Tuesday, December 14, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have some documents for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Yukon wolf conservation and management plan
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I rise today to convey to all Members of the Legislative Assembly and Yukon First Nations, as well as conservation organizations, hunters and trapper groups, that this government has chosen to adopt, as a policy, the Yukon wolf conservation and management plan.
The original wolf planning team put a lot of work into preparing the plan over the summer of 1992. While I have problems with the public consultation that did or did not occur, I see the plan as a useful step toward consensus of wolf conservation and management. We can build on the planning teams work when we conduct a review of the plan. This review will be initiated in 1995 to honour commitments made to Yukon First Nations.
We will invite other agencies and groups to work with us on implementation and to take lead roles. We will insist that other groups be consulted. To this end, we have already met with the Yukon Fish and Game Association, the Yukon Conservation Society, and we will meet tomorrow with the Department of Education.
Renewable Resources met all the conditions of the wolf conservation and management plan during the Aishihik caribou recovery programs. They have been using the plan as a guideline since 1992.
Members will appreciate the financial constraints we are under and should appreciate that implementation will have to be achieved within existing budgets.
Mr. Harding: The Official Opposition would like to congratulate the Minister on the formal adoption of the wolf conservation and management plan. It certainly shows that the Minister has the courage to reverse what we feel was a bad decision made by Cabinet not to adopt it. We are certainly pleased that the Minister showed the gall to bring what we feel is a good policy into effect.
We have had a bit of trouble understanding where exactly the government was coming from during the debate on this document. I am pleased to be able to stand here today and give the Minister those congratulations.
I would also like to congratulate the former Minister, Art Webster, who was involved in the development and implementation of this plan. Mr. Webster, the former Minister, certainly took a beating from some during the development of this plan but, nonetheless, I think that he showed courage in looking at a vision for the future of wildlife management, a vision that did not always entail what could be interpreted by some as the socially and economically costly exercise of aerial wolf kills as an ongoing management tool.
I certainly hope that First Nations are truly satisfied with the plan. If they are not satisfied, the review in 1995 can reopen some of the positives and negatives that have been found within the plan.
The Official Opposition believes that this plan is a leading edge plan in wildlife management, that has a vision for the future of wildlife management, and that it addresses some of the concerns that citizens of the Yukon have about the use of the aerial kill as an ongoing management tool because of its social and economic costs.
I feel that I should respond to the comments in the statement regarding the Members appreciating the financial constraints that the government is under. While we understand that governments in this country are facing some difficult financial decisions, this particular government, in the Yukon, spent more money last year than has been spent by any other government in the Yukon before. They had a $465 billion budget, and next year they will probably have a three percent increase in that budget, which would put it over $465 million. That would mean that this government would have spent almost a billion dollars in two years here in the Yukon. That is a lot of money, any way you slice it.
I also want to make the point that there will be some costs associated with the wolf management plan. The wolf kill that was undertaken in the Aishihik area was not free. It has a cost, in terms of the actual kill itself - in terms of helicopters and the officers used to perform the task, and all of those things. Also, it involved some social cost, and it could, down the road, have some impact if it is used on an ongoing basis for wildlife management. It could have some impact on our ability to build our wilderness tourism market here in the Yukon. I think it is a good move.
I also want to say that I hope there is no undue hardship put on any particular organization or business as a result of the adoption of this plan. I think that the government should work with the groups involved that have an interest in this particular plan and its adoption, and see that if there is hardship being caused to anyone as a result of its adoption, the Minister work closely with people from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and First Nations to address those concerns. That would pertain to outfitters or anyone else who had some significant, legitimate concerns about how the adoption of this plan could potentially affect them.
I welcome the concept of a 1995 reopening and review of the document. I do have some concerns. The ministerial statement talks about inviting other agencies and groups, and perhaps in the rebuttal the Minister could give me some information about who in the other agencies or groups would be involved. Are they people who were involved with the existing document or are they new people he hopes to bring in?
This document, the wolf conservation management plan, represents the Yukon compromise. It is a compromise of Yukoners and Yukoners interests, and if it pleases outsiders then that is a bonus.
Mr. Cable: The achievement of consensus on important public policy issues is all too rare an occurrence. The development of the Yukon wolf conservation and management plan was an exercise in consensus building. I am pleased that the government has seen fit to recognize this achievement. I am similarly pleased that the government has adopted progressive wildlife management practices. I am convinced that when the Yukon wolf conservation and management plan is reviewed in 1995, Yukoners will agree that the adoption of this comprehensive wildlife management plan is a responsible practice that will ensure our wildlife populations are sustained.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Like the Member for Riverside, I will not take up too much of your time. I would like to start out by saying that I fully realize the problems that Mr. Webster went through - getting kicked around. I have been getting kicked around quite a bit too. That is all right; I have been getting kicked around most of my life and I will keep right on going.
My main objective in this whole thing is to turn around the picture and to enhance the caribou and moose population in the area, for the Champagne and Kluane people. I will stand by that, regardless of what everyone says.
I was with Mr. Webster on the select committee. Comparing what we went through there to what some of these other committees went through, there is quite a difference. That was a wonderful document. I still get people congratulating us on that document.
I made it very plain when this session first started that it is a costly exercise to save the game of the people of the Yukon. I am not backing off on that a bit. We are involved in a budget. The Opposition says that we have a lot of money. I would like to know where it is because my department does not have it. We are scraping all the time.
I hope that every group and organization will provide input into this plan. They have a good start. They have a year. Let us see them get at it, put up now, and not start hollering after it is over.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Watson Lake liquor store
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader.
It is no secret that we in the Official Opposition caucus have expressed some concern about the governments spending priorities in the past, and we continue to express concern occasionally as we debate the capital budget estimates for next year.
Last evening the Government Leader clearly indicated that the government will be building a new $1 million liquor store in Watson Lake. How does the Government Leader justify that particular expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Maybe we should ask the former Minister of Finance how to justify the expenditure, because we took over their program.
The Member opposite is being so righteous and pompous on this issue, when he supported the Red Feather Saloon in Dawson City, because he knows that for every dollar spent from the Liquor Corporation profits, we receive $1.56 from Ottawa. The Member previously supported that position in the past.
Mr. McDonald: It is not the Official Opposition that is painting the territorys finances as bleakly as the government would have the public believe. This government is saying that they cannot build the detoxification centre and education facilities, and now it has decided to spent $1 million to provide a home for liquor and beer bottles in Watson Lake.
Given the circumstances surrounding the budget that has been presented, why is the Minister going to provide $1 million for the construction of a liquor store?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This goes back to a plan from 1988 when Management Board authorized the Liquor Corporation to acquire property to build facilities required for its operation. That was under the previous governments administration.
Mr. McDonald: The J.V. Clark School in Mayo was planned years ago, the Grey Mountain School was planned a long time ago, the detoxification facility that was supposed to house people who are suffering from alcohol abuse was planned years ago; why has the Government Leader cancelled all of those facilities and decided to proceed with a liquor store in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite should maybe get a hearing aid. He has problems hearing. I just finished saying that, for every dollar the Liquor Corporation spends, we get $1.56 in transfer payments from Ottawa - and the Member is fully aware of that.
Question re: Watson Lake liquor store
Mr. McDonald: So, now, the Government Leader is saying that liquor and beer bottles are much more valuable to the government than its citizens - citizens who may be housed in the detox centre or children who may be going to schools in this territory - and that because some federal financing arrangement, some federal bureaucratic arrangement, has dictated that they are going to be making big profits by housing liquor bottles, they are not going to proceed with other worthwhile projects that, admittedly, must be of some concern to anybody who has any caring at all for the citizens of this territory.
Can the Minister tell us why they cancelled other projects? Was it simply the profit motive that decided to carry the day for them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is making a ridiculous argument, and he knows better than that. That is what I find so amazing. He goes on as if this was a revelation to him last night. If it was, he sure as heck did not look at the 1992-93 estimates, because the first phase of this was in there - $212,000 was in there for land and design costs. The fact remains that we are concerned about students; we are concerned about health care costs in Yukon; we are concerned about all that but, by spending Liquor Corporation profits, we get more money from Ottawa to deal with these issues.
Mr. McDonald: The government has obviously decided that the highest priority is to answer to federal officials rather than to answer to their own electorate.
The reason why I was concerned and thought that perhaps the project had been abandoned, having had the wisdom, perhaps of their increased experience in government, was because on November 15 the Government Leader sent me a letter that listed the capital projects of the Liquor Corporation, and it did not include $1 million for a liquor store. It had everything from shelving to a scissors lift but nothing about liquor stores.
Can the Government Leader tell us why he misled me into believing there was going to be no liquor store in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just told the Member, the amount of the land and design was in the 1992-93 main estimates, and the construction phase estimate of $1.5 million was the total cost of the facility. What I want to get back to again is that we are following the same policy as the previous government by spending Liquor Corporation profits so that it does not affect or impede the transfer payments.
Mr. McDonald: This is an outrageous situation. The government has indicated that they are looking to construct the facility on the grounds that if they spend the profits, they are going to be making more money from Ottawa, rather than having those profits come directly to the Yukon government, so they can do things like build schools, detox facilities and so on.
Why did the Government Leader send me a letter on November 15 that listed the Liquor Corporations capital projects and failed to mention a liquor store in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not remember the document the Member opposite has.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the Members opposite are the ones with bad memories.
I do not know why it was not on that list. If the Member opposite will give me the list, I will check on it.
Question re: Collective agreement negotiations
Mr. Cable: One has to assert ones rights in this House, I find.
I have some questions for the Government Leader on the negotiations with the Yukon Government Employees Union. I have a copy of a letter that Mr. Hobbis of the Yukon Government Employees Union sent today to the Government Leader. Has the Government Leader had a chance to review it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I have. I tabled a reply to him in the Legislature this afternoon.
Mr. Cable: I have not had a chance to review the document in reply; it has not yet been circulated. Could the Government Leader indicate the nature of the response for the House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The letter was drafted by the deputy minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. It basically says that we are prepared to meet with them at the prearranged time that was requested by the union.
Mr. Cable: The letter I read indicates that the union is prepared to make some accommodations. Is that the message the Government Leader got from reading the correspondence?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, that is our understanding from the text of the letter; they appear to be in a position to make some accommodations and we will follow up on that in the negotiations.
Question re: Watson Lake liquor store
Mr. McDonald: I would like to briefly return to the liquor store construction topic that was directed to the Government Leader. On November 15, 1993, the Government Leader sent a letter signed by him to five MLAs, including me, listing the 1994-95 capital projects for the Liquor Corporation, the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
The appendix lists the corporations projects for 1994-95, totalling $118,000. None of them include a liquor store in Watson Lake or anywhere else. I would like to ask the Government Leader, given the fact that I had raised the question about liquor store construction in the budget lockup, why the Government Leader would have sent a letter to me and to other MLAs that we are expected to trust, but which obviously missed large capital projects that the government cares very much about - the liquor store, this home for liquor and beer bottles.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are several reasons for the liquor store in Watson Lake. The present site of the liquor store is needed for something else, and this construction project would create some jobs in Watson Lake, and we were hoping that the project would commence this fall.
