Monday, December 13, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will now proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have the governments position on union negotiations for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have for tabling four legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a legislative return.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Harding: I would like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Party government has adopted the practice of appointing mostly members of its political party to government boards and committees; and
THAT the Yukon Party government has reneged on its commitments to institute the offices of ombudsperson and of delegating boards and committees appointments to an independent, all-party committee set up by the Legislature; and
THAT the Yukon Party government has reversed its formerly held position by hiring a Yukon Party member to serve as community liaison coordinator to handle all appointments to the governments boards and committees in order to ensure the Yukon Party members and supporters are given preferential status; and
THAT the Yukon Party government considers the public to be sufficiently informed about its opportunities to sit on government boards and committees simply by putting an advertisement in a magazine sent out to Yukon Party members.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Efforts to Obtain Collective Agreement
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today in the Legislature to express the governments disappointment that efforts to obtain a collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada failed over the weekend. As this Legislature and the Yukon public are aware, members of the conciliation board, presided over by Mr. Vince Ready from British Columbia, flew up to Whitehorse over the weekend to enquire into the nature of the bargaining dispute, and to attempt to see what grounds for compromise existed between the union and the employer.
Since the employers submission to the conciliation board is now a matter for the public record, I have tabled in the Legislature today the written submission and the supporting documents, which were presented to the board by the employers bargaining team over the weekend. I am told that no written submission was tabled by the union.
In anticipation of approaching the conciliation board with proposals that would facilitate reaching a collective agreement, the employer reduced its original bargaining demands to six. The employers submission reflects the need to curtail escalating operating costs in the face of a $13.3 million unconsolidated accumulated deficit. Consequently, the employers proposals include a freeze on wages, merit increases and rates currently payable under the Yukon bonus provision that provides government employees with up to three airfares annually to Vancouver or Edmonton. The employers remaining proposals in a two-year contract were designed to minimize operating costs with no negative impact on employees.
The proposals the employer placed before the conciliation board ask no more of the Yukon Government Employees Union members than were conceded by other groups in the government. The Yukon Teachers Association made concessions at the bargaining table earlier this year that resulted in average per capita savings of $1,344, and additional concessions for deputy ministers and managers arising from salary rollbacks and freezes to merit increases resulted in average per capita savings to the government of $3,650. Cabinet Ministers, MLAs, and the political staff in the Executive Council Office have also experienced salary rollbacks that came into effect last April 1.
The average union employeess straight time rate in government is $28.14 per hour, including benefits. The proposals the employer put to the conciliation board attempted to freeze the union wage, and in doing so asked no more of YGEU members than was asked of all other employees of the government. In fact, the employers proposals sought less and would have resulted in average per capita savings of only $1,070 from the YEGU members.
While the employers proposal sought to meet the unions public position of a rollover agreement at no additional cost to the Yukon taxpayer, the union has 30 pages of proposals that they would like included in a new contract.
Their final position at the end of this weekend would contribute an additional $7.8 million to the deficit of the Yukon. That calculation does not include increases to merit and Yukon bonus rates over two years, and unspecified wage adjustments in the second year, and is in sharp contrast to the employers proposals that sought to reduce the existing accumulated deficit by $22 million dollars.
The union also sought to have written into a new contract no layoff guarantees, and to acquire a wide variety of leaves from the workplace, including education leave, career development leave, military leave, leave for spouse relocation, leave to sue the employer, and deferred leaves. Additionally, union demands to receive overtime rates for shifts that currently attract straight time rates were discussed.
It is not the wish of this government to encourage a strike in the territory. In fact, the exact opposite is true, but the government cannot meet the high expectations of union representatives where those expectations have no regard for the deficit that we are trying to control on behalf of all Yukon citizens.
The conciliation board is expected to deliberate on its findings before releasing its report to the chairperson of the Yukon staff relations board in Ottawa. That report is expected before the end of this month.
At the end of the day, there will be a collective agreement reached between the parties. When that will happen, and how that will happen, will depend upon the good faith of the parties to agree upon provisions that reflect the reality facing all Yukoners today.
In conclusion, I want to say again that we are not asking of our union employees anything that has not already been conceded by managers, deputy ministers, political staff in the Executive Council Office, MLAs in this House - in fact, it is considerably less. As a government, we are no different from many other governments in this country in attempting to control escalating costs of operations.
It is my belief that when the rank and file members of the union have a chance to review our proposals, their opinions will be significantly different from those expressed by their representatives in conciliation over the weekend.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not at all pleased to have to respond to this ministerial statement but, in light of what has transpired, some comments and clarifications are necessary.
I would like to commend the negotiating teams on both sides for their efforts to date to try to resolve the outstanding issues toward signing a new collective agreement. We have heard the governments side of what happened over the weekend and the fact that there was no agreement, but I would like to remind the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that it takes two parties to refuse further discussions on the issues. It takes an unwillingness on both sides to come to an agreement before it gets to this stage.
The government has a responsibility to look after the affairs of the territory and its workers. We maintain, and have proven time and time again, that the government is not in the dire financial straits that it claims it is in. The claim that the Yukon has the highest debt load per capita than anywhere else in Canada is misleading because we also have the highest per capita spending and income of any jurisdiction. Yukon revenues continue to rise.
This government raised taxes this spring in order to get $7 million, claiming it needed the extra money to offset this false deficit. Where did it go to? What has it been used for?
Last month, on November 5, the government announced they had found $7 million to create jobs in road building and construction, so they are not as broke as they claim. Whenever they want to find money for their projects, it is easy, but for public workers there is no money and no job security.
The claim that the government is broke is little short of philosophical posturing by the government. Once they were elected, claiming during the campaign that they had to stop the large transfers of money from Ottawa, they ended up saying, Oh, we do not get enough. We have to go back for more. So, of course, they are going to cut back on operations, on capital spending, and now they are trying to make the workers pay for their false claims.
There have been huge lapses in capital and operations spending over the past year, which will also increase the surplus and decrease the deficit. But they do not talk about these things.
The government claims that the union wants job security for life with no effective layoff provisions. This is grossly misleading, because the government does have the ability to lay off people. It is the manner in which they are laid off that is of concern to the union.
The job security clause in the collective agreement simply means that when employees are laid off, they must receive some notice. There must be attempts made to find alternate positions for the affected employees.
There are some very legitimate points that the union has brought to the table. These are items that their members feel are important. For the government to simply walk away from them and point a finger at the unions demands as the reason why the talks have broken down is misleading and highlights the fact that the government thinks they have no responsibility for creating the climate of economic uncertainty, and that they are just being good fiscal managers.
I wonder if those good fiscal managers walk down Main Street. If they do, they would hear the complaints of merchants who are suffering because of the policies that this government has brought forward. I can only trust and hope that this is not going to be another one. People will suffer even more this Christmas if the government continues to provoke a strike based on misleading information.
Mr. Cable: I have to say that the breakdown of the negotiations is definitely not a Christmas present for the people of the Yukon. I am sure I share that view with many other people in the public sector, the business community and elsewhere.
I have had the opportunity to talk to both sides, and there is obviously a different view of the facts, and a different view of where these negotiations are going. I think it behooves both sides to remember that these negotiations are not the type of negotiations that take place between, say, White Pass and its employees - a private company and its union. They are negotiations between the people of the Yukon and their public servants and the whole community has a stake in the successful conclusion of these negotiations.
The public service payroll is a mainstay of the Yukon economy now, in my view. It is no secret that there is not much else going on in the economy. Consumer confidence does not need another negative signal.
The government needs to make clear its goals in the negotiations. A clear statement is needed from the union on Mr. Brohmans public statements. Having said that, I am happy that the secrecy veil has finally been pulled back a few inches from the negotiations, and now the public can start to form some independent conclusions. One hopes the conciliation board will provide us with a neutral view of the facts.
I have to say, from looking at the negotiations, that there are obviously a number of agendas being worked out in the negotiation. The events of the last several days might lead one to conclude that there are other issues interfering with the successful conclusion of the agreement. I hope not. It is my hope that reason and common sense will prevail in the interests of all Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to start by saying that the Member for Mount Lorne is correct. Our financial situation is not as dire as other jurisdictions in Canada, and we have no intention of allowing it to get as bad as in other jurisdictions in Canada. What happened to other jurisdictions is that they failed to control their costs, and their costs escalated to the point that they now have tremendous debt loads to pay. They have to use their revenues to pay the interest on that debt. With our small tax base in the Yukon, our ability to service debt is very limited. The population of the entire Yukon is equal to that of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. If we allow that debt to grow at the rate it was growing under the previous administration, it would not be very many years before we would have no ability at all to move. Our ability is very limited right now; we are borrowing money for the day-to-day operations of government.
The per capita deficit that we mentioned is not misleading. In fact, the $64 million deficit that was on the books was the highest per capita deficit of any jurisdiction in Canada last year. Capital spending has not been cut, as the Member opposite alluded to in her comments. We have increased capital spending to put private sector people to work. She speaks of merchants complaining. They may be, but they also complained very bitterly in the period from 1990 to 1993, when government sector employees received a 31 percent increase in wage and benefit increases - 31 percent - and that is so far above private sector wages in the Yukon that private sector employers are having trouble attracting employees.
We asked for a standstill agreement, the same as Mr. Brohman said back in June. They were then prepared to offer a rollover agreement that had no additional costs for the taxpayers of the Yukon. He said that in May. It would not be adding one single, additional cent. We pared back our demand of a five-percent roll-back. We pared it back to a standstill agreement where all they would be giving up would be the merit increases over the next two years, the Yukon bonus, and to freeze things would have resulted in $2.2 million less cost to the taxpayers over that period. We have asked for no clawback from the members - none whatsoever - and I believe we went in there with a very responsible position of six demands.
On the issue of job security, the union already had protections in the agreement on contracting out. We dropped our proposal to remove that provision. The protection remains there. What they want is to put back into the agreement a clause that became null and void as of March 31 - an obligation of the employer to look at retraining employees where employees show an ability to be retrained from an existing vacancy, if there is one - as a step to go through prior to layoff.
We cannot look at giving any kind of relief of that nature while we are looking at seeking relief from increases that are built into the agreement - increases that will amount to $2.2 million over the next 15 months.
I believe the government has laid out its position very clearly, and it is a very responsible one.
Speaker: This, then, brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Collective agreement negotiations
Ms. Moorcroft: Conciliation talks have broken down and the prospect of a labour dispute grows more certain. As if the public needed further proof, it is now clear that the government will not negotiate, will not conciliate, on the question of job security. Despite the grave consequences of such a position, the government has also refused to reveal why it is so opposed to job security. Would the Minister please tell this House how this latest development, the end of conciliation talks, fits into his overall plan for the unionized employees of the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have made it quite clear in my ministerial statement that we are very, very disappointed that talks have broken down. I have also just finished addressing the job security clause. The union has protections in the agreement already on contracting out, and we have dropped our proposal to remove that provision.
What we cannot leave in there is an agreement that only the federal government has, and they wish they had never got into it. They had to rent a separate building in which to put these people due to an agreement that said they could not get rid of the employees. That is what the union is asking of the Yukon government and we cannot agree to that at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps if the Official Opposition had been afforded the opportunity for a briefing similar to those that the Member for Riverside and the Member for Riverdale South had, the Government Leader would not be finding these questions so painful.
The government has tried to paint itself as the wronged party in all of this. It has been said repeatedly that the only labour action possible out of the conciliation process is a strike; however, the government has drawn up plans to conduct a lockout, to deny workers the opportunity to work and to be paid for that work. How long a lockout is the Minister prepared to conduct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have said several times during debate in this session, the government does not have the right to lockout. We simply do not have that ability.
The document that the Member is referring to is not a secret document. The union had a question and answer sheet that was widely distributed throughout the government in September, asking and answering typical questions that were asked by the employees, or their supervisors, about a possible strike. It appears they have difficulty understanding the concept of a lockout, which the government cannot do under this legislation, but the government does have the right to schedule employee work schedules.
Ms. Moorcroft: The government has told its employees the following, If the employer decides to suspend or curtail operations owing to the disruption of services, the employee will be sent home and not receive further compensation until services are restored.
When an employer prevents an employee from working, it is called a lockout. Government has stated quite clearly that it is prepared to lock out workers in the event of a labour dispute. The Minister clearly intends to provoke a labour dispute and stop workers from working. The question is, to what lengths is the Minister prepared to go to break the union? For how long is the Minister prepared to conduct a lockout?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I seem to be having trouble getting through to the Member for Mount Lorne.
If there are disruptions in service that cause us to be unable to continue our services to the public, we will tell the employees to go home. We have that right. That is not a lockout. That is not unilaterally locking out employees.
Let us use a hypothetical situation. If we have a picket line in front of a liquor store and one employee was fortunate enough to make it through the picket line, but we still do not have the ability to serve the public, we would have no alternative but to send the employee home.
Question re: Collective agreement negotiations
Ms. Moorcroft: It is certainly interesting to listen to the Government Leader attempt to answer some of these questions for the first time, so he will just to have bear with me trying to get some good answers from him.
Government employees who would normally be shopping for Christmas are now spending as little money as possible. Even those who would be prepared to cross a picket line, should they go up, are being told that they cannot count on being paid if they turn up for work. When the government told us a few weeks ago that it did not think that people knew the rules of the workplace in the Yukon, is that what it had in mind?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure what the Members question is, but I will try to answer it again.
If services are disrupted, such as with a power outage for several hours in which we could not provide service to the public, we would send the employees home. It is as simple as that. We have the right to schedule work. That is totally different from a lockout.
Ms. Moorcroft: A governments primary purpose is to serve the public good. A government should respond to the publics demand for service with services of a quality and level commensurate with the need. Does the Minister agree that this should be the goal of his government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, we want to provide services to the public. However, we also want to provide them at a cost that the public can afford.
I reiterate: we are just going back to the position that was put on the table by the union in May. They were prepared for a rollover that included no additional cost to the taxpayers of the Yukon. That was what our proposal was to them over the weekend.
Ms. Moorcroft: The labour dispute that the government is seeking could lead to the closure of four Yukon highways in the middle of winter, by closing down highway camps. Offices will be closed and public services will not be offered. Does the Minister believe his government is serving the public good by closing down roads and services, hamstringing businesses and impoverishing families?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What the Member says is not true. What the document she is referring to says is that employees who receive free room and board from the employer will not be entitled to continue to receive free room and board from the employer if they strike the employer. That is what the document says. It says nothing about closing down the main highways in the Yukon. There may be some roads that only receive limited maintenance now that may have to be closed.
What that document says is that they will no longer receive free room and board.
Question re: Collective agreement negotiations
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions on the collective agreement negotiations. The people of the Yukon need a clear signal as to what is going to be happening in the next few weeks - a signal as to whether the economy will be stabilized. Will the Government Leader assure all Yukoners that in the event that the collective agreement expires, and as an act of good faith, he will not arbitrarily reduce the levels of pay in the public service, pending resolution of the dispute?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no problem making that sort of a gesture in the House today. I do not think it is our intention to reduce pay, based upon the position that we put forward to the conciliation board. That is the kind of position that we would hope for. That is all we are asking for - a rollover.
Mr. Cable: The government represents all Yukoners and, as such, should be the prime mover in resolving this dispute. Will the Government Leader assure all Yukoners today that whatever might happen in these negotiations he will continue to make every reasonable effort to continue the negotiations and move them forward?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will not have any trouble giving the Member that assurance either. We have tried for seven months to settle this. We were ready to go to conciliation in September. It was the union that dug in its feet, not the government.
Mr. Cable: Whatever the facts are, in relation to the point just made by the Government Leader, the public is entitled to both sides making every effort - their best efforts - to avoid a strike.
Is the Government Leader prepared to instruct his staff to sit down with the union to continue negotiations if it receives a signal from the union to that effect?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, I have no trouble giving the Member that assurance. If we get the signal from the union, we will certainly sit down to talk.
