also include the jobs on roads and whatever else the department is responsible for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe so, because my colleague, the Minister of Government Services, was asking me for some details on the highway projects. I expect it will be fairly comprehensive.
Ms. Moorcroft: How familiar is the Minister with the Whitehorse Community Plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not all that familiar with it. It has been some time since I have actually read the plan in any detail.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister aware that this community plan has many different kinds of land use designations, including low, medium and high density residential?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Most community plans have that.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister aware that low density residential, which he has approved for the McLean Lake area, is the same as most of Riverdale and Porter Creek and not the same as Wolf Creek and Mary Lake?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am aware that low density residential is not the same as country residential, if that is what she is referring to.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister aware that McLean Lake does not fall into the urban land use plan but is found, instead, like Wolf Creek and Mary Lake, in the rural land use plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was aware of that.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is he aware that in the bylaw that he signed, which changed the community plan, country-residential use is not mentioned at all. Country residential has effectively been eliminated as a future possibility, even though the properties currently zoned there are country residential?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was aware of that.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister not agree that, as a natural consequence of this change in the official community plan, no further country-residential zoning will be permitted in the McLean Lake area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would assume that would be correct. I believe some properties are still being negotiated between the people who live on them, the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government. They would be included in the country-residential zoning.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister specifically about some of those negotiations and what effect these would have on the pending squatter applications in the area.
Can the Minister tell me how many outstanding squatter applications there are, and how many have yet to be zoned by the city? Can he confirm that the city can still zone the area country residential, or is this going to be prohibited until an area development scheme is developed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly do not have that information with me at this point.
I believe there are two squatters who are seeking some sort of land tenure, but I am not absolutely certain. I can find out for the Member opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask if the Minister will guarantee that, as long as the squatters follow the procedures outlined in the squatters policy, this new development will not impede their ability to gain title to the land.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that there will be no changes with any active applications. They will have a certain length of time to complete those applications, and I do not know what that time frame is.
I cannot give any assurance that every application that has ever come in will be treated the same. I do know that the active applications that are in the process right now will be treated the same as people who already have title.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess I was looking for an assurance for the squatters who followed the procedures outlined in the squatters policy, that the policy, which has been implemented over the years, will not change, and that this new development with this new bylaw having been signed will not impair their ability to have title to the land. I am not sure I got that assurance.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe I gave the Member that assurance. If there are new applications on an existing piece of land, I do not know whether they would be considered or not, which is why I cannot give her a definitive answer.
Ms. Moorcroft: What guarantees can the Minister give to the residents that their lifestyle will not be affected by the development of an urban residential Riverdale-style subdivision in their area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Included with the adoption of the OCP amendment is a requirement for the City of Whitehorse to undertake an area development scheme. The area development scheme that the City of Whitehorse currently has includes soil testing and geotechnical work on the area, prior to any development. In fact, the people on the existing properties in McLean Lake are protected, at least as well, and probably better, than they were when the previous Minister refused to sign the bylaw.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister indicated earlier that he understood the implications of signing that official community plan amendment. I would like to ask why he betrayed his promise to the residents to consult with them before this change was made.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think if the Member opposite wants to look in Hansard, I said if there was a zoning change that affected their lifestyle, I would consult with them.
There has been no zoning change, and their lifestyle will not be affected until such time as there is a zoning change and, at that time, there is a consultative process that is more rigid than anything that we have had before.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is just playing with semantics. The Minister indicated he understood the effects of having low density, medium density and high density residential areas in the McLean Lake area when he signed the plan, and there certainly will be implications to those residents.
I would like to ask the Minister about sewage treatment, which is a line item in this particular budget. Can he explain to me what is being done about a sewage treatment system with the money that will be spent in the current fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The sewage treatment for the City of Whitehorse this year will only involve the Water Board licensing and some very preliminary design work.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister indicated last month that he would ensure that adequate notification is given to downstream residents following the recent disastrous leak of several billion litres of raw sewage into the Yukon River. I would like to ask the Minister what notice has been given and what he has been doing about either public information or notices on that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I expect this was referring to the dumping of the sewage when they did some repair work on the Porter Creek lagoon.