The list that the Member opposite is referring to, that was requested in the lockup, is for the 1994-95 capital projects, and the liquor store for Watson Lake is budgeted for the 1993-94 year.
Mr. McDonald: Last night, the Government Leader indicated that a million dollar liquor store was going to be built next year in Watson Lake. Obviously, the Government Leader was right, because no liquor store has yet been built, so it would have to be built in the 1994-95 fiscal year.
I thought that the Minister had come to his senses when it came to building liquor stores, versus anything else.
Can the Minister tell us for what the current space for the liquor store is required, and how that space is more desirable than Grey Mountain Primary School, J.V. Clark School or a detox facility in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know whether or not the Member on the side opposite has ever been into the liquor store in Watson Lake. The store has the Justice department above it, and the post office and library on either side of it. These things-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Speaker, may I finish or are Members on that side going to begin making comments before I finish?
In the back of the building there is a truck that is parked where the Liquor Corporation stores glass bottles and cans. When the mail arrives, the truck has to be moved so that the postal truck can back in to deliver the mail. When the liquor shipments come from Whitehorse, they have to move the other truck out, back that one in, put the shipment on the main floor and then remove what is not being stocked to the basement in a small, single-person elevator. Whenever they want to display it, they have to bring it all back up.
For the sake of the employees and everyone else concerned, including the library and the Justice department, who want the Liquor Corporation moved, we decided to do so.
The order to build the new liquor store was issued by the previous government; the money was appropriated to purchase the land and begin construction.
Mr. McDonald: I have been in the liquor store in Watson Lake. I have been given a tour of that particular store and I admit that quarters are cramped. I have also been to the detox centre in Whitehorse and in those bleak quarters where people who are suffering from the ravages of alcoholism are expected to live out their recovery. I also understand that the Grey Mountain Primary School has suffered some abuse from occupational health and safety authorities, who feel that that school needs to be rebuilt.
How can the Minister - how can a human being, who is making judgments about priorities - decide in favour of a house for liquor bottles, over and above reasonable accommodation for children going to school and over and above detox facilities for those people who suffer from the ravages of alcoholism? How can they do that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Surely the Member on the other side understands that if we spend that Liquor Corporation money, we get that dollar plus another 56 cents back from the federal government, so we have more money with which to address those other critical areas that he is talking about. We have more money to address those issues. If we take the Liquor Corporations money, then we are penalized.
Question re: Watson Lake liquor store
Mr. McDonald: I am fully aware of the argument that the Government Leader is making and I am aware that when the Liquor Corporation spends money, the government gets back a premium, thanks to the formula financing agreement that we all want to end; however, that premium is paid back over the amortized life of that facility, which means only a little bit, every year, over probably a 15- or 20-year period. So it is not as though there will be immediate paybacks, immediate savings, so that people who are in need of other facilities get them. Surely the government cannot expect us to accept that the profit motive is the only justification that they have for building a liquor store versus schools and detox centres?
Can the government explain to us - because I am having a hard time understanding it - why a million dollars toward a liquor store, at this time, given their own rhetoric about the tight financial situation they are in, is a more valuable expenditure to the people of this territory than virtually anything else, including the detox facility in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite seemed to think it was quite all right when they were in government. They thought it was a very valid argument that they spend the Liquor Corporations profits so that they could get more from the federal government. They thought it was very valid at that point. Now it does not seem to be valid any more.
Mr. McDonald: We were spending less in gross spending than the government is spending today and we were also proposing to rebuild the Grey Mountain, the J.V. Clark School and the detox facility. And there were many other projects we did proceed with as well, including building four schools in Whitehorse. Why has the government chosen at this time, when they are saying no to their employees, no to the school councils in Whitehorse and no to so many other worthwhile projects that have been on the capital plan before, to say yes to a liquor store - a home for liquor bottles.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is really great to see the Member opposite so righteous and pompous after leaving a $64 million deficit that we could have done a lot of things with. There are a lot of things we could have build with that $64 million deficit that he is being righteous about now.
Mr. McDonald: The government today is spending much more than the NDP government spent in its last year, or ever before. They have one of the largest capital budgets ever sitting on the table today. They have chosen to spend at least $1 million on a liquor store and they have chosen to ignore and resist expenditures on things like the detox facility and the schools that I mentioned.
Speaker: Does the Member have a supplementary question?
Mr. McDonald: Has the government put any thinking into its priorities or are they thinking just about federal finance officials who have made it very clear to them, dictating what the government should be spending money on?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have a clear sense of priorities. The Member talks about our huge budget. We have a huge budget because of the huge O&M they built up that we have to service now. That is why we have a huge budget and that is why our hands are tied. We only had $50 million worth of discretionary capital because of the huge O&M operation costs left to us by seven and one-half years of NDP government.
Question re: Collective agreement negotiations
Ms. Moorcroft: I, too, would like to ask a question of the Government Leader, but it is about the Yukon Government Employees Unions offer this morning to return to the negotiating table. The Government Leader has said that his government will seize this unexpected opportunity to reach a new collective agreement. Will the Government Leader modify the previous mandate given to the governments negotiating team?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The letter from the union has said that it is prepared to make some considerations in the areas of concern to us, and I would suggest that at this point we leave it to the negotiators to work out.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am aware that the union has said quite clearly that it is willing to compromise. Now that there is an eleventh-hour attempt by the union to avert a labour dispute, why will this government, this we-want-to-conciliate-but-the-mean-old-union-will-not-let-us government, not tell us if they are giving direction to their negotiating team to negotiate an agreement? Is the Government Leader going to modify the previous mandate given to the governments negotiating team?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Our negotiating team has had a mandate to negotiate an agreement since April 1 of last year and they moved from $7 million to $2.2 million. They have moved dramatically already.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Government Leader says he has already compromised - perhaps compromised too much. But once is not enough when it comes to compromise. Why will the Government Leader not even make minor changes to the negotiating teams mandate? Why will he not give us the faintest hope that a negotiated solution is possible?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The position that was put forward by the government to the conciliation board was not even replied to by the union, and that is what they are going to do now. They are going to get together to reply to each others positions, and we will see what happens from there.
Question re: Maternity leave benefits
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
There are system-wide barriers in society that prevent women from gaining full economic independence and one of those barriers is the fact that women are not paid during maternity leave. It is important that women should be able to have children without it preventing them from having a career.
My question for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission is this: does he support the present government policy of paid maternity leave, or does he intend to erode it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not recall anything in our position that requested our rescinding that. I do not know what the Member is asking, to be truthful.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thought the question was quite clear. I was asking the Minister if he supports the policy of paid maternity leave. Women in non-traditional occupations may not be able to fulfill all of their duties in the latter stages of pregnancy. This does not mean that women should be penalized for pregnancy-related illnesses. Does the Minister believe that alternate work placements or sick leave should be an option for pregnant workers?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: These are all areas that are negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement. That is what it is all about. They are negotiated now, from what I understand. I do not know what the Member wants.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think the Government Leader has the negotiations on his mind to the extent that he cannot take his head out of the clouds, listen to a plain question and give us a plain answer.
The Minister must be aware of the fact that pregnant women regularly face discrimination, although the Yukon Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Without talking about negotiations or collective agreements, does the Minister believe that a woman should be able to take a second maternity leave without losing her job, or does he think that the government should limit a womans right to maternity leave?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I do not believe they should have a second maternity leave. I think that what they have under collective bargaining right now is quite adequate.
Speaker: Before the Member asks her new question, I do not know if she is planning to continue on this line, but our guidelines for oral Question Period state that a question should seek information and cannot seek an opinion, legal or otherwise. I would advise the Member to be careful of the way she words her question.
Question re: Maternity leave benefits
Ms. Moorcroft: I am looking for a statement of policy from the Government Leader. I can only think that the Government Leader has misunderstood my question. I will try to rephrase it.
If a woman has had a maternity leave and returns to work, then becomes pregnant a second time with a second child, does the Minister believe that maternity leave should be available to the woman having her second child?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is asking for an opinion. The policy is quite clearly in the collective agreement.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Auditor Generals report on human resource management recommended that respect for individuals be a fundamental principle of Yukon Territorial Government management, and that there is a need for a more flexible, adaptable and innovative approach to human resource management. Is the Minister prepared to develop a maternity leave policy that will serve the needs of women employees rather than the needs of the bureaucracy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The report by the Auditor General on the human resources of the territory is one that our government and the department is looking at and taking under serious consideration. We are looking at all of the recommendations and will be implementing them as time allows, and as they are fully looked into and reconciled in order to make them most effective in the human resource management of our people.
Ms. Moorcroft: In the private sector, employees who are on a pre-approved leave when a strike occurs continue to receive their pay as long as that pre-approved leave would last. The government has put out a document that calls for a bargaining unit employee, who is off on maternity leave during a strike, to no longer receive their top-up associated with the supplementary unemployment benefits for the duration of the strike. Is the Government Leader prepared to rethink this mean-spirited policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: These are all issues that are being addressed.
Question re: Two Mile Hill reconstruction
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services.
There have been various concerns expressed about the Two Mile Hill reconstruction. These concerns have been expressed by my constituents, the transit system, and there have been reports of accidents, near accidents, and concerns about the lights.
My question and concern is with respect to the cost of the project. The Alaska Highway corridor study on page 20 identified budget costs of about $4.3 million to $4.8 million for the Two Mile Hill improvements, including the weigh scale.
In information that the Minister has given us, he has indicated that the project is going to cost almost $9 million. I would like to ask the Minister why the costs have almost doubled?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The budget figures that have been put forward, and which we have reviewed for the 1993-94 and 1994-95 years, were the figures that had been established when we took office and I am not sure exactly which document the Member opposite is referring to. I would be quite happy to look at it and try to figure out where the differences are.
Since I took over this department, it was my understanding that the project was going to cost over $8 million.
Mrs. Firth: In this document, entitled The Alaska Highway Corridor Study, it says that the potential weigh scale location will cost between $450,000 and $500,000. Yet, the Minister is anticipating that it is going to cost $800,000 to $850,000. Why has that project gone way over cost?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I do not have the document the Member opposite is referring to, but I understood that the weigh scale project was going to cost $900,000. I believe that the tender came in for $866,000.
The figures that I was given when I took office were in that ball park.