Question re: Collective agreement negotiations
Mr. Penikett: I want to ask one question of the Government Leader on the same subject.
For the first time today, he has admitted that the territorial government was trying to remove the job security clause, because he just said they removed that demand from the table in the recent round.
Given the widespread fears throughout the public service about this governments plans for privatization and contracting out, what policy reason did the government have for trying to remove the job security clause in the old collective agreement, which did nothing more than provide for notice of layoffs to employees, to give them a chance to compete for other jobs that might become available?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: One just has to look at the list of demands by the union. We had to have a list of demands to counter those demands. This is called negotiation.
Mr. Penikett: It is a somewhat preposterous answer. I asked the Government Leader what his policy reason was for doing away with the job security clause, in light of the widespread discussion of privatization and contracting out by this government. Up to now, the Government Leader has refused to answer the policy question. I want to ask him why he had that demand on the table when his spokesperson for the negotiations, months ago, said in one statement that job security was not an issue. Why was the Government Leader, in secret negotiations at the table, demanding the removal of that provision?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Up untill today, all negotiations were secret. Demands have been put on the table by the union, and demands have been put on the table by this government. If we wanted to go into privatization, we would have been into it a long time ago. We would not be waiting for this agreement to be settled.
Mr. Penikett: The only party in this House for whom the negotiations are secret, as far as the government is concerned, is the Official Opposition, who were not even offered a briefing even though, in another gratuitous insult to parliamentary tradition, the Liberal party and the Independent Alliance were.
Let me ask the Government Leader, given what he now knows about the unions request for job security, which was, as I understand it, protection for the arrangements in the old collective agreement, why did he issue a totally misleading statement today indicating that the union was looking for job security for life, something no public sector union anywhere in this country has asked for or obtained, as far as I know?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am going to disagree with the Leader of the Official Opposition on that, because it is a clause the federal government has and it was being asked for by this union. That is why I said it; it is not a misleading statement.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development.
Last Thursday, the Council on the Economy and the Environment met to discuss the video lottery terminal subcommittee report. The Minister, I understand, was at that meeting.
My question is this: was the council told that the draft report given to them was not the original report drawn up by the governments officials?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe the submission they were given was something just marked second draft.
Ms. Commodore: Regarding that second draft, I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell the House why the recommendations of the original report were not included in the draft report that was given to the council at the meeting?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not certain why they were not included. I would suspect that it would be because we want the council to look at it with an open mind. We would not want to put presumed conclusions into their minds.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister is aware that there were some indications that there would be a social impact on Yukoners as a result of the introduction of the VLTs. Could the Minister tell the House why the Yukon Health and Social Services Council was not involved in any discussions regarding the VLTs?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I think the Member would have to ask that question of the Minister of Health and Social Services. I was just at the Council on the Economy and the Environment meeting and it was not discussed there.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Commodore: My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, and it follows up on the VLTs.
The fact that the government has allowed only the Council on the Economy and the Environment to review the report on VLTs raises serious questions about the priorities of this government.
Since the Minister was at the meeting of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment last Thursday, can he tell the House if there was any discussion on the negative social impact that would occur as a result of the introduction of VLTs in the Yukon? I would remind him that that was mentioned in the report that was given to the Council on the Economy and the Environment in the draft report.
Hon. Mr. Devries: There were some discussions about it, but nothing specific. It was basically a wide open discussion about VLTs.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister and the Government Leader are ignoring any social problems that would occur as a result of VLT use in the Yukon.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, since it appears that he is prepared to answer, if he would direct the Yukon Health and Social Services Council and its Minister to meet and review the subcommittee report on VLT gambling in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have said, time and time again, that we have asked the Council on the Economy and the Environment to go out into the public, and listen to all people who have an opinion about legalized gambling and VLTs. I am not about to start intervening in that process; I will leave it to the Council on the Economy and the Environment to gather the information and to make recommendations back to Cabinet as to what direction we should take.
Ms. Commodore: The government is already spending millions of dollars on alcohol and drug abuse in the Yukon. They are also spending millions of dollars on family violence. Since the first report VLTs has indicated that the potential negative social impacts are greater with VLTs than any other form of gambling, and it will cost this government additional money to deal with the social problems that would occur as a result, why is the government spending taxpayers money to review a project that will only benefit the governments friends in the hotel business?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Excuse me for laughing, but the Members opposite bitterly condemn us when we do not consult with the people of the Yukon, and they accuse us of making unilateral decisions. When we do consult with the public, the side opposite wants us to make unilateral decisions and to supersede the body who will be consulting with the public.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, major industrial users
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation. The Liberal leader and I have been taking turns trying to pry information out of the Minister regarding the industrial policy on energy rights that the Minister said would be ready this past June, and now the Minister is saying it will be ready shortly.
The Minister tabled contracts for the Yukon Energy Corporation, and one of those contracts is to an Intergroup Consulting Company regarding industrial rates in the amount of $25,000.
Can the Minister tell us if that information is being used in the development of this policy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Some of the information may be used, but as I had advised on previous occasions, the policy of which the Member speaks is actually being developed by the Department of Economic Development.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is saying that part of it may be used. If that is the case, why is the Yukon Energy Corporation getting contracts to examine industrial rates? He has indicated that the Department of Economic Development has taken the lead role, but the Energy Corporation is doing some consulting on industrial rates. Perhaps the Minister could indicate to us what the terms of reference were for this contract, so that we can better understand what is being done.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would be pleased to come back with that information.
Mrs. Firth: I gather, then, that the Minister does not really know what the contract is for. I am also curious about the timing of it - if the information is being used in the development of the policy. First the Minister indicated that the policy would be ready in June, but this contract term is from October 1 to September 31 of 1993, which is much after the time that the Minister said it would be available.
Can the Minister tell us why a local consulting firm was not used? Could he tell us why they had to go to Intergroup, which I understand is a firm in Manitoba?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That particular firm was used by the previous administration in the negotiations that led to the transfer of NCPC to the Government of the Yukon, and ultimately to the Energy Corporation. These people have been used from time to time by the corporation ever since, for a whole raft of reasons not tied to the policy, which I have already advised her is being developed by the Department of Economic Development in consultation with the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, major industrial users
Mrs. Firth: I will be very quick with my new question. I understand that this group was used by the previous government and the government before the previous government, which brings it back to this government and this Minister, who was the Government Leader at that time. I would like to ask the Minister if he will table the terms of reference for the contract and the contract itself, either this afternoon or tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that we have always made that information available to this Member, and once again I advise her that we use that particular group because of their expertise and their history of involvement with our Energy Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: The Intergroup Consulting firm also has a contract with the Yukon Energy Corporation for $50,000 for a project called integration. Could the Minister tell us what that project is for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would be pleased to bring back a detailed written explanation of that as well.
Mrs. Firth: Will the Minister bring back the terms of reference and that contract to ensure that we get all the information from the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It would be unthinkable of me to try and withhold any information from this particular Member.
Question re: Faro Real Estate, foreclosure
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. On September 30, I wrote the Minister responsible about the housing situation in Faro and inquired about contingency plans in case Faro Real Estate, which owns a lot of the houses in the community, can no longer make their payments. When I asked about Faro Real Estate after having received no response since then, last Thursday, the Minister said that foreclosure was either imminent or had already begun. Because they have first mortgage on almost 300 units, what are the contingency plans for rent-to-purchase holders and renters in the community?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the Yukon Housing Corporation, for whatever reason, ends up having to take possession of the units, there would be no change to what is existing today under FREL.
Mr. Harding: From that I can ascertain that the government would remain in a status quo relationship with the tenants in Faro. I want to ask the government a bit more. It was quite shocking news to me that this was the case, after I had waited so long for a response. Is there a firm action plan in place for consultation, to share this information with the municipal council in Faro and the citizens of the community, who are going to be a little bit upset when they start hearing the word foreclosure.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Yukon Housing Corporation and Faro Real Estate are in discussion right now. Faro Real Estate could continue to own the houses. I think it is a little premature to be starting consultation with other groups, other than Faro Real Estate.
Mr. Harding: That is a good word for it, premature. I was listening to the radio this morning and, over this last couple of weeks, there seems to be a steady, slow, gradual increase in metal prices, both lead and zinc. We have a low Canadian dollar, which bodes well for the future opening of the project in Faro. Could I ask the Minister if he could clearly state whether or not the foreclosure proceedings have or have not begun?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of whether they have actually started or if they are still at the negotiation stage.
Question re: Collective agreement negotiations
Mr. Cable: I am hoping for some further facts from the Government Leader on the collective agreement negotiations.
Both sides have presented positions that the government has costed and distributed information about to the employees. I gather there is no agreement between the government and the union on the costs of the two positions. Is the government prepared to table the detailed costing calculations, so that the public can draw its own conclusions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To say there is not an agreement on the costs is the understatement of the year. The fact is that the union did not cost them. My understanding is that the Yukon government costed them out, but the union negotiators did not table the costing.
I will take under advisement the question of whether or not I can table that information. If it is at all possible, I will.
Mr. Cable: I have a question on another point that would be useful for people not intimately involved in the negotiations.
I understand that the unions offer was not put forward as a final offer - the offer that was tabled on the weekend with the conciliation board. Is that the Government Leaders understanding?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if it was a final offer, but it did not appear that, under conciliation, there was any room for agreement, and that that is why conciliation broke off.
Mr. Cable: The reason I ask the question is because I had sensed that the union was showing some flexibility. I suppose the union could speak for itself on that.
A question I would like to put to the Government Leader is: what is the government really attempting to do? Is it attempting to protect the financial position of the government or to retroactively roll back the previous negotiations to stabilize pay levels in the public service at a level that is commensurate with the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are many realities out there right now in the Yukon and in other jurisdictions in Canada. We only have to look at the actions taken by other governments in this country in attempts to control their escalating O&M costs, of which labour is a significant portion.
There are several reasons. One fact is that we do not have the money; it is as simple as that. What we are asking from this union is less than what has been contributed by managers and teachers. We are not asking for anything that is unrealistic in light of the financial situation in Canada today.
Question re: Compensation for Victims of Crime Act
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Justice. Last session, when the Minister repealed the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, he stated his intention to provide in its place other services to victims to respond to what he acknowledged as being an identified need for support for victims of crime. Since the act will soon come into effect, when will he be announcing the new programs or services that he talked about?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course, the costs under the act were not repealed. Those costs continue until all the hearings have been heard for those victims of crimes that took place prior to the first half of this calendar year. They have until the end of this month to file for compensation. Sometime between that date, and one hopes before summer, all those hearings or cases will be deal with by the board.
With respect to the manner in which we are going to be using some of the new money, which has been, and is being, collected under the surcharge and fines, I am going to be making a statement shortly in the House with regard to our policy on developing community-based justice. Upon my doing that, I will be able to say to the Member that, consistent with that policy, the department will be discussing options with various communities on exactly how they want to proceed with the implementation of community-based justice.
Ms. Commodore: I will ask those questions later on, in debate on the budget, but, in the spring session, when he brought the act into the House, I think there were about 60 applicants waiting to be heard and more were expected until the end of this month. I would like to ask the Minister if he will tell us how many applicants have been heard and how many more are expected to be heard. I know he is not going to be able to stand up and give me that information - maybe he will - but I would certainly like it as quickly as possible.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will bring that information to the Member by the time we start discussing the Department of Justice in the capital mains.
Ms. Commodore: Perhaps the Minister could also provide us with information about estimated costs and how much over budget the Minister expects the figures to be by the time they have finished processing all of the applications, before we get to the Ministers department in the supplementary budget.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We can bring forward some estimates, but it is unlikely that they would be accurate, since all we are doing is second-guessing a board that makes the awards.
Question re: Workers Compensation, safety regulations review
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for occupational health and safety.
I was pleased to be able to attend the first annual general meeting of the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board directors last week.
One of the most significant concerns raised was the decision to cut back the scope of the occupational health and safety regulations review. Last week, the Minister told this House that the decision was made by the board. The board, however, told us at the meeting that the Minister had directed the board to reduce the scope of the regulation review - period.
Why did the Minister tell this House that it was the boards choice to drastically reduce the scope of the occupational health and safety regulation review, when it was the Minister who told the board to cut the review back?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe that when the review first started out it was this government that put it through Management Board, and that was before regulations had really gone into effect and before the chairman of the board and the board had gotten into action to the point where they dealt with the policies that they are now making.
Mr. Harding: The board does not have much choice when the Minister makes an order. They can accept the order or they can resign.
The Minister did not answer my question. I asked the Minister this: why did he decide to cut back and scale down the scope of that important health and safety review?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The time that the review was scaled down was during the time that this government took over from the previous administration. We were very restricted monetarily in every area and at that time everyone was informed of the philosophy that they would restrict costs, and we felt that the review committee could do just as much with a smaller amount of money.
Mr. Harding: I think that most governments would wish that they had the kind of increasing revenues that this government has, and a $20 million surplus in the operating fund for WCB, the strongest board in the country.
When the concern about finances is not justified for WCB, why would the Minister feel that reducing a scope of a review, when it was not needed financially, would help the concerns of employers and employees?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the time that we made that decision, we had not even seen the 1992 report.
Question re: Workers Compensation, safety regulations review
Mr. Harding: The Minister has just contradicted himself. He said that he had made a decision based on difficult financial situations that were being encountered by both the territorial government and the Workers Compensation Board. Now he says that he had not even seen the report. Could he explain that contradiction?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At that time we told everyone who had anything to do with the government that we wanted reductions in costs, and that is where the reduction was made. Since then, the board has taken over complete control and will be making those decisions itself.
Mr. Harding: I have heard this Minister say that before. Since the concerns about finances are not justified, as the Workers Compensation report shows, and this government is going to have over $465 million to spend next year - and we had an increase in claims costs of over $3 million and need some preventive measures taken to stop this increase - will the Minister reconsider his decision to scale down the review?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have already said that if the board suggests that it be enlarged, we will certainly enlarge it.
Mr. Harding: I am glad, because the board indicated that they would come to the Minister with a lot of the concerns that were raised in the meeting. Will the Minister listen to these concerns, and if the board suggests that the review be broadened, will he do that in this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would have no problem with that. If the board recommends it, that is what will be done.
Question re: Workers Compensation, volunteer coverage
Mr. McDonald: The government has requested, as an employer, that volunteers be accorded benefits under the workers compensation system. I believe this was brought up last week in Question Period. Can the Minister indicate whether this move to incorporate volunteers as employees under the system was costed to determine its impact on the fund prior to the request being made?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not hear the last part of that question. I cannot always hear well, as the Member knows.
Speaker: I will allow the Member to repeat the question without charging him a supplementary.
Mr. McDonald: I wanted to ask the Minister whether or not the government costed the request that they made to the Workers Compensation Board to have volunteers to government incorporated under the workers compensation system.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I find it rather strange that we are talking about this. We have done exactly the same thing as the previous government did; we put volunteer people on the compensation board.
Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I do not know if you noticed, but the Minister did not answer the question. He did not even come close.
I am asking the Minister whether or not the government costed the additional costs associated with volunteers coming under the workers compensation system. Did they cost the move?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I understand it, they are presently in negotiations with the PSC to see which is the best way to go for themselves and their employees.
Mr. McDonald: No, no. I am asking whether or not the government costed the request to have volunteers come under the workers compensation system before they made the request to the Workers Compensation Board to have volunteers covered. Did they cost it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will have to take that under advisement.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. At this time, we will have a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 12 - First Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: Is there further general debate on Bill No. 12? Is there any general debate on Yukon Legislative Assembly?
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Legislative Assembly is asking for $9,000, which is a decrease of 74 percent from last year. It is for furniture and office equipment, as required.
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if he could get a little more detailed than that. It has been the custom in the past for the Clerk to provide notes to both the Opposition and the government, but the Opposition does not seem to get briefed on anything any more, so I guess I will have to ask the questions on the floor of the House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The capital budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly totals $9,000, which is a 74 percent decrease from the $34,000 forecast last year. Prior to 1993-94, the Legislative Assembly did not have a capital budget and its capital needs were met through the budget of the Department of Government Services.
