Wednesday, November 24, 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. Fisher: I have for tabling the 1992-93 Annual Report of the Yukon Lottery Commission.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Petition No. 4 - response
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I rise at this time to respond to the petition that was tabled in the Legislature by the Leader of the Official Opposition. I would like to preface my remarks by saying we certainly appreciate the effort that goes into getting this significant number of names, and I want to thank the people who went to that work - believe it or not - and I see one of them in the gallery, Leah Ziegler - because I know it is a major task.
This petition was being circulated and therefore the wording had been finalized prior to our announcing our relief plan with respect to how we were going to address alleviating the rate shock that was to be experienced by a great number of Yukoners.
I can say that we have demonstrated, on this side, that we believe in a system whereby all earnings by government through the Yukon Energy Corporation billings must be directed back to the consumer by way of improvements to the energy system or by way of rebate to consumers.
Secondly, we firmly believe in an arms-length approach to the management of the utility, and that the policing, for the most part, must be done by an independent board. That, of course, is the Yukon Utilities Board.
Thirdly, we believe that, by allowing the system to play itself out and by targeting a portion of any earnings back to specific groups, namely residents and non-government commercial users, the relief that will be felt by those consumers of energy will be significantly lower than if we were to put into effect the scheme that was offered up by the NDP, namely, to chop back the earnings to five percent. There is no question that that would have resulted in higher rates being paid by residential and commercial users. The reason for that is that the subsidy would have gone to government, which is a large consumer of electricity in the Yukon, as well as to the targeted groups.
This year, we, as a government, loaned $2.4 million to Curragh, which went directly to the ratepayers - it was paid directly to Yukon Energy Corporation - and immediately and significantly reduced what was a very large rider being proposed for next year. We then waited for, in an arms-length approach, the policemen to do their duty - that is the Yukon Utilities Board - and as everyone knows, they drastically cut back the revenue requirements. What Yukoners were facing, in addition to the 6.75 percent increase, was an additional 23 percent increase, as a result of the findings of the Public Utilities Board.
We then announced that we would put $3.5 million of the profits back to the consumers by way of targeted rebates. This meant a reduction of the 5.75 percent rider to the municipalities and a reduction from a 23 percent increase to an eight percent increase to residents and commercial users.
This means that because we have frozen the increases for an additional year that at the end of three years the increase would be 15 percent, or five percent a year. The approach suggested by the Opposition would not have been as effective and would have seriously compromised the utility, the Public Utilities Board and our potential for attracting investment in Yukon.
To put things in context for residents of the Yukon, when the Northern Canada Power Commission was purchased five or six years ago, the cost per kilowatt hour to residents in the Yukon was eight cents. After that, rates went down, then came back up, and are now going up again. The residents today, as a result of our plan, are paying 8.5 cents per kilowatt. If you take that over seven years, it is less than one percent increase per year. In my respectful submission, what we are doing is the best we can for Yukoners, not only in looking after their interests with regard to rate shock, but looking after the system itself - the regulatory and the electrical system - and insuring that we set a precedent for government maintaining a hands-off approach to it.
Petition No. 5 - presentation
Mr. Penikett: Unfortunately, the rules do not permit me to respond to some of the claims made by the Member opposite today, but I would like to table in the House today another 429 signatures of Yukoners who are protesting power rate increases.
Speaker: Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Privatization of civil service
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Deputy Government Leader. Following my question yesterday, I believe the government is now prepared to admit to its intent to privatize a variety of services now carried out by public servants. Once again, for the record, and with the minimum of shouting, I would like an answer to the question I asked yesterday. Will the Minister tell this House about the massive changes that are planned for privatizing the public service?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: After 12 years in the Legislature, Members will realize I do not holler too much.
I can tell the Member that there is no massive idea of privatizing anything.
Ms. Moorcroft: The fact is that someone has been telling senior, and in some cases very senior, managers to look into privatizing the civil service - not just in government services but in other departments, too. The fact is, too, that when the government was out on the hustings, it never once said, Elect us and we promise to privatize the civil service and change the nature of government in the Yukon forever.
I ask you again, and I hope you have a different answer for me than the torrent of hot air I received yesterday, will the Minister please tell this House why senior civil servants are being directed to tell their staff to prepare for privatization in the absence of any policy or intent brought to this Houses attention?
Speaker: Before the Minister answers, I would like to remind the Member to address the remarks through the Speaker, to the Deputy Government Leader. The Speaker will not be answering your question.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I repeated before, we have no plans for large massive scale privatization at all. We are certainly looking at ways in which we can save some money, but it has not involved the civil service. If we had wanted to, we could have started last March.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is simply not answering my question. When will the Minister share the Yukon governments policy on privatizing the civil service that was the basis of the memo I tabled in the House yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member seems to think she has the answer to the question. Perhaps she should tell me, because I am telling her that there is no such thing as the government looking at massive privatization.
Question re: Privatization of civil service
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, in this House, I tabled a memo that was written by a senior manager in a department about the massive changes that were being planned to privatize the public service. Will the Minister tell the House about the Yukon Party plans to privatize the civil service and make massive changes?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Since the memo seems to have come from my department, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify what seems to have happened there. My deputy minister basically gave instructions to the managers in my department to look at ways of delivering government services in a more efficient manner. This employee took it upon himself to mean privatization.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister has talked to someone and discovered that this was something the directors wrote because the deputy ministers had asked them to do it. Could he share with us the reasons for the deputies giving these instructions about privatization? It was not made up out of thin air; where did it come from?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Basically, the Department of Government Services developed a strategic plan for 1993-94 and 1994-95. It lists several initiatives that we are asking Government Services employees to take to deliver programs in a more efficient and effective manner. This employee approached this idea so zealously that he also included privatization.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister table a copy of the strategic plan for the Department of Government Services and give us some more information on how that strategic plan is directing the public service to privatize their services?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The strategic plan does not once mention privatization. It does not even allude to it, but I will definitely table it after this Question Period is finished, because I may have to refer to it occasionally.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, rate increase application
Mr. Cable: The public has just been treated to what can best be described as inflammatory rate increase applications by the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited. Numbers like 58 percent were bandied around - rate shock par excellence, to use the Ministers words.
The Yukon Public Utilities Board apparently had a markedly different view of the world from the two utilities and awarded rate increases of about one-half, or even less, than what was being asked for.
The whole procedure has been unsettling for the business community and for the general public, and I would suggest it has had a depressant effect on the economy. Is the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation prepared to order the corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited, the party that prepared the application, to appear before this House to tell us what went wrong and why there were differences of opinion between those corporations and the Yukon Public Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is difficult to answer that question without first referencing the faulty premises that were used to substantiate the question itself. First of all, the initial rate application was in the range of 56 percent. That included the first hike of 6.75 percent.
After we loaned the money, as a government, for payment of $2.4 million of Curragh bills over the summer, while we were trying to hold together the possibility of the mine being sold, the starting point dropped down to about 46 percent. The ultimate amount that was justified by the decision of the Yukon Public Utilities Board was 30 percent, so it was hardly less than half.
The real benefit that has accrued to the ratepayers is as a result of our decision to plow the profits back into rebates to consumers.
That is the first point.
Secondly, I am rather appalled at a person, who once said he championed the independence of the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation, now wanting to get both hands onto the information by dragging people in here for some kind of an inquisition.
Mr. Cable: This Legislature created the Yukon Energy Corporation, and I cannot think of any group better to have a public examination of their affairs.
Let me ask this question, and I refer to the Utility Boards order of September 17. It would appear that the revenue requirements - this is the money that the utilities ask for, and the Yukon Energy Corporation in particular - was in the order of $53 million. What they eventually were ordered to receive was around $44 million. This is over the two years of 1993 and 1994. I gather there have been subsequent minor changes but that is a difference of approximately $9 million - maybe 15 percent. Has the Minister had an opportunity to determine whether the removal of that large sum of money from the corporations plans would have any effect on the corporations solvency?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The decision, which was released yesterday, was a great big thick one. I have had time to scam it - to scan it. Experts are going through it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phelps: At least the gentleman across the way is asking something that is really truly an issue and pertinent to Yukon residents. He is not simply trying to curry favour with the unions so they do not go the same way as Bob Raes government. He is not here day after day after day trying to solidify the union vote. I guess they are kind of scared of what is happening to old Bobby Rae, and it is pretty obvious from their questions.
The gentleman is entitled to an answer. He is actually not posturing. Do Members want me to answer him or not?
Certainly, the rate of earnings allowed by the board is sufficient to meet the needs of Yukon Energy Corporation and to, in addition, make the payments of $3.5 million back to those who deserve the money: the ratepayers of Yukon.
Mr. Cable: I could not hear all of the answer.
Speaker: Neither could I.
Mr. Cable: Let me ask this question: if, in fact, the Minister does not completely understand the effect on the corporations solvency of the removal of a large sum of money, why is the Minister suggesting that another $3.5 million be removed from the corporation without first determining what the effect on the corporation would be.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We know what the allowable rate of return is. It is 10.5 percent. That is somewhere between $4.6 million and $5 million. We are talking about $3.5 million of that going back to the residents and non-government commercial users, and the rest being plowed back into the system. It seems pretty simple to me. I thank the Member, once again, for the question. At least he is not toadying to the union in his remarks.
Question re: Strike preparation
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Deputy Government Leader, and I certainly hope that he is not going to scam his answer like the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. The government is preparing for a labour dispute, if not actively seeking one. To this end, it has prepared an essential services agreement that details what services will continue to be provided in the event of a labour dispute. It is also training managers and excluded workers to carry out a variety of tasks to fill so-called skill shortages that may arise in the event of a labour dispute.
I am concerned that, in its legislative return on this matter, the government has apparently moved beyond essential services and established a new category of so-called critical services. Will the Minister please advise this House as to the difference between essential services and critical services.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I just wish that I could talk like the gentleman on the right-hand side of me; it would make life in the House much easier for me.
Apparently, Mr. Speaker, they want to talk over there.
Speaker: I would ask Members to allow the Ministers to answer the questions and not interrupt when the questions are being asked.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister please conclude his answer, if what he was doing was giving me an answer to the question. Will the Minister please advise the House as to the difference between essential services and critical services?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yesterday I tried to be accommodating in the House by discussing a few things about the labour negotiations on forestry, but it is quite apparent that the Opposition only want to nit-pick. All I will say from now on is that the negotiators are still negotiating and I will not discuss it again in the House.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not talking about negotiations. I am talking about a legislative return that was tabled in this House in which the Government Leader has referred to essential and critical services in the public service. Can the Minister tell me what the difference is between those two classes of workers?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It came from the labour negotiations and I am not going to talk about labour negotiations anymore in the Legislature.
Question re: Strike, settlement of
Mr. Harding: I will try not to poke a hole through the Members thin skin. I am going to ask a question. One step that would help this economy greatly, which the government could quickly do, is to undertake to settle these contract negotiations with their employees. The employees of this government are being incredibly reasonable and realistic in these negotiations, so why does the government not give the economy - and the employees - a shot in the arm and settle these negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Surely the honourable Member, who is toadying once again to the unions, must understand that we have a system in place for negotiations. The teachers union have settled on reasonable terms with the government; I suppose the other union feels it can use the NDP, who are desperate for votes, especially in view of what is happening in Ontario, to further their cause. I find it rather bad that they are trying to play politics with peoples lives in this way, but I guess that is the NDP way.
Mr. Harding: I would like to thank the deputy Deputy Government Leader, but this is a question about the economy and about people. It is not one about politics, unless they choose to make it so. I have talked to civil servants in this community who are holding back on their spending because they are nervous about the future. The Christmas season is coming up, which is a prime opportunity for businesses in this community to make some hay while the sun shines, and they are hurting.
Why does this government not stop the in-vogue civil servant bashing and settle these contract disputes with the very reasonable government employees?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have been trying to settle this dispute. There is an offer on the table, we are ready to go to conciliation and the next move is up to the union.
As to the spending habits in Yukon, no one likes the possibility of a strike overshadowing the economy. There is no question that retail spending in the Yukon is up over last year. We just got the figures for September and they are up again over September last year, despite the fact that his cherished mine at Faro is down and the one near Watson Lake is down.
Once again, we have the side opposite really doing a disservice to Yukoners by making fantastic claims about negativism in the economy.
Mr. Harding: It appears that both Government Leaders have that Dont Worry, Be Happy song on their lips. Unfortunately, a lot of people in this territory are not singing it.
In last years budget, the Yukon Party government had more money to spend than they ever had before. The employees demands are extremely reasonable. They are asking for freezes. They are doing their part. This governments financial situation is a healthy one. Can we end the charade of civil servant-bashing in this territory, get these people spending in the economy again get businesses back on their feet and settle these negotiations? The government can go up to the Cabinet room after Question Period, adopt a new mandate, and give it to the negotiators.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, I say that the offer has been on the table for some time with the union. The government is ready to go to conciliation tomorrow. When the rank and file union members throughout the territory find out what the real offer has been and is, they may not be very happy with either the union or the NDP.
Question re: Strike, settlement of
Mr. Harding: I am glad the Member brought that up. They so sanctimoniously stand up and say that they are not going to discuss avenues of the negotiating process and exactly what is on the table in this Legislature and yet, through innuendo, they do just that.
Perhaps the Minister, since he has volunteered some information, could give us more evidence to back up those comments and accusations he just made about the negotiating team.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If one goes back through Question Period, since we started sitting, we have had the union leaders sitting here watching the NDP toadies jump up and ask all kinds of questions in order to curry favour for votes. The evidence is within the Blues and in the published Hansard. I will bring them back for tabling if the Member across the way has not bothered to read them himself.
Mr. Harding: This is a very serious matter. There are a lot of people who are waiting to see what happens with these negotiations - both businesses and employees of this government - because it has an impact on everybody.