Mrs. Firth: This Minister has been in office for over a year now. This is one of the major projects of his department. I am referring to a study that was done stating costs of the project and I am comparing them to the Ministers costs. I would like to ask the Minister why he has not examined the cost overruns, and why he cannot give us an explanation this afternoon as to why the project costs are rapidly escalating?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The budget was established before I ever took office and the contracts that had been let came in within the estimates that were provided to me. I do not know of this study the Member has - I do not know in what year it was conducted and I do not know whether those estimates that she is giving me are actual engineering estimates or what their order of magnitude is. I really do not know what the Member opposite is quoting from or talking about.
Question re: Human resource management in government
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the Auditor Generals report on the study of human resource management in the Yukon government.
Last Tuesday, the Government Leader indicated that he accepted the findings of the Auditor Generals report on the study of human resource management. At page 34 of that report, the Auditor General states, and I quote: We believe that there is a need to revise the Public Service Act. He goes on to indicate where those revisions should take place. Can the Government Leader indicate when he expects to table legislation to reflect the recommendations made by the Auditor General?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for his question. He seems to be very anxious as to when we are going to get going on this. We only received the report a couple of weeks ago. I believe I said in the House that we accepted the recommendations of the report and we are going to be working on them, trying to implement whatever we feel is necessary of that report. We have accepted the recommendations of the report.
Mr. Cable: Another recommendation was made by the Auditor General, at page 35, and I quote: It is not clear which of the Public Service Commission, the Executive Council Office or the Management Board Secretariat can or should assume the leadership role for ensuring the harmonious and efficient development of YTG as an organization. Will the Government Leader state who he believes ought to be responsible for this leadership role and will he enshrine this recommendation in legislation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, I said we are examining all of the recommendations of the report and we will be acting on them accordingly. For me to stand on my feet here and tell the Member what is going to come out of the recommendations - I cannot do that today.
Mr. Cable: There has, over the years, been a number of complaints that many jobs are let without competition through the exemption procedure, and the Auditor Generals report has identified this as a problem. I would like the Minister to give his justifications for these failures to go to competition, which resulted in appointments without testing the qualifications of employees appointed.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Surely the Member for Riverside does not believe the report just relates to this administration; it was done, I believe, from January to April or March of last year and it speaks of the growth of government over a period of years and some of the problems that were encountered with that growth of government. We are going to be addressing all of these issues.
Question re: Unemployment insurance, loan repayments
Mr. Harding: The week before last, I informed the Minister of Health and Social Services about a constituent of mine who, as a result of his new welfare policy, has had to try and support her family on cheques totalling $89 for a whole month, due to massive social assistance payback cuts taken out of her unemployment insurance cheque.
In a legislative return response that I received from the Minister yesterday he simply reaffirmed the support for his own policy and says that discussions are underway with the federal government on admitted problems with the policy. My question to the Minister is, why was this policy not worked out and these discussions concluded prior to the policy being implemented?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It took a fair amount of political will, time and effort to get this policy implemented. The policy itself, in my view, is an extremely fair one. What it really says is that people should not be double paid by both welfare, on the one hand, and the Unemployment Insurance Commission, on the other. The way that this is addressed is that the double payment is paid back to this government from UIC. There seems to be, in the opinion of the Member opposite, some difficulty with the payment schedule that is allowed by the federal government.
My officials are communicating this concern to them and we are going to see what, if any, changes can be made to the policy. Let us get the gist of this straight. Time after time people go on UIC and do not collect their cheques for five or six weeks. They borrow money to get by in the meantime and all we do is take payment back directly from the federal government in order to cover the loan that was made to the person, so that the person would not be collecting a bonus from welfare and being paid back by UIC, without paying us.
There may be some hardship in the way the payments are paid back. My officials are talking to the federal government - it is a federal government policy - and we will see what we can do.
Mr. Harding: Let us bash the unions; let us bash the workers and let us bash the single mothers. This is the Minister who would privatize the power corporation, he would then cancel the Chateau Jomini project and might even be able to leap over steel hospitals in a single bound. Why can he not help the single mother in my riding whom he forces to live on $89 a month, to support her family at Christmas time?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I doubt that she is being forced to live on $89 a month at this point in time. If that is the case, the Member opposite should send her to the social assistance office as we operate as a safety net and not, by preferred choice, as a banker. We have been used as a banker in incurring bad debt year after year. The Member stands in his place and suggests that we should have allocated payments from ratepayers - people who pay their electricity bills - into renewing the Chateau Jomini. That is something that I can understand three or four people in the world supporting, one being the Member opposite, the others being the remaining Members from the previous government with whom he sits - who build a brand new curling rink in Elsa that has never been used and still sits there.
Mr. Harding: What a heartless Scrooge. My constituent is eligible for unemployment insurance. She does not want to go through the degrading process of heading into the welfare office when she is entitled to unemployment insurance. Sure she will pay back the social assistance that she received in the interim period, but she needs a decent repayment schedule for that, not a repayment schedule that leaves her with a $42 and a $47 cheque in one month. Can the Minister once again go back and take a look at this individual case, and do something for my constituent so that she does not have to go hat in hand to welfare, and work out a decent repayment schedule.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: What is the Member opposite trying to say? Perhaps he should get a grip on himself and think this through. First of all, that person went to the welfare office - it was not something that she found that degrading - and borrowed some money.
Secondly, the money was paid back - the double payment part of it - to the welfare office. I cannot help it if she borrowed enough to live on, month by month, and spent it in such a way that she cannot get by with the payments coming to her from UIC; nor can I in any way assist her if it is beneath her now to go to the welfare office in order to seek assistance from them. I do not run a bank but the social assistance office is within my ministry. Unfortunately, people do have to go there in order to obtain any help.
Question re: Unemployment insurance, loan repayments
Mr. Harding: The Minister is a rich man, obviously. We can tell by the way in which he treats everyone less fortunate than himself.
My constituent borrowed the money for one month - one month of welfare - while she waited for her unemployment insurance to come in, after she finished working. She was eligible for UI and now she is having so much taken off her cheques that she is left with $42 and $47 cheques in one month and has to be forced by this Minister to go back to the social assistance office. That is not fair.
Why does not the Minister just ensure that a fair repayment schedule from UI cheques is worked out?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I suspect that the Member over there does have a hearing problem, and I know that, if one watches the TV ads, one can go and have ones hearing checked. He claims to have worked as a steel worker and often those people do suffer from impaired hearing. I thought I said two days ago, when the question arose, and several times today, that my officials are looking into it. We do not do any agency work on behalf of the federal government. We do not cut their cheques for them.
Mr. Harding: The legislative return I got from the Minister yesterday said, and I quote, it is recognized that there is a problem with the repayment schedule for some clients. Discussions are taking place with our federal counterparts to see how the repayment schedule can be changed. What does that do for my constituent, who is trying to support her family with all these huge payments taken from her cheques? Why was that policy not worked out in full with the federal government before it was implemented?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am having a very difficult time understanding the logic of the Members position. If he is saying that his client cannot get by, then like any other Yukoner, myself included, in those circumstances, she has every right to go to the welfare office and get assistance. That is what they are there for, to act as a safety net. We acted as a safety net when the federal government was late in providing her with her unemployment insurance cheques. We lent money to that person against the unemployment insurance cheques that were accruing.
In the past, the first batch of cheques that came to a person such as that would be all the prior waiting time plus the current month. In the past, most people did not bother paying back the loan given to them by social assistance. Now, the double payment is paid back through social assistance so that they get their loan back.
The Member seems to feel that because, in this instance, his client is not getting quite enough from the Unemployment Insurance Commission, his client should not have to go to welfare, and that I should do something. Like what?
Mr. Harding: My constituent is not afraid to pay back the money that she got for that one month during the UI waiting period. She does not want to go back to social assistance because it is degrading. Perhaps the Minister cannot get that through his head. It is very degrading for some people.
The problem is that the Yukon government has negotiated unacceptable repayment terms with the federal government. All she wants is a reasonable payback period. She is quite prepared to pay it back, but not on the schedule that has been dictated to her and leaves her with $89 a month on which to support her family.
Why is the Minister not looking into this situation in more detail? Why did he implement this policy before he had looked into all of the ramifications?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the Member keeps running in the same circular direction and speeds up a bit, he is going to have to ask himself to step aside so he can pass. This is a ridiculous line of questioning. I have a great deal of difficulty in believing, for one second, that a person that went to social assistance to borrow money will not go back to social assistance to work it out with that office - and I am supposed to do something when that person refuses. It is difficult for me to believe I am hearing this.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. The Minister of Renewable Resources.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am rising on a point of order, and I know you are very strict so if you want me to sit down, I will. While I was reading my ministerial statement, a letter arrived from my executive assistant, and I would like to read it. It is from the Wildlife Fund. Quote, I have in my hands your remarks made in the Legislative Assembly today announcing that you have approved the Yukon wolf conservation management plan. On behalf of everyone associated with Wildlife Fund Canada, I would like to congratulate you for this announcement. We are looking forward to working cooperatively with you on the implementation of this plan.
I read the ministerial statement at 1:30 p.m. The statement was handed to the Opposition at 11:30 a.m. and this letter arrived. That is pretty fast. No wonder we do not trust the Opposition when we give them information.
Speaker: The Member for Faro on the point of order, which I will shortly rule is not a point of order, but I will allow the Member to speak.
Mr. Harding: I, and the rest of my colleagues, deeply resent that accusation. That ministerial statement was embargoed to us - we accept those statements in confidence and we treat them in confidence. We responded, at the appropriate time, to the governments ministerial statement. That Minister is going to regret those comments that he just made.
Speaker: I find that there is no point of order.
Notice of Opposition Private Members Business
Mr. McDonald: I do not have a point of order, but I do have something to say. Pursuant to section 14.2(3) of the Standing Orders, the Official Opposition wishes to call Motion No. 50, standing in the name of the Leader of the Official Opposition on Wednesday, December 15.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
Bill No. 88: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 88, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phelps.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 88, entitled Enactments Republication Act, 1993, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 88, entitled Enactments Republication Act, 1993, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The bill before the Legislature provides for the publication of the French text of the pre-1990 statutes, in a bilingual statute roll that has been tabled with the Clerk. The bill also declares that the French text in this bilingual statute roll is equally authoritative with the English text. In addition, this bill gives Cabinet the authority to establish the English and French text for the regulations by order-in-council. This order-in-council will be approved by Cabinet when this act is assented to.
The requirement for this legislation dates back to April 28, 1988, when the previous government concluded the Canada/Yukon language agreement with the Government of Canada. This agreement bound the Government of Yukon to prepare legislation to implement the agreement. Legislation was required to incorporate that ordinances of the Commissioner in Council and regulations made thereunder, shall be printed and published in an official publication in English and French and both language versions are equally authoritative.
On May 16, 1988, the Government of Yukon introduced a Languages Act and this bill was assented to in May 18, 1988. Subsection 13(2) of that act states that no act or regulation made before December 31, 1990, will be of any force or effect if it has not been published in English and French before January 1, 1994. As result of this clause, the Department of Justice was required to prepare a French text of every act or regulation made before December 31, 1990.