Following the practice that has been instituted for all departments, the Assembly must now be able to fund its own capital requirements through its budget. The $9,000 being requested is therefore largely to enable the Assembly to respond to the needs identified through the 1994-95 fiscal year. It is intended to be able to cover when necessary the replacement of computer components, office equipment and office furniture.
Mr. Penikett: If the Clerks office will undertake to give me some budget detail on this item - in other words what kind of items they anticipate having to replace - I would be happy to clear this item now.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will see that the Member opposite gets that information.
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
Legislative Assembly Office agreed to
Executive Council Office
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am pleased to present the capital budget for the Executive Council Office. I want to take this opportunity to provide some introductory comments for the Members before the House proceeds to detailed consideration of these estimates.
The budget for the Executive Council Office clearly demonstrates our commitment to reducing internal expenditures, in order to provide funds for projects directly creating employment opportunities in the Yukon.
The departments estimates for next year have been cut by a full 50 percent from projected expenditures for 1993-94. To achieve this reduction, we took a very basic approach to the operational needs. The estimates before you today reflect what is seen as necessary for essential equipment purchases. The budget provides funding only to replace equipment that is not functioning and beyond repair.
As I have indicated, this approach has helped in creating funds for projects that directly create job opportunities. At the same time, the department will support the Yukon private sector by purchasing all necessary equipment from local businesses.
Turning to the specific details of this budget, the estimates provide $16,000 for computer equipment. This is a 42-percent decrease for the funding available this year to replace computer and other equipment. As I have said, funding for 1994-95 will be used only to replace computers that break down and cannot be repaired. The Executive Council Office has a large proportion of computer equipment that is beyond the normal five-year life span of such equipment. These estimates are seen as realistic to replace equipment beyond repair, allowing the department to maintain its high level of service.
The estimates also provide $3,000 for the policy and communications branch for photography equipment.
This is an increase from 1993-94, but the branch has very limited funds to replace equipment this year. As is the case with computer equipment, this allocation will be used to replace photography equipment that is no longer working and cannot be repaired.
The estimates before Members also provide for potential capital expenditures related to the implementation of land claims and self-government agreements reached with four Yukon First Nations. The implementation funds from the federal government will not flow until the passage of the federal legislation. However, these estimates establish the vote authority for expending capital funds received next year. Details of any capital spending under this vote authority will be presented to the House in future supplementary estimates.
This is the extent of the capital spending proposed for the Executive Council Office. In our view, it is a responsible budget, allowing for necessary expenditures while helping to meet the governments overall goal of directing its capital spending toward labour intensive projects.
Mr. Penikett: I have a couple of brief comments.
I have never seen a year with this government where there was not some expenditure on computer equipment and photography equipment, so it does not surprise me that we are spending some this year.
I know the government is not terribly interested in advice from the Official Opposition, but I would just say to him that it is not terribly useful to talk about increases or decreases in percentage terms on the capital budget, as the Government Leader will inevitably have some year where he will have to come to the House and explain why he has a 200- or 300-percent increase in the capital budget. It is statistical nonsense and does not really give one any essential information about what is going on.
We should never assume, as a question of good fiscal management, that departments are automatically entitled to any capital budget, and increases or decreases in a year should only indicate that a project is starting or being completed or that new equipment is needed.
This is not a large amount in the context of the entire budget, and I have no further questions.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will be very brief in my comments. The Member opposite is quite right. There will always be money spent on computer equipment. If I could ever find the answer to curtailing those costs to something I would consider reasonable, I would be quite happy, and would feel I had accomplished something in my first term in office.
As to the issue of percentages, I agree with the Member that they do not really mean a lot because we may have to come back here and explain a 200-percent increase. I wonder if we would be questioned by the side opposite if we did not include the percentage figures. I think it is just a matter of the way in which it is presented to the Members opposite.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of questions on the delivering-good-government initiative, which may relate to some potential capital expense. The government has talked for many years about improvement of service and more cost effectiveness, and the Government Leader has referred the text on reinventing government to me. It was my impression that this was to be the Yukon Partys prime thrust to the territory: the reinventing of government and the delivering of good government. I do not want, in any way, to take away from the quality of the good government committee, but it was my thought that there would be something much more grandiose than an internal working group being struck. Does the Government Leader anticipate that there will something in addition to the delivering-good-goverment committee struck to review what I think was the Yukon Partys main plank in the last election?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite has made some valid observations. I am a firm believer in the book Reinventing Government. Also, I have to remember that I have a minority government on this side of the House and need support from the Members opposite for anything that we do. With those parameters in mind, we are working to establish a better delivery of services to the public. We are not going at it in a huge, spectacular manner, but we are working at it consistently. I believe we have been doing that over the course of the year we have been in government, and I believe some of the changes are starting to reflect in the O&M costs of government. We are going to continue on that course. There will be nothing dramatic or spectacular done all at one time, but we will be examining each and every program that we deliver to the public for its efficiency and cost effectiveness, and whether it is meeting the public need that it was designed to meet. We will continue on that route without doing it all at once in a large, spectacular manner.
Mr. Cable: Does the government expect that, at the end of the road from this delivering-good-government initiative, that there will be a white paper published? What kind of product is coming out of this committee?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As this committee comes up with recommendations, they will be referred to Cabinet to set policy direction. If they bring recommendations that we feel are the ones we want, such as identifying duplication and overlap, then we will deal with them immediately. I do not think we will be publishing a white paper first to see what the feeling is about them. I think every government in Canada today is dealing with the assessment of program overlap and duplication. We believe, as do governments across Canada, that there is a lot that can be saved by government in that respect. What the committee will also be doing is recommending methods of program evaluation to determine if programs and services are meeting their objectives - which is what I just stated a few minutes ago - determining if processes can be streamlined to meet clients needs more effectively, and developing multiple avenues for input to the group. We are trying also to get more input into the bureau of management and to improve on the service delivery and the cost effectiveness of that service delivery.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding that the government was actually going to be reviewing what government does, more than how it does it. Is that going to be part of the thrust of this group, because it does not appear to be within the terms of reference?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that comes under evaluating the programs to see if the programs are delivering the service that they were designed to deliver. A lot of comments we hear from within the system are concerning programs that are put in place and then never evaluated to see if they are providing the service that they were designed for. We will be accessing each one of those areas.
Mr. Penikett: I have one more question and I will ask it now, rather than waiting to debate it when we reach the line item, which is about the objective in the capital budget for implementing land claims and the Land Claims Secretariat.
I understand that it is perfectly prudent for the next fiscal year to anticipate operation and maintenance expenditures associated with implementation, but I am curious about the $1.00 vote authority being requested in the capital budget. Does that indicate that the territorial government is contemplating a land claims implementation building or some other initiative of that kind?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We certainly are not contemplating the construction of a new building, but there may be a necessity to purchase more computer equipment or other equipment. We have identified it with a $1.00 line item, pending the implementation legislation being passed through Parliament.
Mr. Penikett: Given the way that the Executive Council Office works - I do have a little bit of on-the-job training there - I do not understand why it would have been necessary to identify that expenditure in a separate line under the Land Claims Secretariat, because, traditionally, it would have just come out of the general allocation of the Executive Council Office.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There may be some specific computer needs for, for instance, geographic information system, or for some land program that may be developed. The department felt that it would be best to identify the expenditure with a dollar item in the budget.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me but the Government Leaders answers are provoking more questions. The geographic information system in land planning and allocation, as I understood it, was always managed inside the Department of Renewable Resources heretofore. Is it contemplated that, in implementing land claims, that this function will now be moved from Renewable Resources to the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not necessarily.
Chair: Is there any general debate on Cabinet and Management Support? Are we prepared to go into the line items?
On Cabinet and Management Support
On Computers and Equipment
Computers and Equipment in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil dollars agreed to
Cabinet and Management Support in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Implementation in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Land Clams Secretariat in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Policy and Communications
On Photography Equipment
Photography Equipment in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Policy and Communications in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
On Prior Years Projects
Mr. Penikett: I have a question on this line. It is only marginally defensible as a capital budget question, but I could ask it now in one question, or, at risk of incurring the wrath of the Member for Riverside, I could ask it during Question Period, which would probably take three questions. In the interest of economy perhaps the Government Leader might entertain it now, then I could save some time in Question Period. The Government Leader is nodding in the affirmative.
I was puzzled by the answers I received from the Government Leader to the questions I put some months ago on the question of the status of the English and French languages in the territory, and as the Government Leader may have been briefed, I asked the Executive Council Office for copies of the agreements to have another look at them - not only the funding agreements, that have just been renewed, but also the agreement signed with the federal Minister of Justice.
I noticed that the original agreement required that in the fiscal year 1992-93, the Yukon government and the federal government were required to have a formal exchange about the status of languages. Mr. Mulroneys government and the previous Liberal government, if Members recall, had both wanted the Yukon to become officially bilingual. For a whole number of reasons, the previous NDP government of the Yukon did not think this was a super idea to have imposed on us from Ottawa.
In trying to negotiate the funding for the rights and services for aboriginal and French languages both, we did agree to revisit the question some years hence. I think this was five years, which took us to the 1992-93 fiscal year - the year that is now over.
I could find no reference to this undertaking in the funding agreements, but since the original contract with Justice has not been rescinded, and, as I understand it, it is still the foundation for those subsequent funding agreements, I would like to know, briefly, what the status of those discussions with the federal government were and what was concluded. Have we just postponed the date to which we have to revisit that question or has the federal government completely abandoned it? What is the situation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that at this point we have just agreed to carry on and it will be visited some time in the future. That is about all I can tell the Member now. If he needs more information, I can gather it and get back to him on it.
Mr. Penikett: I do not need a lot of detail, although there is one bit of information I would like. I have trouble believing the federal government would just say, Let us talk about this later some time and not be more specific than that. Could I get an undertaking that the Government Leader might come back to us with some information about what kind of time frame the federal government agreed to - not to raise any false concerns or undue concern about this, but obviously it is a pretty significant question because the continuation of these programs depends on federal support. I do not know what the position of the new Liberal federal government is but, certainly, Mr. Munro, in Bill C-26, tried to make the two territories officially bilingual, as did Mr. Mulroney when he had an opportunity.
I would like to know in what kind of time frame we will be facing this question and whether this is an issue where the Government Leader and the appropriate federal Minister will be joined or whether it is a matter that will be delegated to some officials.
I do not need exhaustive detail but if there could be a written reply or a legislative return on it, I would be happy.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, I have no problem getting that information for the Member opposite. I do not remember the issue coming up when the new funding agreement was signed, and I believe it is in place for an additional five years, but I will get that information for the Member.
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
French Language Services in the amount of nil agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of nil agreed to
Executive Council Office in the amount of $19,000 agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister have a prepared statement on the Community and Transportation Services budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I do. Please allow me to present the 1994-95 capital main estimate for the Department of Community and Transportation Services?
For the 1994-95 fiscal year, the Department of Community and Transportation Services has planned capital expenditures of $65,218,000. Of this total planned expenditure, the department estimates to recover $41,303,000. The departments funding requirement, net of recoveries, is therefore $23,915,000. Compared to the 1993-94 net expenditure forecast, the 1994-95 figure is higher by $4,148,000. This increase is mainly due to contributions toward the Whitehorse sewage treatment project and the Dawson pipe sewer main replacement projects. However, the same comparison with the 1992-93 net actual expenditure shows that the 1994 net estimate is less by $5,809,000.
In the last little while I somehow got the impression that the 1994-95 funding request for highway construction has become a concern to some Members in the House. Perhaps it would be appropriate to point out that, of the total requested main estimate of $40,187,000 for highway construction, $28,416,000 is a non-discretionary, recoverable expenditure relating to the Shakwak Alaska Highway contribution and the strategic highways improvement program agreements. This compares to similar funding of $22,102,000 in 1993-94 and $3,550,000 in 1992-93.
Funding for construction on the Alaska Highway, from money received through formula financing as a result of the devolution agreement, is only $6,110,000, which is the same level as that of 1993-94, but much less than the 1992-93 actual of $9,937,000. This is a relatively small fraction negotiated as part of the devolution of the responsibility to the Yukon government.
The main estimate for devolved interterritorial roads, is $1,166,000, which is about 10 percent of the related fund transfer as part of the interterritorial highway devolution agreement.
Similarly, the funding required for B.C. airports of $51,000 is six percent of the related funds received through formula financing, as a result of that devolution agreement.
Taking recoveries from the above sources into account for each year, net highway construction, actual expenditures was $12,308,000 in 1992-93. The net forecast for 1993-94 is $6,125,000, and the 1994-95 net estimate is only $5,661,000.
The estimated $40,187,000 expenditure, with related $28,416,000 non-discretionary recoverable component and the real decrease in net expenditures, has been achieved as a result of the departments continuing efforts to aggressively seek and secure funding agreements with federal counterparts in other jurisdictions.
The departments budget figures in the main estimate reflect this governments continuing commitment to enhance economic infrastructure and quality of life in the Yukon. The department will continue to focus on improving and strengthening the core economic infrastructure through its transportation division. This is in line with the governments belief that greater investment in infrastructure is essential for the development of resources. Investing in transportation infrastructure will facilitate the development of our mining industry, tourism, oil and gas and the emerging forestry industry and will result in long-term employment benefits from competitive advantages in the national and global economy.
I would also like to point out to the hon. Members the significance of the immediate positive impact of the planned highways expenditure on the level of local employment in this period of economic hardship through which we are going. Most of the projects will provide for the creation of substantial employment. Considering the fact that 29 major contracts with the approximate value of $25 million were awarded to local firms in the 1992-94 fiscal year, and assuming a similar trend in 1994, the impact on local economic activity from the spinoff effect, will be substantial.
I regret that we are not able to target additional funds to the large transportation infrastructure that is now under the control of the Yukon government. I know that there are real needs in other parts of the highway system; for example, on the Campbell Highway between Faro and Watson Lake and on the North Klondike. There are also long-term needs that have to be met relative to protecting and upgrading our bridges. While bridge painting may not sound glamorous, it is a necessity; however, we have not been able to fund these projects in this budget and will have to consider them as more funds become available.
On the municipal and community affairs side, the department will continue to promote the interests of all people in the territory, with respect to public health and safety, various community priorities and land development initiatives.
The department, in recognizing the importance of a clean environment, will continue working with municipalities toward attainment of this objective, through implementation of programs for appropriate sewage collection, treatment and disposal, water supply, roads and streets upgrade programs. To this end, a total of $9,935,000 has been allocated for this area. This includes major contributions to the Whitehorse sewage treatment project, and the Dawson sewer replacement.
The transportation division will also put in the required level of resources in a necessary effort to support environmental initiatives. In support of building healthy communities, a total of $579,000 is allocated for programs in the area of public safety, recreation and community facilities and community services. This is approximately the same level as the 1993-94 main estimate.
The department will continue its land development program to support the governments economic and social development efforts, by making land available for industrial, commercial, residential, recreational and agricultural needs.
Of the total funding required in this area, $3,330,000 is allocated for projects in municipalities other than Whitehorse, and a major project for infrastructure for Hillcrest expansion is estimated at $4 million for 1994-95.
The department continues to recognize the importance of effective communication and emergency measures. Accordingly, necessary funding has been allocated for programs in these areas as identified in the main estimate.
The department has looked into and priorized projects carefully, to ensure that funding is allocated as much as possible to these projects that are of the most economic and social benefit to all communities in the territory.
Please allow me to highlight the major items in the departments capital main estimates as tabled.
There is $32,435,000 for the Alaska Highway, of which $26,325,000 is recoverable through the Shakwak and Alaska highway contribution agreements. The remaining $6,110,000 is more than covered by funding through formula financing, as a result of devolution agreements.
There is $4,182,000 for the Campbell Highway, Top of the World Highway and Freegold Road. Of this, $291,000 is recoverable from the Canada/Yukon strategic highway improvement program.
