Monday, November 29, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to introduce Jennifer Jones to the House this afternoon. She is here from the Victoria Faulkner Womens Centre, which has just opened in its new location at 408 Ogilvie Street. I would like to welcome her and extend an invitation on behalf of the centre to all Members to attend the open house today for the new centre, or drop by and see the new facility.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under Tabling of Returns and Documents, I have for tabling the Report on the Study of Human Resource Management in the Yukon Territorial Government, prepared by the office of the Auditor General of Canada.
Are there any further Returns or Documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have the strategic plan for Government Services, and a legislative return. It had never been officially tabled.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Waste oil
Ms. Moorcroft: Waste oil management has long been acknowledged as a problem in this territory, and events of the past few days show that the long-predicted crisis is upon us. There is nowhere for responsible people and businesses to put their waste oil. As if this is not bad enough, the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government are each blaming each other.
In the absence of any government decision to implement a well thought out, long-term strategy for handling waste oil, could the Minister of Community and Transportation Services tell this House what short-term measures his department is prepared to carry out, so that the Yukons environment is not threatened by illegal waste oil dumping?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have made an offer to the City of Whitehorse to assist with the funding of a truckload of oil to be taken to a waste disposal facility in the south.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister then tell me how they have arrived at this plan and whether the waste oil management group have been involved in this decision? How much is it going to cost and is this something that has been developed over the weekend or is it something that has been planned for awhile?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The waste oil disposal committee has been dealing with the City of Whitehorse for two years. This offer was made, I believe, in April.
Ms. Moorcroft: Waste oil is generated all over the Yukon by commercial and private users. It comes from cars, tractors, bulldozers, trucks, diesel generators and a variety of machinery. The Ministers department, the Department of Community and Transportation Services, is directly and indirectly responsible for the generation of a great deal of the territorys waste oil. What is the Department of Community and Transportation Services doing with its waste oil? Is it part of the problem or part of the solution?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have converted an old tandem truck and lowboy into a tanker and we collect our own used oil around the territory. We have four waste-oil burners that we use to heat grader stations. That oil is distributed to those burners.
Question re: Waste oil
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to follow up with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the work that they are doing to reuse the oil generated by Community and Transportation Services. Does the government make this disposal system available to the Yukon public?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, not at this time, because we generate enough used oil ourselves to supply the burners we currently have. We will be looking at converting to used oil for other stations in the future.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to remind the Minister that waste oil contamination is a very real problem here in the Yukon; one gallon of oil will pollute a million gallons of water; one quart of oil can produce a two acre oil slick.
Work began on developing a special-waste or hazardous-waste or controlled-waste - whatever term one prefers - policy and management system some four years ago, yet the current crisis shows that little, if anything, has been accomplished. After more than a year in office, can the Minister tell us why it has taken so long to achieve so little?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The special waste facility was never, never intended to handle waste oil.
Ms. Moorcroft: The only decision made by the current regime about special waste was to scrap the special-waste storage facility on the grounds that it was too expensive, which is a mistake of false economy that the Yukon public is now paying for. The Department of Community and Transportation Services was ordered by Cabinet four years ago to proceed with the development of a program for the locating, collecting, interim storage and disposal of federal, Yukon and municipal government generated wastes, and to make such a program available to the general public.
Why has the Minister, in the wake of his decision to not build a special waste storage facility, seemingly failed to even try to meet this directive?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe we have addressed that specific question. We had a special-waste clean-up in the Yukon in the spring of this year, and we collected three and one-half truck loads of material and shipped it to disposal facilities.
Question re: Waste oil
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the same Minister about waste oil. The Mayor of Whitehorse was quoted last week as saying that a gentlemans agreement had been entered into between the government and the city for the storage of waste oil, on an interim basis and pending permanent resolution of the problem. Would the Minister outline for the House what this gentlemans agreement was.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of any gentlemans agreement. I do not know between which parties this agreement was made. The City of Whitehorse and the used oil disposal committee have met continuously over the last year. It has always been the case that the disposal of used oil within the City of Whitehorse has been the responsibility of the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: For the record, and as has been put to the Minister in the previous questions, oil is collected from all around the territory - and I gather this includes oil from mining companies and other industrial operations. Is the government prepared to treat this waste disposal problem as a territorial, rather than a municipal, responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The oil generated within a municipality is the responsibility of the municipality.
Mr. Cable: That leads me to believe that the Minister believes that the source can be readily identified. That, of course, is far from the truth.
The Minister is also quoted as saying in the media that the generators of waste oil should ultimately be responsible for their disposal. Is the Minister prepared to put into effect regulations that will permit a user-fee framework to be operated by the municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The municipalities could charge for the disposal of used oil at this time under the Municipal Act. There are, however, regulations governing the disposal of special waste products that will be coming in. They are currently under discussion with all of the affected groups. My department and these groups are putting together a set of regulations at this time.
Question re: Waste oil
Mrs. Firth: I, too, want to follow up with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the waste oil issue.
My concern is that there be a practical solution that is quick and efficient. I would prefer to see the Yukon government take a pro-active position when it comes to dealing with this issue.
The Minister has indicated to us that regulations are presently under discussion. This issue is not a new one. I believe it was the subject of much discussion in the media no less than one month ago.
Can the Minister tell us today what his plan and time line are for dealing with this issue once and for all? How much time are we looking at before this issue is resolved?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The large generators of used oil are holding a meeting at this minute, along with officials from the City of Whitehorse and officials from my department. They will be discussing the responsibility for disposing of used oil and what we can do to address this problem right now.
There are groups interested in using the waste oil, and that certainly needs to be explored, rather than shipping the oil outside.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister still has not answered the question that I think all Members of this House and the public are concerned about: what is the Ministers plan for this? Only a month ago, the front pages of the newspaper were covered with the problem of waste oil being an issue. What is the Ministers plan? When is he going to have regulations in place? What happens next month?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The short-term plan is to essentially ship the oil south to be disposed of. The long-term plan is to have the private sector look after the disposal of the waste oil by utilizing the oil as a fuel.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us how he anticipates the private sector utilizing the waste oil as fuel? How is that going to work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are people interested in setting up large, waste oil burning furnaces for specific applications. There is one group that is interested in setting up a refinery, to refine the waste oil so that it could be used as number two stove oil.
Question re: Waste oil
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to follow up with the Minister to see if we can get some clear answers to deal with this serious problem.
The Minister referred to a special waste clean-up. On Thursday afternoon when I was asking questions on that subject, the Minister did not indicate that any of the truckloads of material included waste oil. Can the Minister tell us whether any waste oil was trucked out at that time, and if so, how much and why is there so much waste oil left over?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Waste oil was not shipped out at that time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Since this problem has been developing for awhile and the Minister was aware that the storage tanks both in the City of Whitehorse dump and in a number of local businesses were becoming full, why were plans not developed to get the waste oil trucked out of here last summer when there was a special project to get rid of some of that hazardous waste?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The City of Whitehorse had made arrangements to ship out the used oil. For reasons that I am not privy to, they cancelled the truck that was scheduled to pick it up.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister and the department, I believe, have a responsibility to create a regulatory environment under the Environment Act. The Minister did not answer the questions that have been put to him about how they are going to speed up the time frame of dealing with this or whether they have any time frame at all. Could the Minister tell me how he is going to proceed with specific time frames on resolving the problem of waste oil around the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a consultation process going on regarding the regulations that are being formulated, and my understanding is that the regulations should be coming forward sometime in the spring for Cabinet consideration.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, focus group
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for housing. Over the weekend I attended the conference, and I would like to commend the staff for their hard work in organizing the conference. I do have some questions in regard to the focus group. According to the Minister, the focus group was struck because the Yukon Housing Corporation board echoed the staffs suggestion that the Minister request the participation of industry representatives. As a result, the AYC, the Chamber of Commerce, the Home Builders Association, the Real Estate Association and the banks each designated a person to represent them. Since the objectives of the corporation include a wide range of responsibilities, does the Minister not agree that this focus group represents only a small part of Yukon Housing Corporation interests?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would think that they represent more than a small part. We have people from the real estate industry; we have, as the Member said, the home builders - quite a few such people - on the group, and I do believe that, for the purpose they were asked to get together about, they did represent a good cross-section of people.
Ms. Commodore: The Ministers focus group said they want to continue as a housing industry advisory group and the Minister has said that he will be formalizing the request. He mentioned that in his closing speech yesterday. I would like to ask the Minister if that will require a change in legislation.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not see why it should. These people would be strictly an advisory group to the board of directors and to myself.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask him if he could table in this House or tell us now what the terms of reference of this industry advisory group will be?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will be happy to supply the terms of reference for the group as soon as they are completed.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, focus group
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has stated that through this focus group he was able to get the views of the industry and it was clear at the conference this weekend that there were many differing views on housing. In addition to the industry focus group, is it the intention of the Minister to appoint other groups who would represent other interests of Yukoners who play a major role in the delivery of Yukon Housing Corporation programs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have advisory groups in every community that deal with social housing and staff housing units. The City of Whitehorse has the Whitehorse Housing Authority, which provides information to the board of directors and to me.
Ms. Commodore: We are talking about a group that is in addition to all of these other advisor groups that he has throughout the Yukon.
I would like to ask the Minister this: If he is not willing to seek advice from any other groups other than the industry focus group, how does he expect to deliver a housing program that is fair and suits the needs of all Yukoners? There is much more to housing that his department delivers than just the industrys interests. There are many differing views, as we were made aware of during the weekend.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have never said that I was not willing to take advice from other groups. Seniors, for example, have said that they want to be consulted on issues relating to them. We are certainly willing to do exactly that.
Ms. Commodore: It appears that the Ministers focus group will be carrying a lot of power. I would like the Minister to tell me how that fits into the structure of the Yukon Housing Corporation. Right now, we have a housing board that answers to the Minister. Where does this group fit in, in terms of the structure of the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would see the focus group as providing advice to the board of directors and, on occasion, to me.
Question re: Workers compensation fund, stakeholders
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Occupational Health and Safety.
On Thursday, in the Legislature, the Minister said that the workers compensation fund belonged to employers and that he was going to protect them. I would like to ask the Minister a question about the compensation fund. Does he realize that the whole system of workers compensation was created to protect employees from lengthy and expensive court battles for compensation for work injuries, and that, in exchange for this, employers are protected from workers suing them for negligence? The employers, in essence, buy a form of insurance.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think most people who have been in the Legislature realize how hard I have fought for employees. In fact, I am one of the only people in the Legislature who ever got an amendment through - while sitting in the Opposition - in order to protect employees. Yes, I certainly realize it.
Mr. Harding: It is too bad the Minister has changed his tune since he went across the floor.
The Minister has said that the reason he decided not to do an efficient and thorough health and safety review was due to a draw down in the operating fund for Workers Compensation. Does the Minister realize that compensation paid out an increase of over $3 million in claims costs last year, reducing our operating fund to roughly $20 million, and that an in-depth health and safety review could identify serious preventive steps that would reduce injuries and costs for both employers and employees?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I realize that. I also realize that we had taken a smaller one in because we want to find out which regulations are acceptable and make sense, and which ones do not. We are talking with the stakeholders in the situation. The first review will cost $20,000. If they find they need another review after that, then more money will be put forward for that review.
Mr. Harding: The ministerial order that was repealed called for a full and complete review of all policies and procedures contained in the Health and Safety Act. The revised review will not, and I quote, accept any recommendations made concerning major changes made to the intent of any section. Who made this decision? Was it the board chair and the president, as the Minister has implied, or was it the Cabinet, as he has stated. If it was that Cabinet, what other measures for accident prevention are they going to undertake?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The decision to restrict the money was at a time of constraint, and we expected everyone, including Crown corporations, to be in that situation.
Question re: Workers compensation fund, safety review
Mr. Harding: The Minister has stated that he reduced the scope of the review, because he wanted to find out what was missing, what was right, and what was wrong. Can he explain to me how, by narrowing down a review, he could possibly hope to find out what is right, and what is wrong?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They will do a review. They will look through the regulations and then put them out to the public for a debate.
Mr. Harding: I am really disappointed in this Minister. I know he fought hard for workers rights, health and safety when he was on this side. He seems to be abandoning them very seriously now. Does the Minister not realize that it is more important to have an efficient and thorough review, than to have a cheap, cost-cutting review that really will not undertake to thoroughly examine some issues that could reduce costs and also injuries?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am surprised at that statement. Our rebates to employers have been fantastic. This means that they are listening, and working with occupational health and safety, and that accident rates are going down.
Mr. Harding: I happen to have last years Workers Compenstion Board report. Although the Minister is right, the merit rebates are going up and employers are getting more money back, the workers compensation fund paid out over $3 million more in claims costs last year. How does he reconcile these differences?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Some of it is probably due to my intervention. For instance, they were deducting Canada Pension Plan contributions from workers compensation awards. If this House will recall, I got that rebated, which was costing them a considerable amount of money. I also worked very hard on the white finger disease, which we finally got through, and that was costing a considerable amount of money. These are things that are now coming into effect. New health issues that people did not know about years ago are now coming in and are therefore costing more.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, privatization of
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, regarding the privatization thrust.