The University of Muncton began translating our English Statutes in April 1990, a task that was funded by the Government of Canada.
In mid-1991, Exelcom-Translex, a firm in Ottawa, began translating regulations at a cost to the federal government. The French text of the statutes and regulations is now complete and ready for publication; therefore, I commend this bill to all of my colleagues in this House.
Mr. Penikett: Jai eu un réunion avec lAssociation Franco-Yukonnaise pour discuter le projet de loi quatre-vingt huit et aprés ca je veux dire que mon partie na pas de probleme avec le loi en principe. [I met with lAssociation Franco-Yukonnaise to discuss Bill No. 88 and, following that, I can say that my party has no problem with the bill in principle.]
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 77: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 77, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Brewster.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I move that Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation that Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is my pleasure to introduce Bill No. 77 for second reading. This bill contains two amendments to the Liquor Act. The most significant amendment contained in this bill will permit unincorporated communities to ban public drinking. Several communities have expressed an interest in banning public drinking but were unable to do so because the legislation did not provide for a ban of this nature to include unincorporated communities.
This amendment is broad enough to allow members of a community, regardless of population, to initiate legal procedures to ban public drinking in their community. Public drinking has already been banned in the communities of Carmacks, Whitehorse, Dawson City, Mayo, Teslin, Pelly and Watson Lake.
At this point in time, the regulations have not been developed. It is our intention to leave the process flexible enough so that the regulations could meet the needs of the particular community. However, in stating that, it is obvious that there will be some basic administrative matters that will appear in all regulations, such as the following: notice to be given; advertising; interpretation services as required, depending on the community; circumstances; fines posted advising the public of the approved restrictions.
The other amendment contained in this bill is more administrative in nature. Under the recreation facilities licensing provision of the act, the recreation facility must have been established for at least two years before it can be considered for a liquor licence. This provision is very restrictive, as discovered during the past summer when the new golf course in Dawson City was unable to qualify for a recreation facility liquor licence. This amendment removes the two-year provision. The board will now be able to assess applications for recreation facilities as it would any other applicant for a liquor licence.
In addition to the terms and conditions that already exist in the legislation, the board will continue to assess each application on its own merit and impose special terms and conditions on a licence reflecting the uniqueness of the operation or facility.
In closing, these amendments, in the first instance, respond to a request from the general public with respect to the ability to ban public drinking in unincorporated communities. In the second instance, it removes a barrier that could diminish the economic viability of a commercial recreational facility.
Mr. Joe: I do not have any real problem with this act. It does not say very much really, but I would like to talk about some of the real problems in our communities.
Instead of making it easier for people to drink, I want to know why the government does not do something about the trouble that alcohol causes?
There are very big problems because people drink too much. The bars are open too late. Why is this, Mr. Speaker?
Why do people need to sit in a bar this long? They spend too much money. This is when people get into trouble with their drinking. They have to go home drunk and then wake up sick.
Another problem I have is that people can buy a case of whiskey if they want. What does somebody want to do with a whole case of whiskey? This is too much for one person.
There are lots of problems with young people drinking. I would like to see the government talk about this problem. Drinking causes a lot of problems in the family.
We do not need to study this any longer. All that we have to do is open our eyes and see the pain that it is causing.
Instead of bringing in this bill, what we need from this government is a law that will try to fix these kinds of problems. The big problem. The problems that are affecting all of our people. Because these problems are killing our people.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to say a few words in support of this bill, because I am one of the people who sponsored the provisions to enable unincorporated areas, towns, or villages to ban public drinking. I respect the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and agree with him on much of what he has said.
This bill, and those provisions, are an attempt to enable the people who live in Carcross, my riding, an unincorporated community, and the people who live in Ross River, another unincorporated area in my riding - the two places in the Yukon where public drinking is not banned - is to enable them to come to grips with that problem so that they can have the same rights and take the same measures in their little parts of the Yukon that have been taken by all of the incorporated towns and by First Nation towns. The way that the legislation currently reads, all incorporated communities are enabled to ban public drinking and they have.
A few years ago, there was an amendment to the Liquor Act passed that enabled First Nation communities to ban public drinking, and most of them have.
But, when Carcross and Ross River wanted to take steps to ban public drinking in their communities, they could not do it because the act did not deal with a situation such as Carcross has, where at least half the community is not of First Nation ancestry. Technically, the same problem arises in Ross River with all of the people who live on the side of the street opposite First Nation lands.
This is an important step for those communities because they strongly want to ban public drinking. I fully support this measure because, while it does not provide all the solutions and more are needed, as the Hon. Member for Mayo-Tatchun suggests, it goes a long way to helping people in my two communities - the one I live in and the one I represent, Carcross and Ross River - in taking some steps to help them with a problem that is glaringly obvious.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 63: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 63, standing in the name of the Hon. Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 63, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act and the Legislative Assembly Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 63, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act and the Legislative Assembly Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will be very brief. Bill No. 63 deals with the pay for Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. Its principal intent is to make permanent the five-percent cut in salaries, indemnities and expense allowances that MLAs received this year. More specifically, it is designed to do three things: it amends the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, approved by the House in the spring sitting. Through these amendments, the five-percent reduction to MLAs indemnities and expense allowances apply to both the 1993-94 and 1994-95 fiscal years. Secondly, MLAs indemnities and expenses will not be indexed either this year or next. When the annual indexing provision is restored at the onset of the 1994-95 fiscal year, any increases as a result of indexing will be applied to the reduced indemnity and expenses that are reflected in the original five-percent reduction. Finally, this bill amends the Legislative Assembly Act by permanently reducing, by five percent, the salaries owed to the Government Leader, Ministers, party leaders, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
Under the legislation approved last spring, the five-percent reduction in salaries applied only to the 1993-94 fiscal year. Any future salary increases would now require amendments to the Legislative Assembly Act.
Mr. Penikett: Since this is the second time that government has reduced our pay in one year, it is bound to raise some questions about the competence of those who are proposing the measure. There is of course a big difference in the initiative in the spring and this one. There were some negotiations about the measure in the spring and indeed some bipartisan agreement. This initiative is not the result of any bipartisan agreement or even any substantial discussions and, as the Minister of Finance says, does not involve a permanent reduction in the base pay.
In most civilized legislatures in the English-speaking world, such matters are always the product of consultation. Unfortunately we are in the day and age here where a party with only 37 percent of the vote thinks that it can do anything it wants, without consultation with anyone. That is a great pity, but it is quite clear that the government will have its way on this bill, as it has on so many other things.
Speaker: If the Minister now speaks he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am somewhat surprised by the statements by the Leader of the Official Opposition because this issue was taken to the Opposition leaders through our House Leader. They had several weeks to respond to it, at which time they responded and said go ahead, there will be very little debate on the motion. That is all I have to say.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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
Bill No. 88 - Enactments Republication Act, 1993
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 88, entitled Enactments Republication Act, 1993. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I discussed the principle of this bill in second reading, just a few minutes ago. If there are questions, I will certainly do my best to answer them.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Clause 16 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 88, entitled Enactments Republication Act, 1993, be now moved out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 77 - An Act to Amend the Liquor Act
Chair: We will be dealing with Bill No. 77.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not have any general debate. If the Members wish to discuss this bill line by line, I am prepared to go ahead.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have been informed by the Clerk of the House that I must propose an amendment. Since there are only two words in the amendment, I am not required to provide you with a copy.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I move
THAT Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, be amended in its title by adding the expression (No. 2).
The reason for this is that we amended it before, and it confuses people if we do not put the right number on the bill.
Amendment agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I move that Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act (No. 2), be reported out of Committee as amended.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 63 - An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act and the Legislative Assembly Act
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 63, An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act and the Legislative Assembly Act, be moved out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 12 - First Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
On Community and Transportation Services - continued
On Transportation Division - continued
On Alaska Highway - continued
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would request that the line Alaska Highway in the Community and Transportation Services budget be stood aside. The request is in recognition of the amendment raised to reduce the amount of the line. This amendment requires careful consideration by this side of the House and I request that it be set aside for the time being.
Mrs. Firth: Before we make the decision to stand this line aside, I believe the precedent in the past has been that Members have been offered an opportunity to put their position forward for supporting this motion. I think that time should be this afternoon. The precedent has been set when we have stood other items aside in budgets that there is usually a fair amount of discussion about the item and then Members reach a time when the government has to do more research on the particular issue. Then a request is made to stand the item aside, for either more information to be presented or for the government to put some amendments forward.
I have not had an opportunity to stand and respond to the issue and comments that were made in the Legislature last evening dealing with this particular issue. I would like to have an opportunity to express my concerns at this time and I think that other Members in the Legislature may want to as well.
When I proposed this amendment to the estimates, it was in response to a question I had asked the Government Leader in November. At that time, I had asked the Government Leader why he had not taken some steps to garner some support from Opposition Members for his capital budget, particularly in light of the fact that he was expressing a concern on the radio about being a minority government and needing some support, particularly from the two minority parties on this side of the Legislature.
At that time, I had asked the Government Leader if he was prepared to discuss changes and accept any amendments or changes to the capital budget by Opposition Members. That was on November 10, in Hansard. The Government Leaders response was, and I quote, In this forum, when we get into debate and discussions, that is exactly what we hope: that constructive suggestions will come from the other side of the House. Certainly this government will take them under consideration.
That is what I am asking the government to do in this instance. I am asking them to take this particular issue under consideration.
Before the government goes away to do that, I think it is only fair that all of us, as Members of the House, have an opportunity to express to the government why we are supporting this particular initiative.
Last evening, I was quite upset with the reaction of the government Members. First of all, the Government Leader came into the House with a defensive argument about there not being enough carpenters in the Yukon to do this kind of work and then he went on about some projects that were going to be taking place. That was when we discovered the $1 million liquor store that was going to be built.
I was particularly concerned about the reaction of the Minister of Education, who, of course, represents this cause and should be fighting very strenuously for this project. I was quite astonished at his comments. The Minister was really quite hysterical. In a sense, he directed his anger directly at me, in an illogical way that was not at all related to the issue. He was quite hostile and lashed out. I feel that behaviour presents to the public quite an irrational, illogical approach. He lost his ability to reason and to be rational with his decision.
One of the arguments the Minister presented was that we have to be fiscally responsible. I would just like to point out to government Members that I am being fiscally responsible. We are not asking for new money or an extra $4.5 million. All we are doing with this amendment is asking the government to use discretionary money that they already have, and perhaps look at repriorizing their decisions.
I know for a fact that Yukoners are prepared to drive around on roads that are a little bit bumpier, or maybe have a few more curves in them, for a little while longer and I am sure, from comments I have already heard today from constituents, they certainly do not support the concept of a new liquor store over the concept of having new schools.