There is $10,035,000 for public health, roads and streets, of which $7 million and $1.8 million are contributions to the Whitehorse sewage treatment project and the Dawson pipe sewer replacement respectively. There is $12,480,000 for land development, which is fully recoverable as lots are sold.
To conclude, I would like to say that the department has taken a responsible approach in identifying projects most beneficial to the Yukon, and in the allocation of resources to come forward to this capital budget.
Having presented the highlights, I would now be glad to respond to the specific questions the hon. Members may have.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not have a lot of questions for general debate. Rather, I will be looking for answers on what projects are for and what impact there will be on O&M budgets as we go through the lines.
I would like to ask, however, how the department is dealing with hazardous waste. I would like the Minister to indicate whether or not the government will be spending money on facilities to store or treat hazardous waste or if they are just going to be spending money to send it out of the territory.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We want to do one more pickup in this fiscal year. That would be sometime in March; then we want to do another pickup in the fall of 1994, which will be in the 1994-95 fiscal year.
We intend to build a facility, but until we get a handle on how much special waste we have and the nature of it, we do not want to start designing a facility. That way, we can design a facility that will meet the needs of the territory.
Ms. Moorcroft: What work is being done, then, to determine the nature and the amount of special waste that is generated in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We had one pickup and one is going to take place in March. The coordinator is advising all the generators of special waste about the pickup and that should give us a better idea of what is there. On the initial pickup, there was an estimate of six or seven loads and it turned out there was only just slightly more than three. It may be that people disposed of it in other places, we do not know, but what we want to do is make sure everyone is aware that there is going to be a pickup in March and that should help us determine what the actual volume is.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is this pickup in March simply for waste oil or will it include other special waste?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Waste oil is not part of the pickup at all. It is for all other types of special waste.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister indicated that they do not know what is generated or what people are doing with their waste, and I had asked earlier what they are doing to determine that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are working on regulations respecting special waste right now and when the regulations come into force we hope it will deter anyone from disposing of special wastes other than through regular channels. We are dealing with known generators of special waste on an ongoing basis, and the regulations will clarify who is responsible for what. It is hoped that that will start a steady flow of special waste.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is there any public information campaign now being undertaken, or planned in the future, so that businesses and individuals are aware of what hazardous waste is and how it should be dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department deals with the generators of hazardous waste - for instance, service stations that use solvents and other products - on an ongoing basis.
When the regulations come into effect, there will be advertising to inform the general public about what is and is not a special waste in their household.
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister that could probably be asked in line-by-line debate, but if the Minister would respond, it would helpful.
Apparently, in the breakdown of the projects for this year in capital distribution, there is $45,000 allocated to be spent on Faro land development activities; it is entitled Faro industrial renovation and re-hab existing stock.
I am wondering if that is still going to go ahead, and how the government will be tendering the contract for that work.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $45,000 is initially for a feasibility study and site identification, which will be done in consultation with the community. The design and construction is not scheduled until 1995-96.
Mr. Harding: Is there anything expected in the way of work coming from this expenditure for some of the small local contractors who might want to bid on it? Would there be anything in the design that would not require specialized services or engineering services? Is there any sort of site search work, or anything that a small contractor could make a bid on?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The feasibility study is probably a lot of in-house charges of our own. I am not saying that there will be, but there could be some very small contracts for site identification. The people who are there would probably know the general area better than our own people.
Mr. Harding: There have been municipal council meetings at which we have looked at potential sites in the community for industrial lots and have them already blueprinted. I have looked at the blueprints. Are these the same sites that have been identified in previous discussions with this municipal council or are these new sites or new ideas for lot development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would assume that the department would look at sites that have been identified by the council. There certainly will be consultation with the municipal council before proceeding with any identifications.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that commitment. I think that it is important. Suffice it to say that I am not exactly thrilled about the distribution in this budget to our particular community but, nevertheless, I do not want to discount that lot development. I would like to see that go ahead as infrastructure and I think that it would be useful, if we hope to diversify Faros economy in the future, to have some industrial lot development. Last year, just before I was elected, I had constituents actually thinking about expanding in Faro, and making requests for industrial lot development. There are still people interested in that type of site. I would ask the government to continue in the developing of these sites as quickly as possible.
Mr. Penikett: I was struck by a comment the Minister made in his opening remarks about the Whitehorse sewage treatment system. I would like to ask him a couple of general questions about that, and I may wish to pursue them in detail when we get to precise lines. I would like to range a bit over some ground about the financing for this project and the implications it may have for other projects.
Would it be accurate to say that the basic financial arrangements for the territorial contribution to this project are now in place, and could the Minister summarize those for the Committee?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that I tabled the agreement between the government and the City of Whitehorse some time ago. I can tell the Member that in 1991-92, there was a $150,000 expenditure. In 1992-93, there was a $3,000 expenditure. In 1993-94, there was a $826,000 expenditure, and in 1994-95, it is to be $7 million. In 1995-96, it will be $7 million, in 1996-97, it will be $3,473,000, and in 1997-98, it will be $446,000. The total will be $18,898,000.
Mr. Penikett: I apologize for not having the document the Minister previously tabled in front of me. I did look for it a minute ago and I could not find it.
Would it be fair to say that the commitments the Minister has just outlined with respect to this project are somewhat different than previous commitments, in that the agreements that I recall being negotiated by my friend for McIntyre-Takhini were often for a percentage of a total price of a project, and that the money would flow to the municipality, not on the basis of an estimate, but on the basis of a tender. Inspection of the work on that tender project would go on and there would be progress payments. Would it be safe to say that what the Minister is doing is somewhat different from the traditional practice or is new in that sense?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The general intent of the cap agreement has not changed from previous cap agreements the government has entered into. It is essentially 85 percent of the total cost up to a maximum of the total I gave a few minutes ago.
Mr. Penikett: I think I understand that. The question I am asking is this: the Minister seems, in his statement, to have committed himself to specific expenditures - $7 million items and so forth - and it is 85 percent of an amount up to a certain maximum. The Minister says it is not inconsistent with the previous cap arrangements, but I am concerned that the expectations of the city are that they will get these sums under the agreement.
I want to ask two questions of the Minister. If the project seriously overruns its costs way beyond what we are now estimating, is it the position of the territorial government that they have capped their contribution at 85 percent of these estimated costs and that there will be no more? Is that the position of the territorial Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To get back to the first question, in negotiation or discussion with the City of Whitehorse, we see this as a cashflow type of situation. That may very well change slightly but we see the $7 million in 1994-95 and the $7 million in 1995-96 and then the $3,473,000 and so on in 1996-97. We have agreed that this would probably be the cashflow and it could change. I suspect strongly that, for the first year, 1994-95, we would give them a cheque for $7 million, once all the approvals are in place, and then the next year, if for some reason it was not spent, we would likely change it for the following year, but that seems to be the cashflow as agreed to.
The second part of the question was to do with overruns. I would think it would depend on the nature of the overrun. If there was something additional that had to be put in - I cannot think of something right now - the government may very well want to then revisit the agreement; but, generally, if there is an overrun because of poor management or whatever, that would be the citys responsibility.
Mr. Penikett: So I take it from the Ministers comment that the city will be the project manager, even though YTG will be contributing 85 percent of the cost.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. Penikett: Is it the Ministers intention to advance the $7 million? The city will manage the project, for which we will be paying 85 percent of the cost. Does the fact that we are advancing the money before the project starts and the citys management of the project have any implications for the traditional kinds of ongoing project inspection that Community and Transportation Services would normally do for a project of that scale?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have an engineer on site. They have what we feel is a very competent consultant, and they have engineering people of their own. We will not have an engineer on site to watch to see what they are watching. They have to supply invoices and the project documentation to us.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister says that we will be advancing the money. The Minister indicated the city will be managing the project. The Minister indicates that there is no territorial engineer on site, but that there is a consultant. Who does the consultant report to, YTG or the city?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The consultant will report to the city.
Mr. Penikett: I asked about cost overruns. What prevails in a situation where we had an abnormally efficient project and there were very significant cost savings? Let us say that $7 million was allocated for the project work and it was completed for $5 million or $6 million dollars. Would the territorial government expect a recovery from that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have made a deal with the city that if there are any cost savings, possibly through lower tenders or good management, we would not request the money all back, but we would costshare with them on a 50/50 basis if they used their savings for related infrastructure.
Mr. Penikett: I was going to ask what incentive the city would have to perform the work at a low cost if the government was paying for 85 percent of the cost - we had no engineer on the project and there was a supervisor who was reporting to the city. The Minister is saying that if there are cost savings and the tenders come in lower than expected, then the city will be able to capture 50 percent of that money for other projects, even though the Legislature has voted this money for a specific purpose - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The money will be used for projects related to the sewage lagoon. For instance, I believe that they had to upgrade the pumps in the Marwell area. The government did not share in the cost of that upgrade, but if the city wants to use some of that cost savings to help pay for the cost of upgrading the Marwell lift station they could use 50 percent of the savings for that purpose.
Mr. Penikett: I may come back to this, but I want to express my unease at the notion that money that is voted for one purpose in this Legislature, and then granted to a subordinate body, may be used for some other purpose than it was voted for. I understand that the Minister has said related project, and that may be the comfort, but - I have not thought this through - I want to express some concern about the long-term implications.
Some of these arrangements seem to be a little different from what I remember from the time when I was in government - a long, long, time ago - could the Minister tell us if this is something like the same arrangement that was in effect for the Dawson Sewer project, where I understand the Minister made a deal with the Mayor of Dawson City to contribute $5 million to the project? Is this similar to that, where the Minister granted money to the municipality to manage the project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it is a similar agreement.
Mr. Penikett: Just for the record, could the Minister remind the Committee just how much the commitment from the Minister was to the Mayor of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The total commitment is $5.25 million over the next three years.
Mr. Penikett: Could the Minister indicate to the House what the bid price was for the successful bidder who tendered on that job?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have that information at my fingertips.
Mr. Penikett: Would it be fair to say that it was significantly lower than the money the Minister had committed to the Mayor of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I do not know what the number is, but on that particular contract, the City of Dawson supplied the pipe. They had bought the pipe previously, so the contract may not relate to the actual funding for this year.
Mr. Penikett: Since we have good reason to believe we made a substantial contribution to the pipe, we may want to ask some details about how much the pipe cost and from where it came. The Minister may want to get back to us in writing later, but let me ask the Minister this: if the contract that was awarded to do that sewer project was significantly less than the $5.5 million that the Minister mentioned, what was the Ministers assumption that the Mayor of Dawson would do with the surplus money?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The total of the Dawson water and sewer project is 88.6 percent of the cost, whatever the cost may be. If there is a savings, then we pay up to 88.6 percent of that total cost, but it is capped at $5,525,000.
Mr. Penikett: My problem is that the Minister, as I understand it, has already committed himself to that $5,525,000. Since that represents something like 89 percent of the cost, again I do not see, since we are advancing the money, what incentive the City of Dawson would have to do the job as cheaply as it could, unless it is able to capture any savings. Is it not correct that in these arrangements the Minister is doing something differently than was previously done? In other words, YTG paid out the money as the project proceeded - not on the basis of the estimate, but on the basis of the actual bid price, and YTG had engineers and inspectors on site to examine the work, look at the bills and, in some cases, the consultant might report to Community and Transportation Services, and not to the local municipality. Are we not talking about a significant change here in the way that the department does business in this case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Historically, in the larger municipalities such as Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Dawson and Faro, when there was a project of this magnitude it was done very much like the one that is going on in Dawson right now. The smaller municipalities are dealt with more or less as the Member has described, where we would have an inspector or engineer on site and there may be a consultant reporting direct to the engineering people. For the larger municipalities, it has been done this way.
I guess the main difference is that it used to be a 90/10 cost sharing process. Dawsons is down slightly; theYukon government share is 88.6 percent, with the municipality paying 11.4 percent. I guess the incentive for cost savings on this particular project is that they are putting in a little better than 11 percent of their own money. To the City of Dawson, $100,000 is a lot of money.
Mr. Penikett: I do not know if the Minister has ever heard of PIP grants. That was a very interesting way of putting up 10 or 11 percent of ones own money and one could actually make a whole bundle from the funding agency, in that case the federal government. For the record, I fully support the increasing economy and devolution of power and responsibility to the municipalities. In reference to Dawson City, the Minister has tried to draw some significance to the fact that YTG is only paying 88.6, which is rounded out at 89 percent, of a project, and that that is an improvement from the days when we paid 90 percent. The problem is that when we are paying 89 or 90 percent of a project, that is somewhat inconsistent with the notion of the maturity and self-reliance of the municipality. If we are advancing the money up front, and if we do not have an engineer on site, if the consulting engineering firm managing the project is reporting to the local government, it seems to me to raise some serious questions about who is protecting our interest, who is protecting the territorial taxpayer - in this case, in Dawson, we are talking about $5.5 million; in the case of the Whitehorse sewer and water project we are talking about sums in the tens of millions of dollars.
Could I ask the Minister, as a general policy comment, if he would have anything to say about that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For Whitehorse projects we have not had an engineer or an inspector on site for a number of years. We rely on their audited financial statements and, if we have questions, then we have the right to go into their offices and ask for all of the documentation to support whatever claims they have sent in.
Mr. Penikett: I remember being very much criticized some time ago because the territorial government had gotten itself involved in a project in Watson Lake. There was a third party managing it. I was having discussions with people in Watson Lake about the project - perhaps the discussions were about the quality of the management on site - and we met with a prominent member of the local chamber of commerce, known to both the Minister and myself, who expressed the view, What the hell, the territorial government is paying all the bills. I do not have any interest in making sure this is run tight. There would be nothing in it for us.
I am not trying to draw a blind here. I am concerned. It is one thing if we are sharing 50/50; it may even be something at 25/75, but when we are paying 90 percent of the bills, in the case of the Dawson project, it could be different. Let me say what the Minister already knows. I asked him some questions some weeks ago about the Dawson project and some activities of the mayor there in disconnecting the Dawson City First Nation, and the Minister subsequently ordered - I guess, an enquiry; I do not know whether it is a public enquiry or what status it has legally, but it is an enquiry by the inspector of municipalities who is, of course, a very excellent employee of the Department of Community and Transportation Services. The problem, as I understand it, from the point of view of the Mayor of Dawson and one of the reasons why he felt he could guilt YTG into putting up most of the cash for this project, is that he and others in that town believe it is YTGs fault that the system fell apart in the first place, that way back when - and I do not remember which year, whether it was the late 1970s or early 1980s - the system that was installed then at some considerable cost - $12 million I think - ended up collapsing because the pipes that were put in were too weak or too thin or of poor quality.
If the Minister can follow my concern here, we are doing an inquiry around some activities of the mayor in this situation, such as ordering that the contractor disconnect and connect First Nation properties to the sewer system without councils authority. We have a point of view expressed by municipal officers in the past that who is at fault with respect to the Dawson sewer system is Community and Transportation Services in the first place, because they were the ones who designed and wrote the specifications for the project way back when, and we have the department looking into the resulting situation after the fact. I wonder if the Minister would perhaps be willing, for the record, using the Whitehorse and Dawson sewer projects as examples, to provide us with some schematic on how the flow of dollars, the project management and the inspection system have changed over the last two years. Would it be possible for the Minister to do that without putting too many people to too much work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess the principal difference, although I do not see it as much of a difference in dealing with capital projects, is that in Dawson, we are going to rely on audited financial statements. In most of these projects in the past, with a municipality the size of Dawson, we would check every invoice and every expense that was incurred and we would ensure it was paid. We would check invoices against cheques. Rather than do that, which takes up a lot of municipal engineering peoples time, we want to rely on the audited financial statements.
We do have the ability to ask for any documentation that we feel we require. I guess that is the basic difference. In Whitehorse, we have been doing that sort of thing for a few years. That is the basic difference with Dawson.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister did not respond to my request to whether or not he could respond in writing to my question. He may feel there is no more to be said.