Why does the Minister not drop this NDP/union touting nonsense and deal with the serious issue, rather than just make innuendo and accusations against the union negotiating team and everyone else? Why do they not just end this facade and settle the negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think what the NDP is doing is despicable. I can tell you that we intend to follow the process. There is a fair offer on the table. We are not going to intrude in the process.
The side opposite wants to interfere in every due process we have here. Next they will be demanding that we step into the courts and take the place of the judges.
Speaker: I would ask the Member to try to limit his supplementary question to a one-sentence preamble.
Mr. Harding: There is absolutely nothing despicable about asking questions about people in this economy and things that this government can do to try to improve this economy. The Cabinet sitting across from us gives the negotiators the mandate to settle this issue, so why do they not do that to help the territorys economy and the people living here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a process set out and there is a fair offer on the table and we are ready to go conciliation, which I understand is the next step. The request from the Member opposite is absolutely absurd in the circumstances.
Question re: Forestry transfer, employee concerns
Mr. Penikett: Of course it was a political decision to try to do away with the job security provisions as the government Members opposite are now trying to do. That makes me think of their election literature where the party opposite promised that employees would be fully consulted on program transfers so that they know what is going on step by step and feel comfortable with proposed changes.
If I will not be accused of toadying up to the employees - people of the Yukon, citizens, and such like - could I ask the Deputy Government Leader why the Yukon Party government opposite has broken its campaign promise to consult fully with employees in connection with the forestry transfer?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Once again, I have asked that we do not get into negotiations, but it is absolutely not true that we have broken any promises.
Mr. Penikett: As a matter of record, there is no memorandum of understanding with the employees, as they were promised before the transfer. Employees have had no input into changes in hours of work, length of working season, working hours of the fire towers being cut back to five days per week and, I understand that it is a fact that the Minister has refused to meet with these employees, even as constituents, to discuss the question.
Can the Minister tell us why his administration, his negotiators and his officials have made no good-faith effort to achieve a memorandum of understanding with the forestry employees before the transfer?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member opposite has made several accusations that are not true. First, I met a long time ago with some of the constituents, as they called themselves, but it was quite apparent they were all union people trying to divert me from my negotiators, which I absolutely refused to do.
Second, we are still trying to negotiate with the employees, and in fact, the negotiators met with the employees last Friday to try to solve some of the problems.
We are aware of their concerns and we will do our best to accommodate the employees as the matter progresses. At the present time, we do not know if we will be looking after forestry this summer. If the transfer progresses for another month as it is progressing now, there is no point in the territory taking over forestry yet.
Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite says he is aware of their problems, and these include the concern about doing away with job security clauses, which his colleagues are trying to do, and the potential of contracting out.
To his knowledge, can he confirm that the employees in question met last week and voted to reject an offer of employment from YTG, based on the current terms on the table?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are back into negotiations again, and I am not going to talk about it.
Question re: Economic development officers
Mrs. Firth: In the Department of Economic Development, there are 11 economic development officers. Yesterday, the Minister tabled the list of grants and loans his department is responsible for administering. I see on that list that his department is funding, through grants, the creation of at least another seven economic development officers. There is also money there for training more economic development officers. This does not include economic development officers for the Yukon Indian Development Corporation, Dana Naye Ventures, the Council for Yukon Indians, the federal government, municipal governments, or whatever banks or various lending institutions.
Does the Minister have any idea of exactly how many economic development officers we have in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for her question. She did not mention the fact that many of these economic development officers, funded through the EDA programs, are within the First Nations. In the past, the First Nations have not had the economic opportunities they should have had. The economic development officers that are being funded through these programs are very important so that they may reach for new economic opportunities within the First Nations, leading up to self-government and land claims. That is one of the reasons those seven positions are being funded.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister not to use the First Nations as a response to my question. I want to know whether he knows how many economic development officers we have here in the Yukon Territory.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I will go back to where I was. The First Nations have made application for these economic development officers. They are working with the First Nations and working alongside the various economic development officers we have within the communities, and I compliment them on the fine job they are doing.
Mrs. Firth: He does not know. We just keep creating more and more.
In the Ministers department, there is over $1 million in administrative costs, which comes out of the taxpayers pockets, and there is almost $300,000 in the grant list that is identified for economic development officers. Despite the fact that many of these people are probably hard working, good people, I would like to ask the Minister if he knows how much governments are spending on economic development officers.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I shall have to bring back a legislative return because I do not have the information handy; I would have to figure it out from all the paperwork.
Question re: Economic development officers
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up with the Minister of Economic Development regarding this issue. Can the Minister of Economic Development tell us if we are getting value for our money with all of these new positions that are being created as economic development officers? It is a new industry, I guess. Can he tell us if we are getting value for our money?
Hon. Mr. Devries: In the first place, I believe there is one less economic development officer than there was last year. Within our own department, we have reduced it. I get various reports from the economic development officers. As far as value for our dollar, many of them are very busy. We moved one from one community into Whitehorse because there was very little activity in that particular community and there was a great deal of activity here, and the economic development officers in Whitehorse were overloaded. This has given us the opportunity to process claims quicker, because we had up to a six-week waiting list.
Mrs. Firth: I just do not understand the Minister sometimes. First of all, we know that he does not know how many officers there are or he does not know how much money we are spending on them, he does not know whether we are getting value for the dollar. He hired a consultant to find out why the businesses were not taking advantage of economic development grants. Now he stands up today and tells us that the economic development officers were so busy. Well, if they were so busy, why did he have to hire a consultant to find out why people were not coming and taking advantage of the money? Nothing he says in this House makes sense.
Why did he have to hire the consultant, if they were so busy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I mentioned to the Member previously, the reason the consultant was hired was that the uptake on the small business planning program was poor, and we wanted to have a non-biased opinion of why it was so poor. To tell you the truth, I believe the consultant was hired right around the time of the election.
Mrs. Firth: For my final supplementary, I would like to ask the Minister if he is going to bring forward the recommendations that the consultants gave him, and whether or not we will be getting those this afternoon or tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, I believe that I can table the recommendations tomorrow.
Question re: Forestry transfer
Mr. Cable: The Government Leader said last week that the Yukon Government would first have to take over responsibility for the forestry resource before the policy and regulatory framework would be moved forward. I did not get a very satisfactory answer as to why that has to take place. Could the Minister, perhaps as Minister responsible for the Department of Renewable Resources, indicate why the formal transfer has to take place before these steps toward policy development can take place.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I guess it is something like the chicken and the egg - which came first? At the present time, my department is drafting policy. I do not want a lot of money put into that because, if this situation does not correct itself, we get this signature, and we have to start with a new contract. We may not even want to do that because the one we have right now is very good for the Yukon. If the government in Ottawa decides to stall on this, there is no point in our making policy, because they still control the federal forestry.
Mr. Cable: The Minister has been in and out of government for 11 years, as he indicated earlier. I am sure that he is well aware that a complicated policy development such as would be necessary for forestry would take many years. Could the Minister indicate what sort of time frame he would be working toward?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It would depend on when the signing occurs, and whether we are going to take it over this spring or whether we will have to wait for six months, or possibly another year. We are working on draft policy right now, which will come to Cabinet when it is ready, but it is not ready at the present time.
Mr. Cable: That goes to the starting point. Once the Minister starts on this exercise, how long would he anticipate it would take to have a firm policy framework in place?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will have to take that under advisement and see how long it takes the lawyers to draw it up.
Question re: Chambers of commerce, core funding
Mr. McDonald: They are after unions and lawyers today.
I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. In the last sitting, just five or six months ago, the Minister indicated that funding, through the business development fund, to territorial organizations with an interest in the economy would be limited to project funding only and there would be no core funding. Can the Minister indicate why, in the list of projects they have tabled in this Legislature, at least three organizations - particularly three chambers of commerce - have received core funding?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Those particular chambers all do a function for us for that type of funding. They perform something for us.
Mr. McDonald: I would not want to accuse the Yukon Party of being chamber of commerce toadies here. It is so disrespectful and I will not behave like the other Minister who, in a position of power, arrogantly puts people down.
What I would like to ask the Minister is, given that he made it very clear in May that he would not be providing core funding support to chambers of commerce, and would only be providing project funding, why, for example, did the Yukon Chamber of Commerce receive $36,000 in operating expenses?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, the chambers offer a very important function for the economic development of the territory. It is looked upon as a service they provide for us.
Mr. McDonald: I will ask the question one more time - at least one more time if I have to: why, when the government Minister indicated that they were not going to provide core funding to territorial organizations, they proceeded immediately after the sitting closed to provide core funding to those organizations? Why would the Minister tell us they would not do it, and then go ahead and do just that a few weeks later? Why?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will reiterate what I said earlier. Funding was given to those chambers before the session closed, and it was not classified as core funding.
Question re: Chambers of commerce, core funding
Mr. McDonald: This is not a complicated problem. The funds given to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Haines Junction Chamber of Commerce and the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce list as operating expenses, which is the definition of core funding, that these chambers will receive $36,000, $5,000 and $3,500 from the government, respectively. Why did the government Minister, in this particular case, tell me in this House, on the record, that they were not going to provide those organizations with core funding for operational expenses and then proceed to provide that money anyway?
There is a question of credibility here, never mind the reasons for it. We will come to the reasons for that. Why would the Minister tell me something, and then not do it?
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding is that the chambers of commerce provide a service for that funding.
Mr. McDonald: I am not asking the Minister for the reasons why the government provided the funding. I am asking the Minister why he told me, in the Legislature, on the record, before the eyes and ears of the Yukon public, why the government was not going to give the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, for example, core funding, and then proceed to provide that core funding.
According to the Ministers own suggestion today, they were giving the core funding at the same time as the Minister was telling me that the government was not providing core funding. Can the Minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I do not interpret the monies provided as being core funding.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated during the spring sitting that the only funding that chambers of commerce, or anyone interested in economic development, would receive would be for project-specific funding, not core funding. The definition of core funding is general operating expenses, and that is how it is listed in this document.
Can the Minister explain why he would tell me one thing and then do the opposite?
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding was that the reason they were given the money was not for core funding.
Question re: Health and safety review
Mr. Harding: The expression pumping a dry well, used before in this Legislature, comes to mind.
I want to ask the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board and Occupational Health and Safety a question. The Minister has repealed an order for a full review of all regulations of policy and procedures under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Given that the original Ministerial order that gave rise to that review was developed in consultation with business and labour groups, where did the Minister receive his mandate for gutting this project?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It came when we started to try to straighten out the mess we were in when we became the government. The money they wanted to spend, incidentally, is not our money; it belongs to the employers. They were spending too much money. We did not think we needed to go that far, and that we could get by with less study of the situation.
Mr. Harding: The Ministers response to straightening out this mess . . .
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. I would ask Members to allow the Member for Faro to ask his question and to permit the Minister to hear the question.
Mr. Harding: So, the Ministers response for straightening out this mess is to sacrifice the health and safety of the working people of this territory. I think that is despicable. That review, and that order, came about in consultation with all of the stakeholders.
To whom was the Minister speaking who requested that this review be watered down to such a great extent?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It was a Cabinet decision.
Mr. Harding: We are starting to see just where this Cabinets priorities lie, and it is pretty scary. In the Yukon Territory, I have witnessed serious accidents in the mining industry. The Yukon Party is promising that all of these new mines will come onstream. Just a couple of years ago, we saw a terrible mining disaster at Westray. How shocking it is that this government would do what they have with this review.
Under what auspices, and under what jurisdiction, do they think they could make such a unilateral decision to restrict the mandate of this review, which was so important to the people of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As you probably know, as I believe you have received the Workers Compensation financial statement, they already lost $616,000 last year. I think they should get in line, like the government, and get their books balanced.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
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 the Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Community and Transportation Services.
Bill No. 11 - Second Appropriation Act, 1933-94 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services if he has for tabling a list of contracts awarded to date in Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes I do. I will have it here in a couple of minutes. I would like to make it very clear to the House that this list of contracts is not necessarily complete. There may be additional charges attributed to specific contracts; these are the prices were set originally but there may be some cost overruns or some that are lower than the contract prices.
The list that gives the final figures is the one prepared by Government Services in the spring session, I believe. This list will not be one that can be considered to be complete with all of the details.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for that. We do understand that it is a preliminary list; nonetheless, I am certain that it will prove useful to us.
Could the Minister also table for us the strategic plan for the Department of Community and Transportation Services, municipal and community affairs division?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To get back to those contracts, we are just getting 25 copies made. They will be tabled in the House this afternoon.
I missed the last part of the question. Did the Member want to know if we would table the strategic plan? I do not see any reason why I could not. I do not have a copy here with me now, but I will try and obtain copies and table it for the Members information.
Ms. Moorcroft: That would certainly prove helpful. The Minister may want to avail himself of some copies, so that we can pursue some questions based on that document.
I would like to move into another area. I would like to ask the Minister to help with sorting out some numbers.
We have the Government of Yukon employment task force capital works projects. This is $7 million worth of projects. Of that, $2,310,500 is for projects within the Department of Community and Transportation Services, mainly for transportation and highways projects. The sources of financing for those projects are based on redistribution, savings and lapses. In the two-page summary of that redistribution for savings, there is $1,262,000 from the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
I would like the Minister to explain what these numbers are all about.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly do not have the document the Member is quoting from. There is no way I can tell her where the numbers are from.
Ms. Moorcroft: As I understand it, our responsibility is to examine and guide the spending of public accounts, and now we have a radical departure from established practices.