As I am sure the Member opposite is aware, both newspapers and all three radio stations carried many stories about the sewage. In addition to that, people from the Department of Community and Transportation Services posted signs at Lake Laberge. I believe there were something like 20 different signs; however, the Member should be aware that the federal government had signs there already, albeit some of them were getting tattered, but it has been known for several years that the water in Lake Laberge, or any other open water supply in Yukon, should not be used for drinking purposes.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a few questions for the Minister to follow up on a line of inquiry the Minister is going to try and get some information back to me on. That is in the area of employment equity.
One of the pieces of information I asked for was a breakdown of the various salary ranges, and what the employment equity achievements were within the various salary ranges. Without that kind of information, an employment equity policy would be very difficult to assess.
Does the Minister have that information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a government-wide document being produced. Because there are personnel involved, we cannot go into individual departments, or branches of departments, and identify each person and what their ethnic background or, possibly, inabilities or handicaps are.
The government-wide document will be tabled in the House, I believe.
Ms. Moorcroft: I really have no desire to spend over an hour going over this information again and trying to get some answers from the Minister, but this is an issue he knew I was going to ask him about. I am really beginning to seriously doubt their commitment to the goal of employment equity. I am not asking for breakdowns of each individual position. I am not asking for breakdowns of age, which the Minister thought I was asking for when I asked him in the supplementaries about this issue.
The employment equity corporate goal of the Yukon government is to improve the representation of women - that is a breakdown by gender - to improve the representation of First Nations - that is a breakdown by race - and to improve the representation of people with disabilities. These are not exceedingly difficult statistics to gather.
Can the Minister table a plan of employment equity? Can the Minister tell me if he will provide me with the information I am requesting?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will provide that information, along with the rest of the government information in the document that is being produced by the Public Service Commission.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for that answer, and I will thank him for the information when I see it.
I wanted to also ask him about training in highway maintenance and in other areas of the Community and Transportation Services department. When I was pursuing this line of inquiry in the supplementaries, the Minister said I was getting into areas in which he was not totally familiar. I hope he has had some opportunity to familiarize himself with it a bit more.
Has the department provided training in communities for supervisory and management skills to provide advancement potential for community employees as an ongoing opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are many programs available through the Public Service Commission. There are some available through our own department for people to upgrade their skills. If the Member wanted to be somewhat more specific, I could possibly get information back to her.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister about training opportunities available to employees within Community and Transportation Services, in order to enable them to advance in their careers within the department, if that helps him.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will see what I can provide for the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: Not everything is clear yet. It has come to me as recently as this evening that there is a message leaving the department somewhere that, because we have not completed the capital main estimates, somehow no work will be available to people in the private sector. Somehow, going through the bowels of the department, there is some message that is apparently going out and has reached as far afield now as Mayo that any work associated with the capital budget is not going to proceed until such time as the mains clear the House in their entirety.
The implication, of course, is that the folks in the public will consequently come to the legislators in this House and put undue pressure on us to pass this budget, because they want whatever meager work is available through this budget. We went through a long process in this Legislature. We have passed two interim supply bills, without debate, for a total of $120 million. That gave the clearest of signals to Members that they should be proceeding with capital works. I would like to know if the Minister knows of this message, and if he sanctions it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that anyone who reads the newspapers is quite aware of the message. I believe there was a letter in the paper about 10 days ago that stated something to that effect. No, I do not sanction it.
Mr. McDonald: I would ask the Minister, under the circumstances, if he would ensure, at least through the senior people with whom he has regular contact, that the message is clear to them that they should be making the message clear to others that this Legislature has been nothing but generous in ensuring that the normal work of the government can continue while we do what is our job, which is to debate the elements of this budget. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will do part of that; I will be quite happy to. In fact, it has already happened. The senior people in the department are very aware. They are the ones who are putting out the tenders, and several of them have been awarded.
I will make sure that all of them are aware, if there are any who presently are not.