I assume the Minister will come back with some detail on this information, that we should not just look at the difference between the contract price and the grant from YTG on this job, because the city itself had bought some pipe. Does the Minister have any idea of the value of that contribution to the pipe? If he does not, perhaps he could just get back to us in writing with that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will bring that information back to the House.
Mr. Penikett: Given the sums of money involved and given the involvement of YTG as a funding agent, and given the role of Community and Transportation Services as the department responsible for the legislation that deals with municipalities, and given the history of the department in the Dawson sewer project, both a decade or so ago and now, did the Minister give any consideration, while deciding to have an enquiry into what had gone on in Dawson, to having someone from outside the department or outside the government have a look at the situation? I want to be clear that I am not making any kind of critical comment about Mr. Cormie, but I am asking about the question of the objectivity. The department is heavily and intimately involved in this project and has been for years.
If there is something wrong here, if there is some question about whether the mayor acted legally and whether there are costs involved in this project, did the Minister ever give consideration to having someone, perhaps a retiree or someone from outside the Department of Community and Transportation Services empire, have a look at the situation? I understand that work crews were called out on Sunday to fix a problem that I am sure was not cheap. I was not thinking of the former Minister, the former Member for Porter Creek East, but perhaps someone a little more objective.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The request from Dawson was to have the inspector of municipalities. Whether we call it an investigation or an inquiry, when it takes place we may decide what, if any, further action is necessary, because there are definitely two sides to the story. That could spark something similar to what the Member opposite is alluding to.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the good intention in the Ministers answers but my question was a little more precise. I want to ask it again. Given the historical involvement in the department and given the complexity of this issue from the departments point of view, because it involves questions about the legitimate authority of the mayor under the Municipal Act as well as a project largely funded by the department under its capital program, did the Minister, at the time - even conceding the fact that the municipal councillors requested the inspector of municipalities - have any reason to pause and think about whether this issue was big and complex enough that someone from outside the department ought to have been brought in to have a fresh look at it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I did not. The Municipal Act is fairly clear. The initial response to these types of things would be conducted through the inspector of municipalities.
Mr. Penikett: I have one final question to ask before leaving this issue. Can the Minister indicate to me how long it will take him to get back to me on some of the dollar-and-cents questions I put to him this afternoon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have had an indication from the department that we will do this as fast as we can, depending upon what information we have and how difficult it is to obtain. We will get back to the Member opposite as soon as we can.
Chair: Is it the wish of Committee to take a break?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank the Minister for tabling some legislative returns today that dealt with some of the outstanding questions on the Whitehorse sewage treatment system and waste disposal and so on, so that we could have an opportunity to look at that before debate on the capital budget. I would like to ask the Minister if he could give us an idea of how much they are going to reduce the sewage that goes into the Yukon River system as a result of this proposed new treatment facility, and how long it will take to bring the river back to life?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that I said, when we were discussing the supplementaries, that I am no expert on this. My understanding is that, right now, Whitehorse is putting primary treated effluent into the river. With the new system, the sewage will have secondary treatment. Those are levels of treatment. As to how long it would take before the lake and the river are considered totally clean, I could not venture a guess.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think that those are the larger issues that people are concerned about in this longstanding problem. I think that with $7 million being budgeted to assist with funding, the Minister should be able to get some answers for me, and I will give him notice on that.
I would also like to ask some questions about fire protection. I understand that the Ibex Valley Hamlet Council is sending out a questionnaire. One of the questions asks if residents would prefer to have a volunteer fire department, similar to some of the outlying areas, such as at Marsh Lake, or whether they would prefer an option similar to what the Minister described, of having the closest municipality - in this case the City of Whitehorse - responding to a rural area like the Ibex Valley.
Is the Minister pursuing one or the other of those options, given that the survey is not complete and that the hamlet council has not made a recommendation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe there is a survey being circulated right now and until that survey is returned and the Ibex Valley Hamlet Council actually comes to us with a request, one way or another, the department will not do any work on this issue, that I am aware of.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just wanted to get an answer on that question from the Minister because, during the debate on the supplementaries, he was encouraging the City of Whitehorse and the Ibex Valley to explore the option of having the City of Whitehorse respond to fires in that area. I was wondering if the Minister had already made up his mind.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I have not at all. I believe the city is ready to sit down and discuss it with the Ibex Valley, but it depends on what the Ibex Valley residents actually request.
Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I believe that survey may be completed soon. Perhaps at that time the hamlet council will make a recommendation and will want to talk to the city.
I also wanted to ask the Minister about second dwellings in the context of land use planning. Has the Minister committed any funds to the Ibex Valley hamlet for doing a planning process in the way that some of the other unincorporated areas outside of municipalities are doing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When we get to the line-by-line discussion, the Member will see that in 1994-95 there is something like $195,000 for planning. This would include any areas that are ready to go. There is also some money in 1993-94 that I do not believe has been completely expended. I believe there is some money. I do not believe there is an actual figure set aside for Ibex, but there is $195,000 for planning in general. Some of them will probably be less expensive and some will be more. I cannot peg an actual number until we find out exactly what it is that they want to do.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe the hamlet may be interested in pursuing land use planning within its area and that they have corresponded with the Minister about their concerns in that area. They have also been inquiring about the issue of second dwellings. I would like to ask the Minister whether he is prepared to not make a decision on allowing second dwellings prior to the planning exercises that may be undertaken in the Ibex area and that will be undertaken in the Deep Creek and the Mayo Road area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We did a survey of all residents and it came back in favour of second dwellings in all those areas. If Ibex Valley indicated to us that they were thinking of doing a separate survey on second dwellings and if the results indicate that they would like to hold off on second dwellings until their planning exercise is completed, we would look favorably at amending the regulations to exempt Ibex.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister indicated that there was overwhelming support for the second dwellings. Can he indicate how many households received a questionnaire and how many people responded to it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the exact numbers here. I believe there are 316 properties and 103 responded.
Ms. Moorcroft: With the land use planning that is being done over the winter months, are they also intending to survey every household again on these issues?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We would not be doing another survey on second-dwelling units.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is an issue that should be considered when looking at land use planning and the number of different decisions that need to be made in developing a land use plan. I will leave that representation at that.
I have a question about municipal status. During the supplementary debate, the Minister was talking about some communities, for example Ross River, working toward municipal status. Is the department actively encouraging unincorporated areas to work toward municipal status?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is in the interest of everyone that municipal status be considered. However, there is the land claims issue and I believe it is something that has to be decided by each community. The department is certainly willing to provide whatever information they have regarding the pros and cons of municipal status but, again, it is definitely a community decision and it has to involve the Indian band in places like Ross River and Carcross.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Minister yet responded to the letter from the First Nation regarding municipal status?
I am referring to the debate on November 23 on page 1398-99 where the Minister indicated that they had not yet responded to Ross River regarding municipal status and the land claims negotiations.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I did respond to the letter. It was not from the First Nations; it was from the committee that was looking at municipal status. I responded about 10 days ago.
Ms. Moorcroft: We had asked earlier if the Minister could undertake, when he responded, to table a copy of the letter. I will repeat that request.
Mr. Cable: I have a few questions for the Minister regarding what will be taking place in Carmacks in the near future. When do the Minister and his department anticipate that the three mines will begin to go into production?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot answer that question in any detail. I believe that the Minister of Economic Development may know more, but my understanding is that the first one, if it goes ahead, will be in 1996 or 1997.
Mr. Cable: If these mines do go into production, there will be infrastructure and housing needs in the municipality of Carmacks. Has there been any planning group struck between the municipality and the Ministers department to deal with the needs of these mines, both in terms of housing and infrastructure in Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has been some discussion between our lands branch and the municipality with respect to lot development. I do not know if there has been much discussion on extension of sewer systems and so on, but the municipality is looking at their sewage system and so on in anticipation of some future development.
Mr. Cable: There does not appear to be anything readily identifiable in the multi-year capital projects for Carmacks. Is there anything within the body of the budget itself relating to housing or lot development for Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For 1994-95, there is $50,000 under industrial, stage 3, and that is probably for design. For construction, there is $250,000 in 1995-96. For commercial, there is $110,000 in 1994-95, and for country residential there is $250,000 in 1994-95. In 1993-94, there is $450,000 in residential, and $160,000 in industrial.
Mr. Cable: In the event that the Casino property should prove up and appear to come onstream, does the Ministers department feel that most of the housing needs will be met in Carmacks, or will they be met outside somewhere?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand that there will be housing requirements in Carmacks. We will have to work with the village council to ensure that lots are available. It will depend on a lot of things: firstly, when they expect to start production, and secondly what type of housing they want - whether it is trailers and camps and the like, or full residential, single-family dwellings.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to go back to the question regarding municipal status that was being asked by my colleague, the Member for Mount Lorne, which the Minister did not answer.
I understood that the Minister had indicated he had sent a reply approximately 10 days ago, and on November 23, 1993, I had asked him if he had replied to the First Nation. I believe that the Minister said that he had not. I asked him - I believe it is on page 1399 - if he did reply, if he would be tabling a copy of that reply in the House, because it would probably be an important policy statement of the government. When my colleague asked the Minister if he intended to table a reply, the Minister did not answer. Can the Minister tell us what his intentions are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will be happy to table a reply for the Member. I can probably provide the information tomorrow or the next day.
Mr. Penikett: Some of us on this side of the House have received some complaints that officials in the Department of Community and Transportation Services, as my colleague from Mount Lorne said, may be promoting municipal status in some First Nation communities. I heard the Ministers answer on that, but it would be interesting to hear a more definite comment as to whether or not the Minister approves of that.
In the absence of the Ministers document in this House, can we assume that the letters from the department that have been sent by the municipal advisor, or Mr. Bruce, the acting director of community services, constitute government policy in respect to municipal status for First Nation communities where there is a First Nation in the majority?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I recall reading Mr. Bruces letter, but I cannot remember the details right now. Certainly, there are land claim interests that have to be looked after, and I think that we made that fairly clear in the last letter, the one that I will be tabling tomorrow or the day after.
We did make it quite clear that there are land claims interests and it is something that the First Nations have to consider very carefully. I do not think that we would get ourselves into a situation where we would be imposing municipal status on a community if the community was not in full agreement with the First Nations, or if it had some detrimental effect on the First Nations land claim.
Mr. Penikett: Actually, I think the Minister is becoming quite an artful politician. That was not the question I asked. I do not think he is counting me among his mentors.
I want to know the position of the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I want to know whether or not the Minister believes it is promoting the evolution of communities into municipal status - communities like Ross River or Pelly Crossing, which are not organized communities in the definition of the department, but they have a population that would allow them to become villages. I want to ask the Minister if his department - and specifically because it is alleged that Mr. Bruce is promoting this - is doing so even in the face of advice of the ever helpful Department of Justice, which indicated that it is important for First Nations to understand what they may be giving up in order to achieve municipal status. Can the Minister clarify for us what the position of Community and Transportation Services is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: One of the objectives of the community services branch is something to the effect of - I cannot remember the actual wording - to promote and encourage the establishment of local government. I believe that the people working there do exactly that. They do promote and encourage local government. I did not mean to go around and around the subject when I answered before, but I think it is very important, in view of the latest information that the Member opposite just alluded to from the Department of Justice, that the land claims people be fully involved. The First Nations should be involved, as should their legal people, so that they fully understand and we fully understand exactly what could, will or might happen if municipal status becomes a reality.
Mr. Penikett: Let me put the question this way: would the Minister accept that Mr. Bruce was doing his job according to the mandate he just mentioned if he was promoting self-government agreements with the same kind of enthusiasm?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: The Minister just sat down and talked about it being the mandate of the department to promote local or community governments. There is an apprehension on behalf of a First Nation about how their self-government interests may be compromised by municipal status and, indeed, reason to have concern on that score is confirmed by the Department of Justice.
Since the acting director has a mandate, as the Minister says, to promote local government, could he not be carrying out his mandate just as effectively if he were promoting self-government agreements or helping us promote that idea - not as a mutually exclusive option for municipal status but as a quite legitimate and defensible form of local autonomy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The section of community services municipal administration that Mr. Bruce works for has been involved with the Land Claims Secretariat and with various First Nations in self-government discussions. I do not believe that we have the expertise to get into the nitty-gritty of talking about self-government for First Nations. There are similar things to local government, but there are a lot of very dissimilar things, too. I think that, if anything, we could get into trouble with the training required to talk about self-government.
Mr. Penikett: It is exactly those kinds of troubles I want to help the Minister avoid. I do not know if the Ministers policy is the same as the Government Leaders. I think the Government Leaders policy was that self-government and land claims agreements were still one of the highest priorities of this administration.
The Minister has just said that the director of community services is involved in land claims and self-government discussions. The third program objective of the department, as the Minister just mentioned, is to encourage, strengthen and enable support for local government of the Yukon. We all agree on this side, at least in my party, that it is quite possible to have municipal activities and First Nation governments interact, have bilateral agreements and have two forms of government operate together locally. Unless the Ministers policy is different from the Government Leader, would he not agree that, if there is an apprehension by First Nations, the Community and Transportation Services pushing municipal government may be compromising their self-government potential in some way, and it might be prudent to get the department in sync with the Government Leaders principal objective, which is to achieve self-government first and then try to work out, either at the same time or maybe later, some of these municipal government arrangements that might flow logically from having achieved a self-government agreement with the Ross River Dene, Fort Selkirk First Nation or other First Nations that may be in that situation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The request to investigate municipal status for Ross River came fairly recently. They have had several discussions about it over many years but this actual request came fairly recently. Previous information that the department had was that some sort of municipal or local government would not likely prejudice land claims. Then, more recently, information has come forward that it could very well cause some problems under the self-government agreement. There is no question that self-government and the finalization of land claims is this governments policy and a very high priority, so we would certainly not want to do anything to jeopardize it. We have worked with several of the First Nations and adjoining municipalities to talk about service agreements between the two groups, and so on, but the department will not be encouraging municipal status when it would cause problems.
Mr. Penikett: I am glad to hear that from the Minister and I hope he will be communicating it because I do not think any of us want any anxiety on that score.
Has the Minister considered - rather than creating municipalities in communities like Ross River - options such as entering into municipal services agreements similar to those that exist, for example, Kwanlin Dun lands, as an option to improve the quality of services enjoyed by the people in that community without them having to go to municipal status prior to negotiations on the self-government agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, and I think that the department, in the past, actually has done seminars on the various forms that some of these service agreements could take.
Mr. Penikett: Given the concern that has been created here, would the Minister agree that there needs to be some further discussions between the land claims secretariat and Community and Transportation Services on this point, to make sure that there are not unnecessary misunderstandings created at the community level?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That has already happened.
Mr. Cable: I have some more questions about Carmacks. The Ministers answer to the first question that I asked him would seem to indicate that there is a need for some interdepartmental planning. Are there any groups struck between the Department of Economic Development and the Ministers department to deal with the Carmacks developments - or what could potentially be a very large series of developments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that a group from Economic Development, Community and Transportation Services, the municipal council and the First Nation did have a meeting in Carmacks to discuss the type of issues that the Member was referring to before. I understand that Economic Development and Community and Transportation Services are still discussing, internally, the implications of what will happen with Casino, or the copper project when they come on stream. I think that it is still slightly premature; there are still a few years left for planning. They are apparently getting ready. They are getting groups and committees set up now.
Mr. Cable: I think that I have heard the Government Leader mention on occasion that that mineralized area may be our economic salvation. Has this interdepartmental group that the Minister talked about consulted with the municipality of Carmacks? Is that the purpose for being in Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Village of Carmacks was part of that group. It had mostly to do with the construction on the Freegold Road.
Mr. Harding: I hate to have to break up this Liberal filibuster, but I also have some questions about the Carmacks water and sewer.