I recognize that I am a new Member of the House and that I am learning how to read and follow these budgets, but to have $7 million found, and then have $7 million redirected, separate from the actual budget forecast, whether it is capital or operation and maintenance, it does not make a lot of sense to me. Can the Minister explain that to me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The employment task force funding share from community and transportation services totals $2,310,000, which is made up of several projects from the Shakwak portion of the Alaska Highway, the Dempster Highway, Dawson sign repairs and brush clearing, Stewart Crossing brush cutting and guard rail repairs, Stewart/Mayo sign and culvert repairs, Mayo brush cutting and road repairs, Ross River brush control, Watson Lake hand slashing, and so on, for a total of $2.3 million.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not so much interested in the capital works projects expenditures right now as I am in understanding how the $7 million job creation initiative sources of financing has been found. These are redistribution/savings/lapses, according to the heading that the government put on the document they provided to us. How does this amount fit into the supplementary estimates that we are debating that show us where there were overexpenditures and underexpenditures within the departments? How does the $1,262,000 that has been redistributed, saved or lapsed mesh with the supplementary estimate amounts in Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The supplementary estimates are for up to period 5 variance, which I believe is August. The employment task force capital works projects were put together in October, I believe. We may be able to discuss this further in the main budget debates, but I certainly do not have the information with me for discussion during the supplementary budget debate.
Ms. Moorcroft: In the redistribution, under the listing for Community and Transportation Services, there is $905,000 coming from the transportation division. This is for various highway construction projects that have not been undertaken. This government is relying on road building to stimulate the economy. How does depleting the highway construction budget to increase the highway construction budget help anything at all?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member has asked a confusing question. I am not sure if she is talking about capital here, or O&M, or exactly what she is talking about $900,000. I need a better explanation in order to answer her question.
Ms. Moorcroft: What I am using is the Government of Yukon four-page document they have provided. I believe the Member for McIntyre-Takhini just sent a copy of it over to the Minister to use. I am looking at the redistribution, savings and lapses, which are the sources of funding for the job creation initiatives. Under Community and Transportation Services, a number of items are listed. O&M starts out with: reduction in budgeted expenditure, South Klondike Highway, $410,000; transportation administration acting assignments is $63,000; municipal and community, various, shows a debit figure of $31,000; office of the DM shows $15,000; corporate services capital is $16,000; corporate services workstations is $9,000; transportation division, various, highway construction, is $905,000; and municipal and community affairs, various projects, is $125,000. Those are sources of financing for job creation capital initiatives, and they are redistributions, savings or lapses within the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
I would like the Minister to explain these lapses. I would also like him to explain it in the overall context of how it relates to the customary budgeting process.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Under our transportation division, the reductions in spending are $57,000, resulting from a secretarial position on acting assignment in transportation services, and an acting assistant deputy ministers salary is less by $24,000. There is $410,000 as a result of the cancellation of the South Klondike Highway agreement. There is $1,336,000 savings, resulting from various highway maintenance projects that were cancelled, in order to cover other unanticipated expenditures, such as washouts; and there was $44,000 for reduced expenditures on various airports due to direct payment by Transport Canada of the total aviation briefing system, - TABS - communications cost, in the new ground-to-ground communication agreement.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not know whether the list that the Minister was reading out was based on the same list that I referred him to because the numbers did not jibe. Can he try to clarify that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The list that I was reading from is what makes up the supplementary budget. The employment task force was created long after the supplementary budget was made up, which is based on period 5 variance, which was dated August 31. They could not possibly ever balance.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is interesting that the figures that the government is providing in a document that has no formal recognition as a supplementary estimate, or as part of the normal budgeting process, cannot possibly jibe with the supplementary estimates. I guess I will go back to my question about how does depleting the highway construction budget, where you show a savings of $905,000 in this job creation initiative in order to increase the highway construction budget, help anything?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not understand the question or its relevance to the supplementary budget.
Mr. McDonald: There is a point to the line of questioning that the Member is following but I would like to just give us a break for a moment from this line of questioning and move to the question that we were discussing last night regarding land development.
When we left it last night, I had made some comments in respect to the size of the land inventory that the government is projecting to have and asked if we could see the market survey that was supposed to have been done this summer. Could we see that survey?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that the market survey that the Member opposite was referring to was in response to a debate on May 12, 1993. What I said at that time was, I do not know if the analysis would be exactly as the Member opposite asked, but the department is currently doing that type of analysis now. I would be quite happy to provide the background information, or whatever we have, to the Minister some time this summer - it appears that I have a habit of calling Member opposite Minister.
I have asked the department for the information. Twice a year the lands branch, the Yukon Real Estate Association, the Home Builders Association, the Chamber of Commerce and, I believe, the City of Whitehorse get together to discuss the land requirements for the territory, but more specifically for the Whitehorse area.
Apparently, they meet on a bi-annual basis and the department will be providing the minutes of those meetings, or whatever paperwork that they have on the most recent meeting held sometime this past spring.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is indicating that there is indeed no survey, but there is some sort of analysis and background materials that he is prepared to let us have, which would help to justify the land development plan the government is proposing - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Mr. McDonald: Obviously, it would have been nice to have the information this summer - when the Minister indicated we could have the information - so that we could have done a little bit of analysis, rather that having to do a speed read on it while we are talking to the Minister in the middle of budget estimates. That is water under the bridge at this point.
In the absence of that analysis and the market survey, we will have to talk more specifically about the reasons for the very aggressive land development program that the Minister wants to pursue. The Minister has indicated that there are a couple of large-ticket items that are absolutely essential to undertake, such as a pumphouse, before further land development can take place.
What I know at this point, and maybe the Minister could supplement that information so that we can get a complete picture, is that we have a fair number of surplus lots, particularly urban-residential lots, in Whitehorse right now.
The experience that we had this summer was that there was very little takeup on those lots. What sort of takeup does the Minister anticipate will be there for next summer, given what he knows about the economic circumstances facing the Whitehorse area and the Yukon this past summer? I would also like to know what reasonable projections the Minister might make for the situation next summer. What does he see happening.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If my memory serves, right now we have a total of 162 lots in Whitehorse and general area. There are something like six industrial and a couple of commercial, but most of them are urban-residential lots that have recently come on the market. There were about 22 country-residential lots, and I think we had 130 or so applications for them. That leaves a total of approximately 162 going well into the winter.
The projections for next summer have not been completed by the lands people. I understand that our lands branch is having a meeting soon with the group I mentioned a few minutes ago to discuss and analyze the market situation for next summer.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister chose to cite the one category of land for which there was obviously a great deal of interest - the country-residential lots - but failed to mention that the takeup for the Arkell and Logan lots was less than aggressive. As I understand it, it is particularly in the urban residential lots that the government is planning to spend the big money in the future.
If the Member feels I am not characterizing it honestly, he can tell me, but it seems that we have a fairly aggressive land development policy underway, yet we are about to engage in a continuation of that program next year through the capital main estimates. However, we have not yet met with the people who are encouraged to give us advice about what the takeup is going to be next summer.
The problem, of course, with all of this is that the planning process is not permitting information to build so that we can get land development decisions in a logical order. If the situation was that people give us advice that there is going to be a significant land development requirement, a significant takeup on lots or demand next summer, or two years from now, then clearly we should be responding financially to develop land. If we do not have that assurance, and the information is that there will not be that takeup, or if we have not yet received information about what the takeup is, it seems puzzling that we would have probably one of the most aggressive land development agendas I have ever witnessed in this Legislature.
As I said the other day, if it did not cost the Yukon government anything, why worry? However, the reality is that it does. It will cost us a lot, and that is why we worry.
The Minister indicated the number of available lots in Whitehorse now as being 162. Is that the same number of lots that will be available in Whitehorse at the beginning of the construction season next spring in May? Will there be any activity between now and then to cause more lots to be virtually ready?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to point out that I do not believe that this is the most aggressive land development budget that the government has ever taken on. In fact, I recall that there has been over $20 million in land development initially budgeted, but as the Members opposite know, many times there will be more land development monies budgeted than are actually used. I think that it is very important that they look at the actual requirement for lots at least twice each year. Right now there are 162 lots available over the counter at the lands branch. I do not know whether some lots will be purchased over the winter or not. In the spring, if we see that the 162 lots will not service the market, then there are more that are almost ready to go; it is a matter of turning on the water, I believe. I am not sure how many of those available lots are in Logan, but there are more lots that can be turned on. I think that, as the Member said yesterday, you would need about a three-year time period in which to build, including planning and getting ready for construction. Both the Member opposite and I agreed that, if it appears that the lots are not going to be required in that fiscal year, you may not do any further development, other than surveying, clearing, engineering work and planning. What the lands branch has to do is look to see what the requirement is for each year. It may be that we will not be actually developing any new lots next summer at all. Or we may, to use the words of the Member opposite, aggressively get into the development business.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is quite right in one respect. Historically, the monies that are voted in the lands branch are seldom the monies spent in a land program, and the optimism demonstrated by lands officials are seldom met in practice when it comes to the actual development activity.
IHe will have to understand one thing about that, and that is that when the money is requested in the Legislature we at least have to operate under the assumption that the government fully intends to proceed with the expenditure. Otherwise, the Minister could simply ask for $50 million and whatever happens happens. He provides a list of priority projects and if he spends $3 million or if he spends $30 million, whatever happens, happens. There is a problem with that approach in terms not only of accountability but also, as I said before, in terms of the ultimate financial question we are forced to face right now with respect to the costs associated with this to government generally if the lots are not sold relatively quickly.
I mentioned a figure yesterday that it could be in the $600,000 range, a figure we should not sniff at. Obviously, it is a great deal of money.
This latest budget is obviously not the most aggressive. Last years lands budget was the most aggressive, and we are turning back $10 or $11 million of it, which probably proves the Ministers point that we do not spend all that we plan to spend. However, if the Minister says they are planning to proceed with a particular development, we have to assume that if he is asking for the money he is intending to do that, whether or not, statistically, he will go ahead with it or not.
I would like to ask the Minister about the number of lots that could be developed. He says he does not have that figure in front of him right now but I would like to ask him ultimately to get back with that figure, because it is relevant to the subject at hand. If we have 162 lots in Whitehorse and the ability to bring on lots within a matter of weeks or a couple of months, that ought to have some bearing on how aggressively we pursue a land development program in this year. We agreed yesterday afternoon that, while it probably needs three years of planning, it does not have to be three consecutive years, each one following the other. One can do ones planning and have it ready and then, when one wants to go into construction, one can pull the blueprints off the shelf and get to it. So, the lead time may only have to be a year, or a little over a year, to bring lots onto the market.
I would like to ask the Minister, based on this line of questioning - and it will ultimately be a line of questioning that we are going to pursue with more vigor in the capital estimates - if the Minister could provide this information before the capital estimates debate, I would appreciate it. I would also like to know what information the government has about how they are going to be selling a large number of lots next summer and, presumably, the summer after that because, if we do not do as much land development next summer, we will have to have at least a two-year supply in our back pocket.
I would like to have that information before we finally clear off the capital budget.
I would also like to ask the Minister about his opinions on the size of the land inventory. While we may not be dealing with the most aggressive budget coming up - it was $20 million in the main estimates - we are probably talking about the largest land inventory projected at the end of next year than we have ever had. Aside from the annual land development program, that is the issue.
I would like the Minister to provide that information for the main estimates review, and then I will have some other questions about consultations with the Kwanlin Dun.
My colleague wants to ask some specific questions about land development, so I will turn the questioning over to her.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, when we were talking about land issues, the Minister referred to the second dwelling unit that the Ibex Valley is concerned about. I would like to ask the Minister to tell us about the second dwellings, as a permitted use, particularly in the North Whitehorse periphery area. What are the Ministers inclinations in allowing or prohibiting second dwellings, and what has the community had to say about that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that we have discussed this in the House before. There have been requests from several residents in the Whitehorse periphery area to allow second dwellings on rural properties.
The agricultural policy allows second dwellings on agricultural land, but a lot of the land, regardless of size, is not necessarily zoned or classed as agriculture, or it may not have been sold as agriculture in the first place, but is being used for agricultural purposes now.
The people who have asked for the ability to either construct or hook up power to second dwellings are being turned down at the lands branch, but in fact, over the years, we know of approximately 84 illegal second dwellings in the Whitehorse periphery area.
Usually these dwellings are from someone building a small cabin or moving a trailer onto their property and then, later on, a few years down the road, building a new home. At that point, they would like to either rent out or put a family member or whatever in the old or new place. In the last few years, the public safety branch has been disallowing this particular thing to happen, because second dwellings are not allowed under the Whitehorse periphery area development regulations.
We have had consultations with the residents in the Whitehorse periphery area. I believe there were two meetings at the Hidden Valley School and there was an information package mailed to every resident in the area. A survey of all property owners in the Whitehorse periphery was conducted. I do not have the exact figures at my fingertips, but it came back that something like 81 percent of the returned survey results indicated that second dwellings were desired. On that basis, we have written to the Ibex Valley, the City of Whitehorse, the Kwanlin Dun, the Taan Dun and the Yukon Agricultural Association and basically indicated that we will be proceeding with the second dwelling amendment to the Whitehorse periphery area development regulations.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Member know when he will be proceeding with amending the regulations, and will there be a further opportunity for residents to give some input? I know some of the residents in that area have contacted me with their concerns and felt that there had not been a full consultation to date. I would be interested in the nature of the meetings that were held at the Hidden Valley school, what kind of notice there was for those meetings, what the attendance was like and what was discussed.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Notice of the meetings was advertised in the media, and a notice was sent to every resident, so I do not know if that is considered less than adequate notification. I do not believe it is. A full package outlining our intention was sent to every resident.
We will be proceeding. I am not sure what the Cabinet agenda is, or the length of time it will take for the department to do the amendment to the regulations, but as soon as that is completed, we will be taking it to Cabinet and discussing it at that level. I would hope we could get it completed before Christmas.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was the Hidden Valley school council and the Department of Education involved in the discussions regarding allowing second dwellings? Not only the existing second dwellings should be taken into account where, presumably, if there are families, the children are already enrolled in the schools, but there will very likely be additional second dwellings that may increase the size of the school population. What has been the involvement of the Hidden Valley school council on this issue? How has Community and Transportation Services worked with the Department of Education on this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: An analysis was done by the department with the Department of Education on the possible number of people who could affect school busing and the Hidden Valley school. The department did an analysis of the additional cost to maintain the streets and fire protection, if it became necessary - all of those things were completed during the summer.