This was an ideal area for us to look for extra money and to look at repriorizing and reallocating it for two schools - the Grey Mountain Primary School and the school in Mayo - the J.V. Clark School.
To deal with the issue of fiscal responsibility, we are asking for a shift in priority - a shift from highways to schools. These buildings have O&M costs already; we are not asking for any new initiative that is going to incur more O&M costs. We are not taking the government by surprise and coming forward with two initiatives that have never been discussed or have never been in the plan.
My concern is that we should be doing this now, when we can, instead of waiting and perhaps jeopardizing our ability to do this in the future because of funding.
The Minister also used as an excuse the point that dramatic changes had occurred in the numbers and that they were going to be looking at grade reorganization taking place, and that it would have a substantial effect on what happened in that area. He further tried to emphasize that by saying that, together with the grade reorganization, it would have a profound effect on what type of school we plan and build there.
I know for a fact that, on at least three occasions, two officials within the Department of Education - Mr. Lawton and Mr. Smith - and the Minister himself indicated at public meetings and to the council that, if there were going to be a grade reorganization, it would have no effect on the Grey Mountain Primary School.
This has been reiterated at least three times. I have had parents reinforce that; there have been over 40 parents at some of the meetings where this point was emphasized. If there was a grade reorganization, it would not have any effect on the building. They were told this three times, yet the Minister of Education came into the House last evening and, in his rather irrational way, used that as an excuse.
I am not going to dwell on the other comments that he made. I am not going to get into a fighting match or a name-calling argument with the Minister. He did lash out at me personally. He did use unparliamentary language when he called me hypocritical. His comments were inappropriate to the issue and to the cause. I do take my job seriously, and I like to keep track of the governments spending habits. I do remember who I am here to represent. I am going to continue doing that for the whole time I am a Member of this Legislative Assembly. No amount of attacks, name-callings or reminding people of things I have done in the past is going to stop me from doing that. The Members opposite can feel free to do whatever they want to me - attack me, call me names - it will not stop me from doing my job. I just wanted that put on the record for the Members information.
I am not asking the government to scuttle any agreements that they have with the federal government respecting highways; I am not asking them to interfere with non-discretionary spending. I am asking them to look at the money that they have allocated in the highways department - the $6-point-something million dollars or so that they can spend as they see fit - and I am asking them to reconsider spending that money on highways, and to look at spending it on two schools in the territory - the Grey Mountain Primary School and the J.V. Clark School in Mayo.
I gave the government an opportunity last night to look at this issue and deal with it, to have some discussion about it, to examine it and come back with a logical and rational explanation or decision. That did not happen. Many times Members rise in this House and, not recognizing their own personal limitations, say things that perhaps can be considered embarrassing. Perhaps if they could use better judgment and withhold their comments sometimes, we could have some positive and constructive discussions on these matters.
The schools that we are talking about - the Grey Mountain Primary School in particular - have deficiencies within them, as has been pointed out by occupational health and safety authorities and Workers Compensation to the school council and to the parents.
Many parents are concerned about the safety of their kids in that school, and I think that should make this school a priority over highways, liquor stores and new jails.
The J.V. Clark School also has some deficiencies, and I am going to leave that subject to the MLA for the area, to make his own representations on behalf of the people he represents.
This school to which I am asking the money be directed has had years of work completed designing this particular school.
One of the other arguments that the Minister used was that, through this grade reorganization, there may be a kindergarten to grade 6 or kindergarten to grade 8 school. That is not a relevant, logical argument. We are asking for a generic school facility to be built. It is going to have classrooms. I have been told that the plans were specifically designed to accommodate expansion, and if they needed to expand, it was designed in terms of three pods if needed. That had already been taken into account in the design phase.
The activity room that was built by the previous government, I know, can be converted to classrooms. That is the way it was constructed.
The committee and the parents are going to be very concerned about whether or not we are going to have to start this whole planning process all over again. My position, as representative of that area, is that if the government has the ability to proceed with this school, that they should very seriously consider doing so. They should also very seriously consider proceeding with the school in Mayo.
I am interested in the proposition that the government puts forward about standing this item aside. I am very interested in finding out why the government wants to do this, because I may be quite prepared to support that concept if the government clarifies their position about why they want to examine the issue and how we can resolve this problem. If they are going to consider this, perhaps they would like to reduce it to a lesser amount. I am very interested in hearing what the government is going to present this afternoon, as a case for standing this particular item aside.
There has been no secret about who is supporting this amendment. The media and parents started calling my office very early this morning. I also talked to school council members and there is a lot of emphasis being put on the logistics of it - whether this is going to be a confidence motion, whether the government is going to be in jeopardy of falling with this motion. I do not see that as an issue. I was invited by the Government Leader to bring forward some suggestions and that is what I am doing.
The Government Leader, again, is shaking his head indicating no. I quoted from Hansard earlier this afternoon. In Hansard, the Government Leader said that certainly his government will take them under consideration and we hope that constructive suggestions will come from the other side of the House. That is what is happening here.
In my own defence, I get somewhat concerned if people are starting to get the impression that every time I bring forward an initiative this government perceives it to be a bad initiative. I want to caution the government that people are going to start asking the question, Is the government opposed to the idea just because Bea Firth brought it forward?
I have brought forward positive ideas. I think the 911 idea is a very positive one. I questioned the Minister of Health and Social Services about the eight beds at Macaulay Lodge. I thought that was a positive idea. I am standing here fighting for something that I have felt very strongly about ever since I have been an MLA and that is the small community school in the constituency that I represent. This fight of mine goes way back to 10 or 11 years ago, when I was the Minister of Education and responsible for this school.
We had a fire at that school and the teachers, because they are exceptional teachers, were able to get all of the children out of the school safely - the furnace had caused the fire.
The government of the day was seriously considering not repairing that school, and moving the children to Selkirk School because there were not enough children to justify the huge costs to repair the school. My colleagues of the day went to the school at lunchtime to view the damages. At lunchtime, the mothers were there with the children, picking up the burned remnants of their clothes and their school books, and obviously it had a very profound effect on those individuals because, when they came back, there was no question about whether or not they were going to repair the damages to that school. And it was done.
We repaired the roof of the school. We did all the upgrading we could to keep that school in a safe condition, but the school has outlived its life and obviously, according to the occupational health and safety branch of this government, now has major deficiencies.
When the now Opposition Members were government, they built the activity room in the school. I was a very strong proponent and indicated to the Minister of the day that I was a strong proponent of that activity room going ahead and that he certainly had all of my support in getting that structure built.
When I belonged to the Conservative caucus, I was again a strong proponent of a new school being built. At that time, the Minister of Education was a colleague of mine and I felt that he, too, was a strong proponent of that school being built. When he became the new Minister, the first thing that happened with the Grey Mountain Primary School is that it is postponed from the capital budget, with a promise being made that it would go ahead in the 1994-95 construction season, as had been originally intended anyway. The parents accepted the Minister at his word, and so did I.
We have had the capital budget tabled in the House, and the school is not there. The Minister gets up and cites all kinds of excuses and reasons that are not logical or rational. They contradict what the people have been told. I feel that I have a responsibility to take the initiative and take the peoples representations to the government in an effort to get that school. The school council did not approach me to embark on this initiative. I called the school council and told them what I was going to do in order to try and proceed with the school. I told them I was prepared to do it, and I met with no resistance.
All the resistance has been from the government, particularly from the Minister of Education. I find this astonishing. If the people are to have confidence in their Minister, the person who should most be prepared to be open-minded - however, he did not do that. In the House last night, he went on and on in a completely irrational way. A lot of people have taken note of it and made comments.
There were some very valid points raised by other Members of the House the other evening with respect to the amount of money to be spent on highways. I do not think that any Yukoner would say that we are crippling the highways budget by asking that this money be reallocated to schools. I do not think any Yukoner would say we were doing that when they see that there is $32 million to be spent and we are asking for $4.5 million.
I do not think that the federal government should have any concern about their agreements or the agreements regarding the Shakwak project with the Alaskan government. We are not asking the government to interfere in any way with money identified for any of those projects.
We are asking the government to look at money that they have the sole responsibility to spend.
I know that governments have spent money that was specifically negotiated for the Alaska Highway on other roads. The Government Leader has stood up in the House and indicated that. I do not think that the federal government is about to interfere with the territorial government setting its own priorities and spending its own discretionary funds where they want to. When it comes to spending discretionary money, I have never heard of the Government of Canada telling the government where they have to spend it.
I think that the government has to set its own priorities, based upon what its best judgment is today. I am asking the government to look at the priorities and the judgments that they have made for today, and whether or not they suit the circumstances of today.
I see that I have only about 5 more minutes to speak. I am sure that other Members will have some comments to make.
I recognize that the government may need some time to evaluate this proposal, to look at the pros and cons and to re-evaluate the numbers of unemployed people in the trades. I hope that is why the government is asking to stand this aside, and I hope to get some clarification from whoever is going to speak from that side with respect to their intentions of standing the motion aside.
Once I have heard those intentions, and once other Members have had an opportunity express their opinions about it and why they are supporting this particular motion, then I may have some more comments to make on the governments request to stand the motion aside.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite has gone into a long speech that has nothing much to do with setting the amendment aside. She went into debate on the amendment itself.
Listening to her speech this afternoon just verifies to me what I have suspected all along - the Member opposite is not concerned about the Grey Mountain School or the J.V. Clark School in Mayo, but headlines. The Member is fully aware that I called her this morning, but she was far too busy to talk to me. She wanted to do it on the floor of the Legislature.
The reason we are asking that the amendment be set aside is because there are some very serious ramifications from moving this money, but the Member, in her motion yesterday, did not seek any background information, did not consult with the departments, did not consult with the Minister, and did not consult with me. Certainly, I said we listen to constructive suggestions and we were prepared to, but she never approached me. She did it for headlines in the manner in which she did it. In fact, today, the Member for Riverside, in discussions with the Minister of Education, said this is not the way to do budgets; this is not the proper way to do it, and I agree.
We can sit down, after the Member is aware of the serious circumstances in moving this money around, and see if we cannot accommodate her. That is why we have asked for it to be set aside.
There was much debate in this House when the Alaska Highway transfer took place, and there was a lot of concern as to where the previous administration was going to spend the money - and I am sure the Member for McIntyre-Takhini remembers the debate because he even brought it up in the House himself in the spring session when he was debating with the Minister responsible for highways about where the funding was coming from for the Two Mile Hill.
In the press, May 11, 1992, the then Minister responsible for Highways said, I want to emphasize that our policy is to ensure that funds negotiated for reconstruction to the Alaska Highway are, in fact, spent on reconstruction. That was Mr. Byblow, the Minister responsible for highways.