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister regarding the Alaska Highway. This involves both the O&M and capital budgets. I will deal now with the subject in general debate.
The Alaska Highway transfer agreement involves the transfer of funds to the Yukon on both the operations and capital side. As a matter of fact, in a document that we received from the Department of Finance, it showed that the base transfer - the transfer of funds directly to the base of the government - amounted to something in the neighbourhood of $23 million for both operations and some capital expenditures.
I know there was some extraordinary capital that was negotiated as part of the agreement, but I am still having difficulty reconciling some of the numbers in the budget. The Alaska Highway expenditures total $27 million. There is a recovery of $21 million. The recovery is presumably contingent funding, being that it is tied only to the Alaska Highway.
Is the amount that is shown as a recovery in the budget - the $21 million - in addition to the capital that was included in the transfer payment to the Government of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the $21 million is part of the amount that goes into the base.
Mr. McDonald: Why would that be the case? We have just calculated a transfer payment based on certain assumptions. One of those assumptions is that the normal capital payment for the Alaska Highway was transferred to the government through the transfer payment and not as a special contractual amount. Perhaps the Minister can tell me this: how much of the transfer payment to the Yukon government as part of the Alaska Highway agreement is operations and how much is capital?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I probably have that detail in my notes here but what I would like to do is talk about that when we get into line-by-line debate, at which time I will have some people from the department to assist me.
Mr. McDonald: It will be awkward then, only because we are talking about O&M and capital and my real focus is on the capital budget. In the statistics page, in Community and Transportation Services, it shows the estimate for the Alaska Highway totalling $8,176,000. That, incidentally, is a reduction in maintenance and I am sure we will have questions about that. The amount of money that was transferred to the Yukon government as part of the base transferred - meaning it was no longer contingent; it became discretionary funding by the Yukon government once it entered the base - totalled $23 million. One subtracts the expenditure of $8 million or $9 million, whatever it happens to be, of operations money and one is left with approximately $13 million or $14 million, which presumably would be used for capital expenditures. That money would be discretionary. One would assume that, if one is committed to upgrading the Alaska Highway in a hurry, one would spend it on that.
The point of the matter, though, is that that money is now part of the base transfer. Why is it that we show $27 million for total highway reconstruction for the Alaska Highway and a $21 million recovery? One would have assumed that if we had a recovery, which meant that we had additional funds that are contingent funds dedicated only to the Alaska Highway, not part of the base transfer, they would show up as recoveries. They are listed here as $21 million. One would assume, then, that the actual expenditure on the Alaska Highway would not be $21 million but would be $21 million plus what was negotiated into the base transfer, which is approximately $13 million.
One would expect to see an expenditure on the Alaska Highway of $34 million, not $27 million. I am not sure whether or not those are the reasons. I am only trying to figure out this puzzle as to why there is $21 million worth of contingent funds, when a large portion of the funds for the reconstruction of the Alaska Highway was transferred as part of the base.
Would the Minister be prepared to give me an answer to that question when we get to the Alaska Highway line item, on the capital side? We will talk about the capital and operations at the same time so that we can get a better appreciation for both sides of the equation.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly, I would provide that information for the Member opposite. Whether we are discussing operation and maintenance or capital, they do tie together. I will not mind dealing with both or either one of them when we get into line-by-line debate.
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple more questions. One question has to do with an operation and a capital item. The expenditure that is proposed for the Dawson water and sewer program amounts to more than $5 million. What did the Minister agree to do about the water and sewer deficit grant that was also an issue for ratepayers in the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The City of Dawson did ask if the Government of Yukon would reinstate the water and sewer deficit grant that was in effect a few years ago. Our reply was no, we would not reinstate the water and sewer deficit grant.
Mr. McDonald: I understood that there was supposed to be $300,000 released for each of two years toward the water and sewer deficit grant. It was not very long ago - perhaps even here in the Legislature - that there was some defence of this particular action by the Minister that this was supposed to be something that they wanted to do, as it was something they felt the Dawson residents deserved. What was the nature of the negotiations that changed the governments mind on this question?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What we thought would be better than trying to reinstate the water and sewer deficit grant, which we would have to reinstate for the whole territory, would be to fix the system so that they did not have those large deficits.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that with the $5 million planned expenditure the system will be fixed, and that the rates for Dawson residents will decrease to something closer to the rates enjoyed by Whitehorse ratepayers?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I hope that the water and sewer system in Dawson is fixed; I really hope it is. It was a headache long before I ever moved from Watson Lake to Whitehorse.
