Thursday, May 13, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a news release for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have five legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I give notice that the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to Section 16 of the Human Rights Act, appoint Ms. Debra Lynn Fendrick and Mr. Jon Breen as members of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Ms. Moorcroft: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges review the current use of gender-biased language in the Legislative Assembly, and
THAT the Committee make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly that reflect the express wishes of Yukoners who want their elected Members to use inclusive, non-sexist language.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Employment equity policies
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Womens Directorate. May is sexual assault prevention month, and we all know the statistics of how many women are victims of violence each and every day. However, we also know from statistics and studies, and we see in the world around us, that women are not only sexually assaulted. They are in the lowest income brackets; women are poor; women are not offered jobs according to their abilities.
Does the Minister support the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, as articulated in the Human Rights Act.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister prepared to enlist the support of his Cabinet colleagues for the related principle of employment equity in the workforce and, specifically, in the public service?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, we have an employment equity corporate policy that is being implemented throughout the government. We, on this side, all support that policy.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister support the use of inclusive, non-sexist language to ensure that women are seen to fill the roles of tradesworker, legislator, chair, fisher and so on?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think, as we have been drafting legislation, that was something the previous government included. I would suspect that would continue. I see no reason why it would not.
Question re: Family violence
Ms. Joe: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. We are aware of a number of initiatives by the government to reduce family violence, most of which are not new, and a number of these programs are preventive in nature. For example, this is sexual assault prevention month, which is designed to raise public awareness, and that is good. The policy question for the Minister of Justice, who is also responsible for Health and Social Services is this: does the Yukon government have a policy of zero tolerance for family violence?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Ms. Joe: I would like to know if the Minister can me let me know what is in this new policy and will he table it in the House?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will do that, yes.
Ms. Joe: What steps are being taken to coordinate efforts of the various departments and agencies to give practical effect to the policy of zero tolerance? If necessary, would he provide us with a written reply outlining what is going on with this?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will, in due course, get to back to the Member on that issue. We are in the formative stages with respect to this whole area, so it may take a bit of time - hopefully longer than what we are sitting.
Question re: Victims of Crime, compensation for
Ms. Joe: I would certainly like to have the new policy prior to us leaving this House. I have another question for the Minister responsible for Justice. The Minister of Justice has reduced the budget for compensation for victims of crime. Can he tell the House what new guidelines there are to give effect to this new budget and will he table them in the House?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I hope to be able to meet with the critic and other interested Members shortly, with respect to what we intend to do.
Mrs. Joe: We have heard the Minister of Justice talk about possible changes to the compensation for victims of crime program, either by changing the act or possibly the regulations. Our party, for one, is interested in seeing priority given to compensation for victims of family violence. This should receive priority over other types of crime. Is this the direction that the Minister sees the program going, and could he tell us what steps are being taken to go in that direction?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As I said, we intend to come forward with some legislation shortly, and I will be discussing this with Members in the next few days.
Ms. Joe: Neither the Minister nor I know how long we are going to be in the House, and I would like to be assured that he will be tabling some form of legislation or regulations, prior to us completing our business here.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I intend to provide that information next week.
Question re: Westmark Klondike Inn, winter closure
Ms. Joe: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Economic Development. Yesterday, we heard about the possible winter closure of the Westmark Klondike Inn, due to the economic slowdown or recession here in the Yukon.
The Minister of Economic Development promised to find out what this means in terms of possible job loss and my question is: could he tell us how many employees and families would be affected by the closure?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Basically, in discussions with Westmark, no decision has been made on a closing. Every year, they go through this exercise. At this point, nothing is any different than it has ever been, as far as whether they are going to close this winter or not.
Ms. Joe: The lack of recognition of the problem is amazing. There are signs that many other businesses are laying off staff, or planning to do so, depending on how hard this recession hits the Yukon. Does the Minister have a way of monitoring the number of layoffs occurring or that might occur in the future? Is he or his department working with the private sector employees, or their associations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, to monitor the extent of the layoffs?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, on the Westmark, at this time, the hotel management is unable to give us any information on how many people would be affected if there was a shutdown, because they do not really contemplate one, at this point.
Ms. Joe: I asked him another question, and he ignored it. In light of these layoffs, and in light of the possible additional electrical rate increase of 15 to 20 percent, is the Minister instructing his officials to review their economic model for the impact of the Yukon recession and update their worst case scenario, or does the model already consider these facts?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I instructed my department to do this several weeks ago, and we are coming up with different models, depending on percentages. We are working on that, and I may have something further to report on that before the end of the session.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public statements
Mr. Harding: This morning, the week before the Government Leader is to travel to Korea to assure Asian metal markets the Yukon government is behind the Curragh operation in Faro, the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation is reported to have said that the mining company is bound to pay for power under the terms of its contract, whether it uses it or not, and this could amount to several million dollars.
Is it the normal policy of the corporation, or its officers, to make comments on the accounts or billing arrangements of its customers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The situation with respect to Curragh and its legal obligations to the Yukon Energy Corporation has to do with the public ruling of the Public Utilities Board. The position that the corporation takes is simply that the ruling of the Public Utilities Board, in itself, sets the rates for Curragh in circumstances where they have refused to take more power at this time from the Yukon Energy Corporation. The statement that he is making is simply echoing the policy and the ruling as set forward by the independent Public Utilities Board.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister if the views expressed by the president are shared by the Minister? In his judgment, was this a helpful public comment to make when the Government Leader is finally making an attempt to keep the Faro mine working?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The president of the corporation was asked questions by the press as to what the situation was. He simply reiterated what the Public Utilities Board has ruled. This is something that is in the public domain. I would suggest that for him to try to be evasive or not answer that very straightforward question would have been wrong in the circumstances. I support him speaking out and saying exactly what the current situation is, as the corporation understands it.
Mr. Harding: I asked him if he thought it was helpful. He did not answer the question, but anyway I will move on. Can the Minister advise whether there was any discussion with him, or Cabinet, prior to the issue of these public comments? If so, is it the Ministers or Cabinets view that this is a helpful kind of signal to send to investors, namely potential mining companies in the Yukon - that in the Yukon you will be charged for power, whether you are in operation or not.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The mandate of the Yukon Energy Corporation is to supply power in the most effective and least expensive manner that it can to the Yukon power consumer. The mandate of the Public Utilities Board is to protect the ratepayers of Yukon. The president of the corporation was acting fully within the mandate of the corporation in simply answering truthfully a question put to him by the media.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, public statements
Mr. Harding: Through that dance, we just saw a very big blow to investors looking at the Yukon.
Anyway, I will move on to another area regarding this particular issue. In his reported comments on power bills owed by Curragh Inc., the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation has suggested that the rate Curragh is charged cannot be changed because it is set by the Yukon Public Utilities Board. Is the Minister aware that, under Section 31 of the Public Utilities Act, contracts for supply of service can be reviewed and increased or reduced to a rate that the board considers fair and reasonable and, if so, can he explain the contradiction between the comments of the president of the Energy Corporation and the provisions of the Public Utilities Act, which does provide for reductions in contract power rates?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, with respect, the hon. Member is confusing the roles of the players here. The question was put to the president of the Energy Corporation with respect to the current ruling of the Public Utilities Board and he answered that question truthfully. I would be very alarmed if he was evasive or tried to mislead the reporter and the public in his answer. That was not the case.
With respect to the future and what might transpire with respect to Curragh, undoubtedly some political decisions will have to be made and directives issued by Cabinet, but that will depend on circumstances as they transpire. In the meantime, the situation is quite factual and is as stated by the chief officer of the Energy Corporation.
Mr. Harding: I am glad he finally brought up what the Minister can do about this situation, seeing as how he is responsible. Under Section 17(1) of the Public Utilities Act, Cabinet can direct the Utilities Board in the exercise of its powers and functions by general or special direction. Has the Minister or Cabinet considered a direction to the Utilities Board to review the terms of the Curragh power contract in the interests of restarting the Yukons largest private sector employer - because that may be the only way to recoup the loss of creditors and also to recoup the loss the Energy Corporation has faced?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The unfortunate thing is that the hon. Member, in his pursuit of trying to get the mine open at Faro, seems to ignore the rights of other Yukoners and their needs as well. The issue, with respect, has to do with what steps the government might take to subsidize the power rates and other activities of mining companies in the Yukon. What the hon. Member seems to be suggesting, in his question, is that we should, right now, take it upon ourselves to put the burden of energy costs on to the other ratepayers of the Yukon, and we are saying that that is one possible scenario but certainly not one we wish to follow. If there are going to be subsidies, those are things that will be paid for by the taxpayers of the Yukon, and those are issues that will be dealt with by Cabinet as and when those decisions are required.
Mr. Harding: I am concerned about the 15 to 20 percent interest that consumers are facing as a result of the mine shutdown. That is exactly why I am asking these questions. Is the Minister prepared to consider issuing a direction to the Utilities Boards review of the current contract, and will he make a commitment to seek a contract rate that reflects the actual consumption of power during the shutdown, in the interests of getting the mine back on its feet? That way, it will be in a position to pay the bills for the power it consumes and consumers will not have to pay 15 to 20 percent more for their power rates.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, the Member is asking government to shift the burden of paying for the power, which was done previously by the federal government, onto the ratepayers of the Yukon. That is one of the reasons why we have such high power rates today. That, and the fact that the previous government spent profits on the Watson Lake sawmill, which was terribly unfair to the ratepayers of the Yukon.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. Harding: I think the Minister has his burdens confused. I believe that the way they are going, taxpayers are really going to be burdened. I want to move on to just that issue.
Earlier this session, the Minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation revealed this governments intention to develop a new energy policy for industrial consumers, designed to spur on economic development in the Yukon. Can the Minister advise the House what specific progress he and his officials have made in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, the issue is very simple. The profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation were squandered in the past. We took steps, immediately upon taking office, to stop that. What do we get from the other side? We get a hue and cry and snivelling from the Member for Faro about the Chateau Jomini. That was the first step we took. The second step will be to move ahead, ensuring that the Energy Corporation is at arms length and not interfered and meddled with, as it was under the previous administration. The mandate from this government to the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation will be to try and develop the most efficient power resources possible in the Yukon. That is the long-range plan. It does not simply change overnight because of some statements in the House made by the new Member for Faro.
Mr. Harding: I will not respond to the snivelling comment, but I will say this: the governments policy has done an effective job; they are raising power rates 20 percent and they should be quite proud of that. Would the Minister advise the House what timetable has been established for the development of the new policy and when he expects to have that policy in place?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Members have been told - I do not know how many times in this House; I suppose I could have somebody go through Hansard and count the times - that very shortly we will be coming forward with amendments to the Yukon Development Corporation Act. That is the first step with respect to developing the energy policy.