The Independent Alliance Member, Alan Nordling, said he was glad that the money allocated for reconstruction was going to be spent for that purpose. We would have hoped that that would have been the case - that there would not have to be a ministerial statement to announce that the government was actually spending the money where it was supposed to be spent.
The Member says there is $6 million discretionary in that line item. The fact is that for two years monies have been taken away from the reconstruction of the Alaska Highway - monies that were negotiated for that purpose. I truly believe that this has serious ramifications for any transfers from Ottawa, or for any devolution of forestry, or land and resources or whatever. If, in fact, we are going to be using that money in other areas, then the federal government, in their quest to cut funding, can simply say that we do not need that much. They can say that we did not need that much on the highway transfer, and so we do not need it in forestry either.
We are asking that the line item be set aside so that we can sit down with the Member opposite, the Member for Riverside and the Member for Porter Creek South and explain to them the ramifications of this situation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Would the Member like an explanation also? We will certainly give it to you, if you support us. We are a minority government. The Member opposite is quite right. I said, in the House, that the government would take their suggestions under consideration, but we certainly do not expect to be changing budgets, and reducing line items and allocating the funds elsewhere, on the floor of this Legislature. The Member has had every opportunity, since November 10, to call my office and sit down with me to say that she had some items she wanted to discuss. She did not do that. I ask, now, that she consider setting this aside at this time, so that we can sit down and do what we should have done prior to bringing it to the floor of this Legislature for this type of debate.
Mr. Joe: I have been here six and one-half years. Every year, millions of dollars go into the Alaska Highway. This is my question: when is this money going to be used in other places? I do not see anything wrong with using that money where it is needed. I thought to myself, when the Member for Riverdale South made this motion, that this was one of the best moves for government. This is good for my riding, the JV Clark School and the Grey Mountain School.
It is nothing to get excited about. What is this government all about?
We, on this side of the House, want to give something important to our ridings. We bring this to the governments attention and they disagree with it.
I am going to ask for support. Even yourself, Mr. Chair. I supported you with your riding. I had no problem with that. I am here to support you where you need it in your riding. This time, I am asking you for very important support.
Sometimes, when I sit here every day, I wonder what I do for my riding. I get water from the pages every day. It is good, cold water. I thank them for that.
I will be happy to get around during the Christmas holiday and do a lot of visiting in my riding. If I do not get anything, I am not going to come back here anyway, because I will be angry. I do not like to be that way and I always get along with the people.
I have worked with a lot of people in my life and I never did feel a bad thing toward anybody. I think I have learned something bad from politicians; maybe it is their life, but it is not my life.
I cannot really tell you what my feelings are. I have a pretty big riding and I try to do my best for my riding and the people I am working for.
Yesterday was the first time that I heard the Minister of Education say that the Mayo school was on the five-year capital plan and that the school would be looked at in the future.
I talked to Chief Hager last week and he said that he had had a meeting with the Minister of Education last July and he was supposed to get back to him. The Minister did not even write a letter, nor has he responded to Chief Hager.
What we are talking about here was reviewed five or six months ago.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I want to enter into this debate with a few comments, firstly to say the obvious, that budgets are about spending priorities and there is always a lot of room for argument on those. I think it has to be recognized that there are certain limits placed on a government, in any given year. There are certain parameters within which government must work. Some of these are limits on the money available, and some of these parameters are the kind of spending that we must do because of the strings attached to money that is provided to us by the federal government.
I have no quarrel with the Member who put forward the amendment to the line item. I understand the politicians duties with regard to the politicians constituents. It is always good to hear a politician stand up and say that school is more important than asphalt. I have done that sort of thing myself; I know we all have.
This is not only good politics but it quite often does result in some changes in the governments priorities. I think back to the school at Golden Horn and the lobbying that went on there, which I was part of, as it was my riding. To the everlasting credit of the then Minister of Education, that particular school was, in recognition of population demands, moved ahead of some other items in his department at the time.
I am concerned about some of the characterization of Members opposite in this debate - that it is, very simply, merely a choice between roads on the one hand and kids and school and education on the other - safety, in the situation of Grey Mountain Primary, and just roads and crass kinds of materialism with respect to the highway budget. I simply do not agree at all with that characterization. Let me explain.
I am a person who is a strong proponent of putting some money into improving the Tagish Road from Jakes Corner to the bridge. That section of road has been put off and put off and put off year by year because of other priorities in the budget.
I am besieged by phone calls from people who use that road regularly. It is their lifeline to the outside, to Whitehorse, to whatever, but it is an extremely dangerous road. It is being used by logging trucks - long trucks that cannot even negotiate some of the corners without having the person coming from the opposite direction stop, and I have said to my colleagues that I am concerned that we are going to have deaths on that road if we do not straighten it out pretty soon. Heavy trucks, logging trucks and others, are using that road and it is only a modest miracle that somebody has not died already. I almost bought it myself, back when the trucks were last running that road.
That is a very serious issue of safety. That is a very clear issue of an economic priority, because the route from Jakes Corner to Carcross and then to Skagway saves many, many miles for ore trucks coming from Sa Dena Hes, for example, or the various logging outfits that use that road, or any other enterprise, mine, or whatever that is south and east of Jakes Corner.
Getting back to the issue before us about the Alaska Highway, what we are talking about here is not just a government concerned about paving some roads. We are talking about a stretch of highway where B-trains coming one way or traffic coming the other way have to stop on some of these corners. That is how dangerous the situation is. It is very likely an issue of life or death.
Aside from all the other arguments that I have heard here, there is no question in my mind that the primary rationale for upgrading the section of road southeast of Swift River is an issue of safety that is far more real than some problems with the schools of which we speak. I have sympathy for those arguments, but that is one of the issues that has to be weighed here.
We are not talking about a liquor store in Watson Lake. We are talking about people who are at risk on the highways. I, for one, am keenly aware of the need to straighten out some of those curves in the section that is contemplated by this portion of the Community and Transportation Services budget.
I heard this point mocked last night in these Chambers, but the other issue that jumps out at one, is that the federal government gave us some money that was earmarked for upgrading our highways. We are not spending very much of that money on upgrading our highways. This is a serious issue, because what it does, with respect, is make it ever increasingly difficult to negotiate similar agreements with the federal government with regard to the transfer of responsibilities or devolution of programs to the Yukon from the federal government when we get money and do not spend it for the agreed purpose.
It is not as though we are not spending all of it. If this motion goes through, we will pretty well spend none of it. I would submit that everyone in this House has some responsibility to be concerned about the ongoing negotiations and the impact that decisions such as this has on them.
That, then, is the other reason why I feel that the debate has been twisted, in that it seems to be a matter somehow of pavement against children, or safety against building highways. I do not buy that, although I acknowledge the tenacity of the Member for Riverdale South and I acknowledge the obvious importance that a new school would have for her constituents. I would simply say that it is not unrealistic, surely, for us to be putting this money into highways. I would submit that we will need $6 million very soon to straighten out the situation on the Tagish Road. I am convinced that we are going to see needless fatalities on that stretch of road.
I would like to speak briefly about the Mayo school. I understand the frustration of the Member for Mayo-Tatchun with regard to that issue. It is not fair to say that we on this side have not paid any attention to the needs of his constituents. I, as Minister of Justice and Minister of Social Services, have, for example, entered into numerous agreements with all three First Nations with regard to the delivery of child welfare services, justice services, and so on.
In regard to the Mayo school, as I believe the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini, the former MLA for Mayo, has said, if we were to replace the school right now, on the basis of the present demand for that facility - I am sure my recollection is accurate when I say that it was said last night that it would be a much smaller, energy efficient, code school.
We have not given up on Mayo, or the Mayo region in terms of its future. We know, for example, two extremely important Fort Knox-type gold structures have been found there. There is exploration earmarked for those very important discoveries, and there is talk already of the kind of infrastructure needs for what could very soon be new, exciting mines in that area. I would not be surprised if we did not find out in a couple of years that the projections for Mayo change dramatically, and that the current size school is what is required. I believe, from all the information that I have been given - and I say this sincerely - that right now repairs on that school will suffice.
We have to look at our priorities and do what is right in the circumstances. These choices are not easy. It is not going to win any votes to tell any school council that we cannot build a school. It is very easy, however, to mislead the public by characterizing things in a starkly unfair fashion. It is my respectful submission to all the Members here that that is what is occurring now.
That stretch of the Alaska Highway is primarily an issue of safety. I can tell you, Mr. Chair, that B-trains cannot get around some of the well-known curves in that section of road, without them or oncoming traffic stopping. I can also tell you that in my mind, the issue of safety is of prime importance in considering the options before us.
Having said all that, I am simply making the pitch that this is the wrong place from which to try to pluck the money. I have made those arguments and I will not belabour them.
I fully acknowledge the right of each and every Member in this House to use every weapon in his or her arsenal to meet the genuine needs of their constituents, and I genuinely believe that the Member for Riverdale South is sincere in her quest.
I am speaking directly to the issue that you, Mr. Chair, asked me to direct my remarks to, and I think that setting this matter aside will provide a cooling-off period and a chance for people to discuss some of the issues that we have debated last night and today, and see whether or not some accommodation can be made.
I urge everybody to support the request to stand this matter aside for all of those reasons.
Mrs. Firth: On a point of order, I did not want to interrupt the Member during his presentation, but he did indicate that there was some effort being made to mislead the public and I believe that it is unparliamentary for Members to accuse other Members of misleading the public. Since that is not my intention I just want to draw that to the Members attention.
Chair: It is not a point of order. Misleading Members is unparliamentary.
Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further debate on the line item being set aside?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that there has been enough debate on this, but I do urge all Members of the House to let us stand this item aside.
I understand that some of the officials, along with the Government Leader and I, have made the offer to fully brief the Member for Riverdale South, the Member for Riverside and the Members of the Official Opposition if they choose. I would hope that they will accept that offer, and then we can fully inform them about the funding on this particular line item. With that, I would humbly request that we stand the item aside.
Mr. Cable: I have to say, watching the manoeuvres, counter-manoeuvres, arm-twisting and nail-pulling over the last 24 hours, I am convinced that now is the time to talk.
There are those who say that minority governments can be the best governments, and that is a proposition that I hope is proven by the government. The Government Leader has said on many occasions that he is prepared to be flexible. That is a hallmark of a minority government, a consensus-seeking government.
It is my view that in minority governments the government people do not take as much property in their decisions as they may otherwise take because they know the need for consensus.
The Opposition has clearly indicated some collective reservations about the priorities of the government and they have, over the past few weeks, directly and indirectly telegraphed where they are coming from, so I think the Opposition will be speaking with a single voice.
The Member for Riverdale South has requested of me that the Members get on record so I will go on record as saying I support her proposition in principle and that the Grey Mountain School mentioned in the budget should be built and that we should re-jig our priorities accordingly.