There was some not-so-veiled criticism of the management of the corporation issued by the Yukon Public Utilities Board last week. I recollect the Minister talking in the House last week, and perhaps the week before, about an operational audit being requested by the Auditor General.
Could the Minister tell the House who actually requested this operational audit? Was it the Minister or the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the honourable Member reviews Hansard for last week, when this question was raised, he will read that I stated that it was the previous administration who requested the operational audit, and there has been some correspondence between the board and the Auditor General - again, this was before we took office - and we intend to proceed with the audit.
Mr. Cable: When does the Minister expect that the Auditor General will actually carry out the operational audit on the management contract between the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like the audit carried out as soon as possible, but I am not certain what the time line might be.
Mr. Cable: On another aspect of the privatization move, the municipalities have, for some time, requested that the government grant them the authority to franchise the distribution of electricity within municipal boundaries.
Is the Minister prepared to meet with his colleagues and make the appropriate statutory amendments to permit the municipalities to franchise?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do not believe that the delivery of energy should be fragmented any more than it is now. The municipalities have certain rights and duties with respect to what they can ask of the utility company that retails electricity in the individual community, and I have suggested that they look at their existing powers under that.
Question re: Business incentive policy
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Economic Development.
The interprovincial agreement on trades speaks to the removal of barriers to the free flow of goods and services between provincial boundaries. It is particularly interested in the rights of contractors to bid on a equal basis on projects anywhere in Canada. Can the Minister tell us whether or not the government agrees with this operating principle and practice?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I believe the Member knows, we presently have an agreemen. We use the business incentive policy program to encourage Yukon contractors. We have to submit an annual report on that to the internal trade board. We presently still have that option available to us and we agree with it.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister did not answer the question. The business incentive policy is clearly not a bid-preference policy at all. I am asking whether or not the government agrees with the concept of no-bid-preference policies between jurisdictions as outlined in the interprovincial agreement on trade?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would have to take that up with my Cabinet colleagues. That is not an answer that I could give at this point. I will take that under advisement.
Mr. McDonald: That is the one answer that one could find slightly irritating because, when one turns to the Government Services strategic plan, one will find in it the statement that the government wants to give Yukon contractors a preference in bidding on government contracts. That is clearly inimical to the principle stated in the interprovincial agreement on trade. Can the Minister indicate to us whether or not the government stands by the statement to give local contractors a preference and how they intend to accomplish that task?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is through the business incentive policy that we will do this. Contractors will be eligible for a 10-percent rebate on Yukon hire and this gives them some advantages. We plan to proceed with giving those contractors those advantages.
Question re: Business incentive policy
Mr. McDonald: The business incentive policy is not a bid-preference policy. The business incentive policy is a policy in that it provides encouragement and an incentive to any contractor to use local labour and materials; it is not a bid-preference policy. Can the Minister indicate whether or not the government supports the concept of a bid preference for Yukon contractors?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We will use whatever means we have at our disposal to give preference to Yukon contractors. We are still restricted by the interprovincial agreement.
Mr. McDonald: I think it is the principles that are disposable.
What I am asking the Minister is whether or not he is supportive of the concept of a bid preference and if he is, how does he reconcile a bid preference for Yukon contractors with the terms and conditions of the interprovincial agreement on trade, which resists any concept of bid preferences?
Hon. Mr. Devries: In the discussions I have had with some of my other colleagues in the provinces, they feel that what we are presently doing is acceptable - I really do not know what the Member wants to hear from me.
Mr. McDonald: I am going to need at least three or four hours in Government Services just to be able to state the question so the Minister can understand it here.
The Government Services strategic plan refers to giving Yukon contractors a bid preference, meaning that at the bidding level Yukon contractors, by virtue of the fact that they are from the Yukon, will get a better chance of getting work than will the low bidder if the low bidder comes from outside the Yukon.
Can the Minister indicate how he reconciles that principle - the principle found in the strategic plan that he formally tabled today - and the principles that are contained within the interprovincial agreement on trade, which the Yukon is a signatory to?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The way I understand it to work, and this was signed under the previous administration, is that we have these exemptions, as far as the business incentive policy goes, and we have to provide an annual report to this group that is formed from within the various provinces; meanwhile, we are allowed to use that as an incentive to encourage Yukon contractors, or even outside contractors, to use Yukon labour. This is one thing that will be very important in the hospital job. That is the way I understand it to work.
Question re: Macaulay Lodge, available beds
Mrs. Firth: I have a constituency question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. During the last sitting of the Legislative Assembly, I asked the Minister a question about the eight beds that were being closed at Macaulay Lodge, when he announced the opening of the new extended care facility. It has been brought to my attention that there are six seniors on a waiting list, waiting to get into placement, who are being denied access to these beds because of budget considerations. Can the Minister tell us if he is going to review this and open those beds for the people who are waiting?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member will be pleased to know that it is under study right now and we hope we can find the money within the department to open the beds at Macaulay Lodge.
Mrs. Firth: I am pleased to hear that because one individual in particular is being sent to the Thomson Centre for two weeks, to a respite bed, and then will go home and will go to Macaulay for two weeks, and I do not think that is a very good situation for a senior who is trying to keep their bearings.
Could the Minister tell us more specifically when these beds will be made available to these six people who have been waiting for some time?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will make enquiries and get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister says that to me regularly when I ask questions. I wait quite a long time for his answers. These people are asking me, as their MLA, for answers as soon as possible. I wonder if the Minister could be more specific about this. If he has any trouble finding money, I can always help him do that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am always delighted to lean on the Member for assistance whenever possible. I will certainly be able to answer her question some time this week.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, operational audit
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of follow-up questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation on this operational audit.
Is the Minister prepared to hold back on his privatization moves until he Ihas heard the Auditor Generals comments on the efficiency of the operation of the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are no privatization moves at this time. I said I was inquiring into the issues surrounding privatization. As to moves, any move will be going to Cabinet with a paper for a mandate.
The Member found out about the privatization when First Nations people complained to him about a motion he tabled in the House that would have thwarted their chances to be partners in the Yukon Energy Corporation. He very obligingly withdrew that motion the same day.
Mr. Cable: The Minister is wrong on two counts: I did not hear from that group and I have not withdrawn the motion. However, I am very favourable to the involvement of the First Nations in the Yukon Energy Corporation. That can go on the record.
Is the Minister prepared to table the Auditor Generals report when it is received - the report on the efficiency of the operation of the management contract between the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will look into the proprieties of it, but, at first blush, I have no objection to tabling the report.
Question re: A Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development.
The government document, A Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative, their blueprint for economic success, was supposed to be a draft document going to public consultation shortly after the spring sitting. Can the Minister tell the House who the government consulted with on the draft document, when did they consult and when can we expect to see the final document?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We are presently having discussions with the Council on the Economy and the Environment on how we are going to work with them in coming up with the final draft.
Mr. McDonald: I will have to talk to the Minister during estimates debate about his interpretation of going to consultation shortly, given that there has been six months between the time that statement was made and the present time.
Given that two federal governments have seen this document and the government has now tabled estimates totalling approximately $600 million, can the Minister tell us why they have not yet finished the document or undertaken any kind of public consultation on it when they have clearly had lots of opportunity to do just that?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The only opposition we have had to the document seems to be from the Opposition. It has been very well received by the general public. I have had very few people ask me any in-depth questions about it. I do not think it is necessarily an urgent or pressing matter right now.
Mr. McDonald: The only public whom we have identified as having seen the document was the Chamber of Commerce, and they took pains to tell us that they had nothing to do with the document.
Can the Minister indicate whether or not the success of the plan, A Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative, is dependent upon federal financial assistance? Is the Yukon government planning to spend any money of its own toward meeting the list of items in the document that the government suggests are going to resurrect the Yukons economic fortunes?
Hon. Mr. Devries: One problem has arisen. As the Member very well knows, there are several major development projects on the horizon and we feel that we have to give them a little more time to see which projects are going to go ahead first, to decide where our priorities lie in the overall program. Yes, there will be some YTG money going toward it and I hope that there will be federal assistance going toward the various projects.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day and Government Motions.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 11 - Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 11, Community and Transportation Services. Is there further debate on the municipal and community affairs division?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would just like to table a letter that was sent to the Mayor and Council of the City of Dawson. Last week, I had indicated to the House that I would provide information on the investigation into the sewer connection and disconnection.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for that and I look forward to reading the letter that was sent to the Dawson City Council. I was talking to some people from Dawson City on the weekend at the housing conference and there certainly are some large concerns about the problem there.
On Thursday, the Member for Riverside and the Member for Riverdale South were attempting to have the Minister table the strategic plan of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, but to no avail. I thought I would start by quoting the Government Leader who, in the House in the last session, made the statement, if it is paid for by public funds, it should be public information.
There are a lot of unanswered questions about the strategic plan. When is a strategic plan not a strategic plan? Well, it seems, when administrative changes are made by departmental officials without the deputy minister or the Minister knowing about them, as we were told last week. It also seems a strategic plan is not a strategic plan when the Queens Printer prints it without ministerial approval.
The Minister had several years of working experience in the Department of Community and Transportation Services prior to his election and his position now as a Minister. I had the opportunity to work for six months on a secondment as a policy analyst in the Womens Directorate, and sometimes in a small department an employee can have opportunities that are not otherwise possible. I certainly learned a lot about the development of policy, programs and strategic plans, and the like, in government through that experience.
So, I am wondering if the Minister can tell me whether the strategic plan was reviewed by the Departmental Administrators Liaison Committee. Did the strategic plan go to the Policy Review Committee? Did the strategic plan get discussed by the Deputy Ministers Review Committee? There are many things in this plan that relate to other departments - in particular, transferring of arts, sports and heritage into Community and Transportation Services - which would affect the Department of Tourism.
There is also talk about transferring functions of the Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Economic Development to Community and Transportation Services and/or Tourism. There are certainly a number of inconsistencies. On Tuesday, when I first asked the Minister to table the strategic plan, he indicated that there would not be a problem with that plan.
On Wednesday, he said that he did not have the plan and the plan had not been adopted or approved.
On Thursday, the Minister indicated that his executive assistant had the plan, but that he had participated as an employee and then as Minister in the plan. I would quote from the acknowledgements on page 2, which read, More recently, the Minister, Mr. Fisher, and acting deputy minister, Mr. Cormie, declared full support of the planning exercise and also challenged the management team to complete the first draft by April 2 of 1993, and submit a report for ministerial Cabinet consideration.
In view of the fact that the document says that the Minister supported it, and in view of the fact that the Government Leader said that if the document is paid for by public funds, it should be public information, I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to table the strategic plan of the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am still not prepared to table the community services community plan. As I indicated before, this is a working document and it is still in the process. I do not believe that it has gone to the Deputy Ministers Policy Review Committee. I think that some of the deputies have discussed the document, but I do not believe it has gone to the DMRC as of yet.
Ms. Moorcroft: What then is the Ministers definition of administrative changes?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The changes that have happened in various areas of the department, not only community services, are all changes that can be done by the deputy minister. Those changes are what I would class as administrative changes, because they are under the authority of the deputy minister. Other changes, such as the possibility of splitting the department and creating two or three departments, would not be under the authority of the deputy minister, and therefore would not be classed as what I would call administrative changes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain this to me: we have established that the lands development branch, the planning unit, the tax assessment and property assessment units have all been transferred, effective July 1, 1993. Were those administrative changes?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Those changes have been and can be authorized by the deputy minister, so yes, I would consider those to be administrative changes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Those are fairly significant changes that do show a reorganization. They are also changes that are mapped out in the recommendations of the strategic plan that the Minister indicates has not been adopted or approved.
This just does not make any sense. Why have the recommendations contained in the document already been implemented if the document has not been approved? Why is it being used as an ongoing working document if it has not been approved by the Minister or the deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The document the Member obviously has has been in process for, I believe, three years. There are some recommendations contained within it that are very positive and have been accepted by the staff in the branch, and by the administrative people, including the deputy minister, and those changes have come about. It certainly does not mean that all of the recommendations or changes contemplated by the document are agreed to either by the deputy minister or by me. There needs to be more discussion on those, some of which would need authority from Cabinet, rather than just the deputy ministers.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess the changes in recommendations in the strategic planning document that have been acted upon have been adopted and approved. In fact, the Minister would have us believe that these positive, accepted changes are ones that the staff have wanted to see happen and that they have been administratively carried out, rather than having received political direction.
If the department goes ahead and implements more changes without, as the Minister would have us believe, either the Minister or the deputy minister knowing about them in advance, then would these further changes mean that the portions of the strategic plan that they represent would also have been adopted and approved?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The deputy minister was obviously fully aware of any changes that were made. The changes had to be initiated by the deputy minister. As to whether he received his information from the staff at large or from reading the document, I do not believe for a minute that he got his information just from reading the document; I believe it was from discussions at their staff meetings. Those changes, obviously, were approved by the deputy minister.
There have been other changes. I do not know whether or not they have all been contemplated in the strategic planning document. The fact that the deputy minister approved some changes does not necessarily mean that he approved the document; it just happens that some of the changes were contemplated by it.