In some discussion with the mayor of that community, I was informed that, right now, long before the mines that are proposed for the future in the area come on stream, there are existing problems with the water and sewer system in the Carmacks area. Is the Minister aware that that system is presently operating beyond its design capacity?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that there is no water system in Carmacks. The sewer system is operating at its capacity. The Village of Carmacks is looking at a possible new treatment plant. I do not know how far they have gone, but they are starting to make enquiries and that sort of thing.
Mr. Harding: It is my understanding that the sewer system is operating beyond capacity and that the village has approached the territorial government about expanding the existing capacity. Is that not the Ministers understanding?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe they have sent a formal request of any sort at this point.
Mr. Joe: People are asking the Minister questions about my riding. I am sitting here listening. I am the one out there who hears all kinds of complaints in my riding. They are not giving me a chance to say anything here. Anyway, I thank the Member for Riverside for bringing this up for me.
One concern I have heard in case the Williams Creek mine goes ahead is that there is no plan in place for Carmacks. There is a lot of talk going on about mining. It is said that it will go ahead for sure. I hear about housing. There is no problem with that now.
I sat back and listened to the talk about millions of dollars worth of sewer systems. What we are trying to do here is to solve the problem. After the sewer system is completed, the Minister does not know how long afterwards it will be before the water is clear.
There are a lot of problems in the Ministers riding of Lake Laberge, because the people living there and the fish and the animals use that water. Not only that, it flows downstream to Carmacks. How will the problem be solved? We keep putting a lot of money into sewer systems, but how far are we going to go?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said before, Whitehorse is only providing primary treatment to the sewage going into the river. After the construction of the retention pond, the sewage will have secondary treatment. If the quality is still not good enough by 1997 or 1998, they will install ultraviolet disinfection at a cost of approximately $500,000, which is in the budget.
The engineering department has indicated that the effluent will get secondary treatment from the holding of the effluent for one year before discharging it.
The small sewage treatment plant in Carmacks was working fairly well, but now it is becoming overloaded, and that is why Carmacks needs to look at a better system.
Big factors with sewage are the dilution and the amount of oxygen available as it travels through rapids or becomes agitated. It adds treatment to the sewage.
I would expect that once the retention pond is built and the sewage is held for one year it should clear up the Yukon River and Lake Laberge quite well, compared to what it is right now.
Mr. McDonald: I just have one question in general debate; it is about the Whitehorse water and sewer system.
When we were in discussion some time ago, we talked about the Liberal governments infrastructure program and the possible eligibility of the Whitehorse water and sewer system for that particular program. I would like to ask the Minister whether or not he is seeking support through the federal program for Whitehorse water and sewer and whether or not he has received any information from the federal government about the eligibility of this particular project for co-funding by the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Government Leader spoke about this when he came back from Ottawa a few days ago. We have included it in the agreement with the City of Whitehorse in the eventuality that we receive some money, but I do not believe we have heard anything definite at this point.
Mr. McDonald: I will cut to the chase because I think it is important to understand what is happening. If the government proceeds as it is now, my understanding is that the Yukon government is proposing to spend 85 percent of $18.9 million on the construction of a sewage lagoon. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, the $18.9 million for all the years is our 85 percent.
Mr. McDonald: The contribution arrangement, though, is 85/15 percent. The contribution arrangement under the Liberal infrastructure program would be 66 percent to 33 percent. Is that not correct? That would be 33 percent from the Yukon government, 33 percent from the federal government and 33 percent from the municipality. So that would mean that the total contribution by the City of Whitehorse, if it were funded through the Liberal infrastructure program, would increase by approximately $4 million. Is that not about right?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, you are probably right, if that was the way we were to do it. I think that we would try to do it so that we both benefited from the money coming from the federal government. I think the other thing that Members should be aware of is that, under the current formula, our share - the Yukons share - would only be something like $2 million total. The Government Leader will be discussing that in a lot more detail with the federal Minister and the Prime Minister, but right now that would be the Yukons total share, according to that agreement.
Mr. McDonald: Of course there is no agreement yet. Of course, the Yukons position, bolstered, we understand, by the western Premiers, is that the Yukon should receive a sum that is considerably larger than $2 million. If the governments negotiating efforts are successful, the sum should be considerably more than $2 million.
If the Whitehorse water and sewer is a project that is not considered eligible for funding under the program and if the Yukon government is actively considering it as a project for funding, there are obviously some very serious consequences for the City of Whitehorse as a result.
The Minister said it would be desirable to have both the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government benefiting from federal participation in the funding, but that does not seem likely under the circumstances, particularly as the government has offered relatively generous cost-sharing terms with the City of Whitehorse. The federal Liberal infrastructure program really does insist that, with a particular project, the municipality contribute one-third of the cost, or 33.3 percent. Given the fact that there is block funding in the territory, funding cannot really be neatly slipped through the back door by the Yukon government, because it would breach the block funding arrangements.
Clearly, the consequences are quite significant for the City of Whitehorse and for the ratepayers in this town. I am wondering how aggressive the government is in trying to seek federal assistance, particularly for this project, in the coming months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When we enter into the negotiations, we will certainly use the Whitehorse sewage system - the approximately $18.9 million the government is putting in and the approximately $7 million the city has to put in - as an argument for the fact that infrastructure in the Yukon needs replacing, and this is similarly the case for Dawson City.
We have many other infrastructure projects, so if we run into a problem with a project that is already started, we have the Carcross sewage lagoon, some sort of water system for Ross River and some sort of lagoon for that area. We have other lagoons in other areas that need a lot of repair, as well as streets, roads and numerous other infrastructure projects. What we will do is show that the funding is going to Whitehorse and Dawson in very large sums at this point in time. That will help us with the argument that we need a better share.
Mr. McDonald: That is why I was asking the questions of the Government Leader before. I think someone had better get their heads wrapped around this problem in a real hurry. It would not make any sense at all, from my perspective, even representing a Whitehorse constituency, to transfer the extra loading of costs onto municipalities that have even less of an ability to pay than does the City of Dawson or Whitehorse.
Moving a 33 percent cost-share arrangement onto the Village of Carmacks or Burwash seems pointless, given their ability to contribute. It would appear that the City of Whitehorse has more capacity to do that. Even still, the federal participation in this program is going to mean very considerable cost increases to the City of Whitehorse beyond what they are expecting to bear right now. Ultimately, it will probably result in someone on the city council threatening to raise municipal taxes as a result of change in cost-sharing arrangements. Ultimately, someone has to figure this thing out. It would not be good enough to go to the federal government, argue for more money and then not be able to spend it because there is no obvious municipal candidate to receive that funding.
Perhaps the Minister, at some point, along with his colleagues, could give me a consistent story as to what argument is going to put to the federal government. I would also like to know who is going to be eligible and for what.
It would make the situation a lot easier for municipalities that are waiting to see whether or not they are going to be candidates for, or beneficiaries of, this federal largess. Ironically, they do not want to be, in some cases, because of the cost-sharing arrangements. I am not going to belabour this point, but I would like some answers about what the government intends to do - particularly, since we understand that the Finance Ministers are going to be meeting and making decisions in January.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., Committee of the Whole will recess until 7:30 this evening.
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have one further question, following up on information we requested. I have been through the legislative returns on Community and Transportation Services but I did not see this one, so maybe the Minister could let me know if it has already been provided.
We had asked for some information that the department produced on an analysis of the additional cost to maintain the streets and fire protection as well as the effect on school busing and the Hidden Valley School by legitimizing second dwellings. Does the Minister have that information for us?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have not yet tabled that. The department is working on it and we will table it as soon as we get all the information together.
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures
Mr. McDonald: Particularly with larger sums, if the Minister would volunteer the information, it would be very appreciated. Perhaps he could start with Emergency Measures.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will be happy to do that as we go through. Emergency Measures main project in 1994-95 is the emergency operation equipment for $50,000 to implement public switch telephone network to provide radio and digital communications support and various other items such as uninterrupted power supply, research and feasibility analysis, status boards, et cetera. Other 1994-95 projects are emergency measures equipment, $10,000, and dangerous goods response kit, $7,000.
Mrs. Firth: As I went through the budget, I noticed a cost for all of the communities for an item called protective clothing. There was $125,000 spent last year in protective clothing and another $106,000 spent this year. What is that for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is actually under fire protection. It is for turnout gear for all the various fire departments. A few years ago the occupational health and safety branch made the government change to a new kind of gear. What they have been doing is replacing all of the gear. I believe there are 15 turnout suits in each community - 15 coats, coveralls, boots, hats, et cetera - and it has to meet some sort of a code requirement. We have had to replace all of this gear over a period of time.
Mrs. Firth: I do not know whether we should pursue this here, or wait until we get to the proper line - fire protection, on page 28. There was $1.1 million spent on protective clothing. Last year, Keno City, which has a very small population, spent $5,000 last year, and this year they are spending $10,000 on protective clothing. I guess one has to ask oneself why we are spending so much money on this protective clothing. There are 27 people living in Keno city; why do they need 15 outfits?
I agree with the idea of having good protective clothing, but I became curious when I saw that we just keep adding thousands of dollars for all of this protective clothing - especially when Yukoners have to pay for the 911 service, I am going to examine all these items.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $67,000 agreed to
On Community TV and Radio
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Community TV and Radio budget of $35,000 is for equipment replacement to install fall arrest systems on communications towers. The VHF system replacement consists of two projects - $30,000 for the removal of the old VHF system repeater equipment and communications shelters off the Dempster, and mobile portable replacement funding of $93,000 to cover the replacement of worn out and obsolete units that are used in YTG vehicles.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister repeat the Community TV and Radio detail?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Community TV and Radio budget of $35,000 is for equipment replacement to install fall arrest systems on communication towers.
Basically, what they are is a safety thing for the guys climbing the tower. They hook a belt on to it and, if they fall, it only allows them to fall two feet or something like that.
Mr. McDonald: Is this $35,000 for all of the television towers around the territory?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, apparently it would be for all our tours.
Community TV and Radio in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On VHF System
VHF System in the amount of $123,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps we could have a breakdown as to why we need this equipment; it is quite a substantial change in the budget. The amount has gone from zero to $4,000, and now it is up to $15,000.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Government Services used to budget for this equipment. You will notice that in 1992-93 the amount is zero and in 1993-94 it went up to $4,000, and we are figuring $15,000 from now on.
Office furniture, equipment and system is for use in our contribution toward development and enhancement of a corporate-wide common system.
Mr. McDonald: That does not mean anything to me at all. Can the Minister tell the House whether or not this is dedicated money or are they simply estimating what they might need for this and that and just throwing $15,000 into the pot?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We would have received those numbers from Government Services. That is their estimate for what we would spend each year.
I will read the Member some notes I have here. There were a number of common systems development enhancements reviewed and priorized by a departmental administrators liaison committee. Historically, common systems have been budgeted for by a central agency. The information resource management committee has recommended that the budgeting responsibility be with user departments to create awareness and a sense of ownership of how and why resources are used for such projects.
It is for office furniture, desk replacement and all that kind of thing that in 1992-93 was the responsibility of Government Services, and now it is the responsibility of each individual department.
Mrs. Firth: Does that mean that they have $15,000 worth of items identified that they are going to buy? What are they?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Another item that I missed, which has just been brought to my attention, is the leave accounting system. It is a central service but we have to contribute to that, so it is also part of this $15,000. In reply to the question about whether they actually have furniture and things identified, I do not believe that they have everything identified that they will need for the $15,000. That has been a general amount that Community and Transportation Services has requested from Government Services over a period of time.
Mr. McDonald: Did the Minister indicate that leave accruals are budgeted for in this capital line item?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department has to pay a portion of the cost for the system on which they do the computing.
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate on the transportation division?
On Transportation Division
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister why the department has abandoned any roads program for the resource sector. At one time, prior to 1985 and the resource transportation access program, there was something called a tote road program. We do not even have that any more. There is nothing at all in the transportation division that funds road or airport access for industrial or resource activity. Can the Minister tell us why?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is correct that RTAP has been discontinued. There have been some monies identified as line items such as the Freegold Road, and that is identified as a separate item in the budget. It is our intent that projects such as that will be identified as line items in the future.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is saying that if there is any road building to be done with public money, it will be done by the government and not by any other proponent. Secondly, if there are any proposals for road construction done through public funds, they will be identified in the budget, which will ultimately leave out the very small projects that were historically funded through the tote road program or RTAP. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is essentially correct.
Mrs. Firth: RTAP was a grant program, was it not?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it was.
Mrs. Firth: Just for the Ministers information, I support the program being discontinued.
Mr. McDonald: For the record, I object to the program being taken away.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: I am sure that the Liberal Member on this side of the House would wish that the Auditor General would decide for him.
On Transportation Division Facilities
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister to explain whether there is any work planned for the South Access Road - I do not believe there is - and to explain why not.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe we have anything planned for the South Access Road, mainly because we want to finish the Two Mile Hill prior to starting to tear up the South Access.
Ms. Moorcroft: The South Access Road is deteriorating rapidly and is in pretty rough shape. There may need to be some work done before they get around to budgeting dollars for it.
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The office furniture, equipment and systems budget of $220,000 consists of work on the following systems: $50,000 for maintenance management system; $15,000 for drivers records system; $11,000 for record drawings system; $10,000 for driver records motor vehicle systems; $30,000 for weigh station systems; $5,000 for national vehicle accident data base; $79,000 is for replacement, upgrading and personal computing equipment. The other two projects here are office equipment and furniture for $10,000 and office accommodation for $10,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: In the capital budget breakdown by community, it indicates that $200,000 is for computing equipment and systems within the transportation division. I gather that is the breakdown that the Minister just gave within different divisions. Are these all new computer systems or are they upgrading existing systems in these areas?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are all upgrades except for the record drawing system. The $11,000 for this system is new and the $5,000 for the national vehicle action data base is new. The rest is all for replacements or upgrades.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the record drawing system? What kind of records are they drawing pictures of?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Community and Transportation Services identified the need this system as part of a larger map drawing/library management system. The major thrust of this development is the replacement of existing Hewlett Packard-based road design hardware and software.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister cited a number of projects that the department would like to pursue, particularly driver records and maintenance management. Can the Minister give us the total cost of each of those two projects and in what year we are in, in terms of their implementation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $50,000 for a maintenance management system. I will see if I can get the Member the year. There will be an additional $40,000 in 1995-96. A driver record system will cost $15,000 - that would be the total cost.
Mr. McDonald: I distinctly remember that as the Minister was going through the list he cited two drivers record systems. Is the Minister referring to $15,000 for one system while a separate system is being developed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is right. The expenditure is for $10,000 for driver record motor vehicle systems. I have a briefing note if the Member wishes to bear with me.
Maintaining the usefulness of the existing system will require funds to allow for the introduction of a graduated drivers licence system. The interprovincial record exchange system is being enhanced in 1993-94 to meet with the national incentive concerning the close out of vehicle records and plate inventory.
Funds must be available for the 1994-95 year to provide for this ability to track and monitor records in the vehicle registration system.
Consideration by the Council of Ministers of Transport for third-party access to the interprovincial records exchange will require funds to be available to work on the security of the IRE Gateway X-25. The funds required to meet these maintenance obligations are estimated to be $10,000.
Mr. McDonald: Is it correct that the total cost of the maintenance systems that are currently being funded are going to involve an extra $40,000, or were there other multi-year costs in the systems that are currently being funded?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $40,000 that I mentioned before in 1995-96 is all that we have budgeted for in future years. The amounts that I have mentioned are sufficient to put the systems in. A few years down the road there may be a necessity to upgrade or replace the system, but we are not showing future expenditures, because we do not know when the system will have to be upgraded.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister mentioned $79,000 for personal computers. Is there something significant happening in the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is just ongoing replacement and upgrading of existing systems. I do not believe there are any additional systems in the $79,000; it is upgrading and replacement.