I should say in passing that the proposition has been made to me that, unless we hold onto every dollar in the budget exactly as it is set up, Ottawa is going to make the roof fall in. I am singularly unpersuaded by that proposition. That proposition stretches my credulity. Let me say that moving 3.5 percent of our capital budget around, which is less than one percent of the total anticipated O&M plus capital of in excess of $450 million, is not going to drive the discussions with Mr. Martin, I can assure Members of that. The $40 billion-plus federal deficit is going to drive those discussions.
I am very pleased to hear the Member for Riverdale South, the mover of the amending motion, indicate that there is some flexibility in the amount as put forward. I am also pleased to hear the Minister of Justice say that there could be some accommodation, if I recollect his verbiage correctly.
In closing, I would like to say that now is the time to talk. I will be supporting the motion to stand aside the amending motion for further discussion.
Mr. McDonald: I will speak for just a few moments on the measure to stand aside the motion. I did not particularly agree with the Member who suggested that standing it aside was the equivalent of allowing people to cool off. This suggests that the people who made the amendment in the first place were somehow hot-headed and needed to cool down, come to their senses and ultimately agree with the governments position.
Certainly, the Official Opposition would accept a first-time offer from the government to discuss this matter or have the Opposition briefed in whatever manner the government wishes. I am a little nervous about the way it was characterized, in that the government would brief and inform the Opposition, rather than discuss spending priorities with the Opposition. It sounds a lot like the government feels it is incapable of making a case in the Legislature and they want some public servants to make the case more thoroughly in private.
The concern some Members made about the initiator of the motion reaching for headlines would only be a concern if there was headline material available to that Member. It might be because people are interested in the subject of the reconstruction of schools and perhaps a bit concerned about the considerable weight given to highway construction in the budget. That may make it of some public interest and may consequently result in a headline or byline or two.
The fact that the Members, especially those in the Opposition, want to discuss the matter on the floor of the Legislature should not be seen as somehow stonewalling the proper legislative process. After all, speaking in the Legislature and on the record, irrespective of peoples concerns about the cost, is a hallmark of democracy and of the activities of this legislative Chamber.
There was some concern expressed that perhaps by shaving the expenditures for the Alaska Highway we are now endangering the public safety on those highways, and consequently we are now putting peoples lives at risk.
I do not think that is a very useful comment. In the past year, the government spent $26 million on Alaska Highway reconstruction. A lot of money was spent and a lot of good useful work went on. In the next year, should this amendment be carried, the government will spend $2 million more than they are spending this year on Alaska Highway reconstruction, doing the useful work that is involved in rebuilding that highway.
There is no doubt that Members in the Official Opposition, probably the Liberal Member, and the Independent Members all support highway expenditures. They have done so in the past. Highway expenditures have been a large feature of the single largest departmental budget in the main estimates. There has been work done on the Klondike Highway, the Campbell Highway and now the Alaska Highway. There is no doubt that this Legislature is prepared to support large expenditures on rebuilding this highway. The question is one of balance. How much do we spend on highways versus other projects.
Certainly if I, in particular, had known about the liquor store in Watson Lake, I would have raised that matter a little more aggressively than I did. I was taken by surprise last night. I am certain that subject will come up again. I am going to focus on the debate here. I think it is important to put where we are coming from on the record.
One Minister indicated that this should not be characterized as an asphalt-versus-schools equation, that there are other considerations, and about that he is right. There are other considerations. However, it is clear, in our minds at least, that there is too little emphasis being put on projects such as schools, particularly J.V. Clark and Grey Mountain Primary and too much emphasis being put on other areas of the budget. We are being constructive in our suggestions that maybe that emphasis should change.
Now, this is not a legislative ambush. In the second reading debate, I expressed concerns about this very same matter. When I met with the Minister privately in his office, with his deputy and with another Member of the Official Opposition to talk about the roads budgets, I expressed some concerns about the comparative size of this and the potential that there might be some concerns about the balancing act that the government was trying to achieve here with building construction versus road construction.
As the Liberal Member mentioned, these signals have been given to the government on numerous occasions. If they were at all of the mind to actually listen to what was being said, they would have seen these signals telegraphed some considerable time ago. They should not have feigned surprise when the Opposition brought the matter to a head, to the point where the government must address it and cannot do other than address it.
We have heard a lot in the Legislature about what the federal government thinks of this initiative - or what they might think. We have heard that in order for us to have a credible position with the federal government on devolution, we must spend every dime we get through devolution for the purposes for which it was originally negotiated. We have heard that if we do not do that, we cannot expect better deals in the future, or good or even reasonable deals in the future when it comes to the devolution of forestry, mines or lands.
I do not think that is a valid argument at all. I think the problem that this Legislature has to face is that, as conditions in our community change, we have to react, because nobody else is going to do it for us. It will not be the federal public service, or the federal Ministers; it will be this Legislature that will react to the priorities of today for our constituents - the citizens of the Yukon. It will only be this Legislature that reacts, so we have to make the best balancing judgments, within the framework of the funds that are available to us, that we can.
There have been other agreements in the past that have transferred funds to the territorial government for which the territorial government and this Legislature appropriated funds that were not perfectly in tune with the agreements that were originally struck. We did that for good reasons - reasons that we explained when we were debating the budgets in the House. We indicated, and we have been indicating for years, that, as conditions change, and given the fact that we have the discretion to make judgments, we can and do rearrange spending priorities in ways that we wish. The engineering services agreement comes to mind, the Arctic B and C transfer agreements come to mind as examples where all the money - discretionary, non-contingent funding - was not exclusively dedicated for all time to the purpose for which it was originally intended.
That is the reason why it has been given to us in terms of discretionary funding. If the federal government, through devolution, insisted that the funds had to be put toward a specific, exact purpose, they would have dedicated, as they have done with a portion of the Alaska Highway agreement, that funding so that it is recoverable based on work performed.
Some of the funding that we have can be used at our discretion. Some of the funding under the engineering services agreement is at our discretion. The engineering services agreement was very interesting in that it allowed the Yukon, over approximately a 20-year period, to rebuild the highways of this territory. We were allowed to rebuild every highway, including highways such as the north Canol Road, to a certain standard. If there was no activity at the north Canol Road and if there was a need for a school in Whitehorse, or Watson Lake, or facilities in Haines Junction, it would be ludicrous, based on the original intent of the agreement, for this Legislature to appropriate funds to rebuild the north Canol Road with no concern for other priorities.
One can argue that the conditions under which we were negotiating the Alaska Highway agreement, the engineering services agreement and the Arctic B and C transfer have changed in the last few years - and the Minister of Finance has admitted to this on a number of occasions - because the federal government has changed the formula financing agreement, the financial underpinning of this government, such that there has been a reduction of funding levels that were originally appropriated by the federal Parliament for the use of this Legislature.
The federal government may have done that for good reason, depending upon your perspective. They may have had some justifiable reasons in the past to cut back funding to the territory because they felt they had some other priorities - perhaps debt servicing was one of them.
The point of the matter is that nothing is locked into a frame of mind or a mind-set of a particular era, because there is some expectation that reasonable, rational, mature people elected to this Legislature will make decisions based on the priorities of the people of the day. The government, when they are informing the Opposition as to what they intend to do anyway, ought to bear in mind that, not only is that principle an accepted fact in Yukon history, it has also been acknowledged by this Legislature on a number of occasions. In fact, it has been practised.
There are a number of things that one could raise with respect to some of the transfer agreements in the past - whether or not the government is living up to the engineering services agreement. I would suspect that, if we were to track the funds that were originally available under the engineering services agreement, we would find that all the funds that were transferred to the territory for the purposes of road building or road upgrading are not being used for that purpose today.
The opportunity exists here for the government to build some low-maintenance, low-energy-cost facilities for the education system. Last night, we heard at great length that there are not enough trades people in the territory to accommodate the extra building construction associated with the schools. We did not hear that this afternoon, and it is probably a good thing, too, because I do not think it bears scrutiny. The argument does not hold water.
We heard a lot of talk about grade reorganization. We were treated to a revelation by the Member for Riverdale South that departmental representatives have been telling the Grey Mountain School council that they would not be affected by reorganization. That is very interesting, given that if one was to compare those remarks with ones made last night in the Legislature, one might find at least a minor inconsistency.
We have heard a lot of talk about the fact that these projects are brand new and have never been considered before. We heard that we should be thinking about this in a more considered and deliberate way and that we should not be making budgets on the floor of the House, and we should not be trading ideas back and forth in a cavalier way. I agree with that approach. However, the fact of the matter is that the Grey Mountain School and J.V. Clark School were both contained in the capital budget and considerable thought and consultation went into both those projects by the Department of Education in the past, to the point that both these projects were almost brought to the design-ready stage.
There is probably a lot more to be said about that, but I will reserve my remarks for the Education estimates; however, the Official Oppositions position has always been consistent. We have supported large road expenditures and considerable expenditures in building construction. We built six brand new schools in the seven years we were in government and also made major renovations to the Carcross school, Faro school and Jeckell, as well as a myriad of other renovations around the territory.
At the same time we were building roads, but we considered that there ought to be a balance to those expenditures. It is not a situation of either/or. There will probably come a time when the Minister of Justice will be in a position to stand up and say that it is time to rebuild the Tagish Road between Jakes Corner and Carcross. I am hoping that if there is a balanced expenditure plan, the Legislature can support him in that endeavor. There has certainly been some rebuilding done on that road, and there should be more. There is always a need to continue to do road work. However, it does not have to be done at the expense of other industries. It does not have to be done at the expense of other valued projects in this territory.
In conclusion, for the record, we will support this amendment in principle. We would encourage the government to consider it and stand it aside while it is being considered. I would hope that the government does not intend, in their consultative efforts, to simply inform people more thoroughly in private about what they intend to do, but will actually listen and try to accommodate the legitimate needs and interests of other Members in this Legislature and their constituents.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would like to speak in favour of setting this motion aside. I found the comments from the critic for Economic Development interesting because he does not seem to recognize the importance of building up our infrastructure. He does not realize the importance of the Alaska Highway between Watson Lake and Skagway to the Sa Dena Hes mine.
We know, from our experience two years ago when we had to put the road ban on between Watson Lake and Whitehorse, it cost the mine between $200,000 and $300,000 to operate. If we could commit ourselves to reconstruct the highway between Watson Lake and Skagway by the time that mine is operating it would put us in a better position to attract investors. I am not going to pursue this much further, but I think we have to keep in mind that we need to get our economic house in order so that we can afford some of the other things.
Mrs. Firth: Before we leave this motion respecting standing the item aside, I have some outstanding questions I would like to direct to the Government Leader about the consultative process. I have the same concerns as the Opposition critic for Economic Development, and that is the governments intention to brief us and inform us. The interim Liberal Leader and I have asked to be briefed at the same time. When I raised that issue with the Government Leader on the telephone he indicated that each Member was going to be briefed individually in a room with a public servant, somewhere in this building. I would like to tell the Government Leader that I think it would be beneficial for all Members of the Opposition to be briefed together, since we are all of the same opinion, and it would save a government from having to brief us all separately.