Ms. Moorcroft: We are certainly getting some very inconsistent messages and responses here. I would ask the Minister if he would tell the House what changes he is contemplating in the department.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot put my finger on anything specific at this time, but we are constantly looking at ways to reduce costs and improve service delivery and efficiency. I want to hear ideas and recommendations from staff on those types of things. As they come in, I will act on them.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is the Ministers inability to come forward with specifics that is holding up the debate here. I would like to ask him for some specifics in another area. We were talking about the planning process in the Hidden Valley/Deep Creek/Hot Springs Road area. I think the Minister also referred to some local area plans for the Taan Kwachan land at Lake Laberge. We are looking at Deep Creek, Shallow Bay, Mayo Road, Hot Springs Road and Taan Kwachan - that is five committees or planning processes. The Minister indicated that he would like to see the department conduct this work. He also indicated that the process would get started in December - the first of December is in a couple of days - and that he hopes that something would be happening by May that would see the planning exercise culminate in at least some release of land at some future point in time - perhaps as early as next summer.
There will be public meetings and a consultation process with the planning people, and there are four or five neighbourhoods that are involved here. How does the Minister see the neighbourhood groups working together on common issues such as the effect of development on the size of the school population or garbage waste management? How does the Minister see these various planning processes and the neighbourhood groups working together on this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The staff of the branch is putting a schedule and a process together on those issues. I expect to get something back from the department within the next week about how it intends to undertake this whole process.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister believe that he has set aside adequate funds to cover a legitimate land planning and consultation process?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I believe that we have sufficient funds in the budget to carry it out.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that early last week when we began on this line item the Minister was going to provide a breakdown of it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The increases are $141,000, which includes personnel costs consisting of public safety unbudgeted requirements for acting director for nine months, $59,000, and a casual clerk for six months, $25,000. Also, the Yukon bonus is over by $5,000; the sports and recreation community consultant has cancelled plans for seven-months leave without pay, for $32,000, and a data entry of $20,000 was made in assessment and taxation at the time of original budget input; $176,000 increase in sports and recreation grants and contribution payments; special Olympic contribution agreement for $21,000 has been transferred to community recreation from Health and Social Services; sports and fitness has received addition funding of $18,000, which is 100-percent recoverable from Yukon lotteries, and $138,000 for Arctic Winter Games travel to Slave Lake, which is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government.
The additional $45,000 increase is a result of electrical increases, broken into $13,000 in fire protection for the firehalls and $32,000 in municipal engineering in unincorporated communities for street lighting and water truck garages.
One hundred and forty-one thousand dollars is a result of departmental land claims officer moving to here from the deputy ministers office, and $4,000 is the net of the increases and decreases of smaller items. That was offset by a reduction of $295,000 due to the grant-in-lieu being less than estimated, resulting from municipal taxes not being significantly increased across the territory.
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $212,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $323,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Emergency Measures
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide a breakdown of the $199,000 supplementary estimate figure?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The increase is a $249,000 revote to purchase search and rescue equipment and supplies that were unable to be delivered by March 31, 1993, due to manufacturers delay and back orders. There is an offsetting reduction of $50,000 in reduced 1993-94 purchases of planned search and rescue assets such as a snowtrack vehicle.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $199,000 agreed to
On Community TV and Radio
Community TV and Radio in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,000 agreed to
On Computing Equipment and Systems
Computing Equipment and Systems in the amount of $1,000 agreed to
On 9-1-1 Implementation
Mrs. Firth: I have quite a few questions I would like to ask the Minister about the delivery of this service. First of all, perhaps he could indicate to us whether they are still on target with the date of having the service implemented in May of 1994.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The latest information from Northwestel was that we are still on target for approximately May 1994.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us how the user-pay system is going to work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The user-pay is essentially for the capital cost of the system. It is going to be approximately 60 cents per month per customer, until the system is paid for, at which time the charges will be dropped. It also has to be approved by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, before those charges can be implemented.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us when that process is going to take place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Northwestel has to apply for those tariff increases. The information I have is that they will be applying to the CRTC by January 30, 1994, with a request for approval by March 15, 1994.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us how long the 60 cents per month per customer is going to be in effect for? I believe he said it would be until the capital cost was paid for. How long will that take?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not exactly sure how long that will take. The CRTC will be approving the length of time the 60 cents will apply, or for the exact amount. I am not sure it is exactly 60 cents, but it could be up to 60 cents.
Mrs. Firth: Has the department done any preliminary figures, so they have some idea how this is going to work, or are they leaving it up to the CRTC? Do they have any idea of what the impact will be on users of the policy they have brought into place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the information here on the estimated length of time the amount - up to 60 cents - will apply, but the survey indicated the people were perfectly willing to pay the 60 cents.
If the Member opposite wishes, I could provide a little further information on what we estimate for the length of time and the actual cost.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think that the Minister is correct in stating that people indicated they were perfectly willing to pay the 60 cents, because I do not think they were specifically asked if they were prepared to pay 60 cents; they were only asked if they were prepared to pay for this service.
I think the results of the survey indicated that people wanted the service so badly that they were prepared to pay for the service. I do not think that the Minister should take that as an endorsement from the public that they are enthusiastic about paying for this service. I think that the Minister should take it as a message that people want the service so badly that, even in tough economic times, they are prepared to pay for the service.
I definitely do want more information from the Minister before I am prepared to agree to the line and proceed further.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The amount was asked in the survey and 86 percent of the residential consumers and something like 83 percent of the business subscribers were willing to pay up to 60 cents. I will endeavour to get the full information package to the Member opposite.
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to receiving that. I have some more questions that I would like to have the Minister answer first.
I would like to know how many Whitehorse businesses and how many Whitehorse residences have more than one telephone line.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have that information. Northwestel, I am sure, has that information, but whether or not they would provide that information, I am not sure.
Mrs. Firth: This Minister and his government made this policy that the user would pay based on the number of telephone lines that a particular business or residence had; I would have expected that the government would have analyzed the impact that that was going to have on families and on businesses that have multiple lines.
I know families with children who have their own private phone lines, businesses have multi-lines, and I would like to ask the Minister what the impact is going to be on those businesses and families.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We knew the total number of lines, which I cannot recall off the top of my head, in the Whitehorse area, the area that would be affected by the 911. There was no analysis of how much it would cost each individual who may have two lines or a business that may have numerous lines. I do not know if that information is available from Northwestel.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister not think that maybe that is something that they should have taken into account before adopting this policy?
What it means is that some individuals and businesses may pay more than others. The service is based strictly on the number of users and the number of lines.
If there are dwellings that have two or three lines going to them, they are going to pay two or three times for a service or seven or eight times if it is a business. Some people are not going to be paying anything, but will be using the service. I want to ask the Minister why they did not take that into account when they were establishing this policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not really know of anyone with a telephone who would not be paying. I believe that anyone with a line would pay.
I can attempt to get some further information, but, again, I have to get that from Northwestel. The questionnaire will be provided to the House, not just to the Member opposite. People had the opportunity, at that time, to discuss it, and it appears to me, from the results of the survey, that people were in favour of having the service.
Mrs. Firth: I have been telling the Minister and the previous government for about three years now that people are in favour of the service. The Minister is not telling us anything new. We had a petition in the House with over 5,000 signatures on it. It was the Minister who decided to do another survey to see if people really wanted the service.
My expectation would have been that the government, and particularly the Minister, should have had all of the information I am requesting today prior to establishing this policy. I have always thought it could be perceived to be an unfair policy, because not everyone would be treated equally. I find now, in questioning the Minister, that he does not even know the impact it will have.
I would like to ask the Minister how many telephone lines the government has. Is the government going to be paying as a user for this service, as well?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not recall the exact number of lines the government has, but yes, the government will be paying for the service, just like everyone else.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell me if other levels of government, like the municipal governments, will be required to pay for this service as well? Were they consulted as part of this survey to see if they were prepared to pay whatever the rate is going to be - up to 60 cents a month?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was a committee struck that had representatives from the municipal government on it, so they are quite aware of the initiative. I have not received any negative comments from the municipality.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister honestly telling me in all sincerity that they have not done any cost projections for how long this proposed tariff should be in place - this user fee? When I just do a quick calculation, based on a monthly fee of 60 cents, which is the maximum, and an estimated 15,000 telephone lines in the Whitehorse area, the revenues could be in the order of $108,000 a year. This, to me, would indicate that, in a couple of years if that was what the tariff or user fee was, the service could be paid for.
I would like to be able to tell Yukoners how long they are going to have to pay for the service. I do not want the Minister to tell me it is all dependent on the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission again. I want to know what kind of cost projections his department did - and he did - and what information he took to his Cabinet colleagues when they made the decision to impose the user fee on the residents of Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have indicated previously that I would provide the information to the House. The Member opposite should be aware that when Cabinet considered the application it was after the survey results.
Mrs. Firth: I believe Cabinet originally had to make the decision to do the survey, so Cabinet must have been talking about implementing the 911 service prior to the survey being done - is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Basically, there was a decision made by Cabinet to proceed with the survey. After the survey, Cabinet made a decision to implement the 911 service.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us what prompted him to go to Cabinet to ask that the survey be done. Why did the Minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member opposite has stated, there was a petition with some 5,000 names on it requesting the service, and the committee that had been struck was recommending against providing the service. So, given those two opposing views, we took it to Cabinet so it could be discussed at that level.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister give us the names of the committee members and their titles?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have any problem providing those names, and I will include them in information that I provide to the House. I certainly do not have them here with me.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us whether fax machine lines are going to be included in the lines that will be charged with the monthly user fee?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have those technical details here with me, but that can be included in the information I provide.
Mrs. Firth: I just want it on the record, now that we have established all of the facts, that the Minister does not have the required information, yet he has gone ahead and established a policy - a user-pay policy - and imposed an additional cost on Yukoners without a thorough and complete analysis of what impact that is going to have on Yukoners - on families and businesses - in terms of cost. As a Member of this Assembly, and as a Member who represents a certain percentage of Yukoners who will be faced with this cost increase, I am completely opposed to the way the Minister has done this.
He has not done his homework. I do not know from whom he has taken his guidance, directions or instructions. He has not had the best interests of the people, the impact on the people, or the concerns of the people that he has been elected to represent, foremost in his mind. I want that very clearly stated for the record.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have some questions about the implementation of the 911 service. Many of my constituents live outside the Whitehorse municipality but are on the Whitehorse phone exchange. Similarly, in the Ministers riding, people on the Hot Springs Road are outside the City of Whitehorse limits but still have telephones that are on the Whitehorse exchange. People who are living in Golden Horn or on the Alaska Highway are serviced by the Golden Horn volunteer fire department. They are not covered by the City of Whitehorse fire protection services.
The 911 service is supposed to provide the emergency response of ambulance services, fire services or whatever crisis that needs to be dealt with. Who will staff the 911 line? Where does it ring? Will the 911 centre have the ability to call out the volunteer fire departments in the areas where people are on the Whitehorse phone exchange but they are not able to use Whitehorse city services?
Another case in point would be someone living at Mile 12 on the Carcross Road who is on the Whitehorse phone exchange. If they need an ambulance service, can the 911 service dispatch an ambulance from Carcross, which may be closer than the ambulance from Whitehorse? Can the Minister provide some information on this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The 911 service will be staffed by the RCMP. The service that we will have available in May is automatic number identification, where those people calling in on an emergency will have their number flashed up on a screen. The dispatcher will have to talk to the people and find out their address.
For the Mount Lorne area, the committee is working on a protocol agreement where the staff will call out the Mount Lorne fire department. The ambulance service is a territorial government responsibility, and it comes from the closest area, whether it is Carcross or Whitehorse. They will have protocol agreements with the various areas that have fire protection, for instance.
Ms. Moorcroft: For the Ministers information, there is no Mount Lorne fire department yet. The Hamlet of Mount Lorne is working on that, so they must be working on establishing a protocol agreement with the Golden Horn fire department.
Will the residents in that area still have to pay a cost for the 911 number, if they are not able to use the services that are being offered by it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Those are details that I believe will be in the tariff application from Northwestel to the CRTC.
Mrs. Firth: The $70,000 is to pay for operation and maintenance costs. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, that was to complete design and implementation of the 911 system.
Mrs. Firth: Where did this money go?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It was spent to complete the design and implementation of the service.
Mrs. Firth: Who got the $70,000?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $35,000 to cover the cost of the purchase and installation of the telephones and interface equipment at the response agencies, which are the police, fire and ambulance stations. The RCMP will be the 911 answering centre. It is anticipated that the actual expenditure will happen in February/March of 1994.
The other $35,000 is for public awareness, and is made up of $9,700 for the survey that is already completed; $1,745 for a purchase contract with an advertising agency for graphic design services; and $23,555 to be used for a variety of public awareness activities, such as signs, posters, printed advertising, broadcast advertising, et cetera.
Mrs. Firth: Just so that I understand this correctly, was that last figure $23,550 for the public awareness activities? The Minister is nodding his head, yes, and that the figure is correct.