People in this House and in the public have been told that now the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, by Cabinet directive, includes looking at coal as a generating source - something that was never permitted under the previous government - and we intend to move carefully and steadily toward a comprehensive energy policy for Yukoners.
Mr. Harding: The lectures on stone age economics are getting quite tiresome - long on rhetoric, short on action.
Could the Minister offer us any assurance at all, even a hint of hope, that his new industrial policy will assist the continued operation of the Yukons largest industrial power customer, its largest mine and one of the foundation stones of the territorial economy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The power sources remain the same as they were six months ago. Right now there is an oversupply, given those sources. The financial abilities of Yukon Energy Corporation have not changed very much in the last six months; the excess profits were all squandered by the previous administration who politically interfered with that corporation on a daily basis.
The issue with respect to Curragh Inc. comes down to whether or not there ought to be subsidies in the power field and other fields and who should pay.
I can tell this House that, in my view, if anyone is going to pay subsidies - and that is a big if and one would have to look at the broad spectrum of things that can be done with respect to Curragh - it ought not be other ratepayers in the Yukon any longer. If there are going to be subsidies let us have them up front, paid for by the taxpayers of the Yukon.
Question re: Health care, user fees
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. The Minister only believes in universality until the federal government changes it. He has identified one abuse in his department in the six months he has been there - in the chronic disease program - and has not done anything about it. He does not understand what user fees are and he does not know what the delivery of private health care services means, but he has no objection to it.
I would like to ask the Minister what contribution he has made to dealing with the cost crisis in the delivery of health care services. Has he presented any new ideas or suggestions to deal with this crisis?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In consultation with some of the major players, particularly the Yukon Medical Association, we have negotiated an agreement between the YMA and the department whereby we have a joint management committee. It has been set up for about four months. That committee is reviewing each and every program on the health side of the department. That committee is making recommendations and I will be making a statement fairly shortly with respect to its progress to this time.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister was appointed Minister of Health and Social Services, it was he who had all the suggestions and all the answers. It was Phelps says he wants to take on the departments that have the biggest problems. It was Phelps says that is the department that has been over budget on a regular basis.... It was Phelps says the department has performed in a woefully inadequate way when it comes to meeting their budgets. Then he brings forward a budget that is 22 percent higher than last years budget, not including the $14 million in supps we have just passed.
Speaker: And now the supplementary.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister what he has done or why he has not taken any steps to get the budget costs under control for the Department of Health and Social Services?
Speaker: If the Minister wishes an extra few moments to answer the preamble, I will not interrupt.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will take a couple of hours to do any justice to it whatsoever.
The Member - the one-time Minister, whose tenure was cut short by the leader of the day - knows, I am sure, that it is beyond the capability of anyone on this side to undo what was done during the previous eight years. We are not able to retroactively take care of the mistakes of the past.
We have explained in this House time and time again the steps we are taking to review each program and make changes. I have said that I am going to be making a ministerial statement on where we are with the joint management committee very shortly and we will be, next week, making a ministerial statement on the social assistance review and outlining the steps that have been taken already.
Mrs. Firth: This was the Minister who had all the answers. He was going to get everything under control. That was the reason that he was the Minister of Health and Social Services. He was going to take on the tough department. The budget has increased by over 22 percent. All the Minister has done is formed a management committee. I want him to tell us about one new idea that he has had personally - other than getting somebody else to do the job for him - what new idea, or suggestion, has he brought forward to get the crisis of costs in the health care delivery system under control? What is one new idea you have had, Willard?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Let us review what has happened since we have been in there. Number one, we have concluded phase 1 of the hospital transfer. Number two, we have concluded negotiations with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs with respect to status Indian hospital billing, which is a new $6 million rolled into the budget. Number three, we have reviewed and changed some of the policies, and will be coming forward with a consultation process with respect to other suggested changes, on the social assistance side. Number four, we have set up, for the first time, a joint management committee with the Yukon Medical Association, which we will be reporting on very shortly.
I am not really sure what it is that the Member expects. I would stack up my record as Minister any time against her very short life as a Minister.
Question re: Health care, policies
Mrs. Firth: This is the Minister who had all the answers, the Minister who criticized the Department of Health and Social Services because they had performed in a woefully inadequate way, when it comes to handling their budget, the Minister who has said that virtually 40 to 50 percent of all NDP policies should be looked at, the Minister who was going to get everything under control. Maybe I should ask the Minister this: with all these committees and all these wonderful things that he has done, how many policies has he changed within the Department of Health and Social Services in the time that he has been a Minister?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will be bringing that back, together with the ministerial statements, which have been planned for sometime in the next week or two. What I can tell the Member is that I have done somewhat more than simply cancel bus service for a bunch of kids and then continue in that vein-
Speaker: Order please. I think that the Minister has answered that question. I do not want the questions and answers to degenerate into an argument between Members.
Mrs. Firth: That is a good point. I think we are getting to him. I am getting to all of them. Yesterday, I asked the Minister a question about an abuse he had identified within the department. The Minister stood up and told us he had identified an abuse of the chronic disease program.
The chronic disease program has been increasing in leaps and bounds. It is going up again this year by 23 percent, 28 percent, four percent and 22 percent. No, that was last year. This year, it is 16 percent, eight percent, 31 percent and 25 percent.
If the Minister identified this as an abuse, why has there not been something done about it? Why is the budget continuing to increase in such huge amounts?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have told the Member what we are doing about it. I think she is asking the public to be gullible enough to believe that I would be foolhardy enough to act as she did when she took away the busing privileges of kids in the rural Yukon and insisted that was the right thing to do for years after, without consultation.
We are moving ahead with policy review. I will be making a ministerial statement. There will be recommendations from the joint management committee, which will be reviewed by the public before any of the recommendations are put into place that affect the eligibility or the programs available to Yukon residents. In my view, that is the only fair way to proceed.
Mrs. Firth: It seems that I am either pre-empting the Ministers announcement, or the Minister just has no new idea to share with us, as Members of the House.
Speaker: Now, the question.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister, since he has no new ideas or suggestions, and we have to constantly wait for this committee to make all the decisions for him, when does he anticipate that he is going to fulfill all these great objectives he told the public he had? When does he anticipate getting this budget under control and making his performance more acceptable, other than a woefully inadequate one?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think anyone would expect me or anyone else on this side to dance to the tune of the lady who stopped the busing for kids throughout the Yukon.
I think that Yukoners realize that it is going to take consultation and time to change these policies and put them into effect. Once they are in effect, it is going to take time for them to bring down the rapid growth that has taken place in social services and the health field.
I can tell the Member opposite that we are developing papers and policies that are of great interest to other Ministers in Canada, with respect to social assistance, and we will be sharing some of these documents with her and other Members, when we table the information in the House with the ministerial statement next week.
Question re: Faro contingency plan
Mr. Harding: For two months I have been in this House asking and begging the Minister of Economic Development to initiate some community works in Faro, due to the number of layoffs there.
Yesterday, in the Legislature, he said that I did not know what I was talking about when referring to my community.
I would like to ask the Minister this: what community works have been initiated in Faro, and how many people are working in those projects?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There have been several projects that have gone into the consultation stage.
One of the problems was that some of these projects have to fall within the community development fund guidelines. Basically, we are talking about $12.00 per hour, and it seems that many of the people have concerns about whether or not they want to work for $12.00 per hour. That is one of the problems that we have run into.
Meanwhile, there are a few projects that are being discussed and, as far as any actual projects undertaken at this point, no, none have been undertaken.
Mr. Harding: This is how the government deals with something that they said was their highest priority - it is woefully inadequate.
If the Minister cannot tell me how many people are working, because there are none, can he tell me how many people have refused to work on community works projects that they have introduced and asked the community to accept?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have been told that the union representatives were not happy with the wage scale that we had proposed. For the sheep viewing project and some other projects, there were some concerns raised by the Ross River Band that have to be resolved before we can proceed with them; however, it is a similar situation. It is not going to be a high-paying job.
Mr. Harding: The Minister should be very careful about what he says when he makes scandalous comments about union representatives, because I do not believe that is the case.
The Minister has been listening to the bureaucrats and officials in his department - and, obviously, his executive assistant - but he has not been getting the whole story. The Minister said I really did not know what I was talking about regarding the contingency plan, so I will ask the Minister today: will he come to Faro and attend a public meeting to talk about the contingency plan with the people of Faro, so that he can find out from the people, not just bureaucrats, what is really going on?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have talked to various people on the phone. Basically, I have not run into any problems involving the people who have been in touch with me. I know there are some major problems with it, and much of it is through the IAS committee, but these projects take time to get onstream. There are processes that you have to go through, and that is basically where it stands.
Question re: Faro contingency plan
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the same Minister on the same subject. I recall that during the period of closure for the United Keno Hill mines, within about three weeks of closure, there were approximately 40 to 45 people working on community works projects. There was no program in place at the time to provide for community works. Can the Minister indicate to the Legislature whether or not the community development fund guidelines have changed in any major respect regarding wages from the time that the NDP government was in office?
Hon. Mr. Devries: To the best of my knowledge, they are quite close to what they were then. They have been increased slightly over the years according to the fair wage schedule that applies to community development fund projects.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is aware, of course, that the fair wage schedule provides for wages that are considerably higher than $12 per hour. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, for projects where there is a journeyman carpenter, or something. My understanding is that the majority of these people are equipment operators. If you have an equipment operator working on a construction job, they would be getting labourers wages, which I believe are $12 per hour.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for clearing up the situation. Can the Minister indicate what he characterizes as fast-tracking a community works project? In Faro, it has taken two months to get to the consultation stage for the community works. Can we expect any community works in this calendar year?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The only project that I have been approached on within the community of Faro is the Chateau Jomini complex. Until I am more certain of the future of Curragh Inc.s operation in that community, I am not prepared to spend megabucks on the Chateau Jomini complex.
Question re: Bison, Carcross First Nation request regarding
Mr. Harding: I will be making a lot more representations about a lot more projects of the Minister, but I want to move on to another subject. I do not want to be accused of being a yappy dog, or anything like that.
Speaker: Order please. The Member may be accused of giving a preamble that is completely unrelated to the question he is about to ask.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will move directly to my preamble and my question.
I would like to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources a question about his favourite subject - the bison. The Minister said that the government explored every option, prior to farming out the bison. Yet, we have been made aware that the Carcross First Nation had been actively seeking the bison to keep them free-roaming.