I had one meeting with the Hidden Valley School council - I cannot remember the date - where we discussed second dwellings. Also, the people on the school council, most of whom are residents of the area, were given packages, which were the same as all other residents in the area.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister referred to a study that had been done regarding road maintenance costs and so on. Does he have some information on the costs and benefits of this proposal to allow secondary residences on residential property within the Whitehorse periphery?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe I referred to it as a study. I believe I said that it was an analysis conducted by the department, in conjunction with the Department of Education. I believe that we do have some information. I will check and, if we do, I will make it available for the Member opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that the Association for Yukon Communities, at its fall general meeting, passed a resolution on this issue. They were concerned that the Government of Yukon defer implementation of the proposed secondary residence policy, recognize the legitimate interest of all levels of government and undertake a serious consultation program with the municipalities affected, prior to introducing new policy initiatives. I would like to ask the Minister to elaborate on his discussions with the City of Whitehorse regarding these proposed changes and regulations.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have discussed it with the City of Whitehorse and with the President of the Association of Yukon Communities and I think, quite naturally, that the City of Whitehorse is opposed to the addition of allowable second dwellings in the Whitehorse periphery regulations.
Ms. Moorcroft: Have the municipality and the government just agreed to differ on that, or is the Minister going to proceed because he thinks it would be beneficial to do so?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the Member opposite is right on both counts. I do not believe that I will get an agreement from the City of Whitehorse for the initiative. I believe we will be proceeding with it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have another question, before I allow the Member for McIntyre-Takhini to get back to his line of questioning. I want to ask the Minister a question about snowmobiles. Does he consider snowmobiles to be a motor vehicle?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that a question like that may have to be directed to one of the three legal people in the House. I would consider a snowmobile that is used on a highway to be a motor vehicle, and it should be licensed and insured as such. If they were being used on your own property or on certain recreational properties not serviced by road, I would expect that they may not be considered motor vehicles. For the purposes of highway use, I think they would have to be considered as motor vehicles.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not understand how a snowmobile ceases to become a motor vehicle when it goes off the highway and onto a recreational trail. It still has a motor, it still makes a lot of noise and still has an impact. There is a requirement - and I have requested some information from the department on this - that within a municipality, a snowmobile must be licensed and the driver has to have a valid licence and wear a helmet and so forth if they are going to be crossing a road or a street. Does the Minister still think that a snowmobile is not a motor vehicle if it is not on a highway? If he does, can he explain the rationale for that to me.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are bush bikes built that are not required to have licences. Any vehicle or machine, such as a snowmobile, motor bike, or a four-wheeler that uses one of the highways has to be classed as some sort of a motor vehicle in terms of the legislation. As I said before, if that machine is on recreational property that is not on a highway, then I do not know whether it has to be licensed and insured. I would like to point out that not all municipalities have licensing requirements for anywhere within the municipality, but I am not sure if the Member said for crossing highways.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if he would let me know if people have been charged and convicted of impaired driving on a snowmobile.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am talking about something that I think three other people in the House would be better prepared to answer.
I heard of a person in Watson Lake who was charged with impaired driving while operating a snowmobile.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There have been a number of people charged and convicted of impaired driving on a snowmobile, off-highway as well as on the highway.
Ms. Commodore: Does the Minister of Justice consider a snowmobile a motor vehicle?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: By definition in the Motor Vehicles Act, it is a motor vehicle.
Ms. Moorcroft: On that subject, recently, there were health survey results. One of the statistics was that almost 20 percent of the people say they drink when they go boating or driving off-road vehicles. The survey also indicated that the Yukon Medical Association expressed concern about the fact that 40 percent of the people who ride off-road vehicles do not wear a helmet, and many are drinking while driving these off-road vehicles.
The Yukon Medical Association would like to see territorial legislation to prevent young children from driving snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles with very powerful engines. Does either the Minister of Community and Transportation Services or the Minister of Justice have a response for that representation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As far as I am aware, the Department of Community and Transportation Services has not had that representation made to it. I could be wrong about that, and the recommendation could have gone to the department at some point in time. However, I certainly have not heard about it.
If there is that type of representation, the Motor Vehicles Act is currently under review, and the consultation for act changes would be the time and place to pursue that initiative.
Ms. Moorcroft: Before I conclude this line of questioning regarding snow machines, since the Minister of Justice has confirmed that snowmobiles are vehicles, and that the Motor Vehicles Act also supports that, I do have a concern that some of the residents of Pineridge brought to my attention regarding the protected area of some of the recreational trails in that area.
My understanding is that the City of Whitehorse has determined that snowmobiles are not considered motorized vehicles. I do not think that there is any question that they are motorized vehicles, and there is a concern regarding public safety, if they are not considered to be motorized vehicles.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has a comment on that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister think that motorized vehicles, like ATVs, dirt bikes and snow machines, should be allowed on recreational trails that are set aside as protected areas, either within a city limit or outside a city limit?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Especially within a municipality or community, I think the community should have an overall community plan, and there should be some area development regulations in effect for those communities or municipalities. In municipalities, it is usually by bylaw. I also think there should be certain areas that should be considered as walking paths or bicycle paths, where motorcycles, skidoos and four-wheelers are probably not allowed. Again, I do not believe the Yukon government should, in their Motor Vehicles Act or anywhere else, make a general regulation that disallows any one of those types of machines in any specific spot. It has to be on a community-by-community basis.
Ms. Moorcroft: I certainly have no disagreement with there being area development regulations. I am also not making any representation to change the Motor Vehicles Act or to legislate regulations. My concern is that in a protected area, which has recreational trails that people use for walking or skiing, there should be some concern about the environmental sensitivity of those areas. There should be separate trails for motorized vehicles, and the Motor Vehicles Act, in looking at public safety concerns about helmets, licensing and speeds, and so on, should be respected.
Mr. McDonald: I want to ask the Minister a few questions about land development, and particularly about the consultations with the Kwanlin Dun band. The Minister will recall - I am sure, vividly - the meetings and the representations made by Kwanlin Dun representatives who felt that they had not been thoroughly consulted on land development activities in the broad area particularly around McIntyre.
Could the Minister indicate what specific actions the government has taken to ensure that the Kwanlin Dun band has, in fact, been fully consulted and that they have not only been made aware of the development plans in detail, but also that the government has had time to review and consider any comments the band may have made in response to those plans?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the working group that was put together as a result of the meeting the Member opposite is alluding to has been meeting on a regular basis. They have been able to resolve most, if not all, of the issues that have arisen. It is our intention to continue to work with the Kwanlin Dun Band through the working group so that they are kept fully informed and so that we have some sort of agreement prior to further development in any of the areas.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister confident that the Kwanlin Dun Band understands, knows about and is fully aware of all the development plans for lands in their traditional area? Do they understand, particularly, the plans for next summer and the general plans for the future, beyond the summer? Is the Minister saying that they are aware of all of the development plans?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not sit on that working group, but my understanding is that they have looked at the whole development plan for what we call Hillcrest D, and for other areas within the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. McDonald: At this time, because the land planning activities and the plans for development for next summer are continuing, the Minister feels confident that they know about, and are in agreement with, the plans, and that they accept the plans, and that there is nothing the government is intending to do that will jeopardize land selection negotiations - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure. Because we have not passed the capital budget, I am not sure how much is being discussed. I know that some of the long-range plans, for instance the reservoir, pumphouse and associated piping, have been discussed. I am not part of that group so I do not know what the results were or how the discussion went. My understanding is that they have reached some sort of agreement on certain portions of it.
Mr. McDonald: I ask the Minister to brief himself on the details of that matter for the main estimates because that will be something that I would like to pursue. Given the discussions we have had in the past, I will be rather specific in questioning later on. I would like to give the Minister fair advance notice on that point.
I would like to discuss with the Minister the winter maintenance agreement between the Government of Alaska and the Government of the Yukon. I would like to ask him if he could let us have a copy of that agreement, if he could tell us generally what the terms are and what the governments long-range goals are for the Skagway Road and the Marine Highway?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not see any reason why we cannot table a copy of the agreement. Unless I find some reason why we cannot, I will try to table it tomorrow. The agreement states that - I will outline some of the major components of it - the Yukon government will maintain the 15 miles of the Klondike Highway that is within the State of Alaska under an agreement with the Alaska government. They will allow our equipment into Alaska and we will allow two of their people to work on our crew.
The Alaska government will pay the Yukon government on an hours-worked basis. I believe they have a budget of somewhere in the neighbourhood of $450,000, which everyone feels relatively confident will be enough for the winter maintenance. We had a bit of a problem with Canada Immigration and with the United States Immigration. We were allowed to continue this agreement for one year by both federal governments on the basis that, in the United States, they are allowed to have Canadians working on an emergency basis. They are considering this highway as an emergency for this particular winter. In Canada, we can have Americans working on our side of the border if it is in the best interests of Canada.
What we have, then, are two Americans on the crew, and that is what is estimated as the required manpower to look after the 15 miles on the American side, but it does not always snow just on the American side or on the Canadian side, so we had to make some sort of arrangement where we could move our Canadians onto American soil. In the case of a heavy snowfall, there would be maybe two or three of our people, as well as Americans, and then, when they were working on the Canadian side, the whole works of them would work on the Canadian side.
It was quite interesting that we can do everything the same as we do on our side, except that we cannot bomb avalanches because, if an airplane drops an explosive out of the plane in the United States, it is equivalent to bombing a foreign country and is considered an act of war. So, we can do everything exactly the same on the American side as the Canadian side, except for bombing the avalanches.
Interestingly enough, we can shoot the avalanches, but we cannot bomb them.
Mr. McDonald: There was a suggestion that, similar to the movie The Mouse that Roared, it might be worthwhile to encourage the Americans to invade, and then clean up our economy on their way out.
Unfortunately, it did not work in that movie, either, so I would not advocate that plan of action now. We certainly do not want to give the Americans any excuse to invade us.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not the standards of maintenance have changed, generally speaking and, more importantly, what the long-term plans are for that corridor and the marine highway. What is the governments position with respect to the highway?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We certainly do not have a long-term solution, as we speak. We are going to be working with the Alaska government over this winter and next summer to try and get some kind of long-term agreement. Both the Americans and ourselves believe that each jurisdiction should be looking after the cost of its own maintenance. The maintenance that we are doing on the Alaska side is on a strict cost recovery basis right now. We would like to get a long-term, perhaps a 20 year, agreement, and we do have indications from the Americans that they also would like to enter into a long-term agreement.
As far as maintenance is concerned, the maintenance is certainly not at the same level that it has been in past years, mainly because we do not have the traffic counts with ore hauls ceased, and it may be that the highway will be closed for certain periods of time.
We will not be spending the overtime keeping the highway open that we have in past years and, because of that, the highway may be closed more often than it has been in the past.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister about his direction in municipal services and Municipal Act changes. Are they considering a new class of local government in rural areas?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we are, in fact, looking at some sort of a rural-municipal status. In the Municipal Act right now we have provisions for municipalities and we have provisions for hamlets, but we do not have provisions for anything between a hamlet and a municipality in a rural area. We will be looking at some sort of a rural local-government status. We will be doing some preliminary work on it, probably in the next year or so.
Ms. Moorcroft: What kinds of areas would they be looking at to permit the option for the new class of local government to develop - something, for instance, like the Marsh Lake community, where there is a very large area of land with a population larger than some of the towns that we presently have? What areas are you considering?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not discussed any specific areas with the department, but I think that the example that the Member just used would be a good example of a potential rural municipality. I think another area would be the Ibex Valley, where there are probably a sufficient number of people to have some sort of municipal corporation, but it would take in a very large area. The other thing about a rural local government is that a rural local municipality would not likely need to provide the same services as an urban municipality would need to supply. It would take quite a bit of work to come up with an actual definition of its responsibilities and authority.
Ms. Moorcroft: How does the Minister envision going forward to discuss the range of local services in the rural areas and how they are established - taxation, local consent and those kinds of issues? What procedure are they going to follow, and how are they going to work with First Nations on these initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The questions that the Member opposite has just posed would probably mean hours and hours of consultation. I do not think that, in the House at this moment, I can give a definitive answer on how we intend to go about this.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess the last comment I would like to make on that area is that I certainly agree that rural municipalities, municipal corporations, or however the Minister may want to see those areas organized, should have the ability to make decisions on local concerns. Nevertheless, territorial legislation, such as the Motor Vehicles Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, Human Rights Act, or self-government legislation - all of those statutes that have been enacted for many good reasons - should remain paramount.
Mrs. Firth: I have some questions of a general nature for the Minister regarding how his department does the books, so to speak. I recall last session, when we were debating the budget, the Minister made the announcement about the $1.8 million for the Dawson sewer project. He told us in the House that the $1.8 million works out to be approximately one-quarter of one percent of the overall budget. He said that because the funds will not be flowing for a while, we hope there will be some lapses in capital or O&M and we can funnel that into the Dawson water and sewer, and they hoped projects would come in under budget.
The reason we were asking the question last session was because this was kind of an impromptu announcement made by the Minister, we were supposed to be in such great debt, and there was supposed to be no money available. Then he magically came forward with this $1.8 million.
We questioned whether or not he was going to be able to find that $1.8 million, and he gave us that big explanation I just read out about the one-quarter of one percent of the overall budget. Then I see that, in this supplementary budget, he is coming here asking for $1.8 million for the Dawson sewer system, which was a commitment he had made to the Dawson community without the approbation of this Legislature.
Perhaps the Minister could tell us where his department went off base with their identification of the funds, and why he made the announcement without having the funds, and why he is having to come back now and ask for a supplementary estimate.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $1.8 million had to show up in the supplementaries because it was not in the capital budget for 1993-94. That is the reason that we see it as an item under capital expenditures.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us if they found the $1.8 million within the budget? Did they take one quarter of one percent or are they asking here for $1.8 million in addition to the main budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are asking for, I believe, $910,000 in total. If we wanted to compare that to the Dawson City water and sewer cost, then it would be approximately half of it. I believe that in my covering speech I did mention the $910,000. The net funds we are requesting as revote - the departments new funding requirement, combining decreases in expenditures and recoveries - is $910,000.