Is the Minister saying that none of this money is for the O&M costs? It has simply been $35,000 for a public awareness campaign? Would it not have been more prudent and fiscally responsible for the government to put that money toward a 911 service instead of an advertising campaign? I know it included radio ads to try and promote the idea of having one number for the RCMP, one for the ambulance and so on. Would the money not have been better spent put toward the 911 number rather than what seems to be an anti-911 service?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This $23,555 has not been used yet. It is for when the 911 comes into effect - for putting up signs, posters and the like so that people will be aware that the 911 service is available.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us how much was spent on radio ads to promote the other system? I heard the ads on a regular basis. I saw ads displayed, promoting the single number. Could the Minister tell us how much was spent in that activity?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will try to get that information for the Member opposite. I think the Members opposite should be aware that 911 is not in all of the communities. Standardization of all those numbers across the communities required some kind of advertising campaign, whether there be 911 or not. The numbers were standardized throughout the Yukon. That is what that advertising was for. We will try and get an exact cost of what that was.
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to receiving that information. Perhaps the Minister could tell us about this almost $10,000 that was spent doing the survey. It certainly did not cost me $10,000 to go and get 5,000 signatures on a petition. Can the Minister tell us how this $9,700 was spent? Did it go to a particular company? Who received the money?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $9,700 went to the Statistics Bureau, which conducted the survey. I believe it was for staff time.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that one government department had to pay another government department to conduct a survey, when that department is solely responsible for compiling statistics and conducting surveys?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Many areas of government bill other departments for work carried out on their behalf, and that was the case in this instance.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us how much his government is planning to spend in operation and maintenance costs on an annual basis for the service, and whether or not the government is examining the option of having the user pay that fee as well? I would also like to know if the Minister is prepared to give us a commitment today that the government is going to continue to pay for the operation and maintenance costs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My recollection from the operation and maintenance estimates was about $120,000 per year is for the operation of the 911 system. It is the intent of the government to absorb that cost. Because the RCMP are handling the service and they will be billing the government directly, it would be difficult for Northwestel to actually apply the costs, because the service does not relate to actual telephone equipment that the telephone company normally charges for.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could then tell us why Northwestel has to go to the CRTC to get the previous rate increase we discussed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Any time there is a rate increase, regardless of the reason for that rate increase, they have to apply to the CRTC for approval.
Mrs. Firth: So, if the government decided it was not going to pay the O&M costs any more and the service had already been established, then Northwestel would have to look to the CRTC for an increase in order to cover the costs - or is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: At this time, there is certainly no intention of the government not paying the O&M cost, but I am not sure how it would work. I am sure Northwestel would have to go to CRTC, but I am not even sure if they have the ability to do that, because it is someone else who is essentially providing the service. The RCMP are providing the service, not Northwestel. They have to put some equipment into their operation but they would not be providing the service, so I am not sure if they would even be able to apply for a rate increase to cover that.
Mrs. Firth: They would if it was determined that Northwestel was going to provide the service if the government withdrew its support for the service. It was always an option that the service be provided by Northwestel as opposed to being provided by the RCMP. Perhaps we will leave that for some discussion at a later date.
I would like to ask the Minister when he is going to bring the information that I have requested this afternoon back to the House.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As soon as we are able to assemble it, I will have it back to the House.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps we could stand the line aside until the Minister brings the information back.
9-1-1 Implementation stood over
On Corporate Services Division
On Computing Equipment and Systems
Computing Equipment and Systems in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
On Office Equipment and Furniture
Office Equipment and Furniture in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,000 agreed to
Corporate Services Division in the amount of an underexpenditure of $9,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Highway Construction
On Alaska Highway
Ms. Moorcroft: Are expenditures for the south Klondike Highway under the Alaska Highway or under the Klondike Highway line item?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are under the Klondike Highway line item.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will save my questions on that until we get to that line item. Does the Minister have a breakdown on the variables in the highway construction lines?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $1,511,000 is due to an increase of $489,000 required on south Alaska Highway reconstruction; a $50,000 requirement is for additional storm drainage on the Alaska Highway at the Two Mile Hill; $139,000 results from more waste excavation required than anticipated for construction at km 1180 to 1189; $300,000 is being expended on pit development and aggregate production in preparation for 1994-95 construction.
The reductions are a $2 million net surplus for north Alaska Highway reconstruction, km 1634 to 1966; a $3,900,000 surplus is due to contract prices being lower than estimated and slow progress made by contractors. This is offset by a $1,900,000 increase that created three new projects to stimulate winter employment.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister indicate to us what part of the $3.9 million was due to contract prices being lower than expected, and what part was due to the contractor being slow?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have that information at my fingertips, but I can provide it for the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to know that. I would also like to know if the Minister would briefly explain a small discrepancy; I cannot figure it out, but perhaps the Minister would have a solution instantly. The contract lists that the Minister handed out a few days ago show, under Shakwak Construction, the Meziadin Power Corporation and Pelly Construction receiving $9.2 million and $8.4 million respectively. The list of highway construction projects that the Minister passed out shows that the Meziadin Power Corporation received $2.5 million, and Pelly Construction received $3.05 million for work on the Shakwak. What is the reason for that discrepancy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess the brief answer is that they are two-year contracts, but we will bring back a breakdown for the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to have that information, because the information that the Minister has given to us already - this sheet that I am holding in my hand, entitled 1993-94 Construction Projects, is a list of projects that, in total, does not add up to the money that has been requested by the government for this particular year for Alaska Highway Construction. Perhaps it makes a little more sense, given the statement in the contracts list that showed Meziadin and Pelly Construction receiving $17 million worth of work. If the Minister is now saying that is two years worth of work, then I am back to square one with trying to reconcile the numbers. Perhaps the Minister could come back with a more precise explanation of those figures for the capital mains. I did ask the Minister, last time around, whether or not the Saint Elias School addition renovation contract listed in the contracts list that he provided us was a mistake. I am presuming that it was. Is that correct? Would he mind saying that for the record?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is a mistake.
Mr. Chair, could we have a brief recess?
Chair: Would Members like to have a recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will have a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further debate on the Alaska Highway?
Ms. Moorcroft: On the construction of the Two Mile Hill, can the Minister indicate whether it is still in the plans to include a pedestrian walkway and a bicycle path as part of that new highway?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The bicycle path is already in and the sidewalk is down as far as the Industrial Road.
Mr. Penikett: Could I ask who designed the bicycle path and whether it was designed by a cyclist or someone who perhaps only remembers being one as a child?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The head of our engineering department is an avid cyclist and maybe he can give me an explanation of the those loops that I think the Member opposite is concerned about.
Mr. Penikett: It is potentially the subject of some comedy but I am concerned because it seems to me that there is some real prospect of some cyclist going down that hill quite fast and being literally unable, from the point of view of basic physics, to navigate those loops and the curves that are presumably intended to slow people down, but which, if addressed at any significant speed, will almost certainly see the cyclists leave the trail and end up on the sidewalk - or worse, on the road. I hesitate to ask the government to spend more money, but it does seem to me that in finishing the bottom half of the hill I sure hope that they do not replicate that design because, it seems to me, unless it has been too long since I last cycled, it would be a perilous trip going down that hill and encountering some of those roller-coaster loops, curves and squiggles that are built into the path.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I still cycle quite a bit and the brakes on my three-speed bicycle are not as good as they should be and it has left me scratching my head. I believe I will be asking the engineering people for an explanation of why they are there.
Alaska Highway in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,511,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister provide me with a breakdown of the supplementary, please.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was an increase of $30,000, which was a revote for work required on Big Creek Bridge on Casino Trail to meet federal land use requirements; $170,000 for engineering on the Freegold Road is required for preparation for reconstruction work in 1994-95, which is 50-percent recoverable from the Canada/Yukon transportation infrastructure program; offset by a reduction of $75,000 less required in miscellaneous reconstruction work for upgrading minor roads than originally anticipated.
Other Roads in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Mr. Harding: Could I have breakdown on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There were increases of $160,000 for reconstruction and BST paving for Watson Lake, km 0 to 50, due to the need for engineering design and pit development work in preparation for 1994-95. There was a reduction of $24,000 for reconstruction of the Faro to Carmacks section due to the final cost for BST and hydroseeding, which were less than anticipated.
Mr. Harding: There was $24,000 turned back. What was the $1,200,000 expenditure in that area for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was approximately $1,160,000 budgeted for km 0 to 50 and approximately $200,000 was for the reconstruction of the Faro to Carmacks section.
Mr. Harding: On the contract for that Faro to Carmacks reconstruction, was $24,000 of that $200,000 turned back or was the contract for $224,000 and only $200,000 spent? Exactly what happened?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This was not a contract; this was done by YTG maintenance. It was anticipated to be about $210,000 and actually they turned back $24,000.
Mr. Harding: What is this governments policy regarding the Campbell Highway? I have a bit of trouble identifying it. I see some work being done on the Watson Lake end of it from the Sa Dena Hes mine but very little capital work being done on the Faro to Carmacks end or in the Ross River area. What is this governments policy regarding that area? We seem to have two different situations. On one end, in the Watson area with the Sa Dena Hes mine down, there seems to be some capital work; on the other end, with the Faro mine down, there seems to be very little being done.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is base work happening on the first 50 kilometres of the Campbell Highway where the base is very, very bad, whereas on the other end of it, from Carmacks to Faro, the base is relatively good, but if the ore trucks start hauling in from Sa Dena Hes, something has to be done with that road. Something has to be done before the ore trucks start hauling again, whereas the base is good at the other end. It could be widened and surface material could be put on it, but the base is relatively good in the other area.
Mr. Harding: So, there was no surfacing work done on the km 0 to 50 - just base improvement, for all the capital expenditures?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The first phase of that contract will be for base work. Eventually, we want to bring it to a BST grade and put BST on it.
Mr. Harding: So, there has been no money voted, thus far, in this capital budget and the supplementaries for anything other than base work for that stretch of highway.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was a repaving of the first 10 kilometres, from Watson Lake to the airport. It was paved approximately 17 years ago, and this was repaved this past summer.
Mr. Harding: I am trying to understand the governments philosophy regarding its developmental road work - I guess that would be the way to describe it. I have heard a lot from the government about roads to resources, and about having a good system of roads in place, improving our transportation links and having the infrastructure in place so that, should a mining company come along, it will be able to see what the infrastructure in the area has to offer, be quite taken with it and develop its mining property in that area.
However, in terms of action in the area so far, at least between Faro and Carmacks on the Robert Campbell Highway, I see that the mine has gone down and all capital expenditures in that area of the highway have been curtailed or eliminated. Is it the philosophy of the government that they would continue to build the infrastructure, develop it, put BST down, or whatever the case may be, only when there is an operating mine, or would it be their philosophy to continue to upgrade the transportation links for the future?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The difference is that the first 50 kilometres - I believe I have already said this - from Watson Lake to km 50, has required some fairly major base work. Whereas from Carmacks to Faro, the base is relatively good. There has been about $8 million spent on that, from km 427 to km 462. Over the long term, depending on funding, et cetera, it would require probably something in the neighbourhood of $35 million to totally reconstruct and bring that highway up to near the Alaska Highway standard.
Mr. Harding: What I would like to know is more in the line of a policy, or the Ministers philosophical outlook on it. Would he be in favour of continuing to further upgrade, or would he take the position - as he seems to be doing now - that the base standard would be the end of the road as far as upgrading, until there was development on that highway?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the highway base is good and the service is relatively good, I cannot see, given the traffic counts we have on it now, doing any more capital work. I believe in ongoing maintenance to retain what we have there. It would not make a lot of sense to spend a lot of capital monies at this time. If the ore haul resumes, then I would expect that, over time, we would have to continue to do capital work on it.
Mr. Harding: The key word in what the Minister just said to me was major capital works.
I would like to tell the Minister something and I hope that he remembers it. I have met with representatives of Faro and Ross River, and they are really, really hurting right now. There is not a lot of work in that area.
One example that I have brought to the governments attention is the situation of a lodge operator on the Campbell Highway who got just enough business to survive from the territorial government through meals and through the rooms being used. With the capital construction cutbacks in the area, and the lack of government activity on the highway, she is now being threatened with foreclosure on everything that she has built. This is very disheartening to see, and she is certainly quite bitter about the situation, and as the Minister knows I am not happy about it.
The government has said that they realize their impact on the economy can be felt in a multiplying way. An expenditure that they make can create economic activity for quite a few people. I would like to ask the Minister why the same sort of philosophy cannot be carried through to the Faro/Ross River/Little Salmon area.
The government said that they would not undertake any major, capital construction, but there does not have to be a $32 million job on the Campbell Highway to create some economic spinoff for Faro, Ross River and the Little Salmon area.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can certainly understand the Member opposite for being concerned about his community and the economic spinoff, but we do have a very difficult time priorizing our diminishing funds. We do have some major work that has to be done on the Klondike Highway that we were not able to do this year. We have other major work around the territory and it was just a matter of priorizing where we are going to direct our capital dollars.
We have to look at the traffic counts for various highways and the ongoing usage of those highways.
I can certainly understand the Members opinion, and I will certainly keep it in mind.