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $220,000 agreed to
On Major Facility Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The major facility maintenance budget of $71,000 is for major maintenance projects on various buildings specific to transportation programs. This program has been decentralized from Government Services as of the 1994-95 fiscal year.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister have a list of the $71,000 worth of projects that are going to be done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think this totals correctly: upgrade electrical systems, as required, $15,000; test/repair fire alarm systems, as required, $10,000; $8,000 for upgrading heating, ventilating and air conditioning controls, as required; $1,000 for test/repair sprinkler systems, as required; and $37,000 for various repairs required on an emergency basis.
Mrs. Firth: The breakdown of this list is quite interesting because they have not identified one single building or facility; it is just general repairs that may be done or may not be done. Am I correct in assuming that the spending is discretional and that this amount of money, $15,000, may be spent on various electrical repairs, and $37,000 on various emergency repairs, or whatever the Minister cited?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, Government Services used to look after this kind of thing; we used to get these numbers from Government Services. There are 23 grader stations and three workshops, so there is continual capital maintenance on those buildings. It is pretty difficult to identify ahead of time or estimate that a breaker or something will go out in a Watson Lake grader station. It is identified, therefore, by going from historical data that Government Services has provided to us.
Mrs. Firth: This is my concern: a lot of these programs are being decentralized from Government Services to other departments. The departments are identifying a number - an amount of money that has been spent in the past. Now, we are up to $86,000 in this department, between the $15,000 in the last item we discussed and this one. It is discretionary spending - in case something happens.
My preference would be to see a set schedule for the use of these funds, as opposed to having a slush fund just in case something happens - the department can get money or not take money out of the fund. My concern is that the money may not be spent - no breakers break or collapse or give out and have to be repaired - and then it is left up to the governments discretion whether or not they spend the money in other areas. It is very difficult for us, as MLAs, to follow this money around. I have a great deal of concern about the department saying that this is what the Department of Government Services has traditionally put in, so that is what they are building into their budget. Perhaps the Minister could make some comments about those concerns. Perhaps he could tell us if he has the same concerns and whether or not he addressed them. I may have some follow-up comments.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a building maintenance schedule. This amount is mainly for scheduled maintenance. If a building is 20 years old one may want to change all the light fixtures. I do not have a copy of the maintenance schedule in front of me. There are also a lot of emergency repairs - things just happen. With 26 large, major buildings that are used on a daily basis, there has to be regular, ongoing maintenance. I can understand the Members concern with whether this is too much money or whether it is enough, and what happens with the money that is left over. I can understand the Members concern, but there has to be monies there for these types of capital repairs, and how much is the right amount. The amount we used is the amount that we obtained from historical data from Government Services.
Mrs. Firth: I am not going to prolong the debate regarding this issue. However, I think if the government is really looking at programs where they want to tighten up the finances of government and look at where there is overspending, the sooner they start examining all these kinds of elusive little areas, the sooner they are going to find that it adds up to a lot of dollars.
I know that there is a building maintenance schedule and the departments are going to have a considerable amount of money built into those schedules as well. If this is to repair minor things like a breaker going, surely the department, with huge millions of dollars, could find the money to repair that. No household in the Yukon gets to have a big slush fund in case they blow a breaker or want to change a light switch. You have to find the money and make it available. If you do not have it, you do not do it. I have a concern about the department just saying that we traditionally spent this amount of money in Government Services - in some instances, whether we needed to or not - so that is the amount of money being identified and given to our department. I think that as we go along there are a lot of circumstances where this is going to be happening and it is going to add up.
Mr. McDonald: What other departments have had the facility maintenance decentralized to them? I notice that other departments do not have the same line item as this one. Can anyone answer that question? I am having trouble understanding for what it is the department has the money.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Perhaps the Minister of Government Services can answer in a bit more detail. I am not sure if the other departments have the number of facilities that Community and Transportation Services has. For instance, the 23 grader stations and three workshops are very major, large buildings that require ongoing capital maintenance. I am not sure if the other departments have them, but my understanding is that this is something that is being devolved to all of the departments.
Mr. McDonald: Historically, I do remember - I was with the department for awhile - transportation and maintenance facilities, which is something we are going to get into, also having money for such things as repairing doors and grader stations and doing small repairs of one sort or another. That has not gone down. In fact, it is projected to go up.
I am a little puzzled as to what has happened. The major facility maintenance appears to be for repairs to the grader station. That is what the Minister has indicated. Is the department responsible for repairs to the Lynn Building or repairs to any general offices? Is that a Government Services responsibility? I know that Government Services has a building overhead of $1.5 million intact, so it could not have assumed all of the responsibilities. What kinds of responsibilities did they assume?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Community and Transportation Services would not be responsible for capital-type repairs for, for instance, things in the Lynn Building. I believe Government Services still looks after that.
The purpose of this program is to carry out repairs that are too large to be considered as regular maintenance. They are a capital repair but not of a small nature, such as changing the plate on a light switch. It is more of a capital nature than it is O&M. Again, it is for 22 grader station buildings and the workshops.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for that explanation. It does not make it any easier for me because, if Government Services is going to carry out minor repairs everywhere, and if Community and Transportation Services also has a $200,000 fund for miscellaneous branch facilities, which historically, as I understood it, accounted for minor repairs for grader stations, et cetera, as well as larger projects, what is the single largest difference between the line item, major facility maintenance, and the line item, miscellaneous branch facilities, under transportation and maintenance. What is the difference between those two line items?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $200,000 on page 27, which the Member is referring to, Ihas always been part of the responsibility of the department. The $71,000 is for minor capital repairs that Government Services used to do. The $200,000 is for projects planned on a short-term basis as need is identified by regulatory agencies, and the $71,000 program is to carry out repairs that are too large or complex to be considered regular maintenance.
Mr. McDonald: The list of items that the Minister cited under major facility maintenance were as small as $1,000. I have recently done some work on my house and I know that you do not buy a lot of repairs for $1,000.
Clearly, the kinds of items that the Minister has cited for this line item cannot be classified as normal maintenance, which Government Services still routinely performs, I presume, nor is it the larger kinds of projects that are anticipated under miscellaneous branch facilities.
I am not sure that I understand the difference between these two items. Perhaps in the next budget the Minister could become familiar with this and let us know what this is all about, because I do not understand it.
Major Facility Maintenance in the amount of $71,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction
On Alaska Highway
Mr. Cable: My question relates to this line item and some following line items.
There have been a number of questions put to the Minister by the Member for Riverdale South and me as to whether an inventory of the trades is taken - carpenters, dirt movers and whatnot. Does the Minister have that information for the House?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe that I mentioned earlier to the Member that the statistics that are used for the trades were collected in 1992, when the Department of Education did a needs assessment about where they could determine shortages in the trades. We are still working with that 1992 information. I believe that information was tabled.
Mr. Cable: That may mean that the Member for Riverdale South and I will have to do some homework.
Is there a current trades inventory - if you can call it that - of people in the earth-moving trades and construction trades who are available?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have not done a new inventory since 1992.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister has forgotten what we asked for. I had with me a document from Employment Canada that broke down, by occupation, all the people who were collecting unemployment insurance. There was one general category that represented trades. I had asked the Minister how he knew that they were putting the right people to work, because the category was so general - it was over 800 people, the majority of whom were men. How do they know they were putting the right people to work?
So much of the money is set aside for road construction. How did the Minister know how many unemployed people would be hired for road construction jobs, as opposed to carpenters, plumbers, electricians and so on who were unemployed and would be hired through construction contracts? The Minister of Economic Development told me that he had that information and that it was presently in the Department of Finance. I asked if we could have it and he told me that he would bring it to the House. I do not recall seeing a breakdown of the specific numbers of plumbers, electricians, heavy equipment operators and other trades that would have been categorized in that occupational level of 800 or so unemployed people.
Several Members on this side have indicated that the Minister did not bring that information. I would ask the Minister where that information is. Is it still in the Department of Finance? If so, when is he going to bring it to the House?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The information we have is from that 1992 study that was done. I believe it has been tabled here once before, but I will see what I can do.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us how many trades people are unemployed in the construction area as opposed to the number of trades people unemployed in the heavy equipment operating road construction area?
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding is that we cannot even get that information from the Unemployment Insurance Commission people, but I stand to be corrected on that. I will check into it first thing tomorrow and get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Let me start at the beginning again. The information that the UIC provides categorizes unemployed individuals in 10 groups according to occupation. One of those groups has over 800 individuals in it, and it is a very general, broad grouping that refers to trades. It refers to all trades - electricians, plumbers, heavy equipment operators and so on. That was the breakdown I had asked the Minister for, so that we knew how many unemployed trades people there were in the construction industry, versus the number of unemployed people in the heavy equipment operator/road construction industry. That was the information that the Minister said that he had, but that it was in the Department of Finance. So, where is that information?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe I tabled that information quite some time ago. I believe we tabled it during general debate on the supplementaries. I am sure the information that Finance got from Economic Development was tabled. If it was not, we will certainly see that it is. I am sure that everything we had has been tabled, because the question came up when we were discussing how we had put the capital budget together.
Mrs. Firth: I will check my information and see if it is there, but I do not recall having seen it.
Mr. Cable: The government, in response to some questions I asked, tabled a Statistics Canada series of figures. There were a number of figures in groups that indicated the ratio of dollar expenditure to jobs that were created in the various sectors, and I thank the Minister for tabling it. However, there was one other request I put to the Minister and that was for some literature that the government was using on job creation. Surely, some professor or economist somewhere has done more than simply read the several billions of dollars worth of figures that were in the three or four pages that were produced to indicate where jobs are created.
Does the Minister of Economic Development, if he is the one answering the question, have stashed away in his departments files something the Members here can read to assure themselves that what the government is saying is correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not have that briefing book with me.
If we can get back to Highways, I will assure the Member that I will have whatever information he is requesting when we are discussing the Economic Development budget.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Government Leader talking about that large information package that he sent to us individually, and I had not received it. Is that where the information is included or is it in some other package?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot recall what package it was included in. I know that it was requested and I am fairly positive it was tabled.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the Members would like, I could read the highlights of the Alaska Highway construction budget.
South Alaska Highway reconstruction, kilometre 1008 to kilometre 1634, $6.1 million to do major upgrading, which includes reconstruction from Swift River South for 10 kilometres, with the work to be done being BST, major culvert replacement and related work; reconstruction on kilometre 1008 to 1488, $7 million, mainly for culvert installation, earth work and base course construction for six kilometres west of Spencer Creek through to Canyon Creek. This project is recoverable via the Alaska Highway contribution agreement.
On the north Alaska Highway, there is $19.3 million budgeted for reconstruction to proper standard with BST surface, and they are all unimproved portions north of Haines Junction, concentrating in the Beaver Creek area at this time. The full $19.3 million is recoverable via the Shakwak agreement.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me how much money in this Alaska Highway line is discretionary spending for the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The recoverables are $19.3 million under the Shakwak agreement and $7 million comes from Canada for kilometre 1008 to kilometre 1488.
Mrs. Firth: In this line item of $32,435,000 does that mean that the balance, minus that $26.3 million, is discretionary spending?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct.
Mrs. Firth: Is that about $6 million? The Minister is nodding his head, yes.
I remember when the capital budget was first introduced. There was some debate in the Legislature at the time about the process the Government Leader used prior to bringing in the budget. It was in regard to whether or not he had consulted with other Members. The Government Leader had not consulted with other Members. I had asked him, in my response to the budget, whether or not he was prepared to consider any changes to the capital budget. At that time, the Government Leader said he would be prepared to take a look at whatever we were proposing.
In light of those positive comments from the Government Leader and the comments that have been raised by the majority of the Members in Opposition with respect to the heavily balanced portion of the budget being directed toward highway reconstruction as opposed to general construction projects, I would like to propose the following amendment:
Mrs. Firth: I move
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be amended in Vote 09, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing the line item Highway Construction: Alaska Highway, on page 26 in the capital estimates by $4,500,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Chair: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale South
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be amended in Vote 09, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing the line item Highway Construction: Alaska Highway on page 26 in the capital estimates by $4,500,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Mrs. Firth: I recognize that when I make an amendment of this kind I cannot, in the formal text of the amendment, designate where the money should be spent. I would like to do that now in my comments on the amendment.
As I said earlier, the Government Leader had indicated that he would be prepared to take a look at possible changes to the budget and there has been a lot of concern expressed by Members on this side of the House with respect to the lack of general construction projects. Two projects that immediately come to mind are two schools: the Grey Mountain Primary School and a school for the community of Mayo.
I know that the project for the school in Mayo was quite ambitious, requiring a lot of dollars. I am suggesting, with my amendment, that this line item be reduced, and that the money be set aside for beginning construction of the Grey Mountain Primary School. I am also suggesting a much more modest school in Mayo, as opposed to the larger project that was first proposed there.
I realize that most schools take more than one year to build. I am asking that the money be shared between the two schools equally for the first year of construction. I realize that the amount left for the Grey Mountain Primary School is $4.6 million. I think we could build a school in Mayo for a comparable amount of money that would suit the communitys needs quite adequately.
I recognize that the government is going to put forward arguments with respect to the population at the Grey Mountain Primary School, and that they are examining the grades to see if junior high is going to be removed or not. Even though those discussions are being carried on, we have never yet built a school in the Yukon that has been underpopulated, that we have not been able to fill with students.
In proposing this motion, I would like to pass on to the government my suggestion that the money be reallocated for the purpose of building two new schools, and that this be the first year allotment to be shared equally between the two schools.
The government could take some time to review this amendment, if they so wish.
I have some ideas. The government can take the amendment back, examine it, discuss it and look at the feasibility of it. Perhaps they could bring a supplementary in this sitting of the Legislature to address the needs of these two schools, or they could bring a supplementary back in the spring to do the Grey Mountain Primary School and the school in Mayo.
This is a friendly amendment and I am looking forward to some positive commentary from the Members opposite. I would just like to emphasize that I am doing this with the best interests of Yukoners in mind and I think the government can receive this motion in a positive way. We can work together to get something beneficial done for the Grey Mountain Primary School and the school in Mayo.
Chair: We will take a recess at this time, and the Members can debate this matter after the break.
Chair: I will call the Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further debate on the amendment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is concerned that there is too much highway being built and not enough buildings being built. When we put this budget together, our concern was that we did not have more buildings going up than we had workers to work on them. That was what was taken into consideration.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Members opposite are laughing. But the fact remains that there are only 171 carpenters in the Yukon.
The Golden Horn School, in the amount of $1.6 million, is going ahead. There is a $1 million liquor store going into Watson Lake. There is over $2 million worth of capital projects in Government Services and renovations. There is $6 million in Yukon Housing construction, plus $16 million on the hospital. If we were to go with two more schools, there is not going to be anybody left for the private sector.
On the trades inventory that we have, 288 Yukoners are available for highway work, there are 28 surveyors, there are 47 in industrial and construction machine services, 171 carpenters, three concrete finishers, 36 plasterers and painters-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: These are the numbers we used when we put the budget together.
There are three structural metal erectors, 20 plumbers, 264 labourers, 22 electricians and there are 31 other trades, for a total of 921.
That was the reason we put the capital budget together the way we did. We wanted to keep all Yukoners working and we felt it was best to do it the way we did.
The other thing I want to say is this: the Member opposite says we are spending too much money on highways but the fact remains that on the Alaska Highway, over the last two years, we have been robbing what the previous administration negotiated for reconstruction of the highway. We have not even been fulfilling the obligation under the agreement that they made with the federal government. We took from it last year and we took from it again this year - and my understanding is that we took from it the year before, as well.
That is the situation and that is how we put the budget together. There are Members on this other side that want to speak to that motion, so I will just leave it for now.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I want to add a couple of comments to this debate. I do have some concerns about the process that the Member for Riverdale South used.
The Member for Riverdale South used to be in Cabinet and knows that the process of developing a budget is a long process and you discuss many of the aspects of developing and changing budget figures, and how it impacts upon various areas of government. I know that the Member has been very strong in her position telling everybody that we have to be fiscally responsible, and then she rises and suggests a $4.5 million change without prior consultation with anyone. I would suggest that this is a very irresponsible way in which to set a budget, and the Member on the other side would have to admit that.