Mrs. Firth: Is the total cost of the project $2.7 million - the $1.8 million that the Minister found plus the $910,000?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $910,000 is for the entire department. There are overexpenditures in some areas and underexpenditures in others. The bottom line is that we are asking the Legislature for an additional $910,000.
Mrs. Firth: What for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In line-by-line in land development, for instance, we have turned back $11 million and are asking for other monies. As I said before, the bottom line totals out to $910,000.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us just how much the Dawson water and sewer project is going to cost.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the total project cost is something like $6.2 million. In previous years, the Yukon government has funded about $900,000. I will have to bring a breakdown of the current funding back to the House. I believe the Member is asking for figures relating to the multi-year project, and I can bring that information back to the Member after the break, if we have one.
Mrs. Firth: I have taken my capital estimate, just to see what the multi-year projected cost is, and it is $6,461,000. The Minister is saying that the government has spent $910,000 on the project so far, which means that we have in excess of $5 million left to spend.
If I am not interpreting that correctly, I would like the Minister to bring back for us an accounting of what has been spent, what the cost of the sewer is going to be, and what the annual appropriation request is going to be for this project to be completed.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I will be quite happy to bring back an accounting of the project. The Member opposite should be aware that approximately $900,000 was spent previous to 1993-94, and this does make up part of the $6,461,000, but funding for 1993-94 is $1.8 million.
Mrs. Firth: I have one more question regarding the same matter. I would like to know if we could get a copy of the agreement the Ministers department has with the municipality regarding the provision of this funding.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was intending to bring the agreement down, because it also has a breakdown of the funding. I will table it in the House after the break.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just wanted to ask the Minister if he could also bring back, after the break, copies of the Community and Transportation Services strategic plan.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I doubt if I can do that after the break.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps, then, the Minister might want to at least avail himself of a copy so that, when I am asking questions, he can respond with the complete information in front of him.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Committee 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 the Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday I was pursuing a line of questioning about the cuts to the community development fund and the policy direction that the departments were going to be taking to fund community projects. I had asked the Minister if he could tell us what messages are being given to bands or communities regarding the procedures for funding a community project that they maybe interested in. The Minister indicated that he would ask the department to contact, through the regular channels - generally, the municipal advisors - to talk to each community in the territory about how they can go about accessing government funding for specific projects.
We called a couple of communities - Haines Junction and Dawson City - which had not been contacted by the department about this. I would like to ask the Minister if he knows if any calls have been made or what is happening with the communities and their opportunity to have funded projects that would have at one time been funded under a community development fund and no longer can be.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure but, if you check, I believe that I had said that the departments would be contacting the unincorporated communities. The two communities that you called are both municipalities. I am not sure what message the Department of Government Services has given to the municipalities, but our municipal advisors will be in contact with them in due course. I doubt very much whether they have actually contacted any of the unincorporated communities at this point in time. They may very well have, but they would not be doing it by phone. They would be doing it on their regular travels to those communities.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for the answer. To clarify the record, I do have the Hansard here where the Minister said that he had asked the department to talk to each community in the territory. It was not anything about unincorporated communities or incorporated communities, it said each community in the territory.
I would like to ask the Minister about dumps. At the Mile 12 Carcross Road dump, the Mount Lorne community has established a recycling depot, which volunteers work at to keep the recycling depot clean. The Hamlet of Mount Lorne is still pursuing the option of changing the Mile 9 facility from a trench-and-burn operation to a transfer station. Can the Minister give me an update on what is happening with that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have any specific information here. I know there have been meetings with the City of Whitehorse and with the Hamlet of Mount Lorne respecting that particular dump and the fact that the community would like it changed from a dump to a transfer station. I do not know how far those discussions have gone at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister get back to me with a briefing on what is happening and when he expects there might be some resolution of this outstanding matter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will provide a legislative return some time during this session.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister about the issue of the recent sewage work that was done in the City of Dawson. There has been a request, through the town council, to have an investigation conducted into actions of the mayor in that matter. I would like to ask the Minister who will be conducting the investigation and what the terms of reference will be for that investigation.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand there will be a public meeting held in Dawson, and the inspector of municipalities will be chairing the meeting. I believe that the purpose of the meeting is to determine if the mayor had actually conducted himself in a proper and legal manner.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister plan to take any action other than holding a public meeting? How are they planning to investigate to see if there was any wrongdoing there? I will leave it at that and let the Minister respond. I will then have a further question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Could the Member repeat the first part of her question?
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister indicate...
Chair: Order, please. It seems like there are little meetings all over the House.
Ms. Moorcroft: ...whether the department is contemplating any action beyond a public meeting? If so, who will be conducting an investigation and how will it proceed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We would have to determine what actually happened at the public meeting before making any assumptions. I believe the inspector of municipalities has said that there will be a public meeting and a subsequent report.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not completely convinced that the public meeting, while necessary in itself, is the best avenue to investigate this particular problem. When there is a large group of people, a meeting can be confrontational, there can be allegations and contradictions and a great deal of controversy can arise. It might just muddy the water rather than clarify the issue. I would like to know if the Minister is planning to investigate the matter in a serious way, other than by holding a public meeting?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The situation in Dawson is between the city council and the mayor, and I certainly do not want to prejudge what the council will determine or what will come out of the public meeting. So I apologize, but I cannot give the Member any more information than that at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not asking the Minister to prejudge the results of the meeting. I am asking the Minister what he is going to do about this very serious problem that has been brought to his attention. Is he going to launch a serious investigation and, if so, how is it going to proceed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The inspector of municipalities has attended a council meeting with the City of Dawson and, at their request, he will chair a public meeting in Dawson. Following that public meeting, we will determine whether further action is necessary.
Mr. Cable: I have just a few questions of the Minister at this time, in preparation for the line-by-line debate on land development. The lands regulations talk about a register of all records of assignments, encumbrances and agreements for sale. Is that register actually kept, to the Ministers knowledge?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not familiar with the register as such, but I certainly will get some information on it and provide that information in a legislative return.
Mr. Cable: An oral answer, when we get to the line-by-line debate, is quite sufficient. I hope my regulations are up to date, but it is at subsection 5(2). The reason I ask is because I would like to find out what sort of information is kept with respect to the country-residential and rural-residential lots we discussed yesterday. Can the computers, or whatever it is that this register is composed of, spit out all the lots under that category that were sold at market value? Is that readily available?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the lots that were sold and the prices they were sold for would be readily available, if that is the question.
Mr. Cable: Yes, that is the question. Perhaps the Minister could file that information as a legislative return; I would like to review it. This information would be in relation to the lots that were sold during the period to which the supplemental relates, I presume.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will certainly provide that information to the House.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister some questions related to the strategic plan of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, specifically, about some issues identified by the Minister on March 5, 1993, which are outlined on page 35 - if the Minister took my suggestion to bring a copy of it with him to the session this afternoon following our break.
Yesterday, I had asked about a policy void, and issue number 4 is identified as being a policy void. I know that the Minister said yesterday that he did not believe that he had said that we have a policy void - I do not believe we do. Perhaps, the Minister could indicate the meaning of this item in the strategic plan and tell us what areas have been identified where some policy work may be required. Could the Minister also tell us what has been done about them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite obviously has a little more pull than I do, because she has a copy of the strategic plan and I do not. I have to apologize to the House because I cannot table that strategic plan in its present form. The plan is still being worked on and has not been approved. When the plan is completed, I will be quite happy to table the strategy. As it stands now, it has neither been adopted nor approved.
Ms. Moorcroft: On the issue of decentralization, can the Minister tell us whether he has any information on the costs or benefits of it, and will all decentralized positions be evaluated for relevancy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that there has been a cost-benefit analysis, or even a strategic analysis, of the benefits of decentralization in the department. At least, I am not aware of one that has been conducted. There are some positions that should be analyzed for benefits either to the community or to the department, and the relevant costs of those positions.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister have any further comments to make on the effectiveness and value of decentralized positions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I do not have any more comments at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister or the government have any policy direction on decentralization?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will look at decentralizing positions, if they are not more costly to the government than leaving the positions where they are, or if there are measurable benefits to the community where the position will be decentralized to.
Mr. McDonald: Just to follow up on that point briefly, the minister has indicated that the department will consider a decentralized position if there is no net cost to the department as a result of the decentralization. Is the Minister saying that the department will not decentralize anyone if the person can be housed in Whitehorse more cheaply?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think I said that. I believe what I did say was that, if there is a net benefit to the community, then we will consider decentralization, but not at any cost. I think that the cost is very important, when we look at decentralization, but so is the benefit the community is going to derive from it - not just the fact that it is another person in the community, but what is the actual benefit to the government and to that community.
Mr. McDonald: I believe there are actually two things that the Minister said; he said that there had to be a net benefit to the community, which could be calculated in a number of different ways. Even one extra paycheque in a community could be considered a net benefit, so that is not really a limiting factor. However, I am certain I heard the Minister say that as long as there is no net increase to the department, they would consider decentralizing positions to the communities. The effect of that is that if the position can be housed in Whitehorse more cheaply, then the position will be held in Whitehorse, period. Is that not what the Minister said?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not saying what the Member heard or did not hear, but perhaps I can repeat what I said: if there is a net benefit to a community, and if there is a net benefit to government, without a large increase in net cost, we would consider decentralization.
Mr. McDonald: The position is evolving. The Minister is now saying that as long as it does not involve a large increase in costs, the department will consider relocating. If there is a net benefit to the community and the department from a particular decentralization action, the government will consider decentralizing a position. Clearly, that is all very loosey-goosey kind of talk and means very little when it comes to the policy considerations when considering decentralization.
In the Department of Community and Transportation Services, we have not seen a lot of decentralization, but we have heard a lot of talk about recentralization - taking positions that have been decentralized and recentralizing them back to Whitehorse. That is what gives us some concern that perhaps there is a policy that is not well-articulated that does, in fact, have employees moving around the territory. We are trying to determine who is benefiting? Is it the rural communities? Whitehorse? Government?
The news so far is that the communities are not the big winners in this initiative.
The Yukon Party, while in Opposition, made a big deal about decentralization and how they wanted to undertake what they considered to be a more rational policy. They had good ideas in mind as to how decentralization might better be accomplished. All we have seen are recentralizing moves.
I am certain that if the governments actions of today were known when the Yukon Party in opposition was making their case about the NDPs decentralization policy, the situation would have been a lot different, in terms of the publics acceptance of the claims of the Yukon Party at the time.
I do not want to belabour this point, but I would like to raise the issue in the capital estimates because it would give the Minister a chance to think through this policy and to reread the remarks of this afternoon. Perhaps we will get a clearer perspective on what the Ministers policy is.
One of the issues that was raised very briefly yesterday afternoon, which, in my opinion, deserves more thorough analysis, is the community development fund cancellation, and what the Department of Community and Transportation Services is doing now to pick up the slack for the non-organized communities out there that had come to look to the CDF to provide for community - and I use community in the broadest possible context - or regional needs. With the announcement made this year that the community development fund will be history, the non-organized communities and rural people - First Nations - that had looked to the community development fund will be expecting that at least some of that financial commitment from YTG will be picked up through other means, presumably, in part, through the Community and Transportation Services budget. Is the Minister reserving any funds in their financial planning in the future to account for the needs of non-organized communities, of regional districts and of First Nations so that their interests, which are every bit as legitimate as those of the people who live in the organized communities, can be met in some financial form? If so, what has been the direction from the Minister, through the municipal advisors, to the communities and First Nations on now they might access funding and how the development of priorities for funding will be undertaken?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We certainly have not developed criteria as thorough or comprehensive as the Member opposite is alluding to. Over the winter and prior to next budget season, we will be developing some sort of criteria that will outline the type of projects that will be funded on line items in the budget. I would expect that those would be similar to municipal-type projects. The amount of funds that are expected to be put into the budget has not been discussed either at the Cabinet level or the departmental level. I would like to point out to the Member opposite that, thank goodness, we do not yet have regional districts in the Yukon to worry about.
Mr. McDonald: Clearly, I am not using the concept of regional districts in the literal form. I am talking about regional districts in terms of geographic areas, and concentrations of populations. There are a number of areas in the Yukon that are not technically organized communities, hamlets, towns or cities. One could think of any number of rural areas that concept covers. Certainly, those people had come to look to - among other sources of funding - the community development fund to meet some of their legitimate needs. I was distressed to hear that the community development fund was announced for closure without any compensating commitment by the government that they were going to address the needs of a lot of rural people who might want to see some respect for their own interests being served through the governments budgeting process.
I would like to ask the Minister, now that he has indicated that he will be developing criteria between now and the next budget cycle, whether or not the government is intending to communicate, not only to the communities and First Nations, but also to all Members in the Legislature what the funding criteria will be.
I would also like to know if the Minister would be prepared to tell us what sort of consultative schedule he is planning to undertake, or whether consultation is going to be carried out during the normal rounds of the municipal advisors who tour the territory from time to time.
Those people have come to me already, saying first of all that they are royally POd by the governments announcement on the community development fund - and they will communicate that to the government next election - and secondly they are also concerned that the alternatives were not clearly established when the announcement was made.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand -
The Member for Faro wants to answer for me.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: It is too early in the day to pout. I would ask the Minister if he would not mind giving us some sort of answer to the question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have no intention of pouting, but I cannot easily hear the question when we have people talking in the background. If the Member wants me to answer the question, I certainly will, but I would appreciate it if his Members would not speak when he is trying to ask me a question. I do not think that is too much to ask.