If they explored every option as a government, why did they determine, only after farming them out, it was then the time to fly around seeing if the request was suitable?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The contract was advertised for two to three weeks. We had three inquiries. No one bothered to inquire. The terms of reference were laid down there, and we followed them. There was only one contractor who met the terms of reference.
Mr. Harding: With all due respect, that has nothing to do with the fact that the Carcross First Nation was asking for free-roaming options, which is something that the Minister said was a goal he shared, and that he was against having a new game farming licence.
I ask again: why did the Minister say that they explored every option, farmed out the bison and, then, said that they would explore the option presented by the Carcross First Nation to keep the bison free-roaming?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We never had any representation from the Carcross First Nation until after the contract had been let and signed.
Mr. Harding: In discussions with the Carcross First Nation, I was told that was not the case. They had many discussions with top officials in the department and with the Minister. I would like to ask him, on behalf of the Carcross First Nation, will he now very thoroughly investigate the option that they presented to him, in conjunction with him, to free-roam the bison? Will he commit to using that option to keep the bison free-roaming? If he does not, will he give them a detailed explanation as to why the proposal is not acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is really hard to figure out what is going on here. They are against ranching any game. Yet, now they are trying to get us to ranch game. I have made it very clear, right from the start, that these renegade buffalo will stay behind fences.
I have also offered them the first option, if they have the habitat, to get the first group of yearling buffalo that come out of there into their area, if the habitat is suitable.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 6 - First Appropriation Act, 1993-94 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 6, Department of Community and Transportation Services, Transportation Division.
Mr. Harding: I have gone back, after last nights answer to the question regarding the Campbell Highway, and investigated the operation and maintenance funding levels for that highway. Historically, I have to tell the Minister, the funding levels have been in the area of last years expenditure. Yesterday, when I asked the question about the big reduction, I was told that there has been, over the last year or two, big expenditures in gravel preparation in the Ross River area, but it appears that the funding has been significantly more for quite a long period of time.
Does the Minister have any further explanation as to why this would be the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The reduction this year - as compared to last year - is a total of $806,000. Maintenance activities are on the Tuchitua and Ross River sections, which is composed mainly of $50,000 less on resurfacing due to traffic counts and that is on the Campbell Highway from Ross River to Watson Lake.
There is $153,000 less being spent on resurfacing at Ross River; $50,000 less is being spent on resurfacing at Watson Lake; $56,000 less is being spent on crushing at Tuchitua; $70,000 less is being spent on brush and weed reduction; $176,000 less is being spent on winter crushing at Ross River. Any impact on the travelling public will be minimal, as routine maintenance will still be carried out.
Mr. Harding: That seems to be a fairly significant reduction in funding to the maintenance aspect of the Ross River/Watson Lake portions, often travelled by people from Ross River and many people from my community, and it does concern me.
Could the Minister explain why this highway was cut so drastically, while there are increases in other areas? Specifically, the Klondike Highway appears to have a major increase, as does the Tagish Road. Could the Minister explain why those roads were given higher priority, over and above the Campbell Highway?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The priorities have not changed. There is $176,000 for crushing at Ross River. When they set up for crushing, they crush for two or three years or longer, all at once. Naturally, a crushing contract will show up in one years budget, but in the following few years, it will not show up at all. There was $176,000 for Ross River and $56,000 at Tuchitua and then there was resurfacing done at Watson Lake. I am assuming that that was for the Sa Dena Hes haul on the first 50 kilometres just out of Watson Lake. Once the surfacing has been done, it is good for a couple or three years. I have been assured by the department that it will not have any impact at all on the travelling public.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell me the extent of the surface maintenance that was done on the Sa Dena Hes portion? I have travelled that road late in the construction year, and I saw the damage due to the weight of the ore trucks travelling on that road. The evidence that I saw indicated that it is not going to need a significant amount of resurfacing and maintenance work this year.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member may not have seen the resurfacing, depending upon what time of year he was there. With the trucks coming out of the Sa Dena Hes, the road goes down very quickly and the $50,000 for resurfacing would be a minimal amount that was spent on the road, last year. Depending on what day the Member was there, and depending upon whether they had been blading or not blading, it may very well appear that road was in bad shape.
There is going to be a requirement, at sometime in the future, to rebuild a lengthy section of that road to Sa Dena Hes.
Mr. Harding: It seems like there is some recognition from the Minister that that road does need a significant amount of maintenance. We seem to be banking on factors, for example, that trucks will not be rolling on that road and making it necessary to have higher levels of maintenance.
I have to ask the question again. I look at the Tagish Road. Perhaps in relation to that, the Minister could tell me why the funding would be cut back for the Campbell Highway while being increased for the Tagish Road. I am sure that all of these roads have some sort of crushing contract rolled into that figure. I do not think that is really a reason for justifying a cutback, which I look at as a clear difference in priorities.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Tagish Road is going to need some very major repair work on the BST, mainly because of the truck traffic on the road - and the overall traffic. On the Campbell Highway from Watson Lake to Ross River, the traffic count on that road during peak season was something like 42 cars per day. The traffic count was taken very near to Tuchitua camp. That included all the government vehicles. There is very little traffic on the Campbell Highway, as compared to the Tagish Road. Naturally, the more traffic that you have on a gravel surface, the higher maintenance costs you are going to have.
Mr. Harding: It pretty much establishes that the government made a conscious decision that it was a higher priority - between the Tagish Road and the Campbell Highway. I do not have any further questions on that.
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of questions. I understand we are going to be establishing some kind of meeting on highways, so I will leave a number of questions until then.
I want to ask a couple of questions about roads before we drop the item. In the classification of roads last night, the Minister was indicating that the rural roads maintenance policy was still in effect, suggesting that nothing was particularly going to change in this particular area. I know this is a very important activity for rural residents, having represented rural residents for 11 years. I do know that rural contractors do take this kind of expenditure very seriously because, for some people, this is a bread-and-butter type of activity for them.
Given that the description on page 52, the previous page in the main estimates book, tries to explain the decrease of approximately $300,000 in this item in the context of increased costs, would the Minister be prepared to provide something that is more descriptive of the activity taking place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The government has not changed the rural roads policy. We want to maintain that policy. I know what the Member opposite is talking about when he talks about the necessity of roads and also the fact that some contractors look at this as a means of livelihood. Some of the bigger items in the reduction of approximately $300,000 were a reduction on the Hunker-Granville Road resurfacing, as well as on the Aishihik Road and the Clinton Creek Road. Again, the impact on the travelling public will be minimal because regular grading will still be carried out - the same as other years.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister indicate whether normal maintenance activity - routine scheduled activity - including things like resurfacing, are continuing as planned or is there any effort here to cut back in the general level of activity from previous years for any other purpose that the Minister can identify? Is this what the Minister would call routine, or has there been any effort to save money in this area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, there has been some effort to save money. For instance, this winter we changed the shift schedules in some of the maintenance camps so that, instead of being on overtime, some of the crew members worked through the weekend and others had, say, Monday and Tuesday off, and others, had a Saturday and Sunday. There have been some efforts made to reduce expenditures in highway maintenance and these measures will continue to be taken without jeopardizing the travelling public to any great extent.
Mr. McDonald: I was not specifically referring to all highway maintenance. I was referring particularly to the departments efforts on Other Roads, roads other than the roads listed in the main estimates book. Is there any conscious effort to cut back activity in the Other Roads area, generally speaking, from that which existed in the past?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has not been any direction given by me to reduce the actual maintenance level on rural roads - no more so than on the Alaska Highway, the Klondike Highway or the Campbell Highway. However, there has been some reduction of maintenance on, for instance, the Clinton Creek Road, where it has been maintained for a number of years the same as if there were an operating mine there, which we all know is not the case. The department itself has reduced maintenance on that road somewhat, but again not to the extent that it would jeopardize the safety of the travelling public.
Mr. McDonald: I guess that we will have to keep an eye on the area over the course of the summer, because there are a lot of people in rural Yukon who do care very much about this particular activity and I am going to take the Ministers word that there is no general initiative to seek savings in highway maintenance by simply cutting back in roads not identified in the book. We will not really know until we have a seasons experience.
Could the Minister indicate, with respect to the Silver Trail, whether or not there is any cutback in planned maintenance activity for this particular road?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, there is not a cutback intended. There will be a little saving because of a BST resurfacing project near the Mayo airport last year, so it will not be necessary to do that again, so there will be less expenditure in the area, but there is no change in actual maintenance.
Mr. Joe: I would like to go back to the Klondike Highway. I did mention one section of the road to the Minister before.
Every year there is heavy traffic to Dawson City and the section of road that I was talking about is causing a lot of problems for many people travelling this road, between Midway and Tatchun.
The problem is that some sections of the road have hardly any shoulder and I brought this up with the previous Minister. This year it must be done. Now we have a new Minister so what does he plan to do, if anything, about the road?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: On the Klondike Highway - and this would include the area that the Member opposite is referring to - there will be just a little less than $2 million spent. Between Braeburn and Dawson there is 82 kilometres of BST surface that will be replaced. I believe that I know the section that the Member opposite is referring to and there is not much for shoulders. I am going by memory here, but I believe that there is a major reconstruction scheduled in there for future years, but not for this year. There is $2 million for resurfacing that whole section of road on the North Klondike.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister regarding the Two Mile Hill road and the improvements there. I would like to ask if the land has been purchased, or if there are more funds for that project in this budget. I would also like to ask him about the expected completion date on that project.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a capital project, but I can tell her that there were two pieces of property purchased - I will see if we can find the amounts.
Mr. McDonald: I have one last question of the Minister regarding a matter that was raised in the supplementaries about hiring personnel in Mayo. Were there positions recruited for the community of Mayo and was the recruitment team sent to Mayo to do the recruitment in Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, the recruitment team did not go to Mayo. I believe that there was one position for Mayo, but it was a recall of an auxiliary from the previous year.
I do have that information for the Member for Mount Lorne, if the Chair wishes me to give it now.
Regarding land costs - there are two pieces of property: the large parcel on the right-hand side as you are going up the hill belongs to White Pass, and that was approximately $600,000; and then there was the Doris parcel, which included a cash payment and another piece of land on the Alaska Highway near the Takhini River. An independent land appraiser appraised the lands, and it was agreed to by the people affected. The project should be completed by a year from this fall.
Mr. McDonald: Just as a follow-up to that question, I wonder if the Minister could give us the cash equivalent for the Doris property.