Mr. Harding: I have received some responses from the department, signed by the Minister, about these matters. These responses do indicate sympathy and give brief explanations why decisions have been made as they have; the Minister just mentioned traffic counts as a reason.
Expenditures are created or developed as job creation initiatives to derive some economic benefit for particular areas throughout the Yukon - such as the initiatives accompanying the supplementary budget would have us see and believe - and when there are needs in every community, why would the people who live in the areas of Little Salmon, Faro and Ross River be given such a low priority?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: All of the work that is in that document - I forget the title - for highway capital construction is work that will have to be done next year or sooner. A lot of that money is advanced; we spent it this year and therefore likely will not have to spend it in future years.
The people in Faro and Ross River are certainly encouraged to apply for jobs that may be created by any of this work anywhere in the territory.
Mr. Harding: I often get that line from the government: the people from Faro, Ross River, Little Salmon or whatever are able to apply, but could the Minister tell me how, for example, Lena at Lenas Place - who operates a lodge - can benefit from the Shakwak project, if in fact that is the design of this job creation plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I doubt very much if the lady at Little Salmon is going to directly benefit from work on the Shakwak project. However, I do not believe that if a business in Whitehorse is failing, it is our responsibility to make sure it does not.
Mr. Harding: It is the responsibility of government to use public expenditure in the wisest manner possible. The government has stated publicly that it will create as much economic growth as possible and a positive climate for investment, and use public expenditures in a manner that spreads the money throughout the communities for everyones benefit. It just so happens that, had that been done, it might have kept this persons head above water. I do not say it is the responsibility of the government to bail out one specific business in that manner, but what I am saying is that it is the responsibility of the government to spread their expenditures out to give some benefit to all the communities, especially when they profess that their expenditures have been doing just that. Would that not be a fair statement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the expenditures have been spread around the territory as much as possible. It is unfortunate that there is nothing there in that section of road that will help that particular business. I do not believe it is totally the responsibility of the Yukon government. Things had to be priorized and there is some work in the Ross River area, and people are encouraged to apply for any of the jobs, wherever they are created.
Mr. Harding: I look in the budget and, in this job list, I see about $30,000 for brush control in the Ross River area. Is the Minister saying that people from Faro could go work on that project and should go work on that project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand that that job is now completed. It was completed by people in the area who were on our casual list. They were people who had worked for us before on a casual basis and they were given first opportunity.
Mr. Harding: I will not belabour this, but I do think it is important. I would hope that the Minister would realize that there is a practical element to their argument that everyone in the Yukon is eligible to bid on a lot of these jobs.
They have made expenditures in a lot of the communities but not very much in the Little Salmon, Ross River or Faro area. That makes it somewhat impractical for everyone in those communities to branch out into these other jobs for reasons that I indicated to the Minister before - for example, the brush clearing. I can imagine that the people in Ross River would not have been too thrilled about a bunch of people from Faro doing that job.
I would say - I am not speaking for them - that they have their own unemployment problems too, and the two communities have been working to try and do some things together. I would say that it is not that simple - that an entire community could pick up and go work elsewhere - especially when contracts are being given to companies like Pelly Construction, who have their own workforce to begin with.
There is something to be said for spreading business around. There are people in Faro, such as a small contractor named Ed Lambkin, who has survived there for 19 or 20 years, and is now only working small contracts. I am not too sure how busy he has been lately. I am not sure that he has been able to get much work. I have seen him work at the airport. It is unfortunate when someone who has been earning a living there for that long has to consider leaving his community - he has been through the good and the bad times - as there are now expenditures being made in the area.
I would just say that I would hope that, when making these expenditures, the Minister would consider how much limited expenditures by the government can help these different communities and the small contractors in the area. I would hope that, in future expenditures, those are given some consideration, as well as the real impacts. I sat at a table with Lena at her place; I have watched her build it for the last five years. I watched her cry as she talked about losing the business, and she showed me a note from the bank saying they are going to foreclose on her. It was pretty heart-wrenching. She never received a lot of business from YTG, but it was just enough to keep her going. I do not say that the government is solely responsible, but I do say that, when they profess to spread expenditures around, they should just think about people like that who either benefit or are hurt by the decisions they make.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $136,000 agreed to
On Top of the World Highway
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister tell me what work has already been done on the Top of the World Highway, and also what the reduction is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will give the Member the reduction now, and then we will try to dig up the information for what has been done. The $290,000 reduction was for reconstructing km 0 to 105, due to a slight downscaling of road reconstruction and lower construction contract prices than originally estimated. Of this projects $950,000 budget, $437,000 is recoverable from the federal government. This recovery does not include engineering costs, which will have to be borne by transportation and engineering. I will try and get the whole amount.
I will report on that total in a moment.
The $950,000 is road reconstruction, km 0 to km 105. We had it budgeted at $1,240,000 and there has been a reduction down to $950,000 - $437,000 of which is recoverable.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has this work all been done by contracts, or has it been done by the government workforce?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was done by contract.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is there any way of knowing, generally, whether the amounts in the capital expenditures are slated for work by contractors or for work by the department the Minister is responsible for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Highway construction in the capital budget is generally done by contract. There are some engineering costs, and so on, that are done in house, but generally the numbers there are for contract work.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister stated there was a downscaling of the road reconstruction project for the Top of the World Highway. Can he indicate whether the road will be done to a lower standard for the 105 kilometres, or whether they are going to reduce the number of kilometres they work on?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The downscaling was not in the level of the highway we were building, but in the length of it. Also, the contract prices came in at less than originally estimated.
Top of the World Highway in the amount of an underexpenditure of $290,000 agreed to
On Klondike Highway
Ms. Moorcroft: Just a few minutes ago, the Minister referred to major work on the Klondike Highway that they had not been able to do. What could they not do, and why?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is some capital work at the far end that needs to be done quite badly: from the Flat Creek Hill on into Dawson. I am not exactly sure, but it is approximately 40 kilometres that quite desperately needs some capital work.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister begin by providing an explanation of the $211,000 that is budgeted in the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $107,000 for spot reconstruction paving, Whitehorse to Fox Lake - a revote of $93,000 for work not completed prior to 1992-93 winter shutdown, subsequently increased by $14,000 due to engineering costs associated with supervision of the carry-over work; and $104,000 for reconstruction at the Flat Creek area - a revote of $38,000 for work not completed prior to 1992-93 winter shutdown - and $66,000 more was required for installation of an additional guard rail and engineering costs for supervision of the work.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is it anticipated that all this work will be done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I believe the work has been completed, as we speak.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a further question regarding the employment task force savings that were identified. Perhaps I will start with this question: the Minister indicated that these supplementaries are to the period 5 variance. What is the effective date of the period 5 variance, and what is the effective date of the employment task force savings?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Period 5 is to August 31. I believe the employment task force figures went to September 30. The supplementary was modified to include those numbers.
Ms. Moorcroft: So, there is a one-month difference between the period 5 variance date of the supplementaries and the employment task force savings and capital projects, but the supplementaries have been adjusted to include the employment task force money. The Minister is nodding his head to indicate yes.
The employment task force savings identified a reduction in budgeted expenditure on the South Klondike Highway of $410,000. What is being reduced, when will it be reduced, and how does this fit in with the statement the Minister just made that all the work on the Klondike Highway will be done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $410,000 was from the operation and maintenance savings because of the agreement with the Alaskans. It is in this supplementary. We have already dealt with it, and it is as a result of the cancellation of the South Klondike Highway agreement.
Ms. Moorcroft: How much will be paid for maintenance of the South Klondike Highway over the winter months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The net amount is about $1 million.
Mr. Joe: I would like to know this years plans for Tatchun Hill. There are many people who travel that road during the winter. It becomes very slippery, and there is a guardrail on only one side. On the other side, there is drop of 200 to 300 feet.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to take the question of the guardrail under advisement, because I am not sure if it is in the 1994-95 capital budget or not.
Klondike Highway in the amount of $211,000 agreed to
On Dempster Highway
Mr. Penikett: Mr. Chair, I know that as Chair you cannot ask questions, but I want to ask a question related to the Dempster Highway.
Recently, when I was in Old Crow there was a fair amount of concern in the community and talk going around - I think even fear - that someone was actively promoting the construction of a winter road into Old Crow.
I cannot claim to speak for the community - the Member for Vuntut Gwichin does that - but because so many people expressed concern to me, I would like to ask what the policy and intentions of the territorial government in respect of a winter road are? I understand a contractor or two have been around pushing the project, and I would like to know whether the territorial government intends to put any money in it. Secondly, if it does, does it intend to do so before or after consulting with the people in that community?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have also heard some rumours, but we do not have any plans at this time. No one has actually approached us directly about putting a winter road in. I have heard about it but we do not have any plans to do it at this time.
Mr. Penikett: This is a supplementary question, and I apologize to the Minister for asking this, but I have had experience of seeking assurances from Ministers in the past, only to discover that the assurances were only temporary, so I want to find out if this has been the matter of some discussion, either in the department or at the ministerial level, and, even though plans do not exist now, whether this is an option that will be addressed by the government in coming months or not.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that if the community wants us to investigate the possibility of a winter road in future years, I think, yes, we would certainly look at the feasibility of it, the cost and so on. But again, we have not had any direct representation yet to do that sort of feasibility study.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister diplomatically inverted the intent of my question. I want to ask him what the department will do, faced with opposition from the community. Will the department consider proceeding even if the community expresses itself strongly in opposition to such a project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The answer is that certainly we would not proceed without the community being on side. If they definitely did not want a road, I cannot see how we would carry on.
Could we have a brief recess, Mr. Chair?
Chair: We will take a five-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Is there any more discussion on the Dempster Highway?
Mr. Penikett: My colleague, the Member for Tatchun, was just mentioning to me that one concern of people who travel the Dempster Highway a lot is the provision for emergencies on the highway - places to turn off and emergency stops. Has the Minister had any discussions about that issue? Have there been any representations from people about that question?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I have had no representation, nor have I discussed it with the department.
Mr. Joe: I have travelled the Dempster Highway a lot in the fall and winter months, when it gets cold and windy. It is hard out there. I do not know how people travel it. When the temperature is 20 to 25 degrees below zero, the winds take the temperature to 40 degrees below zero, or colder. I would like to know if there are any plans in the case of emergencies for people who travel, in case their vehicle freezes up, or something. There should be a place where they can warm up.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not really have any plans for shelters. I think that anyone travelling the Dempster in the winter - in fact, some of the south Campbell Highway is similar in that it has very little traffic and long distances - should phone and let people know that they are on the highway, in situations such as those the Member opposite talked about. I think that it would only be wise to let people know when you are leaving and what time to expect you, because we do have people at the Eagle Plains camp, who can go out in emergency situations to assist people.
Mr. Joe: I am not talking about building something big - a small shack with a wood stove would do. I do not think it would cost that much.
It is quite a long distance from the first government camp at Ogilvie to Eagle Plains.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, where do you put the warm-up cabins? Constructing these types of cabins have been tried in other areas, and the cabins have been vandalized very quickly.
It is difficult to determine where to construct these sites and to determine the number. I think that it is a very big expense and whether there would be actual benefits or not, I am uncertain. Again, I think that people should phone and let other people know when they expect to be arriving. If someone is past due, someone from the Eagle Plains camp could be dispatched to try and help them.
Dempster Highway in the amount of an underexpenditure of $13,000 agreed to
On Division Facilities
On Office Accommodation
Ms. Moorcroft: Where is the office accommodation here?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is for the installation of a barrier-free washroom at 201 Range Road and to paint the lab.
Ms. Moorcroft: What lab is that? Is it also at 201 Range Road?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it is. It is the soils lab.
Office Accommodation in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Transportation Regulatory Facilities
On Weigh Scales
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister anticipate any further work on the weigh scale?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There will be work done in the fiscal year of 1994-95, but it will be under this contract.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Minister signed any contracts for the work that has been done to date?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes - Ketza Construction has the contract for the construction of the weigh scale.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is any further expenditure anticipated, other than the $800,000 shown here?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will give an estimated total. The main contract for both years is $870,000; the engineering, which is in house, is approximately $65,000; consultation contracts is $55,000; for a total of $990,000. There is other work to be completed in 1994-95 that is not part of the contract, which will include the relocation and setup of the scale itself - the weigh scale structure, and the establishment of lights, plugs, fixtures and signage outside the scale house. This is estimated at $50,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: So, there is only $800,000 total in the revised vote to date but the Minister is saying that another $70,000 will be spent during this year - is that correct? Perhaps the Minister could also explain the Ketza Construction contract amount for land site development, weigh station, of $869,250.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The 1993-94 work is $465,000; 1994-95 is $405,000, for a total of $870,000. That is the Ketza contract the Member opposite referred to. Because the contract was not let or awarded until October, we are going to be short about $70,000, and another $50,000 will be in the capital budget for 1994-95.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the Minister be revising this line item in the supplementaries then, or is it to be covered in the next supplementary or the next budget? The contract has already been awarded.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We would catch that in the next supplementary.