With respect to the community development fund, I understand that a committee between the Department of Economic Development and the community services branch has been struck to look after the types of questions the Member is asking of me, such as the criteria for eligibility, for funding, for projects, and the amount of cost-sharing to be involved, and establishing some sort of a criteria that people will be able to work with.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister made reference to a committee. Who is on the committee and when did it begin its work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure who the actual people are who are sitting on the committee; they are people from Economic Development and community services branch. I just became aware of the committee a short time ago.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the part of the question the Minister did not hear had to do with whether or not the Minister was going to provide information to us with respect to the consultation schedule and how the municipal advisors were going to communicate the message to the communities. Is it going to be a consultation schedule, is there going to be consultation, or is there simply going to be communication of the final results of the committees work? How is the Minister going to get the message across?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the committee will likely put together a schedule of how this should be done. I would think that the department will have to work with the community development fund people - the people who are still running the program - to determine who the clients are. I think that is going to be quite important in the next few years, until we get the communities and rural areas to put together a five-year capital plan of some sort, so that we can determine what their needs and desires are.
Mr. McDonald: How is the governments and departments plan to get the message out to the communities going to be undertaken? Will it be handled by municipal advisors, or will there be a consultation schedule, or both?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure how that will be undertaken. I think that, when we see the results of these committee meetings, we will be able to make the determination on how the consultation should take place.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up with the Minister on the concept of the committee that he has mentioned. He indicated to us that he just heard about the committee recently. Can he tell us who appointed the committee, if he did not know anything about it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the committee was appointed by the deputy ministers of the respective departments. My instructions to our department was to determine what the requirements were and to establish some sort of criteria. This may well be part of the way in which they are doing it.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us what the name of the committee is so that we can refer to it properly. I understand, from what the Minister has told us this afternoon that this is a two-person committee with a member from Economic Development and one from Community and Transportation Services. The Minister said he did not know who the people are, but they obviously must be government employees. At what level of employment are they? Who are the people on the committee, other than their names?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are representatives from community services and Economic Development. I do not know the numbers or what level of people they are or even their names, but, possibly, if the committee has been struck, I can bring that information back to the House.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us what the committees mandate is? What direction has been given to this committee and exactly what it is supposed to do?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is departmental. The committee was not put together by the Ministers; the departments did it. I have not been apprised of their actual mandate, their numbers, the people who are on it or the level of their positions.
Mrs. Firth: From whom is this committee taking direction?
The Minister stands up and uses this committee as his defence. Then he tells us he knows nothing about it, because it is a departmental committee. He thinks that the deputy ministers of the two departments might have got together and established this committee.
Perhaps he could enlighten us a bit. What is the mandate of the committee? Who gives it direction? Does the committee just go off on its own? Does the deputy minister just tell someone to go away, form a committee and come back later to tell the Minister what he is going to do? Did the Minister not give any direction or instructions about what he or the government wanted done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thought that I had made it very clear that I had only recently learned about the committee, and I am not at all familiar with its mandate or the people who are on the committee. I further understand that they will be making recommendations to the community development fund board, but other than that, I know nothing about it.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister going to find out about the committee so that perhaps he can tell us later this evening what this committee is all about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite obviously was not listening - maybe talking but not listening - because I did say that I would find out more about the committee and provide the information in the form of a legislative return.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us when he will provide that information in a legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Before this session ends.
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of general questions, as well, that have not been touched on yet. First of all, in regard to the fire ambulance policies, have any changes been made since the Minister took office or are there any changes planned?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No.
Mr. McDonald: In terms of the departmental organization, has there been, or are there any plans, for any reorganizations since the Minister took office, particularly since the last budget round? Is there anything that the Minister would like to tell us?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There have not been any changes in the organization or the makeup. Are we talking about both fire and ambulance policy? No, there have not been any changes.
Mr. McDonald: I am making reference to the organization of the whole department when I ask whether or not there have been any reorganization. I am also asking whether or not there is any planned reorganization of the department or its branches.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When the strategic plan that one of the Members was talking about previously is approved, I think that there will be some changes in the community services branch. The highways branch of the department is currently doing a strategic plan, and when that is completed, approved and adopted, there will likely be some changes made.
Mr. McDonald: Will the changes that the Minister is referring to be made, or started, during this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that some of the changes would be started in this fiscal year, if we are referring to 1993-94.
Mr. McDonald: I guess this is the time to talk about those changes then, because this will be the last time to talk about any changes before they are implemented.
Can the Minister give us a preview of the changes he is contemplating?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said before, neither the strategic plan for community services nor for highways has been adopted or approved. Until those plans have been approved by me, I do not want to get into what may or may not happen.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was quite surprised when the Minister indicated that he did not have a copy of the strategic plan the department has published. I would like to just ask the Minister what this governments procedure is on the development and implementation of strategic plans.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A strategic plan will normally be undertaken by the department and, once the department has completed it to their satisfaction, it would go to the Minister for his approval. Following that approval, it would likely go to Cabinet, if there were changes contemplated in the plan that would require Cabinet direction.
Ms. Moorcroft: Strategic plans are road maps. They set out guidelines and principles that guide the department or business in achieving its desired results. They set out time lines, values, goals and objectives, and how the department achieves them. It is a reference point, so that progress toward achieving goals and objectives can be measured.
Did the Minister meet with the strategic planning team that developed the strategic plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I did.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was the strategic plan sent to the Ministers office prior to its being printed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Not specifically. I think I had a copy of the draft.
Ms. Moorcroft: What direction did the Minister give to the strategic planning team when he met with them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We met for days, and there was a lot of direction and discussion. When the plan is completed, approved and adopted I will give the Member a copy.
Mrs. Firth: Do you not remember what you told the committee to do?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can remember most of the stuff, if you want me to talk about what we did for two days.
Chair: Order please. I would like to remind Members to direct their questions to the Members, and not to you.
Ms. Moorcroft: Less than an hour ago, the Minister indicated that he did not have a copy of the strategic plan. Just now, he said that he spent days meeting with the strategic planning team, and they talked about issues and priorities. Then he said that, when it is completed, he would discuss it, and that it is not adopted or approved. I the government in touch with its operations and departments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the nature of communication with his department? Is it a two-way communication?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister recollect any of the issues that he identified when he spent days meeting with the strategic planning team about priorities within the department, the restructuring of the department, and so forth?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have indicated a couple of times this afternoon that I will be quite happy to table the strategic plan when it has been adopted and approved. The Member opposite could then very readily see the issues that she is asking about at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: The document that I have, which is entitled The Department of Community and Transportation Services, Municipal and Community Affairs Division, Strategic Plan, does not in any way indicate that the plan is in draft form.
I would like the Minister to clarify how this document was printed, if it was not adopted or approved.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that the Queens Printer printed it. I do not really know what the question is.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will rephrase the question. This is a 109-page, cerlox-bound document with the logo of the Yukon government Department of Community and Transportation Services on it. The question is: how was the document printed if it has not been adopted or approved? What is the Ministers knowledge of this document? It seems to be rather weak.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that the department had it printed.
Chair: The time being close to 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m. this evening.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Ms. Moorcroft: Before we took a recess, we were talking about the strategic plan of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and I was talking with some of my colleagues about this at the break. The Members opposite - and I know the new Minister was not a Member in the previous Legislature - engaged in a lot of inflammatory rhetoric about the previous government being led around by the nose by the bureaucracy and so forth. I will refrain from doing that, but I do have a genuine concern about the document we have been discussing. It looks mainly at organizational and restructuring, not strategic change - for example, the safety branch operating separately from the engineering branch. It discussed transferring the arts branch and the heritage branch from Tourism to municipal and community affairs; investigate blending the sports and recreation branch of Community and Transportation Services with parks and outdoor recreation branch from Renewable Resources and move those two branches to join with the arts and heritage branch within Tourism, and there are discussions of a number of initiatives relating to the lands branch and duplication of responsibilities in Renewable Resources - for example, some of the work that Renewable Resources does on agriculture or planning might move over to the Department of Community and Transportation Services as it is changed.
The document does not appear to set directions. It seems to be more of an operational plan. It does say that the operations and structure will ensure respect for the need to utilize a hierarchical structure for formal communication, but will encourage networking and team processes to get the work done. That certainly does not seem to have been done in this case.
It says a gap exists between senior and middle managements overall view of what direction the division should be heading, for example, management structure, style and vision. I wonder if that is solved by removing an assistant deputy minister position. It reads that there is a void throughout the division as to what we stand for, what we believe in, what we believe to be right and what we value. For example, fire safety standards should never have to take a back seat to political goals.
I wonder what that means. When have fire safety standards taken a back seat to political goals?
I am glad to hear that this is not the final document, and there is indeed, as the Minister was saying, some comments in it about it being a draft and an ongoing process. My reading of it is that the document appears to be defining its goals to meet the needs of the civil service, and the department needs to meet the needs of the public.
I would applaud the Minister for wanting to participate in setting the direction of the department, and I would like to hear what he has to say about how the process will continue from here - although there are still some questions on how it reached this stage without the Minister being aware of it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I indicated earlier, I am quite aware of the plan, and I have been involved formerly as an employee and, more recently, as a Minister.
I should clear up a couple of items from before the break. There have been some administrative changes. They are not necessarily specifically due to that plan, but the plan fit in with some policy direction that our government issued to the department. The Member opposite has picked up on the fact that that is a departmental strategic plan. It is not policy we are talking about, but it is more organizational and management oriented.
The policy given to the department is basically to offer better service delivery in a more efficient manner. The way they interpret and implement that is more to do with the strategic plan.
There have also been some administrative changes that people should be aware of. We have spoken about some of those changes in the House before. The main one is the elimination of the ADM in corporate services. We talked about that in the spring session.
There have been some minor changes. The land development coordinator, for instance, is now working out of municipal engineering. That is different from a year ago. I do thank the Member opposite for her comments on the plan.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I did pick up that this was administrative change, but it is not just administrative change. I find it hard to say that it is not policy in that it does set out a section on values, beliefs and approaches on mission. It identifies issues, ones that were identified by the Minister; philosophical, organizational and administrative issues; budget and financial issues; staff issues; division issues and branch-specific issues. There is also a section on recommendations for structural change and recommendations for operating structure. I have to say that I also picked up that the Minister was not as informed as I think he should be on this. He did not really answer the question that I had initially posed about how this process will continue. I asked a similar question before the break about what this governments priorities are in setting directions for departments.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member has pointed out from some of the recommendations, there has to be a lot more discussion with other branches and departments of the government. There has to be a lot of discussion with staff members and, basically, it is a continuing process that I hope to see continue.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will make the representation that I believe the process, when it does continue, should involve workers at all levels. I am sure the Minister will also be relieved to know that I am going to move on from the strategic plan and discuss a couple of other issues before we get into line-by-line debate.
Mrs. Firth: Before we leave this area, I just want to ask the Minister a question.
I have heard this Minister and the other Ministers say, on a regular basis, that the direction, or instruction, that they have given to the departments and the deputy ministers is to offer better service delivery in a more efficient manner. What parameters do the Ministers attach to that statement? It is a broad, general statement that means anything. What range and leeway do the Ministers give to the deputy ministers? How much discretion is given to the deputy minister. For example, can a deputy minister eliminate whatever programs they want to. Can they look at privatization? I want to know if there is any other direction given, except to be more efficient and deliver a better service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are many different options, and I think that it is important that the government give the staff the opportunity to become more efficient and to deliver a better service. Certainly, the elimination of a program is not a staff decision, but it is a decision that would have to be made at the political level. If a recommendation to eliminate a program came to our attention, it would be considered at the political level.
I do not see anything wrong with the staff actually making such recommendations. If they see a program that is no longer needed, but is being carried on, and they see that it could be eliminated or amalgamated with some other program, I certainly believe that they should bring that forward as a recommendation to the political people.
Mrs. Firth: I guess what I am trying to do here is to determine what this government represents, where they are coming from and what their philosophy is. If I were a public servant and a new Minister said to me, I want you to offer a better service delivery in a more efficient manner, I would have two options. I could say, You have to be more specific. What are the rules? Can I look at reducing programs, and so on? Or I could just go away and probably get quite frustrated because it would become a trial and error situation. I would write out a few things, take it to him; he would say, No, that is not what I want, so I would go back and do it again. Or else I would just go away and do whatever I wanted to do.
I am trying to give the Ministers and the government the benefit of the doubt and trying to be generous in drawing a conclusion that they gave more direction than just to provide or offer a better service in a more efficient manner. I am hoping they gave more specific instructions; otherwise, what does that mean to anybody? It does not mean anything, or it could mean everything. That is what I am trying to find out from the Minister. What did he tell his staff?
I do not disagree with the staff having the opportunity to make recommendations about anything. I think the communication channels should be open, but I get the distinct feeling that the Minister made this rather vague statement - and I have to feel that way about some of the other Ministers, too - and then just waited for the deputy minister or for some other senior officials to come and tell him what to do. That is my concern. I want to try to find out whether the Ministers are giving any direction by saying to the public servants, Look, this is the way we want to deliver government services to the public of the Yukon and we would like you to look at ways of changing things. We had expected some change. We want to change the way this or that is done, and this is how we would like you to look at making that change. And then find out whether or not it is possible.
I would like the Minister to be more specific and tell me. If he did not, just stand up and say they did not, that all they did was issue a general statement. Give us something to work with. If he did not, then we can discuss that. But if he did give more specific instruction, then tell us so we know where this government is coming from.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The whole process is ongoing. There are specific directions given to deputy ministers on an ongoing basis. For example, the elimination of the resource transportation access program was more or less a specific direction from me as Minister. The moving of the superintendents position from Faro to Whitehorse was direction from the political side, as well.