The Minister indicated that the position for Mayo was a recalled auxiliary. Was there recruitment done in Dawson for any positions in the Mayo area? Was anybody subsidized to go to Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will answer the Members second question first. No, there was no subsidy. By the time we talked about it and found out the cost and everything, it was all done. The recruitments were already made. There was no subsidy this year, and we are going to discuss it. We may come up with a policy. I am not promising anything, but we may come up with some sort of a policy to talk about subsidizing people. It could get completely out of hand, because people can apply anywhere they want, and I do not know if we would want to subsidize somebody to come from Dawson to Watson Lake to apply for a job. I am not sure if that is in our interests or not.
Anyway, it is something we will be discussing, and we will try and come up with some sort of policy on it.
On the Two Mile Hill issue, the Doris property was $25,000 plus a parcel of land at the Takhini River.
Mr. McDonald: I trust, on the question of recruitment, if the department attempted to recruit department positions and hold the interviews in Watson Lake, - as ludicrous as that might sound - they would consider the relocation. The issue regards relocation expenses for persons who have to leave the community in which the position is being recruited in order to go to another community for interviews at the convenience of the interviewers, rather than the people who are being interviewed. I hope that principle will be respected when the Minister considers the policy position.
Is the Doris property finally settled and signed off?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, my understanding is that it is completely settled.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know that we want to get these lines cleared, but those of us who are fortunate enough to represent rural ridings have a chance to ask about the highway maintenance in those areas.
In my travels as MLA through the riding of Mount Lorne in recent weeks, I have noticed that some roads maintained under the rural road maintenance program have been maintained adequately, while others have not been.
Would the Minister tell me when the Robinson subdivision road will be receiving some maintenance under this budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Because of the surface of that road, it is extremely difficult to maintain.
It is the responsibility of the Carcross road camp. The Carcross road camp conducts regular maintenance on the road. I am not sure what the exact schedule is, but it is a minimal maintenance road. I have not been on the road this spring so I do not know the condition of the road; however, it is in their regular maintenance routine and, when necessary, they will do the maintenance.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister represents a riding much like mine with many rural roads that need maintenance, so he understands what I am talking about when constituents say that roads need a bit of work.
Is there money in the budget for the resurfacing of the Robinson subdivision road, so that it is not so difficult to maintain?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I just learned a policy that I was not aware of. There is some capital monies in our budget to upgrade the Robinson Road. I was not aware of the policy whereby we did that, when in fact we sold the lots with no charge for roads on it. I was not aware that that policy was in effect, but apparently it is and we will respect it. There will be some capital money spent on the Robinson Road.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess I have to go back to my first question. I am quite pleased that there is some capital money to improve the base of the road, as well as some maintenance monies. When will some of that money be spent for the Robinson Road to be improved and maintained?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It will be put on the list of work for the Carcross camp, I would expect, and it will happen sometime this summer. I cannot tell you exactly when.
Mr. Harding: I have some questions regarding the Blind Creek Road in Faro. There was a significant amount of work done on that road. I am not entirely sure if the Minister could tell me if it was done through the community development fund or through the O&M and capital budget of Community and Transportation Services.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently the road was done under the RTAP. There was a sawmill out there at one time; apparently the person who had the sawmill is deceased. It was done under the RTAP by that person.
Mr. Harding: There is still sawmill work going on out there. Could I ask the Minister what the plans are for the upgrading or maintenance of that highway this coming year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It fits into one of the rural roads under the rural roads policy, which means that it does get minimal maintenance and is maintained out of the Ross River camp.
Mr. Harding: I would like to state to the Minister, by way of a representation, that it does need a fairly significant amount of maintenance every year. The spring runoff does significant damage to it, so I hope he will take that into consideration to ensure it receives adequate maintenance this year.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: On the rural roads, usually in the spring, because of washouts, runoff, and so on, the camps try to get out to maintain them in the spring. Remember, however, that they get minimal actual maintenance, so they will probably do maintenance in the spring and may not show up again until fall, just before freeze-up, depending on the availability of people, and so on.
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of questions regarding placer mining districts and placer mining roads. It is my understanding that the Yukon Party made the cognizant promise during the election campaign that they would do more work along those lines on placer mining district roads. Specifically, could the Minister tell me exactly what that is going to entail in this fiscal year, and how much that is going to cost Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The existing roads are already in our policy. That maintenance will not change. What we did try to do, and we were somewhat successful, was to try to open up some of them a little bit earlier this year. We will do that, depending on the spring. This year, where there was not as much snow as normal, we were lucky because they stayed open and did not drift in. We have had to be very conscious of all of our road projects, the same as we have had to be conscious in all areas in the department, to cut costs. We will not be spending massive amounts of money on any of the rural roads.
Mr. Harding: What is the estimated dollar figure for the increased efforts that the Minister has talked about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no increased cost.
Mr. Joe: Can the Minister tell me which we are talking about - sports or recreation roads?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that we are talking about recreation roads and that would fit under Other Roads, or rural roads. I am just trying to think of an example. The Kusawa Lake Road would be considered as a recreational road. The Kusawa Lake Road, I guess, gets a little better maintenance because of the traffic. Generally, it would have the same type of maintenance as a rural road.
Mr. Joe: Are we going to go line by line for each recreation road?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the Member opposite could tell me exactly which road he is concerned about, we might be able to help him a little more.
Mr. Joe: The Pelly Farm Road has a lot of problems in maintainance in the winter because of the glaciers. There is a farm up there where we can get vegetables and beef at any time in the winter, but there are a lot of problems with the glaciers. In some places there are no culverts and it melts all over the roads.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Pelly Farm Road is an extremely difficult road to maintain in the winter. There is absolutely no doubt about that. There was a glacier on the road this winter that was probably four feet high and went for three or four hundred yards. A mining outfit that is quite far back in there came out, dug the glacier out and got some equipment out; some people took some supplies in to the Pelly Farm and, within about three days, the road was all glaciated in again. What we are going to try to do this summer is to put in some drainage for the road, and we hope that will alleviate the glacier problem. If the glacier continues in there, we will only periodically open the road. We cannot keep it open because of the cost associated with it.
Mr. Joe: All they need to do is keep their culverts open in wintertime, and this will save the roads.
Once everything freezes, a small glacier keeps building and this is what causes all of the problems. It would not cost that much to at least look after some of them.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the Member opposite and I may disagree a little bit on the cost of steaming the culverts; it becomes very expensive.
I will get the department to look at what it would cost to do some drainage work that would, I hope, alleviate that glacier. I will also get an estimate of costs to keep the culvert open in winter; however, I do believe that is way beyond what we would be willing to spend.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the McLean Lake Road a Community and Transportation Services responsibility, or that of the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is the City of Whitehorses.
Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you. I will not ask the Minister about the maintenance schedule on that road, but I will ask the Minister to assist my colleague and I, who were asking about other roads in the riding.
Would the Minister bring back a list of the roads that are maintained, by riding, for us?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will provide a list of the rural roads that are maintained in the territory.
Amendment agreed to
Highway maintenance in the amount of $32,842,000 agreed to as amended
Airports in the amount of $2,345,000 agreed to
On Transport Services
Mr. McDonald: The Leader of the Official Opposition asked a question I am very interested in, during the supplementary estimates, with respect to the Motor Transport Boards annual report. The issue was the Carcross school bus service on page 6 of the report. In the Motor Transport Boards report, it indicates that the matter the board took upon itself to deal with - which was to determine whether or not the school bus service was regulated by them - was outside the jurisdiction of the Motor Transport Board. However, in the following sentence, the board writes in its annual report, In its written response to the Department of Justice on this matter, the Motor Transport Board stated that, had the Department of Education approached the registrar with a direct request for an exemption to the school bus regulations, the entire situation could have been avoided.
This is a contradiction because, according to the Motor Transport Boards own report, this issue is outside the jurisdiction of the board, which should never have been involved in the first place. It went on to say that the Department of Education should have sought an exemption anyway, and nothing would have happened.
Can the Minister indicate to us why they would have taken that position? I believe the position taken by the Department of Education was quite in order at the time it was taken, and I remember answering for the issue in the House on a number of occasions, but I was puzzled by the Motor Transport Boards activities in this particular situation, and I am even more puzzled now that I see their report and its conclusions.
Would the Minister care to give us his thoughts on the matter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I must apologize. When the Leader of the Official Opposition gave me notice of that particular question, I did look at it, but I do not have any notes with me now. I am also quite puzzled by the statement made in the report, but I have not checked into it. I will get that information and bring it back during this sitting.
Mr. McDonald: I would appreciate that. I have taken a very special interest in this particular subject.
I would like to ask the Minister a minor question respecting the revenue recoveries and statistics in the main estimates book. The statistics on page 56 under the Motor Transport Board show the identification plates in force going up and the activities basically remaining the same. Certainly, the numbers in terms of the identification in force show a fairly modest increase of approximately a couple of hundred. If the Minister would turn to the revenue recoveries on page 66, he will see, under Commercial Vehicle Licences, the expectation that the estimated revenue will drop by a couple of hundred thousand, or so.
Can the Minister indicate why that might be the case? If we expect more I.D. plates in force, less recovery, I do not understand the reason for that. There is also the expectation that private vehicle licences will produce less revenue than they have in the past. Does the Minister expect there to be fewer cars on the road, or is he going to lower the fees for licence plates in the coming year? What does that signal, or does that signal anything?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: On page 66, the forecast for 1992-1993 was an overestimation. The forecast was over by approximately $282,000. I will see if I can get the information on the other one.
Mr. McDonald: I just noticed that the mains show an estimate of $681,000. It is interesting that the forecast on the update could be so wildly out of sync with the reality. Maybe it is just a typo. Could the Minister give us the information on the commercial vehicle licences?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The commercial vehicle licences are the ones where the estimate was out approximately just under $300,000. The actual for 1992-93 was less than the forecast, so 1993-94 was changed to reflect that more accurate number.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the Minister could come back at some other time with the information. I just find it puzzling. I do not have any ulterior motives for asking the question.
There were two questions basically. There were the private vehicle licences, which show expected recoveries. On page 66, private vehicle licences seem to drop from last year to this year, and normally one would think that, if those forecasted estimates were correct and if there was any rationale for it, the number of licences being requested would go down, meaning fewer cars, or that the fees would go down. I do not think either of those possibilities are, in fact, realistic, so there must be some other reason for the numbers.
In commercial vehicle licences, the question was why they appeared to go down, and the Minister indicated that the forecast was some $200,000 out of line with the forecast.