Ms. Moorcroft: Just to clarify it, the line item is for $800,000 total and the contract was awarded October 29 for $869,250. Has the full amount of the contract been paid?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No $465,000 will be paid in 1993-94 and $405,000 will be paid in 1994-95.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister comment on rumours that they plan to build a jail next to the weigh scales?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of that rumour and I hope they do not want to build it on our property.
Weigh Scales in the amount of $450,000 agreed to
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide a breakdown for this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The increase is $18,000 for the Haines Junction airport. Of the $42,000 revote, $23,000 will be required for the completion of the passenger cargo shelter signage, lighting and drainage work. The project is 100 percent recoverable from Transport Canada. There is a slight reduction of $5,000, as seating is not required. The $90,000 for the Carmacks airport is a revote of $87,000, and $3,000 in additional funding, to complete visual aids and terminal building construction. Again, that funding is 100 percent recoverable from Transport Canada.
There is also a $5,000 net decrease of smaller items.
Airstrips in the amount of $113,000 agreed to
Chair: At this point, the total will not carry, because we have one line item stood over.
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Land Development
Ms. Moorcroft: Under general debate in land development, could the Minister give us his response to the issue that was raised at the housing conference this weekend, where it was clear that there was no consensus on whether or not it is desirable to privatize land sales? The privatization of land sales was one of the issues that was discussed at length in the strategic plan of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
I would like the Minister to indicate what his policy is on that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I was quite interested in hearing the many comments that were made at the housing conference. At the workshops I attended where this was discussed, it seemed to me that there was a split pretty well down the middle on the privatization of land development.
Our main concern here is to keep an adequate and affordable supply of land.
I still want to look at privatization as means of achieving that goal. Again, if there is not a net cost benefit to keeping land affordable and in adequate supply, we will not get into that. I think that there still needs to be further work done on the feasibility of private development.
Ms. Moorcroft: When we were discussing this earlier, I asked the Minister what he thought about the idea, since he had suggested providing land to private developers at no cost so that they could compete on the same basis as the government. I asked the Minister if he would also support providing land to the private citizen at no cost so that they could get into the market place on the same basis as the government. Does the Minister have an answer to that question?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If we were going to look at private land development, I think that we would want to request some proposals from interested people, and have a look at them. I am not certain how we are going to go with this. I want to discuss it a lot more with my own department, with the Housing Corporation and so on. We did have one private land development that the city undertook, and it appears that the prices came in quite a bit higher than they would have if the Yukon government had undertaken that land development. That is not in our best interest. I cannot give the Member opposite a definitive answer about what we are going to do, other than to say that we are going to review all of the possibilities.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is indicating that he does support privatization, and that he is going to discuss it with his own department. Could the Minister then give an undertaking that there will be no further changes or departmental reorganizations, as outlined in the strategic plan of the department, until those discussions have taken place, and until there is a strategic plan that the Minister can acknowledge that he has been part of and accepted.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know exactly what the Member opposite is referring to, but I think there will be ongoing changes in the department. I think there will be administrative changes, and I do not want to give a commitment to the Member opposite that nothing will happen until this particular thing has been fully discussed. There may very well continue to be some changes in the department.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not understand how the Minister cannot know what I am talking about. We have spent a considerable amount of time debating this issue, and he should understand what is going on here.
The Minister has tried to say that it is simply an administrative change and that there was no way that he was aware of it before it happened or advised of it when it happened - that four different sections within the Department of Community and Transportation Services have been moved around. We have gone over that at length. I am still of the view that those are not minor administrative changes, but that they were changes that were made that matched up with the recommendations that were given in the strategic plan that the Minister has indicated he did not adopt or accept. I am just asking him to indicate to us that there will be no further recommendations of the strategic plan enacted until the Minister can indicate that he is accepting that particular document.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I do not know exactly what recommendation the Member opposite is getting at. Maybe what she is getting at is that the Member opposite does not want me to permit the privatization of land as an administrative action. If that is what the Member opposite is actually getting at, I think it is a political decision and would not be made by the administration.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue discussion on municipal and community affairs division.
Mr. Cable: I believe that there were some general questions on land development, but I am wondering if the Member for Mount Lorne was finished with her questions, because I have some further questions.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am going to be intrepid and ask this question until I get an answer. The Minister seems to have difficulty understanding what I was asking, so here I go again.
I asked the Minister before the break if he would give a commitment regarding the recommendations contained in the strategic plan, which the Minister has said is not approved or adopted. The Minister has also said that this is a document that he has seen, but not seen, read, but not adopted.
I was not asking for one specific recommendation - for instance the recommendation to devolve land development to the private sector - to be set aside until the strategic plan was adopted. There are dozens of recommendations in this document, including the recommendations that have already been followed of moving around various sections within the department to other sections.
I am asking the Minister to either acknowledge that this document is a working document that the government is going to proceed with, including privatizing land, or to say that this document has not been adopted and we are not going to follow the recommendations contained in the document.
Can I get an undertaking for either one or the other as a future course of action?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Some of the recommendations will likely be followed. Ones that are administrative types of recommendations may very well be followed; others likely will not. On the privatization of land, I think I made it clear that we certainly have not made a decision. There has been one private land development carried out in the City of Whitehorse and that was not entirely to our satisfaction, merely because of prices, so we want to review the whole idea of the privatization of land development. As the Member opposite has pointed out, there are many, many recommendations in the document; some may be followed and some may not.
Ms. Moorcroft: It seems to me that the Minister is taking a completely irresponsible approach. He is refusing to acknowledge the strategic plan as a working plan of the Department of Community and Transportation Services. At the same time, he is saying that there are some administrative changes in it that will occur. There is simply no leadership being demonstrated here at all. For example, if the sports and recreation branch is moved from Renewable Resources and joined with arts and heritage and tourism within the Department of Tourism - if that happens, is the Minister going to just call it an administrative change, or is he going to acknowledge that these recommendations, which are contained in the strategic plan, are some form of leadership and direction that the Minister is giving from the political level for the future of the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The recommendation that the Member opposite referred to is a policy decision. That would have to be dealt with by Cabinet and not by the department itself. There are other recommendations in there - out of the dozens, as the Member opposite has pointed out - that may very well be implemented in the future.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is that it then? Is that all that the Minister is going to indicate? Does the Minister have any opinion as to whether the safety branch should return to operate separately from the engineering branch, and include mechanical inspections, building inspections, electrical inspections, fire protection, emergency measures and fire marshals? Is that policy, or is that administrative? Has the Minister taken interest in that before the fact, or is this something that is going to be an administrative change after the fact?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I will be consulted on the changes that may take place within the department that may be what I would class as administrative. They can be made within the department and do not necessarily need the sanction of the Cabinet. There are some other recommendations in the document, as I have stated before, that need Cabinet approval.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am going to leave it at this, but the Minister is still not indicating what decisions and recommendations he is going to take some ownership of in the strategic document and have it become a document that is approved by the Minister and/or Cabinet.
The Minister, in this document, refers to a policy void, but I think what we are seeing is a leadership void.
Mr. Cable: I do not want to get into any detail about the strategic plan, but it does suggest that some senior public servants share the view that there may be a need to review how land is disposed of in the territory. Would it be fair to say that, in the Ministers view, both in his experience as a public servant and as a Minister, that the two major problems with respect to lands are land cost and the variable land inventories?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite has hit on exactly what was discussed at length this weekend at the housing conference - land affordability and its adequate supply.
Mr. Cable: The general proposition that land disposal needs some sort of review seems to pop out of the words of this draft strategic plan. I wonder if I could spend a few moments on the cost problem with the land. This is relevant to whether or not the government launches into a free market approach to land disposal.
The copy of regulations I have that are amended up to 1986 indicate that the development costs shall be recaptured unless the lands are sold for market cost. There are a number of elements of development cost. They include the acquisition costs, the planning costs, the site evaluation costs, the engineering costs, the survey costs and a whole bunch of other costs that appear to be contracted costs, such as road and utility building and so on.
Looking back through Hansard from last week, there is suggestion from the Minister that all of these costs are not captured and allocated to land. Is my recollection of what the Minister said correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Most of the costs of land development are captured, but there are hidden costs within government. For example, the time spent by the land development officer is charged to the subdivision development. For instance, his time spent on the development of the Logan subdivision would be charged against the development. Other people, such as the deputy minister or the assistant deputy minister, do spend time working on the subdivision development, yet their time is not charged against the particular subdivision. So some of those costs are not captured in the sale price of the land.
Mr. Cable: Is there any general overhead allocation from the government against the lots that are sold to recapture a portion of the deputy ministers salary?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to check on that because I do not believe there is a general allocation for administrative overhead. There may well be, but I am not certain.
Mr. Cable: How does the Ministers department capture planning, site evaluation and engineering costs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Contract engineering is charged to the development cost of a subdivision, as is the work done by municipal engineering on a land development project.
Mr. Cable: How are these costs collected? Do people have time chits, or are they reviewed after the job and then some estimate is made of their time?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The actual number of hours worked are charged against the subdivision. In some cases, there will be a transfer of dollars from one branch to another for the time spent by municipal engineering.
Mr. Cable: Would that apply to the downstream costs - if I can call them that - such as the marketing costs, which would be the governments cost for advertising and the time that people spend on drawing up advertisements, as well as administration fees, whatever they are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not so sure how that actually works. I do know that the actual cost for advertising - like the ads in the paper, and so on - are charged directly to the development, but I am not exactly sure if the time of the person who deals with the advertising agency, for instance, or the newspaper, or whatever, is charged against it.
Mr. Cable: Were the engineering and survey costs primarily internal government costs, or is most of that done under contract? I am particularly thinking of residential subdivisions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The surveying costs are contract costs that are charged against the development. The engineering is mostly done by engineering firms outside of government, but there is some done by municipal engineering. It depends on the size and nature of the subdivision.
Mr. Cable: I put this question to the Minister last week in Question Period. With respect to the typical residential subdivision, if there is one, what would be the approximate ratio of the internal government costs that would be collected by time chits, advertising and invoices, et cetera, versus the contracted costs for engineers and road builders?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I could bring an example back for the Member opposite, for instance, on the Arkel subdivision, but it would be really hard to make a generalization. It could very easily be less than five percent, but I do not think I would want to state that it is less than five percent. I would want to bring back an example of one particular subdivision to show the Member.
Mr. Cable: There were some questions put to the Minister earlier today about the free market versus the government management of subdivisions. At the present, it appears that there is no totally comprehensive cost collection system in place for government development. Is it fair to say that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is a fair statement. I think that I have stated previously that all of the costs in the development of the subdivision are not necessarily recovered in the development of the subdivision.
Mr. Cable: So, right at the moment we are not in the position to accurately determine who can deliver the cheapest subdivisions: the private entrepreneurs or the government.
Is the Minister prepared to give some further thought - this is another question that I put to the Minister last week - about asking the Auditor General to conduct an operational audit on the land disposal? It appears that there are many, many millions of dollars at stake every year, and without an accurate cost collection, it is difficult to judge whether the present land disposal system is working effectively.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not really have a problem with doing an assessment. I am not sure if the Auditor Generals department is the proper department to carry out this assessment, or whether it should be carried out by our own internal audit branch.
I think that if we get fairly serious about private land development, we do need some sort of an analysis of the actual true costs that government is footing.
Mr. Cable: The other side of the coin would be a true cost analysis of the only private subdivision so far, the Pineridge subdivision.
I gather that subdivision was developed on land that had been turned over to the City of Whitehorse and then in turn sold to the developer. I believed that the City of Whitehorse attached a sale price to it of somewhere in excess of $200,000. Approximately, how much did that add to the price of each lot? I have forgotten how many lots there were.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I also cannot recall the exact number of lots but I think I heard a figure bandied around of approximately $8,000 per lot.
Mr. Cable: If, in fact, the Minister arranges for the turnover of any other lands to municipalities, would there be any restrictions placed on the municipalities tacking on additional charges?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that what we would do is get a caveat, or whatever, that there be some sort of agreement. The municipality would be permitted to charge their administration cost but not an upfront profit.
Mr. Cable: I believe the Minister has been asked this in a general sense before, but is he of the view that allocating single subdivision properties directly to a developer, or to a municipality for allocation to a developer, is a true test of how the market would operate? Would there have to be various subdivisions being developed at the same time to make the market operate properly?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What the Member has suggested is probably quite accurate. I do not believe that we can use the Pineridge development as a norm. It had been intended to have other lots available at the same time, like the ones we eventually released at Canyon Crescent and Mary Lake, and we also had intended to have Steven subdivision on line, which, because of land claims, did not materialize. So there was no opportunity to compare government development with private development and, unfortunately, I do not think Pineridge is a good indication of what the actual costs will be.
Mr. Cable: On the issue of interest costs that are attached to properties held in inventory for some extensive period of time, I gather one of the subdivisions in Porter Creek had been developed and then put on hold for some time. How much did the holding of an inventory for an extended period of time add to the price of the lot?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure about that particular subdivision. The government at one time did attach an interest rate for lands held in inventory, and lots would escalate in price as time went by, but what was happening, especially in the smaller municipalities and communities, was that the prices soon got beyond what the market value of the lots in that general area were. So, that practice was discontinued - I am not sure how many years ago, but some years ago. Now, when there are lots that have been held and sold at some later date, there is a market-value analysis done on them and the prices are increased to what would be a fair market value.