I wish I could guarantee that, not only for the Members opposite, but for the residents of the City of Dawson. Only time will tell if the system will be fixed or not.
If the City of Dawson accepts our offer, which they have not done yet, to my knowledge, the rates will not likely be too different from the rates paid by the citizens of Whitehorse right now.
Mr. McDonald: Will the City of Dawson commit itself, because it does manage the system now? I know that the Member was with me when we made that little change. We had an interesting meeting with the mayor and some councillors.
Did the City of Dawson commit itself to lowering the rates if it receives this $5 million support from the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The City of Dawson still has to ratify the agreement that was reached between the mayor and one councillor and the city manager and the government.
We reached an agreement; we talked about it at a public meeting and then the City of Dawson had to go back and ratify that agreement.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister table the negotiators agreement, and can he tell me whether or not, as a feature of the agreement, the City of Dawson has committed itself to lowering the rates, so that the ratepayers in Dawson can realize full benefit from the action taken by the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I should be able to table the agreement; I am not sure exactly when, but probably in the next two or three weeks.
The agreement has not been agreed to by the city, and one of the people from community services was dealing with the city last Friday, and I am not certain of where it now stands.
Mr. McDonald: Not to be quibbling about this, but the City of Dawson has to go back to their council to ratify it. The Ministers council is us, so when it comes time to ratify, or ask for money and things like that, he should not feel particularly shy about showing the negotiators agreement to us, I would hope. Did the Minister state that the City of Dawson had committed itself to lowering the rates, if the Government of Yukon expended the $5 million-plus to improve the system? Obviously, the ratepayers in Dawson would be interested in seeing real benefits from the $5 million. Did the city commit to lowering the rates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The mayor, one councillor and the city managers committed to that. I said before that it has not been ratified by the whole council. As of last Friday, they had not had a meeting yet to actually ratify the agreement. If they do ratify the agreement, then, in that, there will be a reduction for the ratepayers in Dawson.
Mr. McDonald: That is what I wanted to know. I cannot remember if this is operations or capital, but there has been an issue in the past about opening placer mining roads earlier than they have been in the past. Has the government committed to doing that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The opening of certain roads - not necessarily just placer mining roads, but several roads that the Department of Community and Transportation Services maintain in the summer - to a large part, is dependent upon the type of spring that we have. This year, we were able to open some of the roads in Dawson earlier than normal, but then there was not as much snow this year and spring did come earlier. It is not a policy that we will open the roads on any given date. We will not attempt to open the roads on certain dates - and I do not believe those dates are any different from when the Members opposite were in government - unless there is an early spring, or some other reason why we can open those roads.
Mr. McDonald: I think we might be talking about two different things. Placer mining roads are not temperature sensitive. When one clears the snow from the road, it is frozen. Then there is a period when the road has to close again, because it is too soft. The purpose of opening the roads very early is so that the equipment can get into the mine site. There has been a request in the past that those roads open even earlier than the previous government had done, which I thought was fairly early. Has there been a change of policy in terms of opening those roads when the ground is still frozen and it is still pretty cold out there? Is there a policy to open the roads throughout the placer mining districts earlier than in the past?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, there has been no change to the policy.
This year, we were able to open one a little earlier through an agreement with one of the people living in there who actually maintained it while the snow was still on the ground. I do not remember which road it was. The road was opened, I think, seven days earlier than usual. I think the Top of the World was opened two days earlier than other ones; however, the policy has not changed.
Chair: Is it the wish of the House to take a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will have a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there general debate on the program?
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Deputy Ministers Office
Mr. Harding: Could I have a breakdown on the Office of Deputy Minister, please?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: While we are on Office of the Deputy Minister, I have a proposed amendment to operation and maintenance estimates that would decrease the line on communications on page 44 by $30,000.