The main estimates here show a forecast for commercial vehicle licences of $1,228,000. It seems puzzling as to why it would be updated to be much, much higher and then basically drop down to the original estimate again. I do not know the reason for that. Maybe the Minister could tell us.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have all of the information with us, so we will get back to the Member opposite with it.
Transport Services in the amount of $2,729,000 agreed to
Transportation Division in the amount of $39,881,000 agreed to as amended
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister that I believe is related to the municipal and community affairs, and it is in regard to lot 256 in Judas Creek. I have a constituent who had some problems with her basement flooding this spring.
Officials from the department came out and took a look at the flooding. There are some culverts running under the highway and, because of the water courses, she was pumping thousands of gallons of water out of her basement day after day. She was requesting that something be done so that she does not have to go through the same thing next spring.
Apparently the department, as a result of its report, is suggesting that she pay for a backhoe to come in and dig a trench at the back of the property, which would leave the neighbours land to flood instead. I do not really see that as much of a solution. I would like to ask the Minister if he can assist with resolution of this problem.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know of this particular problem, and I certainly would not make any promises in the House unless I knew the circumstances. If there was a change in the drainage that was caused by the highways people, then I think there would be some responsibility. However, if there has been no change caused by the highways personnel, I do not see where the Yukon government would have any responsibility for the problem.
I will look into it and, if the Member wishes, I will come back and give the Member the results of my findings.
Ms. Moorcroft: As for it being a change, it has been a longstanding problem; it is just that the flooding has been worse this year than in other years. Whether that is because of additional snowfall or runoff, I am not sure - it is a longstanding problem. I think that the Minister would find that there is some responsibility for the department if it is the way the culverts are installed that is creating the flood.
I also have a question for the Minister about signage on the Judas Creek/Constabulary Beach area. Is this the appropriate place to discuss that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If it is road signage, I suppose this is the place to discuss it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, it is road signs. The Marsh Lake Community Club is working with the department to have road signs put up in the Judas Creek/Constabulary Beach area. That is basically the area that is covered by the Lakeside volunteer fire protection service. I wonder if the Minister could give me an idea of the time schedule for completion of that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have the department take a look at it, and we will get back to the Member.
On Assistant Deputy Ministers Office
Assistant Deputy Ministers Office in the amount of $169,000 agreed to
Mr. Harding: Could I get a breakdown of this expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The O&M comparison with the previous year for the lands branch is a decrease of $81,000 from 1992-93 to 1993-94; $56,000 due to expiry of the land liaison officer term position, rental expense was reduced by $15,000, and there was a $7,000 reduction in contract services. That is basically it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask what the Minister sees as the role of government in developing land.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a fairly broad question, and perhaps I will just give a little overview of it.
In the municipalities, we are encouraging the municipalities to take over some land development; for instance, the development of country residential lots, where there is not a lot of infrastructure - water and sewer, and that sort of thing - where it is basically road construction, power and telephone, and that sort of thing. We are encouraging most of the municipalities to take that on themselves. In the City of Whitehorse, what we would like to see over a period of time is for the city to take on most of the land development within the city. In a place like Dawson or Watson Lake, if they wanted to take on some urban type serviced lots, we would certainly help them do that. In the unincorporated communities, there is no one else to do the land development, and we will probably continue on doing it. We also would look at private developers but, because we sell land at development cost, the private developers are not really all that excited about taking on land development projects.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can I ask the Minister how much land they think they will actually develop and/or lapse this year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think we went through this in general debate to quite some length yesterday. We talked about the Arkell subdivision, where we have 102 lots that will be coming onstream this summer. There are 60, I believe, in Logan phase 1, and 66 in Logan phase 2. Those are urban residential lots.
What has to happen is that we have to do a bit of a juggling act - and I am more or less repeating myself from yesterday - to determine what is a requirement for next year and what is an overabundance. That becomes fairly difficult.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the City of Whitehorse told the Yukon government that it wants to be the land developer in Hillcrest D?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, they have not.
Ms. Moorcroft: So this would not be likely to take place then.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No.
Ms. Moorcroft: What time frame would the government be looking at in phasing itself out of land development in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have no idea; it is something that will probably take some time. One of the problems that we would have to address is funding.
If we went ahead with all of the lots that are anticipated in the City of Whitehorse, I believe it would come to over $20 million. The city could not afford to carry that kind of inventory - actually, neither can the Yukon government - so I do not think that the city will take on full responsibility for land development for some time, although I would be interested in sitting down with the city and talking about various means of helping them fund some sort of land development schemes.
Ms. Moorcroft: My concern is for the first-time property owner. When they buy land from the government for the development cost, it would be more affordable than if the city were also making a profit from the land. Does the Minister believe the land will be affordable if the city adds another $5,000 or $10,000 to the new lots that are developed and sold?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the Member is getting at. I guess she is saying that the city would want to make a profit on their land development, and maybe they would; I do not know.
The Yukon government sells land at development cost, except sometimes they have sold it for a lot less than development costs, but generally, the policy is that we will sell it for development cost.
Ms. Moorcroft: The other concern I have regarding land that is sold and developed by the government, rather than by private developers or municipalities, is that the quality of the neighbourhood can be affected by that. People certainly prefer to live in a neighbourhood where there are playgrounds, public use land, recreational trails and that kind of thing. Does the Minister also support that concept of land use?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I do.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Kwanlin Dun told the Yukon government that it wants to get into the land development business, as the city may do, and sell lots within the City of Whitehorse, or even outside of it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am sorry, but I missed the first part of the question.
Ms. Moorcroft: I asked if the Kwanlin Dun had communicated with the government that it wanted to get into the land development business, like the city, and what the Yukon government response to that might be.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When the land claims are completed, the Kwanlin Dun will have the ability to develop land on their own land, and to do the land development as they choose.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, the Minister seemed to be enjoying his little test about the official community plan and the bylaw he had signed. I have a few more questions regarding that. The bylaw the Minister signed contained an amendment requiring the adoption of an area development scheme. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Ms. Moorcroft: Neither the Yukon Municipal Board, nor the people who intervened and made presentations to the original official community plan amendment in 1989, were made aware of that amendment. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Yukon Municipal Board had approved the amendment in about 1990.
Ms. Moorcroft: There was an additional amendment made requiring the adoption of an area development scheme, which was done in March 1993. When a great deal of time, effort and trouble has been put into the hearing process by residents and the Municipal Board, then a change is proposed by way of an amendment to the city bylaw, neither the Municipal Board nor the residents were made aware of this. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is not necessarily correct. Possibly they were not notified officially. I am not sure whether the city notified them, or not.
Ms. Moorcroft: The amendment is made to the bylaw, and then the Minister signs the bylaw and it goes to third reading, without either the Yukon Municipal Board or the residents having gotten wind of it - is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I just answered that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not believe that the residents or the Yukon Municipal Board were aware of that. Perhaps I will ask the Minister if he believes that due process was followed in this situation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I do believe that due process was followed.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the Minister were in the shoes of the residents for a minute, would he feel that he had been treated fairly by the city or by the Yukon government in this situation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I would have. All that was stopping the previous bylaw from being approved was the lack of the Ministers signature. If the city had pushed the signing of that bylaw, and possibly gone to court, the Ministers decision could have very easily been overturned. With the area development scheme that is now included, it establishes a process for consultation that was not there before this amendment.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister believe that all of the requirements of the Municipal Act have been followed in this matter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I do.
Ms. Moorcroft: Specifically, section 301.1 of the Municipal Act requires that all amendments to the official community plan go to the Municipal Board. Can the Minister confirm that that was followed exactly and correctly?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Municipal Board - I do not have the bylaw in front of me, so I am at a bit of a disadvantage - did approve the bylaw amending the official community plan.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister aware of a possible legal interpretation that, as the bylaw was amended in the middle of the process that the amendment to the bylaw, not the official community plan, should have been referred to the Municipal Board and that the people who intervened at the hearing in 1989 have a case that says they ought to have been consulted about the amendment to the bylaw?
The law relates to the right of people to a fair hearing and to have a say in matters that affect them, and to have the right to have a say in changes in something that they intervened in.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the Member opposite would provide me with the document that she is reading from, I could comment.
Ms. Moorcroft: What I have is the bylaw, which I can send over to be copied for the Minister. The bylaw outlines the schedule of introduction, first reading, public notices and so on.
The amendment that I am concerned about was made on April 13, 1993. Has the Minister had officials from the Department of Justice advise the Department of Community and Transportation Services of a possible point of law - that the bylaw he signed could be illegal?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I have not.
Ms. Moorcroft: Last night, the Minister was not 100 percent clear on what the proper land use was in the McLean Lake area now that the official community plan has been changed.
At the time, we were discussing how many outstanding squatter applications there were and whether it was possible for them to still be zoned country residential, like their neighbours, when the Minister has just signed a bylaw that is only urban residential. Has the Minister found out this information and can he bring us up to date?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure what information the Member is after. First, she said that I was not aware of what the OCP said, and then she asked another question. What question is the Member opposite asking me?
Ms. Moorcroft: Is it still possible for outstanding squatter applications to be zoned country residential like their neighbourhoods, although the bylaw that has just been signed talks about urban residential development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That information I will be bringing back to the Member, as I indicated yesterday.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will ask the Minister, then, to bring back as well an assurance from the city, or a legal opinion, that states that the current squatter applications that have yet to receive their zoning could indeed be zoned country residential.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I said yesterday that I was not going to comment on all of those squatters, because there are some who do have an application in progress and I am not going to say that all squatters in the McLean Lake area are going to be satisfied with the process because I do not know that. So I will not make that assumption in this House.
Ms. Moorcroft: Last night, the Minister said the consultation process required before an area development scheme is adopted by the city is more rigid than anything we have had before. I understand that. However, the Minister gave a commitment in this House on April 20 to consult with residents before he proceeded. Just where will that consultation with residents take place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is quoting inaccurately. If she reads Hansard she will find that I said, if there was a change in the zoning. I said that three times in the House.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has also acknowledged that he recognizes that this bylaw does provide for additional land uses that were not in the previous zoning. It provides for low density, medium density and high density residential. It provides for commercial zoning, and it provides for public and community services, parks and recreational facilities and public transit services. There is quite a change and I think the Minister should keep the commitment that he made to the residents - that he wanted to consult with them - or at least acknowledge that what he told the House earlier was wrong.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What I told the House previously was not wrong. I said that if there was a change in zoning that changed their lifestyle, I would consult with them. There has been no change in zoning. Maybe the Member opposite should get someone that is a community planner to explain the difference between an official community plan and a zoning bylaw.