Mr. Cable: The market value, of course, is the other way of pricing a property for disposal. Are those appraisals that are referred to in the regulations done internally or are they done by contracted appraisers?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand that most of our appraisals are done by the assessment and taxation branch.
Mr. Cable: Are private appraisers on any occasion called in to review the internal appraisals that are done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not absolutely certain. I believe they are, but I am not certain. I can get back to the Member with that information.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple more questions for the Minister. I referred to this the other day. The regulations refer to some sort of a register kept by the Commissioner. This register is a list of all the lands that have been surveyed and appraised and are available for sale, and a record of all assignments and encumbrances. Is that register really kept?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I indicated the other day that I would have to get all the details of the land registry and bring them back. I am not fully familiar with how it works. I know there is a registry, but I am not sure how much information can be taken out of it and whether or not it is public. I will provide that information.
Residential in the amount of an underexpenditure of $11,325,000 agreed to
On Country Residential
Ms. Moorcroft: Could I get a specific reduction on the country-residential reduction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was an increase of $170,000 as the Mary Lake country-residential project for $100,000, and the Canyon Crescent project for $70,000, can now proceed per City of Whitehorse request and clarification of land claims interest. There were reductions - $520,000 for the Alaska Highway West or Stevens country-residential subdivision project, which was delayed pending discussions with Kwanlin Dun; $90,000 reduction for the Teslin country-residential, as it was deferred by the community pending municipal boundary expansion possibilities; $90,000 reduction for the Watson Lake country-residential subdivision project delayed pending federal land transfer.
Country Residential in the amount of an underexpenditure of $530,000 agreed to
Ms. Moorcroft: Could we get an explanation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $499,000 was for the Kopper King commercial project, which has been deferred because estimated development costs exceed market value.
Ms. Moorcroft: Were there any outstanding issues with the First Nations over this land in the vicinity of the Kopper King commercial development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, this is located within the Kwanlin Dun and Taan Kwachan proposed land selection.
Chair: Is there further discussion on the line item?
Commercial in the amount of an underexpenditure of $499,000 agreed to
Ms. Moorcroft: This reduction is for which industrial properties?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $80,000 for the Carmacks industrial project that was delayed pending resolution of land claim interest on the site, and $50,000 for Watson Lake industrial, which was delayed pending transfer from the federal government and $50,000 for the Whitehorse industrial that has been delayed pending negotiations with the Kwanlin Dun and Taan Kwachan First Nations.
Industrial in the amount of an underexpenditure of $180,000 agreed to
On Rural Residential
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will save the Member opposite from standing up; I will just tell what the amount is for. It is due to a request to investigate potential for rural-residential development opportunities in the Mendenhall area.
Rural Residential in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This was for the Watson Lake recreational. The community has requested that this project be reactivated now that local consultation has been completed.
Mrs. Firth: Is there any money in this line for the roof on the Old Crow arena?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, this is in the land development area, and there is nothing in here for recreation or community facilities.
Recreational in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On General/Miscellaneous Recoverable Admin
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister explain what this cost is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is $250,000 for the Whitehorse tar pit site pilot project, for clean-up of the Marwell tar pit, in cooperation with the federal government and the City of Whitehorse. The project is 100-percent recoverable.
Ms. Moorcroft: How is this project going to work? What are they cleaning up in the Marwell area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said, this was a pilot project. I am not sure, but I believe they cleaned up something like two or five percent. It was to test a type of technology for cleaning it up and to estimate the cost of a major clean-up for the tar pit.
There is a report coming back. I do not believe we have received the report yet on the actual clean-up - how much the cost for the major clean-up would be, or how effective the technology was in cleaning it up.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain what technology they used? He referred to a tar pit. Was this tar, oil and other waste that was cleaned up, or was it earth that was saturated with tar that was cleaned up?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a little bit of information that I will read out. The Marwell tar pit was originally used as a dumping site for a refinery set up by the United States army during the second World War. Apparently, only lighter fractions of the crude oil were removed during the refining process and probably used as a high octane motor fuel. The heavy oil residues were then dumped into the pit, and even after the refinery was dismantled, the site was still used as dumping ground in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the mid-1980s it became apparent to the federal government that oil and other hydrocarbons were escaping from the site".
To answer the specific question on the type of technology, it was a soil-baking-type process known as thermal desorption technology.
In response to the Members question about whether it was oil only or gravel and oil, it was both.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister somewhat defined the technology in giving it a name, but I would like to know what kind of equipment was used to do this and whether there were any capital purchases, or was the work performed with equipment that the government or industry already had?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It was a contract that was tendered. My understanding is that a big burner was brought in. The material was baked in the burner and the residue was dumped back out. We are waiting for a report on the air quality coming out of the burner. We are also waiting for a report on the residue that will indicate what is left and what it did to the air quality during the burn.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said something about two percent. Does the Minister know what volume of waste was treated and what volume of waste or residue there is left?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the information with me on the amount that was put through the burner. I would like to point out that this is a federal government responsibility and we are acting on behalf of the federal government. The money is totally recoverable.
Ms. Moorcroft: Regardless of whether the federal government is going to repay the money to the territorial government, I think we do have a responsibility to know what volume of waste there is and I would still like an answer to that question if the Minister has it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will try to bring the information back for the Member.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has indicated that they have no idea yet about whether or not the pilot project worked. The residue that remains in the soils has still not been tested so there is no way of knowing until the report is made as to whether or not it is considered to be successful technology. The emissions and the burning process were not tested, I presume - as the Minister indicated - consequently, we do not know whether or not there are any harmful effects from having it burned.
The Minister made a statement that this was meant to address five percent of the problem, which means that the problem, using this technology at least, is a $5 million problem. The US army was said to have started the dumping. Does the federal government feel it has an obligation to clean up this tar pit? Has the Yukon government made representation to the federal government at the ministerial level to do some clean-up? Is this one of the projects that the federal government is going to target, if it has any allocations for the Yukon? What is the status of this? This could be a project that, if the federal government takes it seriously and does some clean-up, could involve expenditures that are half as much as that huge infrastructure program that we were told all about last spring: the $10 million over four years.
Clearly, in federal terms, this could be a major federal commitment and could be the talk of the town if the federal government were actually going to clean it up. Could the Minister give us some information that would help make the whole picture clear for us?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The federal Arctic Environmental Strategy is where we actually got the funding for the pilot project. The federal government has indicated interest, but to say that they have committed to completing the project would not necessarily be accurate. We have not pushed any further until we get back the results of the pilot project. Assuming they come back positive, we will be going after the federal government for funding for the major clean-up.
Mr. McDonald: We know there is a tar pit. The pilot project only dealt with a small percentage of the problem. Whether or not this technology is considered effective is obviously debatable, but surely we would want to get, at least in principle, the federal governments commitment to clean up the site and not do so at the expense of other programs or financial commitments they have made to the government - this is an important point, as well.
Can the Minister indicate whether or not he has made contact with the federal Minister about this project, either in the Conservative or Liberal administration, to let them know there are some concerns here?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I have not made representation to the federal political arm of government at all at this point. When the results are returned to us and they have been thoroughly analyzed, we will try to make representation to the federal government.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister indicate to us the proximity of the tar pit to the Yukon River, the major water course in the area, and whether or not there has been any testing of the water to determine if there has been any leakage from the tar pit?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not exactly sure of the distance from the river, but it is down at the bottom of Mountainview Drive, in the Quartz Road area. I do not know off the top of my head the distance from there to the river, but I understand that the federal environmental people have been doing tests in the general area to see what the absorption of the tar is and what effect it has had on surrounding properties. I do not know much beyond that.
Mr. McDonald: One concern might be, as I was told this evening, that one gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water. A tar pit of this size - a dumping pit this close to the river - could have some significant effect.
Clearly, no one wants to be an alarmist about this, but it does at least suggest that the government might want to make some formal representation to the federal government to get some commitments. I am not suggesting that the Yukon government should immediately get excited and take responsibility for cleaning up the site themselves. However, there is a minimum obligation, one would think, to make the federal government aware that there is an environmental problem - if one were to use alarmist terms, an environmental nightmare - waiting to happen.
Clearly, given that the decision-making wheels in Ottawa turn even more slowly than they do here in the Yukon, it might be worthwhile to get something on the record, if we are expecting this to be cleaned up in the next century. I am certain that, at the administrative level, such communication has taken place. From this administration to the new Liberal administration, it would be worth making it clear that we would like to see the federal government take this problem seriously. Does the Minister agree with me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I certainly agree with the Member opposite. I hope that our test results come back positive, in that the residue no longer contains any harmful materials, and that the quality of the air during the pilot project is acceptable for environmental standards. I think that, when we have that information, assuming that it is positive, as I have indicated, I believe that we will be making representation, at first through the administrative level and then, secondly, through the political level - especially given that we have a new government in Ottawa.
General/Miscellaneous Recoverable Admin in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Land Central Services
On Quarry Development
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The increase was due to final engineering estimates for the development of the McLean Lake quarry area, which were somewhat higher than originally budgeted, and there is a $2,000 net increase of smaller items.
Mr. Penikett: The McLean Lake quarry, as the Minister may know, is one of the developments about which the McLean Lake community association has not been entirely enthusiastic. I want to find out if the Minister had occasion in the last few months, or any time since he has come to office, to sit down and meet with the McLean Lake citizens, with the view to discussing their concerns and resolving some of those matters.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not sat down with the community group, but we did have some representation. There was an error made on the survey of the McLean Lake quarry and, before that was caught and rectified, there had been a small slash made, right down to the water. The citizens very quickly let us know about this - one call came to my office directly and several went to the department. That was rectified very quickly, and the pit was moved back from the water to a distance that was acceptable.
Ms. Moorcroft: Another of the concerns that the McLean Lake residents have expressed is that the quarry operators are running trucks in and out of the quarry around the clock, and that it is fairly noisy and dusty throughout the night. Has the Minister addressed that problem in any way; for example, by restricting the trucking of quarry material and excluding the hours of midnight to 7 a.m.?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was not aware that the trucks worked at night. I will certainly take that under advisement. I was aware of the dust problem, and the department is currently working with the City of Whitehorse to try and have that resolved for next summers operation.
Quarry Development in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Community Planning
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like an explanation, not only on the $25,000 supplementary figure, but what the community planning projects have been that the total $205,000 vote has covered.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to get the community plans for the Member, but the big ones were the Carcross community plan, the Ross River community plan and the Mount Lorne community plan. I am not sure if the Klondike Valley plan was completed in the previous year, or whether there was still money in this supplement for that plan. I will get a complete list for the Member opposite.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further discussion on community planning?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have some information that I was able to get during the break on planning. The Carcross planning was $50,000. The Carcross Road, or Mount Lorne area, plan was $20,000. The Ross River local area plan was $25,000. The Hootalinqua local area plan was $65,000, and the Hootalinqua local area plan 2 was $45,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister explain what the two Hootalinqua plans for a total of $110,000 covered and could he explain them in the context of the future land planning in the Laberge area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Some of the funding - I am not sure if I can distinguish between the local area plan and the local area plan 2 - has been used for the surveys conducted to date on the second dwelling units and some public meetings that were held in July to discuss proposed amendments to the zoning regulations with respect to allowing second dwelling units. The rest will be used for the planning initiatives that the department intends to undertake this winter.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Hootalinqua plans, to date, have spent more than twice what was spent in developing the Carcross plan. Are there more residents in that area? What accounts for the greater costs in Hootalinqua?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The amounts are for this year only; there has been other money spent in previous years. This is the first year of any expenditures for Hootalinqua.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister have any idea how much more money is going to be spent in the Laberge planning, for the four neighbourhoods that the government is considering working with in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have $50,000 in the 1994-95 budget. We expect that the $50,000, along with what we have left to date, should cover all the planning areas.
Ms. Moorcroft: The $50,000 in 1994-95 will start on April 1, 1994. The Minister was saying that these plans would be completed by May, 1994. There will have to be a lot of work done in the current fiscal year. How much of the $205,000 total for community planning is going to be spent on the four neighbourhood Laberge studies?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have about $69,000 left in the 1993-94 budget. That, combined with the $50,000, will make approximately $120,000 for those four areas and the Ibex Valley. It will depend on how much work we get done this winter and how much next spring. I cannot really give the Member opposite a definitive answer on when and exactly how much will be spent.
Community Planning in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Planning and Engineering
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is an increase of $5,000 for smaller items, and a reduction of $50,000 - the geographic information system, phase 2, was budgeted here in error; it has been moved to miscellaneous projects non-recoverable. The $20,000 for planning various sites has been reduced to cover the acquisition of a truck for lands branch use.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the truck for lands branch use? Is that for the staff to be able to travel back and forth to the community planning meetings in Laberge?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is used mostly for land inspections.