I just received a little talking to by the Clerk. I was supposed to move that amendment when I got to the actual line, not in the overall line of Office of the Deputy Minister.
So, for a breakdown of the Deputy Ministers Office, it is $264,000 for the office itself, $454,000 for Emergency Measures and $421,000 for Communications and Departmental Land Claims of $141,000 - for a total of $1,280,000 for the Office of Deputy Minister.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure where I was supposed to bring forward the amendment.
Chair: During line-by-line debate.
Mr. Harding: During the supplementary estimates debate, which went on for some time and still is not complete, we had some discussion regarding the firing of the deputy minister for the department. It is my recollection that we could not find the item identified in the supplementaries.
I would like to know if the amount for the deputy minister is in the main estimates and if it is not there, where is it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That item will appear in the final supplementary for 1992-93; I believe they call it period 13.
Mr. Harding: I did not catch what the land claims breakdown figure was. Could the Minister provide me with that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is $141,000.
Mr. Harding: With the amount of land development that is planned this year and the very confrontational nature of the negotiations with the native bands that have made some selections in the area, is there any feeling by the Minister that that figure could be affected by the negotiations and land selections in the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe so. I do not believe that the amount would be affected with the activity that is going on in land claims. There is one full-time equivalent in position.
It is just the one salary in the $141,000, and I believe there is some money that goes to the Association of Yukon Communities.
Mr. McDonald: How much goes to the AYC for land claims?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am sorry. The funding for the AYC was in 1992-93. It is not in the 1993-94 estimates.
Mr. Harding: What constitutes the $141,000? Surely that is right up there in Dale Drowns echelon.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The salary is made up of the director of land claims and the senior lands advisor to land claims. There are two salaries in there for a total of $120,000. The $140,000 reflects salaries and benefits.
Mr. McDonald: Does the AYC not want any funding to support the land claims process?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They did not ask for any further funding this year. They have not expended monies that they have received in the past; they are keeping them in reserve. They may very well come to us again, but right now they do not appear to need any additional funding.
Deputy Ministers Office in the amount of $264,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures
Emergency Measures in the amount of $454,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be amended in vote 09, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing the line item Communications on page 44 in the operations and maintenance estimates by $30,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Mr. Harding: What are we referring to in the $30,000 reduction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The reduction is on the VHF mobile radio system and contract services due to delay of removal of obsolete VHF system shelters until 1994.
Amendment agreed to
Communications in the amount of $391,000 agreed to as amended
On Departmental Land Claims
Departmental Land Claims in the amount of $141,000 agreed to
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $1,250,000 agreed to as amended
On Corporate Services Division
Administration in the amount of $69,000 agreed to
On Human Resources
Mr. Harding: Could I get a breakdown on that please?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was an increase of $23,000 from 1992-93 to 1993-94 due to a position that was on secondment to the Public Service Commission. That position will be back in the department in 1993-94. I can get you the number of people in that department in just a moment. The salaries total $348,229. That is salary and benefits. Employee travel is $6,020; contract services, $1,500; program materials, $800; communications $7,000; other, $9,000 for a total of $24,320 for other, for a total activity of $372,549.
Human Resources in the amount of $373,000 agreed to
On Finance and Systems Support
Mr. Harding: Could we be given the reason for the increase in this line?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The increase of $33,000 from 1992-93 to 1993-94 is a result of the establishment of a system administrator position at $59,000 received through the Alaska Highway devolution agreement, offset by reductions in various other areas.
Finance and Systems Support in the amount of $547,000 agreed to
On Policy, Planning and Evaluation
Policy, Planning and Evaluation in the amount of $312,000 agreed to
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $1,301,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Division Administration
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have an amendment I would like to propose:
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be amended in vote 09, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing the line item Division Administration on page 48 in the operation and maintenance estimates by $32,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the Bill be amended accordingly.
Mr. Harding: I have made a number of representations to the Minister regarding my disdain for the cutback in the highway maintenance budget for the Robert Campbell Highway, specifically for the Faro-Carmacks portion.