Lands in the amount of $1,064,000 agreed to
On Public Safety
Public Safety in the amount of $1,286,000 agreed to
On Sport and Recreation
Sport and Recreation in the amount of $1,432,000 agreed to
On Community Services
Mr. Harding: In this line is contained the amount for the grants to municipalities and our caucus is extremely concerned about the cut from last years funding in the municipal grant or block funding to the communities. We are very concerned about the direction that the new government appears to be taking in regard to a fair and equitable system for the distribution of funding to the communities so that locally elected officials can have some self-determination in what they perceive as the priorities. We feel that the decision was not justified and we would like some explanation from the Minister as to why they made this decision to cut back this very important funding.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The cut to the block funding was not in fact a cut; it was exactly what the legislated amount is set at. It was returned to the legislated amount because we were trying to balance budgets and we were looking at every item in the budget.
Mr. Harding: The supplementaries produced a $12,101,026 forecast for 1992-93. The 1993-94 estimate comprehensive municipal grant was $11,470,167, which indicates to me that we have cut back from last years forecast. I think that, in and of itself, constitutes a very serious step backwards. The government has made the claim that they do not have the money to fund this program. I would suggest that government has decided that this is not a priority.
They have found money for other things that I would consider to be of a questionable nature, with regard to priority. There are a number of things in this budget that certainly illustrate that it is not a question of not having the money, it is a question of the priority. I believe that to be the case, without question, in my mind and the mind of our caucus. In terms of priorities, rather than the overall economic argument that he had decisions to make, could the Minister indicate why this was not considered a funding priority in terms of increasing the funding, or at least maintaining the funding of the previous year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is sort of like having your cake and eating it too. Somewhere we had to cut. I have listened to the Members opposite for weeks telling us that we should not have cut here, we should not have cut there. I do not know that there is an item here that has been cut that we should have cut, according to the Members opposite. In fact, if we would go along with the Members opposite and put in, in each case, the amounts that they think that we should, we would probably have a $1.5 billion budget.
We had to do some very hard decision making and cut some programs that we really and truly did not want to, but we did not have much choice. We had to balance the budget. The amount that we took back from the capital block funding is to the legislated amount. That is what is in the legislation. I was a municipal manager for a number of years. I was the mayor of one of our municipalities for some time. I know the problems that municipalities have. It certainly was not one of the things that any one of us on this side liked to do, but we looked at the whole department and that was one of the areas that had to be cut, and it was.
Mr. Harding: I could not find a less appealing argument to receive from the Minister than the one he just made.
The Minister must have lots of money in this budget, because he just found $1.8 million in this fiscal year for the Dawson water and sewage system. By checking under the mattress, he said that he could cut another $399,000 from what was supposedly a tight budget.
The main emphasis of the criticism of this budget has been on the taxation side and the fact that the taxation, in our opinion, is unnecessary. There are certain key elements that our caucus would consider priorities, and one is the block funding. For example, could the Minister tell us why the money - to the extent it has been budgeted for the Klondike Highway - would be a greater priority than at least maintaining the level of funding, which is key to maintaining the principle of block funding. It is more of a priority.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It seems strange to me that the Member opposite was berating us a short time ago for reducing some expenditures on the Campbell Highway, and now he is berating us for reducing the block funding for municipalities. His colleague was berating us for the Klondike Highway being in bad shape, and now he is saying we should reduce expenditures on the Klondike Highway so that we can increase block funding.
We had a very hard decision to make and we made that decision. Unfortunately, it resulted in a slight increase to the capital block funding.
The other thing that I would like to point out is that the grant-in-lieu of taxes has been increased for this year and the home owners grant has been increased for this year.
Mr. Harding: If the government would have allowed us to do the budget for them, I am sure our priorities would have been clearly indicated. One of those priorities would have been to maintain the previous level of block funding.
I think that berating is an excessive word, but I think they made a bad decision when they decided to cut back on the Campbell Highway.
As the Minister is aware, the extent of the commitment this year to the Klondike is a large one. I asked the Department of Economic Development for a cost-benefit analysis on the expenditure sometime ago while we were in supplementary Economic Development estimates and about some of the other roadwork that was planned, and I have yet to receive that information.
I do feel that I am in a bit of a quandary as to the justification that the government has to make for these claims and that these are their priorities when they have not completed the cost-benefit analysis, to determine whether or not it is a more effective expenditure of the taxpayers money.
There is no question that, when we talk about municipalities on a project basis, and the Minister gets up in Question Period and says that the previous government did not commit enough to Whitehorse sewer, even though they made substantial commitments, then says the previous government did not commit enough to the Dawson water and sewer, and then says we have to cut funding to the block funding program, in part to pay for these other greater promises that the new government has made to these two projects, what you have is a movement away from the principles of self-determination in the communities, back to project financing on a community-by-community basis. That is a very scary prospect for this territory. I know, from talking to the people I know in my community and others in municipal government, and also the Association of Yukon Communities - which, incidentally, has passed a resolution, making a point to tell the government that this is going to be very difficult for them - that they will find it to be very difficult. They are concerned about the direction in which this government is going. Yes, they did criticize the previous government for not committing enough on a project-by-project basis, specifically the Whitehorse sewer, but at least the previous government held true to the principle of block funding.
Now, the new government is moving back, moving away, moving toward project-by-project financing and having to go hat in hand to the Minister. Quite possibly, the political stripe the community elected officials carry may have some bearing on whether or not they will access any funding. That is not fair and equitable, and we disagree wholeheartedly with it.
If I could, under the parliamentary system, I would be moving an amendment to restore this to the 1992 levels. Apparently I do not have the jurisdiction to do that.
However, without question, this is a very scary prospect for this territory and I strongly urge the government to reinstate the block funding to the 1992 level, so the communities can continue to receive their funding on a fair and equitable basis and have some real authority in local decision making and determining priorities on a local basis. That is essential to having a territory that respects all communities and municipalities and does not play to the favouritism or open things up for political gain to be made by one party that wants to form the government and takes very favourable positions on municipal capital projects, or in areas where municipalities want extra funding.
When they get in power, they find that they have to make good on these. Where do they cut from right away? They cut from block funding. If the municipalities, through good fiscal management, are able to get some not excessive, but rainy day, accounts in reserve, it seems that this new government wants to take the policy that you cannot have those rainy day accounts. If you have those accounts at high levels, then obviously we are giving you too much money, and we are going to have to cut back.
The thing that it is ironic about that attitude of this new government is that they talk so much about money in the bank and accumulated surpluses, and that is the exact same predicament that they will find themselves in with the federal government, if the accumulated surplus is too big, when they do go into formula financing negotiations. I would strongly urge that the government reinstate the funding of the municipalities through the block funding to 1992 levels.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to make three comments.
It seems strange that, today, the Member opposite would go on and on about allowing and encouraging the municipalities to look after themselves, but the government should be providing them with more money in order for them to do that, when yesterday, right in this House, he was asking me to provide a couple of vehicles for the Town of Faro.
What is the Member talking about when he says project by project? Is that not project by project?
If the Member wants to talk about the previous government getting into project by project, I can probably name a dozen extra projects that were supposed to be covered by block funding that were not. A good example would be the Teslin pumphouse, and I could name many more examples.
Anyway, it is not a matter of greater promises; it is a matter of greater need. Where is the need? If the Member is talking about constructing buildings or some type of fancy skating rink, let us look at water and sewer, which is one of the basic needs in this territory. That is what we have to look at, and we have to devote funds to that type of a project.
Chair: The Committee will now take a brief recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Harding: I welcome this opportunity after the recess to respond to the Minister in this debate regarding the reinstatement of the 1992-93 levels of the block funding grants to the municipalities.
I guess the major difference now is the major funding to the big pet projects the Yukon Party has talked about making - $25 million maximum for Whitehorse water and sewer and now $5.5 million for the Dawson problem over three years, which apparently is their commitment to that project at this point, even though they backed out on the deficit grant.
These projects are being undertaken - and there was commitment by the previous administration to undertake them - at the expense and principle of block funding. That is the issue, and that is the problem.
The Minister can stand up and shake his finger about a couple of vehicles. First of all, I did not ask for a couple of vehicles. I asked for a vehicle for the Faro volunteer fire department and some building space for the emergency response organizations. He could say that it is a municipal responsibility. That is fine. But, how many of these responsibilities will the municipalities be able to fund if the block funding is cut? How can he say that these are municipal responsibilities when the principles of block funding are attacked?
It makes absolutely no sense. The town cannot afford to do these things, so they simply make the request that, if there was some way that the territorial government could do it, then they should do it and, on the issue of space, if there is some space available, could the Minister provide it? That is a far cry from wanting to overstep the principles of the block funding. That is an absolutely different ball game. As a matter of fact, it directly relates because, by eroding their ability to handle this jurisdiction, they no longer can accomplish and meet the needs and requests of the community. These are two clear cases where the town has said, We cannot help you, so it falls on the territory.
I do not expect to get every request of that nature, but the fact is that the Minister only makes it worse for himself when block funding is cut, because it certainly justifies, in my mind, the municipalities requests for extra projects outside the block funding arrangement, without question.
The Minister talked about projects of greater need. In whose mind, and who makes that decision now - political strategists during the election campaign - the Minister who comes out of that procedure? That is what is happening here. In the Ministers mind, greater need is the need that he determines is greater. Is that fair? Is that equitable? Can that somehow be a subjective approach? I say that it can. I say that the Minister, who may be more concerned about one particular problem in one particular community, will have a tremendous impact on the equitability of this system. The erosion of this block funding is a terrible tragedy for this territory. I see this new government moving back to project-by-project capital requests by communities, which are going to seriously undermine the principles of block funding. I do not think that anyone in the communities is in favour of it.
Of course, they may be happy if they receive some of this extra funding on a project-by-project basis from the Minister, but I can say that there are a lot of communities, based on what I have seen so far, that are going to miss out.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Over time, the Member opposite will probably read the legislation and get a better understanding of it. What he was talking about, with the building and the van, was totally against the principle of the legislation, whereas the sewage lagoon in Whitehorse and the sewer system in Dawson are in keeping with the Municipal Finance Act legislation for extraordinary grants.
The greater need is not based on my preference, by any stretch of the imagination; it is determined by the municipality. It certainly was not anyone on this side of the House who told Dawson City that they needed a new sewer system. They came to us, hat in hand, saying we need to do something about this because they were turned down by the previous government.
Mr. McDonald: I feel that I have to intervene here, because I think the Minister is talking absolute nonsense, and I am very disappointed in the Ministers response to this question, given that the Member was, I thought, speaking as an official who had worked in that department for many, many years. I think my trust in him may have been misplaced.