Planning and Engineering in the amount of an underexpenditure of $65,000 agreed to
On Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The increase is $36,000 for miscellaneous road upgrading to cover final expenditures on Mendenhall Road upgrading - costs will be recovered through a local improvement charge; $50,000 is for the GIS that was budgeted under planning and engineering in error; $18,000 is for lands vehicle purchase of a 4x4 for lands branch use, resulting in O&M rental savings.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide me with a further explanation of the geographic information system?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not totally familiar with the GIS. It is a complex computer program that gives multiple layers of information on any one lot or land that is put into it.
The City of Whitehorse, CYI, and Northwestel all have a GIS system. Eventually, when it gets set up, you should be able to get any information on a lot or parcel of land that has been programmed into its database.
Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable in the amount of $104,000 agreed to
On Recreation and Community Facilities/Services
On Recreation Facilities
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $26,000 increase is the additional funding required for the Old Crow skating rink cover.
Mrs. Firth: When they were planning the Old Crow skating rink roof, there were some quotes received and these quotes were made public to us in a legislative return that the Minister tabled in the House. In that return, there was a quote for a wood frame roof of similar size and it was listed that it would cost $576,400. Was there any projected cost done based on the community of Old Crow building the roof themselves out of lumber from the portable sawmill they were going to be getting?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Unfortunately, in a building or structure of that size, it is very difficult to build it from local products. Number one, the lumber the Old Crow band will cut will not be planed lumber, and it will not be graded. To build those types of wooden structures, one needs glue-lam beams to get to a span the size necessary for a skating rink. We just do not have the technology and the equipment required to build them. Actually, nowhere in the territory can we put up beams of that size.
Mrs. Firth: Could they not have made arrangements to purchase the beams separately, but do the majority of the construction themselves, using the portable sawmill? As I recall the debate here in the Legislature, the intention was to have the portable sawmill for the people of Old Crow to plane their own lumber and build some facilities for themselves. I recall the Member for the Vuntut Gwichin stating that in his presentation, in his motion, that day. I am sure that, had the department and the Cabinet been interested in providing that as an alternative to the people of Old Crow, they could have made some enquiries, taken some estimates and provided some of the materials required, but they could also have encouraged the community to use the portable sawmill to build the structure themselves.
To me, it does not look like there was anything done with respect to estimating the costs of a locally constructed facility. Could the Minister tell us whether there were any estimates done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was an estimate on a wood structure, but I do not believe the wood structure involved much, if any, locally supplied lumber.
Mrs. Firth: I just went through that with the Minister. I told him that, on the legislative return, there was a quote for a wood frame roof of similar size for $576,400, and that was for a contractor to go to Old Crow, to fly all the lumber in, and to take everything in that would be needed to construct it. I am asking him why there was not some kind of estimate done, based on a facility or structure being built using as much local labour and materials as could be used? If they had to get glue-lam beams in, or something like that, I could understand that, but why was nothing done based on the portable sawmill and the people of Old Crow building the structure themselves?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand that another problem with a wood or steel building in Old Crow is permafrost and the need for a footing for either a steel or wooden building, which can become very, very costly.
I think that the estimate that was given was merely for the shell and I do not believe that estimate took into account the footings and so on.
I am not sure how much, if any, of the local lumber could be used if the building were made out of wood, because we would run into a lumber grading problem. The lumber has to be graded. I now think that it could be possible that the lumber could be graded, but someone would have to fly up, be on site and actually grade the lumber. I am not sure the lumber would meet the quality standards.
Mrs. Firth: That is exactly my question: why was that type of analysis not done? The Ministers comments remind me of the story about the deputy minister who told me a crosswalk could not be painted over the highway. The Minister has every excuse in the book about why something cannot be done, but he has not examined whether it could be done or not, according to the information he is providing to us. He has not examined what the costs could be.
I think that it would be far more beneficial for the people to take some direct ownership in the facility and build the facility themselves. That is the point the Member for Old Crow was making when the motion about the sawmill was brought forward to the Legislature - the people in Old Crow building their own structures. I would like to ask the Minister if he will wait and get some quotes to construct the building using this method.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a substantial amount of volunteer work going into the facility that is going to be constructed.
The Vuntut Gwichin were asked if they would like us to fully investigate the possibility of putting in a different type of construction for an arena. They had some reasons for wanting the material that currently is in Old Crow. One of the reasons is so that the light in the summer can come through so no artificial light would be needed. The other point was the weight of it, which determines if it will need permanent footings in the permafrost in Old Crow.
Mrs. Firth: There we go again. There are all these reasons why the Minister cannot do something. The department did not do an analysis of whether or not it could be done.
What the Minister is saying is that they are not going to do an analysis to determine whether or not it could be done. What we are doing is building a $516,000 cover over a $40,000 arena without examining any other options, other than a wood frame and a metal frame construction that came in more expensive than the sprung fabric cover.
The only point I am making is that it would have been in the best interests of the community of Old Crow, the department and our budget situation for the government to examine all the options.
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $26,000 agreed to
On Rural Electrification and Telephone
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister explain his understanding of the rural electrification program to me, and could he also indicate whether the rural electrification and telephone costs are recoverable?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: All of the costs under the rural electrification and telephone budget item are recoverable. If a group of people request the extension of electrification or telephone service to an area, the government will contract with Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. to supply the power and then charge it back against each lot on a fully cost-recoverable basis, with an interest charge equivalent to the rate at which the Yukon government can borrow money at the time the contract is signed. I believe it can be amortized over up to 15 years.
Ms. Moorcroft: When the Minister says that the cost is recoverable, he means that the cost goes on to the homeowners taxes for a period of up to 15 years. So it is recoverable directly from the taxpayer - it is not covered in any way by the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Ms. Moorcroft: My understanding of the rural electrification program is also that it is often used where there is only property where someone wants to have power brought in and are to pay for it themselves, although the government helps them finance it over a number of years, and that power may be brought in as much as three or four miles on behalf of one resident, even if there is no expectation that there will be further development in the short term - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is essentially correct. I do not know of a case where there was only one customer over a distance like that, but there may have been. It can be extended for only one customer.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sure the Minister is aware of the electrification petition recently held at Lake Laberge Fossil, Point and Deep Creek. That petition did not receive 75-percent support, because some of the lot owners are living out of territory and some did not respond. The constituents have asked the Minister to remove the stipulation that they have 75-percent support, because a majority of the year-round residents do want to bring the electricity in. What is the Ministers response to this request?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The request to my office has been from only one of the residents, as far as I know. I do not believe that I would be willing to change, or ask Cabinet to change, the regulations at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know how many lot owners in that area support having electricity brought to their properties?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I have not seen the petition. I did see the results of the petition, as computed by one of the residents.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister to give some consideration to the request from his constituents. It seems to me that, since the residents are willing to pay for the electricity themselves, the government should be assisting them in upgrading their properties, when it is essentially at no cost to the government.
The Minister should also consider helping his constituents in this matter, because, as I stated at the beginning of the discussion on this line item, there are many rural property owners who had electricity brought in fairly lengthy distances for the benefit of one lot owner, and they are paying for this themselves.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure of the property the Member may be referring to but, if it went by other privately owned properties, then those properties would have had the ability to vote on whether they wanted electricity or not. If the electricity was extended, then those property owners would have to pay the same cost as the person who actually ended up using the power.
The situation is very similar at Deep Creek. There are several people scattered along the creek who desperately want the electrification, but there are also several property owners who do not want electrification. My understanding is that the property owners who do not want electrification outnumber the ones who do by about 48 percent to 52 percent.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not basing my representation simply on one specific instance. Over the years, I have seen a number of neighbours along the Carcross Road, and I have seen a number of properties along the Alaska Highway and in different areas around the Yukon take advantage of the rural electrification program. In fact, on the Annie Lake Road, the power lines came down the road. Less than 75 percent of the property owners at that time did pay to hook up to the power and bring the power in to the residences. The requirement there was that anyone else who had not brought power in when it first went down had to pay into the system if they hooked up to those power lines within a seven-year period. There are certainly precedents of bringing the power in. If 48 percent of the lot owners want to bring power in and 52 percent of the lot owners do not want to bring power in, then there are a lot of people who do want to pay to bring the power in. I think the Minister should consider allowing them to take advantage of that program when I know the program has been taken advantage of where there were far fewer than 20 or 30 or 40 property owners who wanted to use the program.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly am not aware of the instance the Member opposite is quoting. The rural electrification regulations are fairly explicit that, if power is extended past properties, whether those properties take advantage of the power or not, they shall pay. It is very clear in the regulations. If there has been something different from that done, I do not know when it was, or by whom. It certainly was not in keeping with the intent of the regulations.
Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., at one time, had a system of their own to extend power to someone. Then, anyone else who tapped on to the line within a five-year period had to pay a portion of the cost back to the owner of the property who had it extended in the first place. However, I do not believe that Yukon Electrical has done that for a number of years.
Ms. Moorcroft: When were the rural electrification regulations brought into effect, and who is responsible for them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They were brought into effect in 1984 and they are currently under the jurisdiction of the assessment and taxation branch.
Ms. Moorcroft: So these regulations could be changed if the Minister or if the Legislature had the will to do so. I simply want to make the representation that many area residents and constituents of the Minister in the Lake Laberge, Fossil Point and Deep Creek area would like to see that regulatory change or look at making an exception to the regulation in this case. I think the Minister should be aware that some of the lot owners who have voted against electrification live out of territory and are not year-round residents. Many of the lot owners who do want to bring the electricity in and pay for it are year-round lot owners.
Rural Electrification and Telephone in the amount of $42,000 agreed to
On Computing Equipment and Systems
Computing Equipment and Systems in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Public Health
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Ms. Moorcroft: I would certainly like an explanation of the sewage treatment and disposal expenditures.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was an increase of $726,000 for Whitehorse sewage treatment cost sharing, a revote of $577,000, and an additional $149,000 is required to meet the agreement commitment. There was a reduction of $38,000 for a wetlands sewage treatment system in Ross River due to a change in the scope of the project and essential design work being done in house. There is a $70,000 reduction for sewage treatment disposal at Carcross, which had a revote of $84,000 to complete engineering and preliminary design, offset by $254,000 of the 1993-94 funding for the Water Board licence that will not be utilized this year.
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of $618,000 agreed to
On Hazardous Waste, Storage
Ms. Moorcroft: Could we get a breakdown of the hazardous waste storage?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The increase is $233,000 for a special waste storage facility, with a revote of $68,000 to establish an interim storage facility for abandoned and orphaned waste and scheduling for two territory-wide pick-ups of special waste; $18,000 for special waste program development, as the project is increased in scope to include regulations, legal fees, program materials, et cetera; and $15,000 for Campbell expansion of PCB clean-up to delineate and quantify contamination. Expenditures are 100-percent recoverable from the federal government. Then, there is a reduction of $5,000 net of smaller items.
Mr. Penikett: I had the pleasure of attending a waste oil meeting today. Part of the discussion was the fate of the special waste facility, and we had some discussion in the last session about whether we were going to be fencing it or storing it all and shipping it out. According to officials of the city government, they were told by this government fairly early on that the territorial government had asked the city to collect oil on an interim basis, including contaminated oil, as the territorial government was definitely cancelling the hazardous waste facility.
Is that, in fact, the position of the territorial government - that the hazardous waste facility is dead, functus, finished, no orphanage, no foster care for this stuff; we are not even having a fence? What is the situation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, the facility is not dead at all. I am kind of surprised at the city for providing the information that the Yukon government should store the used oil, because a facility was not being constructed. It never was the intent of the government to store used oil at the special waste facility.
Mr. Penikett: It is the case that during the time the side that is now the Official Opposition was in government we were talking about the problem of oil waste, including contaminated oil wastes and special wastes. We were talking about how to collect, store and dispose same.
The problem is, as the Minister knows, that the city has decided for perfectly good environmental reasons not to continue using the leaking pit that they now have to get out of the business, since they do not believe they have responsibility anyway.
The meeting was told by an official of the Department of Community and Transportation Services that they have some draft regulations now under the Environment Act, and that the act requires a consultation period, and the department was also proposing an initial 30-day review before that, which means a three-month delay, but I understand the Minister told the House earlier today that we are talking about regulations for the spring.
The NDP were recently criticized by the Government Leader because we could not get regulations together on something much more complicated in six months. Why is the Minister taking over a year and one-half to develop regulations about waste oil?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that, possibly, the regulations could have been developed somewhat faster, but there were some other studies going on at the same time as the regulation development. I am not certain, but I believe there is a full consultation process that has to be conducted. I have been assured by the department that we should have the regulations early in the spring.
I would move that you 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. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 29, 1993:
Auditor General: Report on the Study of Human Resource Management in the Yukon Territorial Government (dated November, 1993) (Speaker)
Department of Government Services, 1993-95 Strategic Plan (Devries)
The following Legislative Returns was tabled November 29, 1993:
Small Business Planning Program: consultants recommendations (Devries)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1411
The following Filed Document was filed November 29, 1993:
Letter dated November 23, 1993, to the Mayor and City Council of the Town of the City of Dawson from the Deputy Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding the investigation of circumstances surrounding the installation of sewer line services on Block D. (Fisher)