There are specific directions like that going on all the time. Another example is in the whole land development area. We have basically said that we want to have two years inventory at any given time. That is very specific direction to the staff. These are examples of ongoing directions, as is the whole strategic planning exercise.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has given us three examples of some direction, but I wonder if the Minister would be prepared to provide us with a sort of recap of his first year as Minister and the change that he has directed the department to make during this time? That way, we can get an idea of what kind of change has occurred and what kind of progress has been made. Would he make a commitment to bring that back to the Legislature, so that we could see what is different about the way he is managing the portfolio, as compared to the previous government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know that I would want to try and remember every specific bit of direction that was provided to the deputy minister or other staff. I do not see too big of a problem in providing some of the major initiatives that we have undertaken in the last year. I would be quite happy to provide a few examples, but I am not even going to attempt to provide all of them, in case I miss something or provide some that were not directions from the Minister but may have been a departmental initiative. I will provide some of the major initiatives.
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to getting that information. What I am really interested in is what accomplishments this government has made. I know that, as Opposition Members, the criticism by the present government was that they could provide better government than the previous government could, that they would provide better government to Yukoners, better and more efficient services. I want the Minister to indicate why and how they are providing better government than the previous government did.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister also indicate why he made the decision that he did on the RTAP, either now or in the return that he is going to provide?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I will provide that information in the legislative return.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, I asked the Minister to provide a breakdown, in writing, of the amount for the unbudgeted profit on land sales. I realize we are going to be moving into the line-by-line soon. Does the Minister have that, or will he have it soon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will be providing that information soon. I do not believe I have it in the form of a return yet.
Mr. Penikett: When the Minister comes back with an explanation about why he killed the resource transportation access program, might he, in his supplementary information in that return, also indicate to us whom he consulted before making that decision.
There was a familiar hand gesture, which I think meant yes or maybe, I am not sure. Perhaps the Minister could indicate which when he answers my next question.
I would like to put a question to the Minister - perhaps two or three questions on one subject - that may require some detailed information. I will understand if the Minister cannot provide it all tonight. I would like to know as much as he has at his fingertips, and if he needs to come back with a legislative return, that will be fine. My question concerns the $10 million in federal money that is to be disbursed on a number of projects over a number of years. For the record, I would like to know exactly what projects will be getting the money and in exactly what year, if he can provide that information.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to bring back the actual amounts and the exact years in a legislative return. I can tell the Member opposite that the expenditures are for the Top of the World Highway, the Freegold Road and the Campbell Highway - just those three projects.
Mr. Penikett: I would also like, for the record, to ask for the contracts list from April 1 of this fiscal year to now, as we were invited by the Government Leader to ask for them department by department. I would like to get an undertaking that we get those expeditiously from the Minister, if I could.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I did indicate earlier today that I would be providing those lists either tomorrow or early next week. Also, there is a qualification on those contract lists in that the amounts may change before the end of the year. I think that most of you are aware that, on some contracts, the scope might be changed to reduce the contract or the scope may very well be changed to increase the contract. The actual figure that you get from Government Services at the end of the year may be somewhat different from the figures I provide now.
Mr. Penikett: I am quite accustomed to being attacked for a $100,000 contract, of which we only spent $25,000. I have had years of experience with that.
I would like to change the subject and ask the Minister, in general debate, what is essentially a constituency question, but I want to put it as a policy question. I hope that the Minister will understand that I may want to pursue it at a later date on behalf of my constituent.
This concerns the employees who, for example, may be in a department like Community and Transportation Services, which has many rural employees who may be in housing in a rural community and be affected by the Government Employee Housing Plan Act, which is administered by the Ministers other department, the Yukon Housing Corporation.
I would like to ask, as a matter of policy, if the Minister has had occasion to intervene on behalf of employees where, upon relocation, the offer made to the employee for their home under the buy-back program has been totally inadequate. Does the Minister have any scruples or problems doing that, given his dual role as Minister of Community and Transportation Services and Minister of the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not had a representation from any of the employees yet to intervene in a situation such as the Member opposite has alluded to.
There are a couple of problems. The act stipulates the maximum amount of money to be paid to an employee, and I do not know if that amount is sufficient at this time. It may have been when the act was written and the amount was put in. I think that the method of appraisal is fair, because there are two separate appraisals done, one by someone chosen by the person owning the house and one by someone chosen by the government. The two appraisals are then averaged.
The Yukon Housing Corporation conference is this weekend, and I know that is one of the issues that will be discussed at the conference.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to pursue it at length with the Minister now. Perhaps I can give him, though, some facts on behalf of an employee - not of C&TS but a government employee - which concern me greatly and which I would like to pursue when we get to the Housing Corporation estimates. I will give the information by way of notice now.
The Minister quotes the Government Employee Housing Plan Act and, as I am informed, section 5(4) of that act actually states that the appraisal under this section shall be based on the cost approach or the market approach and, I think, according to that, giving the government an option. The problem is, as the Minister knows as well as anybody, there is not much of a housing market in rural Yukon, especially in the smaller communities, and there can be huge discrepancies between the appraised market value and the cost value, particularly in a case like that of the people who now live in my constituency where they bought a home that had a cost value of around $65,000, then proceeded to get Housing Corporation repair program funding for some $20,000 and put about $30,000 of repairs into it. They had one market value appraisal of $80,000, another market value of only $52,000, had a cost value appraisal of $82,000 but were offered only $47,430, which is, of course, 93 percent of the market value average. I understand the law gives the employer, the government, a choice but I am pretty concerned when a couple put a hell of a lot of money into a property to improve it and then cannot recover that money when they relocate to another community whilst still on government service.
I will leave it at that at this moment, but I want to give the Minister notice that I will pursue it when he is wearing his other hat.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister a couple of questions about the preparation for a new subdivision act. In particular, there is a letter that was sent from the Association of Canada Land Surveyors that has a great deal of practical experience with carrying out subdivisions throughout the Yukon, and a number of its members have experience working in other provincial jurisdictions. They contacted the Department of Community and Transportation Services and requested a draft copy of the new act to allow their membership the opportunity to review and comment.
They were advised that they would not be invited to comment until the bill was tabled in the Legislature.
The concerns that the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors put forward in its letter is that the subdivision act not be presented in isolation without consideration of the proposed changes to the Land Titles Act, land titles plans regulations and federal acts, such as the Canada Land Surveys Act. They state that there are many amendments required to clarify survey requirements in the Land Titles Act, which should be considered when drafting the new subdivision act, rather than trying to do this in regulations.
I would like to ask the Minister if he is either prepared to meet with the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors or to respond to its request to provide some professional advice to the drafting of the proposed subdivision act.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Since that letter was written, the association has had a meeting with Community and Transportation Services. Apparently, it was a very positive meeting. I believe that the association is on side with the legislation that we have drafted.
Ms. Moorcroft: The municipal engineering branch has worked with the City of Whitehorse on site selection and a cost-sharing formula for a new $27 million sewage treatment facility for the city. It is a very serious, ongoing issue, and I know it is one we would all like to see resolved as soon as possible. As the Minister knows, there were recent water board hearings looking at the citys proposal. Different parties had genuine concerns about the proposal itself.
There was a committee overseeing the process of selecting a treatment method that the Taan Kwachan chair, Shirley Adamson, was involved with. She has expressed the concern that she is not convinced that the system would work. Several members of the public commented on their concern about effluent quality and the need to have sound technical information provided by the proponents of this particular proposal.
The city is now at the point of selecting a different method. What they are proposing is to expand its lagoon system with the construction of another four large lagoons. Once a year, over a two-month period in the fall, the storage facility would be emptied into the river. I think the water board has to move cautiously and impose stringent conditions to ensure the effluent quality will meet standards now and down the road. We certainly do not want a repeat of what happened last spring when one of the cells in the lagoon system was not working and they just opened the pipe and raw sewage was going into the Yukon River system.
Does the Minister have any comments on how the department is involved in ensuring that there is technical viability to the proposal before millions of dollars are spent on a sewage treatment system?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The City of Whitehorse has been the lead hand in this project. Our municipal engineering people have worked with the city and sat on a technical committee of a group of engineers from the city and municipal engineering, along with the consultant who was hired by the city.
I sat on the selection committee along with Ms. Adamson, Lena Johns and Bill Weigand. My understanding is that it will provide secondary treatment that Iwill meet the requirements of the water licence. I think that because I do not believe this particular type of system is in existence in the north right now and there will be a period of time when they will have to monitor it quite closely. Possibly that is where the water board is having some problems right now. The engineering people are quite confident that the system is a very good one, and I expect we will see planning and engineering done this year for construction in future years.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said that the City of Whitehorse is taking the lead hand on this and, certainly, it is the sewage from the City of Whitehorse, but this sewage is going down the Yukon River system and far beyond the City of Whitehorse limits. People living downstream using the water have concerns, as do many people living in my riding have, and I know the Minister often hears from his own constituents on this topic.
The lagoon system that has been proposed, as the Minister said, is not presently in existence in the north. Did the committee look at systems with a proven track record of service in northern communities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My deputy corrected me on the use of this system. It actually is in use in the north. The information I was getting was from the newspaper today. I had totally forgotten about it, but Haines Junction has had such a system for approximately the last four or five years. There are also several in northern British Columbia and other areas, and it has been in existence for quite some time.
Essentially, it is a long-term storage system, where the sewage effluent is held for approximately one year and, then, dumped over a period of time. Treatment for this type of system is considered secondary, due to the systems retention.
Ms. Moorcroft: I wonder how the long-term storage really helps in the breakdown of the sewage. One of the large concerns is the amount of water used in the City of Whitehorse. The large amount of water used slows down the percolation.
Another concern about the use of lagoons is that a lot of land is required, and there is the outstanding issue of the territorial government, the City of Whitehorse and First Nations reaching an agreement on this 1003 hectares of land, which is prime river-bottom land and would be required for the city to use this system. This land is situated on First Nations settlement land.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have been negotiating with the Taan Kwachan for the land and my understanding is that we are very near to an agreement with them. As for the system, it really is not that different from anywhere else in Canada other than that it is for long-term retention. In southern parts of Canada, they may only hold the effluent for a two- or three-month period, but here, because of our temperatures, we are required to hold it for a longer term than in the south. The other thing is that it is not a percolation system. There will be a liner - my deputy just corrected me again. There actually is not a liner but it is not a percolation system; it is held in storage and then, after a certain period, it is released.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister stated that this particular system has been used in Haines Junction for awhile and Haines Junction is certainly an awfully lot smaller community than Whitehorse. The present figures being bandied about are that $25 million is going to be spent. I would like to see evidence that supports this as the most effective sewage treatment system that we could spending that money on, and I would like to have the Minister comment on what the engineering criteria and the evaluation criteria are. Although we all want to see the problem solved as soon as possible, I think we need to be very, very sure that $25 million is being spent on a good system.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know if I can comment very much on the engineering aspects of this particular system. My deputy has corrected me twice now since we have been talking about it, so I am obviously not an expert at all in that particular field.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister bring back a legislative return that might address some of my concerns on this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I will provide a legislative return, probably in the mains, as that is where the project appears. We will probably be able to have it by the time we are into the main budget.
Chair: Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Are we prepared to go to line-by-line debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
Ms. Moorcroft: Could I just ask the Minister to give a breakdown of this reduction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For the increases, there is $23,000 to fund the casual policy analyst position in the deputy ministers office, and a $5,000 net increase for miscellaneous small items. For reductions, there was $63,000 due to the elimination of the communications coordinator position in the deputy ministers office, $141,000 is a result of a departmental land claims office move to municipal and community affairs division, and $160,000 in emergency measures preparation due to staffing delays as a result of reduced federal contribution.
Ms. Moorcroft: How long of a term was the policy analyst hired for, and what were the responsibilities associated with that position?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have the exact length of time during which the person was employed in that position, but the person was hired to work on the Motor Vehicles Act amendments.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister review for me what the Motor Vehicles Act amendments were about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Motor Vehicles Act amendments include a complete rewrite of the Motor Vehicles Act. There are a massive number of changes in the act. That will likely be coming forward in the next fall sitting.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the work been completed or will there be additional staff resources assigned to that in next years budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Generally, it is expected that it can be completed in house.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister provide me with a briefing on the Motor Vehicle Act amendments that they are contemplating?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly, we would be happy to provide a briefing. I am not sure when the best time would be to provide it to the Members opposite. I doubt very much if it will be this week. Before it ever comes to the House we will do that.
Mrs. Firth: I want to go through those figures with the Minister again because my calculation comes up about $24,000 different the Ministers.
He said there was the underexpenditure of $63,000 for the communication coordinators job that was deleted, $141,00 for the land claims office and $160,000 for emergency measures, which came to $344,000. The overexpenditures were $23,000 for the policy analyst and $5,000 for miscellaneous, which is $28,000. That leaves an unaccounted amount of $24,000. There is $336,000 in this supplementary that is being turned back and I calculate a $312,000 underexpenditure.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I just did a quick addition and mine came out okay, so I will just run back through the numbers again. The increases were $23,000 to fund a casual policy analyst, $5,000 net increase for miscellaneous small items, and then reductions were $63,000 for a communications coordinator, $141,000 for the Department of Land Claims, and $160,000 for emergency measures.
Mrs. Firth: How does the Minister arrive at the $336,000 figure?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The reductions total $364,000, and then you subtract the $28,000.
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of an underexpenditure of $336,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
Ms. Moorcroft: I am just following along in the introductory remarks that the Minister made when he introduced this supplementary to make sure we have an explanation of each of these lines, but perhaps he can go through the explanation for the corporate services division supplementary.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a $47,000 increase due to the transfer of a data entry clerk position from the Department of Finance, and then a reduction of $16,000 from various vacancies; $10,000 is due to delays in filling a clerk position and an administrative position, and $6,000 is due to the vacancy of a policy analyst position for a number of weeks.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was that policy position filled before the end of the year, or is the position still vacant?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The position is currently filled.