In this figure, what is the figure for cutbacks for that particular area from last years numbers?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That would be in actual Highway Maintenance, the line right under the one that we are discussing.
Amendment agreed to
Division Administration in the amount of $1,965,000 agreed to as amended
On Highway Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to move
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be amended in vote 09, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing line item Highway Maintenance on page 48 in the operation and maintenance estimates by $77,000; and
THAT the clause and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to know where the $77,000 will be applied in the Highway Maintenance line.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The reduction is on BST overlays on the Alaska Highway.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps the Minister could answer the question I asked him with regard to how much the area between Faro and Carmacks will be cut back from last years budget for operation and maintenance.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe there is any change in the O&M. I will give Members the whole listing here - there are only a few O&M comparisons with previous years. There is a decrease of $1,488,000 from 1992-93 to 1993-94. The major changes in highway maintenance affect the Alaska Highway - a reduced spending of $2,400,000 on O&M due to the influx of capital in the Swift River section, as well as the Beaver Creek section, because of the Shakwak project in the Beaver Creek area. For the Campbell Highway, general maintenance activities are decreased $806,000 in the Tuchitua and Ross River section. These reductions are offset by an increase in O&M spending of $1,939,000 on the Klondike Highway between Braeburn and Dawson - 82 kilometres of existing deteriorating BST surface will be replaced.
Mr. Harding: Maybe I am confused, but the budget, compared to last year, according to the supplementaries, shows a forecasted O&M of $4,716,000, versus a 1993-94 estimate of $3,910,000. To me, that indicates a large change in O&M. Is the Minister saying that none of that change is going to be in the Faro to Carmacks portion of the road?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, any change will be in the Tuchitua to Ross River sections.
Mr. Harding: Is that a result of the Sa Dena Hes mine closure, which is presently the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, that would not have anything to do with the operation and maintenance.
Mr. Harding: You will have to excuse me, but you said there is an $800,000 reduction, which is pretty sizable on operation and maintenance. What would the reason be?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Mainly, it is in project work, like stockpiling crush. There was a fairly major program in the previous year and the year before that. They have the crush material stockpiles, so there would be no need to redo that for three or four years.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell me who was mainly doing that work? Was it people from the local Ross River area who were performing those jobs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is normally contracted out.
Mr. Harding: Who is it normally contracted out to?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Normally, it is Yukon contractors. Nuway Crushing Ltd. and Loucheux Enterprises are two crushing contractors that have had jobs in the past.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister about the Alaska Highway work. Is he saying that, as a result of capital activity, there is going to be a drop of better than $2 million - they just dropped it another $77,000 - which is virtually one-fifth of the entire Alaska Highway maintenance budget, as a result of capital activity in one year? Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is my understanding.
Mr. McDonald: I have never seen this before, quite frankly. I knew that transportation engineering was good, but I did not think that they were so good that, within one year, they could reduce the operations budget of a road by a whole one-fifth, simply by some capital activity. What was it about the capital activity? There was probably some surfacing done, so that there would not be some grading. This is year-round maintenance. We know that a whole portion of the Alaska Highway still has to be surfaced or redone. Is he absolutely certain about that explanation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is the information that I have. In both the Swift River and the Beaver Creek sections, the BST overlays are extremely expensive. With the capital projects going on there, it will not be necessary to do those at all. There will generally be less maintenance in those areas than normal because of the crews working there.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to take up the time of the House, and perhaps I will have a discussion with the Minister after hours. The reason I am puzzled by this is that I recall fighting constantly with the federal government for more Alaska Highway maintenance funding. They were cutting it back regularly, we were saying that the road was going to hell in a handbasket - if I can be permitted to use that language.
Suddenly, after one years worth of capital activity, we find that not only can we withstand the forecast of $10.5 million - which is a reduction from previous years - but we can also withstand a $2.4 million reduction on the operations side. Would the Minister mind explaining it? If he is prepared to explain it to me later, I would be more than happy to hear the explanation. I really do want to hear it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Maybe I can very briefly explain some of it to the Member. Because of the Sa Dena Hes mine, with the heavy loaded trucks, the Swift River section cost a little less than $2 million last year for maintenance, mostly for BST. They kept having to go back and redo it. This year, with the rebuild, they will not have that O&M cost there.