The Member opposite is extremely conscientious and tells us how she is taking care of her constituents, and making sure that the government is spending money wisely and that we are not just running out spending money we do not have to spend. I have told the Member, and provided her with information, about some rather dramatic changes that have occurred in the numbers of students who are attending elementary school in Riverdale. Yet, that Member has chosen to ignore the figures and the fact that the Grey Mountain Primary School numbers have decreased by 20 percent and that Selkirk Elementary enrolment has decreased by 11 percent. I think those are significant numbers.
If I had cancelled the monies allocated to the Golden Horn School, where there are kids sitting in the hallways and gone ahead with the Grey Mountain School where the enrolment has dropped by 20 percent, the Member opposite would have risen to her feet and scolded me about being fiscally irresponsible.
It would have been very easy to build the Grey Mountain School, but there are a lot of things happening right now of which that Member should be aware - one is the population decrease and another is the grade reorganization taking place; it will have a big effect on what happens in that area.
The Member for Riverdale South, being politically expedient as she always is, is ignoring all of the facts and is suggesting that we build a school that we may not need right now. She is suggesting that we take the money from some other area and immediately build this school so that the Member can satisfy her promise to her constituents. The Member forgets about all her preaching and about all the times that she has risen in this House and preached to us that we have to be fiscally responsible.
I think it is unfair for that Member to make the statements she has. The Member cannot stand in this House and say those kinds of things in the future, when she has made recommendations like she has made today.
There is a need for replacement of the Mayo school, but the Mayo school currently has an enrolment of fewer than 100 students; it has dropped dramatically from past enrolment. The Mayo school is on the five-year capital plan; we will be looking at it in the future.
Again, with limited resources, we should not be building new schools when we do not have the money to do so. The Member opposite said that we should not deficit finance and now she is making all kinds of noises that we should rush in and take the money from one area, without any consultation, and change the budget immediately. I think it is an unfair way to budget, and I think that it is an unfair suggestion from the Member who champions herself as being the most fiscally responsible person in the House, who claims that she is accounting for every single dollar that the government spends.
This Member should be ashamed of herself for suggesting that we do this, because she knows that the facts are different. I think that is sad. If the Member for Riverdale South wants to save herself some money, she should give up the $4,200 she gets paid for being the leader of a non-existent party.
This is the fiscally responsible Member for Riverdale South. One year ago today, we voted that there was no Independent Alliance party, but that Member has graciously accepted the extra $4,200, and then, on a daily basis, stands up in the House and questions us. It is hypocritical - absolutely hypocritical.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Order.
Mr. McDonald: I am absolutely astounded by the remarks made by both the Government Leader and the Minister of Education, for whom the Legislature is making some attempts to find some resources for the capital program for that department. The Government Leader made some comments about there not being enough work for all of the unemployed trades people, and that ultimately, if we were to load them up with two schools, we would be providing far too much work for the industry to handle. I have some friends whom I definitely have got to tell that to, as soon as I leave the Legislature tonight. They may have missed it. They may not have been listening to the debate this evening and they have got to be told that putting some construction projects in the budget might mean that they would be required to do at least two or three jobs next year. It might mean that there would be far too much work with a $1.6 million addition to Golden Horn, and the Minister mentioned the liquor store in Watson Lake. I will get back to that liquor store, because I specifically remember asking, in the capital estimates, about the construction plans for the corporations, and I got some information from the Department of Finance that stated that the Liquor Corporations capital program was quite limited. In fact, I think it was $100,000 in total. There was no mention at all of a liquor store in Watson Lake. I am surprised to hear that the government has decided that, of the capital projects it wants to help sponsor, one is a liquor store in Watson Lake, but there is no money for education or schools - neither for Grey Mountain or for J.V. Clark in Mayo.
Suddenly the priorities become a little more clear. I am surprised and I am certain the Member for Riverdale South will have something to say about the comments from the Minister of Education about the process through which the budgets are developed. I can certainly speak for the Official Opposition - there were no attempts made to consult us. Am I correct?
Mr. Penikett: The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is absolutely correct; we were not consulted on a single penny in this budget.
Mr. McDonald: It would not take a wizard to figure out that we were in favour of some greater construction activity sponsored through the Department of Education. However, to demand of the Member for Riverdale South that she is not following a process and then expecting all Members of the House, after springing the budget on the Legislature, to simply accept every last line item is a real problem.
It is not as though the school construction for either Grey Mountain Primary or J.V. Clark was not anticipated, either through the capital plan or through debates in this Legislature. They have been the subject of some considerable discussion over a long period of time. It would be fair to say that there is some public need for both those projects. The amount of work that is being requested in terms of a reduction on the Alaska Highway is quite modest, when compared with the very large appropriation being scheduled for that particular project, of some $32 million. To reduce the $32.4 million by $4.5 million puts us around $28 million for the Alaska Highway. This is ostensibly $3 million more than the forecast for this year, which had record construction expenditures.
It certainly would not be a shock to the construction industry to have a reduction in this small measure for this particular project. As a matter of fact, as I understood it, the Oppposition was led to believe that we could expect to see construction companies from outside the territory taking advantage of some of the work that is available on the Alaska Highway, given the size of the project and the lucrative and long-term nature of the activity.
At the same time, we have been hearing nothing but concern from the building construction industry that work in public construction is limited. This is a marvelous opportunity for the government to design schools that are energy efficient and meet the need for not only the public school system, but also cost less to maintain than the existing structures. The school in Mayo is a large, rambling, poorly insulated set of old trailers in great need of repair. The Grey Mountain Primary School is also a collection of trailers, and also in need of significant repair. They are ultimately not as desirable as proper schools.
The Minister made some statements about how grade reorganization should have a great impact on these two particular capital projects in Education.
If the Member had said that we should be redirecting these funds to another high school or to another junior high school or a school dedicated to a particular programming, such as is the case with junior high or high schools, then the Minister might have a case.
The problem is that the primary school is a generic school. It has classrooms and a gymnasium, it can be equally good for kindergarten to grade 3 as it is for kindergarten to grade 8, if one wanted to do away with junior high schools. Such is not the case for Mayo. Presumably, Mayo would be a kindergarten to grade 12 school for some considerable time.
I have not heard the throw-away statement by the Minister of Education that there may not be a need for Grey Mountain School at all. I am certain that message has not been communicated to the parents whose children are attending Grey Mountain School or to the school council. I think that if they thought the great reorganization was going to ultimately result in a loss of their school, they would probably show up at some of the meetings and have something to say about the future of their school, which was reputedly at one point to have had one of the highest school morales in the territory.
I thought these were good points and they are still good points, so I think this amendment is worth supporting. It certainly could be accommodated by the Department of Community and Transportation Services with relative ease. The fact that they have to reduce their discretionary expenditures by a certain amount means that some projects will have to be cut back, curtailed or postponed for a period of time.
The $4.5 million would be suitable for the Department of Education to begin construction in the next fiscal year of facilities for this territory. If we were to show the care, attention and respect for education that we pretend to show, I think that we could find it in our hearts to ensure that there are sufficient funds of an equal amount in the following year to finish off those school projects.
I would encourage Members to support these projects. I think that they will demonstrate that the Legislature is not only listening to the public, it is also doing something that is frequently requested by some important constituencies that we represent. Ultimately, there will be some carpenters and others in the building trades who have had very little work in recent times who will breathe a sigh of relief that there may be something for them in the coming year.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would just like to make sure the Member is clear on what I said because obviously the Member was not listening. I am rather surprised at the comments made by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, since he was the former Minister of Education. What surprises me about it is that that was the Member who wanted to have all the facts in front of him before he made decisions on whether schools were built or were not built. He knows there has been a 20-percent reduction in the number of students at Grey Mountain Primary School; he knows we are going to be doing a population survey in the Selkirk-Grey Mountain area to determine whether or not, or why, the population levels are dropping and what the need for the school will be in the future; and he knows that the school is also in sufficient condition that it can last another few years. We will, at some time, probably need to replace that school, but when there are all these factors coming together with the grade reorganization - the grade reorganization may mean that school may have to go from K to grade 7 or 8, or whatever they decide, not just K to grade 6 like it was planned - the school may have to be bigger or it may have to be smaller. A lot of these numbers and figures and surveys we are doing will have a profound effect on what type of school we plan and build there. That Member would have wanted all that information before he recommended we just go ahead and start building a school, and I am rather disappointed that the Member has taken the approach that, all of a sudden, in Opposition it is much easier to just jump on the bandwagon and attack the use of common sense when there are four or five factors pointing to doing a little more work to investigate the population growths in the area and the dynamics of the area before we just go ahead and build a school.
That is what we have chosen to do. The school has not been cancelled. The school is on hold until we can get some figures in from the parents on the number of students we can expect to attend the school in the future and until the grade reorganization is finalized in a more firm way and we know what is going to happen with the school populations in that area.
It would be really unfair if the Members felt I should be charging ahead and starting to build this school this winter or this spring when we were not even sure how big the school had to be or whether there had to be changes. That is what I said about Grey Mountain. Mayo is not involved in the grade reorganization. The Member is right there; it is only Whitehorse that is affected by that. The Mayo school, at the present time, has limited resources, and we have to priorize our spending.
The spending over the last couple of years has been to get kids out of hallways and nurses offices and small rooms. We have done that in Haines Junction and we are doing it at Golden Horn. That has been a priority because of the limited funds that we have.
I think that the Member was being unfair in jumping on the bandwagon of the Member for Riverdale South. This is unlike the Member in the past when he used to want all of the information from the department, especially when there was a major survey going on and changes taking place. He was a Member who wanted all of the information before he jumped to conclusions, but I guess it is easier to be in Opposition than it is to be in government.
Mr. McDonald: There is no criticism on my part about the Minister rushing ahead in education capital expenditures. The two budgets for which the Minister has been responsible are certainly not demonstrating any proclivity for rushing ahead full bore, trying to get things done in a hurry or too quickly.
The Minister continues to make reference to the fact that the department has had to operate within limited resources. Certainly, if one was to look at the $6 million capital budget for education, to take $4.5 million and dedicate it toward school construction would seem to be nothing short of foolhardy. That is not the situation; thanks to the Member for Riverdale South and the proposed amendment, the world has just opened up for the Department of Education, and they can consider some other opportunities.
The Minister made some comments about planning being done properly: that is the purpose of the capital plan and the capital planning process. Certainly, the Department of Education has never stood still when it came to planning capital facilities, and that is the reason Grey Mountain School and J.V. Clark School were both put into the capital plan.
It is not as if, for the very first time ever, the government has suddenly been saddled with two projects that it has never heard of. Both projects were in the departments capital plan and were supported by the department, at least at one time. Both projects were perceived to be a real necessity.
There was a need to rebuild the J.V. Clark School long before the current budgets were tabled. The J.V. Clark School was also planned long after the decline in the student population in the Mayo district. There is certainly a smaller school population in Mayo. It is not anticipated that it will grow dramatically. There is still a need to replace that school - I hope the Minister at least understands that.
With respect to Grey Mountain, I do not want the Minister to think that I am simply attacking, attacking, attacking because I am in Opposition. I am trying to be constructive. The Minister may not take it that way, but I am putting it in the context of being something that should be supported by the legislators and by the people in our communities.
Whether Grey Mountain is a kindergarten to grade 3 or a kindergarten to grade 8 school, does not stop the government from proceeding and having some capital construction activity take place. It does not prevent it for one moment. There is an opportunity for the department, at some time in the future, to arrange its classrooms in any way it wishes. To have a great reorganization does not necessarily mean there will be only kindergarten to grade 8 and grades 9 to 12 schools. One can have elementary schools within that context. This is currently an elementary school, from kindergarten to grade 3.
The point about Grey Mountain School being rebuilt was not only that it was overcrowded. The original reason to rebuild was not only because it was overcrowded. It was because it was some old trailers that certainly did not meet the standards that the community had come to expect. They expected something better.
The Minister said that we had five years to do something. We did lots of things, such as build four schools.
The Minister said that we did not touch Grey Mountain School. The very first thing that we did when we were in office was provide an activity room for Grey Mountain School, with an expenditure of $600,000. That is the very first thing that we did, so the Minister is dead wrong on that score, among others.
Chair: Order please.
Mr. McDonald: There is no reason in the world why a reasonable person would not accept that a minor reduction in the Alaska Highway reconstruction could not be reallocated to provide useful facilities for our children. There is no reason why the government cannot accept a modest reduction in road building in order to do something for the building construction industry in the Yukon.
There are many trades people who are saying that they do not have enough work. For the government to stand up and say that there is so much work, including such projects as the Golden Horn gym, which is a minor project for a small building construction company, and a liquor store in Watson Lake - we are going to have to come back to that, because this is the first that I have heard of that project.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: We are talking about next year. The Government Leader who has introduced the budget that we are debating is asking me to look in last years budget. We are talking about next years budget, and the Government Leader said that next year there will be a liquor store constructed in Watson Lake.
At the same time, we asked the Department of Finance for a listing of capital works for the Yukon Liquor Corporation and no such liquor store was announced. Now we really have a problem of priorities. Suddenly, we agree not only to juggle an abundance of road work with a couple of useful education facilities. We are now juggling a liquor store with education facilities. That does not make the equation better.
I do not have to go out to the street immediately to canvas the people I see to know that their immediate sense of priorities will not put liquor stores at the top. I just know that.
I think the government would be wise to think about it and not partake of a knee-jerk reaction of rejection. I think that they will find that there is a great deal of support for this kind of expenditure and this amount of work in this particular industry, and for the improvement of these facilities. I do not have to pull the Hansard to show where the Member for Riverdale North was lambasting me as Minister of Education to rebuild the Grey Mountain School. I do not have to poll that information because I think there are some self-evident truths here that the Members ought to be considering. I would suggest that they do think about that a little more carefully.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly cannot support the amendment.
There is no question that the highways budget is big, and it looks easy to pick apart. When there is a number like that in the budget, it looks very easy. Let us knock a couple of kilometres of highway off and build this wonderful thing. I would like to ask the Members, where it will all end? This is something really easy to do in-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Mr. Chair, may I have the floor?
Because it is easy to do, if we went along with it, what will it be next year - somebody elses favourite project?
I would like to point out that the total amount devolved to the Yukon for construction and maintenance of highways in the upcoming year for the Alaska Highway is $25,467,000. That is what is devolved from the federal government for the construction and maintenance of highways. On top of that, we have the Shakwak agreement, which started back in 1978, I believe. There is $19 million there. It is wonderful that we have this deal with the United States government. Of the $25 million for operation and maintenance on the highway, with our current budget the way it is written, we are only spending $15,996,000. In fact, we are short $10 million before we even start talking about amendments.
What will we have for a project next year? What will be cutting into the devolved money for highways?
In the trades of the people who work on highways, there are 288 for excavating, grading and paving; there are another 28 surveyors; in industrial and construction machine service there are 47 people; and there are 264 labourers that work mostly in highways. In 1993-94, there were 30 projects on the highways, and there were only three of the projects that went to outside contractors. One of them you could in fact say was a territorial company because it was run by the same people who own Northland Fleet.
I would like to report progress on Bill No. 12.
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. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, 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.
Mrs. Firth: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale South 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 Paper was tabled December 13, 1993:
Employers presentation to the Board of Conciliation in the matter of the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Act and a dispute affecting the Government of Yukon and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (December, 1993) (Ostashek)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled December 13, 1993:
Carcross Road, (Mile 9) solid waste disposal site: component of a regional waste management program (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1419
Job creation initiatives (Department of Community and Transportation Services): savings and expenditures (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1428-1429
Whitehorse sewage treatment system: criteria used for choosing the non-aerated lagoon option (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard p. 1425-1426
Yukon mosquito control program (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard p.1480
Yukon school teaching staff; number of First Nations teachers (Phillips)
Written Question #34 dated December 1, 1993 by Ms. Moorcroft
Social Assistance repayment from Unemployment Insurance cheques (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1519