Corporate Services Division agreed to in the amount of $31,000
On Transportation Division
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that this is a net reduction of $230,000 and I would like the Minister to outline the overexpenditures and the reductions. After the Minister has provided a breakdown, I will ask him another question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The expenditure can be broken down as follows: Old Crow freight costs of $100,000; maintenance camp grader blade costs of $250,000 are now being charged to highway maintenance instead of the road equipment revolving account; $35,000 is a result of the BST project work that required extra sweeping; $551,000 is resulting from unbudgeted washouts, with the major washouts on the Dempster and Campbell highways; $287,000 for additional project work being done; $188,000 for brush and weed control and $99,000 in sign and post maintenance in order to stimulate winter employment; $381,000 for a winter crushing project that is being done in preparation for the 1994-95 project season and to replace stockpiles used in the 1993-94 programs; and $13,000 net increase/decrease of smaller miscellaneous items. The reduction of $57,000 results from a secretarial position on acting assignment in transport services in the amount of $33,000 and the acting assistant deputy minister is lower by $24,000; $410,000 is a result of the cancellation of the south Klondike Highway agreement; there is a $1,336,000 savings resulting from some highway maintenance projects that were cancelled in order to cover other unanticipated expenditures, such as the washouts mentioned earlier; $44,000 for reduced expenditures in various airports, due to direct payment by Transport Canada of the total aviation briefing system - TABS - which we mentioned yesterday, the communication cost in the new ground-to-ground communications agreement.
Ms. Moorcroft: Why was the $350,000 for maintenance and grader blades transferred to the motor vehicle revolving account?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The grader blades have been changed to an expenditure item, rather than having it as equipment in the revolving account. In Old Crow, the freight costs would bring that revolving account down substantially, so it has been changed to an actual expenditure item now.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the general purpose of the motor vehicle revolving account?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The equipment replacement revolving account is for the replacement of all highways equipment. Each piece of equipment is charged out on an hourly basis. This money is actually put into a fund, and the new equipment is then bought from the revolving account. That is a simple way of explaining it.
Ms. Moorcroft: How much money has been booked into the motor vehicle revolving account in the 1993-94 budget to date?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The actual charges would be found in the operation and maintenance budgets for each piece of equipment on highways. The revolving fund actually balances out to zero, because not only is the price of the new equipment taken from the fund, but also the operation and maintenance of that equipment.
It will balance out to zero, but the numbers for each piece of equipment will be charged out under the operation and maintenance budget.
Mr. Penikett: Anyone who has had anything to do with it knows that the road equipment replacement account is one of the seven or eight wonders of the world - one of the great enduring mysteries of government finance - ever since Mr. Frank Fingland explained to me, when the Financial Administration Act was being put into place many years ago, that Community and Transportation Services was going to be as privileged an entity as the highways department had been before them, and that they would not have to go to the Legislature for every bit of equipment they wanted to buy, but would just have this road equipment replacement account as a permanent fund. The charge-outs that everybody used would go into the fund, and new equipment would come out of it. It was a pretty nifty idea, and was what Iain MacKay used to call fund accounting. He always felt it was a wonderful way for officials to keep firm control of things without having to bother themselves with ministerial or legislative inquiries.
Nevertheless, I was fascinated tonight by the Ministers statement, because the road equipment replacement fund became even more mysterious to me tonight than ever before. I understand that charge-out rates for grader blades would not be enough to cover freight to Old Crow, and perhaps not to other communities. However, given the absolutely fabulous sums involved annually in transactions for the road equipment replacement account, I do not understand why it would be necessary to move that kind of expenditure out of the account for that reason and into a different method of bookkeeping.
I have been watching the deputys face, and it is a story unto itself on this matter. I would love, even for the entertainment value, to hear the Ministers explanation of that. I know grader blades are very important to Old Crow, but surely they cannot go through so many of them in a year that it would affect the huge sums that are revolved in that fund on an annual basis.
Chair: Order, please. At this time we will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Ms. Moorcroft: At the risk of confusing both of us, I would like to ask the Minister a couple more questions about the revolving fund.
Would the Minister have a list of all equipment bought from the revolving fund?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly do not have the list here with me, but I would be pleased to provide the list of equipment that was purchased in this fiscal year.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could I ask the Minister, then, if he would table a return that gave the total value of transactions for the last two fiscal years?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly, I would be happy to do that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was writing down the figures as the Minister gave the breakdown on the amounts for the transportation division. There was $99,000 for the sign and post maintenance, and I would like to ask him to explain that further. I would also like him to give me the figure before that, as I missed one number in his itemization.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $99,000 for sign and post maintenance is an overall cost, but we increased it this year to provide some winter works on the Dempster Highway - to put in the snow depth posts that are along the highway. The figure that precedes that is $188,000 in brush and weed control.
Mr. Penikett: I was just wondering if the Minister had finished his consultation with the deputy about the answer to my question that I put before the break.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot recall the specific question. I know it had to do with the revolving equipment replacement fund. If the Member would repeat it, I would attempt to respond.
Mr. Penikett: I did not want to turn this question into a mini-series. It is about the road equipment replacement account, grader blades and Old Crow freight. Why, given the huge volume of transactions in the road equipment replacement account in the course of a year, does the simple fact of the freight in Old Crow cause one to want to move it in a bookkeeping sense from an item that would be purchased through the road equipment replacement account to general expenditures.
I did not understand that. Even though they may use a lot of grader blades in Old Crow and even though the freight is high, the dollars involved must be small in terms of the total transactions in the fund.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I contributed to the confusion. There is a total of $350,000 in that increase, and $100,000 is for freight costs to Old Crow, which includes a whole array of different things, including grader blades. The other $250,000 is for grader blades throughout the rest of the system.
Mr. Penikett: I apologize, but I am further confused. I understood that we were no longer purchasing grader blades for Old Crow from the road equipment replacement account due to the freight costs involved, and because the charge-out rates would not cover the expense.
I now understand from the Minister that we no longer acquire any grader blades from the road equipment replacement account, so I go back to my original question: what was the policy reason for that change? I do not understand it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are now charged as an expendable item, whereas they used to go against the revolving equipment replacement fund. There was no political policy decision to do it this way. The actual effect would not have any difference. If it were charged to the equipment replacement fund, the fund would reflect that in the charge-out rates. This way, it is charged as an expendable item, and it will be off the charge-out rates.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to spend all evening on this topic for obvious reasons. I know that this will be an important issue to the road equipment replacement account fan club, who have always admired the fact that the decisions about expenditures from it could be made without the necessity of politicians.
The road equipment replacement account will probably be going on and on forever, until the end of time. Even under the Commissioner government, one did not need an executive decision to do it. I think I even understand the reasons why it was set up in the first place.
What I do not understand is why that particular item, even if it was an administrative policy decision, would no longer be on the list because, as I understand it, one of the great virtues of the fund, from the point of view of managers, is that it has great flexibility. Even though there is a fund established on the basis of charge-out rates for graders, if, because of improvements in the road system, one no longer wants a grader and wishes to replace it with some other kind of equipment, the managers have the absolute ability to do that.
I do not understand what advantage it would be to the managers, much less to the Minister, to have grader blades suddenly moved out of that system.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will attempt to answer the Members question regarding the grader blades.
My understanding is that some camps would use a lot more grader blades if they were working with a gravel surface rather than BST. The department feels that, with the blades being charged to the camps, it more accurately reflects the cost of the actual maintenance of each camp, rather than a piece of machinery that would be charged out by the hour.
Mr. Penikett: That is a reasonable enough explanation, but it must also apply to dozens of other pieces of equipment used at those same camps. I do not want to belabour this point but I wonder if the Minister can tell me if the computer programs, on which we have spent huge sums of money in this government in the last few years, are sophisticated enough to be able to provide an ongoing, day-to-day breakdown, for example, of the expenditures on the road equipment replacement account by camp and, if they can, why the decision that was made is necessary. Again, I do not need the Minister to spend a lot of time tonight answering this but I am, for some perhaps quite inexplicable reason, fascinated by this, and I would like to understand it but I do not want to tie up the whole House in order to obtain that understanding.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was starting to feel like Charlie McCarthy there for a little while, with my deputy behind me. I wonder if it would be acceptable to the Members opposite if we prepared a legislative return and brought it to the House so everyone here gets a little better understanding how we do this.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps if it is done in sufficient detail it might serve as an essay for some course that someone might be taking, too.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister give me a further breakdown of the $287,000 for additional projects?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think we have given an explanation for the $99,000, for the signpost maintenance, but the $188,000 is basically spread throughout the territory. As the wording sort of suggests, it is for brush and weed control in the ditches of the various highways.
Ms. Moorcroft: Where was the winter crushing, which the $381,000 was spent on, done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $381,000 has not actually been spent; it is for the winter crushing projects. It will occur in various locations around the territory for maintenance stockpiles and some construction stockpiles.
Ms. Moorcroft: So that money is in the supplementary as part of the 1993-94 supplementary, but has not been spent yet. When is it going to be spent?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It will be spent sometime this winter. We quite regularly crush in the winter.
Ms. Moorcroft: Before we leave this, I would like to ask the Minister to explain something again. There is $1,336,000 for projects that were canceled to cover unanticipated projects. Can the Minister give an explanation of that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will have to bring in a legislative return to give details on that. Some of the washouts, for instance, are part of it. We will bring in a legislative return to explain it in detail.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the Minister have that for tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will try to provide that information. If there is not too much detail, we should be able to provide the information.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to have that information because, in his breakdown, the Minister indicated that there was $410,000 due to the cancellation of the south Klondike Highway. In the document that I was referring to earlier in general debate, the Government of Yukon employment task force capital works projects, the same $410,000 shows up as a reduction in budgeted expenditure of the south Klondike Highway.
I still do not understand the methodology that is being used. We have this document, which is completely separate from this other document, but they both cover the same period of time, and now they seem to clearly cover the same amounts of money.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Some of the amounts will be the same. This $410,000 does appear in the employment task force numbers, and it is the $410,000 that we see here.
Ms. Moorcroft: Were all the employment task force redistributions and savings already included in the supplementary estimates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding of the employment task force numbers is that those numbers were put together, and then were put into the supplementary to request the actual funds to be voted in the supplementary.
Ms. Moorcroft: How are the employment task force capital works projects, which are financed in numbers that are now part of the supplementary estimates, any different from work that would have been part of the regular budgeting process?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In some cases we are asking for additional funds and in some cases it is a change from this project to another.
Ms. Moorcroft: The employment task force document - I will not call it a budget - also indicates that there is $905,000 of savings in the transportation division for various highway construction. Can the Minister give me a breakdown of that $905,000?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It will be from various places in the briefing book and I cannot tell you where it is from at this point in time. I could bring a legislative return that outlines where it actually comes from.
Ms. Moorcroft: That would really be appreciated. I am just trying to understand these numbers and I would like the House to be clear on what is happening with the employment task force capital works projects. I would like to know how this $905,000 in savings in transportation relates to the supplementary estimates and what it is for. I will look forward to some more complete information on that.
I have a concern about the Campbell Highway. We recently, tragically, lost a respected elder on that road. There have many complaints about the state of the Campbell Highway. Can the Minister tell me what is being contemplated to improve that road?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the main estimates, I believe there is something like $1 million - we will have the exact number when we debate the main estimates - for work on the Campbell Highway, but I do not have the detailed information here.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell me what the O&M breakdown is on the Campbell Highway for this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, that will be in the main estimates, not in the supplementaries. I do not believe we have that information here.
Mr. Harding: What I am asking for is if there has been any changes in the budgeting for the O&M for this fiscal year, not the mains of next year. I fully understand that, but I am looking for changes in the operation and maintenance schedules for this fiscal year.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are some savings. There is $140,981 in reduced surface grading repairs and $75,798 in reduced dust control and calcium chloride usage, for a total of $216,679.
Mr. Harding: What would that $140,981 in reduced surface grading entail? Would that include winter and summer surface grading?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is summer maintenance.
Ms. Moorcroft: Since the Minister has agreed to bring back a legislative return, I would like to follow up on a few points that I would like to be sure are covered in that legislative return.
The employment task force capital works projects shows redistribution of $1,262,000 in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. It then shows a total expense of $2,310,500 in Community and Transportation Services. They are spending more than they are saving in that particular department, and virtually all of the projects that have been identified are road maintenance projects. I would like to get a further explanation of that. Could the Minister let me know if he will include that in his return?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a listing here. First, there are three projects from the Shakwak Project: the developing of a gravel pit at Sanpete Creek to produce aggregate, for $1.5 million; clearing gravel pits near White River and Edith Creek, for $100,000; right-of-way clearing along highway alignment in vicinity of Edith Creek, for $400,000. There are other projects: on the Dempster, 400 snow pole supplies to be installed, for $20,000; Dawson sign repairs and brush clearing, for $14,000; Stewart Crossing brush cutting guide-rail repairs, for $11,500; Stewart-Mayo sign culvert repairs, for $20,000; Mayo brush cutting road repairs, for $50,000; Ross River brush control for $30,000; Watson Lake hand slashing for $30,000; Campbell Highway hand slashing for $30,000; Bear Creek brush clearing, dump cleaning, et cetera, for $12,000; Destruction Bay maintenance yard sign, culvert repairs, et cetera, for $12,000; Haines Junction maintenance yard sign, culvert repairs, et cetera, for $12,000; Fraser Camp guard rail and sign repairs for $10,000; Blanchard dump cleanup for $12,000; Carcross brush cutting for $12,000; and Repairs to the Miles Canyon bridge for $35,000; for a total of $2,310,500.
I would like to clarify that $1,336,000 surplus we referred to a few minutes ago. That pertains to maintenance projects such as bridge maintenance, hydroseeding, BST, et cetera, and the $905,000 in savings is from the capital budget due to lower tender prices.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the $905,000 referred to in the supplementaries in the capital lines?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, it comes from several different sources in the budget.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can I ask that we set aside this line, get the legislative returns, and move on to another line?
Transportation Division stood over
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister like to provide an explanation for this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This explanation would take some time and, with the hour, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 11.
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. 11, entitled Second 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. Member: 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 Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:25 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 24, 1993:
Yukon Lottery Commission Annual Report 1992-1993 (Fisher)