Mr. McDonald: This is a $1 million reduction, even from the 1991-92 actuals. Unless he can provide a thorough explanation, the Minister should offer to explain this to me at a later time, because I do want to hear about it.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister one question about that. The Minister is telling us that it costs us $2 million per year to re-BST that road and then they tore it up and re-did the road? Over how many years was money spent on re-BSTing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently, the BST work that was done last year possibly should not have been an operation and maintenance expenditure. There was some fairly major work done on the road by our own people, and that was at a cost of somewhat less than $2 million.
The reconstruction that is taking place this year is not on that particular section of the road. The reconstruction will be completed on a different section of the road that should last for a few years.
Mr. Harding: This reduction is based on the premise that the ore trucks will not be rolling from the Sa Dena Hes mine over that road; is that what the Minister is saying?
The Minister is looking at me with a puzzled look on his face. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the Minister said that the maintenance costs were higher because of the heavy weight of the ore trucks and that they would probably be lower, I would assume, because he is now saying that there will not be any ore trucks in this fiscal year. Is that what the premise is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, the ore trucks were the cause of the major BST work last year. This year, there is some reconstruction being done by two different contractors.
The ore trucks, whether they are running or not, should not harm the portion that was fixed last year, nor should they harm the portion that is being reconstructed this year.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister did commit that he would give us a briefing on this road, did he not? Did I hear him say that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that I did, but I shall.
Mr. McDonald: That is the reason I checked.
The Other Roads section appears to be going down substantially. I draw the Ministers attention to the statistics on page 53. Is the rural roads maintenance policy in effect, and will it be in effect in the next operating year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the Other Roads line, there are numerous roads included from throughout the territory. There were minor changes in many of these roads to reduce it from the $2,644,000 to the $2,341,000.
Mr. McDonald: I am not going to ask the Minister for a breakdown of the planned expenditures on each road. What I am interested in is the rural roads maintenance policy. The understanding I had, at some distance from the equation, as I was not the Minister, was that the costs associated with the rural road maintenance policy would, in fact, increase this expenditure. I find that it is going down by $300,000.
I would point out to the Minister, also, that in many of the rural communities, expenditures in this area really are the bread and butter of dozens and dozens of tiny contractors with only a piece or two of equipment. A $300,000 change in this item will be noticed by someone. I wonder if the Minister has considered that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is what confused me a little bit at the beginning. In 1992-93, I believe the BST program was put into operation and maintenance when, in fact, BST on existing roads used to be a capital project. For instance, on the Takhini Hot Springs Road, where I live, some very major work was done on that road last year, which will probably do for quite a few years, and that is what a lot of these figures are - just that exact kind of thing where major work has been taken on and it should last for a few years.
I really do hope the Member opposite does not ask for an actual breakdown on every road in the territory. I do not believe there is any intent to do less maintenance on any road in the territory.
Mr. McDonald: It has always been a very exotic exercise for me to go through the reasons why one particular project would be in operations and why it should not be in capital, because we do have a capital line item that is supposed to include major projects. I will not get into that, because I remember that I had gone through all the trouble of defending in the Legislature the item for reconstruction of bridges, only to find out that it was used for approaches to bridges, and everything but bridges, in that particular year.
I am interested in this particular item on the operations side. It shows a reduction. I am interested in the rural roads maintenance policy. It is a very specific policy. I remember seeing a copy at one point. I am wondering whether or not that policy is still in effect, and whether or not that has generated increased costs of the department.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I have also seen the rural roads policy, and it has not changed. In fact, there have been some roads added.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 6.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-1994, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 12, 1993:
The North American Free Trade Agreement: Implications for the Yukon. Prepared by J. Alec Macpherson (Sept/92) (Phillips)
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 12, 1993:
Organ donor consent cards: available from Health Services (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 783