I am quite prepared to have us all be briefed together so that it would only take the time of the public servant who is going to brief us for one briefing, instead of seven or eight. I would like to hear the Government Leaders opinion of that.
I would also like to ask him what the context of the briefing is going to be. Is this going to be negotiations that will lead to a consensus, or is he just going to tell us that we cannot do this?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will deal with these issues when we leave here. The fact is, I want the Members to know exactly what the Member has done by putting this motion forward. I also told the Member that we would try to accommodate her, and that is what we are prepared to do. I am not sure that it will all be done at one meeting.
Mrs. Firth: Could we all be briefed together, as Opposition Members, instead of having separate briefings?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am open to discussion on that.
Mrs. Firth: When are we going to discuss it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I called the Member at noon today and she was too busy to talk to me.
Mrs. Firth: If I may, the Government Leader can surely appreciate that people were coming to see me with respect to this issue and that I may have been busy. I have always given the Minister leeway when he has been busy and unavailable to meet with me exactly at the moment that I wanted.
Personally, I would like the discussion to be open and take place in the Legislature. I have asked the Government Leader if we can all be briefed together.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought we were moving to set this aside. We said that we would talk to the Members opposite about our concerns, and I also said in my earlier remarks that we would look to some accommodation for them. If the Opposition Members wish to meet together, I will consider that.
Chair: Does Committee of the Whole agree to set this line item and the amendment aside?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Amendment stood over
Alaska Highway stood over
On Klondike Highway
Mr. McDonald: If the Minister would just briefly volunteer what each line item is, we could move along pretty quickly here.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Klondike Highway budget of $80,000 is to conduct a legal survey of the highway right of way on the portion located in British Columbia - kilometre 44 to kilometre 105.
Mr. McDonald: Is any of that money recoverable, and could the Minister just reconfirm for us whether or not the BST overlays are in the operations budget? I cannot quite recall that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: BST overlays are in the O&M budget and none of this $80,000 is recoverable.
Klondike Highway in the amount of $80,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Campbell Highway major 1994-95 project is for $1 million to continue reconstruction and BST paving from kilometre 0 to 50. This years work will involve a number of minor projects, including culvert installation, clearing, pit development and minor reconstruction from kilometre 10 to 45. This project is 50-percent recoverable under the Canada/Yukon transportation infrastructure program.
Mr. Harding: Is that Canada/Yukon transportation infrastructure program part of the $10 million that was bandied about so much from the Mazankowski budget - the mini-budget of a year and one-half ago?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we used to call it the SHIP money - the strategic highway infrastructure program money.
Mr. Harding: My understanding is that the base between kilometre 0 and kilometre 50 on the Campbell Highway will be upgraded and there will also be some BST work done.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it is my understanding that eventually the road will be BSTd, but this $1 million is essentially for base work.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said the $1 million was for base work. I thought the Minister, in his introductory remarks, said there was going to be some BST work done on kilometre 0 to 50. It is important to me to know whether or not there will be.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The intent is to eventually BST it, but the work this year is for base work. The first 10 kilometres were paved in 1993-94. Actually, they were paved, not BSTd - it was an overlay of pavement on what they call the Airport Road in Watson Lake. Then this work is for kilometre 10, at the airport, to kilometre 45, which is approximately Sa Dena Hes - and it is for base work. Eventually, if monies are available and so on, it will be BSTd.
Mr. Harding: I just want to be clear on that point, because the government has made the argument with me - when I talk about businesses in trouble and people out of work in the area of Faro and I talk about road building opportunities - that there is no mine operating there, therefore they are not going to undertake any major capital works to improve the road condition.
We are spending a million bucks to improve the road condition at Sa Dena Hes and there is no mine there right now. To me, it does ring somewhat inconsistent. Can the Minister tell me why there would be that different philosophy between upgrading the road near Watson Lake where there is no mine and not upgrading the road near Faro where there is no mine?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I did explain at one time that if the Sa Dena Hes mine does operate again, the current Campbell Highway at that end would not withstand the truck traffic. The base of the Campbell Highway at the other end - Faro to Carmacks - is in much better condition than in the Watson Lake area.
Mr. Harding: By way of a submission to the Minister, I do not agree with their spending priorities in this area. I think that there is room for some road improvement between Faro and Carmacks on the Campbell Highway. There are still a lot of people in Ross River and Faro who use that road. I am thinking more of safety than mining. I know a lot of people in both communities who feel that road improvement programs should continue. That would include BST upgrading.
As I have done in the past, I will continue to make submissions until I begin to see that the government recognizes what I have been trying to say on behalf of the area I represent.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $1,010,000 agreed to
On Dempster Highway
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $250,000 expenditure is for erosion protection and it is for the placement of protective rock blankets or rip-rap on the side slopes of the road from kilometre 106 to approximately kilometre 242.
Dempster Highway in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Top of the World Highway
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This expenditure is for construction from kilometre 93 to kilometre 99, including earth work, base core construction and some minor culvert installations. The project is 50-percent recoverable under the Canada/Yukon transportation infrastructure program.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Top of the World Highway - the street that is paved with gold - I would like to ask the Minister if he has any further information on the Nu-way Crushing contract where approximately 3,000 metres of pay dirt was taken from a placer claim near Dawson City.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the Member referred to the highway as the Land of Oz where the streets are paved with gold. I think if I remember my fairy-tales correctly, I believe it was a yellow brick road. If I remember correctly, the wizard in Oz was a decrepit old man and he really was not a wizard at all.
The paved-with-gold analogy on the Top of the World Highway may have been accurate to some extent, but I am not sure how much gold is in that gravel. However, I do want to make the Member opposite aware that there is a signed agreement with the previous owner for the government to use the gravel from that pit. If there is a conflict, it would be between the previous owner and the current owner.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister saying that he does not believe the department had a responsibility to register a caveat at the mining recorders office when they had made the agreement with the previous owners for the gravel that they were taking? The present owner bought the claims, and when he went to his claim, there was over 3,000 metres of gravel removed. He had not had a chance to pan it, sample it, or check it, so he is not arguing about exactly how much gold was in there, he is arguing that they took it, and he has not yet had the opportunity to look for pay streaks and enjoy the value of his property.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The current owner was aware of the agreement. He has admitted in writing to the government that he was aware of the agreement. As I have said before, this problem is between the previous owner and the current owner.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not believe that the previous owner was aware of the amount of gravel that would be taken, or that they would not go in and strip their own overburden there. Is the Minister or the department working with the current owner to try to resolve the difficulties between the parties here?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There have been discussions between the current owner and the staff of Community and Transportation Services but the agreement does say that they can take gravel right down as far as they want.
Ms. Moorcroft: The difficulty is that they took the paydirt instead of doing their own stripping. I think that there is a responsibility to try to resolve this and not just tell the present owner to go stuff it in his hat - as may have been said. Will the Minister follow up on this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The staff is dealing with the current owner and I will leave it between the staff and the owner.
Chair: Does the item clear?
Top of the World Highway in the amount of $1,672,000 agreed to
On Planning and Engineering
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are two projects: transportation engineering - $210,000, for several small items such as engineering and minor projects that arise on short notice - reconstruction projects too small to list separately; and replacement of small items, et cetera.
Secondly, land and granular resource management - $160,000 for management of all lands required in the delivery of programs, i.e. right-of-ways, et cetera, and identification of sources of granular materials development and maintenance of granular sites.
Ms. Moorcroft: Did the Minister say private minor projects, and could he give an explanation of that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. I am sorry if the Member misunderstood. Engineering on minor projects, and then reconstruction projects too small to list separately - that was the only reference to projects.
Some examples would be traffic studies, traffic counts, safety studies.
Planning and Engineering in the amount of $370,000 agreed to
On Bridges - Numbered Highways
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Numbered highways consists of two projects: bridge assessment, in the amount of $150,000, for inspection, assessment and rating of all bridge structures on a rotating schedule to determine load-carrying capacity and state of repair on each structure; and $250,000 for design and measures required to strengthen the Teslin River bridge at kilometre 1346 near Johnsons Crossing.
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $2,385,000 for Two Mile Hill to reconstruct from Industrial Road to Fourth Avenue and to landscape areas built in 1993-94; $1.5 million for reconstruction of Freegold Road from kilometre 0.5 to 5 and kilometre 12 to 16; clearing, kilometre 22 to 38; and preliminary engineering and design for kilometre 22 to 38. The Freegold Road project is 50 percent recoverable under the Canada/Yukon transportation infrastructure program. The other two projects are condition surveys and miscellaneous design in the amount of $50,000 and construction of the Alsek pass road for $35,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister give me an estimated completion date for Two Mile Hill?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It will basically be completed next year. The road surface and so on will be completed in 1994-95, and there will be some landscaping and minor clean-up work in 1995-96.
Mrs. Firth: I asked the Minister some questions this afternoon about the Two Mile Hill, particularly with respect to the costs of that project. There were quite extensive public consultation meetings where maps and drawings were shown and explanations were given. As a result, the December, 1990 report that I referred to this afternoon was given to the Minister - the Alaska Highway Corridor Study. In that report, the costs were, as I had indicated this afternoon, somewhere between $4.3 million and $4.8 million for the total project, including the weigh scales. Now this project is going to cost in the vicinity of about $9 million. Could the Minister tell us what happened? What took place in that time period to double the costs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I indicated in Question Period, the figures that I was shown were created back in 1990-91. In 1991-92 they had $415,000; in 1992-93 there was $2,538,000; in 1993-94 there was $2.5 million, in 1994-95 there was $2.385 million; and in 1995-96 there was $200,000; for a total of $8,038,000.
I am not familiar with the study that the Member has, but my understanding is that it is dated 1989-90. The costs would be different then than they are today, but there was some land purchased that was necessary and I do not believe that was taken into consideration in that study on the Two Mile Hill. I cannot recall the exact amount, but it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of approximately $700,000. I understand that the highway is somewhat wider than was initially described in that report.
I would like to move that we 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: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 88, entitled Enactments Republication Act, 1993, and Bill No. 63, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act and the Legislative Assembly Act, and directed me to report them without amendment.
Further, the Committee has considered Bill No. 77, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, and directed me to report it with amendment. The amendment changes the title to An Act to Amend the Liquor Act (No. 2).
Further, Committee 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.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled December 14, 1993:
Negotiating a collective agreement: letter dated December 14, 1993, from David Hobbis, President, Yukon Employees Union to P.N. Cumming, Public Service Commissioner, re resuming negotiations on December 16, 1993; response to that letter dated December 14, 1993, from P.N. Cumming (Ostashek)