The principle of capital block funding is to allow municipalities to decide their own priorities over the long term - it is not for the Minister to be making grand speeches in the Legislature about what is and what is not important. He is supposed to provide the municipalities - those elected officials - with the opportunity to decide for themselves what should happen in their communities.
The principle of block funding, which I know so well because I debated the issue in this Legislature, talked about projects being two and one-half times greater than the eligible annual grant, for the purposes of an extraordinary grant.
The understanding quite clearly was that these extraordinary grants would not come, as the Minister has expressed, at the expense of the block fund. This was discussed at great length with mayors and municipalities when the system was devised in the first place, and the Minister should know that.
The whole idea was that if there were extraordinary grants being taken from the block fund, then clearly the planning process would become one where the most effective political debater and lobbyist among the municipalities would be able to see their large projects undertaken, and they would do that at the expense of other municipalities, who perhaps were not so politically adept at getting their way with the Minister or the government-of-the-day.
That was a principle. I stood in this Legislature for years, listening to the Members colleagues state, year after year, that the block fund should grow in proportion to the transfer payment from the federal government, the argument being that, if the transfer payment was growing by six or seven percent, then the block fund should grow by six or seven percent. No matter what we might have said at the time, if we had proposed to offer the communities something less than the transfer payments, we were criticized for it.
The transfer payment this year shows an increase of 14 percent. I know the Members opposite do not trade very much on consistency, but I would tell them that, if they did, they would have to expect to be kicked around a bit for not having raised the block fund to the junior level of government, which they were so sanctimonious about when they were in Opposition, by 14 percent.
This particular Member really bugs me, because he says, over and over again, that the Yukon government did nothing to support the water and sewer system in Dawson. What an outrageous statement to make, given the millions of dollars of capital funds that were dedicated to that project for years, during the period when even I was Minister of that same department.
This was a project that was devised by the Members colleagues and the Members party in the first place. For him to come back now and say they are trying to rectify a wrong that was created essentially by the creature of the Yukon Party, or the old PCs, is outrageous.
When the Member talks about special extra projects that we have undertaken in the past, those extra projects - like the Teslin pumphouse - were done in the context of increasing block funding. The block fund was increasing in those years. They were not done at the expense of block funding, and the Member knows that.
I do not know about the vehicles in Faro. I think it is a red herring and, if it did offend the principles of the block funding, then that is a mistake made. Let me tell the Minister this: his approach now of saying that the principles of block funding are still inviolate, that he is still protecting them and, at the same time, announcing that he is decreasing the block fund because there are other more important projects, directly offends the principles of block funding. There is absolutely no question in everybodys mind except the Ministers.
What is really, really aggravating is to have to listen to that from the person who was ostensibly speaking on behalf of this department for years on this subject.
The Association of Yukon Communities has asked that the block funding not be jeopardized. They have asked because they believe that the original signal that was to be sent was that governments would trust decision making to duly elected officials in the communities. If the communities wanted to put that money into water and sewer, public health or recreation facilities, this Legislature would no longer pass judgment on their priorities, unless they wanted to do something that was greater than, or beyond what, the block fund allowed.
I am absolutely shocked at the discussion that is taking place in this Legislature today, based on what Members said in the past about the principles of block funding. Even when I was on the other side of the House, I have never heard a Member in the House challenge the principle. We have had long discussions about the principles of block funding in this Legislature and not once did the Yukon Party Members, when they were in Opposition, ever challenge the principle. They not only did not challenge it, they acted as the most firm lobbyist for it.
If we had come into this Legislature with such a massive increase in total budgetary expenditures and such a large increase in federal transfer payment, and then had shown a decrease to the junior level of government, showing no respect for their needs, wishes, planning processes and their elections, we would have been roasted.
To listen to the Ministers defence today, taking on the previous governments record on not only municipal funding, but services to, and projects for, communities is an outrage. Based upon the record of the government before, versus its predecessor - in respect to services to First Nation communities, Dawson City, Watson Lake, Teslin, Mayo, Haines Junction, Faro and all the communities - criticizing that record is outrageous. I would love to hear the Ministers further remarks but we are going to be bogging down on this subject - whether the Minister is kind, gentle or not - because I have heard about all I am going to hear on it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would also like to finish this debate, but there are a couple of things that I cannot let go by that the Member opposite has talked about. Number one - and I was not even going to get into this - the funding that came in 1985 was far different from the funding that accrued to the Yukon government before 1985. There was lots of money around from 1985 until now, when inflation and everything else has more or less caught up. Prior to 1985, there was very little money available for municipalities, or anyone else in the territory. I was a municipal manager for several of those years.
I am not challenging the principle of block funding. I agree with block funding. Maybe the Member opposite does not remember that there were numerous discussions about what would happen when we were going to need numerous dollars at some point in the future when we had to replace the Whitehorse sewage lagoon. For years we have known that there was going to be a huge expenditure in the City of Whitehorse. We also know that there are going to be huge expenditures in Carcross. There are going to be huge expenditures in Ross River. Carmacks is going to need some sort of a sewage treatment facility. We knew all of that when block funding was developed. We thought at the time that there was no way that the municipalities were going to be able to afford this.
Right now, if there is an extraordinary infrastructure that costs one-and-a-half times the annual grant, then the government will look at funding that. The money has to come from somewhere. Where the heck is the money going to come from? We have got some very major infrastructure projects that are going to be going on for the next three or four years - maybe more than that. I also would like to get away from this particular section.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to point out a couple of things to the Minister.
First of all, I was making direct comparisons to the block funding of the last few years where the block fund was increasing, even when it was rolled together with the operations funding. At the same time, extraordinary grants were taking place, not at the expense of block funding, but at the expense of other capital programming. That is the first point.
Second of all, whether the Minister likes it or not, we absolutely believe that the Minister is challenging the very principle, the very foundation and the very guts of block funding. He is challenging it by his actions - maybe not by his words, but by his actions.
This is the first time that I have ever heard that we will be looking for the Whitehorse sewage lagoon funding to be primarily taken out of the block funding to municipalities. That was not anyones understanding.
If you were to go to the Village of Mayo, the Village of Teslin, Watson Lake, or if you were to go to visit Peter Jenkins in Dawson City, I am certain that I know what Peter Jenkins would say if the Minister were to announce that the block funding for all of the communities would have to be cut back substantially for a few years while we found the money for the Whitehorse sewage lagoon.
I know precisely what he would say, and he would also say that it was not part of the original understanding of block funding at all.
This budget is a big budget. This budget has a lot of money in it. There is every bit the flexibility that the previous government had - and more - to undertake projects, and we faced a lot of criticism for not having completed various projects that the Members opposite wanted.
To hear the Minister say this afternoon that our requests to date would add up to a billion and one-half dollars is ludicrous, particularly in the context of the previous budget debates that have taken place in the past.
When the representative for Watson Lake asked for an extended care facility, and when other Members wanted the Whitehorse sewage lagoon and all of those other things, were they telling the government-of-the-day that it did not have enough money to afford these things? Of course not.
We do disagree with a number of areas in this budget.
There is no question about that, but for the Member to plead poverty - that there is only $483 million and only $129 million in capital - is ridiculous. I remember we spent hours and hours on the debate about the growth in the transfer payment and how, if we had even an ounce of respect for municipalities, we would raise the municipal funding by the same amount as we received from the federal government. Is that completely forgotten? Certainly, the money has to come from somewhere but, when the Members opposite made their promises about the money for the Whitehorse sewage lagoon, what were they thinking? Of course it has to come from somewhere, and the priorities are difficult.
I just do not understand this Ministers approach at all.
I would like to ask the Minister about another subject - First Nations communities. Is it the Ministers intention to continue to support community works in communities that are unorganized, but which are governed by a First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will get to the Ministers question in just a minute. I have to respond. There is no way that the Whitehorse sewage lagoon could possibly be funded out of the decrease in block funding. We are talking around $500,000, compared to somewhere over $20 million, but I guess we could have carried on. We can carry on, and spend and spend, and we can spend $58 million more than we take in. Then, what kind of a deficit situation would we be into? We have decided not to do that. Unfortunately, some programs have to be cut back somewhat.
Anyway, we have no intention of not continuing to fund unorganized, unincorporated communities, whether they be Indian band communities or non-Indian band communities.
Mr. McDonald: Where does this Minister get off saying there is a $58 million deficit? This is the same Minister who announced that there are major lapses in his department, and the same Minister who had to admit, under some cross-examination, that there was padded budgeting in the supplementary estimates. Of all the Ministers on the front bench, this Minister should be the last to try to make that political case.
The Minister of Education says there is $1.4 million more, because he forgot to put it in the budget. The Minister of Education said there was a problem, he could not explain the problem and, when I asked him what his solution was, he could not even explain what he had done to solve the problem.
So, this Minister does not have anything to say about it, either.
Chair: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please.
Mr. McDonald: Dishonest? You are the liar.
Chair: Order please.
I would ask the Members not to use abusive or insulting language, please.
Mr. McDonald: Agreed.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services had indicated that there have been, and were, discussions about what would have to happen to block funding in the event there were large expenditures for municipal infrastructure.
He made it seem very clear that we must challenge the principle of block funding, and that we must eat into the basic block fund in order to accommodate the additional expenditures that might be incurred for large projects.
We have only budgeted $700,000 for the Whitehorse water and sewer system, so I do not expect to see major cuts in the municipal infrastructure grants, even considering the Ministers comments about planning to do that.
Judging from what has happened so far this afternoon, the Minister will know precisely what is going to happen if there are major cuts in block funding in order to accommodate the Whitehorse water and sewer system, because that was never said to anyone. Nobody ever heard that there was going to be up to $26 million worth of expenditures on the Whitehorse water and sewer and that, basically, the ratepayers in all the municipalities were going to have to pay for it, because the block funding was going to be cut.
Nobody ever heard that. That is why we have sessions after elections, so that we can discover precisely what election promises mean - the things that get people elected. I am happy to hear that the Minister is not planning to change the situation with respect to unincorporated communities and communities that are governed by Indian bands.
Community Services in the amount of $17,568,000 agreed to
On Municipal Engineering
Municipal Engineering in the amount of $752,000 agreed to
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $22,271,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $64,703,000 agreed to as amended
Chair: We will move on to capital.
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Emergency Measures
On Emergency Measures
Emergency Measures in the amount of $479,000 agreed to
On Computing Equipment and Systems
Computing Equipment and Systems in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On VHF System Replacement
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell us whether or not this capital expenditure completes the VHF system replacement, and if there are any other further expenditures contemplated over the next few years in this particular program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My information is that this is the final phase of the project for the Dempster Highway, and I believe that should be the final phase of the whole VHF, other than replacement equipment.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that the Dempster Highway was completed under this program, and the systems through to Inuvik have been approved, and this is the capital for that purpose?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to get the information and bring it back to the Member opposite.
VHF System Replacement in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Mobile/Portable Replacement
Mobile/Portable Replacement in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Community TV and Radio
Mr. McDonald: I wonder if the Minister could tell us what the plans are for this line.
I think that the Minister agreed that he would come back during supplementaries, if I am not mistaken, and tell us what the plans were for providing second channels for television in the communities.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Community television and radio consists of highway radio broadcasting coverage. There is $60,000 to upgrade existing television sites to include FM radio and equipment replacement, and $50,000 to replace modulators, transmitters and receivers installed in the mid to late 1970s. Basically, this is an upgrading, but I do not have the information on the second channel, and I will have to bring it back to the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: The department has been pursuing a project of providing radio coverage for major highways.
I think they have had difficulty getting the funding in the past. Is that what this funding is for, in part?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure how the funding works on this. I will have to bring it back for the Member.
Community TV and Radio in the amount of $110,000 agreed to
On Computing Equipment and Systems
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister provide a breakdown on this computing equipment and where it is going to be used?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It includes the acquisition of two workstations and related software, DOS, WordPerfect, dBase II and Windows, to enhance the efficiency and the delivery of programs. The existing workstations in the Carcross office are out of date and do not have the 3.5-inch disc drive, which provides compatibility with other government users. The response time in accessing the hard drive is slow and the functions of the Lotus software are restricted because the capacity of the existing drive. Units are required for the radio system administrator and the program manager, telecommunications in this fiscal year. Plans are to replace a unit for a director in fiscal year 1994-95.
Computing Equipment and Systems in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Mrs. Firth: What about Prior Years Projects?
Chair: There is no money in it.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I raise that just to make a point. I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell us what this money was for, because the Minister told me on several occasions that I would have an opportunity to discuss the 911 number in the budget. I was saying that we did not have the 911 in the budget so I would not be able to discuss it and the Minister insisted that it was. So when I asked about Prior Years Projects in the supplementary debates, I thought it was the 911 number and that it had been reduced to zero dollars. The Minister did not have an answer to the question, nor did his official who was with him that day. Neither one of them seemed to know what it was.
Could the Minister just tell us what that is for and what the reduction has been for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was intended to be used for the 911.
Mrs. Firth: So, I was right in my assertion that he had taken the money out and that there would be no opportunity to spend it, and that we did not spend the money in the 1992-93 year either.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was no money, or very little money, spent in the 1992-1993 fiscal year.
Mrs. Firth: Now the government has changed its policy. Whitehorse ratepayers are going to be asked to pay for this service. Why did the Minister keep insisting that we would debate the 911 in this budget, when the government was obviously looking at an option to have the ratepayers pay for it, and have since made that decision.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If we are talking about tax ratepayers, the ratepayers will be paying for a portion of the operating cost. The users - the telephone subscribers - will be paying for the capital costs of the 911 system.
Mrs. Firth: Everybody uses this system. People in trouble will all use it, including tourists, visitors, visitors from Faro who come will use it, people from Carcross and the Minister of Health and Social Services may have occasion to use it. Everybody who is in the City of Whitehorse at one time or another will get to use this system.
I just want to emphasize to the Minister that he got into a lot of trouble over this issue. He still insists on standing up and getting himself into a lot of trouble over this issue. He stood up in the House and completely misrepresented the whole situation. I would just like to get some indication that maybe the Minister has learned something from this, so that he is not going to stand up and do it again. This Minister is going to be challenged on everything that he does or says in this House from now on.
As a Member, I do not have any confidence or any trust in what the Minister says any more, because of the way he handled this issue. I know that there are a lot of other Members in the Opposition and members of the public who feel the same way.
I am not going to raise any more questions about it; I hope that the Minister is sensible enough to sit in his chair and let the issue pass, but, by God, he had better have learned a lesson from this and he better start being more up-front and forthcoming with his information.
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $937,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Computing Equipment and Systems
Mr. Harding: In advance, perhaps I could get a breakdown on this expenditure and the next expenditure. I would also like to know where and how they are going to be used and how they are going to benefit the department.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Computing Equipment Systems line is $9,000, and Office Equipment and Furniture is $6,000. The capital budget is for program equipment purchases, such as personal computers, furniture and office automation equipment, as required in support of divisional programs.
Computing Equipment and Systems in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
On Office Equipment and Furniture
Mr. Harding: Could I get that information for this line, too?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was the second part of the $6,000 capital budget for program equipment purchases, such as personal computers, furniture and office automation equipment, as required in support of divisional programs.
Office Equipment and Furniture in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. McDonald: I have asked the Finance Minister, and now the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, on a number of occasions about the Alaska Highway recoveries and the base transfers. I wonder if the Minister could, now that he has had a chance to review that question, provide me with the information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thank the Member for giving me the opportunity to get the information. The base transfer is approximately $24.2 million, consisting of $13.6 million in O&M and $10.4 million in capital. A total of $9.7 million in O&M is allocated to the Alaska Highway, consisting of the $8.2 million directly for the highway and $1.5 million for weigh scale operations. The weigh scale portion of the funding is part of the devolution agreement, and as such the budget for it is allocated out of the base transfer. Including the $1.7 million for the Haines Road, the total O&M allocated out of the base transfer is therefore $11.4 million. This is compared to $13.6 million in 1992-93 for the two highways and for the weigh scale operation. The majority of savings on the Alaska Highway are being spent on increased maintenance on the Klondike Highway.
On the capital side, $6.1 million has been allocated out of the base transfer for the Alaska Highway. The government has the discretion to substantially increase the capital funding for the highway in the 1994-1995 and subsequent years out of the base transfers.
Mr. McDonald: That is part of the question answered. Of the $10.5 million out of the base transfer, the Minister indicated that $6.1 million will be actually spent on the Alaska Highway - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. McDonald: The balance for this fiscal year is going where?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The balance has gone into general revenues and is being used in other areas.
Mr. McDonald: The government decided that of the Alaska Highway construction funding, there would be, at least in this particular area, $4.4 million that would not be spent on the Alaska Highway, but would be spent for some other purpose - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is essentially correct. Again, it is discretionary funding. For instance, in 1994-1995, there could be more monies go to that than are specifically set for it.
Mr. McDonald: I only ask because the past Leader of the Official Opposition spent a couple of excruciating hours extracting a commitment from the previous Minister of Community and Transportation Services that he would do not such thing, but I do not have any particular problem with the Ministers activities here.
I would like to ask the Minister about the $27 million that is proposed for the Alaska Highway construction. Could the Minister, either now or when we get to the line, break that expenditure down in detail; then we will talk about the recoveries and where they are coming from.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: On the $6.1 million, we are talking about reconstruction from kilometre 1118 to kilometre 1120, which is down by Spencer Creek, this side of Watson Lake. They will be upgrading that portion of the existing highway to a modern standard.
Clearing projects will be carried out from kilometre 1087 to kilometre 1102. Crushing and stockpiling will be carried out at kilometre 1163, which is near Pine Lake, and kilometre 1185.
BST for 1993-94 includes kilometre 1107 to 1118, kilometre 1120 to 1124, and kilometre 1189 to 1196. There is hydro-seeding for kilometre 1107 to kilometre 1118, kilometre 1120 to 1124, and kilometre 1189 to 1201.
Reconstruction, kilometre 1476 - a major improvement to the Alaska Highway is part of the Two Mile Hill project. Auxiliary lane construction near Whitehorse - construction of extra lanes required to accommodate movement for the Whitehorse weigh station. The remainder is preliminary engineering - various types of engineering work in support of future years construction.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated that out of the $6.1 million, the Two Mile Hill will be reconstructed. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Alaska Highway portion of the Two Mile Hill project would come out of the $6.1 million.
Mr. McDonald: We are causing a lot of frantic activity at the table there for you, Mr. Chairman. If we want to get out of general debate, that is fine with me, then we can get down to business and continue talking about the subject.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Highway Construction
On Alaska Highway
Mr. McDonald: We are back on the subject again. The only reason that I was asking about Two Mile Hill is because there was at least one member of the Yukon Party caucus who wanted to expect a commitment from us while he was in opposition that we would not reconstruct Two Mile Hill with the Alaska Highway funding. What the heck, that decision has changed.
Of the $27.1 million, there is $21 million remaining. I presume that is recoverable. We have explained $6.1 million of that. If the Minister has the time, can he break down the $21 million figure, as he broke down the $6.1 million figure?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $16 million for the Shakwack project. If the Member opposite wants, I can go into detail on that. The other $5 million I have to pretty well go into detail on because it is committed to various areas: reconstruction of the Alaska Highway to a standard with BST surface in areas grossly below standards between Watson Lake and Whitehorse; reconstruction from kilometre 1164 to 1170, through to Swift River, upgrading to a modern standard by realignment and structural strengthening; reconstruction from 1180 to 1189, the old Partridge Creek; and the demolition and removal of the Smart River bridge at kilometre 1222.5.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to put a question on the record and then we can report progress on the bill.
First of all, I presume that the Minister is going to replace the Smart River bridge, because there might be a number of cars that would regret the decision to demolish the bridge.
Could the Minister indicate why the $5 million that is shown as a recoverable is a recoverable and not part of the base transfer? Basically, why is it contingent funding?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will answer this, and I would like to report progress.
The amount shown, which is the $5 million, is a special contribution agreement with public works Canada, pursuant to the Alaska Highway devolution agreement. The provision of accelerated funding for the noted area was a Yukon-initiated condition of the Alaska Highway devolution agreement.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 13, 1993:
Draft pesticides regulation released for public comment (Brewster)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 13, 1993:
Respite care for special needs children: annual budget, application approval, home care program (Phelps)
Written Question No. 15, dated April 26, 1993, by Mr. Cable
Transfer of Regional Health Services: update on progress (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 792
Mental health patients: number of bed days allotted in the 1992-93 fiscal year; number of admissions (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 804
Pharmaceutical prescriptions: automated system not in place; breakdown of transactions and dollar amount for the Seniors Pharmacare Program and the Chronic Disease Program (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 805
Out-of-territory hospital costs: amounts spent for medical care in the 1992-93 fiscal year (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 806